Hoping for an improved, more consistent effort out of the pitching staff in 2017, let’s look at which Cardinals pitcher is most valuable to a successful turnaround next season.
The word “value” in sports always provides an interesting yet controversial debate. With MVP awards, for example, it becomes difficult to decipher the pure value of a given player, as the results of his absence are usually not present. As such, the awards rely heavily upon statistics, especially if it is a close battle.
Despite the inevitable ambiguity, it becomes interesting to evaluate value within the Cardinals organization. To start, I will attempt to rank the top 5 starting pitchers projected to contribute significantly in 2017. By nature, of course, this list is subjective, so please feel free to voice your own list or disagreements.
Before we dive in, consider the multitude of factors that contribute to overall value. Age, past performance, future projection, style, injury, and other factors will, and should be incorporated. Especially considering the varying ages of the Cardinals projected 2017 staff, this debate could go many different directions. Here is mine.
#5 – Luke Weaver
This list, looking proactively towards 2017, is attempting to predict value, not document it in any past forms. As such, to me, Luke Weaver seems like a must. An explosive, promising prospect, Weaver seemingly has the maturity to make an impact. With solid velocity and excellent accuracy, I have confidence that Weaver will dominate AAA ball to begin the season, being promoted quickly to push other starters at the big league level.
Moving forward as a fast moving, strike-throwing machine, Weaver is both a top prospect and an integral example of the Cardinals pitching depth moving into 2017. While he may spend some time in the minors, an injury would hurt, eliminating a sense of competition from his MLB counterparts (Mike Leake, primarily), and obviously depth at large. As a special prospect, I expect big things in 2017 from Luke Weaver. Especially after 8 starts in 2016, it seems to me that he will spend time around Busch Stadium, and thrive doing it.
#4 – Adam Wainwright
A previous ace at #4? What? Yes. Wainwright, while he will always hold value to the Cardinals organization, is simply battling the aging process. Especially considering the youthful nature of some other pitchers on this list, it seems like it won’t be long until Wainwright struggles to crack the top 5.
On a more positive note, though, Wainwright will always hold value for a couple reasons. First of all, he’s been there. A Cardinal for his entire career, he is deeply connected to the culture and ways of the organization. Individually, too, Wainwright knows how to pitch at the highest level, both in the regular season and postseason.
Not to mention, even in his later years, he’s extremely solid. Despite injury in 2015, and 35 years of age, Wainwright produced a 13-9 record last season. While it obviously does not match some of his elite years, most teams would be drooling at the prospects of having Adam Wainwright as a number 4 pitcher.
#3 – Lance Lynn
At 29 years of age, coming off of a successful surgery, Lance Lynn should be back in a big way. A hard, sturdy thrower, perhaps Lynn’s absence in 2016, and the subsequent consistency issues with the staff, should shed light on his value to the team. Lynn, like Wainwright, has pitched in big games, knowing what you must bring to take down the very best.
While I understand the severity of his injury is a concern regarding his overall value, I think Lynn will bounce back, pitching with a purpose in his contract year. While his status beyond 2017 is unknown, hopefully Lynn proves he was the reason for 2016 pitching woes with a stellar performance this season.
— Brian Stull (@StullySTL) January 18, 2017
#2 – Alex Reyes
While I know this seems controversial to put such an immense, undeniable talent at #2 on the list, please keep in mind this article has, above all else, the 2017 season in mind.
Alex Reyes bursted onto the scene last season, although his debut, and subsequent phenomenal performance, was long anticipated. He is a once in a generation talent, with size, stuff, and pretty much everything else you’d like to see in a “prospect.” He seems like the closest thing there is to a “sure thing” in the random, unpredictable game of baseball.
While I will admit it was difficult to look past his devastating breaking ball and fastball, there is simply too much unknown to crown him the most valuable pitcher. To be honest, there is a chance he proves me wrong, and does it in an embarrassing fashion. Until he gets on the mound, though, and does so, for an entire season, he will remain at #2.
#1 – Carlos Martinez
Carlos Martinez is young, powerful, and coming off a tremendous 2016 season. Posting a 16-9 record with 174 strikeouts, all signs point to continued improvement for the man known as Baby Pedro. While his ceiling may not be as high as that of Alex Reyes, Martinez is the Cardinals ace right now, and is approaching the prime of his career.
With a nasty pitch arsenal and yet another year to develop, I expect Martinez to improve upon last year’s campaign, just as he improved from 2015 to 2016. While there is obviously room for improvement, Carlos Martinez is proven; he was the best starter in 2016, and nothing at all suggests he won’t be even better this year.
With that being said, it is nearly impossible to rank him anywhere else. He projects (if improved from last season) for 17+ wins, more accuracy, and many strikeouts. He is the ace, and a pitcher the Cardinals, no matter how you view the argument, can in no way afford to lose.
— Carlos Martinez (@Tsunamy27) January 16, 2017