Viva El Birdos: Interview with St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Joe Kelly

GIF Credit: MLB GIFS

GIF Credit: MLB GIFS

As most of you already know, I have moved my blogging ability over to SB Nation’s Viva El Birdos.

Don’t worry, I am still known as stlCupofJoe over there as well. That is something I hope I am able to retain for the entirety of my blogging “career.”

I am so grateful for the amount of opportunities I have had since joining Viva El Birdos. I have been able to interview many of the Cardinals top prospects: Lee StoppelmanKurt Heyer, Joe Cuda, Alex Reyes, Carson Kelly, Rob Kaminsky, and Oscar Mercado. I still have interviews set to publish on Marco Gonzales and Randal Grichuk later this week. If you have missed any of the above interviews or just would like to read them again, feel free to check them out by clicking on the player’s name.

Each one of those interviews have been absolutely awesome. However, I am writing this post to bring your attention to the biggest interview I have had in my short blogging career. I was able to exchange questions and answers with St. Louis Cardinals hybrid pitcher, Joe Kelly, and the link to that interview can be found here. I can assure you that this interview is in the “must-read” category for all Cardinals fans because some of his answers are absolutely priceless.

Also, I am in charge of managing the site’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, so if you have accounts on either of those, make sure to give us a follow or a like:

You can follow us on Twitter: @vivaelbirdos or Facebook: Viva El Birdos.

Thank you so much for your continued support, and I hope you have continued to follow me at my new location.

Go Cards!

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Looking Back at James Ramsey, Jordan Swagerty, Kurt Heyer, Carson Kelly

As most of you already know, I picked up sports blogging for the first time this summer. I enjoyed providing you with my take on various topics, but my favorite part had to be the interviews I had with a handful of Cardinal prospects.

All four of the players I interviewed can be considered top prospects for the organization, yet they were more than happy to help me out with my blog. This speaks volumes about the players that the Cardinals draft. It shows that the organization is not only drafting high quality players, but high quality men as well.

Now that the 2013 minor league regular seasons are over, let’s take a look back at the seasons of the four players that I was lucky enough to interview this summer.

James Ramsey

Photo Credit: Picasa

Photo Credit: Picasa

Final Stat Line: .265 batting average, .373 OBP, 16 doubles, 4 triples, 16 home runs, 51 RBI

In 2013, Ramsey proved that his future is bright for the Cardinals. He started in High-A (Palm Beach), saw the majority of his time in Double-A (Springfield), and even played in a game for Triple-A (Memphis) late in the season. One thing that was a pleasant surprise for me was his power. I always knew he had gap-to-gap power, but I never envisioned him hitting 16 home runs in a season. It will be nice to have a bat with a little bit of pop in the outfield in the future because Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran aren’t getting any younger.

The most incredible statistic for Ramsey in 2013 was his on-base percentage. At .373 and the fact that he drew 51 walks this season, it shows that he has a really good grasp of the strikezone–something fans will enjoy when he gets the call to the big league level. Also, for those wondering, his defense was above-average in center field, and his arm is one of the better outfield arms in the entire organization.

Look for the 2012 first-round draft pick to be playing for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds next season, and if things go well there, he could see time in the big leagues by the end of 2014.

Link to my article on Ramsey here.
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Jordan Swagerty

Photo Credit: Swagerty's blog

Photo Credit: Swagerty’s blog

Final Stat Line: 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 10.2 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 8 walks

Sure, Swagerty’s statistics don’t look very promising, but that is not the most important part of this season for him. The fact of the matter is that a lot of his work was done outside of the game. He had Tommy John surgery on an injured elbow/forearm in 2012, and he spent the majority of the season working his way back into throwing form.

He saw limited game action in July, but the organization wanted to be cautious with their 2010 second-round draft pick. Thus, look for Swagerty, who was considered the Cardinals #7 prospect when healthy, to have a much better 2014 if he is able to fully recover by then. He has the stuff to make the big leagues, it is just a question whether or not his health will cooperate.

Link to my article on Swagerty here.
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Kurt Heyer

Photo Credit: Dennis, Chiefs Photographer

Photo Credit: Dennis, Chiefs Photographer

Final Stat Line: 9-7, 3.41 ERA, 124.0 innings pitched, 96 strikeouts, 34 walks, .258 batting average against

Heyer was probably my favorite prospect to follow this season. He started out with the Peoria Chiefs but was quickly promoted to High-A Palm Beach. Once in High-A, Heyer had some struggles, and the former NCAA Champion (while at the University of Arizona) was not pitching up to his true ability.

Yet, this did not last long. He was able to turn it around–culminating in a 1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings pitched in August. My buddy, @CardinalsFarm, was able to interview with Farm Director, John Vuch, and this is what he had to say, “Heyer has done well as a starter, and I’ve also seen times where his velocity will spike in short bursts, so it’s not far-fetched to also see him being a guy who might throw even harder coming out of the ‘pen.”

Thus, expect to see Heyer start out next season for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. However, it would not be far-fetched to see him in Triple-A by the end of 2014. Also, depending on needs at the big league level, one cannot predict just when a minor league pitcher might be needed. I’m not saying he will be in the big leagues next season, but the way this season as gone, no one can really be too sure about this (See: Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Keith Butler, etc.)

Link to my article on Heyer here.
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Carson Kelly

Photo Credit: Abby Drey (CDT Photos)

Photo Credit: Abby Drey (CDT Photos)

Final Stat Line: .257 batting average, .322 OBP, 22 doubles, 6 home runs, 45 RBI

Kelly, just 19 years old, started out 2013 on the Peoria Chiefs. He struggled to find his groove there, which is not entirely unexpected considering he was still 18 years old at the time. Thus, the Cardinals assigned him to the Class A Short-Season State College Spikes to finish out 2013.

The 2012 second-round pick took his lackluster performance in Peoria as a learning experience and developed into a more comfortable player for State College. As the season went along, his confidence kept growing as shown by his .301 batting average in July and August.

Kelly, a top third-base prospect, has a bright future, and I could see him starting 2014 back in Peoria or possibly even Palm Beach. Either way, he is still just 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop his skills in the minor leagues. He is a prospect to watch who has that sweet swing that will likely make some noise in St. Louis someday.

Link to my article on Kelly here.
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Lastly, thank you so much to Ramsey, Swagerty, Heyer, and Kelly for answering my questions this season. I look forward to seeing their progress next season as they take the next steps towards St. Louis.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

St. Louis Cardinals: An Interview with Prospect Kurt Heyer

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Photo Credit: Dennis, Photographer for Peoria Chiefs

Background

St. Louis Cardinals prospect, Kurt Heyer, is a 6’2″ right-handed pitcher from Huntington Beach, California. Heyer made 55 starts in college at the University of Arizona and was a key component to the team winning the College World Series in 2012. That season, he won 13 games for the Wildcats–tying the school record for wins in a single season. Based on his performance, he was named Pac-12 First Team and second-team All-America.

The Draft

With the Cardinals organization stressing the importance of pitching depth throughout its farm system, Heyer was taken in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB draft. He is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council–an esteemed baseball agency founded in 1984. The BHS Council also represents other Cardinals prospects, most notably Jordan Swagerty. The agency represents top players like Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants) and Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians) as well.

Minor League Career

2012: Due to his participation in the College World Series, he was only able to complete 6 innings after being drafted. In those 6 innings, he allowed 3 runs, but was able to record 9 strikeouts without walking a single batter–a solid start to his professional career.

2013: In 13 games started between the Peoria Chiefs (Class A) and the Palm Beach Cardinals (Class A-Advanced), Heyer has a 4-4 record with a 4.57 earned-run average. He has 65 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts and just 20 walks.

His Skill Set

1. Fastball: 88-92 MPH with excellent sinking and tailing action. He is able to spot this on the corners and locate it low in the strike zone–leading to numerous ground balls.

2. Slider: 77-78 MPH that comes towards the plate in a right-to-left fashion. At times, it curves almost like he is flinging a frisbee towards the plate, especially when he drops his throwing angle.

3. Changeup: 75-77 MPH. This pitch, as you will see in the interview, is still under development. In college, he relied more on his fastball and breaking pitches, but in order to be successful at the professional level, he will have to continue to fine-tune this pitch. It has the capability of being a plus pitch for him because he uses the same release point as his fastball.

4. Curveball: It has a 1 to 7 break (if looking at the hands on a clock) and sits at 75-77 MPH. At times, this can be seen as his go-to pitch.

Heyer has a relatively herky-jerky, deceptive motion where he hides the ball behind his body until just before he releases it. He drops his arm motion to three-quarters or less which adds to the deception and helps with the movement on his pitches–especially the tailing action of his fastball/sinker.

He is especially known for his exceptional work ethic who just loves competition. He knows how to win–as shown by his CWS championship last season. He attacks hitters on a regular basis. For now, Heyer has only been used as a starter, but some scouts see his future as a relief pitcher. Based on the organization’s needs in the future, he may be a starter or play a key role in the Cardinals’ bullpen in the years to come.

The Interview

Me: What was it like winning a National Championship at Arizona?
Heyer: It was crazy. Words couldn’t express what I was feeling at that moment. Not everyone gets the chance to dog-pile at the biggest stage in college baseball.

Me: How was the transition from college ball to pro ball in the same season?
Heyer: It wasn’t hard. Nothing has really changed, just wood bats.

Me: What was it like playing with a college teammate, Alex Meija, on your first professional team?
Heyer: It was awesome having him behind me again. He is a great teammate to have behind you when you are playing.

Me: What were your first thoughts when you found out you were being drafted by the Cardinals?
Heyer: I was excited because I knew they do a great job on developing pitchers. They are a world-class organization.

Me: Almost every pitcher has an out pitch, what your out pitch in your repertoire?
Heyer: Depends on the day, but it could be my slider or curve or even my fastball.

Me: What is one thing you feel you need to develop the most to keep moving up the ladder towards the big leagues?
Heyer: I would like to get more consistency in the change because I have never felt the need to throw one.

Me: What current player in the big leagues do you think your pitching style resembles the most?
Heyer: Roy Halladay because he does such a great job mixing speeds and locating his pitches and doesn’t rely just on velocity.

Me: What has been your favorite moment of professional baseball so far?
Heyer: Just suiting up everyday and just playing the game I love. I’m so blessed to being able to have a job that I have a passion for and I hope I can continue doing it.

Make sure to follow him on Twitter at @KurtHeyer. You can also give his agency a follow at @BHSCouncil. They both put out great stuff.

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)