Updated: Feb 14
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.
LHRP John Beller
Age 24 season (March Birthday)
Signed as a Minor League Free Agent in 2021
Listed at 5'11, 175
HOORAY!!! Another write-up that I can be short about and not care!!
John Beller - for my money - leads a talented group of lefty reliever prospects in the organization that includes Hayes Heinecke (who probably possesses the most raw talent of the group with his matching 2800 RPM breaking pitches), Nathanael Heredia, and Chris Gerard, amongst others. Truth be told, I love John Beller but I'm still holding it against him that he shaved his mustache at the end of the 2022 season. It was a masterpiece. For real, look at that fucking thing in the pic above or the gif's above and below. I'm not too proud to admit that part of the reason he edge Heinecke is because of that stache.
Sometimes Beller is really bad at throwing strikes and that really sucks!!! But, you know what? I don't really care!! We are talking about the 47th best prospect in the organization, let's not pretend like we are really smart here. Harnessing his command is going to be YUGE for him, especially because his fastball and his sinker are vulnerable to hard and consistent contact. Specifically the heater because it's not particularly lively and it doesn't fool many.
What Beller does do EXTEMELY well is throw matching 2600+ RPM slider and curve that break and dive in a very sexy way. The slider is substantially better than the curve from a shape and effectiveness standpoint, but I wanted to bring up both because they are both potentially plus pitches (the slider is already there) and I'm the asshole with the keyboard and I'll do what I want.
We saw Beller dominate High-A before really struggling at AA as he appeared to fade a little late in the season. He averages less than 90 MPH with both his four-seam and his sinker, and his four-seam is a vulnerable pitch that might be best if scraped or used sparingly. As I said, it doesn't fool many and it get hits pretty damn hard more than 50% of the time. I say that, but as you'll see in the gif below that it plays well off of the breaking pitch against righties when he's going inside with the breakers and selectively outside with the fastball. I guess that he just needs to be better about finding his spots with it or sequencing it better with the slider or... something. I don't know. Who knows.
Obviously, it's hard to show the best of one's self when you are tuckered out and throwing sub 90's at an advanced level like AA. Beller is probably going to need to find another gear on one, if not both, of his fastballs if he's going to climb up this list and put himself in a position to make a Major League debut. Like we talk about with a lot of these bullpen arms, it probably makes a lot of sense for him to hardly throw either fastball or sinker, go slider and curve heavy, keep toying and using the change, and reap the rewards of throwing potentially plus breaking pitches. He does throw his slider about 37% of the time and his curve roughly 23% of the time, but I wouldn't be mad to see the usage of both increase by 5%. His sinker usage against righties has been very good for him, too, so more of that against righties, please.
For context, Beller's slider is so damn good that he throws it 37% of the time and it gets whiffs about 43% of the time. It also carried an xwOBA of .163 and an xwOBACON of .241 against during the 2023 campaign. It most certainly won't get the credit that it deserves, but it's one of the best pitches in the organization.
Here's to hoping that Beller has added some velocity and tinkered with his heater and changeup as he marches towards the highest levels of the sport. Beller is a smart pitcher who really makes the most of what he has, and he pitches with an edge to him. At the very least, grow the damn mustache back. Sheesh.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis