In the decisive fifth game of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals on Friday night, 22-year-old Trevor Rosenthal once again melted faces and missed bats with his third straight dominant appearance out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
A 21st-round draft pick in 2009, the right-hander truly came into his own this season for Double-A Springfield, posting a 2.78 ERA, 6.4 H/9, 7.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 17 starts spanning 94 innings. The Cardinals promoted Rosenthal from Double-A to the major leagues in mid-July, where he worked as a reliever exclusively. As a starter, his fastball consistently sits in the mid-90s with considerable sink, and he’s adept to cutting it, as well. His secondary offerings consist of a sharp, late-breaking downer curveball and solid-average changeup, though he’s rarely thrown the latter given his role. During the regular season, Rosenthal registered a 2.78 ERA, 5.6 H/9, 9.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 22 2/3 innings over 19 appearances with the Cardinals. He thrived during the final two weeks of the season, even tallying seven consecutive scoreless outings headed into the postseason. Most importantly, his late-season success carried into the NLDS, where allowed only one hit over three appearances (3 1/3 innings). Not only did the right-hander get crucial outs with the game on the line, he did it in style by fanning six of the 11 batters he faced. Out of the bullpen, Rosenthal’s arsenal is simply electric. His average fastball during the regular season was 98.71 mph, which ranked fourth among all relievers. (He trailed Kelvin Herrera, Carter Capps and Aroldis Chapman, in that order.) In Game 5, facing the heart of the Nationals’ order, Rosenthal needed only 16 pitches to retire Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Amazingly, seven of those pitches (all four-seam fastballs) registered at 100 mph—Ryan Zimmerman’s three-pitch strikeout is pictured above via MLB.com’s GameCast. There’s no other way to put it: the Nats’ best hitters were utterly helpless against Rosenthal. Here’s a GIF of the unhittable breaking ball that he threw to strikeout Harper: And here’s a look at the final triple-digit fastball he threw to Ryan Zimmerman for the second out of the inning. While the images above clearly highlight his future as a big league reliever, the majority of his value will come as a starter. After their respective seasons across both the minor and major leagues, I honestly believe that Rosenthal has a higher ceiling than Shelby Miller as a starting pitcher.