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 my 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.
#21: RHP Andre Pallante
23 Years Old
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 draft
Memphis and Springfield.
When the Cardinals drafted Andre Pallante in the 4th round of the 2019 draft, I was very interested in the selection. I knew that Pallante was a decorated prospect with pedigree, but I also knew that there were some concerns that his velocity and command had both taken a step backwards. As a reminder, the 2019 draft class was regarded as one of the weakest classes for collegiate starting pitchers in recent memory, and Randy Flores and the gang decide to "zig" where others "zagged" and went pitching-heavy in that draft. It wasn’t until I really dug into the game footage after Pallante was drafted that I began to truly understand why he was worthy of a fourth round selection. Pallante was battle tested. He was gutsy while attacking the strike zone. You could tell that it was difficult to pick up his fastball because it had incredibly late movement, even if he didn’t throw it 96+ MPH consistently. On top of that fastball, Pallante was throwing a curve and a slider, both of which appeared to have the chance to be above-average pitches at the next level. You could say that, upon watching the collegiate version of Pallante, I had become a big fan.
Then Pallante dominated the NY/Penn league out of the bullpen once he made his organizational debut after being drafted. He worked quickly, his stuff moved late, and older and younger hitters alike didn’t seem to have a feel for what was coming. I was pleased to see that this was the same version of Andre Pallante that started the 2021 season at a super-advanced AA level, especially for a kid that had logged little more than a few handfuls of innings in affiliated baseball. I assumed that it would take Pallante a little bit of time to settle in, even though he was more than poised and polished enough to rise to the challenge.
What surprised me was how quickly Pallante took to AA. For context, it really felt like hitters were miles ahead of pitchers at the start of the 2021 MiLB season. I know that this was at least true in the Cardinals organization, and it was so refreshing to see Pallante dominate (at times) at such an advanced level. Pallante was still walking way too many hitters, but he was holding them to a batting average of .265 over 49 innings in his first ten appearances. Pallante had only allowed ten extra base hits to the 212 batters that he faced over this early stretch of games, as well. Pallante was only throwing strikes 60% of the time and that really hurt him, but his track record indicated that he was going to discover his feel for the strike zone sooner rather than later. He did not discover his feel for the strike zone sooner rather than later in the way that I hoped he would.
It was Pallante’s next eight starts that really hurt his season. Batters hit .301 and slugged .479 over 35 innings during this stretch, and Pallante’s ERA was over this period was 6.69. He was throwing more strikes, but that’s a bit misleading because he was leaving more over the middle of the plate. Those “strikes” were really just “blistered” hits all over the diamond. His average velocity was down during this span, as well, which brought his season average down. It became increasingly clear to me that Pallante needed a little break. Just a little reset to get his juices flowing properly once again. I was pleased to see Pallante get that break between August 10th and September 8th. While his command wasn’t “collegiate Pallante” after he made his first start back on the mound on September 8th, Pallante’s mechanics were clearly crisper, as was the feel that he had for his arsenal. Pallante only pitched 15.1 innings over his last five appearances between AA and AAA, but he was closer to his early 2021 season self than he was to whatever the hell that we saw for those last eight starts before he took a sabbatical. Over those 15 innings, Pallante demonstrated better command while striking out 13. The issue was that Pallante still walked five, even though his command was clearly cleaned up. Pallante only faced 72 batters over this time, but I was pleased to see that the batting average against him was .242. That came with a modest slugging percentage of .303, as well. It’s a small sample, but an encouraging sample that saw an increase in velocity to end the season on.
Sometimes it really seems that Pallante’s rhythm is out of whack. You’ll notice in the gifs that he has pronounced elbow action from both arms throughout his delivery. I think that helps to add deception to his motion and allows for a tremendous amount of kinetic energy to transfer in his upper body which adds velocity and movement, but I don’t think that it helps with his command all that much. It’s obvious that Pallante is a super athletic kid, but he doesn’t seem to max out as much of that athleticism in his motion as he could. He looks tight when he pitches. Specifically, because of his pedigree, I know that Pallante has more to give. I just worry that he is a little to “mechanical” in the process of getting to that “more”. What I do know fo sho is that Pallante has an arsenal that is good enough to get both righties and lefties out, and two breaking pitches that should help his low-to-mid 90’s fastball play up (Editor’s Note: Pallante did hit 99 MPH on the stadium radar gun the Arizona Fall League, for whatever the stadium gun is worth. He hit high-97 MPH during the season, as well. But his fastball is usually in the mid-to-low 90’s during an average start). The first of his two breaking pitches that are really good but in need of refinement is his curveball, and it’s got a lot of spin. Not quite 3000 RPMS, but not too far off, all things considered. This is just one gif, but it should show you how good it's capable of being. He can even use it to set up another curveball, which is a pretty awesome thing that I love to see.
The next of his off-speed offerings is his slider. He uses it effectively up in the zone, and he can get some really soft contact with it low in the zone, specifically when going away against righties. It's at it's best when he uses it against lefties, and it's an important pitch as he goes on the attack against them. It's the second pitch in the gif below. In addition to showing off how good the slider can be, the gif below should also give you a really great idea of how good the majority of his arsenal can be when he's commanding it and working all of it in unison.
The last of his off-speed offerings is his changeup. It's an uneven pitch that can be absolutely amazing as you'll see a couple of times in the gif below, but it's something that he has to throw in the lowest portion of the zone. I'm torn about the pitch. In a "Mad Science" kind of way, I'd like to see what would happen with his command if he threw it more often. I wonder if an increase in usage would actually help the command of the rest of his arsenal. That seemed to be the case, especially early in the season. It's damn good against lefties, too. What I'm saying more than anything else is, I'd love to see Pallante use it more.
Pallante is going to need to continue to refine his usage of the top part of the strike zone with his fastball to max out the potential of his secondary offerings, of course. He goes above the zone often now, and that’s part of the reason why he has struggled to throw strikes. I’ve been told that both of his breaking pitches have adequate spin, so that should make all of us nerds happy. Pallante does a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, specifically with runners on, and he was hurt by some uncharacteristically bad defense after the midpoint of the season, too. Anyway, this was just a terrible and long ramble that I hope emphasizes the fact that Andre Pallante is better than what his stats will tell you about his 2021 season, and it seems like he needs to trust his stuff and relax on the mound. This should also help to keep him in rhythm, hopefully.
While the stats aren’t the sexiest, I saw plenty of promising signs from the righty that is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Much like with Jake Woodford before him, a key to Pallante's success is going to be his continued adoption of pitching in an aggressive manner while refining his command and working through hiccups.
(BLOWHARD'S NOTE: Pallante has pitched incredibly well in the Arizona Fall League so far. He's been even better since he was inserted into the Glendale starting rotation. It sure does look like he's ending the season on an incredibly strong note.)
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Thank For Reading!!