2014 St. Louis Cardinals Pitching Outlook
With the Cardinals likely done with their offseason moves, it is time to look at the fantasy possibilities for their 2014 roster. The biggest question marks remain in the rotation, where in my estimation, all but two rotation spots are up for grabs. Ace Adam Wainright and last year’s NLCS MVP Michael Wacha are surefire, front-of-the-rotation starters who, barring injury, should contribute to any fantasy team’s rotation. From there, the picture gets murkier. Jaime Garcia will secure a spot in the rotation if he can show up to Spring Training healthy and prove that he can still pitch, as he is the Cardinals’ only real left-handed option with Kevin Siegrist likely to remain in the bullpen and Tyler Lyons destined to start the season in AAA.
The remaining two starting rotation spots will likely be filled by a combination of Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Carlos Martinez, all of whom have demonstrated the ability to pitch in the big leagues and deserve a fair shot. Let’s take a further look at the Cardinals pitchers who could contribute to fantasy teams this season.
2013 Stats: W/L 19-9 2.94 ERA 1.07 WHIP 219 SO
Wainright had a dominant 2013 season and there is no reason why he should not continue to be dominant for the Cards in 2014. Waino’s 6.26 SO/BB ratio was second in the majors in 2013, and his 241.2 innings pitched were particularly impressive for a pitcher two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Wainright should be a frontline fantasy pitcher again in 2014, especially with the Cards poised to win a lot of games.
2014 Projections: W/L 18-10 3.00 ERA 1.08 WHIP 210 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 4-1 2.78 ERA 1.098 WHIP 65 SO
Wacha emerged down the stretch as a dominant force in the Cardinals rotation, and should be a legitimate fantasy option in 2014. The only question mark for prospective Wacha owners will be: will the Cardinals limit Wacha’s innings in 2014? The Cards will certainly monitor Wacha’s workload, but it is unlikely that they will skip Wacha’s turn in the rotation or put a specific innings limit on him during the season. Wacha’s change-up is a nasty secondary pitch that, along with his plus fastball, should produce a ton of strikeouts for owners in 2014.
2014 Projections: W/L 15-8 3.35 ERA 1.18 WHIP 195 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 15-9 3.06 ERA 1.21 WHIP 169 SO
For most teams, Miller would be a lock for the rotation and a legitimate fantasy option. He was third in the NL rookie of the year voting thanks is large part to his 15 wins. However, he fell off towards the end of the year and was left out of the postseason rotation in favor of Wacha, Kelly, and Lynn. Barring a spring disaster, Miller should secure a spot in the Cards rotation, and will be a big upside mid-round pick in most leagues.
2014 Projections: W/L 16-10 3.40 ERA 1.31 WHIP 190 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 5-2 3.56 ERA 1.30 WHIP 43 SO
Garcia pitched well in the opening stages of 2013 before major shoulder surgery ended his season after just nine starts. If Garcia proves he is healthy and ready to go during the Spring he should earn a spot as the token lefty in the Cards rotation. At this point, Garcia is just too risky to be a legitimate fantasy option, but prospective owners should see how he performs in Spring Training before dismissing him as too risky to draft. Garcia certainly has the ability to get groundball outs, and could win his fair share of games in 2014 if he can stay healthy.
2014 Projections: W/L 12-7 3.45 ERA 1.21 WHIP 140 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 15-10 3.97 ERA 1.314 WHIP 198 SO
Lynn is a proven major league winner, compiling an impressive 33 wins over the last two seasons. However his other stats are less impressive. His career 3.89 ERA and 1.32 WHIP do not hold up when compared to stats of other candidates for the rotation. Also, Lynn is prone to bouts of wildness and sometimes seems to lack composure on the mound. That said, the former University of Mississippi standout is an innings-eater (377.2 in the last two years), and he is still only 26 years old. He could have some value for owners who are looking for K’s and wins if he wins a rotation spot.
2014 Projections: W/L 14-12 3.85 ERA 1.33 WHIP 180 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 10-5 2.69 ERA 1.355 WHIP 70 SO
Kelly had an outstanding second half last year, posting 9 wins, a 1.91 ERA, and a .253 batting average against as a starter after the All-Star break. However, Kelly’s chances at the rotation may actually be hampered by his ability to come out of the bullpen, where his 95+MPH fastball and ability to strike out hitters are a major plus. One advantage that Kelly has over his competitors is sheer athleticism. He might have been the fastest Cardinal last year, and he flashed moments of brilliance with the glove. Kelly will likely have very little fantasy value at the beginning of the season, but that could change due with an injury or poor performance by one of the pitchers mentioned above.
2014 Projections: W/L 7-4 3.45 ERA 1.33 WHIP 65 SO
2013 Stats: W/L 2-4 2.63 ERA 72.1 IP 1.10 WHIP 108 SO 3 SV
Although Rosenthal is preparing for Spring Training as a starter, he will almost certainly begin the season as the team’s closer after dominating hitters in that role during the 2013 Postseason. Rosenthal put up massive strikeout totals last year, and the continuing development of his secondary pitches should allow him to strikeout opposing hitters at an even higher rate in 2014. He should be a top-tier fantasy closer especially if the Cardinals live up to expectations and win 95+ games again.
2014 Projections: W/L 4-2 2.25 ERA 1.03 WHIP 110 SO 45 SV
The most likely scenario for the Cardinals rotation is Wainright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller, and Lynn. In my opinion, Wainright, Wacha, and Miller all have the potential to be fantasy studs next year. Miller and Wainright have proven that they can eat up innings and churn out victories, and everything that I have seen from Wacha indicates that he will have no problem stepping up the workload in 2014 and continuing to put up solid numbers. All three pitchers give up their fair share of hits but more than make up for it with solid K/9 rates (especially Wainright). As far as the bullpen, Rosenthal could potentially be a frontline closer who falls on fantasy draft boards because of the presence of Motte, who has been a successful closer for the Cardinals in the past. However, it appears to be Rosenthal’s job to lose, and as he proved down the stretch last year, he has the ability to come in and shut down opposing lineups. If your fantasy league counts holds as a stat, Jason Motte and Carlos Martinez should provide their fair share of holds in 2014.