With the Rule 5 Draft approaching, the St. Louis Cardinals have decided to protect four players. One of those players is RHP Rowan Wick.
This was a huge surprise to me considering the help the bullpen needs with lefties. With Tim Cooney being claimed by Cleveland, plus the injuries to Zach Duke and Tyler Lyons, these “moves” open up a huge hole within the St. Louis Cardinals relievers.
Brett Cecil was signed, which adds some lefty depth. So now to start the season Cecil and Kevin Siegrist are the lone lefties patrolling the bullpen. Lyons is on pace to come back early in the season, but his knee problems pose an issue of how long he will stay healthy.
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Sitting in Triple-A is a perfectly solid candidate to help the bullpen next year. Ryan Sheriff, 26, had a productive year as a reliever in 2016. He posted an ERA of 2.84 in sixty-six innings. He has played at a higher level than Wick. That makes Sheriff highly susceptible to be taken away from the organization during the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
The question in my mind is why Rowan Wick? As a Double-A pitcher for nineteen innings, he would not have proved enough for another team to decide he is ready to be on a big league roster for a year. Especially adding the fact that he recently became a pitcher– Wick was drafted to play right field.
Converting from an outfielder to a pitcher means a few things. First off, Wick will throw hard. At the professional level, outfielders need to have live arms. If you don’t believe that, Wick has struck out fifty-eight batters in forty-six innings of work in the minors. Certainly a power arm.
Second, it means that he will have a tough road ahead learning certain mechanics. Professional coaches will expedite the process of the learning curve, but this will be key for Wick to get all the power and control he can from his delivery.
Moving from the outfield to pitching brings with it health issue. Outfielders arms will generally take longer to get through a throwing zone. If that happens while pitching, his arm will drag behind his body and a lot of stress will be put on his elbow and shoulder. That has caused him injury, and will continue to be a problem if left unaddressed.
The mechanics of throwing are very delicate, but it is important he not shorten up his arm too much. That could be detrimental too. Pitching mechanics are a complicated matter that take a long time to learn. But, again, the balance should easily be found and taught by the coaches.
Finally, it means that he is showing great potential. If the St. Louis Cardinals chose to protect him, the project must be going well. 2016 was Wick’s first real season as a pitcher. He threw in only three games in 2015 due to elbow injuries. As his mechanics bettered, he was able to pitch in more games and remain healthy.
One of the biggest problems that would affect a new pitcher is control. Wick did well with this at the Class-A level by walking only six batters in twenty-four innings. Those numbers declined at Double-A, where in nineteen innings he threw fourteen walks.
Wick has been spending time with top prospects in the Arizona Fall League. He threw ten relief innings with eight strikeouts and six walks. That translated to him having a 4.70 ERA. To his credit, he performed better than Sheriff in this league.
The high velocity has to be the reason for Wick being kept. He will still need to develop an out-pitch, whether it be a curveball or a changeup. That will take at least another season if he is progressing that quickly. I can see the upside of Wick. If he stays healthy and works at it then he could possibly be groomed as the closer of the future.
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Only time will tell if protecting Wick was the correct choice. By the numbers it is hard to justify, but baseball is a game beyond statistics. I hope to see Rowan Wick succeed. By protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals are showing a great deal of confidence that he will.