The 2023 season is almost over, which means there’s limited time to see what the Cardinals young arms can bring to the table.
The story of the season has without a doubt been the poor pitching. The front office did not address the pitching and their strategy, or lack thereof backfired on them.
Now, it’s only a matter of time before the Cardinals are officially eliminated from postseason contention. But since the Cardinals aren’t going for it, we as fans have had the opportunity to see a few young studs emerge as viable pieces of the starting rotation.
With just 20 games remaining in the season, Zack Thompson and Dakota Hudson have emerged as the team’s two best pitchers. I have to say that even though we knew the Cardinals weren’t going to be making any noise down the stretch, I did not see this coming.
Thompson was initially supposed to be the key left-handed arm in the bullpen. The Cardinals sent him down to Memphis to try and become a starter. It did not go well.
However, an opportunity opened up for Thompson when Steven Matz got hurt, and he has run with that opportunity.
Dakota Hudson took a spot in the rotation after Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery were traded. Like Thompson, Hudson has made the most of his opportunity.
But what does this mean for the future of the Cardinals pitching staff, and what should we make of this?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Hudson and Thompson are showing their full potential right now. Hudson is back to where he was prior to Tommy John surgery in 2020. He wasn’t even in the rotation on Opening Day. His last outing was bad, but he’s looked a lot better this season.
I think what’s most important is that he’s really cut down on the walks. That was something that really plagued him last year.
As for Thompson, strikeouts have been the key. We know the Cardinals need more swing and miss in their bullpen and rotation. This year, Thompson is averaging 10.4 strikeouts per game. That’s really impressive, and it’s a good sign for the Cardinals in terms of the future.
I was at Busch Stadium on Sunday when Thompson spun a seven-inning gem against the Pirates. He was efficient and sharp and probably could have gone a little bit longer.
It’s really encouraging to see these young guys step up in big spots, and as far as pitching goes, the Cardinals now know that they have two solid internal rotation options as they head into spring training, and I personally hope they get some looks next year before the Cardinals break camp.
However, this does not mean that the Cardinals don’t need to add three starters. The rotation is thin as it is and with Adam Wainwright retiring, it’s going to get even thinner.
The Cardinals are still going to need to be aggressive in free agency and in trades. Only Matz and Miles Mikolas are under contract for next year and 2025.
But at the very least, if the Cardinals add three starters and somebody gets hurt, they do have Thompson and Hudson waiting in the wings. Both of them have impressed this year, and while I don’t think they’ll be prime candidates to gain spots in the Opening Day rotation, the Cardinals can take solace in the fact that they have two solid depth pieces if anything goes wrong.
These two guys have pitched extremely well. For a while, it seemed like the Cardinals pitching depth had run thin. But having Thompson and Hudson in the system will be a huge plus for the team in 2024.