With St. Louis Cardinals’ Rotation Depth Fading, Daniel Poncedeleon Stepping Up

Daniel Poncedeleon might be the St. Louis Cardinals’ next option if they need to utilize the services of a minor-league starter.

The St. Louis Cardinals looked to have a ton of starting pitching depth heading into 2017, but as is often the case with such luxurious collections of rotation depth, injuries have quickly taken their toll.

Alex Reyes, who was widely expected to fill a rotation spot to open the season, was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery during spring training. After attempting to become a starter again, Trevor Rosenthal faltered whenever he tried to throw multiple innings and was pushed back into a short relief role. Former Miami Marlins righthander Kendry Flores had his contract voided due to a failed physical, lefty Marco Gonzales still hasn’t returned to the mound following Tommy John surgery last April, righty John Gant is still out with a groin injury, and righty Luke Weaver went on the minor-league DL after his first start of the season.

As a result of all those injuries, the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds have utilized a rather unheralded group of starting pitchers to begin the season.

40-man roster member Mike Mayers, offseason trade acquisition Chris Ellis, free agent signee Josh Zeid, and prospect Daniel Poncedeleon have been the rotation mainstays, with the fifth spot rotating among several other pitchers.

While Mayers, Ellis, and Zeid have struggled significantly during the early part of the season, the 25-year-old Poncedeleon has thrived over his first three Triple-A starts. He’s allowed just one run in each of his starts, going 5 1/3, 4 2/3, and most recently six innings. Control has been somewhat of an issue for him, as he’s walked eight batters in 16 innings, but he’s done a great job of missing bats, striking out 17 hitters and holding his opponents to a .167 average. All in all, he’s got a 1.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his first three Triple-A starts, which is extremely impressive in the Pacific Coast League, arguably the most hitter-friendly league in professional baseball.

Weaver and Gant are expected to return to the Redbirds’ rotation within the next couple weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Cardinals’ course of action is with Poncedeleon, who was set to begin the season at Double-A Springfield before injuries struck. If he keeps pitching like he has to start the season, though, he’ll certainly make it a tough decision for the front office.