The remaking of Robert Stock

Robert Stock has just begun his journey from professional catcher to pitcher. From where did he come and where will it lead?

Ever since the St. Louis Cardinals selected Robert Stock in the second round of the 2009 draft, a segment of fans had been waiting for the now-22-year-old to return to pitching. The California native had caught and pitched at Southern Cal, and in the latter role, he had both relieved and started.

Stock made it clear when he signed with the Cardinals, for a bonus of $525,000, that he solely wanted to be a catcher as a professional. The organization was willing to go down that path with him – until Stock stopped progressing as a hitter.

Stock
In an indication of the magnitude of Stock's fall, consider this. He was our top-ranked catcher in the system prior to the 2010 season and ninth among all Cardinals prospects. This past winter, Stock did not place in our top 40 and was just the sixth-ranked backstop on my personal list.

Earlier this week, manager Mike Matheny delivered the news that Stock was one of the first cuts from major league camp. Further, when Stock would report to minor league camp, it will be as a pitcher.

Based on three-year-old scouting reports, Stock was considered by many to be a better pitching prospect than a catcher.

One area of contention is Stock's fastball velocity. Baseball America called it 88-92 mph with a 95 mph peak. Baseball Prospectus represented his velocity at 90-94 mph. Both were based on scouting Stock while at USC.

As part of his explanation to reporters, Matheny was even more optimistic, pegging Stock's fastball as "upper 90s." Whether that is accurate or hyperbole remains to be seen.

Once Stock begins to throw regularly, the radar guns will tell the story.

In the meantime, here is what we know for sure about Stock the pitcher. First, his collegiate pitching stats from USC.

Year ERA W-L G GS SV IP H  R  ER BB SO WP HB BK AVG
2007 4.55 2-2 14 0 2 29.2 25 16 15 14 25 4 4 1 0.238
2008 3.60 1-1 11 0 3 10 9 5 4 4 17 2 1 0 0.237
2009 2.90 5-4 20 9 4 77.2 61 32 25 39 86 5 23 6 0.223
Total 3.38 8-7 45 9 9 117.1 95 53 44 57 128 11 28 7 0.228

In 2007 and 2008, he played in summer ball for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Though he was primarily a catcher, he also threw a handful of innings.

Year W-L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR HB BB SO AVG
2008 0-0 9.00 2 1 0 2 1 2 2 0 0 2 3 0.167
2007 0-1 7.88 9 6 3 8 13 7 7 0 1 8 9 0.394

Another area of question is the mental side of Stock's game, of course most difficult to measure. There could be both positive and negative aspects to consider.

Matheny was straightforward in the media summary of his conversation with Stock, admitting that the catcher was not happy when told of the change.

As a competitor, his disappointment can be understood. The question is how long it will remain with him and if he will be thoroughly committed to pitching.

At some point, tough love will be applied by the Cardinals if mound progress isn't shown. For 2012 however, I wouldn't be surprised if they treat him gingerly.

A positive aspect of his mental preparation could be his three years of catching experience. Not only does Stock have valuable game knowledge that most pitchers do not, but he also has caught almost all of the system's top pitching prospects, including Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Jordan Swagerty and Trevor Rosenthal.

Stock is putting on the right face, at least publicly. Via his Twitter account, Stock tweeted this on Wednesday:

"First pen in three years today...lets (hope) it goes alright :)"

Afterward, he seemed pleased with his results.

"Bullpen was like riding a bike :)," Stock tweeted.

All things considered, the move seems the best one for both the organization and the player. Everyone is hoping Stock can make it work out.

Earlier article:
"Cardinals take Stock to pitching, cut two"



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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