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.
FOLLOW THE LIST AND RANKINGS BY CLICKING THIS LINK TO THE ENTIRE LIST OF TOP 40 PROSPECTS AND ANNEXES AND RAMBLES!!!
#35. RHP Alec Willis
19 Years Old on Opening Day
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2021 draft
Florida Complex League
As I was compiling The Dirty, Willis has been on and off this list at various times since the Cardinals drafted him. Ultimately, I decided to keep Willis off of the list at first. Let it be known that I personally like Willis more than a lot of the pitchers that I do have on the list. This is the price of trying to be objective and responsible, I guess. However, now that Nick Plummer is no longer the #8 prospect on The Dirty since signing with the Mets, I've decided to push Willis up to 35th spot on the list. I've said it a lot since I started this, but You could make an argument that prospects 25-50 could probably be put in any order. I've decided to take the self-imposed restrictor plate off of Willis as I add him to the list.
Willis is going to be a lot of fun to follow during the 2022 season. He’s already undergone one arm surgery, albeit relatively minor. This is a large part of the reason why I have decided to keep Willis off of The Dirty at first, as well as low on the list for now. I am trying to be responsible. I am trying to temper expectations. Maybe my own, more than anything. I'm trying to steer yours, too, no doubt. I know how rabid of a fanbase we can get. I know that we are quick to call everything that doesn't pan out right away a "miss" or "bust" or whatever catch word makes you happy. It took $1 million to sign Willis away from college, and there is so much to get excited. There is plenty about Willis that is worthy of a mid-range spot on The Dirty.
Willis doesn’t have the big-time, in-game velocity that some of his prep-peers have, but he has a great frame to add more. Or, rather, to tap into some of the velocity that he has shown in controlled environments but not consistently in a game setting just yet. Remember, it's all about maintaining velocity throughout a start, not just gassing it at the beginning of a start.
As I mentioned, one thing that I really love about Willis is his frame and his pitching mechanics. The kid just throws the ball. There isn’t anything fancy in his mechanics. He just gets it and throws it. I hate to belabor a point, but I love that. And when you see his frame you can definitely project a starting pitcher in the long term. Some scouting services have him in the 6-foot-tall range, but we know for a fact that he's right around 6'5" tall. Either way, that frame is meant for the mound.
Willis also has a relatively advanced arsenal for a prep arm. His fastball is lively with flashes of plus command and flashes of above average movement and spin. His secondary offerings of a slider and curve are Minor League average, at least, right now, with his slider getting the advantage as a better pitch. I won't bore you by repeating the same scouting reports that you could just as easily read within the embedded tweets. They say just as much as I can right here.
Whereas most seem to love and gush over prep-drafted pitchers with big arms and loud tools, Willis is a pitcher that is clearly getting away with his natural abilities and baseball IQ. In short, Willis is more of a pitcher than some of his 2021 drafted prep-counterparts, and I am VERY here for that. Let him grow into consistent velocity.
I'd like to close this write-up by restating that there is a legitimate case to be made that Willis is at worst a top 20 arm and at best a top 15 prospect in the organization. With some innings and some success in 2022, I could easily seem myself caving to my biases and making that leap with him on The Dirty.
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!!