Kyle Lohse and Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals' young rotation

Mike McGinnis

The St. Louis Cardinals' surfeit of top prospects were enough to render Kyle Lohse unnecessary, but some of them will probably become Kyle Lohse.

Kyle Lohse's first start with the Milwaukee Brewers was vintage Kyle Lohse: No walks, lots of strikes, and a final line that looks great but doesn't threaten to make him look like a great pitcher.

That's always been the Lohse story: Before his first contract with the Cardinals he was going to get a big contract, except everyone came to their senses and he didn't; in 2013 he went 16-3 and still didn't. In 2011 and 2012, on a team that won the pennant and just missed another, he was almost certainly the most effective starter, but he was never more than Kyle Lohse.

When the St. Louis Cardinals finally let him go they didn't replace him with another Kyle Lohse, as has been their wont, because they'd found themselves with two to four Shelby Millers in their minor league system, starting with the name-brand version.

Every start Shelby Miller makes—the actual Shelby Miller and all the Cardinals' top prospects—threatens to make him look like a great pitcher. In his first start of the season he walked four and struck out four, and didn't make six full innings, but he kept his ERA at an impressive 3.38 by going an extra third-of-an-inning and picked up a win and kept his average fastball velocity at an impressive-enough 92 miles per hour after last year's actually slow start.

That strange perception shift is going to stay with us for a while, and well into Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha's rotation debuts; of all the Cardinals' right-handers only Joe Kelly is already allowed to be average.

The Cardinals aren't the first team to deal with that kind of prospect overload, though they are one of the first teams wise enough not to give them an inevitably dated-sounding Prospect Squad name. (See also: The Rangers' mid-aughts DVD troika, the Mets' Jason-Isringhausen-led Generation K. Extrapolating from that example I think the nickname for the Cardinals' prospects would have been some kind of acronym spelling "#hashtag," somehow.)

It's not that I'm worried about any one Cardinals prospect becoming the Thomas Diamond or Bill Pulsipher in this scenario—only that I'm certain they can't all be Shelby Miller. Some of the Cardinals' top prospects are going to wash out. Some of them, hopefully, will actually become huge stars. And somebody will probably come out looking a little like Kyle Lohse. There are certainly worse fates.

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