The St. Louis Cardinals have five spots for eight potential starters this year in their starting rotation. Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake, Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver will all compete to make the rotation.
Martinez recently signed an extension with St. Louis for five years, worth $51 million, so he’s expected to be one of the top rotation members.
After a 2016 season where he went 16-9, Martinez is poised to have a breakout year. With his expectations high, Martinez told reporters after signing his extension he wanted to start opening day over Adam Wainwright.
“I respect (Wainwright). But I want (to start the first game),” Martinez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Regardless of Martinez’s new contract, Wainwright is slotted as the team’s ace as long as he remains healthy. He’s nearing the end of his contract, which ends after 2018, but he’s dipped off the past two seasons.
He missed the majority of 2015 with a torn achilles and went 13-9 in 2016, but had an ERA over 4.00. Wainwright remains the ace, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Martinez starting opening day.
Lance Lynn is back after missing the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery. He’s been an innings eater over the years for St. Louis and will move into the No. 3 role for the Cardinals.
That leaves two spots for five guys to battle for in spring training. Michael Wacha looked like a future ace after his dominance during the playoffs of his rookie season, but a lackluster 2016 might put him on the outside looking in for this year’s rotation.
Mike Leake is the man the Cardinals have money invested in, $75 million to be exact. Like Wacha, Leake had a mediocre 2016 with a record of 9-12 and an ERA over 4.00. Though, with so much money invested, he’ll likely anchor the rotation again this year in the fifth spot.
The battle we’ll see in spring training really lies in whoever takes over Jaime Garcia’s rotation spot. The Cardinals traded Garcia to Atlanta for a trio of prospects this offseason.
Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver will have the chance to battle for the fourth starting spot in the rotation.
Reyes is the Cardinal’s top prospect in the organization, although he still has control issues he needs to work out. He needs to develop more pitches, specifically the off-speed, but his talent is second to none.
Reyes is rated as the sixth best prospect, according to MLB.com and is the highest-rated pitcher.
Weaver, on the other hand, is ranked as the 68th best prospect currently in the majors, but needs to get back to trusting what works best for him. Although he isn’t all that tall, Weaver packs a punch with a 94 mph fastball. He’s currently trying to work in his off-speed stuff as well, but has to develop his pitches more than Reyes.
Reyes figures to have the best shot at making the starting rotation, with Weaver coming out of the bullpen or spending more time in the minors to develop his craft.
Marco Gonzales is the lone left-handed pitcher that could make a push to start for the Cardinals in 2017. He’s coming off elbow surgery that sidelined him in 2016, but without Garcia in the lineup, St. Louis doesn’t have a left-handed starter. It’s unconventional to go without at least one left-handed pitcher in the starting rotation, but more than likely, Gonzales will either come out of the bullpen as a long option, or start the season as one of the Memphis Redbird’s top options.
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