Chris Carpenter's injury could be a fantasy baseball gain for Shelby Miller

      February 5, 2013 @ 17:27:57 PDT

It certainly isn't good news for the St. Louis Cardinals that Chris Carpenter (shoulder) will likely not pitch again in a Red Birds' uniform. After suffering a setback while ramping up for spring training, his career could very well be in jeopardy, too. The soon-to-be 38-year-old veteran right-hander will seriously consider retirement.

As a fantasy baseball player, though, the loss of Carpenter from the pitching pool isn't a tough pill to swallow. In fact, it will clear up some questions surrounding the St. Louis rotation. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and subsequent surgery limited him to only three starts last year. It's doubtful many of you were planning on rostering Carpenter this season, unless it was a low-risk end-game move.

St. Louis Cardinals SP Shelby Miller
Miller time nearing

With Carp out of the picture, Lance Lynn, who was the early favorite for the No. 5 rotation post, should be guaranteed a spot barring injury, of course. That leaves Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly or Trevor Rosenthal to battle it out for the remaining spot, theoretically replacing Carpenter.

There is already perfectly reasonable speculation that the Cards will turn to a familiar face and re-sign Kyle Lohse to pick up the slack that Carpenter's setback has created. For now, that's exactly what it is - speculation.

St. Louis has some rotation depth due to the fact that they were already worried about the health of Carpenter and Jaime Garcia (shoulder) entering 2013, so they could be worse off. As of now, they are prepared to go with their in-house candidates, and even GM John Mozeliak said that at some point the team would have to test some of their younger, untested pitchers.

Miller, 22, has the most upside out of Kelly and Rosenthal as a starting pitcher, but that doesn't mean he'll automatically win the job. The team's top pitching prospect looked good in only 13 2/3 innings last year, including a six-inning shutout of the Cincinnati Reds in the season's final month.

If St. Louis opts for experience, they'll go with Joe Kelly, who filled in admirably when Garcia was shelved due to injury. Kelly went 5-7 with a 3.53 ERA in 16 starts, but he ideally would fit as a swing man or long-relief option.

Rosenthal, whose triple-digit gas was on display in the postseason, is almost just as intriguing as Miller. He, like Miller, is largely untested, though, as Rosenthal tossed only 22 2/3 frames of relief in 2012. He sported a 2.78 ERA and fanned 25, putting him in the discussion as a starter this year. His dominance out of the bullpen will likely keep him there, at least early in the season.

How things play out in spring training will ultimately determine what shape the St. Louis rotation will ultimately take, but for the sake of thinking ahead, Miller probably has the best shot at earning a starting job. That is, unless he tanks it this spring or the team re-signs Lohse.

Even if Miller doesn't win the job out of spring training, he'll be in the rotation at some point this season because of an injury or poor performance from someone else, and he is a must-own in National League-only leagues. Don't forget about him in mixed leagues, either, where he could easily return nice value late in the draft.

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About Keith Hernandez

Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.

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