Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Jake Walsh - Right-Handed Pitcher
Drafted in the 16th round of the 2017 draft
A+ Palm Beach, BUT HE'S BEEN HURT
STATS ARE REFLECTIVE OF 2018 BECAUSE HE'S BEEN HURT IN 2019
OK, I lied to you during the write-up for our #35 prospect, Rangel Ravelo, when I told you that I was only going to take liberties with the 35th spot on the list. Our #34 prospect, Jake Walsh, is certainly a "personal preference" choice. I went back and forth between Walsh and RHP Alex Fagalde. Ultimately, I settled on Walsh at 34 because I just like Walsh better. It's my world and you're just living in it.
Walsh doesn't have the consistent strike-throwing abilities of Alex Fagalde, but I do believe that he has a better feel for his fastball and curve while commanding both better than Fagalde does. Where Fagalde is often throwing strikes but missing his catcher's mitt, Walsh might throw a ball on the black part of the zone but that's still near where the catcher wants it. I'd rather have that than a 90 MPH fastball veering dead-red down the middle because a pitcher is substantially missing his spot. That's the type of pitcher that usually fizzles out at the upper levels.
The other reason that I went with Walsh here and, why it was important that Walsh be on the Dirty Thirty-Five, is because Walsh has a very good secondary offering in a table-dropping curve. While it lacks consistency, it shows signs of being an above average 12-6 offering. For visual representation, this is what it looks like when it's on:
He uses the curve extremely well inside on right-handers, as well. I really really really really love this .gif and it almost looks like a knuckleball (and notice the frame-job by Dennis Ortega):
Another reason why Walsh gets the nod over Fagalde is because he can dial his fastball up into the low-to-mid 90's. That's something that Fagalde cannot do. When in doubt, I generally favor velocity. I don't believe that Walsh's four-seam fastball has the spin to match the movement of Fagalde's sinker, but it's still a lively-enough pitch to be successful. He is at his most effective when he is using it down in the zone, and the only way that he gets in trouble with it is when he's using it up in the zone too frequently. He gets away with throwing this one because of how he set it up with his curve:
Another thing that I like about Mr. Walsh is that he does a very good job of repeating his delivery. There isn't much in the way of deception (or anything to indicate that he hides the ball exceptionally well) but he doesn't slow his arm down or change the angle of his arm to throw his offspeed stuff. That's a big plus and something that I'm always keeping an eye out for. There isn't much in the way of wasted motion and his pitching mechanic seems pretty smooth. You'll also notice from all of the .gifs in this article that Walsh pitches with a ton of confidence and "fire" on the mound. He's a lot of fun to watch pitch. He has that strut off of the mound when he strikes a guy out and I love it.
Where Walsh will have to improve is with his changeup or eventual third offering. I'd personally like to see him incorporate a cutter (this will become a theme in the D35 rankings. I think that I just want everyone to throw a cutter because I love the pitch) into his arsenal because I really worry about his feel for the change. He spikes it a little too often and you never want to see that with a pitch that's all about "feel." There is another concern that comes with not having a feel for his changeup: the more that he throws it, the more he loses feel for his curve (also, look at how good Ortega does):
The changeup was effective at Peoria and the lower levels, but it just wasn't good enough when he was promoted to Palm Beach in the Florida State League. That was part of the reason that he went from striking out 9.7 hitters per nine innings at Peoria to striking out 6.45 hitters per nine innings at Palm Beach.
Speaking of struggles in Palm Beach, one thing that really concerns me is the number of home runs that he let up in the Florida State League. While the number is proportionate to the amount of home runs that he gave up in the Midwest League with Peoria, it's alarming because of how much of a hitters league the FSL is. You almost always see that number decrease from a pitcher upon the promotion. That the percentage didn't decrease with Walsh is a BIG concern. It'll be a number that I'll continue to keep a close eye on.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Right now, Walsh is a two-pitch pitcher with an inconsistent but intriguing secondary offering. His third offering is where the work is really needed. Right now it's a changeup, but I'd like to see a cutter or sinker incorporated more. He has great mound presence and he attacks the strike zone without leaving too much over the middle of the plate. Ultimately, he's more of a short-term reliever if he makes it to the majors but he's still far enough away, and still showing good signs of development, that it's just too hard to either bank on him or rule him out in any role. At some point during the 2019 season he'll be at Double-A Springfield and that's when we will get our best indication of what might be in store for him with the home run rate as a big indicator of his potential future.
MAY 1st UPDATE
Walsh has been hurt. I don't know what it is, exactly. I don't know when he's coming back, either. It's really a shame, too. He'll be off of the list when we update it in a couple of days.
Thanks, as always, to FanGraphs for the stats!
Thanks For Reading!!