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2023 D50: The Shrine Pt 1: More Pitchers

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

The countdown is complete!! YOU ARE WELCOME!!

Today, we will be trying our hardest to quickly go over some additional pitchers in the organization that you should be paying attention to.

Each profile is a quick little rundown of each player. If you click on their name, you will be taken to either their FanGraphs page or their Baseball Reference page. FanGraphs is the best and we should all be thankful that they exist.

I have decided to title these post this way, and arrange these post in this way, as an ode to one of my favorite songs of all time, “The Shrine/An Argument” by one of my favorite bands of all time, Fleet Foxes. Click the link and watch the live version because it has an extra verse-ish. Personally, I prefer their studio stuff, but you can't go wrong really. There's never been an album that captures my inner monologue and the existential dread that I truly and constantly feel the way that Helplessness Blues does.

AND FOR REAL, did @CARDINALSGIFS outdo himself on the cover picture for this post while paying homage to a Lord Huron Album cover that I love. The only reason that I am still doing any of this is because of Gifs. If not for him, I'd be gone forever. Hell, it still just might happen.

I have surely left off some that are very deserving, and for that I apologize.

The Shrine: Pt 1

The Pitchers

I feel like I have to start with right-handed pitcher José Dávila as we go over the pitchers that I've left off of The Dirty50 and it's additional articles. I feel like I have to explain myself. The reason that I kept him off is that, first, he just wasn't impressive when I watched him pitch for Palm Beach. Second, Dávila doesn't really have that impressive of an arsenal, aside from a curveball that's easily his best offering. Other than the above-average curveball, his stuff is just kinda average across the board, and it's the deception and arm angle that gets the results. Now, if he had more than just the curve that played above average with the arm angle then we'd be having a different conversation. Or if he threw with a little more velocity. Or if his stuff moved in a more-than-pedestrian way. Unfortunately, the truth with Dávila is that he's just "fine" as he was constructed during the 2022 season and really nothing else. And that's fine!!! That would make him VERY important organizational depth. Hopefully this off-season's worth of work will have helped him grow a decent amount. One way or the other, that fastball isn't going to be enough as he moves up the ladder unless he makes some serious changes to it.

I am going out of my way to only talk about one of the Cardinals 2023 international signings, and that's soon to be 21-year-old Ruben Menes. I don't know a ton about Menes other than that's he's older for an international signing and that's he's 6'3", 185 lbs. I wanted to make sure to include him because the Cardinals have done VERY WELL over the years with their older international signings, and even more so with the players that kind of fly under the radar. There was a lot of hubbub around José Adolis García when the Cardinals signed him because of his connection to Luis Robert, but the signings of Randy Arozarena and Johan Oviedo (Oviedo was 18 years old at the time, which is still relatively old for an international signing) along with a few other's here and there have worked out well for the Cardinals. While the soon to be 17-year-old Reiner Lopez and his 6'8", 196 lbs. was the headliner of the class so far, I can't help feeling like Menes will eventually be the best pitcher in the class.

Of the right-handed relievers that we didn't go over during The Dirty50-proper, 22-year-old Roy Garcia is probably the most naturally gifted of the group. Like with Edwin Nuñez, Garcia really spins the ball and his shit is nasty because of it. Also like Nuñez, Garcia has a serious command issue. If Garcia can refine his command even a little bit he could easily and quickly become a Major League bullpen option. There's a legitimate potential for a five pitch mix between his mid 90's heater/sinker combo, the two heavy spinning and moving breaking pitches, and his changeup. His timing on the mound usually seems out of whack, so finding his pace and rhythm is going to be key for him.

I don't want to get too far into this listing of prospects without getting into some of the arms that the Cardinals drafted during the 2022 draft, so I'll start with their 9th round pick, RHP Joe King out of Cal. It was cool to see King on the WBC roster for Great Britain. I can't wait to watch him pitch for them. King is more of a control-command pitcher than he is a strikeout pitcher, but his fastball/changeup combo is a solid combo that will play well at the lower levels, at least. Like with Zane Mills, King's release and arm action is incredibly easy and stress-less. King could eventually be another right-handed reliever that works his way quickly through the minors with a little tweaking here and there. You can tell from watching the video below that King gets a good deal of extension, and that his over the top-ish delivery helps to bury a lot of his pitches.

In the 8th round, the Cardinals selected 22-year-old RHP Cade Winquest out of the University of Texas Arlington. Winquest is an incredible athlete, and you can tell that he gets incredibly extension within his motion. I am quietly incredibly bullish on Winquest from the highlights that I've watched. His fastball is in the mid-90's and it looks like it has some great life. There are conflicting reports on both his curve and his changeup, and I'm anxious to feast my eyes on both pitches. It seems like the curveball does a good job of getting some bad swings and keeping college hitters off-balance, but we'll have to wait and see. It sounds like command and motion-repeatability are issues for him, as well. He'll have plenty of time to work and refine.

22-year-old Hunter Hayes was the Cardinals' 16th round pick in 2022, and the mid 90's sinker throwing righty seems to have a nice little slider that he pairs with the sinker. Hayes is a little different than some of the other right-handed relievers on the list, as he's more of a command reliever than he is a strikeout reliever. Hayes helped close out a no-hitter last July, so that's cool. I initially planned on adding the video of that but I can't find it now. I don't really have much of a feel or a thought about Hayes, so I'm anxious to see more of him. The righty does seem pretty athletic on the mound, though.

The last of the arms from the 2022 draft that I'm going to talk about is 21-year-old left-handed reliever Jack Lynch out of Xavier. Lynch was the Cardinals' 18th round selection and there's some incredible upside with this big lefty. In the past, Lynch really struggled with his command, but he seemed to put it all together out of Xavier's pen during the 2022 season. As you'll see below, Lynch throws the ball with a ton of energy and emotion, and his mechanics are explosive. Lynch hasn't made an organizational debut yet, but I'll be keeping a close eye on him when he does. He leGit gets me fired the fuck up. I think there's a potential for two above average off-speed offerings to go with a really good fastball here.

Speaking of lefty relievers, 24-year-old Nelfri Contreras is the international lefty that I had the hardest time keeping off of The Dirty50 and it's annexes. Watching him pitch for Palm Beach was an absolute treat, and he's got the shit that'll make you say "holy fuck" when you watch him. Now, as much as I like watching him and think that he could be a real prospect, he's just not there yet. There's a serious command issue here, and righties don't have any trouble against him. If he were just a little younger then I'd probably be more aggressive because of how filthy he can be, but his age and command both work against him.

The next lefty that I had a tough time keeping off of The Dirty50 and it's other posts was 22-year-old Nathanael Heredia. Heredia was the most dominant lefty reliever in the organization for a large portion of the season. You'll notice in the gif below that he throws the ball with a ton of funk and from a funky arm angle. When he was "on", Heredia was getting both lefties and righties out on strikes while painting the corners of the zone with his fastball/sinker/slider combo that all seemed to flash above average. The problem is that Heredia really fizzled out down the stretch as his command betrayed him, as did his ability to repeat his mechanics. If Nathanael is healthy and back in control of himself in 2023 then he will certainly have a chance to make it to AAA at least, on the back of his mid-90's fastballs and an 80-ish sweeping slider that gets a ton of swing and miss. Heredia is one of those pitchers that was a complete joy to watch deal when he's... dealing?

Speaking of left-handed relievers that were difficult to keep off of The Dirty50, LHRP Chris Gerard was very impressive when I got to watch him. The 23-year-old former 12th round pick has BIG strikeout potential as a reliever in large part because he flashes plus with both his curve and changeup. The issue with Gerard is that he rarely hits 90 MPH and he lets up a lot of slug against righties. If he can sort out the slug issue against righties and find maybe just a weeeeee bit more heat on his fastball then he could easily become the best left-handed relief prospect in the system.

Let's stick with left-handed pitchers for a while longer, shall we?! One of the most effective starters on the farm until about the beginning of July was 23-year-old Alex Cornwell, the Cardinals' 15th round selection in 2021. Although he struggled at the end of the season in a big way, Cornwell rode his big and impressive curveball to a ton of success. Like with a lot of pitchers in the organization, the main issue with Cornwell is that his fastball is incredibly pedestrian. The data favors a heavy curve/slider/change usage for Cornwell, but he's probably destined to be high quality organizational depth without more than low 90's velocity to go with has average command. There's nothing fancy about Cornwell and I greatly appreciate that.

I know that I said that we'd stick with lefties, but I want to talk about 24-year-old right-hander Bryan Pope before we continue on with the lefties. That's because all of those things that I just aid about Cornwell apply to Pope. His off-speed stuff is solid but his command is just average-to-above which means he's probably just going to be organizational depth moving forward. Still, Pope covered a good deal of innings for Palm Beach and will continue to do so as he climbs the ladder.

Getting back to the relatively pedestrian lefties, the Cardinals' 6th round pick in the 2021 draft was lefty Alfredo Ruiz. The soon to be 23-year-old Ruiz is a fastball/sinker/curve lefty that gets lefties to swing and miss with his sub-90's arsenal. Righties do a good deal of damage against Ruiz, though, which is a bummer but to be expected because he needs another pitch to keep righties off of his slow and distinguishable curveball. I'm a fan of Ruiz, so here's to hoping that he can change and evolve his arsenal to get righties, while hopefully adding some velocity that would at least gets his heater into the 90's and his curve into the 80's or at least high 70's.

Speaking of pitching with extra velocity and it adding to a left-handed pitcher's effectiveness, 23-year-old Levi Prater was a completely different pitcher when he was able to get a little extra on his stuff. His fastball is mostly a low 90's MPH pitch, but there was a portion of the season where he was getting into the mid 90's and that completely changed what he was capable of doing with everything that he throws. This period of increased velocity was also when he displayed the most command of his stuff. Because of how filthy Prater's curve and slider can be, and how he has demonstrated a feel for his changeup, there's a very high-upside left-handed reliever within Prater, but he needs that velocity to be more consistent and for the command to continue to be there when he's throwing. When he doesn't have the velocity or the command he's an incredibly difficult pitcher to watch pitch.

Now that the lefties are out of the way, let's get into the rest of the righties. I guess we need to start with 25-year-old Kyle Leahy. When the Cardinals' came out of the lost 2020 MiLB season in 2021, the biggest surprise was probably that this former 17th round pick was placed in the Springfield rotation. As Leahy got blown up and blown up and blown up over and over again, it was even more surprising that the Cardinals never backed off of the assignment. It was even more surprising to see Leahy inserted right back into the rotation to start the 2022 season. It was a shame to see Leahy get rocked again in 2022, but it became more clear why the Cardinals were continuing on this path with Leahy, at least. While I have no feel for what Kyle Leahy is as a prospect or as a pitcher, I can say that his stuff is pretty good, actually. His fastball is usually in the mid-90's (but it honestly gets crushed A LOT), and he throws a slider, curve, and change all at various speeds and with varying movement profiles. There is a very strong foundation for success in there, it's just relatively unrealized at this point. The problem is that he just leaves too much over the plate. It was awesome to see that Leahy was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, even if he probably wasn't ready for that assignment, either. Still, the Cardinals are - and always have been - bullish on Leahy so keep an eye on him, I guess (NOTE: Leahy looked really fucking good in his first spring training appearance while displaying quite a bit more extension. It's worth keeping an extra eye on him).

Speaking of right-handed pitchers that got rocked at AA during the 2022 season, what a brutal fall from grace it was for 24-year-old Connor Lunn. Like with Leahy, Lunn has an interesting arsenal that plays well off of his fastball up in the zone, but he just left too much of it over the plate to have any type of real success against the advanced hitters in the Texas League. I worry that Lunn's slider and curveball are two pitches that are just too similar to each other for sustained success, and I think it'd do him well to learn a cutter because of how well he works in the upper quarter of the zone. It was a shame that 2022 was so brutal to Lunn because he's a better pitcher than what he displayed at AA. One way or the other, something is going to need to change for Lunn to find success at the upper levels.

27-year-old Right-handed pitcher Tommy Parsons is old and boring, and his "success" feels very weird and somewhat illusory so this is all that I'm going to say about him. That, and his change/curve combo can be well-above average at times. Parsons pitched better out of the pen than as a starter where he was able to get a mile or two more on his heater that he often leaves over the heart of the plate. It would have been ignorant of me to leave Parsons off because he's the exact type of pitcher that will almost certainly make a Major League debut during the 2023 season because baseball finna baseball.

Speaking of somewhat irrelevant but yet still surprisingly relevant right-handed relievers, 26-year-old GRIFFIN ROBERTS LIVES. Like with Parsons, I'm not going to get too deep into it. His shit is wicked but he lacks control of his body or the baseball when he throws a pitch. It sounds like this off-season is the first real off-season that he's had since being drafted, so hopefully he's spent that time getting himself in the right mental and physical place needed to reach his sky-high potential. His off-speed stuff is beyond leGit if he can harness it.

If you're looking for an older right-handed reliever that could end up making a Major League debut during the 2023 season I'd like to point you in the direction of Grant Black. The 28-year-old is a fastball/change/slider pitcher that's almost world renown at this point for what is best described as a "power changeup". It's a heavy and barreling pitch that fades and dives hard. It's incredibly hard for either handed hitter to barrel up. Black's fastball is average, but his slider can flash above-average and often. With just a little increase in velocity form consistently in the low 90's to consistently in the mid-to-low 90's he could be on the doorstep of a debut.

This is the second year in a row that I'd like to give a shoutout to RHRP Mike Brettell for being the ultimate organizational soldier for the Cardinals. The right-hander just eats innings and eats innings, and he does it whenever he's asked to. Truth be told, the 25-year-old probably deserves a real chance to be a starter if not for how valuable he is to any MiLB staff out of the pen. It feels like Brettell throws every pitch that a pitcher can throw, and he's always tinkering and toying to get the advantage. He works quickly and aggressively, and he's the exact type of pitcher that I'd like to see the organization reward for the role that he's been asked to play. The way that he uses his fastball/cutter/sinker/slider/curve/change arsenal is a lot of fun to watch. Love that Michael Brettell. All that he does is whatever is asked of him.

I was excited to see that 26-year-old RHRP Dalton Roach was a non-roster invitee to spring camp for the Cardinals. I love that kid, and he does have a chance to be a bullpen sleeper candidate. Of course, this command-heavy righty is going to have to be better about living on the edges than he has been in the past if he's going to get to that spot. Roach is mostly a "plan of attack" righty as opposed to a pitcher that can over-power. Roach transitioned to more of a "closer" role for Springfield by the end of the season, where he had varying levels of success. Here's to hoping that his fastball/slider/curve/change combo can eat where it needs to eat to catapult Roach to a Major League debut.

One year ago, it seemed like then right-handed reliever Edgar Escobar was the most promising right-handed reliever in the organization. He began the 2022 season on a similar track before it all fell apart for him. Oddly enough, the Springfield rotation was in need of innings so the Cardinals moved Escobar to the rotation. He faded late in the season, but there were some promising moments for the 26-year-old Escobar while pitching out of the rotation. Escobar pairs a mid-90's fastball with a changeup and a slider. Both of his off-speed offerings flash above average at times, but without the command to keep them in that classification. The Cardinals have put a lot of odd and inconsistent innings on Escobar's arm over the last two seasons, and I'll be most anxious to see what kind of role he plays within the organization during the 2023 season.

There's a lot of explosion in the arm motion of 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Michael YaSenka. He possesses a visibly strong and broad upper-body. YaSenka made the transition from starter to reliever during the 2022 season, and I don't think that we've seen the best of him as a reliever just yet. YaSenka has toyed with a very slow curveball, but he's mostly a fastball/slider pitcher with a sprinkling in of a changeup here and there. There's some reverse splits action here for YaSenka, which makes me wonder if increased usage of a changeup here and there against righties might help him out a little bit. Of course, this goes against the normal plan of attack for like-handed hitters, so what do I know. As I sit and write this across the street from the campus of Eastern Illinois University, I'd be remised to not point out that he's a former EIU product.

If you are looking for a starter with the motion of a somewhat old timey starting pitcher, feast your eyes on the gif of Hancel Rincon below. Actually, the 20-year-old Hancel Rincon is a fascinating and fun pitcher to keep an eye on. His fastball doesn't have much heat to it, but it is relatively lively, at least. Rincon's best off-speed offering is his slider, but he also throws a changeup that he hasn't demonstrated much of a feel for just yet. The data points to a cutter in his arsenal, as well, but I think that pitch is really just his fastball that he over-cooks now and again. That should give you some idea of how that pitch moves, at least. With improved feel for his changeup, Rincon could be a starter worth keeping a close eye on.

One of the biggest and loudest arms from the right-side in the organization is that of Leonardo Taveras. The 6'5", 24-year-old could be the fastest riser if he can continue to harness his command. I wanted to make a point to end this post with him because his velocity and his movement profile kind of put him on an island that is separate from a lot of the other arms on this list, aside from Roy Garcia, really. Taveras is almost exclusively fastball/slider, but he's smart about when he throws his changeup and that helps his stuff play up. I'd argue that 2%-5% increase in usage of his changeup would be a big help to him, but who knows, really. Anyway, keep an eye on this high velocity righty because he has the potential to strikeout 30%+ of the hitters that he faces.

I'm going to end this post with a quick shoutout to 22-year-old RHP Edgar Manzo who I am just too exhausted to write about. My B, yo. Enjoy this gif as an apology.

Thanks For Reading!!


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