While information gathering to begin my 2014/2015 review of the Cardinals, I saw a list of past UTR-OAS pitchers slated to be bumped from minor league camp and used to plug holes in the big club roster during Spring Training. It could be a great opportunity for 2015 OAS Jack Flaherty, Daniel Poncedeleon, Artie Reyes, and 2015 OAS Austin Gomber to make an impression, according to Jesus Ortiz at the St. Louis Dispatch. Flaherty immediately hit our radar in his pro debut with the GCL Cardinals in 2014. The former 1st round pick hails from the same high school as Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, who were drafted in 2012. The 6’4″- 205 lb. righty repeated on my list after his 2015 season, which earned him the “Solid Stash” tag. While Flaherty ranks as a Cardinals Top 5 prospect (Baseball America), Daniel Poncedeleon (9th Rd- 2014) has remained under the radar and was my 2015 “One to Watch.” The now 25-year old right-hander probably has the most at stake, in trying to make a splash to St Louis. He just missed the 2015 UTR-OAS ranking and completed a solid Double-A stint in 2016. The other Reyes arm in the Cardinals’ stable, Artie or Arturo, is the epitome of UTR with his 40th round draft status in 2013. Artie Reyes has moved through the system and saw most of his time at Triple-A Memphis, after a taste in 2015. He proved to be hittable in 2015 (12.8 H/9), but keeps balls in the park (0.3 HR/9). He reversed the trend in 2016 with a promising 8.8 H/9 rate, but gave up 12 home runs in 107.2 innings (1.0 HR/9). Watch him closely in Spring Training during outings on the main field. Chances are, that if you hear the name Reyes during Spring ball it will be Artie, since top pitcher Alex Reyes will miss the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery.
The 2015 UTR-OAS was highlighted by 4th round (2014) pick Austin Gomber, who tore-up the Midwest League. The Cardinals rewarded Gomber with a Spring Training invite after last season and he kept the train rolling in 2016. He makes a repeat appearance below in the runner-up slot. It’s actually been tough for true UTR’s to crack the Cardinals list, with the like of Gomber, Flaherty, and 2015 OAS Luke Weaver. One young arm to remember and was my 2016 “One to Watch” the 20-year old David Oca. He’s another pitcher that appeared on my list after the 2014 season with the DSL Cardinals. He made his U.S. debut in 2015 and over four seasons sports a strikeout rate of 23.5 % in 250.2 innings. He only saw two months during the 2016 season in the Appy League, so it may be worth tracking him when he gets his first full season at LoA, hopefully next month. Most the above names seem to be a call-up away to St. Louis, so let’s see what crop of new UTR’s will be filling their void.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Matt Pearce – 25 / .135 *Legit UTR*
22 years old – (HiA Palm Beach / Double-A Springfield / Triple-A Memphis)
13th round – 2014
Pearce just turned 23 this week and has already seen time at HiA Palm Beach (HiA) and Triple-A Memphis. He Ranked in the #5 slot last season and blew away his (9) Factor Score, but held his TPS rate steady. He would blow-up as a prospect if he could only miss more bats. Known more as a finesse pitcher, Pearce’s peripherals were promising across three levels in 2016. In work-horse fashion, Pearce threw 163.2 innings and posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.057 WHIP. Look for the 6’3″- 205 lb. right-hander to spend more time at Double-A in 2017.
22 years old – (HiA Palm Beach / Double-A Springfield)
4th round – 2014
Gomber is the lone lefty in a right-hander dominated system, which increases his fantasy ‘stash’ value. What lacks in Pearce, you will find in Gomber. The imposing 6″5″- 235 lb. pitcher registered very Pearce-comprable ERA and WHIP stats, but his 8.2 K/9 rate makes him a bit more attractive.
Fernandez has held is own despite facing much older competition, and being the youngest pitcher in the Florida State League. The teenage righty was added to the Spring Training roster recently to fill the void from injuries and other pitchers playing the World Baseball Classic. This is good news, as quality time spent working on his command of a plus- fastball (that can run up into the high 90’s) is nothing but positive. He also exhibits a plus change-up, which could place his ceiling as a late-inning reliever. He holds onto his #3 spot, earning the “Legit UTR” stamp.
To be honest, I had to back track into last years’ spreadsheet to see how close Alcantara came from making the 2015 UTR-OAS roster. If you look back to 2015, he was so close and almost got the “One to Watch” for 2016. Wow, I missed that one, as the 20-year old averaged 28.8 strikeout percentage over two levels. Joseph Werner over at ProspectDigest.com reported that hasn’t happened since Tyler Glasnow in 2014.
OK UTR Fans…..remember this kids name. And I state that with the same enthusiasm as I did back in 2011 with Trevor Rosenthal at LoA Quad Cities. I then drafted him prior to the 2013 fantasy season and he’s still on my roster. My system hit on Rosenthal when he was starting games, thus making his way as the Cardinals’ closer when the rotation was busting at the seams with arms. Don’t rule out that he could return back to his roots with Seung hwan Oh projected to be the closer in 2017. So here’s Helsley, a starter, but I project him to be the future closer, with his fastball touching triple-digits (100 mph). The now 22-year old was the best kept secret in 2016 with LoA Peoria and has yet receive the deserved ink….so he’ll get it here. He made 11 appearances (9 starts) in the Appy League in 2015 posting a 2.01 ERA over 40.1 innings. He jumped to full season LoA and went 10-2 with a 1.61 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.3 SO/9 rate (109 K’s) in 95 innings. I always try to select a true UTR (below 5th round draft pick) as my “One to Watch”, but Helsley makes the 2017 choice too obvious.
Beck was a 2014 UTR-OAS as a starter. Back then, I wrote about the abundance of relief arms within the Cardinal system and that Beck would probably remain as a starter. The table has turned with Beck having the most saves (11) of any reliever in the Cards system below Double-A.