In 2014, before Flaherty's senior year at Harvard-Westlake High School, he committed to the University of North Carolina.
Jack was a sophomore third baseman at Harvard-Westlake High when teammates Max Fried (Padres) and Lucas Giolito (Nationals) were 2012 first-round picks. He added pitching duties the next spring to help replace them.
Flaherty went 23-0 in his junior and senior seasons, tossed a no-hitter in his final game.
June 2014: The Cardinals drafted Flaherty in the first round, out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, California. Flaherty was reportedly seeking Top 15 bonus money ($2.5 million) to be lured away from that college commitment. The slot value for the 34th selection was $1.65 million. The Cardinals were prepared to go over slot. And Jack signed for $2 million, via scout Mike Garciaparra, and started his pro career.
Pitching for a high school with a powerhouse baseball program, Flaherty didn't lose a start as a junior or senior. In 2014, he went 10-0 with a 0.63 ERA after a 13-win season the year before. In his only playoff start this season, Flaherty pitched a no-hitter.
"Sometimes you just go on a little streak, and that streak just happened to not be broken," Flaherty said of his pair of undefeated seasons. "That's how that goes."He was the 2014 California Gatorade Player of the Year.
In 2012, he shined in USA Baseball's National High School Invitational, where he threw a complete game in his tournament debut,
He becomes the third Harvard-Westlake pitcher taken in the first round of the draft in the past three seasons, as well, following Max Fried (Padres) and Lucas Giolito (Nationals). Flaherty said he remains in touch with both and has taken their advice as he prepares for the negotiation process. (6/5/14)
In 2016, Baseball America rated Flaherty as the third-best prospect in the Cardinals organization. He was at #11 a year later, before 2017 spring training. He was up to second-best Cards' prospect, behind only RHP Alex Reyes, in 2018.
Some teams saw Jack as a third baseman, but the Cardinals believed his feel for four pitches and arm strength would move him faster and higher on the mound.
In 2017, Flaherty represented the Cardinals in the All-Star Futures game.
MLB debut (Sept. 1, 2017): There were a handful of moments during an 11-6 win over the Giants when St. Louis rookie pitcher Jack Flaherty looked very much like the No. 3 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com. There were also times when he had the appearance of a pitcher making his first start in the Majors.
Flaherty's debut with the Cardinals had a little bit of everything, from a 1-2-3 first inning to a second inning when the Giants roughed up the rookie for five hits and one big swing, a two-run homer from Brandon Crawford. (Michael Wagaman -Special to MLB.com)
2018 season : Flaherty emerged as the star of St. Louis' loaded rookie crop—and the Cardinals' new ace.
Premature? Not if you consider how the on-the-playoff-bubble Cards manipulated their rotation so Flaherty will be on turn to start their most important game of the year, whether that's the NL Wild Card Game or a must-win during the season's final series. The 22-year-old has earned the responsibility: He ranks among the NL rookie starter leaders in strikeouts (first), starts (second), innings (second), ERA (fourth), wins (first), fWAR (second) and WHIP (third).
Jack is known to have great focus. His mom, Eileen Flaherty, says when she took Jack to games as a toddler—which she often did—he remained transfixed on the action (barring perhaps, his first Dodgers game, which he attended before his first birthday). Her second son, Grady, would run around with the other kids. Jack had no interest leaving his seat.
"I would just sit there. I loved it," Flaherty admits. "Not everybody is like that."
Not many, indeed.
Though Jack has his own apartment nearby, he often dines with his mom, Eileen Flaherty, while his brother Grady is away at Gonzaga.
Showing off the multitasking capablilities of a single mom, Eileen prepared a feast (beef roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and salad) after the workday at NBC Universal where she is a finance executive.
A dad was never in the picture for Flaherty, who is adopted. (Stan McNeal - Cardinals Magazine - March 2019)
Jack discusses his signature slider: “I started throwing a slider in my junior year of high school. I’d been pretty much fastball-changeup with a get-me-over curveball as a freshman and sophomore. I hadn’t really pitched a whole lot. Our pitching coach at the time—who I still work with—Ethan Katz, said, ‘Let’s play around with a slider.’
“He showed me a grip. It was kind of funky. It wasn’t comfortable, but he said, ‘Just play catch with it and we’ll see where it goes from there.’ He told me that I was spinning it great and just had to get comfortable with the grip. It kind of went from there.
“Is it an a typical slider grip? It is and it isn’t. You’ll see some guys with it, but it’s a little different from how… some guys are hooking it a little bit more. It’s just one of things where when I first grabbed it, it felt foreign to me.
“I don’t manipulate it. I just let the grip do it, man. When I try to manipulate it, that’s when I get underneath it and throw those spinners. Those are the ones that get hit. The whole time, I’m just trying to throw it like a fastball with a slider grip. I’m trying to throw it through the glove.
“There are times I’ll have more sweep to it, and there are times it has more depth. It depends on the situation, but also on how it is that day. Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out which way it’s going to go, and working with that. That’s the thing about pitching. With a little extra finger pressure here or there . . . that changes it a little bit. But with me, it’s really a matter of location. If you make a mistake over the middle, you’re going to get hit. I throw it the same way I always have, so it’s a matter of execution.” (David Laurila- Fangraphs - July 8, 2019)
- When Flaherty finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2017, a confidant winced when he found out that a friend had sent the pitcher a congratulatory text. Flaherty revealed why after finishing fourth for the Cy Young Award in 2019.
"There's a great quote from a movie," Flaherty said later, borrowing from the Will Ferrell vehicle, Talladaga Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. "If you ain't first, you're last.' So that's kinda how I see it."
"You never congratulate Jack on being second-best," said Ryan Hamill, Flaherty's agent at CAA. "If Jack goes out there and throws a one-hitter and his team loses, I know not to congratulate him on pitching a great game. That's just not how he's wired." (Derrick Goold - Baseball Digest - August, 2020)
To know Jack Flaherty at all is to understand that his biggest competition is himself. He's an intense guy, and one who expects a lot from himself. But after such a banner end to the 2019 regular season, how much higher can he realistically set the bar? The trick, Flaherty said, is realizing what the bar symbolizes. And it’s a lot more than ERA or win-loss records.
“It’s not about getting better or having better numbers or putting up whatever it was in the second half,” Flaherty said Thursday. “[It’s just] stay consistent, stay right there, start in the moment. Go through your process and trust that once you get on that, everything else will take over.
“It’s not worrying about numbers … it’s just going through the process and trusting yourself.”
For Flaherty, a day’s work is never done. “I don’t ever think, ‘OK, I’m satisfied.’ I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I could’ve gone out and thrown three perfect innings today [in spring training 2020], and I wouldn’t have been satisfied. There would’ve been something I felt I should’ve done different or whatnot, so there’s always something to learn. This is a humbling game, and once you think you have everything figured out, the game will humble you real quick.” (Klemish - mlb.com - 2/27/2020)
Jack's teammate, Adam Wainwright, said of his pitching teammate, "He's got incredible stuff, but it's more than just stuff in our game. It's about the preparation and the work. You rarely see starters go into the film room to learn about hitters and study tendencies anymore. It's a lost art, and I'm on a lot of young players all the time about. But Jack does it.
"What he need to do is to continue not to be satisfied. It's really easy in our game one you have a taste of success to just life off that the rest of your career," Wainwright said in March, 2020.
"I on't see that in him. He's not going to be like that I feel like Jack may want to be the greatest of all time. That's the kind of mentality you need to be special."
How three HS teammates became MLB stars
A trio of Harvard-Westlake pitchers is already dominating in the Major Leagues right now. That's Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried -- three teammates at Harvard-Westlake who all went on to be first-round Draft picks and all had breakout seasons in 2019 for their respective big league clubs, the Cardinals, White Sox and Braves.
This is what the three of them did last season (2019):
Flaherty (age 23): 11-8, 2.75 ERA, 231 K, 196 1/3 IPGiolito (age 24): 14-9, 3.41 ERA, 228 K, 176 2/3 IPFried (age 25): 17-6, 4.02 ERA, 173 K, 165 2/3 IP
Flaherty finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting after a second half for the ages. His 0.91 ERA post-All-Star break was the second-best ever for a qualified starter (behind Jake Arrieta's 0.75 in 2015).
Giolito went from having the worst ERA of any qualified starter in 2018 (6.13) to ranking among the American League leaders in '19 -- he finished fifth in the AL ERA race and sixth in the AL Cy Young vote.
And Fried showed in his first full season that he has the potential of a future ace, emerging as a key young starter in a playoff-bound Braves rotation alongside Mike Soroka. Not to mention that he has one of the prettiest curveballs this side of Clayton Kershaw. (David Adler - June 4, 2020)
|DOB:||10/15/1995||Agent:||CAA - Ryan Hamilton|
|Birth City:||Burbank, CA|
|Draft:||Cardinals #1 - 2014 - Out of high school (CA)|
Flaherty has a 60 grade. 92-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL he is aggressive with, and a 90-94 mph 2-seam SINKER with a 55 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has two breaking balls, showing swing-and-miss ability with a 83-86 mph SLIDER (60 grade) that is an above-average swing-and-miss pitch. And he has a rolling 77-80 mph CURVEBALL he uses early in counts; it is a 55 pitch, big league average. He's gaining feel for an 86-89 mph CHANGEUP, but it lacks consistency as of 2018.He can add and subtract velo with his heater. He has 55 control, above-average, because he consistently throws strikes. (Spring, 2018)
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 41.6% of the time; Sinker 13.9% of the time; Change 6.2%; Slider 23.9%; and Curve 14.5% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 40% of the time, his Sinker 15.3%; Change 3.7%; Slider 29.9%; and Curve 11.2% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.8 mph, Sinker 91.8, Change 86.5, Slider 84.2, and Curve 77.7 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 45% of the time, his Sinker 12%; Change 2.7%; Slider 28.5%; and Curve 11.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.7 mph, Sinker 92.5, Change 87.5, Slider 85.1, and Curve 78.4 mph.
Opponents simply had trouble squaring up the St. Louis rookie, who posted the NL's sixth-lowest expected slugging percentage (based on strikeouts and quality of contact, per Statcast)—behind Buehler, Syndergaard and the league's three Cy Young finalists.
Jack is a polished pitcher with a loose, quick arm. He has excellent pitch-ability. He has a high angle arm slot with rapid arm speed.
Flaherty gets lots of ground balls with the way he keeps the ball down in the zone.
Jack has above-average control and command, the latter a future projection. He locates his heater low in the zone. It is a heavy fastball and he's aggressive with it.
"I try to throw everything with conviction," Flaherty says. "Have a purpose behind every pitch, whether it's to set up another pitch or get a guy out here, later in the game." (Spring, 2018)
October 2017: Flaherty was named the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the year award by MLBPipeline.com.
2018: Flaherty's hard fastball, dastardly slider and sneaky curve racked up whiffs and placed him among some bona fide stars.
Highest strikeout rates among rookies (min. 150 IP): 1. Kerry Wood (1998): 33.3% 2. Dwight Gooden (1984): 31.4% 3. Hideo Nomo (1995): 30.3% 4. Flaherty (2018): 29.6% 5 (tie) Fernandez (2013): 27.5% 5 (tie) Noah Syndergaard (2015): 27.5%
Those are six of the most renowned rookie pitching seasons ever.
No pitcher has matched Flaherty’s marks in his first and second big league seasons, so there’s a target for the right-hander. In fact, only five pitchers have even put up a 25 percent strikeout rate with 150 innings in Years 1 and 2: Yu Darvish, Gooden, Nomo, Herb Score, and Syndergaard. (Matt Kelly-MLB.com-March 13, 2019)
Jan 21, 2019: Jack Flaherty has been getting pitching advice from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson—and Adam Wainwright is a bit jealous. Flaherty will soon arrive at Spring Training 2019 in Florida looking to build upon a stellar rookie season in which he posted a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts for the Cardinals.
At 22 years old, Flaherty finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and was the second-youngest pitcher in all of MLB to make at least 20 starts. This year could be the season that Flaherty takes the leap forward into the upper tier of pitchers in baseball.
This season also will mark the 60th anniversary of the MLB debut of another talented young Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson. Gibson apparently has taken notice of Flaherty's stellar debut and is eager to help him continue to improve. Jack Flaherty and Bob Gibson have been communicating regularly to talk about pitching after Gibson left his email address and phone number in Flaherty’s locker last season.
That's pretty cool! Let's hope Flaherty's e-mail doesn't accidentally sort any messages from Gibson into the junk folder. While Flaherty is ecstatic to begin this mentor relationship with the Hall of Famer, one of his active veteran teammates may feel a bit spurned.
"Was wondering why I haven’t heard from you . . . solid upgrade!" said Wainwright. Fortunately, Wainwright doesn't seem mind being replaced by someone of Gibson's stature. Flaherty gave him some re-assurance anyway. "You are still my guy," Tweeted Flaherty.
Flaherty is clearly in good hands. (J Shusterman - MLB.com - Jan 21, 2019)
Coaches lauded Flaherty for his poise and preparation, as well as a varied arsenal that features a devastating slider. He even earned props from the great Bob Gibson for his old-school approach that, as the Hall of Famer noted, inclued and enthusiasm for pitching inside. (Only three NL pitchers plunked more batters than Jack, who hit 11—includng four Cubs.
Aug 1, 2019: Flaherty’s recent surge has been because of pitch execution. In other words, Flaherty has been able to throw strikes in the right place at the right time. His fastball command has been better, and his slider’s effectiveness has improved. The whiff rate (swings and misses) on Flaherty’s slider has improved from 45 percent through June to 52 percent in July alone, according to Statcast. In this game against the Cubs, the pitch had eight misses on 21 swings (38 percent).
“I think that comes off being able to execute with the fastball,” Flaherty said. “The more I’m able to execute with that, the better everything else is. We were able to make very, very small adjustments with everything, keeping it real simple and continuing to build off it that way.”
Flaherty’s strikeouts came mostly on his fastball—which averaged 95 mph and topped out at 97 mph—and his slider. After walking Castellanos in the first inning in a seven-pitch at-bat, Flaherty made an adjustment with his fastball to bring it away from the outside corner. It was smooth sailing from there, as he mixed in the slider to keep the Cubs on their toes.
“You saw good life to his fastball, good location with his fastball,” Shildt said. “Down, up when appropriate, just a lot of quality pitches. Slider was short with some depth to it. Just in complete control with where he was going with it.” (A Rogers - MLB.com - Aug 2, 2019)
Sept. 8, 2019: Flaherty one-upped his last start by going even deeper. Quick work early (19 pitches in two innings) set up a dominant eight-inning day. In particular, his four-seamer baffled Pirates hitters; the right-hander recorded seven of his 10 strikeouts on the offering (six swinging).
“He kept mixing locations, changing the spin,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Secondary pitches when he was behind in counts. He got big strikeouts in times where we had the right guys up. He’s just taken it to another level.”
Flaherty, the MLB leader in ERA since the All-Star break, drove his mark down even more, to an incredible 0.76 ERA in his last 11 starts.
It all points back to what Flaherty believed was a turning point for him, when he took a no-hitter into the seventh on July 7 against the Giants only to lose on the first hit he allowed—a homer to Evan Longoria.
“I started executing better [after] that game,” Flaherty said. “Pitches started to feel better. I made small adjustments to not really my mechanics but just mentally, how I was going about things. Little things here and there, and kind of just tried to carry it from one start to the next.” (J Crouse - MLB.com - Sept 8, 2019)
Oct 4, 2019: After 116 pitches into his first afternoon on the postseason stage, Flaherty reached back for one last slider. He’d already thrown 48 across 6 2/3 innings, which he spent dueling with Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. None had betrayed him. But a handful of fastballs had; they were directly responsible for the three-run deficit Flaherty and the Cardinals suddenly found themselves in.
The most consequential was a 3-2 four-seamer that, two batters prior, Adam Duvall sent sizzling 423 feet through the Georgia heat. The pinch-hit two-run homer came on Flaherty’s 105th pitch, significantly altering the complexion of Game 2 of the NLDS at SunTrust Park. The Braves went up by the 3-0 margin they’d even the series with. But Flaherty remained.
“Folty had the performance of his year so far,” Flaherty said. “That’s the best he’s been. Hats off to him. Hats off to Max. He came in, and one of these days I’m sure he’ll give up a run.”
It’s a sentiment opponents have been expressing for months about Flaherty, who emerged as one of the Majors’ top starters down the stretch. The three runs Flaherty allowed tied for his most since July 2, a span of 16 starts. That they resulted in a loss sent the Cardinals back to St. Louis with a split of the first two games of this best-of-five series, missing a chance to take a commanding lead behind their ace.
That Shildt pushed Flaherty to 117 pitches virtually eliminates the chances of him appearing again before Game 5, which he’d start if necessary. That would be a winner-take-all, all-hands-on-deck effort led by Flaherty, who finished the year with a 0.93 ERA over his last 16 starts.
“I’d rather win it in four,” Flaherty said. “I [couldn’t] care less about pitching again. If it comes down to it, it comes down to it.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Oct 4, 2019) (Editor's note: The Cardinals won the series, with Flaherty getting the win in Game 5.)
Nov 13, 2019: After strong 2nd half in 2019, Flaherty finished 4th in Cy Young Award voting with 69 points, only three behind Scherzer. Jacob deGrom was the runaway winner with 207 points,
2019 Season: There's an argument to be made that Flaherty arrived as the Cardinals' ace during his historic second half last season, when he posted a 0.91 ERA after the All-Star break. After a fourth-place NL Cy Young Award finish, the 24-year-old right-hander was set to be the Opening Day starter to begin his third full season in the Majors. He has often cited the guidance he's received from other club aces such as Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
But Flaherty might be the first to tell you the ways he could improve. He mentioned it in the offseason and throughout Spring Training: His goal was to stay consistent during the year.
Flaherty had a 4.64 ERA in the first half last year compared to that tidy ERA post-All-Star break. The next level isn't about going higher than his second half last season, but to try to stay constant during the entirety of the season. Flaherty emerged as the Cardinals' future ace last season. Now the Cardinals are looking for him to stay on that path. --Anne Rogers
Jack finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting after a second half for the ages. His 0.91 ERA post-All-Star break was the second-best ever for a qualified starter (behind Jake Arrieta's 0.75 in 2015).
Flaherty's breaking pitches have been nasty from the beginning. That goes for both his slider and curveball, but the slider is out pitch No. 1. The 214 swings-and-misses Flaherty induced on his slider were sixth-most of any pitcher, and his 91 slider strikeouts ranked 10th. Hitters whiffed on over 45% of the Flaherty sliders they swung at, and he held them to a .184 batting average in at-bats decided by a slider.
Flaherty added a little velo from 2018 to '19, throwing over a mph harder. He tightened up the break on his slider and more finely located it on the low, glove-side corner (down-and-away to righties/down-and-in to lefties). And he started using his two-seamer to pepper left-handed hitters on the outside edge. Put it all together, and you get a pitcher making the leap to Cy Young contender. Flaherty held hitters to an 86.1 mph average exit velocity, 10th-best of the 152 pitchers with at least 250 batted balls against them last season. He allowed only a 30.3% hard-hit rate, eighth-best. (Adler - mlb.com - 6/3/2020)
Jack's mindset is getting outs. He isn’t fixated on velocity.The idea was to scale up his workload as his strength matured and allow his feel for the game and physicality to grow concurrently, patiently. He hastened his progress by staying healthy, producing and untracking his delivery. Flaherty had a higher extension that made his fastball “sneaky” and changeup wily. It also could be harnessed for more horsepower.
2020 Season: There was a solid chance that 2020 would have been a bit of a disappointment no matter what Jack Flaherty did. You can’t have a second half that compares to Bob Gibson 1968 and not come back to earth a little bit. When you’ve gotten people used to you just allowing a run or less a game, giving up 2-3 feels like a lot. So there were some high standards coming into this season for the young hurler.
Even acknowledging that, though, 2020 felt a little…..off, maybe the right way to put it. The COVID issues led Flaherty to be treated with kid gloves more than any other pitcher on the staff, which is understandable given his potential. After the three-week layoff, Flaherty was limited to less than three innings in his first start and only went past five innings once after the layoff. His first game, where he went seven innings and struck out six against the Pirates, was almost his best.
There’s a school of thought that says, take out the Brewers games (a team that always seems to do well against him) and the numbers would be fine. There is something to that. Flaherty faced Milwaukee twice, went just eight innings total, and allowed 12 runs, walking six and striking out 11. Without those games, his ERA is a more reasonable 2.78. However, you could also go the opposite way. He threw 13 innings against the Pirates and allowed just two runs with 17 strikeouts and two walks. Remove those outings and the ERA blooms to 6.59. Maybe the numbers aren’t quite as skewed after all.
I’m no expert on anything like pitch mechanics or philosophy so I can’t tell you exactly why Flaherty had so many issues this year. We saw the good Flaherty in the playoffs, as he limited a good Padres team, so maybe there was some familiarity issues facing the same teams over and over again this year. Maybe the stop-start nature of the virus-plagued season got him out of whack. Maybe he was just destined to take a step back after such a performance in 2019. Maybe we should just toss out 2020 and never speak of it again.
I also don’t think we can leave speaking about Flaherty’s 2020 without acknowledging his activity off the field. With social issues relating to the Black community taking center stage, even with the pandemic raging, Flaherty spoke his mind and became recognized not only as a leader on the Cardinals but also a leader throughout baseball.
While these are sensitive topics, the fear of backlash didn’t keep him from talking about things that mattered to him and even if you commend him for nothing else, you should commend him for that. You can decide how much weight to give to celebrities or athletes or the like talking about issues, but their status doesn’t preclude them from action on topics that are meaningful to them. It is going to be interesting to see how Flaherty’s leadership on things evolves and grows in the coming years.
Outlook: Flaherty is still the ace of the staff and will be until a full season proves otherwise. That said, the rotation looks a lot different if you don’t have a strong Flaherty at the top of it. The Cardinals need more of the guy that turned out quality starts and better every time out and less of someone that you aren’t completely sure what you are going to get on a different day. Most likely we’ll see a turnaround in Flaherty’s results in 2021. If not, then some hard questions are going to have to be asked. (Cardinal70 - November 11, 2020)
- As of the start of the 2021, Jack had a career record of: 23-22 with a 3.37 ERA, having allowed 55 home runs and 299 hits in 409 innings.
- April-May 2015: Flaherty stayed in extended spring on a strengthening program for a sore shoulder.