The St. Louis Cardinals have always produced strong homegrown talent, and a trio of pitchers are coming to continue that tradition.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball history, arguably the National League's most consistently successful. The Cards have reached the MLB postseason a dozen times already in this new century. They have been World Series champions 11 times in the modern era, including in both 2006 and 2011.
One of the hallmarks of the organization has been the ability to develop and bring to the big leagues some great starting pitchers. From Dizzy Dean in the 1930s to Bob Gibson in the 1960s to Adam Wainwright in recent years, outstanding homegrown starting pitching has helped lead the way to World Series glory.
The Cardinals missed out on the postseason in a 2016 season that saw the club finish 86-76. After winning the NL Central Division crown in three straight seasons, the Cards finished in second place this year, a distant 17.5 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The team wasn't far off from a return to the MLB playoffs, however. They finished just one game behind both the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants for an NL Wild Card berth.
One of the problems keeping the Cardinals from regular season success this year was the pitching.
St. Louis finished 12th in ERA in MLB this year. They also finished ninth in quality starts, 16th in strikeouts, and 18th in batting average against this year.
Their longtime ace Wainwright turned 35 years old this season and is clearly on the downturn. But despite that fact, and despite the mediocre 2016 pitching numbers, there is plenty to look forward to on the mound.
The Cardinals best pitcher this year was Carlos Martinez, a right-hander who just turned 25 years of age in late September. Martinez went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP this season in 31 starts. He allowed 169 hits over 195.1 innings with 174 strikeouts.
Michael Wacha developed shoulder troubles, but at age 25 there remains hope that the talented righty will be able to come back strong.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
But the biggest hope for the future comes from a trio of right-handed pitchers who are all among the organization's top prospects, and who are all on the verge of reaching the big leagues.
Top prospect Alex Reyes turned 22 years old in August, and made his big league debut with a dozen games, five of them starts.
The club's #2 prospect, Luke Weaver, also made his big league debut in 2016. He pitched in his first nine games with the Cards, eight of them starts.
The third arm is the club's fourth-rated prospect, Jack Flaherty. The 6'4", 205-pounder is the biggest and youngest of the three, having turned just 21 years old last month.
With these three talented pitchers on the rise adding to Martinez and possibly Wacha, the future of the St. Louis starting rotation is in good hands.
And since they are all homegrown and all young, they are going to also be inexpensive to the club for years to come. Wainwright is still owed $19.5 million in each of the next two years, but the committed payroll drops in half for 2018.
This will make it easier for the Cardinals to splurge in free agency for a bat or two down the road. Meanwhile, I would expect St. Louis to remain an NL Wild Card contender in 2017. The young arms will prove to be a part of that contending recipe.