Acquired: Amateur Draft, 2012: 9th round (#300), Cypress College (California)
Minor League Stops in 2014: State College (SS-A), Peoria (A)
|298||.292||.383||.608||.316||31.5||11.1||.566 (SC); .323 (PEO)|
(You can find the primer on the 20-80 grading scale here)
Rowan Wick has a name befitting a superhero's daily doppelgänger and the baseball tools to match. It's likely he could throw a baseball through an L screen and hit a middle-middle fastball into the next county. That is, of course, if he connects with the ball at all. This is the prototypical three true outcomes slugger that the Cardinals seem to avoid procuring like the plague.
Originally drafted to be a catcher, Wick has since moved out from behind the plate and has been stationed in right field, where his plus arm will most certainly play, but where his below average speed will likely never make him an average defender. From what I've seen in the two games I've watched him play the field, he seems to get a decent jump on balls hit his way and he's become fairly adept at handling the ball into the corner which is something a lot of outfield converts struggle with initially.
Enough about his defense, let's talk about the bat: Wick's Thunder Stick (TM) is what will carry him to the big leagues.
One thing you notice almost immediately when watching Rowan Wick home runs is how often he seems to be hitting them into the deepest part of whatever park he's playing in, as if to challenge himself:
The first one in this video is a Jimmy Edmonds style bomb over the 410 sign just to the left of center field (keep watching -- Wick crushes another one later to the right field power alley):
This next clip is later in the '14 season after Wick's promotion to Peoria. That's the voice of the Chiefs, Nathan Baliva in the background. Hat tip to Nathan, who does a fantastic job of promoting the Chiefs on YouTube and Twitter and giving us video like this to salivate over:
In addition to the plus raw power, Wick also seems like a pretty affable guy who is coachable and looking for any way to improve:
So why all the way down at #19 in the rankings? There's just a lot of quality depth in the Cardinals farm system with good upside and less risk than Wick has. A couple of reasons I'm a little bit skeptical that he'll hit his ceiling as a player have to do with his strikeout rate and the length of his swing, which aren't mutually exclusive.
Wick fully destroyed the Appy League, hitting a Bondsian .378/.475/.815 with a .437 ISO (!!!) in 141 PA's there (14 homers in just 141 PA's). Upon promotion to the Midwest League, he struggled: .220/.299/.433 with a .213 ISO (good for the Midwest League) but his strikeout rate ballooned from 24.1% to 38.2%, which is the danger zone for any hitter without plus-plus raw power (70-80 on the scouting scale), like a Javy Baez or Joey Gallo.
Compare those numbers in Peoria to what a Top 100 talent like Kyle Schwarber, who is 5 months younger than Wick, was putting up at rival Kane County in his first taste of pro ball. If anyone thinks Wick is a top 100 type talent, this should put that to rest pretty quickly -- he's not currently and probably won't ever will be.
The reason Wick won't ever be on Schwarber's level at the dish? The length of his swing. Take a look at this video of him in Peoria, shot by F-R contributor Jason Payne (aka: Tackle Box):
It takes Wick a long time to get his swing started and the time it takes for the bat to get from the loaded position to contact is also below average for a hitter who has designs on hitting major league pitching. That deep load and long swing arc are what helps to generate Wick's considerable power, but they also leave him susceptible to good velocity from either side. I would expect pitchers to "climb the ladder" on him when they get ahead, as the Timber Rattler hurler does in this PA, and Wick was never able to catch up to it.
Now imagine a pitcher with a good offspeed pitch or two and a mid-90's fastball -- it's hard to see him catching up consistently. I see a lot of strikeouts, ground balls to second base, and pop-ups to third base in his future (likely outcomes for a lefty with a long swing) unless he's able to shorten his stroke a bit.
The question is whether Wick can shorten up his swing while also maintaining his above average power, which is his only plus offensive tool. I think his above average approach will help: Wick is generally more selective in his plate appearances than the one that you see above and has a good idea of the pitches he hits well, as his State College coaches alluded to above.
I would guess that Wick will start with the Chiefs right out of the gate and try to improve on the latter half of 2014, getting promoted to Palm Beach if he hits well in the first half of the year. That was exactly the playbook the Cardinals used with him last year and the results were awfully good. One thing he has going for him is that players with this skill set do tend to struggle immediately upon getting promoted a level.
Those with talent figure things out after 200 or so PA's usually. It remains to be seen whether Rowan Wick is one of those talents. There's no other player on the farm system that could easily jump 15 spots in the rankings from 2015 - 2016.