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Flaherty looks to unveil skills in Futures Game

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Beginning with an invitation to big league Spring Training, Jack Flaherty has spent the season measuring himself against new competition. That will continue today, when Flaherty represents the Cardinals in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game (3 p.m. CT, on MLB.com and MLB Network) at Marlins Park.

Flaherty, the Cardinals' fifth-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, arrived in Miami having put himself one level shy of the Majors perhaps a bit quicker than most anticipated. Drafted out of high school in 2014, Flaherty opened the season as part of a prospect-rich Double-A rotation. Quickly, he stood out as the most advanced of the bunch.

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MIAMI -- Beginning with an invitation to big league Spring Training, Jack Flaherty has spent the season measuring himself against new competition. That will continue today, when Flaherty represents the Cardinals in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game (3 p.m. CT, on MLB.com and MLB Network) at Marlins Park.

Flaherty, the Cardinals' fifth-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, arrived in Miami having put himself one level shy of the Majors perhaps a bit quicker than most anticipated. Drafted out of high school in 2014, Flaherty opened the season as part of a prospect-rich Double-A rotation. Quickly, he stood out as the most advanced of the bunch.

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After posting a 1.42 ERA and 0.916 WHIP through 10 starts, Flaherty moved up to Triple-A. There, he has a 4.11 ERA through his first six appearances.

:: 2017 Futures Game coverage ::

"The big thing there is, once again, new level, new adjustments, it didn't faze him at all, which was a real credit to how he's matured through the system," said Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals' director of player development. "The thing that he's always been able to rely on is that he, from day one, always showed that he had confidence and command with his fastball. And that still plays out right now. "

It's not an overpowering fastball -- Flaherty's average velocity sits in the low 90s -- but he has shown advanced command of the pitch for a 21-year-old. LaRocque noted that Flaherty's extension and delivery deception make that fastball appear faster than it actually is.

Flaherty complements the pitch with a changeup, slider and curveball. Growing more comfortable throwing all three of those offerings has been a key ingredient to Flaherty's 2017 success.

"They are coming along; it's just developing more consistency with them," Flaherty said. "Rather than having it be one day it's this pitch, one day it's that, trying to get them to where they're consistent and I have the confidence to be able to throw any pitch in any count, no matter what the situation is."

He has stood out in the system as a strike-thrower, too. Flaherty has averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings over four seasons and has a strikeout to walk rate of 4.41.

"Here's a young man who has the confidence and ability to throw his fastball for strikes, and that was a separator from the day he walked in here," LaRocque said. "It's fun to watch that progression knowing that he had some things right away behind him that he didn't have to worry about. He's an extremely mature pitcher. And he has a lot of confidence in his ability to compete. That's a great quality."

The Cardinals have used Flaherty's invitation to the Futures Game to manipulate his schedule and build in a breather that can have him ready to finish the Minor League season strong. That's why Memphis had him on a pitch count in Wednesday's start.

His chances of ascending to the Majors this year may be hurt by not being on the 40-man roster, but Flaherty's strong season has positioned him as a pitcher who could make a big league impact by this time next year. Flaherty is looking forward to offering a flash of that potential today before returning to work back with Memphis.

"I think it just kind of hit me [Friday] when I got here how cool of an experience this is," Flaherty said. "It's an honor. It's something special. And I'm really happy to be a part of it. I'm just going to try to take it all in and enjoy the weekend."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

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