photo: Will Latcham (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Will Latcham is one of the more vibrant relievers you will find in the St. Louis Cardinals system.
He wants to carry all that energy with him on the mound.
“I try to just be a pound-for-pound guy,” Latcham said. “I am going to attack the strike zone at all costs and throw the ball as hard as I can whatever pitch it is – curveball or fastball. Throw it 120 percent. When I’m on that mound, it is my game. It is not theirs.”
Latcham has quickly emerged as a fast-rising late-inning relief prospect in the Cardinals organization, becoming only the second player taken from the 2017 draft to reach Double-A Springfield this season.
“It is definitely nice knowing that they almost trust me,” Latcham said. “But I’ve got to keep working. I don’t want to be satisfied being here (at Double-A). That doesn’t change anything. It is still the game of baseball. I still have to go out there and perform to stay here. It is not a given thing.
“There are people behind me trying to catch up, so that is how it is. It is just a dog-eat-dog environment.”
Relief weapon at Coastal Carolina
Latcham, a Briarcliffe, Pa. native, was a starting pitcher during his entire high school career, from his time on the mound at Cardinal O’Hara to his two-year stint in junior college.
When he joined Coastal Carolina in 2017 – the defending national champions – the coaching staff put him in the bullpen.
“They wanted me to close there,” Latcham said. “That was the best way to help them out, so I did that.”
But Latcham first had to earn the coaching staff’s trust as he was the team’s set-up man for a few appearances before he could take on the closer’s role.
Latcham adjusted well to being a reliever, going 3-0 with four saves and a 1.05 ERA at Coastal Carolina in 2017. He relishes pitching in high-leverage situations and doing whatever it takes to help his team win.
In fact, he has always had that competitive nature – dating back to when he was a kid.
“I used to play hockey back in my day,” Latcham said. “I guess that has a purpose in it. It is just my motivation, trying to keep climbing the ladder and be successful in this game.”
Fast-rise as a Cardinal
Latcham reaped the benefits of moving to the bullpen as he was drafted by the Cardinals in the 17th round shortly after his 2017 college season concluded.
He never pictured himself reaching this point, but it is the start of another dream. He made one dream by pitching at Coastal Carolina after spending two years at Cumberland County Community College.
“It’s something I will never forget,” Latcham said. “It was a special moment. It was a good thing for my family, friends, and all the people that supported me through it. It was just everything that I worked for paid off.”
Latcham did not skip a beat in his pro debut, posting a 2.05 ERA over 18 games for Low-A (short-season) State College. The right-hander struck out 41 batters and converted four saves in five chances through 30 ⅔ innings for the 2017 Spikes.
“What’s really not to like about the young man?”, State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “He’s a very competitive young man. He’s got a plus fastball with a plus power curveball. He shows some signs of having a feel for a changeup and we wish he would’ve thrown it more. That is what I was trying to get him to throw late in the year – to throw his changeup more, which he started to do.
“He’s got three pretty nice pitches. That fastball’s firm and his curveball is close to a 12-6. It’s probably not exactly a 12-6 but it’s sharp and it’s late. He’s another guy that threw strikes. He may have got tired towards the end of the year but he threw strikes, competed, and attacked hitters.”
Added Latcham, “As soon as they step into that box, it is your box. As long as you attack and can control your pitches, I think you will be successful.”
Latcham came into this spring with a lot to prove and earned a day in big-league spring training.
“That was awesome,” he said. “To be put in front of the lights. I didn’t play obviously, but just the opportunity to get to watch the guys that are paid who are doing it and making all that money. It is just good to learn from those guys, talk to them, and see what helped them in their routes to get there.”
Following spring training, the 22-year old opened his first full season at High-A Palm Beach, where he was once again the closer. Latcham had a 3.00 ERA in 34 games and notched nine saves in 13 chances, helping the team to a first-half title in the Florida State League South Division.
“(I’m) just sticking to my approach, attacking and trying to get ahead of hitters,” Latcham said as he reflected on his success with the Beach Birds. “Once you get ahead, just put them away and keep executing each pitch you have. Don’t give up and keep throwing as hard as I can every time I can.”
On July 5, Latcham was promoted to Double-A Springfield, where he helped shore up a floundering bullpen.
His presence was immediately noticed.
“(He has) makeup,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “Not afraid of the situation. Not afraid of a challenge. Not afraid of a stressful inning. He can come in with the bases loaded and no outs, first and second one out, and he is the same guy. Not perfect always, but I love bringing him out when things are down when the ships are about to go on fire or everything is chaotic.
“He is a stabilizer.”
After going 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in 10 games at Springfield, Latcham returned to Palm Beach to help them out in their playoff run.
While scouts say he has the potential to be a solid major-league middle reliever down the road, Latcham wants improve the control of his secondary pitches for now.
“Just being able to control my secondary pitches – curveball and changeup,” Latcham said. “Being able to throw them in any count will really help me out towards the job.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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