NL Central Preview: Starting Pitcher #3

With just six days until the first Spring Training game is played, I need to get a move on. So let’s move this NL Central Preview thread along, as we begin to look at the third starting pitcher.

In 2010, the Cardinals were helped by the breakthrough season of Jaime Garcia who helped solidify a questionable rotation much of last season. Though many ignored him in Rookie of the Year talk, his numbers were good enough to garner him some consideration.

Let’s get a move on as I’m sure you don’t appreciate my ramblings near as much as I do.

6. Brian Burres, Pittsburgh (4.99 ERA, 4-5 in 13 starts)
After the top-2 starters in the Pirates rotation, it’s where it starts to get really iffy as they seem to have three spots in the rotation all up for grabs to whoever pitches best. Burres is just one of those options who made starts in 2010 for the club. He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with Baltimore, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. His most successful season, was last season with Pittsburgh.

5. Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati (4.31 ERA, 4-3 in 12 starts)
Edinson Volquez spent most of 2010 on the disabled list, but was a nice midseason pick-me-up for the Reds who didn’t even need to trade for him, because they already had. Volquez even started Game 1 of the playoffs for Cincinnati as well, which shows the belief that manager Dusty Baker has in him. His first season in Cincinnati was dazzling as he won 17 games in 2008. Injury shortened his 2009 season, but nothing tells us that he shouldn’t be able to return to that 2008 form and shortly be considered the leader of that Reds bullpen once again.

4. Jaime Garcia, St. Louis (2.70 ERA, 13-8 in 28 starts)
Garcia was the Cardinals’ feel good story of 2010, and they didn’t have much to feel good about either. After being listed for quite awhile on the Cardinals’ top prospect list, he was injured and received Tommy John surgery. Garcia came back better than ever, pitching well for Memphis through the PCL playoffs and in the AAA Championship Game. He was dominant when he was on the mound for St. Louis too, but due to the injury was held to pitch counts and he occasionally had games where he was not very efficient with the pitches he was given. However, both improved as the season went on and he posted an excellent year.

3. Matt Garza, Chicago (3.91 ERA, 15-10 in 32 starts)
Another recent addition to the pitching rich NL Central, Matt Garza spent his 2010 season with Tampa Bay. His last three seasons have been solid pitching performances, though not masterful. But the Cubs won’t be looking for masterful from him. I think they’d be pleased with some solid performances. He was a really good addition to that Cubs lineup as they will be starting their first season under the new ownership.

2. J.A. Happ, Houston (3.40 ERA, 6-4 in 16 starts)
The Astros received J.A. Happ from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt trade, and I think that’s a very good move. Happ was one of the best rookie starters of 2009 and has the potential to turn into the type of ace that Roy Oswalt was for a team. Certainly he will be a good starting point for Houston as they look towards rebuilding that franchise from the ground up.

1. Zach Grienke, Milwaukee (4.17 ERA, 10-14 in 33 starts)
It was a tough call to put Grienke at the top considering his 2010 numbers, but I think that was the end result of just being on a team that was not going to be competitive on most nights out, no matter what he did on the mound. What other team has a #3 pitcher capable of winning a Cy Young, or who even has one on the mantle? That’s right, only Milwaukee. The Brewers paid a big price for Grinke as they retooled their rotation.

Almost forgot the points!

Milwaukee — 49 pts
St. Louis — 47 pts
Cincinnati — 43 pts
Chicago — 37 pts
Houston — 28 pts
Pittsburgh — 27 pts