photo: Ryan Loutos (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 countdown for 2023 reaches no. 40 with a reliever who shot through three levels and finished 2022 with a solid turn in the Arizona Fall League, but is still a work in progress. FREE report!
Age: 23 years old
Height/Weight – 6’5/215
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 13, 2021
Home: Barrington, Illinois
Opened 2022: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Primary team in 2022: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
Finished 2022: Arizona Fall League
Prior Top 50 ranking – unranked
Click on the above photo to be taken to Loutos’ player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Blake Newberry’s scouting report
Blake’s ranking – no. 33
(current grade/future grade)
Before I get into Loutos’ scouting report I first want to mention his background because it’s unique for someone on the doorstep of the major leagues.
The tall right-hander went undrafted in the 2021 draft after playing four years at Washington University in St. Louis and even making the starting rotation as a freshman. He wasn’t just a baseball player, though. While in college he majored in computer science and used his knowledge to build a website for his team to store data. After graduating and not getting drafted, he was prepared to take a job at Morningstar Inc. where his salary would have been a minimum of $70,000
That means he actually took a pay cut when the Cardinals offered him a $20,000 bonus and a minor league salary. He was assigned to Palm Beach after joining the organization and then rose three levels in his first full year in 2022. And on top of that, he is also helping the Cardinals front office and analytics department create player reports and interfaces.
It looks like he has a long future in baseball ahead of him, even after his playing days are over. For more about Loutos, you can read his excellent interview with Geoff Pontes of Baseball America.
Righthander Ryan Loutos is pulling double duty in the Cardinals organization. A computer science major at Wash U., Loutos is both pitching at Triple-A and helping the Cardinals analytics staff build player reports and interfaces.@GeoffPontesBA has more.https://t.co/QII1e8xVBP
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) September 28, 2022
Loutos is not only a good pitcher but also a smart guy, and that combination of skill and intangibles makes him a good bet to reach the major leagues and take a nice jump through in these rankings next season. I feel that I under-ranked him a little bit and I would love for him to make me look dumb next season.
Now, let’s get back to what he does as a player. Loutos is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher but he also throws a curveball and a changeup. He actually threw 5-6 pitches in college so he has really simplified his arsenal to his two best pitches.
His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98 and it also gets a good amount of late run. It excels at the top of the zone and it plays well to his arm side where it pairs nicely with his sweepy slider that sits in the mid-to-upper 80s.
His curveball has more depth than his slider but is also a little loopier and definitely not as good of a pitch. He may mix in a few curveballs to keep hitters off balance with a slower speed and different movement profile but otherwise he won’t throw it often. That’s a perfectly fine approach for him as his solid two-pitch mix gives him enough to be successful.
I ranked him where I did for a few reasons. The first is a slight concern over his Triple-A results. His ERA jumped from 1.61 in Springfield to 6.33 in Memphis with his FIP going from 2.91 to 4.73. This, as I said, is only a slight concern for me for two reasons. The first is that his xFIPs were practically identical at each level. The second is that he jumped from D-3 baseball to Triple-A baseball in a year. No matter how good he is, that’s a tough transition to make so quickly.
His AFL success (2.57 ERA in 14 IP) also alleviates some of my concerns.
Another concern is that his once sterling walk rates (5.5% in High-A, 5.7% in Single-A), jumped to 11.0% in Double-A and 9.2% in Triple-A. He can get whiffs but limiting walks would help take him to the next level.
My final concern is not performance related but something I noticed from his AFL video. He seems to have different release points with his fastball and his slider.
Here’s the release point of his fastball.
And here’s the release point of his breaking ball.
Now, I said “breaking ball” because from the videos that I’ve seen of him, his release point looks the same for both his curveball and his slider.
Regardless, there is a clear difference. When he throws the breaking ball, it comes out of a more over-the-top arm slot. That issue and the elevated walk rate tells me that he needs more refinement before he’s ready to join the major league bullpen.
If a hitter can pick up the release point difference, it can tip him off as to what pitch is coming. It’s subtle but dangerous. Loutos would benefit from dropping his release point down a bit on his slider, and since he throws more of a sweeper, getting around the ball instead of over the top of it would actually work well.
Summary: Ryan Loutos has a great fastball/slider combo that is likely to carry him to the MLB bullpen as soon as 2023 but he needs to clean up his breaking ball release points and some control issues to really maximize his plus arsenal.
Future Value: 35
Role: AAAA guy/middle relief
Brian Walton’s environmental impact report
Brian’s ranking – no. 44
Loutos was not selected in the 20-round 2021 draft. However, the record-setting 6-foot-5, 225-pounder from Washington University evaluated his options and chose to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals in July 2021. Loutos (pronounced LOOT-us) was already known, performing well in the Northwoods League and pitching in the Division III College World Series, and felt the Cardinals were a good fit.
Opening the professional phase of his career with Low-A Palm Beach, he fanned 26 against six walks in 22 2/3 innings, but also yielded 14 earned runs on 28 hits for a 5.56 ERA in 2021.
2022 recap – professional
In 2022, Loutos put the pedal to the proverbial metal, wearing four different uniforms He opened at High-A Peoria, then passed through Double-A Springfield before earning another promotion, this one to Memphis, often pitching in late inning situations all along the way.
For the Chiefs, Loutos was their best reliever. He appeared in nine games, totaling 14 1/3 innings and logging a 3.24 ERA for a team that had a 5.61 bullpen ERA at the time, worst in the Midwest League. Loutos held opposing hitters to a collective .224 average, walked just three and struck out 17. He converted four of six save opportunities.
On May 17, he was promoted to Springfield. Unlike most relievers on the Double-A Cards (team bullpen ERA of 5.82 in 2022), Loutos stood out for all the right reasons. Over 22 1/3 Texas League innings covering 15 appearances, he crafted a 1.61 ERA with a 1-1 record and converted all three save opportunities. Loutos struck out 26 and walked 10.
Though his Triple-A results were not as strong as at his other two stops, he showed improvement with more reps at each level. For the season, Loutos finished third in the Cardinals system in three key categories. He saved nine games, finished 28 contests and made 46 appearances.
It is rare for a player to finish his first full season at Triple-A, but Loutos took it one step further by accepting the Cardinals’ invitation to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. After a bumpy beginning, Loutos pitched exceptionally well for the Salt River Rafters. Overall, Loutos tossed 14 relief innings in the desert with a 2.57 ERA. He fanned 13 batters and walked four.
“It (2022) definitely exceeded my expectations,” Loutos said from the AFL. “I would like to have done a little bit better in Triple-A, but all things considered in my first full season, it blew my expectations out of the water. It made the season a little shorter by being able to start fresh with each team. It felt like a new season in and of itself. It has been a lot of fun.“
As Blake noted, Loutos has work to do before mastering Triple-A, but even as a free agent signing, he is ahead of the game compared to every one of the 12 pitchers the Cardinals drafted in 2021.
I expect his 2023 to be just the opposite of his 2022 in one aspect. Quite likely, Loutos will go from wearing four uniforms in a season to just one. Staying with the Redbirds all season long seems the most likely (albeit conservative) scenario.
What is not under his control are those apparently ahead of him. If the season was to open today, Memphis would have at least five relievers who already hold 40-man roster spots (which Loutos does not), most of whom also have prior MLB experience. They are Genesis Cabrera, JoJo Romero, James Naile, Jake Walsh and Freddy Pacheco. Depending on other organization moves during the rest of the off-season, others may join them. As a result, Loutos may have to bide his time until this quintet receives their 2023 opportunities.
What is under his control is to continue to improve and make the necessary fine tuning adjustments needed to maximize his effectiveness against Triple-A and major league hitters alike.
When I spoke with Ryan in Arizona, he readily accepted that he is a work in progress and outlined his plan for three secondary pitches.
“I relied on my slider a lot this year (2022) just because I could command it,” Loutos said. “It had a little bit of sink to it, so it was good with righties especially. I could get guys to freeze and chase off the plate a little bit. But I have backed off it a little bit, trying to use my curveball more.”
The Cardinals are especially intrigued by Loutos’ knuckle curve and want to see more.
“I started throwing it my senior year in college,” he recalled. “I didn’t really throw it a ton. I knew it was a pretty good pitch but I really didn’t need it and didn’t command it that well.
“I know it is something the Cardinals want me to do and throw more because it is such a good pitch. Getting the feel for it and throwing it more and more, and coming out here (AFL), is a good opportunity to work on it a lot… I think it is going to lead to a lot of good results long term.”
That isn’t all.
“I’ve been working on a cutter in the Fall League as well,” the pitcher noted. “We will see what it will turn into. It is something to bridge the gap between my curveball and fastball.”
If Loutos can make these improvements and refine his offerings, he could jump the line and reach St. Louis in 2023. I am just not projecting it yet.
Because Loutos has reached Triple-A so quickly, he is more of a work in progress than most others at the level. This is good for him but makes identifying his ceiling a bit more challenging. The raw materials are there, so depending on what he does with them, he could have a decent career ahead as a major league middle relief staple or become an up-and-down, journeyman type of pitcher.
Surely, Loutos won’t be added to the 40-man roster until the day he is first called up, probably in 2024. However, he would not become Rule 5 eligible until after that season, anyway. So again, his rapid advancement in 2022 gives the Cardinals more room to ensure his development makes him MLB-ready.
MLB debut: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
Related interview for members of The Cardinal Nation
Our 2023 Top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.
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