Last week I wrote an article titled "Is Brendan Donovan For Real?" You can find that here. I feel like, as Cardinals fans, we'd seen enough of Donovan to talk in generalities and in specifics about him in that space. I am not sure that many Cardinals fans know terribly much about Andre Pallante as of yet, except for the fact that he has been a pitching staff savior for the Cardinals thus far in 2022.
Let's start with some of the basics about Andre Pallante. Birds On The Black's resident prospect guru, Kyle Reis, wrote Pallante up as his #21 Prospect this offseason. Later, Kyle and I discussed Pallante (and others) on this podcast as well. If you really want a ton of information about Pallante before he became a major leaguer, follow those links. If you want an article about him recently, then look no further than today's Post-Dispatch and Derrick Goold's article.
Andre Pallante was a 4th round draft pick out of the University of California-Irvine back in the 2019 draft. As a freshman at UC Irvine, Pallante was a reliever. He had a rough season but decided to accept a slot at the wood bat Cape Cod League that summer after his freshman season, as a reliever, and dominated in just 15 innings on the Cape. He came back to UC Irvine for his sophomore and junior seasons as a starting pitcher, however. He threw 195 1/3 innings over those two seasons and was statistically dominant. He gave up just 150 hits and 62 runs (2.86 runs per 9 innings, not earned runs but total runs per 9). He struck out 204 batters and walked 59 (3.46 K:BB). When your K:BB is quite a bit higher than your ERA or even your R/9, that's really a good thing. His WHIP was just under 1.10 in that time.
After being drafted by the Cardinals, Pallante threw 35 2/3 more innings in 2019 at the low A level (added on to his 94 he had already thrown at UC Irvine that spring), putting him at over 130 innings in the calendar year in his age 20 season. He was already showing he could potentially be a workhorse. Then COVID hit and he had a "year off." Pallante came back in 2021 and the Cardinals pushed his assignment by placing him at AA Springfield to start the year at age 22. After 94 1/3 innings in Springfield, they pushed him to AAA Memphis for 2 games throwing him 5 more innings. Then, they selected him to go to the Arizona Fall League ("finishing school") for 21 more innings - getting him just over the 120 innings mark that he had previously eclipsed in 2019. In those ~120 innings, Pallante was not as good as he was in college by any means. He had a WHIP over 1.5 and a K:BB of just 1.93 - largely due to a larger amount of walks than he was accustomed to allowing.
That leads us to what we've seen this season out of Andre Pallante. As you know, if you're reading this, Pallante has been with the big league club since the beginning of the season. He broke camp with the Cardinals and began his MLB career in relief. I'd like to break down what he's done so far into three buckets.
Andre Pallante pitched in relief in 7 of the team's first 21 games of the season. In those games, Pallante threw 11 2/3 innings with an 8:2 K:BB, 1.200 WHIP, 1.54 ERA, and a FIP of 3.39. He threw 61% strikes in those first outings out of the pen. He was basically showing the team what he could do with his four-seam fastball at that moment. While Pallante has shown a 4-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a sinker at the major league level over the course of the year, here was his pitch mix for those first 7 games:
4-seam fastball (4sm)
You can see that he threw his 4sm exactly two out of every 3 pitches in this time period. He was grooving it in there at 95.1 mph on average (top quartile in baseball) with a spin rate of 2293 rpm (second best quartile in baseball). While his BB% on the 4sm was pretty decent at 5.9%, the K% just wasn't there. What was there was that the 34 people who ended their PA with a 4sm just didn't seem to do much with it - with a .226/.265/.226 line against him on that pitch alone.
You can see that while he threw his curveball the second most, it wasn't really his putaway pitch as only 5 plate appearances ended with a curve. He struck out 2 of those five, but the other three all went for hits (two singles and a double). The funny thing is that one of the singles was poorly located, but the other 4 pitches that ended PA were very well located - and he still got burned. Pallante's curve was thrown at 74.9 mph on average (bottom quartile - not necessarily a bad thing) and with 2,808 RPM on average (top quartile - a very good thing).
I mean seriously, look at the location on this curve that got hit for a double!
Pallante's slider was thrown slightly less often than his curve, but he ended nearly twice as many plate appearances with a slider. He struck out 3 of the 9 batters he faced and allowed just 2 hits to the other 6 batters. One of those hits was the sole HR he allowed in the first 7 games of the year. You can see above that the HR he allowed might have been slightly unlucky as the BA and OBP were less than what was expected for those pitches and swings, but the slugging was higher than expected. In any case, he averaged 85.1 mph on the slider and 2,379 RPM on the slider (2nd best quartile on both).
Pallante only threw three sinkers (1.5% of his pitches at 96.5 mph, 2354 RPM averages) in those 7 games. Nobody ended a PA on a sinker. He really didn't show this pitch hardly at all.
After his first seven games in relief for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pallante had earned a bigger role in their bullpen. Starting with his 8th game, the Cardinals 25th of the season, Pallante threw in 8 games in which he earned 4 holds. That's some sort of decision (or helper, if you will) in half of those games in this "bucket," so to speak. There is a statistic called aLI or average Leverage Index, which tries to let you know how much pressure was on the pitcher when he came into the game and throughout the game that he came into. In the first bucket, Pallante had an aLI of 0.71. Below 1.0 is a low leverage situation whereas above 1.0 is a high leverage situation. In games 8-15, his next 8 games outlined here in "bucket 2," Pallante's aLI jumped all the way up to 1.35. He was becoming (quickly) a key component to Manager Oli Marmol's bullpen.