By: Braden Zimmerman
The Cardinals are in an interesting spot with their 2019 rotation. They have a pretty set in stone top 3 consisting of Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Michael Wacha. Mikolas had a breakout season last year after leaving Japan and signing with the Cardinals. Flaherty also broke out in his rookie year last year, finding a way onto the Major League roster because of various injuries to Adam Wainwright. Michael Wacha has been a fixture in the starting rotation for the Cardinals for a few years, but is still looking to get back to the way he pitched from 2013 to 2015, where he had his best years. The final couple of spots in the rotation are up for grabs, especially at the start of the season where Carlos Martinez will start on the injured list.
The top candidates for the final two spots in the rotation are Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez, although this is subject to change. Wainwright is getting up there in age, and is coming off of a season where he spent a considerable amount of time injured or rehabbing his injuries. That brings us to Carlos Martinez, who had some injury issues last season and will also start the 2019 on the injured list. Even after Martinez gets healthy, the Cardinals have discussed moving him to the bullpen. This seems to be what the Cardinals are doing with another candidate to make it into the rotation, Alex Reyes.
Reyes has been a top prospect in the Cardinals system for a few years now, and hasn’t been able to have a full season of baseball since 2016, where he made his Major League debut towards the end of the season. Reyes has great potential whether in the starting rotation or the bullpen, and will find his way on the opening day roster in 2019.
There are also a plethora of guys who will challenge for the final spot in the rotation early in the year while Martinez is out, and depending on how well they pitch could force Wainwright or Martinez to a bullpen role. Guys like John Gant, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Austin Gomber could all make starts for the Cardinals this year. All of these guys pitched in the majors last year, and at least John Gant will make the Opening Day roster as he is out of options. Hudson was a high draft pick and will likely make the starting rotation at some point, whether that is this year or in the future. This could also send John Gant to the bullpen, which could force a guy like Mike Mayers to have to clear waivers to go down to the minors considering they would play essentially the same role.
Overall, starting pitching is one of the weaker areas for the Cardinals. Their two best pitchers have both only had one good season in the majors, their two next best pitchers have both been on a downward slide over the past couple of years, and their other likely starter is beginning the season injured. For the Cardinals to win the Central this year, the starting pitching is going to have to be consistent and someone is going to have to step up and fill a pivotal role in that rotation.