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A look at the pitching prospects halfway through the season

They’re doing pretty good too

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

On Monday, I went over the hitting prospects in the system, plus anyone of interest who I could find. I definitely missed some players who some would find interesting, but you have to draw the line somewhere or you’re just posting every single player in the Cards’ minor league system. I’m going to do the same thing this post, except for pitchers.

Matthew Liberatore (LHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (AAA): 10 GS, 58 IP, 25.4 K%, 7.1 BB%, 37.8 GB%, 4.03 ERA/3.95 FIP/4.02 xFIP

This is all a matter of perspective. Liberatore’s 10 starts in AAA this year are pretty much identical to last year’s 18 starts. He is generating more swings and misses and thus striking out a higher percentage of batters, but it’s somewhat balanced out by the fact that he’s walking slightly more and getting less groundballs. Incremental progress, but progress nonetheless.

It’s clear what the Cardinals’ approach is with Liberatore this year: they want him to get MLB time but they’re trying to minimize his impact on the MLB roster, suspecting he’d struggle. Which he has so far. It’s an approach that I think is the right one, because pitching prospects usually struggle quite a bit, especially young ones such as Liberatore. To become a good pitcher in modern MLB, you seem to need a certain amount of MLB reps before reaching your potential. If the Cardinals weren’t trying to win, I suspect Liberatore would get the Hunter Greene treatment this year.

Gordon Graceffo (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (AA): 7 GS, 41 IP, 19.3 K%, 3.7 BB%, 50.4 GB%, 3.07 ERA/4.33 FIP/4.38 xFIP

I actually didn’t realize that Graceffo was only 22 before writing this. Which is a weird thing to realize when I’ve done an update before. I suspect 22 at AA caught my attention. Do you hate walks? Well good news: so does Graceffo. Graceffo only made two more starts in High A after the last update, so the relevant update is how he’s done at AA since then. And important thing to remember is that Springfield is a hitter’s park (and league). Basically, he’s been about average in Springfield. He will definitely remain at Springfield for the rest of the year, it’s just a matter of if he pitches well enough to start next year in Memphis.

Tink Hence (RHP) - 19-years-old

Stats (Low A): 7 GS, 20.2 IP, 47.4 K%, 9.2 BB%, 65.6 GB%, 1.31 ERA/1.12 FIP/1.45 xFIP

The Cardinals are clearly managing Hence’s innings, hence why he has just under 3 innings per start. He also didn’t pitch in his first game until May 19th. In the meantime, these stats are comically absurd. At some point, I’m hoping the Cardinals start allowing him to throw more innings in a start, because he is way too good for Low A batters one time through the order. I don’t know if they’re planning to - I have no idea what his innings limit is - but I’ll put it this way: if he was doing this over 6 innings per start, he should be in High A already.

I’m going to skip 24-year-old Zach Thompson (LHP) just because you kind of get the gist. He’s been up in the majors since the beginning of June, and has moved to the bullpen completely. And Andre Pallante (RHP) has been in the majors all year!

Michael McGreevy (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (AA): 7 GS, 38 IP, 22.2 K%, 7.4 BB%, 53.5 GB%, 4.26 ERA/5.53 FIP/3.86 xFIP

In his first start at AA - after dominating High A - McGreevy allowed six earned runs in 4.1 IP with a 2:2 K/BB ratio. Since then he has a 3.21 ERA and 4.55 FIP. It’s clear what McGreevy has struggled most with at AA: homers. He allowed two in his last start and has allowed eight homers in his seven starts (three of them were in that first start though). Besides the homers, McGreevy’s K rate and GB% were basically the same in High A - but in High A he had a 2.2 BB%. I’d say his stats in AA is positive news though.

Austin Love (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 15 GS, 69.2 IP, 23.5 K%, 8.4 BB%, 49.8 GB%, 6.72 ERA/4.46 FIP/4.23 xFIP

It’s difficult to do, but if you ignore the ERA, it’s not that bad. But woof that ERA is hard to ignore. Love has been prone to bad games, having given up 5 ER or more in 4 of his 15 starts. I’m trying to talk myself into this not being that bad, but honestly he’s 23 and old for the level and this is a pitcher’s park. Not Palm Beach, but still a pitcher’s park. Here’s hoping his numbers improve.

Mizzou grad Ian Bedell (RHP) is still out from Tommy John surgery. It looks like he got the surgery in late May last year, so you’d hope he’d start pitching relatively soon.

Freddy Pacheco (RHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AA): 24 G, 28.1 IP, 34.7 K%, 13.6 BB%, 28.1 GB%, 3.81 ERA/4.59 FIP/4.56 xFIP

Pacheco recently got promoted to AAA. He’s thrown 4.2 IP with 5 Ks to one BB (and one HBP). Pacheco seems to be allergic to groundballs which isn’t great. He has a 1.27 HR/9 and isn’t unlucky in the slightest to arrive at that number. On the other hand, Pacheco strikes out everybody. He’s one of those high wire reliever acts, who has such good stuff that it doesn’t really matter that he doesn’t know where it’s going. But that will matter in the majors.

Prospect Packy Naughton (LHP) is a familiar name and in the MLB bullpen, and you may even recognize Jake Walsh (RHP) who came up for three games before being demoted. He appeared in four games in AAA after that and then got placed on the injured list.

Inohan Paniagua (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 15 GS, 88 IP, 27.3 K%, 6.5 BB%, 45.2 GB%, 2.15 ERA/2.99 FIP/3.52 xFIP

In some systems, it wouldn’t be notable that Paniagua hasn’t been promoted to High A yet. But the Cardinals are rather aggressive with minor league promotions - not including the bullpen guys, four of the seven guys above him in this list were what you could call aggressively promoted (exceptions being Love, Hence, and I don’t think Liberatore counts; Thompson absolutely does though). Paniagua though has made 15 starts at a not particularly young for his level age and dominated. And not promoted yet.

Gustavo Rodriguez (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (Low A): 14 G, 27 IP, 28.8 K%, 12.6 BB%, 46 GB%, 3.67 ERA/4.18 FIP/3.56 xFIP

I’m not sure the Cardinals have given up on the idea of Rodriguez as a starter. He is average just under 2 innings per appearance, but that’s not a whole lot less than last year when he made 10 starts and appeared in 16 games and pitched 40 innings. They may very well just be managing his innings. His stats are massively improved from last year, so they have to at least be thinking about it.

Ryan Loutos (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 9 G, 14.1 IP, 30.9 K%, 5.5 BB%, 35.3 GB%, 3.14 ERA/2.96 FIP/3.85 xFIP

AA: 15 G, 22.1 IP, 28.6 K%, 11 BB%, 55.6 GB%, 1.61 ERA/2.89 FIP/3.92 xFIP

Loutos recently got promoted to AAA, where he threw 2 innings with one earned run, two strikeouts and one walk. Yes he’s a reliever and yes he’s 23, but Loutos is a good example of the Cardinals aggressive promotions. Probably the most interesting part of his stats his his ridiculous different GB% numbers between High A and AA.

Cory Thompson (RHP) - 27-years-old

Stats (AA): 10 G, 11.2 IP, 25 K%, 7.7 BB%, 36.4 GB%, 5.40 ERA/5.89 FIP/4.81 xFIP

Thompson is a converted infielder from the Reds’ system, which explains his age. I don’t really understand Longenhagen treating him like a prospect though. His stats aren’t really good. He has him ranked 28th, which seems really high for a 27-year-old reliever with bad stats in AA, converted pitcher or not. He is hurt right now, but he did also have bad stats in AA last year too.

Nathaneal Heredia (LHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (High A): 24 G, 44.2 IP, 31.8 K%, 14.6 BB%, 50.5 GB%, 2.62 ERA/3.52 FIP/3.91 xFIP

I wonder if he will eventually transition to becoming a starter. That is a rather lot of innings for a pure reliever. He only threw 55 innings last year, and that was his professional high. Statistically speaking, he has earned a chance I think.

Edwin Nunez (RHP) - 20-years-old

Stats (Complex): 8 G, 9.1 IP, 17.4 K%, 15.2 BB%, 50 GB%, 3.86 ERA/5.16 FIP/5.99 xFIP

One consequence of aggressive promotions is that it sometimes doesn’t work out. And boy did it not work out with Nunez. The Cardinals threw him in Low A last year for 53.2 IP and he had a 10.90 ERA. Through five games in Low A this year, he 11 walks to 7 strikeouts, but 5 wild pitches and one HBP. This was in 6.2 IP. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he should probably finish the year in the complex league.

Randel Clemente (RHP) - 20-years-old

Stats (Complex): 6 G, 6.2 IP, 21.9 K%, 12.5 BB%, 68.4 GB%, 10.80 ERA/4.58 FIP/4.72 xFIP

I don’t know what the league average swinging strike% is in the complex. But I have to imagine a 29% swinging strike% is pretty good. He gets swings and misses just fine. And tons of groundballs. Interesting, even though that’s an ugly ERA.

Alec Willis (RHP) hasn’t pitched yet due to an injury, but he is still just 19-years-old, so there’s no rush or expectation he’ll be in St. Louis anytime soon.

Connor Thomas (LHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 14 G (12 GS), 67.1 IP, 20.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 51.9 GB%, 4.54 ERA/4.00 FIP/3.82 xFIP

Not sure what to make of this, but his stats are noticeably worse from his 101 innings in AAA last year. Mostly due to way less groundballs (61% last year) which is something because a 51.9 GB% is fairly high.

Logan Gragg (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 13 G (11 GS), 59.2 IP, 19.7 K%, 4 BB%, 47.5 GB%, 3.92 ERA/4.23 FIP/4.32 xFIP

This seems to be a recurring theme, but Gragg was recently promoted to AA. He had made some improvements from last year, when he threw 99 innings in High A. The improvement was mostly just the GB%, which rose from 34.4% to 47.5%. He threw 2.1 innings in relief in his only appearance in AA and was not good.

Andre Granillo (RHP) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 10 G, 15.2 IP, 40 K%, 13.8 BB%, 44.8 GB%, 2.87 ERA/3.50 FIP/3.09 xFIP

High A: 10 G, 12.2 IP, 30.5 K%, 15.3 BB%, 37.5 GB%, 4.97 ERA/4.93 FIP/4.17 xFIP

Another relief arm who probably doesn’t actually know where his pitch is going but who kind of gets away with it because his stuff plays well in the minors. Although it’s not playing as well in High A yet.

Angel Rondon (RHP) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 18 G (5 GS), 49 IP, 24.2 K%, 15.3 BB%, 31.5 GB%, 4.04 ERA/5.25 FIP/5.30 xFIP

I’m still not entirely sure what they’re doing with Rondon. He was pretty firmly a starter before this year and from my eye didn’t pitch his way out of getting more starting opportunities. But he’s mostly been a multi-inning reliever this year. I guess it could be innings management, though it feels like he’ll fall short of whatever reasonable innings limit he’d get.

Jacob Bosiokovic (RHP) - 28-years-old

Stats (AAA): 11 G, 11 IP, 23.4 K%, 6.4 BB%, 36.7 GB%, 4.09 ERA/4.68 FIP/4.14 xFIP

Bosiokovic is a converted hitter who the Cardinals selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He had only pitched in three games in the first update and didn’t come back from injury until June. He might still be shaking off the rust because his stats are pretty significantly down from the SSS of 8 innings last year.

Connor Lunn (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 12 GS, 53.2 IP, 22.6 K%, 5.5 BB%, 38.7 GB%, 5.70 ERA/5.09 FIP/4.50 xFIP

I’ve been doing minor league stat updates for a while and it’s pretty clear that the transition from High A to AA is exceptionally difficult for pitchers in the Cardinals system. You go from a pitcher’s paradise to nightmare, plus High A to AA is already a tough leap. Lunn had fairly promising stats last year in High A but seems to be struggling with the jump.

John Beller (LHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 13 G, 2 GS, 26.2 IP, 33.3 K%, 11.1 BB%, 42.4 GB%, 3.04 ERA/3.33 FIP/3.83 xFIP

Beller has recently been promoted to AA. He struck out 4 in 2.2 IP with no walks, but has allowed a homer and three earned runs. Beller was a starter, but seems to have transitioned into a multi-inning reliever despite having solid stats in Low A last year.

Dionys Rodriguez (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (High A): 15 G, 14 GS, 68.2 IP, 21.1 K%, 11 BB%, 27.8 GB%, 4.98 ERA/5.03 FIP/5.48 xFIP

He had fairly good stats as kind of a starter in Low A last year, but has struggled with the promotion to High A. But he is only 21-years-old. Not that I expect him to get picked, but he is eligible for Rule 5 after this year.

Zane Mills (RHP) - 21-years-old

Stats (Low A): 7 GS, 41.1 IP, 20.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 60.9 GB%, 3.48 ERA/3.34 FIP/2.97 xFIP

High A: 8 GS, 43 IP, 15.3 K%, 6.8 BB%, 52.8 GB%, 5.02 ERA/4.80 FIP/4.61 xFIP

The 4th rounder from the 2021 draft, Mills is an extreme groundball pitcher who doesn’t strike many people out. Unlike a certain Cardinals’ pitchers, so far anyway, he doesn’t walk many either.

Wilfreido Pereira (RHP) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 16 G, 7 GS, 58.2 IP, 27.7 K%, 6.8 BB%, 34.7 GB%, 3.84 ERA/3.50 FIP/3.92 xFIP

It’s always interesting who the Cardinals choose not to promote. Pereira is actually repeating High A, having thrown 97 innings last year. And... he’s pitched better than last year. Similar strikeouts, but with less walks and more groundballs. And yet he remains in High A as a 23-year-old.

And this is as good a place as any to stop. I’m not entirely sure when the next update will be. I’m hoping to post another update before the season is over. Probably sometime in August. The AAA season runs to the end of September while the other full season ball leagues run until around the middle of September. The Florida Complex League ends near the end of August. So I’m aiming for a period of time where there’s still some baseball left to be played otherwise I might as well wait until the end of the year. But I can’t predict the future so we’ll see.