The cornerstone of the Giants' success hasn’t come from blockbuster trades and massive free-agent splashes. It has come from two things: smart player acquisitions and some serious homegrown pitching.
The Giants' approach to player development has put them in a position to win not just now, but for years to come. The biggest names on their staff have all come from within, including Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong (who left for a stint in Pittsburgh) and Sergio Romo.
The Cardinals, under the direction of then-director of player procurement Jeff Luhnow, have taken a similar approach in recent years. As you will soon understand, Luhnow, who left for the Houston Astros organization, may have been one of the most painful long-term losses of 2011-12.
With a focus on young, high-upside pitching talent, Luhnow managed to grab up a number of exciting arms. With the arrival of Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal to the majors, his work is beginning to come to fruition and puts the Cardinals in a good position.
Miller has been the highlight of the organization’s farm system for several years. He has the potential to be the face of the pitching staff in the future if he can keep everything in place.
Miller is a strikeout pitcher who had gotten by in the minor leagues on his fastball, but in 2012, he learned that it will take more than a fastball to get by in the big show.
Once he harnesses his off-speed pitches, and he showed good signs of that late in the season, he will be fun to watch. Pitching to Yadier Molina will also be a positive move for his continued development.
Trevor Rosenthal, who there were high hopes for, gained serious attention in 2012 when he posted a 1.29 ERA over five appearances, totaling seven innings. He surrendered only one run.
Rosenthal has a four-seam fastball that rests around 98 mph and touches 100 when he wants it to. The advantage to Rosenthal is that he also has a nasty curveball that he uses about 13 percent of the time, according to Brooks Baseball.
The two big names above are only the beginning of why the Cardinals have a successful decade ahead of them. There are numerous pitchers in the system with similar ceilings who make the future bright in St. Louis.
Michael Wacha, drafted as the Cardinals' top pick in 2012 from Texas A&M, will likely have a short stint in the minor leagues. In only the second half of 2012, he made his way from rookie ball to Double-A Springfield, and he did so with a vengeance.
During his three months of professional baseball, Wacha piled up 21 relief innings with a 0.86 ERA. He surrendered only two runs on eight hits with 40 strikeouts. He’s an intense strikeout/groundball pitcher and held hitters to a .118 average.
Carlos Martinez, a 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is another one to be on the lookout for as he gets closer to making the trip to St. Louis. Much like Miller, he is a pitcher trying to harness an offspeed pitch to complement a powerful fastball.
His ceiling may not be as high as Miller's or Rosenthal's, but he is not one to discount. In only 15 games at Springfield in 2012, he put together a respectable 4-3 season with a solid 2.90 ERA over his 71 IP.
Most likely, he will spend some more time in Double-A to start the season before he steps up to Memphis.
Tyrell Jenkins is another name to keep an eye on. Only 20 years old, this fastball-thrower has a lot of developing left to do.
He had a rough season at Quad Cities, going 4-4 with a 5.14 ERA. He is still quite raw in his development, but he’s progressing, and with all of the other arms in the system, there is no reason to rush him.
The chance of all of these pitchers realizing their potential is slim. If even half of them do, though, the Cardinals will still have more high-end homegrown talent than anyone in their division, possibly the league.
One thing is for sure: The Cardinals have the arms to become a feared foe in the National League over the next few years. This isn’t even taking into account pitchers like Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia. All of them, don’t forget, also came up through the Cardinals" farm system.