The Cardinals promise on pitching via its much ballyhooed farm system has thus far delivered on promise. Unlike the last wave of top tier pitching prospect that descended on St. Louis in the mid-90’s, only to flame out nearly on contact, the first round of arms that is currently comprising much of the Cardinal pitching staff are not only meeting expectations, they are exceeding them. However, what does the future hold? Is there a chance the Cardinals have a completely homegrown pitching staff that is still producing at the elite level it has thus far in 2013? The possibility is there.
Between Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and the now injured Jaime Garcia, the majority of the club’s impact starting pitching has been a result of either drafting or molding of the Cardinal farm system. Entering Tuesday, this group has combined to make 47 of the 63 games this season, a line of 29-9, with a 2.64 ERA and 32 quality starts. Add in the efforts of Tyler Lyons, John Gast, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha as well, and the only starting pitcher that has ever thrown a Major League pitch for another organization is Jake Westbrook.
However, Westbrook is in the last guaranteed year of his contract, and with the success and promise shown by the Cardinals young arms, he nearly guaranteed to follow in the talent forced out footsteps of Kyle Lohse for the 2014 season. This opens another rotation spot to be filled by the aforementioned young arms to make an impact at the front of games starting next spring, as well as another top shelf prospect that has already moonlighted in the bullpen this year, Carlos Martinez.
The Cardinal succession plan is at its most promising in the pitching department. Yet it is the bullpen that could truly go the furthest in showcasing the remarkable depth of the Cardinal system in the upcoming years. There simply are too many quality starters for one rotation to hold. While this would seem like a no-brainer to trade assets from, the Cardinals have decided to turn it over into making their entire staff full of top notch minor prospects and performers.
Much like Westbrook is in the rotation, a year from now, Randy Choate could be the only non-homegrown arm in the mix. Currently, the rotation is the toughest group to crack a shot at, but soon the wealth of organizational arms will also consume the bullpen completely. Due to the presence of Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Joe Kelly, as well as the potential returns of Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs (no he’s not completely dead yet), there’s a chance for the main components of the bullpen to continue to be homegrown as well. Kevin Siegrist and Kevin Butler have shown some promise in their brief stints in the past few weeks, and the potential placement of Martinez into a late game role, such as Rosenthal has thrived in this year, how the Cardinal succession success profiles to continue as prominently as it has in recent years.
This doesn’t account for the presence of even more quality system arms that are developing, such as Seth Blair, Jorge Rondon or the recently returned Jordan Swagerty. Nor does it take into the picture this past week’s draft class, that featured 22 new arms added the mix. First round pick Marco Gonzales is considered yet another fast riser (a tag that Wacha wore as well around this time a year ago), and a left-hander to boot, so he could factor into the mix much quicker than expected as well.
Either way, the dream is quickly becoming a reality, and the Cardinals cache of top notch talent has grown so quickly and adequately that outsiders may not be welcomed for quite some time on any part of the Cardinal staff.