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Thursday, May 27, 2010
St. Louis rotation suddenly shaky

Remember when the Cardinals were overwhelming favorites to win another division title? Well, they're not so overwhelming anymore. Not with Brad Penny down for a few weeks and Kyle Lohse down for ... well, nobody seems to know but this doesn't sound good. Joe Strauss:

None of these guys are jokes. Before this season, Hawksworth, Ottavino and Walters were ranked by Baseball America as the Cardinals' 8th-, 11th-, and 23rd-best prospects. But Hawksworth doesn't have a reliable third pitch, Ottavino's got a 4.62 ERA in 35 Triple-A starts, and Walters hits 90 on the speed gun only after a couple of bowls of Wheaties.*

* One thing I don't know: Why isn't Lance Lynn a candidate, too? He entered this season just behind Jaime Garcia on the prospects list, and has a 3.31 ERA in nine starts with Memphis.)

Which isn't to suggest they can't pitch. But it's hard to win with two Triple-A starters in your rotation. One, sure; lots of teams have a questionable No. 5 starter. But if Brad Penny doesn't come back strong in June, the Cardinals are likely to get into the Roy Oswalt / Cliff Lee sweepstakes, and hard. Unfortunately, the Cardinals don't have a great deal of talent in their farm system, so putting together an attractive package might be problematic. They probably just have to hope Penny's healthy and cobble together starts as necessary.