Remember when the big Twitter and Facebook fan debates were centered around whether or not the Cardinals should utilize a 6-man starting rotation? Remember when that stacked rotation was going to be Wainwright, Wacha, Martinez, Reyes, Mikolas +? Well, injuries derailed that plan very quickly and caused the Cardinals to dig into their farm system earlier than planned. The good news is that the young arms have not disappointed, and have even helped the Cardinals make it to September and still remain within striking distance of the playoffs. Here I want to highlight some of the young pitchers that have made their MLB debut this season, and have proven that they can perform at the highest level.
(All stats are accurate as of 9/10/18)
MLB Debut: June 2, 2018
Austin Gomber was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 4th round of the 2013 amateur draft.
Gomber started this season out at AAA Memphis, where he was 7-3 with a 3.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.24. Gomber appeared in 12 games at the AAA level this season and started 11 of those.
Gomber has given the Cardinals pitching staff some versatility this year, tossing in 25 games and starting 8 of them.
About half of his pitches thrown this year have been his low nineties four seam fastball, according to BrooksBaseball. His curve ball is his secondary pitch, which he utilizes about a third of the time. With 2 strikes, Gomber still relies heavily on his fastball, throwing it near 40% of the time. I am sure that many of us would like to see him rely more heavily on his curve ball in those situations, because it is pure filth.
Austin Gomber, Disgusting 77mph Curveball. 🤮
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 8, 2018
Interesting note: with runners in scoring position, Gomber has held opponents to a BA under .200. The key to his pitching approach is getting ahead in the count (shocking, I know). His BA against doubles when he is digging out of a hole.
MLB Debut: July 23, 2018
This 26-year-old RHP was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 9th round of the 2014 amateur draft. Poncedeleon has already made an impact in St. Louis and has played a crucial role in the second half revamp of the Cardinal’s pitching staff.
Daniel defied many odds just to get to the big leagues. In May of 2017, Poncedeleon took a line drive off the temple and underwent emergency brain surgery. He came back from the injury strong and pitched in 19 games in Memphis this year, starting in 18. In 2018 he owns a record of 9-4 at the AAA level to go along with his 2.24 ERA and 1.235 WHIP.
In his Major League debut in July, you may remember his 7-inning shutout performance that got us all amped up and excited about this kid’s future.
14 months ago Daniel Poncedeleon had emergency brain surgery after taking a line drive to the head.
Tonight, in his MLB debut, he pitched 7 no-hit innings. pic.twitter.com/CF63cK6ECe
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 24, 2018
Poncedeleon relies mostly on his low to mid-90s fastball, which he throws around 60% of the time. His secondary and tertiary pitches are his changeup and cutter, which he uses each between 17-20% according to BrooksBaseball.
So far this season, Ponce has earned 3 starts and made 6 relief appearances. One small nugget about Daniel is that in 14 PA against leadoff hitters, he has yet to give up a hit. However, according to Baseball-Reference, Daniel has struggled in high leverage situations, allowing opponents to hit .294 against him in those situations while giving up an sOPS+ of 184.
His role going forward with the team will remain fluid based upon the immediate needs of the club. Obviously he primarily started in Memphis, but will encounter a much more diverse set of situations in St. Louis.
MLB Debut: March 29th, 2018
This 2015 3rd round draft pick did not have to wait long to make an impact at the big league level. This fireballer played two seasons in Rookie/A ball before being summoned up to the show and made an appearance the very first game of the 2018 season, throwing a scoreless frame against the Mets.
Jordan Hicks says he didn't expect to make the #STLCards' Opening Day roster, much less to end up as the team's primary setup man: "It's always your goal to break camp, but it didn't seem realistic." pic.twitter.com/8KPAULZSZy
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) September 1, 2018
If you have followed the Cardinals at all this year, you have most likely grown to enjoy the excitement that this young guy brings to games. I don’t know how many times this season I went to sleep (west coast games are hard, ok?) feeling confident that Hicks would take care of the 8th inning – and maybe even the 9th.
This season, Hicks has been called upon in many high leverage situations. In fact, 44% of the batters he has faced have been in high leverage situations. During these moments, opponents have slashed .241/.295/.645 against him. His overall ERA for the season resides at 3.17 with a WHIP of 1.28 in 71 innings pitched. This workload is the highest on the team for the guys consistently pitching out of the bullpen.
Hicks is a fire baller whose average speed on his sinker is a few ticks over 100 mph according to BaseballSavant. When his movement is flowing and he is hitting his spots, he becomes virtually unhittable since he has an ability that surpasses the rest of the planet.
Jordan Hicks, Insane 102 mph Sinker. 😱
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 2, 2018
Currently, you can find the fastest pitches of the season using the Chapman filter on MLB.com, but I would petition that we should soon rename this tool to the Hicks Heater filter.
MLB Debut: July 28th, 2018
Dakota Hudson started off the season as a preseason top ten prospect in the Cardinals system. He has risen on that list and now sits at #3.
Hudson joined the program in 2016 when he was drafted in the first round out of Mississippi State University. Like some of the other guys you’ve already read about, he spent a lot of time in Memphis this season before joining the big birds. At AAA, he was 13-3 with 2.50 ERA in 111.2 IP. and 1.29 WHIP.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 29, 2018
All of his appearances with St. Louis have been out of the bullpen.
Hudson’s main pitch is his Sinker, which he throws nearly 60% of the time. When opponents are able to put his sinker or slider in play, the result is a ground ball over 70% of the time.
Facing his first batter in his @MLB debut, Dakota Hudson fans Kyle Schwarber for his first big league strike out. The #STLCards No. 4 prospect followed up with another strike out and a ground out to complete the perfect inning for the @Cardinals. Watch: https://t.co/OswYxaHdP1 pic.twitter.com/AncMQ4H7w3
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 28, 2018
Hudson is not a dominant strikeout guy, currently only averaging a little over half a strikeout per IP. Even though this would put him towards the lower spectrum of pitchers if he were a qualifier. he definitely has the tools for a sustainable and successful career.
[banner image: MiLB.com]