With young pitchers Jason Motte and Chris Perez already filling important roles in the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen, the club has turned to another highly-rated relief prospect. Right-hander Jess Todd was promoted to The Show yesterday.
The 23-year-old hurler was the club’s second round draft pick out of the University of Arkansas in 2007. Todd flew through the minors and posted an overall ERA of just 2.87 in 235.2 innings of work. He spent time in college – as well as the low minors – as both a reliever and starter, but his approach and stuff is best-suited to relief work, which is the role he fulfilled at triple-A in 2009.
Todd allowed just 18 hits and seven walks (2.59 BB/9) in 24.1 innings of work this year. Opponents mustered just one home run (0.37 HR/9) against the hard-throwing reliever and struck out 32 times (11.84 K/9). Right-handed batters were hitting just .130 against Todd at triple-A, although lefties were hitting .297. His career splits are similar: .190 vs right-handed batters, .250 vs left-handed batters.
Todd is a sinker/slider pitcher, who can reach back and touch 94 mph with his fastball when he needs a little extra juice. His best pitch is his cutter, which is also the newest pitch in his arsenal. He’s done a good job of inducing ground balls with his sinker (career 50 GB%), and he has also limited the number of line drives hit against him (14%). Although he does not touch the mid-to-high 90s with has fastball like a lot of closers, Todd has the potential to be a dominating late-game reliever because of his combination of command/control, the movement on the cutter, and his ground-ball tendencies.
Here is a snippet from Todd’s 2007 pre-draft scouting report from Baseball America:
[Todd] opened the spring as the Razorbacks’ closer, and scouts envision him as a late-inning reliever in pro ball. Todd’s size (6 feet, 213 pounds) and violent delivery lend themselves more to that role, though he has shown a deep repertoire, command and durability as a college starter. His competitive nature will help succeed in either capacity.
With Motte (age 26) and Perez (23) also in the bullpen, the Cardinals organization has makings of a talented 1-2-3 punch at the back end of the bullpen, which could remain dominant for many years, barring injury.
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