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The Cardinals (Pitching) Depth is About to Be Tested

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Workouts Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cardinals having confirmed 13 positive COVID-19 tests (7 players, six staff) to this point, it is still unclear when the team will continue playing. When they do, however, they will likely need to call up a few players from their alternate training site in order to fill out the roster. Additionally, it seems likely that most of these players will be pitchers as at least two of the positive tests have come from pitchers.

This is a situation that will test the depth o the organization, in a way that has not previously been seen. Additionally because of pre-existing injury concerns and player opt-outs, the Cardinals pitching depth was already being used. The pitchers already had less time to prepare for the season. Also, Miles Mikolas and John Brebbia have experienced season ending injuries, while Jordan Hicks opted out of the season (and was also injured). Giovanny Gallegos even struggled to return to the United States because of COVID restrictions and has already dealt with a 10-Day IL stint. Now, with at least two pitchers testing positive for COVID, that is five or six MLB pitchers that will need to be temporarily replaced.

This would be a problem for any team, and it has the potential to significantly damage the Cardinals playoff hopes, if the pitching staff cannot step up in the absence of these key players. This situation would be problematic in a 162 game season but now that the season is just 60 games long and each 2020 game is equivalent to 2.7 2019 games, it could be even more impactful.

The Cardinals are an organization that always seems to have MLB-caliber pitchers ready to join the team and contribute, but now, they may have to reach even further down the minor league ranks to fill out the bullpen depending on what happens in the nest week. The Cardinals have already added Jake Woodford to the MLB roster in recent days, and he will likely not be the only player to join the team in the next few days. Without knowing the identities of the pitchers with positive COVID tests, it is difficult to predict if the Cardinals will need bullpen or rotation reinforcements. However, if any starters will need to be replaced, then the Cardinals will likely pull from the current bullpen in order to fill in the gap. This could mean that KK, Daniel Ponce de Leon or Austin Gomber, or perhaps even Ryan Helsley or Jake Woodford could fill that role. This would mean that the bullpen would need to be replenished and the most likely candidates for this would be Johan Oviedo and Genesis Cabrera.

I have already written about Oviedo, but Cabrera would be an intriguing option as he can be electric on the mound, but also struggles with control. Additionally, he posted a 4.54 FIP last season at the major league level, as well as a 5.71 xFIP. The southpaw also allowed a double and a home run against live hitters at the Cardinals alternate training site as recently as July 29th. If he has been struggling in Springfield, then the Cardinals may look to promote a pitcher who has been more impressive in recent outings. This could be Rob Kaminsky who impressed in summer camp, or Seth Elledge who impressed in the Arizona Fall League last year and has reached Triple-A.

There are plenty of options beyond these names, but most other pitchers at the alternate site have not reached Triple-A, or even Double-A. Angel Rondon is another arm who was impressive last season, and he posted good results (3.21 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 4.31 xFIP) in 115 Double-A innings. He is likely a bit of a longshot to reach St. Louis this season, but depending on how the COVID situation develops, he could be a name to watch. Other names to watch are Alvaro Seijas who posted solid results in Single-A and A-Advanced last season, as well as Ricardo Sanchez who had a 3.40 FIP with the Mariners Double-A affiliate last season. Both of these players are on the 40-man roster, and are the only pitchers on the 40-man roster other than Genesis Cabrera who are currently in Springfield. Ultimately though, it may come down to how these players have been pitching in Springfield as well as what the team feels that it needs.

The 2020 season will test the Cardinals pitching depth, and this could be worrying as the Cardinals draft approach in 2019 was to replenish their pitching depth. However, the Cardinals do have some pitchers who could arrive in St. Louis and contribute. However, the expanded roster has already left their alternate site in Springfield short of arms with upper level minor league experience. This means that some young players may need to be given a shot, even if it seems too early, and they may be asked to contribute as the Cardinals chase the playoffs in shortened 2020 season.