2020 Preseason Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospect #26

PROSPECT PREFACE

I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.

I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).

There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.

Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each post, and I've done some light to medium editing within each write-up, as well.


Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please let me know what you think!



LHP Evan Kruczynski

Age 25 (On Opening Day)

Springfield & Memphis

9th Round, 2017





The first version of this list had Kruczynski off of it. He was one of the five honorable mentions.


As a matter of fact, the first handful or so drafts of this list had Kruczynski as an odd man out.


I'm not sure that I had a version of this list in which he was higher than 31 until the final draft.


So how did he wind up at 26th overall, might you ask? Well, I honestly don't know. That's all that I've got. That's all that I can give you. That's how much of a hack I am at this.


Thanks for reading!!


I AM OBVIOUSLY THE HIGH MAN ON KRUCZYNSKI, AND I SHOULD BE RIDICULED FOR IT.


Simply, Kruczynski has become a personal favorite of mine. I've written it time and time again, but I don't know why he struggled as severely as he did during the 2019 season. I'd also like to make it clear that I am wrong for having him so high on the list following such a poor season. I had to stick to my guns and my scouting eye with at least one player, and he is the one that I picked. I try to be more objective than this, but I just couldn't help myself.


Kruczynski's stuff is better than his results, as is his pitchability. My good friend Colin Garner and I discussed it, and Colin thought that some of his struggles might be because the Cardinals were having him use his changeup more than he should have been during the season. I think Colin is on to something there, but I also believe that Evan will speed up both himself and his delivery sometimes when he is throwing his fastball. I think that hitters picked up on that, too. Another thing, sometimes I think that Kruczynski telegraphs his breaking pitch out of the stretch. Again, I'm not exactly an expert at this stuff, but it seems like he brings his lead-leg up a little higher and goes towards the hitter a little sharper when he is throwing his breaking pitch.

What I know for sure is that Yadier Molina got the best out of Kruczynski while Yadi was on his minor league rehab assignment. Over 6.2 innings in that start, Kruczynski struck out 11 and allowed six hits, one earned run, while only walking one. This was easily Kruczynski's second-best start of the season, and it was a glimpse at just how good he can be. So, maybe I'm completely wrong about the mechanical tipping that I think is going on, and maybe it's either a "confidence in what's being called" thing or, simply, a "what is being called" thing. More than likely, he is just inconsistent and I'm overthinking it.

During that start, Kruczynski threw about 65% of his pitches for strikes. During the season, Kruczynski threw strikes about 62% of the time. This is another calling card of his: he's an aggressive pitcher that isn't afraid to go after hitters. This makes me wonder, and this is just the worst and shabbiest commentary, if he is too aggressive for his own good. I mean, I know that he isn't, but I do think that he throws too many pitches that are close to the middle of the plate. At the same time, there are few pitchers in the Cardinals' minor league system that elicit as many checks swings as Kruczynski does. He clearly has hitters off-balance with is offspeed stuff, there's just a final execution issue here.


Then again, this could all be easily categorized as Kruczynski's command being below average in 2019. One of the things that concern me after watching him was that his routinely above-average command from 2018 seemed to become less and less routine in 2019. I know for sure that he is going to have to live in the bottom half of the strike zone to be effective. That's where his stuff plays best, and that should help suppress the home runs a bit. He can use his fastball up and in on righties, but he can't make mistakes with it. Maybe the key to success for him is to use his fastball as little as possible, and let the offspeed stuff eat.


On a side note, it was interesting to watch Evan pitch with the AAA baseball. Remember, the AAA baseball is also the MLB baseball, and the rest of the minor leagues play with the MiLB baseball (how stupid is all of this?!). In those seven AAA games, Kruczynski didn't have any bite on his pitches, and everything looked flat. You probably won't be surprised to find out that he got rocked. That is something worth keeping an eye on, and something that I forgot to bring up when discussing Tommy Parsons. You could also tell that Parsons really struggled commanding and shaping his stuff in his one AAA start. To give you an idea, this is what Kruczynski looks like when he is bad, and you don't need to look any further than this gif to see what his stuff looks like when it's flattened out (maybe because of the AAA/MLB ball?):


Aside from that, Kruczynski is a four-pitch pitcher, and all four of his pitches can play average (and with fleeting flashes of being above-average). This is the version of Kruczynski that I am ranking so high on the list. His fastball velocity is low 90's mostly, but it's a deceptive pitch if/when he isn't tipping it. This goes double when he is mixing his pitches in properly. His slider and his curveball work well together, with the slider working more as sharp curve than anything else. You can get a good feel for the difference in the two pitches by looking at the gif above. I like using that gif to demonstrate this because both pitches are a little flatter, as we discussed earlier. In being flatter, I think that you get a feel for the TRUE shape and movement of each. Sometimes, I only pick gifs that show how filthy a pitcher can be, and I think that it's important to show how bad or flat (but true) Kruczynski can be, as well.


Circling back around to the changeup, it's definitely the least consistent of his pitches. He should probably throw it as little as possible. That really sucks, because that pitch that gets the ugliest swings. It makes a lot of sense why the Cardinals would want him to work so hard on the mastery of it. Hopefully, he's mastered it this offseason.


Aside from that , Kruczynski is a fiery competitor and a fast worker. It's total trash-evaluating that I'm just throwing this in there at the end like a footnote, but he also has a good pickoff move to first, as well.



THE DEAL

I'm still bullish on Kruczynski, but there's no denying that 2019 was a disappointing season for him. I thought that he would have had a chance to make a major league debut in 2019 after his turn in the Arizona Fall League, but it just didn't work out that way. My hope is that after an offseason respite, Kruczynski and his four potentially average-to-above pitches are back to moving and grooving the way that I know that they can be.


Like with Austin Gomber before him, this lefty is going to have to get the long ball under control if he is going to have success moving forward. There also might be an issue of pitch-tipping happening, but I'm probably over-thinking it to justify poor pitching. Regardless, it is my belief that he's too good of a pitcher to struggle the way that he did in 2019.


The biggest of shout outs should be given to @Cardinalsgifs, FanGraphs, Twitter, and MiLB. TV for all of the work that they do that eventually gets put into these articles.

Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. What a mensch.


Thanks For Reading!!

Kyle Reis