photo: Zack Thompson (University of Kentucky)
In the last eight years, since the St. Louis Cardinals selected Texas A&M pitcher Michael Wacha 19th overall in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the organization has handled many of their top pitching signees carefully in their first partial season as professionals.
The logic is that these players have already thrown a full collegiate schedule before the draft and risk of injury increases if they are asked to carry a full starting load with the Cardinals, as well.
Instead, these pitchers are placed at a much lower level than their skills warrant, typically the Gulf Coast League, due to its location in the Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida. There, the hurlers pitch a scripted inning roughly once per week.
Later in the summer, they are moved up, with their first stop often being high-A Palm Beach. Not only is it a better test for the pitchers’ skills, it is also right in the same facility. Only starting fresh the next spring after a winter of rest and following the Cardinals conditioning program are these pitchers stretched back out as a starter.
2019 first-rounder Jake Thompson, like Wacha the 19th overall selection in his draft, has taken the next step in this plan with his promotion from the GCL to Palm Beach. However, this move came fairly quickly – after Thompson made just two GCL appearances of one inning each.
— Palm Beach Cardinals (@GoPBCardinals) July 4, 2019
In those two scoreless GCL innings – one on June 28 and July 2 – the 21-year old yielded three hits, walked no one and fanned four.
With the relatively-early timing of this move (two months remain on the 2019 schedule) and with success in the Florida State League, Thompson could finish his first partial season like Wacha in 2012 – with Springfield of the Double-A Texas League.
Also on Thursday, July 4, the Cardinals promoted their second-drafted pitcher in 2019, third-round right-hander Tony Locey of the University of Georgia. His destination is Class-A Peoria of the Midwest League.
— Peoria Chiefs (@peoriachiefs) July 4, 2019
In the GCL, Locey, 20, pitched on the same two days, following Thompson each time with a scoreless frame of his own. He allowed just one hit, but walked two and struck out three.
In an interesting side story, Locey’s father Anthony also pitched for Peoria as a reliever in 1994. Anthony had been the Cubs’ 13th-round selection in the 1993 draft. (Tony was born several years later.)
The two – Thompson and Locey – become the first players in the Cardinals’ 2019 draft class (currently at 31 signed) to reach full-season ball.
The Cardinal Nation GCL reporter Paul Ivice covered the outings of both top draftees, including their most recent (and final) GCL appearances on Tuesday July 2nd. His report includes significant detail on their pitch offerings, velocities and more.
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As noted above, the Class-A Chiefs also receive pitcher Rodard Avelino from State College. The 20-year old, who is stepping up rapidly from the 2018 GCL, had an 8.31 ERA in five outings for the Spikes. Walks were a big problem, with 10 issued (plus two hit batters) in 4 1/3 innings. Avelino allowed just three hits, though, and fanned seven.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound native of the Dominican Republic was a July 2nd signing three years ago. He competed his first season and a half in the Dominican Summer League before finishing last summer in the GCL, always as a reliever. Avelino’s career ERA in 44 appearances over four seasons is 9.89.
For even more
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