Cards reaping rewards of scouting Rosenthal
Now closing on baseball's biggest stage, pitcher initially discovered as shortstop
ST. LOUIS -- I've heard it countless times. Where in the world do the St. Louis Cardinals find these guys?
The Cardinals are one of the finest, most successful franchises in the Major Leagues, because they know what they're looking for. They can project talent well. They are driven by purpose, logic and skill.
The Cards' purpose is to get it right and win consistently. They are not built to win one year. They are built for the long haul.
The Redbirds use logic in determining which of their players fit into the resource structure and required talent pool. The evaluators and front-office personnel are as talented and skilled in their work as the players are in theirs.
Take the signing of flamethrowing right-hander Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal was found playing shortstop. He had just started pitching with a velocity of some 90 mph.
The Cardinals selected Rosenthal in the 21st round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Was it luck that a lower-round selection turned out to be an outstanding Major League pitcher? Perhaps there was some luck involved. But 90 percent was good scouting and good player development.
As the current closer of the Cards' talented bullpen, Rosenthal is pitching in his home state. He was born in Lee's Summit, Mo.
At the age of 22, Rosenthal made his first appearance on the big league mound. Now, a little more than a year and three months later, he is closing games on baseball's biggest stage.
And it doesn't look like Rosenthal even breaks a sweat. When I first saw him pitching for the Cardinals in Arizona earlier this season, I was amazed at his poise and mound presence. Rosenthal just took control of the game. He was the team's setup man at the time.
Good morning, good afternoon, goodnight. That's what I've seen of Rosenthal. Fastball swing and miss, fastball strike, fastball swing and miss, go sit down.
It isn't always that easy. At times, Rosenthal may get a pitch called a ball. Or a guy may even get a hit. But in his two-year stint so far with St. Louis, Rosenthal has given up 56 hits in 72 innings pitched. And he's only 23.
Rosenthal, at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, is a horse on the mound. He carries his weight well and he's strong. In his four Minor League seasons, Rosenthal had a composite ERA of 3.53 and a WHIP of 1.17.
As is often the case with power pitchers, control and command are crucial components for success. In his Minor League career, Rosenthal averaged about 3.1 walks per nine innings pitched. That was about one too many. But he averaged nine strikeouts per nine innings as well.
Now, as a member of the National League champion Cards, Rosenthal averaged 2.4 walks and 12.2 strikeouts per nine. He has matured. And his command and control have improved.
Why is Rosenthal so successful? First and foremost, he attacks the strike zone. Doesn't every pitcher attack the strike zone? No. Some pitchers like to tease a hitter by pitching near the strike zone or throwing pitches away, away, away. They then bust a pitch inside. They avoid the strike zone for fear of hitting the barrel of the bat.
That philosophy works for lots of pitchers. Crafty use of the corners has made countless pitchers successful. But Rosenthal has such an overpowering combination of high 90s fastball and mid-to-high 80s changeup, it allows him to pitch to contact. But many hitters make no contact. That's the point.
Rosenthal also mixes in a nice curveball that he doesn't use very often. In some cases, it's just a pitch for him to flash at a hitter and remind him not to sit on the fastball. It can be used nicely to set up the "out" pitch, or in some cases, that and the changeup can finish off the hitter.
Rosenthal's pitches move. He changes the eye level of the hitter with good movement on most everything he throws. High swing and miss fastballs seem to be a trademark of Rosenthal's repertoire.
Rosenthal has a strong lower half to his frame. He pushes off with his huge legs and gets great strength behind his pitches. Rosenthal's whole body is involved in his delivery, as it should be. He doesn't rely solely on his arm to do the work.
The ball comes out of Rosenthal's hand very easily. While there is some effort to his delivery, it's more a question of making sure he finishes his pitches by not flying open and not allowing the ball to drift. Rosenthal repeats his delivery well.
And if Rosenthal isn't enough to drive the opposition to the bench frustrated, flamethrowing 22-year-old Carlos Martinez is on the horizon. But that's a story for another day.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.