Alex FaGalde had no apparent trouble finding success in his Double-A debut on June 17. It was getting to Midland, Texas that was the hardest part.
FaGalde was promoted from High-A Palm Beach less than 48 hours before he took the hill at Security Bank Ballpark. By the time he arrived, he’d been put to the test. Flying from Palm Beach to Dallas to Midland, he went through multiple flight cancellations and delays due to weather.
He spent a total of 12 hours in the airport and over five in the air. And once he arrived to Midland, he got just a few hours of sleep. Then once he returned to the airport in the morning to receive all his luggage – the airline had lost one of his bags. A lone silver lining was that it wasn’t the one with the equipment he needed to play later that day.
“I had my baseball bag in time for the game, so that’s all I needed,” FaGalde said.
Finally able to put all the travel concerns behind him, FaGalde took the one bag he did have and headed to the ballpark to embark on the next chapter of his career. Taking the hill that evening, he said he felt physically and mentally wiped out, with the expected case of nerves and jitters that come with a debut.
But that only aided FaGalde.
TCN’s new no. 20 prospect made the longest start of his professional career in his first appearance with Springfield, striking out four over eight two-hit innings.
“I think initially (the travel concerns) kept my mind off it,” FaGalde said. “Those first game nerves almost picked me back up from being so tired with all the travel. It kind of leveled me out.”
Making baseball a profession
Despite the numbers he’s put up along the way, FaGalde has always been an under-the-radar type on the diamond.
He started his collegiate career as a walk-on at Cuesta College, a small junior college about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, California.
It was there that FaGalde said he realized he could make baseball a profession.
“I think I finally got to a point where I said, ‘Ok, I’m doing pretty well here and there might be an opportunity to play,’” FaGalde said. “I’ve always been preparing for the next level. If you are playing junior college ball and not preparing for D1, you are not doing it right.”
After two years at Cuesta, Cal Riverside recruited FaGalde for his senior year and he emerged as the Highlanders’ top starter. He compiled a 7-4 overall record with a 3.39 ERA and allowed only 70 hits in 79 ⅔ innings.
And sure enough, FaGalde’s performance in his senior campaign caught the attention of the Cardinals, who drafted him in the 30th round in 2017.
“I was very happy to be selected by the Cardinals,” FaGalde said. “I was actually asleep at the time and I dozed off on the couch for a little bit. My girlfriend woke me up and said, ‘Hey, you just got picked.’ Very memorable experience there.”
Excelling in pro ball
It’s safe to say wherever FaGalde has been in the Cardinals system, he has excelled and then some.
However after a solid professional debut in 2017 as a reliever in the GCL and at State College, FaGalde did not break 2018 spring training with a team. His first full-season opportunity didn’t come until May 18 when a roster spot opened up at Low-A Peoria.
FaGalde took off from there.
He was sensational in May and June for the Chiefs, posting ERAs of 2.12 (17 IP) and 2.08 (30.1 IP), respectively. Then came July.
Over five starts, FaGalde allowed just three earned runs and none over his final 18 innings pitched. His best start was his final outing with Peoria in which he struck out 10 batters over seven one-hit frames. That earned him a promotion to High-A Palm Beach on August 1.
He made seven starts with the Beach Birds, compiling a 3.20 ERA through 39 ⅓ innings of work.
“He is a supreme competitor,” 2018 Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “If you look at his stuff, nothing overwhelms you as far as velocity or an incredible off-speed pitch. He just does a really nice job of mixing well, competing, and paying attention to what guys are doing. He is very good at making adjustments.
“He understands who he is as a pitcher and what he needs to do. He goes out there and just executes a game plan. He was a very, very good stabilizing force with our younger pitchers. We were glad he moved up and had that sustained success.”
FaGalde attributed his success in his first full season of pro ball to throwing strikes and attacking the zone.
“They say, ‘Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in sports,’” FaGalde said. “If you are able to take away the free opportunities – stop walking people and stop doing things that are detrimental to your success – that simplifies everything. You are just going out and throwing rocks.”
Becoming a prospect
From starting the year in extended spring training to finishing at High-A, FaGalde came a long way in 2018. He asserted himself as TCN’s No. 46 prospect heading into the 2019 season.
“It is always a bummer when you start in extended,” FaGalde said. “It is not a place you want to be for long. Then I got to Peoria and went to Palm Beach. I did pretty well there again, so I just tried to keep moving.”
FaGalde returned to Palm Beach to open 2019 where he posted the Florida State League’s second-lowest ERA (1.99) and lowest WHIP (0.88) in the first half. He also was named TCN’s Pitcher of the Month for May.
That great start led to his selection to the FSL mid-season All-Star Team.
“It was amazing,” FaGalde said. “I don’t think I have been an All-Star since I was 13 or 14. It was a lot of fun and a great time being with all the guys. The festivities that go into all that. I had a great time.”
Immediately after the game, FaGalde was promoted to Springfield. In Double-A, he has allowed only two earned runs over his first four starts, spanning 25 ⅓ innings of work. That resulted in him repeating as TCN’s Pitcher of the Month, this time for June.
“He has a feel for how to pitch,” Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said. “He trusts his stuff and throws strikes. When those things come into play, you can really sense a guy has a good feeling for what he is doing out there. He has a little savvy to him in how to pitch. He understands what type of pitcher he is.
“He is a strike-thrower and induces soft contact. He doesn’t try to do any more than what he is capable of doing. He has had some great success with that.”
His recipe for success has been attacking hitters, keeping the walks down and forcing the opposition to swing at his pitches.
FaGalde said his best pitch is his 86-90 mph fastball, which hitters struggle to pick up and tend to swing through. He also throws a curveball, slider and split-changeup which vary in effectiveness from day to day.
The 25-year old said his slider has been working well this year and he has always been able to throw the splitter anytime in counts. His curveball is the newest pitch and there are days when he relies on it to get him through situations, he said.
“All in all, everything plays off my fastball.”
Despite his heater not featuring premium velocity, FaGalde’s fastball has an exceptional spin-rate that helps it play up.
“It is a little above-average, but I think more than anything, it is a really true spin,” FaGalde said. “I try to make it as true of a four-seam fastball spin as I can and then good location. Not too many hitters are going to miss fastball right down the middle. They are going to miss ones that are towards the corners.
“So, I try to do that.”
FaGalde also possesses plus control, which Baseball America rated as the best in the Cardinals system. He said that is a huge part of his game.
“Being able to work on the outside part of the zone – it’s more important for a guy that is throwing 88 or 90 than a guy throwing 95 or 100,” FaGalde said. “It is definitely something I try to take care of.”
His main goal going forward is to help Springfield win and make a playoff push in the second half. And while he’s not viewed as a legitimate prospect among scouts, FaGalde has defied the odds throughout his career and it is hard not to pay attention to the numbers he has put up.
Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.
Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.