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St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen: Depth Chart Discussions

The 2013 version of the Cardinals bullpen seems to be littered with depth, specialists and flashes some upside that should make for an interesting year, both in real and fake baseball.

The Closer:

Jason Motte

Motte finished 2012 42-of-49 in save chances with a 2.75 ERA (3.12 FIP) and a 5.02 K/BB. His 42 saves and 5.02 K/BB were each career bests with a minimum of 20 innings pitched, and good enough for a third and twelfth place finish among qualified relievers respectively last year. The key to the righty’s recent success could be associated with the increased use of the cutter over the past three seasons. The flamethrower’s velocity and ability to induce swinging strikes have increased and his xFIP has decreased in each of those seasons. The Cardinals’ closer continues to get better and maybe the best is yet to come. He’s ascended into the top of the second tier of relievers and should be one of the top three from that position selected in your draft. He will continue to provide impressive ratios, whiff batters and tally the saves your team desperately needs — if you’re willing to pay the price.

The setup guys:

Mitchell Boggs
Trevor Rosenthal

As volatile as the closer’s role is on any staff, you always want to monitor the hurler that appears to be next-in-line. While the Cardinals haven’t shown their hand yet, it looks as if Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal are those guys. With that said, either of Marc Rzepczynski or Randy Choate could be called on situationally against lefties when needed.

Boggs served as the primary eighth-inning man for Mike Matheny in 2012 and it looks as if he’ll be slotted back in that role again this year. He collected 36 holds last season — great for fantasy owners in those formats — and managed to post fine ratios (2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP), but the strikeout numbers you’d hope for from a middle reliever were rather pedestrian (19.6% K%).

Rosenthal, 22, pitched 19 games (22.2 IP) in relief for the Cardinals in twenty-twelve and posted a 2.73 ERA with a 0.93 WHIP. The kid missed a good amount of bats (10.6% SwStr%) and struck out 28.1% of the batters he faced, while allowing just 7.9% of batters to reach via the free pass. With the unfortunate Chris Carpenter news heading into Spring Training, the Cardinals initially asked Rosenthal to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, but that idea was laid to rest today. So, it’s back to the bullpen with the kid and his 97 mph heater, making him a dark-horse candidate for saves should something come up with Motte.

Middle Relief:

Marc Rzepczynski (L)
Edward Mujica
Randy Choate (L)
Fernando Salas

Rzepvzynski earned 18 holds in 2012, but his 4.24 ERA (4.72 FIP) and 1.35 WHIP make him tough to roster, unless you’re a desperate owner in a league that rewards relievers for holds. The ratios were likely inflated due to the insane amount of moonshots he allowed (25% HR/FB, 1.35 HR/9), so one would imagine those ratios are due for some positive regression in 2013. It’s also worth noting that “Scrabble” missed fewer bats last season (9.7% SwStr%) than the previous, which is the likely culprit for the dip in K% from 23.8% in 2011 to 16.8% in ‘12.

Edward Mujica settled into the seventh-inning role for the Cards after coming over from the Marlins last season. He dished 26.1 regular season innings with the new club with a 1.03 ERA and a 7.0 K/BB. The 29-year-old righty appears headed back to the seventh and may get the opportunity to earn some holds (he notched 30 in ‘12) again this season. Holds or not, his 1.04 WHIP thanks to a 4.7% BB% may be a good enough reason to add him in deeper leagues to stabilize your ratios.

Choate inked a 3-year deal with the Cardinals this offseason to be a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. There is an outside chance that Choate will earns some holds this year, but the iffy ratios (3.30 ERA, 1.22 IP) parlayed with the limited innings he will pitch suggest he should remain on your league’s waiver wire.

In 2012, Fernando Salas struggled to match the excellent effort he put forth the previous year in which he posted a 2.28 ERA, 0.95 WHIP with a 25.4K%. But, like Albert Lang notes, the 2012 jump in SwStr% and F-Strike% from the previous season doesn’t jive with the dip in K%, so he could be in for a bounceback campaign in ‘13. Matheny will be watching Salas’ performance in the WBC closely before determining his role for this year.