TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #29: Zach Petrick

The system’s 2013 Pitcher of the Year was challenged in his first shot at Triple-A in 2014.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Northwestern Ohio

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
16 RHS 07,29,89 6-3 195 R R 2012 FA

Selected 2014 stats

Mem 7 6 4.62 5.13 24 20 1 115 119 59 16 36 82 0.270 1.08 0.292
Spr 2 0 0.48 2.32 3 3 0 18.2 9 1 0 5 15 0.129 0.96 0.161
Tot 9 6 4.04   27 23 1 133.2 128 60 16 41 97 0.251 1.06  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (35): Coming off a standout 2013 season, Zach Petrick had a ton of support in last year’s vote. The voters were much less sympathetic toward him this time around, yet he came in at number 35.

UncleDenny believes Petrick will never get the chance to start with the big club. Desmetlax12 offered a quick rebuttal during the discussion, believing Petrick did all right this year as he was adjusting to Triple-A. He expects Petrick to show well next year due to Petrick’s history of making a quick start in Double-A in April this year.

When comparing the two, I made the comment that Boone Whiting regressed during his second season of Triple-A, while it was just Petrick’s first taste of that level. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: After shooting up three levels on the minor league ladder in 2013, Petrick breezed right through Double-A Springfield to start 2014. He logged a 0.48 ERA in only three starts before being promoted to Triple-A Memphis, where he would spend the rest of the season.

It was not surprising that Petrick faced some rough patches while with Memphis. Because of his rapid ascent, it was really the first time he had tasted adversity since switching over to starting last year. His 4.62 ERA in 24 games shows the difficult task he had in front of him for Memphis.

His three quality pitches with command and a clean repeatable delivery that has a bit of violence but has become more and athletic really intrigued me when I watched one of his starts in August of 2013. I think he could eventually develop into a back-end starter but he is just not in the right organization to pitch every fifth day. That is ok as his stuff would also play very well as a reliever.

Next season, expect Petrick to be given a heavier workload so keep your eye on how he performs while back at Memphis.

Brian Walton (28): As many may remember, Petrick was really good in 2013. He was so good that he was the organization’s Pitcher of the Year and was named our top starting pitcher here at The Cardinal Nation, as well.

Given the Cardinals quickly challenged him with a promotion to Triple-A Memphis, it is not surprising he stumbled a bit. After all, Petrick relies on location, not velocity, so the margin for error can be diminished. As a result, he dropped from #16 last year to #29 on our 2015 top 40.

Digging deeper, his usage pattern in 2014 makes me wonder. Petrick had two terrible outings in the second half that bloated his ERA. One was his first appearance of the season in relief on July 1, a game in which he was hammered for eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. He was then returned to the rotation and righted his ship.

After five decent starts, he was taken out of the rotation again. Following three long relief appearances in early August, Petrick rejoined the starting five on August 20th. In that contest, he was knocked out in the first inning without getting any outs as five runs came home.

I am not making excuses for Petrick. Perhaps he was fatigued due to his significant increase in innings pitched over the last two years. Or maybe there were minor injury issues that drove the changes in his usage pattern.

But whatever the reason, it seems clear that he struggled when his routine was altered. While every game counts, those two clunkers alone added a full run to Petrick’s season ERA. Without them, it would have been 3.64 instead of 4.62.

That is not signaling the next coming of Adam Wainwright, but would have been far more respectable. Then again, it is worth noting that Adam’s ERA in his first year at Memphis was 5.37, followed by 4.40 the next year. But, he also showed his durability, throwing 182 innings the latter year, a step Petrick has yet to take.

Moving on, a comment made in the community discussion interests me. I don’t join in the discussion on the board at the time as I do not want to influence the voting, so I will offer my point of view here.

The issue on the table is whether a player (in this case, Petrick) should be penalized in a top prospect ranking because the Cardinals are so strong at his position that he may be blocked from reaching St. Louis in that role.

I say “absolutely not”. If every single player in the top 40 was a pitcher, for example, it would not change their skills. As we saw in the recent Jason Heyward trade, players that may have been perceived as being blocked can still help the major league team.

As promising as Tyrell Jenkins is - a top-10 prospect in this system before he was dealt away - his chances of reaching the starting five in St. Louis seemed questionable. The right-hander still helped bring in two needed players - a reliever and an outfielder - in return.

As this point, I am unsure of Petrick’s runway as a major leaguer, but I would be very surprised if he does not get there, whether with the Cardinals or somewhere else. He is not MLB-ready yet, but how well Petrick pitches in his first full-season at Triple-A should help us get a feeling for how quickly the final step in his ascension may occur. Over the course of a long season, opportunities eventually present themselves - to those who are prepared.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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