Pitching Prospect Roundup: Cade Povich Looks MLB Ready, Carson Palmquist Keeps Dominating

A Cardinals right-hander seems to be knocking on the door of the big leagues, while there may be a new darling in the Rangers' system.

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 14, 2024: Cade Povich #81 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on during the first inning of a spring training Spring Breakout game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park on March 14, 2024 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

We have some more underrated names in this week’s Pitching prospect roundup, several of which I think could help their big league club sooner rather than later. St. Louis’ Sem Robberse and Baltimore’s Cade Povich in particular appear to have figured out how to use their arsenal most effectively, duplicating their success every fifth day with a clear plan and execution.

As for the lower level names mentioned, Rangers prospect Winston Santos stands out in particular because he was hardly on my radar going into the season and has been as impressive as anyone highlighted in this series thus far. Also, I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Orioles 2023 14th rounder Michael Forret, but stuff like his can only be kept under wraps for so long.

Sem Robberse – RHP (Cardinals Triple-A)

8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER (1 R), 2 BB, 9 K

Acquired from the Blue Jays at the 2023 deadline in exchange for Jordan Hicks, Robberse has put up solid numbers at each stop and looks as sharp as ever out of the gate in Triple-A this year. Through his first four starts, the 22-year-old has pitched to a 1.59 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.

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We don’t see eight inning gems in the Minor Leagues much anymore, and Robberse needed just 98 pitches to get there last Friday. Seemingly always having a good feel for his assortment of secondaries, it’s been his fringy fastball that has held him back some over the last few seasons.

The solution has been to simply throw his four-seam fastball less, which hitters posted an OPS over 1.000 against last year. Of Robberse’s 98 pitches last Friday, only 22 were four-seam fastballs; he threw 29 cutters, 26 changeups and 21 sliders with a called strike whiff rate of 33%.

Throwing more cutters and less four seamers has seemingly been the recipe for success so far for Robberse, and he is far from the first pitcher who struggled to miss bats with a four seamer only to find that their cutter is a weapon.

His changeup seems to be playing up even more off of it as well, picking up eight whiffs in the outing on the pitch along with six more on his slider, four with his cutter and one four seam whiff that he can now sneak more effectively at the top. Robberse looks like a back end starter who could help the Cardinals soon.

Cade Povich – LHP (Orioles Triple-A)

5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 9 K

Another imminent big leaguer, Povich continues to enjoy a red hot start to the season. His four walks were the most of any start so far, however he looked in control the entire outing. Povich has really found confidence sequencing and tunneling his five pitch mix, establishing his low 90s fastball with good ride away from lefties before getting them to chase his cutter or slider breaking off of the plate away.

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His fastball, changeup and cutter have kept righties off balance and caught in-between. He picked up 14 whiffs along with continued weak contact. He allowed only one batted ball over 95 MPH, commanding his cutter particularly well in this one. It’s hard to ignore the improved pitchability from Povich, who looks like the first man up when the Orioles need an arm.

Caden Dana – RHP (Angels Double-A)

7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

The best pitching prospect in the Angels system has been sharp in all three outings this year, with his most recent being his best. Dana established his good heater early, going right after hitters and getting ahead. While he only picked up eight whiffs, he was working to all four quadrants with his fastball, freezing hitters for plenty of called strikes.

A 36% called strike whiff rate, one free pass and two scattered singles is an easy way to go seven scoreless. The slider was there for him all start as well and his changeup looked as good as it has in any start this season, an encouraging development considering his struggles with the pitch last season.

Jairo Iriarte – RHP (White Sox Double-A)

5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Acquired in the Dylan Cease trade, Iriarte enjoyed his best start in his young White Sox career. Yet to allow an earned run through his first 13 innings pitched, Iriarte walked six in his first two starts before walking zero on Saturday.

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His fastball velocity has been down a bit to start the year. After averaging 96 MPH on the heater last season, Iriarte’s fastball averaged 93 MPH on the dot in his first two outings before enjoying a half tick bump to 93.5 MPH in his last outing. His plus slider was the sharpest I’ve seen it in the early going this year, landing 15 of 20 for a strike while picking up three whiffs.

Iriarte’s velocity will be something to monitor, but the fact that he continues to put up zeroes at more than two ticks below last year’s average is encouraging in a backwards way and a testament to his unique release characteristics.

Carson Palmquist – LHP (Rockies Double-A)

6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

Speaking of unique release characteristics … Palmquist continues to dominate at Double-A. The southpaw has yet to give up an earned run through his 16 innings of work, and his start on Friday was some of his most masterful work as a pro.

Palmquist went right after a good Somerset lineup (Yankees affiliate), sitting in the low 90s with his sidearm delivery, running it up to 94 MPH. He went to his fastball with 52% of his pitches, boasting a 75% strike rate, but pulled out the slider as the put-away pitch whenever he needed it. He racked up 14 whiffs overall: seven on sliders, six on fastballs and one on his changeup.

Palmquist has solidified himself as the second best pitching prospect in the Rockies system and with continued injuries to an already poor staff at the big league level, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the 23-year-old potentially skip Triple-A.

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Winston Santos – RHP (Rangers High-A)

5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K

After posting a 6.29 ERA at High-A last season, Santos has looked like a different pitcher in the early stages of his age 22 campaign. After allowing one earned run in his first outing, Santos has been lights out in his last two, punching out 19 against just four hits and two walks through 10 2/3 scoreless.

Friday was Santos’ best outing as a pro, averaging 96 MPH on his fastball with 19 inches of induced vertical break. Clearly a plus fastball from a low-effort, smooth delivery, Santos compiled 10 whiffs on the pitch along with a mid 80s slider that he can manipulate into a harder and shorter cutter in the upper 80s. He mixed in a few good changeups as well, but that pitch is a work in progress. Santos has breakout written all over him.

Ben Kudrna – RHP (Royals High-A)

5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Thursday’s start made it 11 consecutive scoreless innings for Kudrna, with 15 strikeouts and just two walks. Previously struggling with his fatball quality, his heavy fastball sinker has resulted in plenty of weak contact and ground balls with the ability to buzz a four seamer at the top to change eye-levels at around 93 MPH.

The impressive arm side run of his sinker has resulted in more whiff than most sinkers yield, with six swings and misses on the pitch in this outing. Both Kudrna’s slider and changeup have looked average or better, with seven whiffs between the two offerings in this outing.

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Owen Murphy – RHP (Braves High-A)

5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K

A first round selection by the Braves in 2022, Murphy’s 5.5 foot release and nearly 20 inches of induced vertical break on his fastball make him a swing and miss weapon at the top of the zone, but he was not locating it consistently enough nor getting the whiff he needed on his breaking balls to perform to the best of his ability last season.

It’s been a different story in 2023 and Murphy’s latest start is a perfect example. He landed his fastball, slider and curveball each for a strike at a 65% or better clip. He is worked north and south much more effectively, getting chase at the top with his fastball and taken strikes at the bottom, both of which set up his gyro slider and improved curveball more effectively.

Even in just the low 90s, Murphy’s fastball easily plays like a plus pitch. Throwing the most pitches he has this season, Murphy’s fastball was a tick higher than his previous two outings. He compiled a whopping 17 total whiffs, 10 came on his fastball.

Michael Forret – RHP (Orioles Low-A)

5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

A 14th round selection in last year’s draft out of State College of Florida, Forret struggled in his pro debut, allowing five earned runs, before tossing 10 consecutive scoreless in his next two outings with 15 strikeouts and one free pass.

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Forret’s fastball averaged 95 MPH, touching 97 MPH with above average carry. He flashed a short, sharp slider at 85-87 MPH as well as a curveball in the low 80s, a splitter and an occasional cutter. It’s very early in the newly-turned 20-year-old’s pro career and it seems like he is feeling his arsenal out some. Over his last two successful starts, he has really showed confidence in his slider and increased willingness to throw his split. Forret could be a deep cut name to watch.