After underperforming in the outfield, the Cardinals decided to switch hard-throwing Rowan Wick to a role in the bullpen. A year later, Wick has flourished, resulting in a spot on the South Division All Star Team.
After watching Trevor Rosenthal give away another ninth inning lead, it is only natural that fans will begin to grumble, looking throughout the organization for a possible solution.
As one searches through the Cardinals minor league system, it becomes impossible to ignore the stellar performance of Rowan Wick, a closer with the Palm Beach Cardinals. While it is obvious Wick cannot help the Cardinals in the near future, he must be recognized in any discussion regarding relief pitching and prospective talent.
Prior to his dominant 2016 campaign in Palm Beach, Wick was forced through an unorthodox development, switching positions before finding a comfort zone at the professional level. Wick played his college ball at Cypress College in California, performing consistently as a solid outfielder. In 31 games, he hit .310 with 6 HRs and 22 RBIs. Ultimately, he was selected in the 9th round of the 2012 MLB draft.
As an outfielder, Wick struggled mightily to become a consistent offensive force at the professional level. For this reason, in 2015, the organization decided to send him to extended spring training in order to develop as a pitcher. One of the hardest throwing outfielders in the entire system, the Cardinals hoped to quickly develop a hard throwing, fresh arm for years to come.
So far in 2016, Wick is proving the organization right, performing with extraordinary consistency considering the lack of experience on the mound. Specifically, through 24.2 innings, Wick has a minuscule ERA of 1.09. Over that span, he has given up 3 earned runs, while racking up an impressive 37-6 strikeout to walk ratio. Since assuming the closer role in Palm Beach, Wick has defied the odds, relieving as if he has been doing it for years.
As a result of his impressive 2016 campaign, Wick will play in the Florida State League All Star game, where he will represent the South. Once a sub-par minor league hitter, his career now looks brighter than ever, for he will finally be recognized for his outstanding transformation into a solid minor league closer.
— Austin Gomber (@AustinGomber) June 16, 2016
At the major league level, yesterday’s loss to the Rangers stung. However, in the subsequent search for closing prospects in the Cardinals system, one is reminded of the top-to-bottom excellence that the front-office demands. The organization is constantly making tactical position-changes and roster alterations, successfully maintaining one of the most efficient farm systems in the league.
Once again, the Cardinals are getting smart to maximize the talent of their draft acquisitions. As recent draft picks settle into the daily grind of minor league development, it will be intriguing to monitor like position switches and tweaks. As Wick clearly demonstrates, the Cardinals are a wonderful organization, simultaneously maximizing individual talent, while also looking out for the club as a whole.
Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports