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 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 Ryan Loutos
Undrafted Free Agent in 2021
Listed at 6'5, 215.
Before we get into the meat of this post and the pleasantries of a fun story, I just want to say that Ryan Loutos as currently constructed is Mitch Harris but minus the military time and age, of course. Now that we've got that out of the way...
There might not be a more fun story within The Dirty50. It's so fun, that I'll let a real journalist tell it to you!!
FOLLOW THIS LINK TO A STORY BY THE EXTREMELY TALENTED ROB RAINS ON THE BACK STORY OF HOW RYAN LOUTOS WENT FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST LOUIS TO A RELIEF PITCHER ONE RUNG BELOW THE MAJORS BECAUSE IT'S GREAT.
The "Kyle" version of the story is that this fucking guy worked his ass off, studied both the biometrical and traditional sides of pitching, used data and physical practice to get his fastball into the high 90's, signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent from a local non-D1 University, and then skyrocketed to AAA by basically dominating every hitter that he saw before AAA.
How cool, right?!
Now, the issue is that - while the story is great and his success is real - what we saw at Memphis was more than just advanced talent eating an inexperienced pitcher alive. What we saw is a fastball that didn't have enough on it even with that velocity to fool anyone and a slider/curve combo that didn't really matter because of the fastball's profile. Of course, it's very "on-brand" of me to put gifs that prove me wrong immediately into this post, and that's what I did with the gifs both above and below this paragraphs.
Yes, Loutos can get the fastball up to the high 90's while averaging 95-96 MPH with it, but it's flat and it lacks the shape and life and spin and command AT THIS POINT IN TIME to be the type of fastball that's going to have the chance to consistently get Major League caliber hitters out. As you'll notice in both of those gifs above, there's A LOT of the plate that Loutos gets away with hitting that a AAA hitter will swing and miss at. That' won't be the case at the next level.
His slider can be an absolute bear of a pitch, but he's either going to need to use that slider 60% of the time, develop a better curveball and start developing a real changeup, or continue to refine and work on that fastball. I do wonder if he'd be better off as just a heater/slider pitcher with a little mix of curve and change instead of going heater/curve as often as he does. One way or the other, he's going to have to change something moving forward if he wants to stick in a Major League bullpen, and the smartest place would be with limiting the overly used frequency of his curveball, I believe. In the gif below, I incorrectly identified the last pitch as his slider when it's, in fact, his curveball. This is just one illustration of it, but it never seemed like Loutos commanded that pitch as well as he did his slider. At least, he didn't get away with not commanding it well as often as he did with the slider, if that makes sense.
This is especially true in his attack method against lefties, because lefties absolutely crush Loutos. They hit him hard and heavy, and they do it A LOT. I wouldn't be as concerned about this as I am if he also didn't get crushed by righties at AAA, but I think the line of 337/415/500 of lefties against Loutos is a pretty loud indicator that he still has a lot of work to do to be a proficient righty out of the bullpen. I'd wager that a cutter or a changeup would go a long way to mitigating some of the struggles that he's had against lefties. Maybe, just maybe, the slider/heater heavy combo will be enough. I've been critical of the curveball, but it's a pitch that he does use well against righties even if it kinda backs up on him a lot.
Loutos has toyed with a sinker, change, and a cutter in the past, and the hope would be that the further development of these pitches could also be a big help, especially if he can go slider/cutter more frequently with a curveball to keep hitters off-balance.
The GREAT NEWS is that Loutos already has a practical template for developing his arsenal with a ton of hard work. This type of work over what was basically an 18 month period is what got him this close to the Majors in the first place. Loutos possesses the work ethic, knowledge of his own body, and understanding of, well, the science of the body in relation to pitching that is needed to optimize all of his abilities as a pitcher. It would not surprise me one bit if this incredibly smart and athletic young man "out-kicks" the lazy "Mitch Harris" comp that I threw out to start this article. But it's going to have to come on the back of either a retooled fastball or an improved or adjusted arsenal.
Loutos is more than deserving of being a player that is given the benefit of the doubt in his development during a meteoric rise through both the prospect rankings and the minors. While I'm not giving him much benefit of the doubt in the rankings, I'm 100% sure that Loutos will make me look stupid almost immediately in Spring Training. Because, honestly, this is the exact type of pitcher that will overly-impress during spring training, and who will most certainly make a Major League debut at some point during the 2023 season.
There isn't a kid or a story in the Minors easier to root for than Loutos and his story/journey.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis