JUPITER, Fla. (Baseball STL) -- Just about every conceivable competition has either been decided or just about decided this spring training so far.
Yes, Matt Carpenter can indeed play second base. No, the Cards won't be tempted to move Trevor Rosenthal into the starting rotation when he was so dominant out of the bullpen last October. It also appears Matt Adams has swung his way into making this team.
There is one gigantic competition that is yet to be called, however. Who in the world will be the fifth starting pitcher after Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook? What started as a three-man race with Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller is now down to two. Miller and Kelly.
What once looked as if a relatively easy decision (going with Kelly due to his 107 innings in the big leagues last season) now doesn't look so easy. With less than two weeks to go before opening day in Arizona, both guys are getting equal looks. Kelly started the last game this spot in the rotation came up with Miller in relief. Today, it's the opposite. Miller is starting with Kelly in relief.
There are a lot of different ways the Redbirds could go because whoever does not win this competition will then be in consideration for the final spot in the bullpen, a spot Fernando Salas has done well in this spring.
So, what exactly would the Cards be getting with each of these two potential starters? What would they gain by putting one in the rotation as opposed to the other? Let's take a look:
He's the sure thing for the immediate future. And by immediate future I mean April and possibly May. Joe Kelly has done something that goes very under the radar nowadays. He's (slightly) proven. Joe Kelly's actually been in the big leagues as a starter for an extended period of time, not just for a start or two. He replaced an injured Jaime Garcia last year in the rotation and made 16 starts, 24 appearances overall, and constructed a 3.53 ERA.
Miller, while incredibly talented, just hasn't done it yet. He blanked the Reds for six innings on the last day of the regular season but that's it. He hasn't given teams a chance to see him again and again and again yet. That's when they make adjustments and we all find out how good you really are. Now, there's little doubt he'll be really good when that time comes, but for this moment in time the Cardinals just know what they're going to get much more with Kelly than they do with Miller.
He's the future. Barring a trade, this guy will be a stalwart in the Cardinals rotation for years to come. He is not a reliever, has never been a reliever nor projects as a reliever at any point in the future. All unlike Kelly, who actually closed in college and came up the system projected to be in the bullpen.
Miller went through a very humbling experience last year in AAA when he was staring at an ERA over six (actually 6.17) at the All Star break. It was at that point he turned a corner, both on the field and off of it. The second half of the season saw him just tear up the Pacific Coast League. He dropped his ERA nearly a full run and a half (2.88 for the second half of the year) and held opponents to a .217 batting average against him. That was the Shelby Miller everyone was expecting to see at the start of the season.
Because of his early season struggles, Kelly (who was pitching well in AAA) was the one called up to replace Garcia. That allowed him the opportunity to prove himself, which he then did. It doesn't change the fact Miller dominated in the second half and became who they envisioned, but it also puts him a step behind as far as being a known quantity.
So, there you have it. You've got an absolutely electric starter (Miller) who projects to be a star down the road but hasn't proven a thing at the big league level just yet. You've then got a guy who's proven himself for nearly a half season but doesn't possess the long term ceiling of a starter that Miller does.
What direction will the Cardinals go? We'll find out shortly.