top of page

2023 D50: Prospect #18

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


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:

THE CARDINAL NATION (Subscribe to the damn site, dummies) MLB


RHP Inohan Paniagua

Age 23

International Free Agent in 2017

Listed at 6'1, 148

EDITOR'S NOTE: OK, just to give it to you straight, the original write-up on Paniagua was deleted somehow through WIX somehow. So, because I'm frustrated that my legitimately INCREDIBLY THOROUGH evaluation of Inohan was just erased out of the blue, this is going to be way more "too the point" and less in-depth than it might have otherwise been. I apologize for that.

Let's see let's see let's see... Where to begin with Inohan Paniagua...

Well, I guess we'll start all of the way back in the 2021 season. There was something impressive about Paniagua in the limited innings that I was able to watch via MiLB. TV. He had some body control issues because of his slight frame, but you could definitely tell that there was more than just "fringe" in his potential. He had a long way to go to get beyond the fringe, but he was definitely worth the spot that I had him on the 2022 version of the pre-season Dirty.

Paniagua followed up the promise that he displayed during limited 2021 exposure with a downright IMPRESSIVE and somewhat dominant turn in the FSL for Palm Beach to start the 2022 season. Aside from Gordon Graceffo and Michael McGreevy (Markevian "Tink" Hence was still on the complex), Paniagua was the most dominant and statistically impressive pitcher at a full season affiliate at the start of the 2022 season. He was so good during his 2nd turn for Palm Beach that we really don't need to get that into it. He had clearly cleaned up his mechanics and added a weeeeeee little bit of bulk during the offseason, and those gains were paying off for him. His mechanics were more "free and easy" than ever before, and he was pitching with confidence.

What we really must emphasize and talk about is his time at High-A Peoria.

Let's start with the stats, for which you'll find at the top of this page. You'll notice right away that it was a bit of a rough-go for Inohan over a very limited eight starts and 38.2 innings. His strikeout rate dropped about 4% from his time at Low-A while his walk rate went up about 4%. Both his FIP and his ERA ballooned greatly, with the FIP going up 2.59 points and the ERA more than doubling from 2.18 to 4.42. These are the "ugly" stats, and they are worth emphasizing and paying a lot of attention to.

I find it fascinating that Paniagua still only allowed an average against him of .231 to the 165 batters that he faced at High-A. That's pretty good. He paired that with a WHIP of 1.29, which is also acceptable. The big change that we saw was that Paniagua threw strikes about 4% less of the time (from 66% to 62%), and the type of contact that he was letting up was more in the air than ever. At Palm Beach, Paniagua had hitters putting the ball on the ground about 44% of the time. When he moved to Peoria, that number dropped to 33% of the time. This coincided with an increase of his flyball rate from 33.6% in Palm Beach to 51.9% in Peoria. There's a lot going on here. However, this is still a very small sample at High-A, so I think it's going to be important to rely on what we saw rather than dig deep into the stats.

As we all know by now, the Florida State League is a cavernous and extremely healthy environment for pitchers, but the fact that Paniagua let up double the homers in the Midwest League (8) than he did in the FSL (4) in about 39% of the innings is TRULY alarming. The power against him was going to all-fields, as well, which is another thing that I find alarming. There is an absolutely needed adjustment in Paniagua's approach, and it's going to have to come quickly (like me). I feel like one thing that we saw change in his High-A plan of attack was that he wasn't going high and outside as often with his sinker. That is something that I'd like to see him/them do more often. I remember watching him at Palm Beach during the 2021 season and thinking that his sinker played incredibly well up in the zone, and that his fastball and curve played well off of that pitch. This attack-approach was something that we didn't see at Peoria in 2022. The Cardinals are wayyyyyyyyy smarter about this shit than I am, but I think that some form of this usage would benefit him. I wanted to make a special point to include the gif below in this article. This is a gif of Inohan Paniagua using a 95 MPH fastball up in the zone to get one of the game's 15 best prospects (he's not really that good, but definitely top 40 and probably top 25) swinging for the strikeout. I just wanted to put it out there to show how well his fastball plays when he does get a little extra on it. Paniagua was juiced up for the Chourio at-bats, and he made Chourio look pretty awful that day because of it.

The good news is, I don't think that I'd put that quickly-needed adjustment by Paniagua. There is some natural smarts and some clear athleticism in Paniagua that I think will allow him to make whatever adjustment he is going to need to make. We know from watching him that his curveball is a lively pitch that spins around 2500 RPM with some good drop and movement profile. Even in High-A, we saw some really poor swings against that pitch. It's well above average as currently constructed, with the chance to be a "plus" pitch moving forward with a little tinkering. You can tell that Paniagua creates a decent amount of deception with his whippy arm angle on all of his pitches, but that it really helps an already good curveball play "up". When the pitch is on and he's really feeling it, he can use it in any part of the zone and in any count.

We also know that his 2300 RPM four-seam fastball is a more effective pitch than his sinker, but that his sinker gets more swing and miss (20%) and chase (38%). Even though both pitches don't usually get higher in velo than the 91-93 MPH range, they each have their own purpose within his repertoire. He gets a lot of chases with the sinker against lefties and the heater sets up the curve against both-handed hitters, but mostly righties. While the sinker is a good pitch for him, it doesn't really have a foil within his repertoire against lefties, and that's part of the reason why lefties slugged .412 against him in 2022 and walked 31% of the time. Paniagua throws a changeup that has a ton of promise, but it's just not there yet which makes it a dangerous pitch to throw at the upper levels.

What we saw a lot in those limited High-A innings was that Paniagua's heater would get beat around a little extra hard, and that his changeup had a tendency to float over the heart of the plate. He's still getting away with it, and that's in part because he really is a good pitcher with good stuff. Unfortunately, that only goes so far as you work up the MiLB ladder. We've already seen Paniagua make some really solid mechanical adjustments to make his motion more free and easy while tapping into more of his athleticism than he did during the 2021 season, and this is part of the reason why I'm not worried too much about "if" he's going to be able to make the next adjustment.

Man, I really feel like I'm beating up on Paniagua and I really don't want it to come across that way. I'm a big fan of Inohan, and I hope that his spot on The Dirty50 helps to reflect how strongly I feel about his potential. There's a reason why he held the less advanced Low-A hitters to a batting average against of .202, a slugging percentage against of .300, and an on-base percentage of .275; it's because he's a damn good pitcher. I personally believe that the struggles that he had at High-A had more to do with late season fatigue coupled with a lack of pro-seasoning. At about 160 pounds with about 90 more innings than he pitched during the 2021 season - and that he split between being a starter and a reliever - this was a tough ask for him. Now, these same concerns might be shared about Markevian Hence as we work into the 2023 season, but the conversation is a little different. I hope to address that when we get to "Tink's" write-up. The gist is that I think that the split time between relieving and starting during the 2021 season made the transition to starting that many innings from one season to the next a little tougher and more taxing.

Because of his dominance at Low-A, Inohan Paniagua became a name that many people were talking about throughout the 2022 season. Some of that hype went away when he struggled over a small sample size at Peoria, but I don't think that it should have. I think it would help Paniagua to get to more of that mid-90's velocity that we've seen him hit, but I don't think that he *NEEDS* to do that either. Rather, I think Paniagua just needs to keep refining what he has and building up strength as he progresses through the tougher level of the minors. Paniagua has the brains and athleticism for it, and now he just needs to incorporate some of the lessons that he's hopefully learned. As you'll notice in the gifs within this post, he has the raw stuff to continue to be success, too.

If Paniagua can get to some of that extra velocity, then he has a curve/heater/sinker combo that might be good enough for a role as a reliever at the next level.

Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis


bottom of page