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.
RHRP Jack Ralston
Age: 25, Turns 26 in August.
Drafted in the 7th round, 2019
Listed at 6'6, 230
Let's not get too crazy to start.
I love Jack Ralston. He's been one of my favorite pitchers in the organization since about the time that he was drafted in 2019.
I enjoy his size, listed at 6'6". I also really enjoyed his mechanics, which feature a lower-body explosion into a windmill throwing motion. As we've written a bunch over the years, that is such a tough arm angle to pick up, and when Ralston is commanding his changeup (which is really categorized as splitfinger fastball) and curve he has the chance to be dominant reliever up the ranks.
The problem with Ralston at this point is that he is 25, and he has yet to make it above the "A+" level of the minors. This has everything to do with the lost 2020 MiLB season coupled with various injuries along the way, and less to do with actual talent.
Still, there is no working past the fact that this advanced-age minor leaguer is entering the "do or die" part of his minor league career. Another injury would surely end the dream, or make it more impossible than it already seems.
What we know for a fact is that the his 2400 RPM, 12/6 curveball with about 63 inches worth of drop that gets whiffs about 57% of the time is a legitimate pitch. His 93-ish MPH fastball can be better than what it is, but he needs the split/change to be "on" for it to play up. There's a lot to keep a hitter off-balance in that arsenal, even if the command hasn't always been there.
Now that he is clearly planted in a relief role, it's time for him to stick mostly off-speed and use the curve as aggressively as he can get away with. It's become common place to use the fastball up in the zone so that the curveball can play off of it, but I believe that Ralston's unique arm angle means that he doesn't have to live up in the zone with his fastball, necessarily. There is a world where Ralston's cutter continues to develop and his Fastball/Curve/Cutter combo will eat lefties alive while his Fastball/Curve/Slider combo does work again righties. All while mixing a changeup in against both. Maybe what I like the most about Ralston is that it's very difficult to categorize a lot of his pitches because of the unique angle that he pitches from. He doesn't throw it a lot, but his slider could also be a weapon moving forward. That's a pretty deep and usable repertoire for a reliever.
So, once again, let's not get too deep into this. The bottom line is that Ralston needs to improve his command, stay healthy, and let the curve and his other off-speed offerings do the work. At 25 year's old, we have every reason to believe that Ralston would be treated aggressively if he's put it all together, or if he's found a little extra life on his fastball while heavily utilizing his cutter instead and ditched some of the waste.
For years now, I've been bullish on Ralston. If you're looking for a relief pitcher that hasn't made it above the "A" level of the minors that could be pitching for the Cardinals by the end of the 2023 season, Ralston is your man.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis