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.
#38: RHP Inohan Paniagua
22 years old at the start of 2022 season
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2017
As I am doing dictation on Microsoft Word, I cannot wait to see what the software does when I say the name Inohan Paniagua. OK, turned out to be a total disaster. Note to self: you are going to have to do some major editing on this one. May god have mercy on the soul of the reader.
If you've been following me on Twitter since the beginning of the season, you will recall that Paniagua was one of the few pitchers that really caught my eye when Palm Beach played Bradenton early in the year. Because of that impression, he is one of the pitchers that I have gone out of my way to follow and ask about. The short of the long is, much like with Angel Rondón, Paniagua Doesn't have the loudest measurables but he gets by on grit, baseball IQ, and some really nasty stuff.
It is always difficult for me to talk about players I have seen little of. It is important for an evaluator to be aware that one look at a player isn't enough to properly diagnose what they need to work at, or too properly gage what they excel at. Especially regarding pitchers, you might just be getting them on a good or a bad day. With so many individual variables for a pitcher in any given start, there is almost no possible way to give a true and accurate evaluation.
It is well documented at this point that what I really like out of a picture is someone who can control himself, repeat his mechanics, and throw strikes without leaving stuff over the middle of the plate. I know that that seems simple: It seems like that's what we should all like. More and more, specifically with measurable spin rates, we become infatuated with spin instead of movement command. While 90% of the time those two things are one in the same, they don't always tell the story.
Now, this is not necessarily the case with Paniagua. Paniagua has a lot of trouble throwing strikes. He can locate his fastball on the outside half of the zone to righties, but he struggles to go in on them. He also reaches back too much and tries to get too much on his fastball when he is trying to bury a hitter. I also noticed that, at least early in the season, Paniagua had a lot of trouble going back to the fastball after unleashing a couple of sliders. Even with all of this in mind, I still really like it's movement profile and how it explodes out of his hand, usually living in the 92-94 MPH range but topping out at 96 MPH. It's a pretty good pitch when he is in control of himself.
With that, one thing that Inohan is going to have to continue to do is put weight on to that frame. I think that it will weigh him down a little bit and allow those quick-twitch motions to slow down to a controllable and workable speed. As an athletic, kid standing a little over six foot tall (I actually think he's a little shorter than listed), he could do for a little bulk upgrade. He's a quick worker and I love that more than life itself, but it's one thing to work quickly and another to rush yourself. Often times, Paniagua is rushing himself and it shows in his ability to throw strikes. It is a lot to ask for, but if he can add weight and slow himself down - specifically his spastic lower half that has a little trouble repeating it's landing - then I believe that will go a long way to helping him discover more command. Staying in control of his upper half shouldn't be as hard.
I've been told that his changeup is a mixed bag with some uneven results. I was impressed with its potential against lefties in the start that I saw, and I was bummed that he didn't use it against righties. Since then, I've been told that's for a good reason because righties beat it around a bit. It could use for a little bit more fade, but I really like the pitch. The changeup is "THE" feel pitch, and Paniagua is going to need to continue to build on his feel for it. He throws it hard - at about 85 MPH - and I first worried that he might be throwing it too hard for its own good. Now, the more that I think about it and psyche myself out, I think that I actually love this about the pitch.
Paniagua's primary breaking pitch is a slider that he *can* demonstrate a great feel for. The problem is, he doesn't "feel" it consistently enough. You can tell that he pitches with a lot of deception because of the awkward amount of defensive swings that he gets when he goes to his fastball in traditional fastball counts. You can also tell this by how often he gets awkward swings on a slider when a hitter is clearly hunting for a slider.
It's been mentioned to me that Paniagua will work that slider a little sharper when he gets into the low 80's, and will intentional slow it down to the high 70's to get a loopier fade. I love this and I hope that he continues to work on it and refine it, but I don't think that he is where he needs to be with his command of his arsenal to be that cute just yet. However, this could be a deadly trait to cultivate if he can add command to his profile.
Paniagua is something different for me. In normal seasons, I would have elected to put a safer player like Levi Prater or Tre Fletcher or Kramer Robertson or Evan Mendoza on the list. This year, I wanted to go out on a limb a little bit more with some of these kids. As the first tweet said, I was immediately impressed with Paniagua, and that impression stuck with me throughout the season. He has some big questions, but also some big talent. This is a nice little wild card play, and a deep sleeper if you are into that sort of thing. Plus, I don't think that he's really on anyone else's radar unless they are just following my example. Which, you know, is cool, too!!
There are a lot of similarities between he and another Cardinals' prospect, RHP Enmanuel Solano. In reality, Paniagua is probably best suited for a relief role over the long haul. Solano's stats won't tell the entire story of his 2021 season, but he was very important to the relief efforts in Peoria. Solano is built a little more stoutly, but they have a similar arm angle and explosion to the plate, with similar pitch-movement profiles. I only bring this up because that's probably the most likely outcome for Paniagua, if I'm being honest. However, there's a stronger foundation for Paniagua to build on than Solano. Thus, a "higher ceiling."
I am excited to see Paniagua at Peoria during the 2022 season. To me, it seems like the biggest gap in talent in the full season level of the Minors during the 2021 season was between the Low-A and High-A levels (which is to say nothing of what is going on at the Complex Level or the DSL, which is an entirely different story). Paniagua will be tested in 2022, and I can’t wait to see it.
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!!