St. Louis Cardinals prospect Matthew Liberatore has ace potential

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Matthew Liberatore #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 02, 2021 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Matthew Liberatore #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 02, 2021 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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While Jordan Walker and Nolan Gorman draw most of the praise, one analyst thinks St. Louis Cardinals prospect Matthew Liberatore has ace-type potential.

While Jordan Walker and Matthew Liberatore draw the most attention of St. Louis Cardinals prospects, I have seen optimism – and perhaps some concern – regarding Matthew Liberatore.

Perhaps that has to do with Liberatore’s lack of production in 2021, where he posted a 4.04 ERA and 123/33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124.1 innings. While the ERA is higher than you would like, it does not paint the full picture. Just look at his walks compared to 2019 (31 walks in 78 innings).

Liberatore, 22, has cut walks down significantly and it’s why analysts, including Keith Law of The Athletic, view him as the consensus No. 3 prospect in the Cardinals’ farm system. From Law:

“Liberatore continues to progress in all aspects of the game, from physical maturation to developing his offspeed pitches to improving his feel for pitching, further fulfilling his status as a former first-round pick. … He’s made so much progress already since signing in 2018, despite still having just 235 innings in pro ball, that I’m betting he gets there.”

“There,” according to Law, is a mid-rotation starting pitcher or better. It’s what the Cardinals envisioned Liberatore becoming when they acquired him and sent Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays – a move that became controversial once Arozarena emerged as the World Series MVP in 2020 – and would go a long way toward quieting those concerns for good.

Liberatore features a 92-95 mph fastball with a curveball and two other pitches he continues to refine. If he’s able to do that, there is no reason to think he can’t be atop the Cardinals’ rotation for at least the next five seasons, maybe more.

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The upside between Liberatore, Walker and Gorman, quite simply, is enormous — and they’re all within at least a year of debuting.

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