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Today, we will be trying our hardest to quickly go over some additional pitchers in the organization that you should be paying attention to.
Each profile is a quick little rundown of each player. If you click on their name, you will be taken to their FanGraphs page.
I have decided to title these post this way, and arrange these post in this way, as an ode to one of my favorite songs of all time, “The Shrine/An Argument” by one of my favorite bands of all time, Fleet Foxes. Click the link and watch the live version because it has an extra verse-ish. Personally, I prefer their studio stuff, but you can't go wrong really. There's never been an album that captures my inner monologue and the existential dread that I truly and constantly feel the way that Helplessness Blues does.
A quick shout out to Diego Cordero and Ramon Santos. I was planning on writing about each of these fellas but they have elected MiLB free agency and are technically no longer a part of the organization. I wish all these players A TON of success.
AND FOR REAL, did @CARDINALSGIFS outdo himself on this picture. The only reason that I am still doing any of this is because of Gifs. If not for him, I'd be gone forever.
I have surely left off some that are very deserving, and for that I apologize.
THE SHRINE pt1
The first pitcher that I want to bring up is right-handed relief pitcher Jacob Bosiokovic. Bosiokovic is a converted position player that looked unhittable at times out of Springfield’s bullpen, then was basically unhittable once he got promoted to Memphis to end the season. I believe that he has a chance to be impactful in the Cardinals bullpen at some point during the 2022 season if an opportunity presents itself. That’s why I wanted to start with him. Jacob is a big kid with little in the way of mechanical frill, and his quick arm action and release point allow his mid-90’s fastball and late-breaking but sometimes uneven slider to play above themselves. As you’d suspect with a converted position player, there’s a lot of athleticism here, too.
Sticking with relief pitchers, right-hander Edgar Escobar was lights-out at the onset of the Springfield Cardinals’ season. He and LHP Evan Sisk were easily the two best relief pitchers on the farm. Well, Escobar really faltered, and Sisk was traded to Minnesota in the Happ/Gant trade. So, that was disappointing. After taking a little time off after early season over-use, Escobar looked better at the end of the season. Escobar’s motion can be very slow at times and that’s not usually good for his fastball/slider/change combo that’s almost always just fastball/slider. Still, this kid can be a bulldog and untouchable at times when he isn’t being over-used.
Well, we might as well stay on the relief pitcher train and touch on righty Connor Jones. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the former second round pick. Not even on draft day, if you’ll recall. However, Jones did some really good work early in the season to close out some important games for Memphis, and I was impressed with his potential as a depth relief option. If there’s a midpoint between Jake Woodford and Roel Ramirez, it’s probably Connor Jones. When he’s at his best, he’s really flashing a heavy sinking fastball in the mid-90’s to pair with a big curveball and an uneven cutter/slider.
One of my favorite relief pitchers to watch in the system was right-hander Enmanuel Solano. First, I love that Enmanuel’s name is spelled with an “n” before the “m”, and it’s the little things in the life that keeps us simps happy. Second, Solano was probably the most consistent and important part of the Peoria bullpen from the start of the season to the end of the season. Solano’s stats aren’t impressive, but his arm speed and whipping arm angle can get righties to flail at his off-speed stuff. Thinking back on it, much like with Edgar Escobar, Solano only seemed to get hammered when he was being used a lot. It’s gotta suck to be a relief pitcher.
The second most important reliever for Peoria from the start of the season until the end of the season was right-hander Leonardo Taveras. Taveras has one of those highly projectable frames and big/heavy fastballs that will get you excited when you watch him. His breaking pitch lacks consistency – as does his mechanics – but he can be imposing on the mound. Taveras’s stuff is better than the pitcher that he currently is, and if he can find some balance in his motion and his pitching mind then he could be a bullpen force.
Over the last couple of years, we have begun to see more relief pitchers from the college ranks drafted in the top 20 rounds of the draft. Now that the draft is only 20 rounds, this is a theme that is clearly outdated. In the 14th round of the 2021 draft, the Cardinals drafted righty Andre Granillo. Granillo is kind of a beast, and the only reason that he was available to the Cardinals here was because he broke his hand punching something and missed a bunch of time during his final collegiate season because of it. Personally, as someone who thought that Julián Tavárez was a ton of fun, I’d be a complete hypocrite if I said that this bugged me. It does not bug me, and mostly because the strong-bodied Granillo is a really good kid. He’s also a really good pitcher, with a heavy and late moving 96-ish MPH fastball to pair with a slider and curve. Granillo is going to get way more attention than he is currently getting by the end of next season. He’s kind of a beast, and he’ll eat batters alive.
Another potential relief pitcher long term, right-handed pitcher Trent Baker was the Cardinals’ 9th round selection in the 2021 draft. What I love about Baker is his size. He’s every bit of 6’3”, and every ounce of his listed 240 pounds, but in all of the good ways. This big-bodied young man has the ability to ramp his fastball above the mid-90’s, and he also throws a projectable changeup that works well off it. Baker appears to do a very good job of repeating a traditional motion that doesn’t seem to be taxing, specifically on that big frame of his. There aren’t a lot of videos out there of Baker and this is why I’m just briefly mentioning him here in this part of The Dirty. I can’t wait to see more, and learn more, about Trent Baker. Pretty athletic kid, too.
It seems appropriate that we use Baker as a springboard to talk about some of the other arms that were drafted in 2021 that didn’t get DIRTY love. My favorite of that group is left-hander Alfredo Ruiz. I can’t seem to shake the thought that Ruiz could be a fast riser. His fastball isn’t the liveliest thing on the planet, but he’s feisty and quick on the mound, and he throws with the type of deception that Connor Thomas throws with. Ruiz’s slider isn’t near where Thomas’s was when he was drafted, but if Ruiz can make some gains with that pitch then his already solid fastball/changeup foundation will be made stronger, as will his chances of getting some real love on The Dirty. He kind of reminds me of Cardinals left-handed legend Jacob Patterson, but without that stupid set position where he faced backwards.
Ruiz is one of four left-handed pitchers that the Cardinals drafted in 2021 that I want to give some attention to. The next lefty up is Virginia Tech alum Chris Gerard. Gerard is the outlier of the group for me because I’m not a big fan, relatively speaking. That usually means that he’ll be the best of the group, for the record. The Cardinals had $100K allotted to sign Gerard but he cost them $250K, and that surprised me. However, Gerard is a lefty that commands four pitches. Even though those pitches aren’t the liveliest, Gerard is the exact type of lefty that the Cardinals swoon for these days. He’ll be worth swooning over if he can get a few more MPH on that fastball or engineer a little bit more bite on his curve and/or slider.
The biggest sleeper of the group of drafted lefties just might be LHP Hayes Heinecke. The lefty out of Wofford is almost certainly best suited for the bullpen where he’ll be able to tap more consistently into his mid-90’s fastball, but his fastball and slider combo should be good enough to get Low-A and A+ hitters out. Heinecke also throws a curve and a change, and I don’t have a strong feel for either of those pitches just yet. While Gerard’s command is better and his stuff is more consistent, Heinecke could leap him if he can keep his fastball in the mid-90’s. I love that short arm-action.
The final lefty on our tour of the lefties from the 2021 draft is from Randy Flores alma mater USC. Lefty Alex Cornwell is feisty kid with a lot to prove after missing a substantial amount of time in college to a back injury. I was about Cornwell’s age when I had to have back surgery, so I can sympathize with him there. It’s a tough road. Another lefty probably best suited for a bullpen role similar to what Patrick Dayton occupied for years, Cornwell is the rare case of a pitcher that has fringy command of three fringy pitches to pair with his lively fastball that he commands extremely well. If there’s one thing that I remember from my days of throwing with back pain, it’s that it’s hard to repeat your motion and arm angle when your back hurts. Hopefully this isn’t something that Cornwell will have to deal with…
Since we’ve gone on about the lefties that were drafted during the 2021 draft, we also need to touch on some lefties that went undrafted during the shortened 2020 draft. We’ll start with lefty John Beller, a former reliever for Flores’ alma mater USC, that put up some of the biggest strikeout numbers on the farm for Palm Beach during the 2021 season. Beller pitched some of the finest and most dominant games early in the system on the farm but couldn't keep it up through the season. Much like with Levi Prater, it was Beller’s command that got the better of him. That, and his fastball stopped setting up his potentially above average slider and changeup. It’s obvious that there’s deception in his delivery and it's a lot of fun to watch, and Beller’s success will come down to how well he can spot that fastball.
LHP Mac Lardner was really impressive early on for Peoria, and his story is off-speed, off-speed, off-speed. Everything that Lardner throws has late movement. He has a fun little three quarter-ish delivery and a good amount of built in deception. Sometimes Lardner’s command is plus, specifically of his breaking pitch. When this is happening, he’s A+ unhittable. As you’d suspect with someone that throws the ball in the high 80’s, Lardner must be careful to pitch on the corners and to hitter’s weaknesses more than your average pitcher. I have to tell you, I really enjoyed watching Lardner pitch when he was healthy during the 2021 season.
Another left-handed pitcher that I was impressed with was Colin Schmid. Schmid was drafted in the 13th round all the way back in 2018. Schmid, now 24 years old, didn’t make his season debut until mid-July, and it was in the Complex League. I was borderline dismissive of Schmid until I watched him pitched after he was promoted to Peoria. There, Schmid displayed command that was at least above average, specifically of his fastball and changeup. He can use both of those pitches on the outside against righties because of how well the complement each other, from a movement standpoint. His fastball can have a lot of late arm-side run that really mirrors some of the early movement on his changeup. Schmid has a very repeatable motion and arm angel, and everything comes out of his hand smoothly. Schmid could be a fun little sleeper in 2022.
Now that we’ve talked about our last southpaw, it’s time to talk about RHP Ludwin Jimenez. Yes, I’ve definitely called Ludwin “Ludwig” one too many times so far in his Cardinals career, but I’m committed to not being such a fucking daft asshole moving forward. Ludwin is a bit of a divisive prospect. Many in the scouting community have pointed to him in the past as a potential breakout candidate within the organization. They point to his low-90’s and lively fastball, his projectable frame, and a potentially plus changeup as the reason that they could see it happening. I’ve always been on the opposite side of the debate, as I worried that he wouldn’t be able to fill out his frame, repeat his mechanics, or engineer his curveball enough for it to be a weapon. As we enter the 2022 season, the truth is that Jimenez is somewhere between both appraisals. He’s still only entering his age 20 season, and time and size is on his side, but he needs to clean up my concerns. As you’ll see in the gif below, his changeup can be a filthy plus-type pitch and he has great arm speed. If Ludwin is truly going to breakout then he’s going to need to command his arsenal better because he leaves A LOT in the hitting zone.
One of the pitchers that I found interesting while watching Palm Beach was RHP Jose Moreno. Just like with Jimenez, Moreno has a lot of work to do to clean up his mechanics and his strike-throwing, but there is one helluva foundation for him to build on. Moreno has real strikeout stuff if he can throw it for strikes. Sometimes his slider will either get too loopy or hang in place, and that’s obviously a recipe for disaster. Other times, it can be a pitch that he buries and that’s unhittable. His fastball usually sits in the mid-90’s, but you can tell that he has a delivery that channels a lot of energy. Still just 21 years old and with a projectable frame and good size already, Moreno could be a fun little dark horse prospect to follow, if that’s your thing. I see a lot of similarities between he and former Cardinals' prospect RHP Alvaro Seijas.
Finally, I'd like to give a small cap tip to RHP Michael Brettell and RHP Kyle Leahy. Both of these kids were asked to fill innings that they just weren't ready for, but both gutted through some tough times. Leahy was asked to start for Springfield out of the gate, and AA bullied him. That shouldn't have been his role, but that didn't stop Leahy from makes some small gains here and there. Brettell started the season off in Peoria before getting promoted to Springfield. Brettell had some solid success right away, but the taxing nature of being relied on to give innings in the Springfield bullpen got the better of him in the long run. Brettell's fastball has some great late life when it's on, and he has an always repeated delivery. Leahy is similar in that last way, but sometimes his fastball is just too flat. I admire both of these kids greatly, and they both deserve praise for gutting through a tough season.
And THAT will do it for the pitchers!! Hopefully we’ll have one more post for you soon.
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!!