Updated: Dec 5, 2021
WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really by bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#17: RHRP Freddy Pacheco
Entering his age 24 season
Signed out of Venezuela in 2017
Peoria, Springfield, and Memphis
Editor's Note: Look (and we'll get back to this), Pacheco struck out FREAKING 44% OF THE 216 BATTERS THAT HE FACED ON THE SEASON. HE STRUCK OUT 95 IN 54 INNINGS WHILE HOLDING BATTERS TO A BATTING AVERAGE OF .151 AND A SLUGGING PERCENTAGE OF .290 AT THREE LEVELS. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?
In the past, I have been reluctant to include minor league relief pitchers in The Dirty. Growing up and watching the Minor Leaguers transition to the Majors, it was always the Minor League relief pitchers that were left out of the major league frey. It was always the failed starters that turned into relief pitchers at the Major League level. Because of this, it was only the ELITE relief pitchers in the Minors ever really had a clear path to the majors.
As you all know by now, this has really changed in the last five-to-ten years. Now, there is an emphasis on relief pitchers at the minor league level, and that has forced me to change my entire approach to that position. I hated it at first, as you also probably know already. I am what my parents and family have described as a "whiny bitch," after all.
But I gotta tell ya, I kinda love it now. You can just get right into that player when writing these stupid posts, and you don’t have to mess around with the whole “will they be able to start?” thing.
Freddy Pacheco is a sight to behold. I love watching him pitch. The knock on him – even by me – has been that he struggles to throw strikes. It’s a knock for a good reason, because he has always struggled to throw strikes LOL. YEP. I’m VERY good. Thanks for coming to my Blowhard Ted Talk.
Let me tell you what I learned while watching him during the 2021 season. First, Pacheco only seems to struggle to throw strikes when he isn’t feeling it. That means that you can tell almost right away if Pacheco is going to be on or not. This is where consistency comes in, because Pacheco found another level of consistency in his motion and his development during the season. Of all of the minor league relief pitchers, Pacheco was the most fun to watch because of how dominant and electric he can be. I love the gif below so much. The first pitch is a breaking pitch that he'll get a swinging strike on. When you watch that first pitch you might think to yourself: "what in the WORLD is that guy swinging at?" Don't blink, because the next pitch is a fastball that will show you why the hitter is swinging. You can only dream of having stuff that is this MEAN and tunneled.
A we begin to talk about consistency, you’ll note that he still had a 13.4% walk rate on the season between the top three levels of the minors. Again, this is where you must look beyond the stats of the entirety and into the individual performances per appearance. I can tell you that Pacheco was dominant more often than not. I can also tell you that Pacheco was at least "average" more often than he was "bad." But as you’d suspect, this is a case in which a relief pitcher is heavily dinged statistically for the games that he doesn’t have it. It’s tough to make up ground when you walk two and let up four runs in .2 innings in an appearance. The life of a relief pitcher is never easy, nor do the rough-looking stats always tell the full truth when you are talking about a sample of 54 innings.
The most fun thing about Pacheco is that he makes hitters look really bad nearly all of the time. Over the 22.2 innings that Pacheco pitched between AA and AAA to end the season, I can only remember one time that he was hit hard; it was the one homer that he let up. And even then, the hitter kind of “ran into it.” Pacheco was just impressively dominant nearly all season. Look at the gif below and see how much fun it is to watch this kid climb the ladder with just his fastball. I LOVE this gif.
Pacheco asserts his dominance over hitters by reaching back and getting after a high-spin, mid-to-high-90’s fastball that he uses very little effort to summon. I'm sure you've noticed this in the gifs. It's not a fastball that is going to dance all over the place, but it gets on top of hitters appropriately for how flat it can be perceived to be. His mechanics are crisp and repeatable, and neither his arm nor his body ever slow down to throw his breaking pitch. A breaking pitch, by the way, that is laughably lively. It’s like Jake Walsh’s fastball/breaking ball combo, but on steroids. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that I would say “goddamn” out loud upon seeing Pacheco go back and forth between these pitches. The only time that Pacheco ever slows down his arm is when he's taxed or doesn't have it, and a good coach or staff should be able to pick up on it right away. I mean, I can and I'm a fucking moron.
While Pacheco is dominant so frequently, there are still some things that he is going to need to work on. Obviously, there can’t be any regression in his command. I personally believe that he can get away with being just like he was in 2021, even if he doesn’t make any gains. I think that he has a major league future as he is currently constructed. However, any little step back will result in a drastic fall-off. It’s a slippery slope for command-second pitchers, specifically of the relieving type. To reiterate, always tough, the life of a relief pitcher is.
Next, as I look for things to nitpick, Pacheco is going to need to continue to work on his approach to lefties. Again, I am being VERY nitpicky here because he still held left-handed hitters to a batting average of .173 and a slugging percentage of .378, but that pales in comparison to how he abuses right-handed hitters. Nearly all of the slug that he let up in 2021 was to lefties. It’d be nice if he could mimic the way that he abuses righties to the tune of a .125 batting average and a .193 slugging percentage. To finish this thought, even if he didn’t, this is perfectly acceptable if he can just stay at this level without regressing. All of this will play.
I do think that there is closer potential for Pacheco down the road, but I don’t think that I care about that. Down the stretch for Springfield and his brief taste of Memphis, Pacheco acted as a savior as much as he did a closer. I don't think that I have to tell you how much I love that. Right now, he seems poised to be a viable option for the Cardinals bullpen if baseball is played during the 2022 season.
Now, we wait and hope that the Cardinals add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule Five draft. If they don't, then we hold our breath and pray for an asteroid, which I sermize would be more likely to hit us then to watch a team pass on Pacheco in the R5 Draft. Poised and brilliant in every way during the 2021 season, Pacheco is due to wow you if he can stay in command.
As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!