St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Questions Facing the Rotation

The St. Louis Cardinals rotation, for much of this offseason, has flown under the radar. Let’s take a look at five questions impacting the rotation heading into Spring Training.

Will Adam Wainwright bounce back from the 2016 season?

It’s no secret Adam Wainwright struggled to regain his form for the St. Louis Cardinals following his 2015 injury. While his age (35) and injuries do represent concern, last season isn’t any sign of regression. Just consider what Wainwright did post Tommy John surgery in 2012: He had a 14-13 record, 3.94 ERA, and 189 SOs in thirty-two games.

In 2013, arguably his best season, he posted a 19-9 record, a 2.38 ERA, and 219 SOs in thirty-four games. Fast forward to last season coming off a major injury, Wainwright was able to go 13-9, sport a 4.62 ERA, with 161 SOs in thirty-three games.

So, regression? I’m not so convinced. His stats seem to show the further away from the date of the injury, the better he gets. We won’t see 2013 numbers, but expect Wainwright to right the ship.

Will Carlos Martinez be the staff ace?

Fortunately for St. Louis Cardinals fans, Carlos Martinez is only going to get better. He was the Cardinals best pitcher in 2016 and recorded career highs in Wins, Innings Pitched, and Games Started.

He is now coming into his third full season of pitching and seems on the cusp of taking that next step toward being an ace. Keeping the ball in the park and locating his pitches is the key for the next season. If he can stay consistent and healthy, Martinez has a good shot at a twenty-win season.

He will be the Cardinals best pitcher and a possible Cy Young candidate. Look for Wainwright and Yadier Molina to continue to offer guidance.

Will Alex Reyes crack the rotation?

Over 12 games last season, Alex Reyes threw forty-six innings and had a 4-1 record with a 1.57 ERA. In those same twelve games, Reyes racked up 52 SOs for K/9 ratio of 10.2 and gave up only a single HR (thanks to Jung-Ho Kang).

While this is a small sample size, l think his game against the Giants on September 18th, in the thick of the Wild Card Race, tells it all. He threw seven innings while giving up four hits and striking out six.

We can’t generalize 2016’s twelve games into 162 games, but he has all the tools. It’s safe to expect him produce around the 10-12 win mark, around 3.00+ ERA, and 160 SO. He will be fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation. He is just too good to ignore from the rotation any longer. Give the kid a chance.

Is Lance Lynn a lock for the rotation this year?

Tommy John recovery? Check. Complete rehab? Check. Lance Lynn comes into Spring Training as healthy as he has been in a while and looks to secure his spot in the rotation once more. The biggest questions he faces are consistency and longevity. Before Tommy John, Lynn averaged 189 innings, a 3.38 ERA, and a K/9 ratio of 8.7 through four season of starting pitching.

Spring Training will give us a good sense of what Lynn has to offer. However, the St. Louis Cardinals may consider using him in a bullpen role to limit innings and prevent further injury. Ultimately, I believe Lynn will be the workhorse he is and wind up as the fourth guy in the rotation. Boy, will he be a welcoming sight.

Where does Michael Wacha fit?

Injuries and trade rumors have certainly put into question his role on the team. If Michael Wacha wants to earn a spot in the rotation, he needs to focus on pitching and putting the injuries behind him. He has big league experience and his fastball/change-up combo is one of the best, but can he find his 2015 form?

Should Lynn reclaim a starting spot, the last spot in the rotation will come down to Wacha and Reyes. Wacha might be the most important to watch out of any Cardinal. If he misses out on a spot, he will be in the bullpen and spot starting when injuries arise. Unfortunately, it also means his name is on the trade block.

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As Opening Day approaches, look for the Cardinals to highlight some of the pitchers still battling for the last spots in the rotation in the last couple of weeks during Spring Training. It wouldn’t surprise me if the rotation wasn’t set days before taking the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis in April. Go Cards!

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