From 'tech guy' to big leaguer: Loutos called up by Cardinals

May 21st, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Even though has been a steadily rising pitching prospect in the Cardinals’ organization for the past two years -- largely by taking his fastball from 92 to 97 mph -- most of his Minor League teammates thought of him simply as their tech services help.

After all, it was Loutos -- a computer science graduate from Washington University in St. Louis -- who wrote most of the code for the app used by pitchers throughout the system while working for the Cardinals during the winter of 2021-22 before leaving to focus on pitching.

Loutos, 25, helped to build the framework for “Chirp,” the app that allows Cardinals pitchers to view video of their performances, deep-dive data from outings and pitch-by-pitch breakdowns. When tech-challenged teammates had trouble navigating the app, they often turned to their teammate on the pitching staff.

“I’ve definitely been that [tech] guy for all of my Minor League teammates for the most part,” said Loutos, who found out on Sunday that he was being called up to the Cardinals from Triple-A Memphis and could soon make his MLB debut. “The players will come to me first because I’m their friend and they’re comfortable around me. I helped with some of [the pitching app], but all the people in the front office are so smart and so good at what they do. I learned so much from them.

“Because I know all the ins and outs [of the app], I was always the guy who players would go to. The No. 1 question was always, ‘Why is my [velocity] so low on here?’ Nonetheless, it was always good to know [the app] and be able to help out.”

These days, Loutos is more focused on his pitching than app development, and his rapid improvement in recent years made him a legit big league prospect. The 6-foot-5 right-hander was 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA and four saves in as many chances with Memphis. He struck out 18 in 15 2/3 innings, and found out from Memphis manager Ben Johnson on Sunday night that he was headed to St. Louis.

“My dad was the first call,” said Loutos, who expected to have 40 friends and family at Busch Stadium on Monday night when the Cardinals opened a series against the Orioles. “I wanted to get my mind settled, so I packed up my things first, and right as I was about to click ‘Dad’ to call him, I was getting a call from him. I was wondering, ‘How does he know? He doesn’t know, does he?’ But he had butt-dialed me. I re-called him and he was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ And I heard everyone in the background going nuts, so it was pretty cool.”

Despite a stellar baseball career at Washington University, where he led the Bears to the Division III World Series, Loutos wasn’t drafted, and he always thought he would end up working in computer programming after college. The Barrington, Ill., product even accepted a job based in Chicago as a software engineer, but pitching wasn’t completely out of his blood. He latched on with the Fond du Lac (Wis.) Dock Spiders, a collegiate summer league team, where the Cardinals saw his progress and signed him to a deal.

After some initial struggles at Low-A Palm Beach, Loutos determined that he had to increase his velocity from the low-90s if he was ever going to evolve into a legitimate big league prospect. Adding weight and strength while working at the St. Louis-based Premier Pitching and Performance clinic, he was able to rev up his fastball to 97 mph. Getting more sweep on his sweeper and more break on his curveball -- stuff he was able to accomplish via the “Chirp” app he helped write -- led to his success this season while playing them off an improved fastball.

When he walked out onto the turf at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon, some three-plus hours before the first pitch, Loutos thought about how far he had come -- both literally and metaphorically -- from his last visit to watch the Cardinals.

“I was just telling someone that during my first week of school at WashU, in the fall of 2017 for maybe a Cardinals-Cubs series, I was sitting all the way up high in the $10 tickets, and I remember [former Cardinals pitcher] Jack [Flaherty] running in from the bullpen,” Loutos said. And, now, how-many-ever years later, I’m here. Never in a million years did I think I’d be here.”