LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 26: Seth Maness #61 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in relief during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) By Harry How
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 26: Edward Mujica #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after the third Los Angeles Dodgers out for a 5-3 Cardinal win at Dodger Stadium on May 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) By Harry How
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: Mitchell Boggs #41 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 24, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) By Harry How
ST. LOUIS - So you think the Cards have unprecedented depth, do you? Looks like it's time to put your money where your mouth is. Virtually every third-party publication known to man ranked the Redbirds as having the best farm system in Major League baseball this past offseason.
Which is nice. Don't get me wrong. But the thing is at some point that depth is going to get tested. And, folks, that moment has arrived. If it didn't arrive like three weeks ago.
Jake Westbrook has gone down. So has Jaime Garcia. Chris Carpenter was lost before the year even began. Now John Gast - part of that depth - is out. If the Cardinals bring up top prospect Michael Wacha to start Thursday as expected they will have robbed AAA-Memphis of 80 percent of its season opening starting rotation...in addition to another (Carlos Martinez) from AA-Springfield.
If the Cards can find a way to weather this storm for the next, oh I don't know, month or two until some of these guys can get healthy that will be the greatest victory this minor league system could possibly provide. No one can expect the likes of Tyler Lyons and Michael Blazek to come up to St. Louis and carry this club through the regular season and into the playoffs. Those guys are here as a simple Band-Aid to the team's problems.
If that Band-Aid comes off? If these young guys were built up as something much more extraordinary as they really are? This stretch here of seemingly losing a pitcher every other day could prove to be devastating in the Cards bid to make a run at another World Series title.
Plus, don't mistake initial success for the perceived ability to sustain it. Jake Westbrook really said it best once he came over to the team in the middle of 2010. He said the fact he pitched much better in the National League than he did in the American League was because no one had ever seen him before.
Well, guess what? Prospects take that statement to the extreme. For Westbrook, he'd been in the league for years. Just never in the NL. So while hitters in the new league have never seen him, at least there was some video on the guy to look at. Prospects? Not only have they never seen them pitch but no one has. There's no scouting reports to go off of. It's 100% new. Just go hit and learn what they've got on the fly.
So if Shelby Miller is throwing gems left and right that doesn't mean he's just so much better than the competition. It just means they haven't had a chance to see him long enough to make the necessary adjustments. Now, Miller is a different type of example. He's got the talent to dominate for a long time. But Tyler Lyons? Not so much. The more he pitches the more he'll get overexposed. Thus, the higher likelihood he'll start to get hit.
The Westbrooks and Carpenters of the world need to get healthy. These prospects may not be able to hold the fort forever. But if they can hold it down for another month or so? That'd show just how much they deserved the accolades they got over the winter.