(No, Adam Wainwright is not Jacob, but some hot August nights when he pitched a complete game 1-hitter… it did feel like it.)
With the potentially devastating news from Cardinals camp that Adam Wainwright has a “serious” elbow injury; the next thoughts are always about replacements whether externally or internally. In the Cardinals case, they said right now that they will try to replace Wainwright internally and that’s where we come in. Let’s take a look at who can step up internally from the minor leagues from the preseason projections and some scouting reports.
Lance Lynn – ZiPS projects Lance Lynn with an ERA+ of 82 for 157 innings over 29 starts. For you traditionalists, that would give Lynn a 9-12 record and a 4.87 ERA. Those numbers do not thrill me up, but there is some value there. Also, ZiPS projects him to have a better K/BB but around the same ERA+ as Kyle Lohse. Keith Law also said on Twitter that Lance Lynn could be a solid #4-#5 starter. Additionally, besides Bryan Augenstein, ZiPS indicated Lynn as the next best option to start for the Cardinals by ERA+. Lynn also is projected to have the most strikeouts besides Wainwright and Carpenter. All of that information put together means that Lynn should be considered the next man up for the Cardinals and considering how much of Spring Training is left, he should get a good opportunity to earn the spot this spring.
Adam Ottavino – Replace Adam with Adam, nobody will know the difference, right? Well… Ottavino got a few spot starts last season before ending the season early due to injury. ZiPS gives him a 5.28 ERA and a 75 ERA+ over 20 starts and 104 innings. Marcel looks a tiny bit more friendly to Ottavino while projecting only 57 innings with a 4.89 ERA and 4.31 FIP. Both projection systems see him striking out more than he walks. Without knowing if Ottavino is back to 100% after last season’s injury, it is hard to project him to the starting rotation at this point. But, one would imagine that he will be one of the candidates if healthy.
Bryan Augenstein – Augenstein is already on the 40 man roster, which is a huge advantage for him and is favored by both ZiPS and Marcel. Augenstein is projected to have a 4.26 ERA (Marcel) and a 4.35 ERA (ZiPS) with a 91 ERA+ (ZiPS) and a 4.13 FIP (Marcel). Augenstein was beset by bad luck last year in AAA with the Diamondbacks with a FIP of 3.86 and an ERA of 6.56(!). If the Cardinals think he can approach these projections, they will include him in the candidates for the rotation as well.
PJ Walters – Walters is projected to strike people out (107 in 139 innings for ZiPS) and 7.88 K/9 for Bill James projection and 7.44 K/9 for Marcel. However, James and Marcel project only 32 and 52 innings respectively. We have seen PJ Walters in the majors and he is all together too hittable and should be a candidate for the rotation, but not very high on the list.
Brandon Dickson – Dickson is projected by ZiPS to have the same ERA+ as Ottavino at 75, but with only about 4.5 K/9 over 150 innings for an ERA of 5.28. He looks to be even more hittable than PJ Walters and should be left out of the list of candidates for the rotation while he gets some more work in Memphis.
Mitch Boggs – Boggs was left in the bullpen by ZiPS, so I left him there as well.
Here’s the numbers I used: ZiPS and Bill James and Marcel from Fangraphs player pages.