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.
#23: RHP Jack Ralston
24 Years Old
Drafted in the 7th Round of the 2019 draft
If I could ask the Cardinals organization to do one thing it would be that they commit to Jack Ralston as a starter. If that was his committed role then I’d more comfortable with him being where I currently have him on the list. Alas, it seems like the Cardinals view him best as a reliever with the chance to rise quickly through the ranks. Because of this, I'm probably being too aggressive with him on the list. It's also why I've purposefully put him behind Jake Walsh and Freddy Pacheco on The Dirty.
There are few pitching prospects in the organization with the ability to get strikeouts like Ralston does. Look at that beautiful 36.6% strikeout rate on the season. Part of this is because of an orthodox delivery and arm angle that we’ll get to more in-depth in just a couple of seconds.
The other part is that he throws a plus-spinning curveball that gets swings and misses from hitters from either side of the plate. It's hateful against lefties and it's spiteful against righties, in a bullying sense. Because of that arm speed, angle, and delivery, it's so tough to pickup and square up. It's a real beaut, Clark.
While his fastball isn't a high-90’s heater, and he throws it with less velocity when he starts (to the tune of living around 90-92-ish), it’s a viable and lively fastball that plays well beyond how Ralston uses it. Ralston can get more velocity on it out of relief, and I have seen him top out at around 95-ish while starting.
As I mentioned – and have mentioned ad nauseum over the last couple of years – the true fun in watching Ralston comes in his throwing motion. Ralston is a tall kid at about 6’7”, and he throws over the top with a rounded arm angle that evokes images of a windmill. It seems like a tremendously laborious motion, and that’s part of the reason why the Cardinals (rightfully, probably) view him as a reliever long term. Ralston also busts out of the set position with his lead leg which both takes up and produces quite a bit of energy and leverage. A large part of the reason why I love to watch Ralston pitch is because of how unique his delivery is. I've got to assume that it’s a tough task to be in the batter’s box against him. Having all that frame of Ralston's coming directly down on top of you cannot be a fun hitting experience. It’s also a heavy motion that is reliant on rhythm more than others, and I think that’s why he seems to exhibit better command out of the windup than the stretch.
Whether he is starting or relieving, one thing that I’d like to see Ralston continue to work on is polishing hitters off more quickly. Ralston will work a little cautiously on the fringes of the strike zone once he gets up in the count, and that costs him pitches. It’s another reason why he makes a lot of sense in the bullpen. Even then, it’s so damn tough to argue against success. While Ralston did throw strikes a perfectly acceptable, but wanting a little more, 62% strikes during the season, what really catches your eye is that he got strikes swinging about 20% of the time. I see all this swinging and missing, and these pitches with swing and miss potential, and I just need to see him more confident with his stuff when he has a hitter on the ropes.
The other issue with Ralston is the development of his third offering. Ralston can get away with the fastball and curve combo because of how good the two pitches are, but he needs to continue to get better with his changeup. There were some days, particularly early in the season, in which that pitch had the consistency that you’d like to see out of it. This is when you can begin to label it an average-to-above-average pitch. Ralston did miss some time in June, and it never really seemed to me that he rediscovered the feel of that pitch once he returned to the mound. Obviously, the development of this pitch or another offering will be instrumental in if Ralston has sustained success as he moves through the Minors.
In a couple of days, we’ll be going over Jake Walsh, a right-handed relief pitcher that is all curve and fastball. He has a high propensity of striking out both lefties and righties with both pitches, and he is a level away from the Majors and currently in the Arizona Fall League. There is no reason to think that Ralston couldn’t be on the same trajectory this time next season, but with a devastatingly devious delivery to add to his excitement. I am very hopeful that the Cardinals are aggressive with him in 2022.
(Editor's Note: We've already gone over Walsh, and I wrote this way back when I thought that I'd be doing this by starting at 40 and working in descending order. I'm the writer/editor of this crap, not a good writer/editor of this crap)
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.
Shout out to @stlCupofJoe for the first tweet/gif in the article.
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!!