Prospect #2, RHP Jack Flaherty
Age At The Start Of The 2018 Season: 22
Drafted In The 1st Round Of The 2014 Draft
AA FIP: 2.29 AAA FIP: 4.10 MLB FIP: 5.27
In conjunction with my friend Colin Garner over at The Redbird Daily, we present to you our combined list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals organization! Every other day for the next two months, From January 28th until March 29th, we will be presenting you with an exhaustive evaluation on each of the top 30 prospects in the organization starting with prospect #30 and counting down to prospect #1. This is our combined list, not our own individual lists. For additional information on how we came these rankings, CLICK HERE. Without further delay, we present...
Kyle Reis (Prospect #2 On Personal List, Prior To Combining Lists With Colin Garner)
At this point, I like everything about Jack Flaherty. I mean, what is there that's not like?! At one point while doing the rankings, I had Flaherty ahead of Reyes as the number one prospect in the organization. Honestly, it's a lot closer than most are making it. And, frankly, I wish that I would have kept it that way.
Joe Schwarz, my colleague here at Birds On The Black, can tell you better than anyone why Jack Flaherty is a premier prospect. He did that in THIS PIECE about Flaherty from the offseason. I highly recommend that you read it. Joe also had a chance to talk with Mr. Flaherty at Winter Warmup about his repertoire, and you should definitely WATCH THAT HERE.
There are about 20 other organizations in baseball that Flaherty would be a team's #1 prospect. He is that good. It's rare that you find a 21-year-old command two pitches the way that Flaherty commands five pitches. Flaherty is a 6 foot 4 inch, 220-pound man-boy with a frame that you dream about. He pitches with a maturity that can't be taught and that so few young players can even comprehend.
The most impressive part of Flaherty's 2017 isn't the success that he had over Double-A and Triple-A. It's not the strikeout per inning, or the impressive 35 walks allowed in 148.2 innings minor league innings pitched. Surprisingly, it isn't even that he was 21 years old while making a major league debut.
No, the most impressive thing about what Flaherty did in 2017 was how he rebounded after a 2016 season that saw his prospect stock tumble dramatically. Flaherty struggled mightily with command and consistency during his 2016 campaign while pitching in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Baseball America, which is the most reliable prospect evaluating service in America, bounced Flaherty out of their Cardinals' Top 10 prospects entering the 2017 season because of his 2016 season. He had also fallen off of nearly every Top 100 Prospects lists. This is all to say that his stock had taken a big hit.
Flaherty spent the 2016-2017 offseason with a plan. He knew that he had to change his approach. Flaherty knew that it was time to get serious about his craft if he wanted to reach the next level. So, he committed himself to the art, got himself into better shape (even though he was already in great shape), and turned himself into the pitcher that we know today. Again, that's the most impressive part of his 2017 season. He would have been 20-turning-21 at the time. Think about the level of awareness and maturity that it takes to recognize that and to implement that change. I'm 31, and I'm incapable of changing or improving anything in my own life even when I know that I need to. Flaherty possesses the maturity needed to excel in the Majors.
There are some excellent things to take from this table, other than just the generic "HE GOOD" that I'd usually harp on. First, you'll notice the vast array of average velocities. Flaherty throws two pitches that live in the low -mid 90's range, two pitches in the mid-80's range, and a pitch in the high 70's on average. The depth and variety of velocity are impressive. What is even more impressive is that Flaherty throws nearly everything from the same release point. That is so difficult to do. You get a distinct picture of a potential front line starter when you add the velocity differentiation with similar release points for all his pitches, along with the repeatability of his motion. Any way that you cut it, Flaherty is a rare an advanced talent. There is a ton of advanced data that indicates just how good Flaherty is capable of being, and you should go to BrooksBaseball HERE to access that information.
As I write this article, Adam Wainwright was just scratched from his last spring tune-up star before the regular season because of a hamstring issue. It's not currently known how bad it is. What I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that the Cardinals will be just fine without Wainwright if he has to miss any time because of how good Jack Flaherty is. I'd even argue that the addition of Flaherty to the rotation is an upgrade over the rotation with Wainwright in it.
It is worth addressing the struggles that Flaherty had while pitching in the Major Leagues at the end of the 2017 season. While it isn't even a remote concern of mine, I do understand why it would make others doubt him. The highest amount of inning in a season that Flaherty had thrown before 2017 was 134 IP in 2016. In the minors alone, he pitched 148.2 innings during 2017. Then, an additional 21.1 innings at the Major League level. It might be naive of me, but I'm chalking those 21.1 innings up as fatigue. That's a 20.6% increase over his career high. Fatigue was to be expected. The good news is that Flaherty is set up for a full workload in 2018 because of the extra innings in 2017.
I guess my only real complaint with what I saw out of Flaherty during his turn with the big club was that he was continually overthrowing. Also, Flaherty is a feisty competitor, and you could see his emotions getting the better of him, at times. I can remember a time in particular against San Diego when Flaherty and Carson Kelly were practically fighting each other on pitch selection. He even did it with Yadi a time or two. I don't foresee this being a problem in the long run as it isn't uncommon for a young pitcher to both overthrow and struggle with giving up control of a game to a catcher that early in his career. Like with any young pitcher, harnessing his emotions and trusting his catcher will be paramount to his long term success.
If I'm comparing the potential statistical success of Jack Flaherty to anyone it's Sonny Gray but with an ultimate ceiling of former Diamondbacks stud Brandon Webb. Yes, he's capable of being that good. I don't think that it's out of the question that this former high school rotation mate of Max Fried and Lucas Giolito ends up in the conversation with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as Cardinals legend if he spends a substantial part of a healthy career in the Birds On The Bat.
As always, these articles can't be done without Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. They are equally as reliant on the skills of Cardinalsgif's and NChill17. It's a pleasure to do this list with my friend Colin Garner at The Redbird Daily. A very special thank you to StlCupOfJoe and BrooksBaseball.
Thanks For Reading!