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Dakota Hudson needs to start the season as the St. Louis Cardinals’ fifth starter

Cards first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks about starting his career

St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks Saturday after receiving a $2-million signing bonus to begin his professional career as a pitcher.
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St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks Saturday after receiving a $2-million signing bonus to begin his professional career as a pitcher.

Dakota Hudson deserves to be fifth starter for St. Louis Cardinals

With Alex Reyes likely to make the St. Louis Cardinals roster as a reliever and Carlos Martinez expected to miss a significant portion of the upcoming season, I’d like to see the Redbirds go with Dakota Hudson as their fifth starter to start the season.

Hudson is battling for the final spot, apparently, with John Gant. Austin Gomber was also supposed to be a part of the contest, but he hasn’t exactly looked great this spring and he’s not getting many chances to show what he’s got to offer lately. So, the two-horse race is between the righties and they both have shown some promise.

But I like Hudson better for a lot of reasons. First, he’s the guy who seems to have the higher ceiling. If the Birds believe he’s going to be in their rotation for the next five to seven years, why not get started now? Gant is more of a swing guy. He’s done well out of the bullpen and in the rotation. He’s a good piece to have around. But I don’t hear a lot of people saying they think he’s going to end up being a front end of the rotation starter. Gant has had more success in the big leagues as a bullpenner. Last year when he started games he was 5-6 with a solid 3.61 earned run average. But when he pitches in relief, he’s got a 2.70 ERA and allows batters to get on base at a .193 clip. As a reliever with the ability to throw multiple innings, he might make a very nice right-handed complement to lefty super reliever Andrew Miller.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals can send Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon to Class AAA Memphis where they can remain stretched out. Let’s not forget that major league rotation members Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright haven’t exactly threatened Lou Gehrig’s iron man streak the past few seasons. The Birds are likely to need their rotation depth sooner or later. If it weren’t for the fragility of Wainwright and Wacha and the presence of Reyes in the Bullpen, I’d prefer to see Hudson and his wipeout slider in a setup role. But he’ll be more useful in the present situation as a starter, and he’ll likely be better in two years with that experience than he would be without it.

So here’s what I think the pitching staff should look like:

  • Starting pitchers: Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson
  • Relief pitchers: Andrew Miller, John Gant, John Brebbia, Alex Reyes, Mike Mayers, Brett Cecil or Chasen Shreve and Jordan Hicks.

I wonder, with his mechanical problems allegedly due to his weight loss if Cecil will start the season on the injured list. It is going to be tough for the team to avoid using its lefty specialist if it carries seven relievers as he tries to sort out his problems. I assume the Cardinals won’t want to over-use Reyes as he tries to get back up to speed after two seasons lost to injury. Shreve, since he is out of options, would likely be lost on the waiver wire if the team opts to keep Cecil active. But baseball is trying to crack down on abuse of the roster caused by fudging injuries with relievers. So the team isn’t likely to be able to claim he has a blister and park him on the inactive list.

Miller and Gant could really be key guys for the rotation because Wainwright, if he stays healthy, isn’t likely to average much more than five innings a start. It’s been his recent history that he pitches well for an inning or two or three, but then he starts to wear down. He’d be a candidate for the bullpen with that in mind, combined with his experience as a close. But when you have a fatigue problem with you pitching arm, it’s often difficult to come back and pitch on consecutive days or even every other day because it takes a while for inflammation to subside. So that’s not likely an option for him.

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