Palm Beach Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty has certainly encountered the early-season road bumps that come with advancing to a new level.
According to scouts, the right-hander does not have any pitches that grade out as plus on a consistent basis, which requires him to command his pitches. With the stats not being reflective of his talent, the command was off in April.
On Friday night, the 20-year old had excellent command, twirling his best outing of the 2016 campaign. Flaherty tossed a six-inning four-hitter against Roger Dean Stadium shareholder Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA). He fanned a season-high nine batters and issued just two walks. Of his 96 pitches, Flaherty threw 63 strikes and induced three groundouts to five flyouts.
With the outing, Flaherty lowered his ERA nearly a full run, from 5.87 to 5.08. The Cardinal Nation’s second-ranked prospect in St. Louis’ system has struck out 44 against 16 walks over 44 1/3 innings in nine starts for Palm Beach.
I am not a competent scout nor do I intend to represent myself as one, but the following is my commentary on Flaherty's Friday night pitching.
Flaherty threw two fastballs - two-and-four seam variety. His two-seam was in the high 80s range with sink in the bottom part of the zone, with cut and run when located properly. The four-seam popped as high as 96 two or three times, sitting comfortably in the low 90s vicinity. His four-seam fastball was a pitch he painted on the black and recorded several caught looking strikeouts. It should be mentioned his two walks came in the first two innings, and he got stronger after that point.
As far as his secondary pitches, Flaherty flashed a curve, slider and change. The curve he threw most often in the early going and was 74-78 mph with a big, deliberate break, but was effective off his fastball(s). The curve was his more effective breaking ball in this game, in my opinion. The slider was thrown more as the game progressed. It was between 78-84 depending on how much he wanted to take off from his fastball, but an offering he used with the same arm speed and another pitch he threw for strikes with a bit of a harder break than the curve.
His change is typically his primary off-speed pitch, but it was difficult to classify his wide arsenal. He picked up some strikeouts off his secondaries, including a nasty 84 mph slider he dropped right over the plate to end the fourth inning.
Command/control wise, Flaherty possessed command of all four pitches and worked the bottom of the zone to get ahead. Hitters did manage good lift with a couple of deep flyballs early, but when he was on, he was painting the black and retiring hitters with his entire arsenal.
Overall, having seen the high-octane arms of Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez – he is neither of them – though the latter has developed pitchabillity in the major-leagues. However, Flaherty commands his offerings well and makes hitters guess because of the depth of his arsenal. In short, he is a pitcher, but granted I did see him in his best outing of the season.
"He's a young kid at a level which most young kids aren't pitching at," Palm Beach manager Oliver Marmol told The Cardinal Nation earlier this month. "To have him here and teach him how to compete with the stuff that he has - it's going to be an exciting year for him."
A professional scout echoed the same sentiment.
"He's a got good sense of pitching," said the scout. "He's a baby. Most his kids his age are freshman and sophomores in college. He'll have a chance."
What is Next
Check out Derek Shore’s upcoming interviews with Rowan Wick of Palm Beach and Bruce Caldwell of Springfield as well as his every-Thursday beat reports on the Double-A Cardinals coming from Hammons Field – exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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