Springfield, Mo – (4/19/17) Jack Flaherty may be the eighth ranked prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system, but in Springfield he’s locked in as the number one starter.
Heading into Monday’s game the Springfield Cardinals had lost three of the first four games of their home stand, and were sitting at a mediocre 5-5 record. They did what teams do when they have a rough patch: They hand the ball to their ace and trust him to stop the bleeding. Flaherty played the role of band aid in spectacular fashion. Seven and two thirds innings pitched. Nine strikeouts to one walk. Only two hits allowed. In fact, Flaherty was perfect through the first ten batters he faced. Most importantly, he got the win, his third in as many starts.
To say Flaherty has been the team MVP would be fair. Flaherty has a microscopic 0.42 earned run average. The rest of the pitching staff has a 4.83 ERA. Springfield is 4-5 when he doesn’t start, but thanks to his three wins they’re sitting at 7-5. That’s the best record in their division, and one game back of the Corpus Christi Hooks (8-4) for the best record in the Texas League.
Flaherty was the Cardinals first round draft pick in 2014 – 34th overall – yet in many ways this season is a huge step forward for him. Last year, while pitching for the single A+ Palm Beach Cardinals, Flaherty went 5-9 with a 3.56 ERA and a 25.2:9 strikeout to walk ratio. Before that year his minor league numbers were 10-4 with a 2.61 ERA and a 25:7 strikeout to walk ratio. It appeared like he wasn’t performing as well as he advanced up the minor league ladder. That’s certainly not a concern now.
Three starts is a pretty small sample size, and it would be unrealistic to expect Flaherty to maintain an ERA below one all year. That said, his peripherals (nineteen strikeouts to two walks) are solid, and it legitimately seems like Flaherty has taken his game to the next level. As long as he’s in Springfield his starts will continue to be must-see events. On that note, the biggest threat to his reign as team ace – and the team’s playoff hopes – are that he will be too good and get promoted to AAA Memphis.
Until that day, fans don’t have to worry about too much about their team. If they hit another rough patch, they have a pitcher as good as any band aid.