TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #40: Chuckie Fick

One of the newest additions to the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster makes his top 40 prospect list debut after five professional seasons. The first article in our annual countdown is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 11/20/1985 6-5 187 R R 2007 15th

School: Cal State-Northridge

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 5 3 2.30 54 0 1 70.1 44 25 2 37 61 3.03 0.180
USA 1 0 2.08 5 0 0 8.2 7 2 0 0 1 NA 0.219

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (NR): Chuckie Fick was not ranked in my top 46 players but I have no complaint with him being on this list. His performance merits such recognition. It has only been his upside that is in question.

Fick has been a solid performer since being drafted in 2007 but his ascent as a legitimate prospect commenced with a significant rise in his strikeout rate starting in 2010. The improved K rate combined with what has always been a well above-average ground ball rate is most likely what led the Cardinals to protect Fick from the Rule 5 draft by placing him on their 40-man roster this off season.

Fick would seem firmly entrenched in the Memphis bullpen to start the 2012 season. He would also seemingly need to jump over 3-4 other players to make the big league roster, but given the vagaries of a long season and the inevitable injuries that occur, it is not out of the question that Fick will appear in St. Louis in 2012.

Message board community (45): Righty relief arm Chuckie Fick provided 70 stellar innings in Triple-A this year. As in 2.30 ERA stellar.

The son of Redbirds scout and Naked Gun actor Charles Fick, Chuckie makes the top 40 countdown for the first time, after toiling in the Cardinal system since 2007. Bounced around between the bullpen and rotation for the past few years, Fick settled in nicely at Memphis, when given the role of exclusively relieving.

In 54 appearances, Fick posted one of the most extreme GB/FB ratios in all of organized baseball, at better than 3-to-1... which probably explains his surrendering just two gopherballs all season. The strikeout rate is nothing to scoff at, either, at eight per nine innings pitched.

So why isn't Chuckie one of the top 20-25 St. Louis farmhands? Well, he just turned 26, which is quite old for a legit prospect, even one in Triple-A. Maybe as importantly, he issued a slightly scary 37 walks this year, or nearly five per nine innings. Managers go gray fast enough without fretting over their bullpenners liberally handing out free passes.

Chuckie has been a durable groundball generator throughout his pro career. Now if he can sharpen that control just a bit, some MLB middle relief innings could be in the offing, and soon. - BobReed

Brian Walton (36): OK, what can I add after the solid analysis that preceded me? First of all, I should probably explain why I was the most aggressive of the three of us in ranking Fick. It is a subjective measure followed by an objective result.

Scouts noted a marked improvement in Fick's stuff in 2011 as his results would indicate. With at most one lefty in the Memphis pen, he often went multiple innings and held both left-handed hitters and righties to a batting average below .190.

This fall, he performed admirably for Team USA in the IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama and the Pan American Games in Mexico and culminated his breakout year by being added to the 40-man roster. In my eyes, that is worth being ranked here, even after we overlooked him the five previous winters.

However, some of that was the residue of good fortune, as evidenced by his career-low and likely unsustainable .240 batting average on balls in play. Further, Fick's success seemed to be accompanied by a resulting cost as the control concerns mentioned above coincide with his emergence. Specifically, over his first four seasons, the Californian walked an average of 2.1 batters per nine innings. That more than doubled in 2011 - to over 4.3 per nine. Needless to say, his recent rate of free passes won't cut it in the bigs.

To make the final step effectively, Fick must maintain his 2011 progress while fixing that newly-found control problem. If he can do that, he could elbow his way into the St. Louis picture along with a number of other talented young Cardinals relievers. If he can't, he could follow the trajectory of Blake King, who not too long ago also made the 40-man, but never reached St. Louis before moving on.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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