A first round pick back by the Cardinals in 2014, Jack Flaherty is finally beginning to dominate. If he continues at this level, do not be surprised to see promotions start stacking up.

Although most Cardinals fans will be familiar with Jack Flaherty, I feel obligated to begin the piece with a short biographical section. No matter your knowledge, the context is always useful.

Flaherty is a product of Harvard Westlake, a storied Southern California high school known for producing top-knotch athletes. Straight from there, the Cardinals selected Flaherty in the first round of the 2014 draft. With a 6’4″, 200 pound frame and phenomenal polish for such a youngster, the sky was the limit.

In 2015, Flaherty’s first full season, he thrived. At the single A level, Flaherty finished the season with a 9-3 record. In 18 starts, he posted an ERA of 2.84, struck out 97, and walked 31. Last season, on the surface level, it seemed as if he had regressed.

With a 5-9 record through 23 starts in high A, how could that not be considered a “down” year? Well, upon a more detailed look, Flaherty actually posted a FIP of 3.20, a number that is considered to be better than average at the A+ level.

Furthermore, an increase in walks or home runs can be easily justified, as Flaherty made more starts (23) and face better competition.

To summarize, Flaherty was solid in his first two seasons, albeit the statistical lines took slightly different forms. In both seasons, however, he was by no means “dominant.”

While you can never expect a young player to be dominant early and often, Flaherty certainly had (and has) that potential. It seemed as if it was only a matter of time.

Fast forward to the present. As it turns out, it was only just a matter of time. Flaherty pitched well this past Spring Training, and has not looked back. In AA Springfield, Flaherty has been nearly perfect through his first 4 starts. Specifically, he currently holds a .33 ERA, .66 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts.

Also, opposing hitters are currently hitting .167 against Flaherty, posting just 15 hits in 27 1/3 innings pitched. Put simply, Flaherty is dominating right now. He is pitching like a man on a mission, showing both nastiness and efficiency. When the Cardinals spent a first round pick back in 2014, this is what they envisioned.

At the minor league level, Flaherty’s performance is not going unnoticed. In fact, he was named the Texas League pitcher of the week last week. Over his two starts in that time frame, he pitched 13.2 scoreless innings. Currently, his scoreless innings streak sits at 16.2, dating back to April 11th.

If Jack Flaherty keeps pitching like this, he will most likely be in AAA at some point during the 2017 season. While I fully welcome this notion, I really hope the Cardinals front office does not begin to rush Flaherty’s development.

Thus far, they have showed tremendous patience, but it would be easy to get antsy considering his current level of play. Flaherty will be an ace of the future, along with Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver. No matter his success, it is important to keep that in mind.

It goes without saying, but the Cards would much rather have an optimized Flaherty in 2018, rather than a half-baked version some time earlier.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how AA players begin to adjust and approach Flaherty. Given the statistical prowess of each organization, it is only a matter of time before teams seek out apparent weaknesses, fears, et cetera.

When that time comes, it will be essential that Flaherty stay one step ahead, constantly upping his game and staying hungry. Such adjustments require phenomenal preparation and execution, the sign of a true pro.

Should be succeed at this juncture, Cardinals fans and executives should really begin to get excited. Should he scuffle, however, there is no need for panic, as Flaherty still has much time to develop and mature as a pitcher.

In conclusion, Flaherty is absolutely killing it. From here, it is important that he not be over-pitched, in order to avoid injury. At the same time, look for constant improvements in command and confidence, especially as Flaherty has to boost his concentration and performance the second time around the Texas league.

Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports