RP Rowan Wick
Interestingly, the most intriguing relief prospect in the Cardinals’ system has been a guy who, as recently as last spring, was considered one of the organization’s best power-hitting prospects: Rowan Wick. This has been Wick’s first full season as a pitcher, after he decided to switch positions in the middle of last season and pitched in just three Gulf Coast League games. While starting the 2016 season at High-A Palm Beach, he was dominant, posting a 1.09 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .178 opponent batting average with 37 strikeouts and six walks over 24 2/3 innings. He collected six saves in eight opportunities.
Wick was promoted to Double-A on June 21, and command issues–which perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, have started occurring around the same time that Wick spent a week on the DL with general arm fatigue–have limited his success in the upper minors. While Wick has given up six walks in 4 2/3 innings since returning from the DL, four of his five appearances during that period have been scoreless ones. Over 12 2/3 total Double-A innings spanning 16 appearances, Wick has a 4.26 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and .229 opponent batting average. His strong start in High-A, though, has inspired enough confidence that his aggressive approach and mid-90s fastball velocity can eventually propel him to the major leagues.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Sherriff
26-year-old lefty Ryan Sherriff is this year’s guy who comes out of nowhere to develop into a big-league quality player. While some of the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder’s numbers still leave some question as to how successful he’ll be in the majors, the fact that Sherriff has posted a 2.92 ERA over a full season in the Pacific Coast League simply can’t be ignored.
He hasn’t been dominant at keeping runners off base–he’s got a .255 opponent batting average and 1.35 WHIP–and he’s not exactly a strikeout artist, having punched out just 48 hitters in 61 2/3 innings. On the plus side, he’s walked just 22 hitters over that period.
There aren’t going to be a whole lot of obvious opportunities for Sherriff in the Cardinals’ pen; Kevin Siegrist, Zach Duke, and Tyler Lyons are under contract for next year, while Dean Kiekhefer has been pretty effective when given opportunities at Triple-A or in the major this year, and Marco Gonzales could be converted to relief once he returns from Tommy John surgery. One would think that if Sherriff continues to keep runners from scoring, though, he’ll get a big-league opportunity at some point, whether it’s with the Cardinals or another club. Considering that Sherriff will be a six-year minor-league free agent this offseason, the latter might be more likely than the former.