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A look at the pitching prospects one month into the minor league season

The pitching prospects are doing quite well. Some of them anwyay.

2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

On Monday, I looked at the progress of the Cardinals top hitting prospects, so today it’s time to look at the pitching prospects. Last year was not a very good year to be a pitching prospect in the Cardinals system. Has that changed? Let’s take a look.

Matthew Liberatore (LHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (AAA): 6 GS, 34 IP, 30.1 K%, 5.9 BB%, 41 GB%, 4.24 ERA/3.86 FIP/3.27 xFIP

Matthew Liberatore seems to be underrated. Consider this. At 21-years-old, Liberatore entered the 2021 season in AAA, having not pitched at all in the previous two levels. It’s not like he did nothing in the interim, but that’s kind of insane. Most of the Cardinals minor league pitching was aggressively promoted, but none were as aggressive as Liberatore and few, if any, handled that aggressiveness as well as he did. He pitched as a league average pitcher and perhaps most importantly, finished strong with a 2.67 ERA and 3.45 FIP in his last 7 starts of the year.

Aside from a 17.9 HR/FB%, you could literally not ask for a better six starts from Liberatore to begin 2022. I’d go as far as to say given the circumstances that Liberatore is definitely being underrated by Cards fans at least. Because while all the fans clamor for Nolan Gorman to be promoted, they really should be clamoring for this guy. He seems to be more MLB ready. He seems to be ready now. Projections aren’t everything, but he currently has a better projected ERA and FIP than Dakota Hudson.

Michael McGreevy (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (High A): 6 GS, 34.1 IP, 21.7 K%, 1.6 BB%, 53.7 GB%, 2.10 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 3.35 xFIP

I guess I could have asked for a better start. I mean look at McGreevy. (Although Liberatore does have a lower xFIP in a worse place to pitch for pitchers, so then again....) He takes a slightly different approach to dominance than typical. He simply walks nobody and hitters pound the ball on the ground. A 21.7 K% is still around league average, so he isn’t eschewing the strikeouts, but clearly he’s more contact-heavy than a typical top prospect. Very promising start.

Zack Thompson (LHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 6 GS, 27.2 IP, 31.2 K%, 5.5 BB%, 48.5 GB%, 4.23 ERA/3.88 FIP/2.99 xFIP

Very close to the same start as Liberatore, but he’s been even more homer-prone (23.5 HR/FB%) and he gets more groundballs than Liberatore. If you want a close look at how impressive Liberatore’s 2021 was, even though it doesn’t seem like it, look at Thompson’s stats as a guy who was two years older. And while it was in the bullpen, he at least had pitched 13 innings in High A. It’s clear that Thompson really should have been in AA. No harm, no foul if he seems to have bounced back from that dreadful season. Three amazing starts in a row!

Three pitchers who are in the Cards top 20, at least by some publications, will not have updates. Neither Tink Hence nor Alec Willis have pitched yet, both pitching in the complex leagues for 2022. And for a very different reason, there is no need to update you on the progress of Andre Pallante either.

Angel Rondon (RHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 8 G (1 GS), 16.2 IP, 30.1 K%, 16.4 BB%, 26.3 GB%, 3.24 ERA/5.34 FIP/4.54 xFIP

Very confusing start for Rondon for a number of reasons. Including last year, he has typically been around a 40 GB%, he typically doesn’t have that much of a problem with walks, and he typically has modest strikeout rates. They also have had Rondon mostly pitching in the bullpen - and in his one start, he walked five guys - so I’m not real sure starting is in his future. I have no idea what to make of this start, because everything is so out of line with how he’s pitched in his professional career prior to 2022.

Connor Thomas (LHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 6 G (5 GS), 25 IP, 17.3 K%, 4.5 BB%, 56.1 GB%, 4.68 ERA/4.24 FIP/4.03 xFIP

Now, I don’t know what’s going on during Memphis games, but we are now on pitcher #4 from the Redbirds who is allowing home runs at a higher than expected rate by HR/FB%. Thomas is the lowest of those and his is still 14.3%. Definitely a bit of an underwhelming start, though not of a concerning nature. He is pitching okay, but definitely worse than last year. Hopefully he picks it up going forward.

Austin Love (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 5 GS, 22 IP, 26.7 K%, 10.5 BB%, 39.1 GB%, 9.00 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 4.45 xFIP

Are you glass half empty or half full? On the one hand, he isn’t really pitching as badly as it looks. He has a .400 BABIP against and a 55.9 LOB% and considering the fact that he has a 26.7 K%, I find it hard to believe that’s not pretty damn unlucky. He also took a leap from the complex league to High A, essentially skipping Low A. On the other hand, he’s already 23. He should not be having this much trouble. In three of his five starts, he’s allowed at least 5 earned runs. In another, he struck out 10 and walked three in 5 scoreless innings. He’s real up-and-down so far. Hopefully, he can be more up than down in the future.

Gordon Graceffo (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (High A): 6 GS, 33.2 IP, 39 K%, 1.7 BB%, 39.7 GB%, 1.07 ERA/1.41 FIP/2.28 xFIP

And here comes Gordon making everyone else’s good starts look like Mike Maroth. Jesus. These are absolutely ridiculous numbers. He was pretty dominant in Low A last year, so this didn’t exactly come from nowhere, but he was normal dominant. Not I’m playing Road to the Show on Easy and I’m also cheating dominant. I don’t have anything else to say. Those numbers are bonkers. Surely he’s getting promoted to AA soon.

Connor Lunn (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 6 GS, 32.2 IP, 24.6 K%, 5.1 BB%, 39.4 GB%, 4.41 ERA/3.43 FIP/4.18 xFIP

Another pitching prospect who doesn’t walk many. Super cool. These stats don’t seem super impressive, but he’s playing at Hammons Field and a fairly hitter-friendly league. Which funny enough, he has a low HR/FB%. Go figure. Lunn has the shaping of being kind of a sneaky good pitching prospect, though part of that statement is me expecting his numbers to improve a little.

Edwin Nunez (RHP) - 20-years-old

Stats (Low A): 2 G, 3 IP, 12.5 K%, 25 BB%, 44.4 GB%, 12 ERA, 11.39 FIP, 8.46 xFIP

Nunez actually started the season at the complex leagues and didn’t arrive until Low A until May 2nd. He should probably head back to the complex leagues. His numbers in 2021 are very bad and he does not quite seem ready to face this level of competition. Still only 20, not entirely sure why Cards seem insistent on putting him in Low A.

Freddy Pacheco (RHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AA): 11 G, 11.2 IP, 29.8 K%, 8.5 BB%, 11.5 GB%, 2.31 ERA/3.88 FIP/5.38 xFIP

Pacheco has not been a pitcher who gets groundballs, but that might be the lowest GB% I’ve ever seen. Certainly the lowest I’ve ever posted on these updates. His numbers are actually quite down from last year, when he struck out 44.6% of batters in AA. Not a typo.

Johan Oviedo (RHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 6 GS, 28.2 IP, 19.7 K%, 10.7 BB%, 48.8 GB%, 6.59 ERA, 8.26 FIP, 4.89 xFIP

I think Oviedo would be a good player to point to for why bringing up players before they’re ready is bad. I think 2020 was not good for his long-term future. He still hasn’t had a proper AAA season under his belt, and while his 13 starts in AAA in 2021 didn’t go this poorly, they were still not great. And oh boy, he has allowed 11 homers in his six starts thanks to a 37.5 HR/FB%, which holy cow. Probably can’t count on him for starting pitching depth anytime soon.

Tommy Parsons (RHP) - 26-years-old

Stats (AAA): 10 G, 17.2 IP, 16.9 K%, 10.4 BB%, 34.5 GB%, 6.62 ERA/7.78 FIP/5.82 xFIP

Now I don’t know that he necessarily would have become anything in an alternate universe, but the missing 2020 minor league season seems to have completely tanked his career. He wasn’t great in AAA last year and things are worse so far

Junior Fernandez (RHP) - 25-years-old

Stats (AAA): 12 G, 12.2 IP, 29.3 K%, 5.2 BB%, 55.6 GB%, 6.39 ERA/3.00 FIP/3.12 xFIP

Ignoring the ERA, which especially for relievers, is not a very good stat, but we’ve been here before. Fernandez has had little issue pitching well in AAA. Hopefully at some point it translates to pitching well in the MLB.

Jacob Bosiokovic (RHP) - 28-years-old

Stats (AAA): 3 G, 2.1 IP, 37.5 K%, 12.5 BB%, 75 GB%, 0.00 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 2.88 xFIP

Bosiokovic went on the injured list almost immediately and was recently activated from it, but hasn’t pitched yet since being activated. His injury is a bummer, because he has a real shot to get an MLB promotion if he can maintain his production from last year.

Tyler Pike (LHP) - 28-years-old

Stats (AA): 6 G, 16 IP, 26.2 K%, 3.3 BB%, 58.5 GB%, 2.25 ERA/2.63 FIP/3.69 xFIP

I would normally not post 28-year-old reliever stats in the minors and here I am doing it two times in a row. But Bosiokovic was a converted hitter and that’s why he’s older. Pike stalled out at AA for the Braves back in 2018. When the Cardinals were starved for pitchers last summer, they signed Pike from an independent league. And he’s pitched fairly well.

I’m not doing any further research on them but Griffin Roberts, Edgar Gonzalez, and Jack Ralston have not pitched yet this season due to injuries. Roberts has thrown 1.1 IP (with 6 earned runs!) since 2019, and wasn’t good in 2019 either. Gonzalez had a fairly promising 2019 in High A as a 22-year-old, but hurt himself after one inning in 2021 and hasn’t pitched since.

Logan Gragg (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 6 G (4 GS), 22 IP, 22 K%, 6 BB%, 55.9 GB%, 4.91 ERA/3.17 FIP/3.91 xFIP

Interesting development on the GB%. Not sure if there’s a change or it’s random. He posted 34 GB% in Low A and High A last year, so that’s a big jump.

John Beller (LHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A) 6 G, 15 IP, 27.6 K%, 8.6 BB%, 43.2 GB%, 2.40 ERA/4.09 FIP/4.03 xFIP

Beller was a little old for Low A last year, but still had a decent season. I would not be surprised if he moves to the rotation at some point. He’s thrown at least 3 innings in 3 of his 6 games.

Levi Prater (LHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 5 G, 5.2 IP, 17.6 K%, 26.5 BB%, 35.3 GB%, 11.12 ERA/9.49 FIP/8.83 xFIP

Prater walked 20% of batters last season, but it was in a starting role in Low A. He’s been promoted and seems to have permanently moved to the bullpen, but his numbers are so much worse.

Dionys Rodriguez (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (High A): 6 GS, 27 IP, 30.1 K%, 11.5 BB%, 31.7 GB%, 3.00 ERA/4.34 FIP/4.08 xFIP

I’m guessing we haven’t heard much about this guy because he’s listed at 6’0, which probably means he’s shorter than 6’0. But he struck out 30% of batters last year in Low A too. And he’s super young. Someone to look at, I think.

Inohan Paniagua (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 6 GS, 32.2 IP, 29.4 K%, 6.6 BB%, 55.1 GB%, 2.48 ERA/3.02 FIP/2.96 xFIP

Now, there may very well be no room, but Paniagua had a fairly good season last year for Low A in 46.1 IP, although only in 5 starts. He has upped his game and he’s old for the level. He should be in High A soon.

Carlos Gaurate (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (Low A): 6 G (4 GS), 22.2 IP, 19.2 K%, 10.1 BB%, 40.6 GB%, 5.56 ERA/4.89 FIP/4.60 xFIP

The Cardinals selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. So far, not the best start, but he has time.

Jose Moreno (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (Low A): 6 G (4 GS), 21 IP, 23.7 K%, 17.2 BB%, 32.7 GB%, 0.86 ERA/3.72 FIP/4.39 xFIP

Palm Beach is crazy. A not particularly high K rate, a really bad walk rate, and getting barely any groundballs gets you a 4.39 xFIP. The strikeouts are good, but the walks and groundballs are a very bad combo. That ERA is crazy fluky.

Ludwin Jimenez (RHP) - 20-years-old

Stats (Low A): 7 G, 10.1 IP, 31.8 K%, 20.5 BB%, 35.3 GB%, 2.61 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 5.25 xFIP

Jimenez and Moreno’s stats back-to-back make no sense. Like I don’t know why Moreno has a significantly better xFIP. He walks a bit less, but it doesn’t seem like enough to make a full run difference. Anyway, super young, lots of control problems.

Zane Mills (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (Low A): 5 GS, 31.1 IP, 18.4 K%, 3.2 BB%, 62.4 GB%, 3.16 ERA/3.74 FIP/3.12 xFIP

Zane Mills channeling Seth Maness with these stats. Not sure how much to read into Mills throwing 31.1 IP, which is quite a bit more than his Low A compatriots, who don’t come all that close.

Andre Granillo (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 8 G, 13 IP, 44.2 K%, 13.5 BB%, 47.6 GB%, 1.38 ERA/3.47 FIP/2.55 xFIP

The multi-inning reliever really better cut down on his walks, but he’s missing bats at a level only Ryan Helsley is beating.