THIS IS THE PROSPECT PREAMBLE.
Each post will feature these words, so feel free to skip accordingly. I offer the same always-standing apologies for the lackluster quality of my writing, as well as the stream of consciousness nature that I write with. I sincerely wish that I was better at writing than I am but, alas, here we are. Also, I'm very good at this as compared to most, but I am still VERY bad at it. Just think about that for a second, for context purposes.
I want to start off by reminding everyone that these posts are aided and enhanced by the works of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and Prospects Live. Each embedded link will take you to their subscription pages and you should absolutely do that. Shout out to Geoff Pontes and Matt Thompson from Baseball America and Prospects Live, respectfully, because they're awesome. FanGraphs stats are OBVIOUSLY clutch and awesome, and that's why they are used in nearly every "Dirty" post. LOVE that FanGraphs.
Accordingly, @Cardinalsgifs provides his artistic touch to the pictures in each article, and I wouldn't do this at all if he wasn't a part of it. Special shoutout to @KareemSSN who is a must follow for Cardinals prospects stuff. His partner in crime is @Cardinalsreek and they have their own prospect list coming out soon!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Mr. Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.
I also want to remind everyone that my list is different in that I don't include players with rookie eligibility that have made a Major League debut. So, you'll have to look elsewhere for Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Jake Walsh, Andre Pallante, and ZacK Thompson. Some of these guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway. I'm just trying to get ahead of this because I will 100% be asked about each. I did almost add 32-year-old Rule 5 draft selection Wilking Rodriguez to the list, but decided against it because he's 32-years-old, entering his age 33 season, and the coverage of him will surely be overly saturated by the time that Spring Training gets going. Also, I didn't add recently acquired Jose Fermín because I just don't care at all. I'm sure he'll make a Major League debut at some point in 2023 which will be cool but I just can't find it in me to care about it at all.
The last thing that I'd like to do is remind everyone that this is just a snap shot of THIS moment. I'm not 100% sure what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. So, when I'm a little more conservative with a player like, say, Michael McGreevy, it's without the knowledge of what he's worked on this offseason, along with the gains that he's made in the areas that I'm concerned about. You never know when/if things are going to click for a player, and there's more reason now than ever before - with the advancements in modern baseball technologies - for a prospect to catapult themselves from out of nowhere. Vice versa, it's easier than ever for a prospect to fall off into obscurity.
Finally, I'd like to provide links to other sites that rank Cardinals' prospects. The Cardinal Nation, Prospects Live, and Baseball America all have their 2023 lists published, and MLB and FanGraphs will link to their most recent rankings from 2022:
KAREEM AND CARDINALS REEKS TOP 12
THIS HAS GONE ON TOO LONG. LET'S. GO.
RHRP Freddy Pacheco
Age 25 Season (April Birthday)
International Free Agent 2017
Listed at 5'11, 203
There are certain things about myself that I am not proud of.
OK, there is everything about myself that I am not proud of.
In this instance, the thing that I am not proud of about myself is that a part of the reason why I have Pacheco so high on the list is because it afforded me the chance to cheat my way through this write-up and get into the top 10 with very little effort.
That's because it's VERY simple with Pacheco. It's also because Pacheco is really freaking good.
I tweeted about it at the end of the 2022 season, but it would have done the Cardinals well to get this hard-throwing righty that was already 40-man rostered a Major League debut at some point during the 2022 season. That they didn't might have hurt how the playoff(s) went for them, and it certainly hurt what they know about both Pacheco and their pen as they enter the 2023 season.
You know what's really cool about Freddy Pacheco, other than that he's been really fucking good in the minors? It's that Pacheco is exactly who he is.
Pacheco is a fastball/slider relief-righty that gets both lefties and righties out using both of those pitches. His four-seamer is an explosive pitch that he averages nearly 97 MPH while throwing. It's a bowling ball of a pitch that is very rarely barreled by advanced-aged minor leaguers, and he gets swings and misses with it regardless of where in the zone he throws it. Pacheco's 2300-ish RPM slider isn't the most impressive from an RPM profile standpoint, but is a great pitch for him from a movement standpoint, especially because he doesn't change his mechanics to throw the pitch and it sequences so well with the heater. Like the fastball, it also gets a tremendous amount of swings and an even better amount of misses.
While Pacheco doesn't throw with much in the way of mechanical deception, he does throw with release deception and tunneling, and that helps his two pitch mix play-up. It was clear that Pacheco had better command of these pitches in 2022 than in 2021, and it was even more impressive to see Pacheco have success commanding both pitches when he clearly wasn't feeling "it". By the end of the season it was as clear as ever that Pacheco was as close to Major League ready as he possibly could be.
Pacheco has messed with a couple of other pitches here and there, and it's definitely a lazy and obvious throw away evaluation to say a deeper arsenal that's commanded is always better. However, I don't think that I care about those other pitches just yet. Every once and awhile he'll break off a changeup and I very much hope that he keeps doing that, particularly if he can keep that pitch low in the zone and outside to both righties and lefties. When he's doing that, the few times that he did do that, he can use his slider and heater low in the zone to make hitters look foolish.
Another thing that I absolutely know is that Pacheco has worked tirelessly to better his command of both the four-seam and the slider. It's cost him a few RPM's and a few MPH's here and there, but he's harnessed his arsenal well enough to keep his strikeout rate above 30% while lowering his walk rate to about 10% from June 7th until the end of the season (Oh, hey. There you are, Midwest warmth). There is still room to improve and get better, but Pacheco is as close to ML ready as you could ever hope for this type of relief pitching prospect to be.
Pacheco is a right-handed reliever that's already on the 40-man roster and who will be - at the very least - one step away from the Majors to start the season. Even though that's how his 2022 season should have started instead of being at Springfield, that was only a minor setback on his road to the Majors. I have no doubt that this Venezuelan right-handed reliever will fill some important innings for the Cardinals bullpen at some point during the 2023 season, with the chance to fill some high-leverage roles in the not too distant future.
It's worth mentioning that there is probably a very tight margin for error with Pacheco that I need to spend some time talking about. If his command goes to shit then we are in trouble. If he loses velocity then we are probably in trouble. Maybe the tough assignment that is pitching out of a Major League bullpen will get the better of him. Maybe he's just some version of Junior Fernandez on the bump at the next level. All of these things might end up being true, but I wouldn't bet on that. I'd continue to bet that Pacheco uses his slider and his fastball to get the best of hitters at important times late in games while getting a ton of swing and miss at high velocities.
And, to me, that's worth every bit of the 11th spot on the list.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis