The starting rotation for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals will be very entertaining to follow this season.
With the regular season about to get underway, St. Louis Cardinals prospect watchers will be able to follow the organization’s top pitching prospects in an extremely convenient manner. MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweeted Wednesday that the starting rotation at Double-A Springfield is expected to feature four of the organization’s Top 14 prospects.
Sandy Alcantara (6), Jack Flaherty (8), Dakota Hudson (9), and Austin Gomber (14) are likely to begin the season in Springfield’s rotation. It’ll be the first crack at the upper minors for Alcantara and Flaherty, while Hudson and Gomber will be spending their first respective full seasons in Double-A after making cameo appearances last season.
The 21-year-old Alcantara is considered to have the highest upside among the group, and GM John Mozeliak has already said that the hard-throwing righty could pitch in the majors this season. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Hudson was a first-rounder last June and is obviously also on the fast track to the big leagues.
Flaherty, a first-rounder in 2014, and Gomber, a fourth-rounder in that same draft, are being brought along more slowly than Alcantara and Hudson, but they both have the potential to be effective major-league starters. Gomber actually had the best 2016 season among the group, posting a combined 2.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out 116 and walking just 33 between 17 starts at High-A Palm Beach and four at Springfield.
Corey Baker, Trey Nielsen, and Daniel Poncedeleon would all seem to be candidates for the fifth spot in that rotation, depending on whether any of them are elevated to Triple-A Memphis. Nielsen (3.84 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) and Poncedeleon (3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) had banner seasons in Springfield last year and would be worthy of rotation slots in Memphis. Baker, meanwhile, spent a month in Triple-A last year and wasn’t particularly impressive, but he showed off his impressive potential earlier this month by throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings for Team Israel in its win over Chinese Taipei in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.