Perhaps the most talented prospect in the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization , Jack Flaherty will look to continue improving in 2017. Should he flash signs of his true potential, fans everywhere will be ecstatic.
Taken with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, Jack Flaherty will, if things go according to plan, begin to truly blossom in 2017. For the remainder of the article, I will list a few reasons for excitement surrounding his development — tangible reasons to keep close watch moving forward.
First and foremost, Flaherty is extremely mature for a pitcher of just 20 years of age. Boasting a diverse, effective repertoire of pitches, he has the polish of a much older player.
Although he may not blow hitters away in an Alex Reyes type of way, his thoughtful, confident presence reflects the rare intangibles of an elite MLB starter. For lack of a better phrase, it seems that Flaherty just “has it.”
Coupled with an athletic, sturdy frame, it seems that Flaherty is built for the mental and physical strain of an MLB workload. A two-sport athlete at the prestigious Harvard Westlake high school in Southern California, Flaherty has tremendous balance and power distribution, traits that should keep his delivery and health very consistent. As truly great starting pitchers are defined not solely by nastiness, but also start-to-start dependability and consistency, it seems that he has the tools to put it together.
Speaking once again to possible markers of consistency, Flaherty’s mature approach and deep repertoire should allow for intricate adjustments throughout the course of a season. Put more simply, Flaherty will be able to frequently alter and tweak the ways in which he attacks hitters, making himself unpredictable, and therefore more effective on a consistent basis.
As Major League baseball governs itself with advanced statistics and tracking mechanisms, Flaherty’s adaptability will make him a slippery pitcher to scout. As most pitchers lose effectiveness each time through the lineup, or from start to start against a common opponent, Flaherty has the chance to get better.
— The Hit Factory (@THFBaseball) March 10, 2017
Moving past maturity and approach, I think it is important to simply look at Flaherty’s performance so far in the minor leagues. Specifically, he crushed his first season of pro ball (2015), posting a 9-3 record despite facing older and more physical competition.
Moving forward, some may claim that Flaherty regressed last season in advanced A. Personally, I reject this claim, for any statistical decreases are relatively meaningless considering the widespread improvement of competition.
For example, in his transition from A to A+, Flaherty’s BB/9 increased from 2.94 to 3.02. While this is technically an increase in hitters walked per 9 innings, it can be explained, and even justified, given the improved hitters.
In this way, I would argue that better hitters required greater caution from Flaherty, thus leading to a few more walks than he previously posted. Essentially, then, one could attribute his slight walk increase to maturity and understanding of risk, an ability to appreciate the slim margin for error with unforgiving hitters.
In a more general sense, Flaherty’s FIP in 2016 was 3.20, better than average for the level in which he competed (A+). Especially considering his youth, this number is very encouraging, despite his technical regression from his time in standard A ball. Long story short, Flaherty’s stats are reason for excitement, even if they are a little deceiving at first glance.
.@Jack9Flaherty saves a run in the 6th with a glove flip to the catcher on a bunt back to the mound.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 7, 2017
Lastly, I’d like to point to a specific instance that encourages me regarding the future of Flaherty with the Cardinals. As a non-roster invitee in this year’s Spring Training, Flaherty frequently took notes regarding his experiences.
Taking in advice from veterans and concretizing his experience with the Big Leagues, it seems that Flaherty really wants this. Sometimes seen as a formality, non-roster invitees usually don’t make headlines at Spring Training. In this case, however, Flaherty’s maturity, as previously described, has shined through in a tangible way.
Assuming that he utilizes his experience and the accumulated knowledge of his time in Florida, expect Flaherty to make large steps towards his Big League dreams this year in AA. A polished, mature, and talented pitcher, Flaherty has the chance to be special. If this does not excite you, picture a three man Cardinals playoff rotation of Reyes, Flaherty, and Weaver. Wow.