John Kilichowski (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The 2016 11th-round draftee from Vanderbilt worked his way up to Peoria in his debut season.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #38 with a junior from Vanderbilt who received above-slot money to sign and pitched well in Class-A. Details for TCN members.

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA LHS 05 17 94 2016 11th

Selected 2016 stats

Peo 1 3 3.74 3.62 6 5 0 33.2 32 14 4 4 31 0.250 0.89 0.298
SC 1 1 0.92 3.07 5 4 0 19.2 15 2 0 11 20 0.214 1.33 0.294
Tot 2 4 2.7   11 9 0 53.1 47 16 4 15 51 0.237 1.02  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (37): During the community vote, John Kilichowski finished as the 37th highest rated player. Kilichowski leapt into the voting at 32 as SoonerinNC was impressed with him fairly early.

Mudville also likes Kilichowski, mentioning that the potential is certainly there for him to be a major leaguer one day. 14NyquisT brought up that Kilichowski is a 6-foot-5 southpaw, which will aid him in his ascent. 14NyquisT thinks that with the loaded rotations in front of him, Kilichowski may benefit from another full season playing for the Class A Chiefs. – Jeremy Byrd


Derek Shore (36): Perhaps one of the Cardinals’ most intriguing picks of the 2016 draft was the Vanderbilt lefty Kilichowski.

Kilichowski, 22, a draft-eligible sophomore in 2015, did not sign after being picked by the Cubs in the 39th round that June and returned to college to improve his draft stock. In his junior season for the Commodores, the Tampa, FL native's stock fluctuated, as he fought through back issues and inconsistencies, posting a 5.06 ERA over 27 innings.

As a collegian, Kilichowski added 30 pounds to fill out his workhorse-like 6-foot-5, 217-pound frame along with a few ticks to his fastball now at 88-92 mph to 94 and continued to refine his offspeed stuff (curveball, slider, and changeup).

The Cardinals landed the potential mid-rotation big-league starter in the 11th round, inking him for a reasonable $200,000 signing bonus. The Cardinals assigned Kilichowski to the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League, where he made four starts and one relief appearance, going 1-1. He struck out 20 batters in his 19 2/3 innings while walking 11 batters leading to an impressive 0.97 ERA to go along with a 1.32 WHIP.

The southpaw impressed Spikes pitching coach Darwin Marrero.

"John is a polished college kid," Marrero said during an interview in September. "He is a left-handed pitcher with a four-pitch arsenal. This is another guy who is very interesting. Very tall, sharp guy. He's a very sharp, confident, but quiet kid."

As a result of his fast start and the promotion of others, Kilichowski was moved up to Low-A Peoria. In the Midwest League, he made five starts before ending his season with a five-inning relief outing. Kilichowski put together a 3.74 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over 33 2/3 innings. He struck out 31 batters and cut his walks, allowing only four free passes.

Peoria pitching coach Dernier Orozco also like what he saw from Kilichowski.

"We had him for a month, month and a half and he was good," Orozco said. "He was able to throw his fastball with some sink action, induce a lot of groundballs, and mix it with the changeup and slider. He had some pitch limitations being a first-year draft guy. He was only able to go five, six innings with 70 pitches, but he controlled the strike zone well and induced early contact.

"He was able to attack early in the counts to induce early contact."

The big lefty fills up the strike zone, generating easy velocity while scouts graded his 81-84 mph changeup as an above-average pitch with fade out of the draft, but I had one pro scout give it a 45 grade this summer. The same scout said he has a plus curve at 74-78 mph that features power and depth as well as a good feel for an 82-86 mph slider. All project as average or better offerings.

Ultimately, Kilichowski's does not have ace-type stuff, but he has the overall package to be an innings-eating middle of the rotation horse if all goes well in his development. He should have a solid opportunity to open 2017 at High-A Palm Beach.


Brian Walton (43): Kilichowski was one of the recipients of the Cardinals’ savings in the draft accumulated by under-slot signings of Dylan Carlson in the first round and their inexpensive eighth through 10th round selections. The lefty received double the amount allowed for a post 10th-rounder without it applying to the cap, $200,000. That is roughly seventh-round money – good, but hardly a king’s ransom.

Physically, Kilichowski looks the part, but what I saw in instructional league was a pretty ordinary fastball, in the 88-91 range. I was present when the lefty achieved what may be his 15 minutes of fame, when in Port St. Lucie, he served up a home run ball to former Heisman Trophy winner and current Mets minor league outfielder Tim Tebow on one of those fastballs.

His first professional manager, Johnny Rodriguez at State College, is a huge supporter.

“If he stays healthy, this kid is going to pitch in the big leagues,” the manager said. “If he stays healthy - that is always the key. I like his attitude. He competes. He crosses the line and a different guy shows up on that mound. He really, really works well and fast and is not afraid.”

At that point, in July, Kilichowski had narrowed his offerings, but still had plenty of bullets remaining.

“He is using two pitches now, curveball and fastball,” Rodriguez said. “Remember that he did not pitch a lot at Vanderbilt.  I don’t know the amount of pitches that he made, but he did not throw a lot, so he should be able to pitch this summer. He has had injuries in the past. I am not sure exactly what they were. He was out for a while and did not pitch a lot this year.

“So far, so good. This kid is going to have an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues,” Rodriguez concluded. Shortly after, Kilichowski was on his way to the next step - the Midwest League. Between the two stops, the lefty pitched well enough to earn The Cardinal Nation's Rookie Starter of the Year award for 2016.

This fall, from the Arizona Fall League, Orozco looked back on Kilichowski’s late-summer arrival at Peoria.

“Kilichowski was one of the new draft guys, and he was good,” the coach said. “He went out there the first time, I saw him pitch five innings with 60-something pitches and you say, ‘Wow! The guy is good.’ So he was a little inconsistent, but that is part of the job.”

In an unconstrained environment, I would say that Kilichowski could move up to Palm Beach to open 2017. However, taking into account the volume of starting pitching competition ahead of him, a return to Peoria may be more likely.

TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: High (click here to review scales)


Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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