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.
#31: RHP Wilfredo Pereira
23 Years Old at the end of April 2022.
Signed out of Panama in 2016
Every year, it seems like there is a new player - and it is usually a pitcher - that displays a strong sense of refinement and polish that catches me off guard in an unexpected delightful way. This year, that player was Wilfredo Pereira.
In the past, I haven't paid much attention to Pereira. I have mentioned him in various articles here and there, and he has always displayed some statistical success that were worth keeping an extra eye on. However, with so many players to keep an eye on over so many levels, Pereira as a relief pitcher was far from where I was interested in putting my extra efforts in.
It did not take Pereira long to catch my eye for Peoria in 2021, even in the relief role before transitioning to a starting role.
(Sorry about the rough first couple of tweets/gifs in this post. I almost didn't add them because of the lag in the game feed, but I kinda like both now for whatever dumb reason)
The first thing that really sticks out about Pereira on the mound is that he pitches with deception. There's a little hitch in his delivery that slows down the timing of the hitter, and it delays his upper body, but in a good way. Pereira is also the type of pitcher that will alter his motion/lead leg here and there to mess with a hitter’s timing. This obviously helps add to his deception. Pereira doesn’t mess around on the mound, either, working quickly almost always. Pitching exclusively from the stretch, this was a godsend. So often these days, even with the bases empty and pitching out of the stretch, pitchers take forever to get going. Pereira is not one of those pitchers. Pereira is quick to the plate, and he does a good job of managing the run game because of it.
As Wilfredo transitioned from a relief role to a starting role, it became clear that he was capable of getting left handed hitters out with all three pitches in his arsenal. That is a very large part of the reason why he is where he is on The Dirty: I love how good he is against lefties. Over the years, I've really come to appreciate minor league pitchers that can get the opposite handed hitter out. Pereira excelled at it during the 2021 season, holding lefties to a batting average of .180 and a slugging percentage of .306. Pereira only allowed five homers over 240 plate appearances against lefties, and 17 extra base hits, in total. In short, Pereira dominated lefties and I believe that bodes well for long term success, even if it's only as a pen arm. I might be a little "prisoner of the moment" right now, but I don't think that there are many lefties in the Minors that could do much with the pitch below.
Pereira has two off-speed pitches that I think have the chance to be above average or more with continued refinement. His changeup fades away from lefties (as you see above), and his breaking pitch has some incredible depth that he needs to get more consistent with. Both of these pitches work really well against lefties, as does his fastball, but he needs to get more consistent with the usage of them against righties. He doesn't use his changeup all that often against righties, and that bums me out. I'd love to see him use that pitch more. I think it has the potential to be an average-to-above pitch with continued usage. You'll have to really pay attention and I apologize for it, but you can see how well his two breaking pitches can work together if you go back and forth between the gif below and the gif above.
His fastball isn't the hottest or the liveliest, but he has a quick enough arm with enough deception to get some ugly swings and misses from both-sided hitters. Living in the low-90’s with his heat, Pereira's command of the pitch is usually above average. The pitch is at it's best when he can use it to set up the junk, as you'll see in the gif below.
Now, please understand that it has taken a lot of restraint for me to not put him higher on the list. I am trying to be more respectful of scouts and scouting services than I have in the past. The consensus appears to be that Pereira is a relief pitcher for the long haul. Most of these concerns stem from some of the struggle that he has against righties. Some of these concerns come from his thicker body type and arm action. Some of these projections come from his history. I can understand this, as he doesn’t have a ton of innings on his arm. I can also understand this because he seemed to tire out a little over his last couple of appearances in the season. However, I am encouraged that he got close to 100 innings pitched in 2021 and I am hopeful that the Cardinals do not abandon him as a starter if he makes it through the Rule 5 draft. The organization doesn't appear to have the deepest starting pitching, and I think that it would be a shame to see Pereira revert back to the relief role in 2022.
With some conditioning and some better pitch usage, Pereira could rise through the ranks quickly. His 28.2% strikeout rate is really good, and his 9.8% walk rate is solid. If I'm being honest, the strikeout rate actually surprised me because Pereira always seems like more of a "pitch to contact" pitcher than anything else when you watch him. Pereira successfully uses the upper half of the plate with ease and command, but he's going to need to continue to refine his usage of the lower half of the zone moving forward. Specifically in the Cardinals organization, I like to see this type of pitcher get groundballs at least 40% of the time. Pereira has been under 30% for two straight seasons now, and that's a delicate line to toe. It such a tough thing to be critical of when a pitcher is so good and effective at using the upper part of the zone. I don't want him to change how he uses his stuff or his usage of the upper half, but I would like to see him refine his command and usage of the lower half in the near future. A little tinkering - A VERY LITTLE TINKERING - could be a bit of a game changer regardless of if he's starting or relieving.
The next gif is my favorite in this write-up. You'll see a lot of things at work. You'll see a lively fastball that gets on the hitter quickly with some late movement up in the zone at 93 MPH. Then you'll see Pereira alter his motion (as we talked about earlier) to drop a big hammer of a breaking pitch to record the K. This pitcher here? We'll he is way more than just organizational depth. This is an impactful arm.
In 2021, Wilfredo became one of my personal favorite prospects in the organization and I am pulling for him. He seems like a sure bet, if he continues on this track, to knock on the door of the major leagues at some point in 2022. I feel confident from what I’ve seen from him to this point that there is starter upside with right-reliever fallback in his future. You can’t be this good at making left-handed hitters look bad as a right-handed pitcher without being more than just some random pitcher. Now, it's just about finding what works best to get righties out more frequently, in an efficient and effective manner.
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. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!