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.
#22: RHRP Jake Walsh
26 Years Old
Drafted in the 16th round of the 2016 draft
Memphis and Springfield
The best thing about writing about minor league relief pitchers is that I don’t have to say a lot. I can just say “this guy throws this and it’s like this and here are the stats and then I guess we’ll talk about if he can close.”
I’ve been a big fan of right-handed pitcher Jake Walsh for some time now. When others were talking about Alex FaGalde, Jake Walsh was who I had my eye on. There have been others that have taken a more prominent role in the spotlight than Walsh, but he's the pitcher outside of the spotlight that I've always thought would find his way to the Major League precipice. I’m going to stop jerking myself off right there because I lack the courage of my convictions in this regard, as you won’t find him on many – if any – of the previous Dirty lists. Also, I always thought that it would be as a starter and not as a hot shot reliever.
To give you a little background on Walsh, he was an impressive pitcher on the cusp of some impressive stuff when his 2019 season was completely wiped out because of an arm issue. This, of course, led into the lost 2020 season. Walsh was named the organizations pitcher of the month for the month of May 2021. That’s a great way to kick off a season after missing as much time on a competitive mound as Walsh had missed. Without thinking too hard about it, I can’t remember the last time that a Cardinals minor league short-inning relief pitcher won their minor league pitcher of the month award. That’s a cool honor. I could also be overlooking someone or something obvious, but this is my narrative so WORSHIP ME.
In a sad turn of events, Walsh then missed the next three months of the minor league season. To be completely candid, his absence from pitching over that time is part of the reason why I waited to release this iteration of The Dirty. I didn’t know what to do with him, I was getting conflicting reports about the nature of his absence, and he was too good while he was pitching to be punished for lost time. Since he was a pitcher with a history of injuries and absences now mounting - including the lost 2020 season - I just felt like I owed it to the audience to take a pause and wait and see what was going to happen.
Well, it didn’t take long for Walsh to rediscover his dominance once he reappeared on a mound on September 4th. Walsh only allowed four hits while striking out six over four innings at Springfield before being promoted to Memphis. Walsh had a couple of rough outings once he made his Memphis debut, specifically because he let up a couple of home runs for the first time on the year. But over those four appearances, Walsh saw 18 batters and he struck out nine of them. On the season, Walsh struck out 38.6% of the 88 hitters that came to the plate against him. Walsh also held hitters to a batting average of .165 and a slugging percentage of .291. Of the 88 batters that he faced, he only walked 8 of them, as well. That’s dominant, and it makes it even more of a shame that he hasn't been able to pitch more over the last couple of years.
Walsh gets by with a good-spinning fastball that sits in the 94-95 MPH range that he commands very well all over the zone. Walsh also has great arm speed and repeatable mechanics, and this helps his high-spin and deadly curve play on the next level. It’s always tough to call a fastball that doesn’t get higher than the mid-90’s a “plus pitch” in this day and age, but there is enough going on with the rest of Walsh’s delivery for me to feel comfortable labeling it above average for the velocity that it has. The curve is certainly, undoubtedly, a plus pitch right now. Look at how incredibly well these two pitches work together.
The really cool thing here is that Walsh should be able to contribute at the major league level with these two pitches if he can stay on the mound. He’s toyed with a third offering here and there, and sometimes that changeup can be really good. I’m not exactly sure that a third offering is something that Walsh needs to screw with too much right now. Especially because of how good he can be against lefties. As you’d suspect, I’m definitely all about his continued pursuit of changeup command as the addition of a real third pitch. However, I don't think that it really matters because of how good that fastball/curve combo is for this reliever. Feel free to peep the changeup within the gif below. When he does have a feel for it, it can be a very good pitch.
It was really awesome to watch Walsh close out the last game of the season for Memphis. He was jacked for that game, and he looked locked in and unhittable. You'll see that in the gif below. I wish that I could have included footage of this entire appearance, because it was something to see.
While I don’t think that his long-term fit in the bullpen is as a closer, it’s nice to see that he is able to hit another gear if put in that situation. Currently, Walsh is pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He's been very good in Arizona, aside from one appearance in which he got "blowed up." It's really looking like the Cardinals are going to have to add him to the 40-man to protect the 26-year-old from the Rule Five Draft.
And that's how good Walsh's curve and fastball combo can be when he's healthy. If he were a little younger with a better track record of health, Walsh would be giving Freddy Pacheco a run for his money as the best relief pitcher in the organization that hasn’t made a Major League debut.
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!!