Two Cardinals Prospects: An Eyewitness Report

As has been the case each of the past two years, the present author has recently transported his dumb body to Jupiter, FL, America — spring home of the Miami Marlins, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the author’s (now) 93-year-old grandfather.

Thursday, on the backfields of Roger Dean Stadium, the Cardinals’ minor-league clubs scrimmaged each other — with the provisional rosters from Triple-A Memphis playing the one from Double-A Springfield and High-A Palm Beach facing Class-A Peoria.

What follows is an eyewitness report regarding two Cardinals pitching prospects from those games — a document which is different from a scouting report proper insofar as it has been composed not by scout but by a nearly informed internet weblogger.

On Tim Cooney
Left-hander Tim Cooney’s name has appeared not only within the electronic pages of FanGraphs, but also that site’s absurd cousin, NotGraphs. As such, it was a pleasure to see it (i.e. Cooney’s name) appear on the back of his jersey yesterday, and the back of his jersey (along with the rest of Cooney himself) on the mound of Field No. 2, facing Triple-A Memphis.

Cooney was brilliant following a May promotion last season to Double-A, recording strikeout and walk rates of 25.2% and 3.6%, respectively, in 118.1 innings over 20 starts. As both his draft slot (he was a third-round selection out of Wake Forest) and prospect rankings (he appears this offseason within the top 10 of both FanGraphs’ and Baseball America’s organizational lists, but on neither entity’s top-100 overall prospect charts) suggest, the 23-year-old Cooney is considered useful future major-leaguer, if not star. Characteristic of many college left-handers regarded that way, Cooney’s value is derived less from raw armspeed and more from his polish and command.

On Thursday, Cooney appeared to throw four pitches: a four-seam fastball at about 89-92 mph, a slutter-type situation (referred to as a slider from now) at 83-85, a changeup at about that same velocity, and then a more traditional, vertically oriented curveball at around 77 mph. The fastball has its uses, but Cooney used it mainly as a means by to find his way to his secondary pitches, which are all superior.

His second-inning encounter with left-handed-batting outfielder Adam Melker was representative of Cooney’s approach, which plate appearance the left-hander began with an 84 mph slider for a called strike on the outer half of the plate. Cooney followed that first offering with a second slider — in this case on the inside corner — which Melker managed to foul off. Next, Cooney threw a 92 mph fastball just above the top of the zone for a ball — which pitch was perhaps designed to set up the next one, a well-shaped 77 mph curve that would have probably been a low strike were Melker not able to just get a piece of it. Still up 1-2, Cooney threw his third slider of the at-bat for a strike looking on the inside corner, effectively freezing the batter.

Cooney’s confrontation with Melker illustrates two properties that appear to be true about the left-hander, if not actually true. The first is this: when given a chance, Cooney’s preference is to utilize his curve when he needs an outpitch. The second is this other one: Cooney is very comfortable with the slider-cutter offering, is willing to throw it early in the count to either side of the plate, and is also able to use it a chase pitch, if necessary.

On Alex Reyes
In early Februrary, my colleague Nathaniel Stoltz proclaimed very young right-hander Alexander Reyes the best pitching prospect you’ve never heard of. Given his capacities as an analyst, I’m very comfortable deferring to Stoltz on any broader ideas regarding both Reyes’s present and also future talent. As long as I’m sitting by this computer, though — and as long as you’re doing nothing better, anyway — it seems as though there’s no harm in adding 200 or so more words regarding Reyes to the internet.

Stoltz’s enthusiasm for Reyes is manifold, but mostly appears to center on two particular qualities — namely, (a) the right-hander’s excellent armspeed and also (b) his above-average and/or plus curveball.

Both elements of Reyes’s repertoire were on display in a general way during his Thursday appearance and specifically during Ronnierd Garcia’s second-inning plate appearance. Reyes began the encounter with a silly, silly curveball at 76 mph on the inside corner to the right-handed-batting Garcia. To say that Garcia abandoned any thoughts of offering at the ball almost immediately would be correct. To say that he was surprised to see said curve find its way back over the plate is also an instance of true truth. Reyes followed the curve with a 95 mph fastball at the very top of the zone, a pitch which Garcia was able to foul back. Reyes then finished the encounter, throwing a well-shaped slider at 80 mph low and just outside the zone — at which pitch Garcia offered tepidly.

One should note that Reyes’s velocity actually did appear to decline as he entered his third inning of work, when the fastball began to sit more regularly in the 91-94 mph range. Not elite, that, but quite promising from a 19-year-old who can command it and also has a legitimate breaking pitch with which to support it.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Steven Wright, Knuckleballer
8 years ago

…”an instance of true truth.” I will have to think about that one for a while. =) -> =/ -> =(