Black MLB Players #14: Jack Flaherty

Background + Path To The MLB

Jack Flaherty is a twenty five year old starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals from Burbank, California. He is biracial, but identifies as black and is very vocal about being acknowledged as a black person on and off the field. He was adopted at three weeks old by a single mother, and they are extremely close to this very day. Flaherty went to Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, California, which routinely fields one of the best high school baseball teams in the country year in and year out. During his sophomore(2nd) year of high school two of Flaherty’s teammates, Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, were selected in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Both of these players have become upper tier MLB starting pitchers in their own right.

Jack Flaherty had a standout career at Harvard-Westlake, playing on the varsity baseball team all four years of high school and logged time at shortstop and third base in addition to being a starting pitcher. He amassed a 35–3 career record with 1.19 career ERA as starting pitcher in high school, striking out 324 hitters in 265.2 innings pitched, with 13 complete games out of the 40 games he started. Flaherty was named the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of California, and The Los Angeles Times selected him as their player of the year in 2014 also. Flaherty signed a letter of intent to attend the University of North Carolina on a full baseball scholarship after the 2014 season.

Jack Flaherty was drafted in the first round with the 34th overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2014 MLB Draft, and forewent his commitment to UNC after signing with the Cardinals. The Cardinals organization gave him a $2 million dollar signing bonus, which shows how he was highly thought of by MLB scouts and reputed sources after an amazing high school career in Southern California, which is the most talented region for baseball in the world.

Jack Flaherty was seen as a top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization from the day he was drafted, and eventually became a Top 100 prospect in the MiLB(Minor League Baseball) due to five seasons of above average performance. In the 432 innings that Jack Flaherty logged in the MiLB, he put up a 2.73 ERA with a 9.1 K/9(Strikeouts per 9 innings), 2.5 BB/9(Walks per 9 innings), and a 1.164 WHIP(Walks + hits per inning pitched). Flaherty consistently kept runners off base, along with displaying the ability to strike hitters out and limit free passes via walks. Flaherty made his major league debut on September 1st, 2017 at the age of 21 after tearing through the minor leagues.

After struggling in his first stint at the MLB level in late 2017, he began the 2018 season back in the minor leagues with St. Louis’ Triple-A(AAA) affiliate in Memphis and continued to dominate before being called back up to St. Louis in the middle of May. Ever since then, he has been the ace of the Cardinals rotation, putting up a 3.34 ERA at the MLB level in 151 innings pitched. In 2019, it was a tale of two halves as he was somewhat decent in the first half of the season, but after the All Star Break he was the best and most dominant pitcher in baseball, putting up an ERA under 1 and striking out hitters left and right. Flaherty finished top five in Cy Young voting for 2019, which is given to the best pitcher in each league, and the voters are accredited baseball writers. Flaherty struggled a lot in the 2020 season, but the underlying stats show Flaherty’s surface level statistical performance suffered due to bad luck, and the shortened season(due to COVID-19) limited the opportunities he had to right the ship.

Player Profile

Jack Flaherty throws five pitches right handed from a traditional 3/4ths arm slot: four seam fastball, two seam fastball/sinker, slider, curveball, and a changeup. Flaherty is able to command his arsenal effectively to limit hard contact and opposing hitters from reaching base via a walk. Flaherty mixes his pitches well in order to tunnel his fastball with his breaking/offspeed pitches to get hitters to swing and miss. He uses his fastball the most, and then uses his curveball and slider to get hitters to swing at pitches that dart and drop towards the bottom of the zone. Flaherty works down and away from right handed hitters, and towards the inside bottom corner to left handed hitters.

The graph above illustrates how much Flaherty uses each pitch in his arsenal, and it shows his four seam fastball and slider make up the majority.
A flowchart showing how often Flaherty throws each of his pitches, depending on the count.
Location of all of the fastball’s Flaherty threw in 2020

Flaherty threw his four seam fastball and sinker at a similar amount early in his MLB career, but he gradually reduced the rate at which he threw the sinker and now almost solely throws his four seam fastball. Flaherty increased the usage of his four seam fastball, as it is his best pitch in my opinion. Flaherty’s fastball sits between 94–97 mph, but he commands it well and puts it in places where hitters cannot do much with it. He also gets a lot of swings and misses with it, as it plays up due to its carry/lack of drop, and late movement. The extension that Jack Flaherty gets on his fastball makes it effective due to his release point being closer to home plate, which gives it another quality that makes his fastball his best pitch. The perceived velocity is higher than the actual velocity, so this adds deception to the pitch’s profile.

Location of every slider Flaherty threw in 2020

The slider is Jack Flaherty’s second most used pitch in his repertoire, and it is an effective pitch in its own right. Flaherty is very good at commanding his pitches and making his release points for all of them similar, and this increases the effectiveness of his arsenal. His slider has slight horizontal movement, but late drop as it approaches the plate. Hitters swung and missed almost 50% of the time they decided to swing at it, showing how effective a tandem Flaherty’s fastball/slider combo is.

Flaherty throws a tradition 12–6 curveball that drops straight down. He only throws it around 15% of the time. It has more drop and movement than the average curveball, and it is an above average pitch. Flaherty does not deploy his curveball often, but when he does he typically uses it to get ahead in the count, or to catch a batter off balance and give him another look.

Flaherty’s changeup is below average, and he rarely throws it. It is inconsistent and he does not implement it into his approach to attack hitters in pretty much any situation except ones where he almost has to throw it in order to give the batter at a plate a different look.

Flaherty has above average command, and implements his good athleticism and body control in his delivery. Although he had trouble with this in 2020, it is unlike him. He has a similar release point for all of his pitches except his curveball, which makes it difficult for MLB hitters to decipher what pitch he is throwing based on visual cues in his release point and delivery. This is also a major key to tunneling different pitches to disguise non-fastballs as fastballs until they break and/or drop in a certain direction

Release points for all of Jack Flaherty’s pitches in 2020

Conclusion

Jack Flaherty profiles as an upper tier #2 or lower tier #1 in a MLB rotation in my opinion. Despite the hiccups he has had at the major league level, he has an equal amount of success also. This in combination with his minor league and high school track record makes me confident that Jack Flaherty will be one of the premier starting pitchers in the National League for years to come, along with the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals is a great organization when it comes to developing starting pitchers. Jack Flaherty is a very outspoken person on many topics, whether they’re related to baseball or not. He is someone that baseball fans should keep a close eye on.

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I use this blog to cover Black baseball players from all over the African diaspora in MiLB & MLB and review TV series, films, novels, comic books, anime,. etc.

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Patrick Ellington Jr.

Patrick Ellington Jr.

I use this blog to cover Black baseball players from all over the African diaspora in MiLB & MLB and review TV series, films, novels, comic books, anime,. etc.

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