MLB St Louis Cardinals

Predicting the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 Starting Rotation

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Predicting the St. Louis Cardinals' 2014 Starting Rotation

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals enter the 2014 season as the reigning National League Champions, though their bid for a World Series ring fell short when they lost to the Boston Red Sox to conclude the 2013 season. All said, the Cardinals spent 130 days in first place in 2013. A large part of that success, if not the primary reason, was the Cardinals' starting rotation.

Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly all had monster years, cumulatively winning 59 games between them alone (and losing 36 games). That type of performance is what is needed to dominate the division in the regular season and have the endurance to continue that success into the playoffs.

Up until a month ago this article would not have needed to be written, really, but now reports are surfacing about Jaime Garcia, who is reportedly out for the start of the season. This news comes after Garcia missed most of last season following shoulder surgery. In fact, there were hints that the Cards should consider a six-man rotation given the depth they have with starting pitchers. That option, even if Mike Matheny wanted to, is off the table for now as no timeline has been set for Garcia's return to the hill.

All said, the starting rotation in 2014 isn't going to look drastically different than the rotation that ended the 2013 season. There will be some changes and battles as is the case for any team, especially for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. Let's have a look at how the rotation will likely shake out.

Vinny Gala is a baseball contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.

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1. Adam Wainwright

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Adam Wainwright was the ace of the Cardinals' staff in 2013, ultimately finishing second in Cy Young Award voting though he didn't leave the 2013 season empty-handed. The 32-year-old was selected to the 2013 All-Star Game and won his second Gold Glove Award. He led the league in wins, games started and innings pitched, as well.

Speaking of which, Wainwright was the top producer of the Cardinals' staff logging 240+ innings pitched and 34 starts. In those starts, Wainwright went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA.

Wainwright will return to the top spot in the Cardinals' rotation again in 2014.

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2. Shelby Miller

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Shelby Miller had a successful 2013 campaign that saw him post a 15-9 record and a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts. His innings pitched were a bit low at 173, but his power numbers were comparable to Lance Lynn. Look for Miller to see some more innings this season and for him to throw up comparable numbers in 2014.

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3. Lance Lynn

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Lance Lynn was a workhorse for the Cardinals in 2013, logging 200+ innings in 33 starts and producing a record of 15-10 and a 3.97 ERA. His strikeout ratio was fairly high among comparable starters at 8.8 and his BB/9 ratio was a bit higher than he would like at 3.4. Other than that, he's a proven major leaguer who can chew up some innings over the course of the season.

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4. Michael Wacha

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Michael Wacha had a rookie season to remember in 2013 even though it was only a partial season, seeing only nine starts prior to the start of the postseason. In those starts, the 22-year-old posted a 4-1 record and an impressive 2.78 ERA. His WHIP was extremely low at 1.098, his BB/9 ratio was down (2.6) and his K/9 ratio was high compared to other pitchers on the staff (9.0).

Wacha's notoriety really developed in the postseason with strong performances over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLDS into the World Series, assembling an overall record of 5-5 and a 2.64 ERA.

Wacha is still a bit unproven as far as longevity is concerned, so I think he gets the No. 4 spot in the rotation and not No. 3, which is where many outlets are predicting he will fall. The Cardinals don't want to see Wacha sustain an injury like Stephen Strasburg did a couple seasons ago, so they are going to be very careful with his workload.

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5A. Joe Kelly

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Joe Kelly started fifteen games in 2013, posting a 10-5 record and a 2.69 ERA. His WHIP was solid at 1.355 and his K/9 numbers weren't too shabby either (5.7). If Mike Matheny doesn't care about having a lefty in the starting rotation, Kelly gets the nod as the team's fifth starter based upon his success in 2013 as well as his experience level by comparison to the alternative at 5B.

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5B. Tyler Lyons

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Tyler Lyons is a lefty, and that is an important fact to keep in mind considering the Cardinals do not have a left-handed pitcher in their rotation otherwise. If Matheny wants a lefty in the rotation somewhere, this is the guy. Lyons, though unproven, started eight games in 2013, posting a 2-5 record and a 4.75 ERA. He had a better K/9 ratio (7.3) and WHIP (1.226) than Joe Kelly, but lacked the success illustrated by the overall record.

If Lyons gets the nod for the final spot in the rotation, Joe Kelly shifts to the bullpen and becomes the long-relief guy who will see a spot-start or two throughout the season.