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Viva El Birdos 2017 Cardinals Top Prospects: #14 Ryan Helsley

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Right-hander with eye-catching strikeout and walk rates

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: the red baron has once again written up a very large number of prospects, done a great job on them, and combined them in just a few posts. You can read those posts, including a dozen reports on players who just missed the list by going here. This post contains a write-up of just a single prospect in a perhaps easier to digest form.-CE

#14: Ryan Helsley, RHP

6’2”, 205 lbs; R/R; 18 July 1994

Relevant Stats: 28.8% K, 5.0% BB, 95.0 IP (Low A Peoria)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I mean, do you really need to ask, looking at that strikeout to walk ratio? That’s what’s so great about Ryan Helsley.

There’s also the fact Helsley features some of the best natural velocity in the system, peaking at 98 with his heater and sitting easily at 94-95. The pitch rides when it’s up, but looked a little straight to me at times when he worked low with it. He complements the fastball with a curve and changeup, both of which are still very inconsistent but have flashed at least plus quality at times. The curve is probably a little further on than the change at this point, and there are days it’s a true swing and miss hammer. I haven’t seen him able to locate the curve in the zone for a called strike very often yet, but with a little more refinement perhaps that will come as well.

For my money, the changeup is the most interesting of Helsley’s pitches, as it features tremendous drop and some fade as well. Right now, he slows his arm way too much when he throws it, and so the pitch is fairly easy to recognise. Still, the movement is enough to make if effective, and if he can learn to sell the pitch without losing movement, it could easily grade out a 60 or even better.

There’s the potential in Helsley’s repertoire for three pitches with 60s or better on them, and he at least fiddled around with trying to throw a sinker this year as well. It’s an interesting notion, but I don’t know how that’s going to turn out.

Mechanically, I like Helsley better than I did at the time he was drafted out of college, but he’s still a bit stiff and deliberate in his delivery. Still, the arm swing is better than what I saw when he was drafted, and while I would prefer to see him not pointing the ball toward center as long as he does, he doesn’t have any of the really fatal flaws some pitchers seem to possess. I would try to get him to move through his delivery a little more quickly and fluidly, utilising his body and momentum more, but what he’s doing is working for him, and I would hesitate to really change too much for now.

Where Helsley starts 2017 is a really interesting question. He was too good for Low A this past season, and probably would have moved up already had he not missed time with biceps tendinitis during the season. Palm Beach is the likeliest spot, of course, being one level up, but as good as he was in 2016, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Cardinals challenge him with a jump to Double A.

Player Comp: The changeup isn’t quite as devastating as this pitcher’s splitter/change/knuckle/whatever, but Rich Harden is the guy Helsley calls to mind for me.

via JW Fisher: