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.
LHP Brycen Mautz
Age 21, Turns 22 in July
Drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2022 Draft
Listed at 6'3, 190
I am fascinated by Brycen Mautz, the Cardinals 2nd round pick from the 2022 draft.
I'm also certainly the low man in regards to my evaluation of Mautz.
But I am certainly coming around.
On a very superficial level, one of my things about Mautz is, with respect to the West Coast Conference, I worry about the amount of homers he allowed during the season. I also worry that his command isn't consistent enough to matter as a starter in the long run. To be fair, six of the 15 home runs that he allowed on the season came in one game early in the season against Dallas Baptist (on a side note, Dirty50 member Chandler Arnold started that game for Dallas Baptist and got shelled in while pitching 4.1 innings). Baseball is fun that way, because that was also the game that Mautz struck out 15. What a WILD 6.1 inning start that was. So if you take out that 6.1 innings from his season line, I think it probably paints a better picture of the pitcher that he is. At that point, his season line drops to nine homers allowed over 84.1 innings while striking out 114 of the 351 batters that he faced on the season. That drops his strikeout rate on the season from about 33.9% to about 32.5%. Either way, there's big strikeout potential here.
I have to tell you, that wild start and my concerns about his long-term ability to start aside, these results have me convinced that Mautz could be a special arm as a potentially high-end relief prospect.
What Mautz does have is a measurable low-to-mid 90's fastball with a highly desirable and measurable slider with incredible late fade. If he can continue to harness his command of both pitches then they will both clearly be on the fast track as Major League-caliber pitches. Just like with every pitcher in the history of the world, how Mautz displays his velocity moving forward will probably dictate just how impressive and dominant these pitches can be. I think that the only thing that I'm 100% sure of in regards to Mautz is that his slider is good enough as-is to get left-handed hitters at the middle level of the minor leagues out right now.
There are a lot of fascinating things to watch with Mautz in 2023. Much like with Austin Love, I anticipate that he'll probably spend most of the 2023 season at High-A while he works on his command and figures out how to best command and utilize his changeup. There are some mixed thoughts and evaluations about Mautz's changeup because he never really had to throw it during the season. Mautz threw it just a little bit here and there, and when a pitcher is throwing a "feel" pitch only sparingly it's extra hard to get a read on it.
I know that Mautz believes in the changeup, and I know that the Cardinals do, too. I'm not there yet, but I can't wait to see more of it so that I can make my mind up about it. When it's sprinkled within a highlight package, it appears to be a devastating pitch. You'll notice that in the gif below, as it's the first pitch that he throws. You'll also probably notice that he changes his arm angle and speed, as well as his release point to throw it. Even with all of that, he still gets a nasty swinging strikeout of the righty. You love to see that.
To be as dominant as he's capable of being with just a fastball and a slider is a pretty good sign that he'll work quickly through the lower levels of the minors. AGAIN, this is why I'm bullish on his long-term future as a potentially dominant bullpen arm. Even with an average fastball and/or budding changeup, Mautz crushes lefties with that slider, and it's also a pitch that is good enough to keep righties off of both it and the fastball.
The other part of the Mautz apparatus that gets some attention is his throwing angle and the deception that comes with it. Now, I'll be incorrect in this assessment I'm sure, but I think that some of the deception is overrated. It's not that funky of a motion, but it is a weird three-quarters angle and motion that he works quickly through. It's the type of motion and angle that is certainly going to be enough to keep younger and less advanced and experienced hitters off of him for awhile. I just don't think that it'll add much or be that big of a deal for more advanced and older hitters. As you probably know by now, I love me some funk in a delivery. I'm anxious to watch more of it. The funk also helps our boy with his deceptive pickoff move.
Part of what made Mautz a relatively attractive option for the Cardinals in the 2nd round is that he had his best start of the season under the spotlight against Vanderbilt. I have a differing of opinion on how this start went than most do, but the stats show a 75 pitch, 7 inning, 4 hit, 5 strikeout, and 1 walk performance to cap his season. The only run that he allowed was the homer to Dominic Keegan in the second embedded tweet below. By all accounts, this was a dominant start against one of the better teams in the country. When I went back and watched the start, it seemed to me like Mautz was incredibly hittable and had some incredible batted ball luck, but I was probably over-analyzing. At the very least, there were some really hard hit balls right at fielders early in the start. Regardless of this, it shows us a lot that he performed this way in this setting.
While I have already mentally pigeon-holed Brycen Mautz into a long-term relief role for the organization, Mautz certainly has the potential to be more than that right now. The development of his command and his changeup, as well as the shaping and more consistently found velocity of his fastball would be huge for him. It's a pitch that can get to the mid-90's but is more frequently in the low 90's. These tweaks and points of growth will be the difference in what will either be a poor evaluation or a smart evaluation on my part.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis