photo: Seth Elledge (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with the first player drafted in 2017 to reach Triple-A Memphis, a big, strapping right-handed reliever acquired from Seattle.
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Link to Seth Elledge’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2018 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: medium (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (28): Seth Elledge, the return from the Sam Tuivailala trade with the Mariners, is the 28th highest rated player during the community vote. Elledge finished just behind a slew of position players, indicating a clear divide from the higher-rated pitchers in the system and the second tier of pitchers. Dennis Johnson began voting for Elledge first at #14.
Stlcard25 remarked that Elledge has excellent K rates and a good WHIP in his career. He thinks that Elledge will factor into the bullpen as soon as 2019. Bw52 liked that Elledge, a hard-throwing reliever, had 74 strikeouts in his 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Cardinals27 echoed that, saying that Elledge has a mid-90’s fastball and supposedly could gain velocity. CariocaCardinal believes Elledge has starter potential even. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (31): When Elledge was traded to the Cardinals this past summer from the Mariners in exchange for right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, he admitted he was surprised.
“There was definitely a little bit of a shock-factor,” Elledge said. “Being with the Mariners for the last year – that is kind of all that you think about. Whenever the news came, I was excited for a fresh start with a new team.
“It was quite the adrenaline rush knowing that I was getting traded to an organization as good as the Cardinals. I enjoyed my time with the Mariners. I feel like I developed a lot as a person and as a pitcher. I just want to thank them for drafting me and believing in me and giving me a chance to start my pro career.”
Elledge, who was drafted by Seattle two years ago in the fourth round out of Dallas Baptist, is yet another in the long line of hard-throwing relievers to come from that program. It is a program that preaches its pitchers’ velocity gains and sharpening off-speed offerings.
The 6-foot-3, 230 pounder, took to that philosophy and saw his fastball tick up to 92-95 with the ability to touch 96-97 mph. That helped him become the Patriots’ all-time saves leader, converting 27 saves.
With a lively fastball, Elledge also developed a hard curveball which was considered major league average going into the 2017 draft. That combination allowed him to strike out 11.9 batters per nine innings in his final season with Dallas Baptist.
After receiving $400,000 signing bonus, Elledge began his pro career with the Low-A (short-season) Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League.
After appearing in four games with Everett, he was promoted to Low-A Clinton in the Midwest League, finishing his debut summer there with a 3.00 ERA over 15 games and 35-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio through 38 ⅓ innings pitched.
Evaluators in the industry took notice of Elledge. Baseball America rated him as Seattle’s No. 17 prospect following the 2017 season with scouts raving about his high-spin fastball and deceptiveness that induces a lot of swings and misses by opposing hitters.
Elledge’s outstanding success continued into his first full season in 2018. He posted an excellent 1.17 ERA in 38 ⅓ innings at Modesto in the High-A California League, which is a very hitter-friendly league. He also sported an impressive 54-to-15 strikeout to walk ratio and had a stretch where Cal League hitters went 0-for-38 against him.
Modesto pitching coach Pete Woodsworth gave his assessment of Elledge.
“I have seen a guy that when he is in the right situation, a save situation with a little pressure, he rises to the occasion,” Woodsworth said. “He has a switch that he can flip on which is very rare to see at his age, having that closer mentality.
“When he flips that switch on, he throws bowling balls and atom bombs. He is very difficult to square up. With two pitches, he gives righties and lefties a very uncomfortable AB.”
Elledge credited his success at Modesto to having a more consistent second pitch this season.
“My main goal coming into this year was sharpening my curveball and making that a true number two weapon to play off my fastball,” Elledge said. “Just being able to throw it for strikes and being able to throw it for a put-away pitch to complement my fastball. I would probably say that has been my biggest growth from last year to this year.”
Prior to the trade, Baseball America rated Elledge as the M’s 10th-best prospect, which stood out to the Cardinals’ brass.
“When we’re looking at where we need to be the rest of this season and into next year, we were a little nervous about guys without options and not having that flexibility as we move forward,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said regarding Tuivailala.
“Trying to get someone like we did in that trade made a lot of sense to us in Elledge because he gives us that flexibility. He’s someone we believe will move quickly.”
Elledge was assigned to Double-A Springfield, where he posted a 4.32 ERA over 13 games. The 22 year old converted four saves in six chances, striking out 20 batters through 16 ⅔ innings pitched.
The reliever was asked if the natural movement he generates on his fastball is something he has always possessed.
“Yeah, I guess you could say so,” Elledge replied. “That is not something I strive for. I guess it just kind of happens whenever I throw it. I really just try to throw it with full intent, aggressiveness, and attack the hitter with it.”
Something that also stands out about Elledge is his deceptive delivery, which is both high-energy and high-effort, but he has shown he can repeat it well and command his two pitches.
“I really don’t know (where the deceptiveness comes from),” Elledge said. “I have heard that term thrown around. I like to think of it as a positive, so I just go out there and do my thing. The deception helps. I don’t really think there is anything that I can do that can generate that. It is definitely a good tool to have in my back-pocket.”
With the potential to be a seventh inning to set-up man in the big-leagues, Elledge is expected to be ready for the majors sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, though, he should open 2019 at Triple-A Memphis.
Brian Walton (30): Despite being big and durable at 6-foot-3, 230-pounds, Elledge was a true under-the-radar acquisition among the flurry of moves of prospects into St. Louis’ system for major leaguers that occurred in July.
Though the most recent of the Cardinals’ seven trade acquisitions to have turned professional, Elledge could be the first to make an impact with St. Louis. In fact, Seattle’s fourth-round selection in 2017 could help make up some for what has been to date is a disappointing 2017 Cardinals draft class to date. When he was promoted to Memphis as the regular season neared its end, Elledge became the first player from that year’s draft to reach the Triple-A Redbirds – ahead of all 38 players drafted by St. Louis.
A fast riser in Seattle’s system before the Tuivailala trade, the sturdily-built reliever had saved all nine opportunities with a 1.17 ERA at high-A Modesto, and was named a California League mid-season All-Star. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Elledge was in the system of wheeler-dealer Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto, known for his numerous trades, many of which have strained Seattle’s farm depth to the maximum.
The Mariners’ loss is the Cardinals’ gain. When announcing the deal, the Cardinals disclosed their expectation that Elledge’s rapid ascension would continue. They proved it by immediately promoting the 22-year old to Double-A Springfield, and then upward to Memphis as mentioned above. At his final stop, the Frisco, Texas native logged valuable post-season experience, tossing a scoreless frame against Fresno and likely previewing his initial 2019 destination.
The fastball/curveball specialist impressed his first Cardinals manager, Johnny Rodriguez.
“(He is) a competitor,” Springfield’s leader said. “He competes and throws strikes. Not afraid. The ball has life. It gets on you quick and he has a deceptive delivery. You can just see it when he gets going. It’s hard to pick up. The hitters don’t get going on time. He is 92-to-95 (mph) with some finish.
“I call him “Edge,” because that is what he gives me,” Rodriguez said.
Looking at Elledge’s numbers, there are several suggestions his impact in Springfield was greater than his 4.32 ERA. These include a .220 batting average against, a 20-to-6 strikeout to walk count and a 1.14 WHIP. Three home runs hurt, but all three were in his final trio of Double-A outings. Perhaps the grind of his first full professional campaign, consisting of 45 outings, manifested itself in this manner.
Two different scouts queried agreed independently that Elledge could contribute to St. Louis’ bullpen as soon as 2019. While he is still several years from Rule 5 consideration, he can force the 40-man and 25-man issue with continued strong performances, because there will always be a need for bullpen help in St. Louis – if not one week, then the next.
I set his initial scouting grade at “4 medium,” meaning an impact reliever ceiling with some, but not extensive, gains needed to get there. The more Elledges the Cardinals can find and develop, the fewer veteran reliever disappointment risks they will need to take. And who can disagree with that approach?
Our 2019 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!
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