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What to expect from Cardinals rookie Matt Bowman

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, St. Louis Cardinals rookie Matt Bowman did not have a good spring training, posting a 7.00 ERA in nine innings with 15 hits allowed. He gave up three walks but fanned only five. Yet the Rule 5 pick from the Mets system has a 25-man roster spot on Opening Day. Can he hold it?

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Matthew Bowman, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 165 DOB: May 31, 1991

2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C; 2015: Grade C

I felt Mets prospect Matt Bowman was a sleeper entering 2015. I suppose he is even a deeper sleeper now following his very difficult season for Triple-A Las Vegas. His home park is a tough place to pitch but he was actually worse on the road (6.43 ERA) than at home (4.79), with poor component ratios in both environments. He still has a 90 MPH sinker and a solid change-up, but reports indicate PCL hitters exposed the mediocrity of his curveball and slider; the decline in his K/IP ratio backs those up. Bowman is well-regarded for his work ethic and attention to detail and I think it is possible he can improve the breaking pitches. He could also take his strong ground ball tendency to the bullpen and emerge as a middle relief type. He was picked by the Cardinals in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Grade C.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

As noted in the book comment, Bowman is a ground ball generator, posting a 2.23 GO/AO ratio in his career. He got beat up in the Pacific Coast League as a starter (5.53 ERA, 184 hits in 140 innings, 77/51 K/BB) but his arsenal looks like it can fit nicely in the bullpen. Granted, his spring stats don't give a lot of reasons for optimism but apparently the Cardinals are thinking along similar lines.

Bowman's track record before 2015 was quite good so the Cardinals may well be correct in their judgment. Right now he would be best-deployed in a mop-up role. It remains to be seen if he will hold the roster spot all season or have to be offered back to the Mets under Rule 5, but they like him enough to make the effort and given St. Louis' track record with pitching arms and Bowman's own positive makeup reputation, I wouldn't bet against him.

There's little fantasy value here but in real baseball terms, Bowman is a relief arm to watch.