St. Louis Cardinals 2014 Preview: One of these three righthanders will make the opening-day bullpen

This is Scott McGregor. Now you know what he looks like.

The Cardinals have one last opening-day bullpen spot to fill. Let's get to know the finalists for the job.

Entering spring training, the bullpen was a question mark for the Cardinals in the sense that we didn't know which would-be starters would fill it. Then Jaime Garcia got injured, the starting rotation competition became more focused, and the bullpen picture became foggier. Over the past few days, however, the composition of the St. Louis relief corps has cleared up a bit. This weekend, the Cardinals made announcements that finalized two bullpen spots:

  • The organization outrighted righthander Angel Castro and gave the spot on the 40-man roster that opened as a result to righthanded sidewinder Pat Neshek, ensuring him a job in the St. Louis opening day bullpen.
  • Manager Mike Matheny declared Joe Kelly the Cards' No. 5 starter and relegated Carlos Martinez to the role of setup man in the big-league bullpen.

Right now, the opening-day bullpen consists of the following players:

  1. Randy Choate, LHP
  2. Kevin Siegrist, LHP
  3. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP
  4. Carlos Martinez, RHP
  5. Seth Maness, RHP
  6. Pat Neshek, RHP
  7. ??????????????, RHP

There are three righties competing for the ultimate opening-day bullpen spot (which is effectively the job of placeholder until Jason Motte is able to return to big-league action). Each is an organizational warrior who has fought his way up the organizational ladder.

Keith Butler

Butler made his MLB debut a season ago and wasn't particularly impressive. Butler is not going to blow you away with raw stuff like so many of the up-and-coming Birdo hurlers. His four-seam fastball averaged 91.89 mph in the majors last year and he mixed in a high-80s sinker with a curve and change. Earlier this offseason, Fourstick profiled Butler in the VEB Other 15 series (with video) and assessed Butler's repertoire as follows:

Butler throws slightly across his body, hiding the ball well, and you can see that his curveball comes out of a very similar arm slot as his fastball, making it harder to define the pitch that's coming until it's nearly out of his hand. You can see, however, that it's got a bit of a "hop" in it when it breaks, which makes it easier to lay off. That's likely why he's developed a changeup, which will allow him to change speeds and fade the ball away from LHH. Which he sorely needs as his 4.73 SIERA and 5.09 FIP against lefties at Memphis last year just isn't going to cut it.

BUTLER'S CAREER STATS

Year

Level

Age

G

GS

IP

BABIP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

2009

R-GCL

20

14

0

28.1

.277

73.5%

29.6%

10.4%

2.22

2.49

2009

R-APP

20

2

0

2.0

.000

100.0%

57.1%

14.3%

0.00

0.70

2010

A-NYPL

21

27

0

30.2

.389

68.8%

36.0%

10.8%

2.93

1.93

2011

A-MWL

22

12

0

15.1

.194

83.3%

28.1%

8.8%

1.17

2.09

2011

A-FLA

22

34

0

36.0

.243

87.8%

35.4%

12.2%

1.25

2.34

2012

AA

23

53

0

58.2

.302

78.9%

23.8%

9.3%

2.76

3.58

2013

AA

24

13

0

13.2

.259

100.0%

41.2%

3.9%

0.66

1.52

2013

AAA

24

20

1

27.1

.254

69.8%

25.2%

8.1%

3.62

3.57

2013

MLB

24

16

0

20.0

.228

64.0%

18.8%

12.9%

4.05

3.25

Butler is currently on the 40-man roster, which means the Cardinals will not have to open a spot should they decide to name him to the opening-day bullpen.

Jorge Rondon

The Cardinals signed Rondon as an international free agent when he was a teenager and the righty got his professional start in the Venezuelan Summer League. Since then, Rondon has matured into a hurler with enticing stuff. In Fourstick's Other 15 profile of the righty (once again with video), he writes:

Rondon features a plus fastball, regularly hitting 96-98 and touching 100 occasionally, as well as a slider labeled "best in the organization" by Derrick Goold when dissecting the orgs top tools for Baseball America prior to last season.

The problem for Rondon is that he has consistently had problems controlling his repertoire. The result is that, year after year, he's posted walk rates comfortably in the double digits.

RONDON'S CAREER STATS

Year

Level

Age

G

GS

IP

BABIP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

2006

VESL

18

10

6

15.1

-

-

16.4%

8.2%

6.46

-

2007

VESL

19

17

9

62.2

-

-

9.5%

6.4%

4.74

-

2008

R-APPY

20

21

0

22.1

.386

71.0%

20.6%

7.8%

4.03

3.24

2008

A-MWL

20

8

0

8.1

.423

72.3%

14.3%

8.6%

3.24

3.44

2009

A-FLA

21

10

10

52.2

.308

70.1%

16.2%

5.7%

4.27

4.38

2009

A-MWL

21

8

2

16.1

.383

52.2%

13.4%

12.2%

7.71

4.49

2010

A-MWL

22

29

19

108.2

.331

61.4%

15.0%

12.8%

5.63

4.67

2011

A-FLA

23

21

0

26.2

.364

71.4%

22.9%

11.0%

4.05

3.13

2011

AA

23

37

0

37.1

.336

47.8%

16.0%

17.6%

9.64

6.04

2012

AA

24

33

0

34.0

.298

73.5%

20.7%

11.0%

3.44

3.58

2012

AAA

24

13

0

15.0

.314

75.3%

31.3%

12.5%

3.60

3.00

2013

AAA

25

51

0

67.2

.299

78.0%

13.6%

12.0%

3.06

4.84

Like Butler, Rondon is also on the 40-man roster.

Scott McGregor

McGregor is a non-prospect who is entering his sixth season with the franchise. He lost 2011 and part of 2012 to Tommy John surgery. Last season, McGregor was healthy for the first time in years and posted great numbers in Springfield before getting promoted to Memphis, where he was decent. It was somewhat surprising earlier in spring training when the Cardinals reassigned McGregor from minor-league camp to the big-league camp. Perhaps they organization didn't like what they were seeing from Butler and Rondon. At any rate, McGregor is now in the mix.

MCGREGOR'S CAREER STATS

Year

Level

Age

G

GS

IP

BABIP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

2008

R-GCL

21

7

3

27.0

.215

85.0

19.6%

2.9%

0.33

2.05

2008

R-APP

21

2

0

4.0

.316

52.6

4.4%

4.4%

6.75

7.45

2008

A-MWL

21

3

0

6.1

.346

72.7

6.7%

3.3%

2.84

3.52

2009

A-MWL

22

34

17

115.0

.333

49.1

14.9%

5.0%

5.56

3.27

2010

A-FLA

23

16

8

57.0

.325

71.8

7.4%

5.3%

2.68

3.64

2010

AA

23

15

12

80.2

.291

67.7

14.9%

2.7%

3.46

3.67

2012

A-FLA

25

2

2

8.0

.231

75.0

8.6%

5.7%

2.25

4.70

2012

AA

25

12

11

59.0

.312

55.8

11.3%

6.8%

6.86

5.73

2013

AA

26

8

8

48.0

.287

85.4

24.6%

5.6%

2.44

3.37

2013

AAA

26

18

17

100.2

.311

63.9

15.4%

6.7%

4.83

4.14

McGregor is not on the 40-man roster, which means the Cardinals will have to free up a spot in order to include him in the opening-day relief corps.

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