Wednesday morning brought the news that Adam Wainwright likely has a torn UCL in his throwing elbow, and Thursday we heard he'd be lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. One of the three most important pieces of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals team, Wainwright's loss is next to impossible to fill. Today, we take a look at some players who could fill his spot in the rotation admirably—though not up to Wainwright standards—some who would be a disaster, and some who would play bongos and get into all sorts of hijinks.
Internal options that make me melancholy
Kyle McClellan—McClellan has done the work the Cardinals have asked him to do as a reliever (while never shying away from the fact that he wants to be a starting pitcher) for the last three seasons, and has actually done an exemplary job at it, much to the chagrin of radio talk show callers and people who still write letters to the Post-Dispatch. He's posted a combined 137 ERA+ in 217 innings stretched over three season and compiled 0.8 WAR (via fangraphs.) The question is whether he could do that in 217 innings in one year, rather than three. As Balki Bartokomous would say, "Don't be ridiculous." But could he put up a 100 ERA+ over 180 innings? Sure, why the hell not.
Possible WAR: 1
Internal options that make me happy
Lance Lynn—I was abnormally high on Lynn coming out of the 2009 season. Then he graduated full time to AAA and kind of stalled in early 2010. However, sometime mid-season, he appeared to have said "[BEEP] IT. I'M GOING DEEP." and since has decided he could throw in the upper-90's now. Via Future Redbirds:
John Vuch, Director of Minor League Operations, was kind enough to fill me in on some of the details of Lynn’s improved fastball. Mr. Vuch noted that Lynn had some minor nagging injuries earlier in the season and went on to say:
He did touch 96 on several fastballs late in the year, but really worked more consistently in the 92 MPH range (with quite a few 94’s). Since earlier in the year he would sit at 90 MPH with the occasional 92-93, the gain in velocity is significant, at least in terms of where he finished the season. Much of Lynn’s success stems from the deception in his delivery, which allows his fastball to "jump" out of his hand, making his fastball a swing and miss pitch.
So, yeah, Lance Lynn is a grown-ass man all of a sudden. [BEEP] YEAH.
Possible WAR: 2
Internal options that are completely unrealistic
Shelby Miller—Shelby Miller had a good 2.8 K/BB and an awesome 12.1 K/9 last year. In A ball. Low-level A ball at that. Over only 104 innings. Skipping three rungs on the ladder of minor league baseball after a shortened season in Low-A and making the starting rotation at the age of 20 would really be something. Something that is just not going to happen.
Possible WAR: -1
Internal options that make me vomit
Ian Snell—Ian Snell was actually a league average pitcher in 2009, across 64 innings in Seattle. It was also only the second time he had ever been above average, other than 208 innings he threw for the Pirates in 2007. And he followed up that decent 2009 with a dreadful 2010 (-0.7 WAR in only 46 innings, which sounds really hard to do.) I was fine with the Cardinals signing him to a MiLB contract prior to this season, as the proverbial 8th SP. Which is what he should still be. He's not a break glass in case of emergency guy; he's a break glass because the rest of starting pitchers were maimed in a goofy "We are Cardinals Nation" commercial gone horribly awry guy.
Possible WAR -2
Miguel Batista - Miguel Batista was born in February of 1971. When he was born, The Ed Sullivan Show was still on the air and Led Zeppelin IV had not yet been released. Other Major League baseball players born in 1971 include Sterling Hitchcock, Raul Mondesi, Ben Sheets' older cousin Aaron, and the immortal Benny Agbayani. Besides all that, he hasn't been above average since 2008.
Possible WAR -1.5
Internal options that I don't want to bother typing about (Or, Possible WAR: -1)
P.J. Walters - We all know what we're getting here. He can strike out Alfonso Soriano in his sleep.
Adam Ottavino - Ditto, minus the striking out Soriano part.
Brian Tallet - Started 25 games in 2009 for Toronto but is supposed to be converted into a LOOGY.
Bryan Augenstein - Has the tools, has not put it together yet.
External options that make me nostalgic (Or, Possible WAR: 0)
Pedro Martinez - As old as Batista but not even in baseball last year, so I can't even say he sucked. But, come on! It's Pedro!
John Smoltz - Ditto! It's Smoltz! The guy holds the Cardinals franchise record for most consecutive strikeouts! Living legends get reprieves just for being old.
External options that make me want to watch Dobie Gillis
Bob Denver - Filling the vacant Brendan Ryan role for both goofiness and random facial hair, Bob Denver would be a fine choice, as I assume he has a deceptive delivery and a rubber arm. Unfortunately, Bob Denver has been dead for over five years.
Possible WAR: Infinity. Zombies are good.
External options via trade (or: What kind of asinine GM trades one of his starting pitchers during Spring training?)
Mark Buehrle - I mean, he's going to be a Cardinal eventually. Let's just get it over with.
Possible WAR: 3.5
Possible WAR: 0
(How's that for analysis?!?)
External free agent options that make me commit arson
Kevin Millwood - I swear, John Mozeliak... Don't you try me.
Possible WAR: -5,000
How the Cardinals will go—who knows? No matter what, they're not going to replace Wainwright's 6 WAR. Nor his smiles.
My choice to fill his vacancy would be Lynn as 1a and McClellan as 1b. But since Tony La Russa and I are on same page as often as Charles Krauthammer and Rachel Maddow, I clearly have no idea how it will play out. (Your 2011 Saint Louis Cardinals opening day starter: Bob Welch!)