TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #25 – Zack Showalter

photo: Zack Showalter (MiLB.TV)

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches no. 25 with a high-potential 19-year-old right-hander plucked from the Baltimore organization in the Jack Flaherty trade.

Zack Showalter

Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 19 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’2/195
Acquired: Acquired from Baltimore with Cesar Prieto and Drew Rom for Jack Flaherty on August 1, 2023. Originally selected by the Orioles in the 11th round of the 2022 First-Year Player Draft, 271st overall.

Home: Wesley Chapel, Florida

Opened 2023: Florida Complex League Orioles (rookie)
Primary team in 2023: Delmarva Shorebirds (Low-A)
Finished 2023: Palm Beach Cardinals injured list (Low-A)

Prior Top 50 ranking – not applicable

Click on the above photo to be taken to Showalter’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Showalter’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 25

(current grade/future grade)

FB CB CH Command Future Value
50/60 40/50 40/55 35/50 40
31.1 10 8 2.30 1.31 31.6% 11.3% 0.3 20.3% 1.95 (FCL)

3.85 (A)

2.58 (FCL)

4.28 (A)

45.2% .350 (FCL)

.346 (A)

Showalter is the highest upside prospect the Cardinals received from the Orioles in the Jack Flaherty trade. The only reason Cesar Prieto is ranked higher is because he has a longer track record and less risk.

There’s a lot of variance in Showalter’s profile but that comes with the territory for a 19-year-old with less than 25 innings of full-season ball under his belt. The reason he’s ranked this high is because he has an incredibly promising arsenal.

Showalter has a four-pitch mix consisting of a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a curveball, and a changeup. Each pitch profiles well. I have him as average or better across the board, but I will freely admit that because of Showalter’s limited track record those grades are subject to change.

There are things to like about each pitch. Showalter doesn’t have elite velocity as he sits in the low 90s with his fastball and the mid-70s with curveball. Still, his delivery is unorthodox enough to provide hitters with a different look and his low release helps his fastball play up in the zone.

The fastball typically gets around 15-16 inches of ride on average, which is pedestrian, but it comes from an incredibly low release point. That means it has a flat vertical approach angle which gives the pitch an advantage at the top of the zone. Showalter is still developing his command, so his fastball doesn’t hit the top of the zone with enough consistency, but I expect that to improve. Some of that is also due to intent as Showalter targets the bottom of the zone and I think that is something that he should be tweaking.

The pitch is designed to miss bats up in the zone and it won’t reach its full potential if it’s kept at the knees.

I’m willing to call his fastball a potential plus pitch because I think the righty can run into some velocity as he matures. If he doesn’t, then it’s probably more of an above average offering.

The other fastball in Showalter’s arsenal is a sinker that gets some ride along with some run but it’s not nearly as impressive as Showalter’s four-seamer. It’s fine if he wants to break out the sinker from time to time but his unique fastball traits are tailored for a four-seamer oriented approach.

The right-hander’s curveball is also a strong offering that gets decent depth and a ton of glove side sweep. The example below isn’t a great one for seeing the glove side sweep because the pitch backed up on him, but it can still give you an idea of what the curveball looks like.

The pitch is almost slider-ish (actually, sweeperish) in terms of its movement profile but has a little more depth than the average sweeper and so gets the curveball tag.

The final pitch in Showalter’s arsenal is a changeup that gets a lot of run. He threw it only once in his lone inning in the Cardinals organization and it had nearly 20 inches of arm side run. That’s an incredible amount of run and I’m bullish because of it (and because of the other changeups that I’ve seen Showalter throw when he was still an Orioles farmhand).

It’s a firm changeup with only about six mph of velocity separation from the fastball but Showalter’s changeup is lively enough to still be effective and miss bats. While I have this pitch graded as a 55 now, I wouldn’t be shocked to see it become his best pitch as he continues to develop his feel for it. The movement profile is just that good.

Currently, though, his feel for the pitch isn’t great and that may be a limiting factor for him going forward. Showalter struggles to command the offering and can often miss heavily to his arm side.

The command of his arsenal may be limited in general long term due to the weird nature of his delivery, but I’ve seen enough to think that he has a chance of reaching average command or settling a tick below that. If his stuff continues to develop and cement its promise, then it should be more than enough command for Showalter to find success.

The righty is one of the pitchers I’m most excited to watch in 2024 and putting him right at the halfway mark of our countdown feels like a good spot for a raw but talented pitcher with intriguing stuff.

Summary: An unorthodox release gives Zack Showalter unique fastball metrics but his whole arsenal grades out well and could lead to him becoming a true bat misser in the rotation.

Future Value: 40
Role: Backend starter/middle reliever
Risk: Extreme

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 28

In my ranking process, I could not yet put the new acquisition ahead of a pitcher who had done well in the Peoria rotation in Inohan Paniagua. Despite Showalter’s high potential, I have concerns with his control struggles and his results against left-handed batters, but I will gladly be more aggressive with his ranking if he can make improvements with his new organization.


Showalter (unrelated to former Orioles and Mets manager Buck Showalter) was well known in prospect circles, having committed to the University of South Florida before his sophomore year. Coming out of Wesley Chapel (Florida) High School in 2022, he was ranked 84th of the seniors in his high school class by Perfect Game.

In his final year, Showalter posted a 0.78 ERA in nine games, with 18 hits allowed, 16 walks and 89 strikeouts in 45 innings.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righty was the Orioles 11th round selection, 317th overall, and received a whopping $440,000 to turn his back on college and sign. To put that bonus into context, the Cardinals have not spent that much on any post-10th-rounder since giving first baseman Brady Whalen $475,000 back in 2016.

Not unlike how the Cardinals handle most first-year pitchers post-draft, the Orioles held off Showalter’s professional debut until 2023.

2023 recap

Showalter began with minor league spring training, then extended spring training before debuting in the Florida Complex League in June. He allowed just one run in three starts totaling 10 innings for a 0.90 ERA. He fanned 16 and walked just four while holding opposing batters to a .194 average.

That beginning earned him a promotion to Low-A Delmarva in late June. For the Shorebirds, Showalter made six appearances including five starts. He delivered a 3.10 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts against 10 walks in 20 1/3 innings.

Between the two stops, Showalter had a 2.37 ERA, 31.8% strikeout rate (41 strikeouts) and a 10.9% walk rate (14 free passes).  He gave up just one long ball and posted a 46% ground ball rate.

To put that K rate into perspective, it was higher than any starter who spent all of 2023 in the Cardinals organization and even greater than the rates posted by the top strikeout relievers in the system, including Top 50 prospects Andre Granillo and Andrew Marrero.

However, a concern not documented earlier is Showalter’s results against left handers, who posted a .933 OPS against him compared to a very stingy .525 by righties.

Following the August 1 trade, Showalter was initially assigned to High-A Peoria before he was quickly re-routed to Low-A Palm Beach. I was unable to confirm if it was health related.

While his Cardinals system debut was anticipated, he had just one short outing with the Beach Birds before going on the injured list. The reason was not reported. He had tossed a scoreless inning with a walk and a strikeout.

Showalter did not return, missing the entire final month of the season, sitting out from August 11 on.

2024 outlook

Given his relatively brief period at Low-A last summer, Showalter is likely slated to take a place in the Palm Beach rotation in April – assuming his good health.

Still, because he had a head start at Low-A in 2023, a mid-season promotion to High-A Peoria could follow a good first half of 2024.

Future outlook

While his unorthodox mechanics and high effort, complicated delivery cause some to project Showalter as a future reliever, my guess is that he will continue to start for the foreseeable future. His deceptiveness is a plus.

As a starter, a progression to Double-A during 2025 and Triple-A sometime in 2026 seem reasonable. That fall, Showalter will need protection from the Rule 5 draft.

The majors are still a long way from here, his career has been very brief, and we have seen almost nothing of it, so for now I will target his St. Louis arrival in 2027. As for most pitchers, a shift to relief could accelerate the timing of his moves ahead, however, it could also limit his potential ceiling.

MLB debut: 2027
Rule 5 eligible: 2026

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #26 – Andre Granillo

Our 2024 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2024

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