Entering this year the Oakland starters had a total of 64 career starts to their name:
Dallas Braden: 24
Dana Eveland: 36
Trevor Cahill: 0
Brett Anderson: 0
Josh Outman: 4
I don’t think you’ll see a Cardinal rotation with that little experience in St. Louis anytime soon and you certainly won’t see that on a Tony LaRussa team. But there’s another aspect of these players that I think the Cardinals may take after.
Let’s look at the player’s CHONE projections:
Dallas Braden: 4.15
Dana Eveland: 4.17
Trevor Cahill: 4.82
Brett Anderson: 4.71
Josh Outman: 4.70
That’s about 2 pitchers who are slightly better than average and a back end that’s slightly worse than average. Now, Cahill and Anderson project in the long run as better than what they’re performing now but right now you’re looking at a motley collection of average pitching talent.
There’s been consistent criticism of the lack of blue chip pitching prospects in the Cardinals’ farm system. The cacophony reached it’s peak during the 2007 draft and the selection of Pete Kozma. While the Cardinals have shied from potentially top end pitchers in their draft, they have been consistent in their drafting and development of mid-level pitchers. The Cardinals have a plethora of pitchers that project in the 4.00-5.00 ERA range in the very near term:
PJ Walters: 4.61
Jess Todd: 4.50
Blake Hawksworth: 4.79
Mitchell Boggs: 4.99
I think that any projections for these prospects as more tha middle of the rotation pitchers is overly optimistic. Compare it to a couple of rotation stalwarts that the Cardinals are currently employing and you’ll begin to see where I’m headed with this.
Todd Wellemeyer: 4.31
Joel Pineiro: 4.74
The Cardinals have the opportunity to stop spending tons of money on thoroughly replaceable pitchers. The difference between PJ Walters and Tod Wellemeyer over the course of 200 innings is 7 runs. The Athletics boost their pitching staff by employing superb defenders such as Mark Ellis. It’s not just the leveraging of defense but a recognition that a top to bottom average staff can provide as much value as a top heavy staff with a weak back end.
Turning a pair of Mortensen, Walters, Boggs and Ottavino into major league starters should be a foremost goal for the coaching staff this year. They’ve struggled to convert Chris Perez and Jason Motte directly into major league relievers but there are going to be an increasing number of opportunities coming up. It’s up to the coaches as well as the players to ease the transition and build a competitive and younger team.