High school right-hander, UNC commit signs his contract at Busch Stadium
ST. LOUIS -- The reality has begun to set in for Jack Flaherty as he watches his friends pick up summer jobs and head off for college.
He hears it from his former high school teachers and his friends remind him, too. Flaherty is 18 years old, and he's already found his career after being selected by the Cardinals with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
"I think my friends made a bigger deal out of it than I did," Flaherty said. "They're like, 'Oh my god, you already got your job.' I'm like, 'Geez, this is just what I've always wanted to do with my life.'"
The Cardinals selected the North Carolina commit out of Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) High School. The team enticed him to forgo college with a $2 million bonus, MLB.com confirmed. The slot value for the 34th overall pick is set at $1.6504 million.
Flaherty first caught the Cardinals' eye as a third-base prospect during his sophomore year at Harvard-Westlake. It didn't take long for the team, and Flaherty, to realize his brightest future would be on the hill.
"It seemed like that's what the better part of my future was," Flaherty said. "I had a really good last two years, and I guess the Cardinals believed in me and believed in my pitchability."
Flaherty didn't lose a high school game during his junior or senior seasons, going 23-0 and tossing a no-hitter in his last high school appearance during the playoffs.
This season he posted a 0.63 ERA in 78 innings on his way to being named the 2014 California Gatorade Player of the Year. Flaherty emerged onto the national scene when he tossed a complete game in the opening round of USA Baseball's 2012 National High School Invitational.
"We're thinking to ourselves, 'Wow, this might be somebody special,'" Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said. "We just became more and more impressed with him over time."
What impressed the Cardinals was Flaherty's velocity on his fastball that comes with his deep repertoire, which is rare for a high school pitcher. The 6-foot-3 right-hander hits 93-94 mph with his fastball, but adds three other pitches -- a changeup, slider and curveball.
"You don't often see a high school kid with that kind of command on his fastball and not to mention three secondary pitches that he can throw for legitimate strikes," Kantrovitz said. "He's a special one."
After signing his contract at Busch Stadium on Tuesday -- one day after the Cardinals inked 27th overall selection Luke Weaver -- Flaherty will fly from St. Louis to Jupiter, Fla., in time to report to the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League team Wednesday.
Despite Flaherty's success -- the perfect record in the past two seasons and being ranked by MLB.com as the No. 54 prospect in the Draft -- the Cardinals plan to ease the young pitcher into his first season of professional baseball.
"I think we're going to try to temper the expectations early on. We don't want to set the bar too high," Kantrovitz said. "We're definitely going to take it slow with him this summer. The last thing we want to do is throw him into the mix and be throwing complete games right out of the chute."
That doesn't mean, however, that Flaherty won't see plenty of innings in his two-plus months in Florida.
"Our assessment of him is that he's healthy and strong," Kantrovitz said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he does log some innings this season."
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com.