On Friday, the Springfield Cardinals played host to their parent club from St. Louis, and conversation centered around Springfield’s starting rotation pre-game. During the game, the Cardinals showcased their organizational talent and depth on the mound. Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, and Dakota Hudson all appeared in Wednesday night’s exhibition. There is a consensus that they are all among the best 10 or 15 prospects in the organization.
“We have a good staff,” he conceded “but that’s on paper.” Mozeliak echoed Rodriguez. “I’d say in my tenure it’s probably the strongest rotation we’ve had.”
We’ll find out soon enough if Alcantara, Hudson, Flaherty, and Gomber are up to the Double-AA challenge.
Sandy Alcantara boasts a “high octane” fastball, but is “unproven at this level,” according to his skipper. He may not have pitched an inning at Double-AA, but Baseball Prospectus thought highly enough of him to rank him the 40th best prospect in all of baseball.
While Mozeliak noted that Alcantara is “one of those very special arms,” he also mentioned the need for him to attack the zone more, and be more efficient. Last season, he walked more than 10% of the hitters he faced at both Peoria and Balm Beach. The upside was there, too, though. He struck out over a quarter of the hitters he faced at both stops, as well.
Alcantara flashed the power fastball and above-average changeup Friday night for St. Louis. Pitching against his Double-AA teammates, his fastball sat 96-97, and changeup hovered around 88-90. He pitched one inning and struck out two, with the only blemish a walk to Adolis Garcia.
Hudson might have the best slider in the organization even though he was drafted just last summer. According to Mozeliak, the Cardinals were “very patient” with him last year. Mozeliak was impressed with Hudson in camp this year.
I think in Dakota’s case he was someone that had a lot of success last year, and we were very patient with him. But more importantly, when he showed up in camp, you see the strength and that he was ready to go. And what I mean on that is his pitchability, the fact that he was throwing strikes, in the zone, and I think Double AA will be a challenge but he should be fine here.
Hudson is in position to follow in the footsteps of Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales. Both were first round draft picks (and, like Hudson, Wacha was taken with compensation picks) who made it to the majors in their second professional season. Its difficult to glean information from Hudson’s stat lines — he simply hasn’t pitched enough. The fact that the organization is starting him in Double AA tells you everything you need to know.
Like Alcantara, Hudson pitched against for the big club on Friday. He pitched one inning, the ninth, and gave up one run.
Flaherty doesn’t have the top-of-the-rotation upside of Alcantara or Hudson, but he offers at least four pitches that are at least major league average. His fastball sits 90-94, about average for a middle of the rotation starter.
Since he doesn’t have elite stuff, the upper minors could pose a steep challenge. Ironically, the Springfield rotation might not even be the best one he’s been a part of: he went to high school with Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, and didn’t earn a spot in that rotation until they were drafted.
Flaherty shut-out a lineup that could closely resemble the Opening Day edition over four innings before being relieved by Gomber.
Gomber, the only lefty of the group, has the longest track in the Cardinals’ organization. Last year, in 107 High-A innings, Gomber posted a sub-3 ERA. He’s been able to post strikeout rates about 20% at all levels over the course of his minor league career.
Rodriguez described him as a “feel guy”, meaning he doesn’t have a blow-you-away fastball. His fastball sits 87-92, but he typically controls his off-speed pitches. His curve is a plus offering, while his change is somewhat underwhelming. Should his changeup come around, he projects as a back end starter. If not, he still has potential to be a left handed weapon out of the bullpen.
Gomber struggled in his cameo against the major league club, giving up 3 runs over 2 2/3 innings. He took the loss.
Rodriguez could play a pivotal role in the future of the organization. He’s charged with developing not one, but FOUR highly regarded pitchers.
His mindset? “Build them for September,” he said. He was speaking of the Texas League playoffs. It could, however, be a spot in the bullpen, or even a playoff roster spot, that Rodriguez is really grooming them for.
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