Rookie lefty Kevin Siegrist has been very impressive coming out of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen this summer. Through 34 big league innings, he has a miniscule 0.53 ERA. His walk rate is a bit higher than perfect with 16 free passes, but he's fanned 45 and given up only 13 hits for a .116 average against.
A reader recently asked me "where did this guy come from?" So here's the answer to that question.
Siegrist was drafted by the Cardinals in the 41st round in 2008, from Palm Beach Community College. It took him three years to get out of rookie ball: he generally pitched decently, but was hampered by minor but annoyingly frequent injuries including back, neck, and shoulder problems. He took a step forward in 2011 by pitching 107 innings in A-ball with a 2.26 ERA and just 82 hits allowed, although his K/BB was mediocre at 79/45.
2012 resulted in a 2.28 ERA with a 41/22 K/BB in 55 innings for High-A Palm Beach, followed by a 3.62 ERA with a 27/9 K/BB in 32 innings for Double-A Springfield. The Cardinals finally decided to move him to relief; he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and earned a spot on the 40-man roster. And as you know, he's spent most of the season in the major league pen, with strong results.
Siegrist is a big guy at 6-5, 215, born July 20, 1989. As a starter he threw 89-93 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a decent curveball and change-up. His low three-quarters arm slot made him deceptive and particularly tough on lefties, but his command and problems with durability held him back.
As a reliever, he throws much harder, as high as 98 MPH with his four-seamer and averaging around 95-96. He still has the curveball and change-up, and left-handed hitters are virtually helpless against him, batting .089/.215/.125. Right-handers haven't had it much better, batting .143/.250/.268. Tighter control would be nice, especially if he sees use as a closer, but as long as he maintains his stuff and stays healthy, he will be an effective bullpen asset even with some command troubles.
He didn't come out of nowhere exactly; I had him as a Grade C prospect with some sleeper bullpen potential pre-season, and Baseball America, who was more enthusiastic, rated him at 14th on their list of top Cardinals prospects.
Siegrist is a simple case of a pitcher who can max out his stuff in short stretches and is better-suited to relief work than starting. He is a fine example of how good teams never waste a draft pick: remember, they found this guy in the 41st round.