Originally posted on The Cardinal Nation blog  |  Last updated 8/22/12

With Jake Westbrook formalizing a one-year contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, it brings the future of the rotation into focus.

Next season, the major league club will have six experienced starters without Kyle Lohse, whose departure seems more likely given Westbrook’s new deal. The six are Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly.

With Carpenter’s health remaining a question as is Garcia’s to a lesser extent, is there enough rotation depth without Lohse?

For that answer, one has to look to the upper minors. The system has three young arms approaching the majors, any of whom could be in a position to become 2013’s version of Joe Kelly, if the need arises.

The biggest success story among pitchers in the organization this year is Trevor Rosenthal. The 22-year-old has successfully completed his first two MLB stints as a reliever and may be ready to compete for a roster spot next season, whether starting or relieving. Rosenthal will likely rejoin St. Louis in September.

Then, there is Shelby Miller. As documented here last week, the 21-year-old has recently been back on track after struggling for much of the season, his first at Triple-A.

Miller rightfully received a lot of positive attention on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon after fanning 12 in seven innings and improving his season ERA to 5.04. He didn’t walk anyone and allowed two runs on a home run, one of his weaknesses in 2012. Not on the 40-man roster, Miller’s chances of making his MLB debut next month are still very questionable.

That evening, another of the organization’s top pitching prospects, Carlos Martinez, pitched for Double-A Springfield. Despite allowing just one run on three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts in six innings, he didn’t receive the same buzz as Miller. In fact, Martinez hasn’t received much attention all year long despite fastball velocity that may top the other two.

The youngest of the three at just 20 years old, Martinez is in just his second season pitching in the US and has made 13 Double-A starts. The biggest concern about him seems to be him not pitching deeply into games, perhaps related to his relatively-small frame.

Let’s look into the detail. Following are the stats from the three young right-handers at Springfield – Rosenthal and Martinez this year and Miller last.

Springfield Year Starts IP IP/Start ERA BB K BB/9 K/9 K:BB Martinez 2012 13 64 1/3 5.0 2.94 20 52 2.8 7.3 2.6 Rosenthal 2012 17 94 5.5 2.79 37 83 3.5 7.9 2.2 Miller 2011 16 86 2/3 5.4 2.70 33 89 3.4 9.2 2.7

While Martinez is about at five innings per outing, the other two averaged fewer than two outs more per Double-A start.

Martinez has the highest ERA of the three at 2.94, though he has perhaps two regular season starts remaining. With one quarter run fewer allowed per nine innings, Martinez would erase the gap.

Miller’s Springfield strikeout rate of more than one per inning stands above the other two, with Martinez’ lowest at 7.3/9.

Walks are one indicator of inefficiency. Of the three, Martinez has the lowest base on balls rate per nine innings at just 2.8.

Putting strikeouts and walks together, the gap between Miller and Martinez becomes very narrow, at 2.7:1 versus 2.6:1, with Rosenthal behind at a still solid 2.2:1.

In my view, Martinez’ Double-A numbers are in the same ballpark as the other two, yet a relative few seem to be talking about him. I hope to change that a bit here.

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