A 20-year-old (DOB: December 29, 1996) second-year pro out of Cotui in the Dominican Republic, St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitching prospect Winston Nicacio made his stateside debut in 2017 with the rookie-level GCL Cardinals of the Gulf Coast League and, for a two-game cameo, the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League. In 13 games (eight starts) across those two levels, the St. Louis Cardinals prospect threw 57.2 innings and finished 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA. He allowed 61 hits and 20 walks in that time, while striking out 45 hitters. For his efforts in the GCL, The Cardinal Nation named Winston Nicacio their 2017 GCL Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Add that to Nicacio’s debut summer in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, and you have a productive young pitcher here a few months before his 21st birthday who may yet turn into a fringe rotation prospect. In 2016, in the DSL, Nicacio finished 3-3 with a 4.80 ERA in 14 games/10 starts, in which he threw 54.1 innings and allowed 54 hits and 36 walks against 53 strikeouts. Below, we have a game video of Winston Nicacio taken during a late July start in the GCL, as well as our full scouting report and tool-by-tool breakdown and grade-out of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect.
Winston Nicacio — 2017 Scouting Report
Dates observed in 2017: July 25
Winston Nicacio, St. Louis Cardinals — 2017 Game Video
Winston Nicacio Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis
Consider this Winston Nicacio scouting report to be the product of our extensive video library (which you should subscribe to here), because I walked away from the righty’s July 25th start somewhat unimpressed; it was only after I really bore down on my notes and that video a few weeks later that I started to piece together the puzzle and see a few things I liked. Not flashy or toolsy, the St. Louis Cardinals prospect nevertheless has the makings of a guy who could become a workhorse-type pitcher: good control, decent command (that will improve), a feel for the strike zone with everything he throws, the ability to work quick, and the desire to challenge every single hitter in every situation. What he lacks in an ability to miss bats, he’ll make up for in pitching to weaker contact thanks to downward life in his arsenal and he doesn’t shy away from filling up the zone.
The St. Louis Cardinals evidently thought enough of Nicacio—on two separate occasions this summer—to send him across the complex for spot relief work in the Florida State League. That’s a small thing (and a benefit of having two affiliates on one site!), but it speaks a lot of Nicacio’s relative maturity and consistency in being chosen twice to make that transition as an emergency fill-in. He’s not afraid of hitters and doesn’t shy away from pitching to contact, and that’ll continue to benefit him in the coming years as he further understands how to better manipulate his stuff. So long as he can significantly improve his breaking ball alongside the inevitable growth of his fastball and changeup, Winston Nicacio has a shot to be a fringe rotation prospect over the next few years.
Winston Nicacio Scouting Report — Future Projection
There may be significantly more power in his arsenal that will eventually push Nicacio into the bullpen, but at least over the next few seasons, the St. Louis Cardinals would do well to keep him as a rotation arm. There are significant problems with his breaking ball that must be markedly, quickly improved, but decent feel for a changeup and the ability attack the bottom of the zone will continue to serve him well as he grows. Just as it was with me initially unimpressed only to appreciate him later, so may it go for Winston Nicacio over the next few years: underrated pitchability without flashy power stuff, but a consistent (if decidedly un-sexy) plan to attack the zone and draw weak contact. Take that several steps down the line, and there’s a shot for the righty to become a serviceable back-end rotation arm.
Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Back-end rotation arm; likely #5 starter or perhaps swingman/long reliever (45)
MLB ETA: 2021