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St. Louis Cardinals Prospects: A firsthand analysis of Rob Kaminsky, Peoria Chiefs

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Sunday's game did not go as planned for the Peoria Chiefs, despite having their ace on the mound. The Chiefs fell to the South Bend Silver Hawks, 6-0, and managed to muster only three hits on the afternoon.

Coming into Sunday afternoon's start, 19-year-old LHP Rob Kaminsky had made 11 starts for the Class-A Peoria Chiefs. In 62.1 innings, Kaminsky was 4-1 with a sparkling 1.44 ERA (1.02 ERA vs. LHB, 1.61 ERA vs. RHB). He tallied 51 strikeouts to 18 walks (2.83 K:BB). Right-handed batters were hitting .170 against him, while lefties were able to manage a slightly higher .185 batting average. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to finally watch the Cardinals 2013 first-round draft pick (28th overall) in person.

Kaminsky's outing: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 HR

For post-game analysis purposes, I documented the location, velocity, and result of each pitch from Kaminsky (70 in total). I wanted to see if he was able to work the inside corners to both righties and lefties, or if he tended to live on the outer half of the plate. I tallied 33 pitches on the inside portion of the plate, 30 pitches on the outside portion, and seven pitches down the middle (including a hanging changeup that resulted in a two-run homer to left). Kaminsky's ability to stay out of the middle of the plate, while maintaining solid inside versus outside balance, was nice to see, especially from such a young pitcher.

Of the 70 pitches he threw, 40 were strikes. A large portion of the balls came in his 35-pitch fourth inning (where he only recorded two outs), when he seemingly "lost" his curve ball (see his quote later in the post) and appeared to not be finishing off his fastballs. In terms of velocity, his fastball ranged from 89 MPH to 95 MPH. I checked with the scouts' radar guns next to me, and surprisingly, theirs appeared to be 2-3 MPH faster than the one at the stadium. His fastball average was a tick over 92 MPH, and it appeared he slowed it down or sped it up given the situation. His breaking ball sat in the 76-80 MPH range, but he never really got a feel for it this outing. Finally, his changeup was also in the high-70's/low-80's range, and despite hanging one to Marty Herum in the 4th, it looked filthy.

After an 18-pitch first inning, Kaminsky required only 17 total pitches to breeze through the second and third innings. The Silver Hawks didn't get their first hard-hit ball off Kaminsky until the fourth—a hot-shot to third that Michael Schulze picked off the turf and fired to first for a solid 5-3. As I discussed with the voice of the Chiefs after the game, the turning point in the fourth was when Kaminsky had Silver Hawks' first baseman Daniel Palka down 1-2 in the count but was unable to finish him off. Palka took some borderline pitches and eventually worked a walk. Two batters later, Kaminsky hung a changeup for a two-run homer.

All in all, I was pretty impressed with Kaminsky. His fastball had a lot more life to it than I had been made aware of, and his ability to spot it on both the inside and outside parts of the plate shows he is pretty far along in his development, despite not yet turning 20 years old. Unfortunately, his touted curve ball wasn't there for him yesterday, but his changeup looks to be a plus pitch at the next level.

A quick iPhone video of Kaminsky in the fourth:

Kaminsky's thoughts regarding his outing:

I definitely didn't have my best stuff. On a day like that, my job is to keep the team in the position to win, and I didn't do that. I hung a changeup, and then they battled and had 2 tough at bats leading to walks. I felt good the first 3 innings, felt my velo was getting better throughout game, and then in the 4th, I lost my breaking ball, and my fastball command was not sharp, at all. Gonna take it as a learning experience and work even harder during my side sessions this week to prepare for my next start. 24 hour rule. I can't wait to get back out there.

Other notables:

Unfortunately, Carson Kelly was not in the lineup due to some sort of respiratory illness (luckily for everyone else in the dugout and on the team bus, strep throat had already been ruled out). Given it is still his first year in the transition to catcher, I really wanted the chance to see him receive the ball firsthand. We already know he's got the arm to throw out would-be base-stealers and that his pop times will improve with experience. To me, the thing to look for most in Kelly's development is how he receives pitches because to me, this is more of a skill than something that can be developed.

C.J. McElroy legged out an infield single on a slow grounder to the second baseman but was subsequently thrown out trying to steal despite an extremely poor jump (14th CS of the season). Earlier in the game, Kenneth Peoples-Walls was thrown out stealing despite having a slow start as well. I can imagine that only stealing on good jumps will be a talking point from the Peoria coaching staff going forward. Richy Pedroza (single) and Justin Ringo (double) collected the other two hits for the Chiefs. Steve Bean had a perfect throw to nab the Silver Hawks' leadoff hitter, but was quiet at the plate, going 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Juan Herrera (SS), who has been a bright spot for the Chiefs this season, left the game with an apparent knee injury when he got tangled up with a Silver Hawk defending a stolen base attempt.

Catching up with Alex Reyes:

Thanks to Nathan Baliva (voice of the Chiefs), I was able to catch up with Alex Reyes after the game. As he emerged from the clubhouse toward the team bus, I could not believe how big Reyes actually was. He honestly looked more like a basketball power forward than a baseball pitcher. His most recent listings have him at 6'3", 215 pounds, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 19-year-old righty is now 6'4" and still growing.

After signing 25-30 autographs for fans (including six for a grown man), I was able to chat with him. After giving him some trouble about his headphones (Beats by Dre) and talking about his addiction to NBA hats, I asked him where he would like to be by the end of the 2014 season, and he said, "Palm Beach. For at least a start or two. I just have to harness the fastball. We're working on it in the 'pens and stuff—just trying to keep it down."

I followed up by asking what was the one thing Jason Simontacchi has told him this season that he has taken to heart the most: "To not lose confidence in my stuff. My stuff will play anywhere if I just settle down and try to actually figure it out in becoming a pitcher, instead of just throwing the ball."

Finally, Reyes's thoughts regarding Kaminsky, "He has to be the most consistent guy in our organization right now. Today was probably his worst outing, and he only allowed two earned runs. He just deals. He's always done that."

Concluding thoughts on my experience:

Many thanks to Joe Hart, the President of the South Bend Silver Hawks, for providing me with a media pass for yesterday's game. It gave me access to basically sit wherever I wanted, so naturally, I took a seat next to a group of scouts behind home plate to see how they went about their business (They're pretty boring, by the way). Despite an underwhelming performance from the Chiefs, I still had a fantastic time, and I thank Mr. Hart, Mr. Baliva, and Reyes for their respective parts in the experience.