Seung-Hwan Oh will headline the 2017 bullpen after he took over as closer for the second half of the 2016 season. Though Oh is a veteran by international standards after pitching in Korea and Japan, 2016 was his rookie season in the MLB. His transition to the MLB went smoother than most would have imagined, as Oh posted a 1.92 ERA and accumulated 2.6 fWAR, which ranked fifth among all relievers.
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Perhaps most impressive about Oh’s rookie campaign was his control of the strike zone. While he doesn’t have elite velocity, his slider was a wipe-out pitch. Oh used his fastball-slider approach to rack up 11.64 K/9 compared to only 2.03 BB/9. Additionally, ESPN recently recognized Oh among the top relievers in the MLB for the 2017 season.
Despite Oh’s success, the bullpen endured its fair share of struggles last season. Trevor Rosenthal lost the closer job in July and struggled to a 5.13 ERA before hitting the disabled list. Overall, the bullpen ranked 13th with a 3.62 ERA, proving to be essentially average for the season.
However, the bullpen will look better in 2017. Trevor Rosenthal looked much like his former self after returning from injury in September. Additionally, the acquisition of left-handed reliever Brett Cecil adds another proven arm for the St. Louis Cardinals to employ in late innings.
Further, with a surplus of starting pitcher to start the season, Michael Wacha will likely be moved to the bullpen to begin the year. With an emphasis on health preservation, it is possible that Lance Lynn and Alex Reyes also spend some time in the bullpen next year. Kevin Siegrist will look to maintain his strong ERA but improve his peripherals, while ground ball specialist Matt Bowman will take over the role Seth Maness used to hold.
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While the St. Louis Cardinals pitching struggled across the board last season, it might be the team’s best weapon in 2017. The Cardinals will field a rotation which is certainly in the top half of the MLB (and I’ve argued top third) and shut games down with one of the top relief corps in baseball.