TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #3: Rob Kaminsky

The left-hander dominated Midwest League hitters in 2014 and is ready to move up in 2015.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: St. Joseph Regional High School, Montvale, New Jersey

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
5 LHS 09,04,94 6-0 190 B L 2013 1st

Selected 2014 stats

Peo 8 2 1.88 3.28 18 18 0 100.2 71 21 2 31 79 0.194 1.44 0.239

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (4): Rob Kaminsky seems on track to forever be linked to two other top Cardinals pitching prospects in Alex Reyes and Marco Gonzales, one due to age/level/birthplace and the other due to being in the same draft class. During the community vote for 2015, he fell a bit short of their lofty standards, however.

Scadder21, having seen both Reyes and Kaminsky pitch, said that he sees Kaminsky as a #3 pitcher at best, albeit, one with a very good curveball. SoonerinNC thought that Kaminsky is slightly more likely to reach the majors, but Reyes has the better upside.

UncleDenny had Kaminsky as the #2 prospect in the organization, as a young lefty with great upside and a good performance at Class A Peoria. In comparing Kaminsky at age 19 to Shelby Miller at age 19, CardsInChitown noted that Kaminsky put up very similar numbers to Miller during his time in Peoria this past year. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Kaminsky was the Cardinals’ second first-round pick in 2013, received in compensation for Kyle Lohse signing with the Brewers. Kaminsky was tabbed as our seventh-ranked prospect in the organization in his first year of eligibility. In his second year, the lefty reached the top three after being named The Cardinal Nation’s 2014 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

The Peoria Chiefs left-hander dominated the Midwest League as a 19-year old. That was so impressive because Kaminsky is already translating potential to production in his first full-season of pro ball. That he pitched well despite the lack of his best stuff at times tells you something about his feel for the mound and pitchability.

Kaminsky handled 100 2/3 innings for Peoria and was the club’s only starter to make at least ten starts, hold a sub 3.00 ERA and below a 1.10 WHIP. His 1.89 ERA was good enough to lead the pitcher-heavy Midwest League and his 1.01 WHIP ranked fourth-best among Midwest League pitchers.

Peoria was the club to watch for top pitching prospects as Kaminsky paired with fellow starter Alex Reyes, who could even be a better prospect. Yet Kaminsky had the better season, especially from a developmental point of view. His stuff could be inconsistent, especially the so called plus, plus hammer that was labeled as the best breaking pitch out of the 2013 draft. It still got swings and misses, but the location of it lacked.

His heater is said to be a consistent low 90s offering and could touch as high as 96 mph on the gun, but sat in the high 80s in some cases. Kaminsky utilized the inner half of the plate with his fastball that helped his at times diminished velocity, and set-up his hammer and improved changeup against righties that impressed for its movement and command. Kaminsky should be able to get the command of his breaking ball to where he wants it, and once he has it back, with his ability to command his fastball and changeup, he could be a top 50 prospect in baseball.

This upcoming season will be telling as to where Kaminsky is in his development. The most likely destination is Palm Beach to start the season, and perhaps a stop at Springfield before the season is up.

Brian Walton (3): By now, it should seem pretty obvious that my top three-ranked players in the Cardinals system are pitchers, including two lefties in Kaminsky and Marco Gonzales. The righty is Kaminsky’s 2014 teammate, Alex Reyes.

The community and I agree that Kaminsky is third among the three, though the company is most exclusive. As already noted, we felt Kaminsky’s 2014 was the strongest pitching performance in the entire Cardinals minor league system and recognized him for that. (The organization picked Gonzales for their comparable honor, instead.) What tips my top 40 ranking scale in Reyes’ favor over Kaminsky is the potential the former's fastball offers.

I like what the Cardinals did with Kaminsky in 2014. They stretched the then-19-year-old by his placement in the Midwest League, but even when he showed he could dominate there, they let him continue to work on his offerings without disruption. It is a formula they followed with an earlier high school-drafted pitching rising star in Shelby Miller.

“Just coming out of high school, you are talking about a guy who is beyond his years in knowledge and appreciates where he is at,” explained Kaminsky’s pitching coach Jason Simontacchi. “He also realizes he has a long way to go.”

Kaminsky’s best month was June, when he was the consensus Pitcher of the Month in the system, going 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA, fanning 28 and walking three in 30 1/3 innings. The New Jersey native was also the Player of the Month for the entire Midwest League. He remained consistent throughout the summer with his “worst” month being a 2.28 ERA.

I asked Kaminsky’s catcher Carson Kelly what enabled the left-hander to be so consistently strong.

“It was his fastball,” the catcher said. “Fastball command. That is the biggest thing… And then it was his secondary stuff and also his mentality, as in ‘Hey, you are not going to beat me.’”

With all the success during the long season, anyone could drift a bit at times, even Kaminsky.

“We come out and talk to our pitchers,” Kelly recalled. “Sometimes you’ve got to get into them a little, like ‘Rah, rah, c’mon, let’s go!’ and then, he just goes to a whole new level.”

When I asked Simontacchi the same consistency question, the pitching coach offered insight into in-season adjustments required behind the scenes.

“I tip my hat to him because he was working on his changeup,” Simontacchi recalled. “His curveball was very good, but he lost it a little in the middle (of the season) when he started force-feeding his changeup, trying to get that developed.”

Simontacchi agrees that focus has become a differentiator for Kaminsky.

“The numbers are outstanding, no question about that,” the coach said. “By the end of the year, he was commanding all three pitches, but then he also just turned it up a notch. When guys got into scoring position, he was able to get himself out of that jam. Maybe the fielder committed an error or he walked a guy or gave up a leadoff double, he stepped it up a notch to be able to get those guys out.”

Kaminsky should be well-prepared for the Florida State League in 2015 and could easily put himself in the Springfield picture later in the season. That would be impressive for the 20-year-old and keep him on Miller’s career pace. All in all, not a bad place to be.

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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