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Early Spring Training Observations

Let’s overreact to tiny sample sizes because where’s the fun in being rational?

MLB: SEP 24 Cardinals at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alright, guys. I originally meant for this to be a full length post and then I meant for it to be an open thread but I’ve settled on it being somewhere in the middle. This may be a shorter post than what you’re used to me writing but it will be longer than an open thread because I do have a few observations from the first few Spring Training games.

So, with that being said, let’s dive right into a couple things that I’ve noticed from the St. Louis Cardinals’ first 3 Spring Training games. As an aside, feel free to tell me I’m dumb for looking into things this early. But, in my defense, what is Spring Training for if not overreacting to things that may or may not be true?

If you follow me on Twitter you might know what my observations are going to be before I write about them below, but, regardless, let’s press on with my first bit of interesting information.

Dakota Hudson

This spring, Dakota Hudson has been one of the pitchers singing the praises of new pitching coach Dusty Blake. In the past few seasons, I haven’t really been interested in Dakota Hudson because his stuff really isn’t great and he can struggle with walks, but my interest was piqued after his first Spring Training outing.

When a new pitcher sings the praises of a new pitching coach and then goes out and improves his spin rates by 100-200 rpms on every pitch, it’s hard not to be intrigued.

Now, in an effort to minimize overreactions to this, I should say that he only threw 22 pitches and the only pitch that really had a different movement profile was his slider, which gained 6 inches of drop against it’s 2022 average. That’s the pitch that gained the most spin (+235 rpms from 2022) but he also threw it almost 3 mph slower than he did on average in 2022. Additionally, if he is going to gain movement with the pitch, I would prefer it to be horizontal instead of vertical in order to give him stronger tunneling as the rest of his pitches drop but none of them really move laterally.

Regardless, Hudson is a pitcher on the fringes of the roster and better spin (if he can maintain it) gives him a better chance of being a better pitcher, and, thus, making the Opening Day roster.

It could be nothing but it’s certainly something to watch and it’s a great sign if he has managed to improve his spin rates.

Andre Pallante

Hudson isn’t the only pitcher to take a jump in his first outing as Andre Pallante came out and kept all 9 of his fastballs above 96 mph in his first appearance.

Again, this may be nothing, and we still need to see Pallante continue to prove that his new heat is real, but the improved velocity could give a big boost to his fastball as it only generated a 12.2% whiff rate in 2022.

Also, I have written multiple times in the past few months that I still believe in Andre Pallante as a starter and a velocity jump could really help give him a boost in his quest for a 2024 rotation spot.

The final thing i want to add is that we often focus on the fastball when we see someone’s velocity take a jump but it’s often the breaking pitches that can benefit the most as a harder and sharper breaking pitch tends to generate more whiffs.

So, not only will I be watching Pallante’s fastball, but I’ll also be curious to see if he can generate more swings and misses with his curveball and his slider.

Anthony Misiewicz

Alright, so this one is a stretch. And really, this whole article is a stretch considering the minuscule sample size, so that’s really saying something. Regardless, I want to point it out anyways - Anthony Misiewicz cutter had a lot more sweep that usual in his first spring outing.

He threw only 5 cutters, but each one broke between 2 and 7 inches, giving an average of 4 inches of sweep just a year after it sat at an even 0. This could be just one game (and 5 pitches) but it feels like it may truly be a change in pitch shape.

And I really hope it is, because, if you read my article on the Cardinals left-handed bullpen options, you’ll know that I think Misiewicz’s cutter could really be a weapon if he added some sweep to it. Eno Sarris’s revamped Stuff+ model gave Misiewicz’s cutter a 115.4 stuff+ grade last year and that could tick even higher this year if he proves that he can maintain it’s velocity while adding sweep.

Genesis Cabrera

Is increased slider usage on the way for Genesis Cabrera? It’s tough to tell but he did throw a lot of sliders in his first outing. Last year was Cabrera’s first time using a slider in-game at the major league level and it sat 87.4 mph while getting below average movement in both directions.

Who’s to say what the future holds for Cabrera after a difficult 2022 season and who’s to say what the future holds for his slider but maybe this is a potential arsenal adjustment to pay attention to as Cabrera looks to rebound in 2023.

Kyle Leahy

If you read the name above and said who you’re probably not alone. Leahy is coming off a 2022 season in which he tallied a 5.29 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A and then put up a 10.67 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. And that’s after he posted an 8.20 ERA in Double-A in 2021.

And, now, you might be wondering why Leahy was sent to the AFL after such a difficult year and I’ll admit that I also had the same question. But then I saw him pitch and all my questions were answered.

He generated 4 whiffs on 5 swings and struck out the side in his one inning of work. And while that’s impressive, his Statcast readings were even more impressive.

You should open the full tweet to see all the details but I’ll sum it up for you here. Leahy’s fastball averaged 96.1 mph but it’s perceived velocity was 98 because he got a whopping 7.1 feet of extension which would place him in the top 5% of all MLB pitchers.

Leahy certainly has the potential to miss bats, and he could put everything together in a full time bullpen role which is what I expect him to have in the minors this year.

He’s certainly on my prospect radar after watching him pitch, and, if you’re the kind of person that pays attention to prospects, he should be on your radar too.

Brendan Donovan

Puck knob? Check. Bulked up in the offseason? Check. Power surge? Maybe. Last year, Donovan hit just 5 home runs and so far this spring he’s already hit 2. It’s still so early but he already seems to have more power and if he can add power to his nearly 13% walk rate, he could be an even more dangerous hitter than he already is.

It’s hard to draw a conclusion this early, but this is certainly one development worth watching, and it could be the development to watch this spring.

Nolan Gorman

I’ll keep this one brief but Nolan Gorman has looked good defensively at second base and has even turned a pair of really nice double plays, including this one:

He was one of the worst defenders on the team last year but he was also playing a new position, so here’s hoping he’s truly made progress at second base this offseason.


That’s all I have today but I’m sure I’ll have more to discuss once the Cardinals have played more than 3 games and I may even be able to follow up on these early observations. Feel free to discuss these observations or anything else that I may have missed from the Cardinals first few Spring Training games.

As always, thanks for reading, VEB. Enjoy your Tuesday.