I cannot think of a rotation that I would rather have for my team than the one in St. Louis. With a bona fide ace, and some young, talented arms, the Cardinals just keep cranking out the top notch starting pitchers season after season.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
St. Louis Cardinals
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
Adam Wainwright was dominant again in 2013, putting up a sub-3 ERA (2.94) with a superb 1.07 WHIP and 219 strikeouts in 241.2 innings. There is not much more you could ask from your ace, except to stay healthy, and he is going to come off the board as one of the top 6 starting pitchers in 2014. Expect a small amount of regression, if any, and feel secure in drafting him as your SP1.
At 22 years old, Michael Wacha has a fine future ahead of him if last September was any indicator. Once he hit the majors, Wacha was nearly unhittable, using his 93.5 MPH fastball to post a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, coupled with a strikeout per inning over 64.2 innings. On that basis, he has secured a rotation slot, but beware of an innings limit being imposed as the season rolls on. If you draft him, just realize that his ceiling is prolly around 170 innings in 2014. Even so, you will need to act quickly in your drafts if you want to secure his services.
Shelby Miller should be free of innings limits this season, and can build on his close to strikeout per inning dominance that he displayed last season, most notably in the first half. With a fastball clocking in at nearly 94 MPH, he has the stuff to overpower hitters, although he does need to work on his control, as he walked batters at a 2.96/9 rate last year, although his WHIP didn't really reflect that (1.21 in 2013). He and Wacha are going at about the same point in drafts, so if you miss out on one, you should target the other to be your SP2/3 depending on your draft philosophy.
Inconsistency is the only flaw I can point to in Lance Lynn's performances, because the final results he puts up are entirely satisfactory for a pitcher you should be targeting in the middle rounds of your drafts. Expect him to toss 200 innings, and while he will not give you the same stellar peripherals that Wainwright, Wacha or Miller are capable of putting up, he does strike out batters at a favorable clip (8.84 K/9 in 2014). I like strikeout pitchers, and also like a pitcher that is going to go out to the mound every five days. The occasional blow up game is what you need to guard against, but the good tends to balance out the bad with Lynn.
Jaime Garcia was poised to fill the fifth starter position for the Cards, but a bum shoulder will delay his arrival as part of the Cardinal rotation until May. Average strikeouts and extreme groundballs are what you can anticipate upon his return to the team, but his ability to stay on the field is somewhat questionable at this point in the 27 year old's career. Draft with extreme caution, as his shoulder could need surgery at any time.
Joe Kelly has won the battle for the fifth starter position, despite being pushed hard by Carlos Martinez this spring. His groundball tendencies help balance his below average strikeout rate (6.00 K/9 the past 3 years, and a worse 5.73 in 2013), and his weak control. The Cards prolly prefer his experience, and would desire to let Martinez develop just a bit longer, although he and Martinez could swap spots if Kelly fails to produce.
Carlos E. Martinez was being stretched out to attempt to add him to the Cardinals' 2014 rotation, and so far, he has been rewarding that decision by the St. Louis coaching staff. His fastball can approach 97 MPH, and his control has been good, not great, which coupled with a 2.04 GB/FB ratio, makes most fantasy players take notice of his stuff. He's been relegated to start the season in the bullpen, however, with the decision to give Kelly the fifth spot in the rotation, but keep an eye on him if the Cards need an injury replacement or spot starter during the season..
Even with the Garcia injury, this is a solid staff with superb talent at the top three positions and actually secure performance at the back end of the rotation as well.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.