Editor's Note: Red Baron has compiled this year's top prospects in three parts, which can be found by clicking on Part I, Part II, and Part III. The post below is a portion of those massive posts, focusing in on a single prospect at a time, which should make a search of any one prospect easier to find. All of our 2016 prospect coverage and write-ups can be found at the Viva El Birdos 2016 Prospects hub.
#21 Corey Littrell, LHP
Opening Day 2016 Age: 24
2015 Level: High A Palm Beach
Relevant Numbers: 2.77 FIP, 4.0% BB rate
So, what's so great about this guy?
Corey Littrell was the other player the Cardinals received in the John Lackey deal in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, and has a chance to add further value to what already looks like a major heist for John Mozeliak. Coming out of the University of Kentucky, Littrell looked like a typical crafty lefty, one who gets by spreading multiple average pitches around and outfoxing hitters.
Once he got into the Cardinal organisation, though, Littrell began changing his approach, and this season the results of those changes started to really manifest. He's gone from working the edges of the strike zone with lots of offspeed junk to pounding the bottom part of the plate with a wickedly effective sinker, paired with a changeup that shows split-finger action, and has essentially cut his walk rate in half from where it was with the Red Sox.
Littrell still throws a cutter and curve, but has pushed them to complementary status, leaning heavily on his ability to generate groundballs with his sinker. His K rate has fallen since coming over as well as his walk rate, but the overall package of quick outs on the ground and no free passes is actually pushing him toward greater efficiency and effectiveness than ever before.
The challenge for Littrell will be seeing how his numbers translate once he leaves the friendly environs of the Florida State League, where even the few balls he allows in the air have virtually no shot at leaving the park most days. On one of the podcasts a while back, Ben and I discussed Littrell, and I compared him to Mark Mulder. I like that, and stand by it, as a lefty with solid-average velocity (he can touch 93 with his fastball, though it's usually more 89-91), great sink, a splitter-type offspeed pitch, and an ability to attack the zone fearlessly with all his offerings. Jaime Garcia also isn't a terrible comparison, if you wanted a more positive Cardinal taste in your mouth. Or think even of Joel Pineiro, in his deadball-era full Duncan mode glory of 2009.
Player comp: Well, you know. Mark Mulder, like I just said.