photo: John Beller (University of Southern California)
The St. Louis Cardinals once again reached into scouting director Randy Flores’s alma mater as they signed University of Southern California left-handed pitcher John Beller to a minor league contract, announced by the club on Saturday.
Beller is the Cardinals’ ninth undrafted free agent signee since the signing period opened on June 15. This marks the third straight summer Flores has either signed or drafted a player from his former school and employer.
Then-Trojan right-hander Connor Lunn was taken in the 11th round of last year’s draft after outfielder Lars Nootbaar was drafted in the eighth round in 2018.
Beller, 21, had a three-year career at USC and last summer enjoyed a solid stint in the Cape Cod League. In the Cape, the Hermosa Beach, California native was used mostly as a starter, where he compiled a 1-2 record with a 3.52 ERA over seven games (six starts) for the Yarmouth Red Sox.
He struck out 32 batters and walked only nine through 30 ⅔ innings of work. With the Trojans, Beller split time between the rotation and bullpen. He made two starts in four appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and posted a 3-0 record and 1.12 ERA.
Both ranked seventh in the Pac-12. He also struck out a team-high 25 batters while walking just six in 24 innings pitched.
From a scouting standpoint, Baseball America describes Beller as a “pitchability lefty” who excels above his stuff. His 87-90 mph fastball plays up thanks to deception from a high leg kick, and he finishes batters with a sharp, above-average slider that generates swings and misses.
BA says his changeup grades out as an average or better offering and he mixes in an effective backdoor curveball when needed. Beller throws all four of his pitches for strikes and is lauded for going after hitters.
“And he is an elite competitor, who pitches his best against top competition,” BA’s scouting report says.
Perhaps Beller’s best performance to date was when he dominated No. 2 Vanderbilt this season, giving up just two hits and one run over eight innings.
Most recently, Beller has been staying sharp playing summer baseball. He’s currently pitching for the Tulsa Drillers in the Texas Collegiate League, where he has a 0.90 ERA in four games (three starts).
Like most of the 2020 draft class and all of the undrafted free agent signings, it’s unknown when and where Beller will start his professional career with the Cardinals.
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