Selected in the 2007 draft class with the Cardinals 4th pick (2nd round), Jess Todd was plucked out of the University of Arkansas in the same round as fellow Razorback Duke Welker and one round after Nick Schmidt. There were plenty of questions about where Todd would fit in the majors due to his delivery and physical size.
At draft time, Baseball America said:
[Todd has] a 90-94 mph four-seam fastball and a hard mid-80s slider that ranks as one of the best in the draft. He also throws an upper-80s two-seamer and a circle changeup that acts like a splitter. He opened the spring as the Razorbacks’ closer, and scouts envision him as a late-inning reliever in pro ball. Todd’s size (6 feet, 213 pounds) and violent delivery lend themselves more to that role, though he has shown a deep repertoire, command and durability as a college starter.
Todd easily lapped both Razorback rotation mates (who remain in A+ ball) as the Cardinals aggressively promoted him through the system. Working in Batavia after being drafted, he tossed 59 innings striking out 69 against 14 walks. In 2008, his first full year in the system, he skipped the Quad Cities starting out in Palm Beach and ending the year in Memphis.
Todd had success in the rotation in 2008 with all but 4 of his game appearances as a starter where he struck out ~7.5/9IP and walked ~2.5/9IP. The jump from Springfield to Memphis revealed some control problems as Todd’s walk rate crept up but given just four starts there, it’s impossible to know whether that was prescient.
In 2009, Todd was converted to a full time reliever by the Cardinals. He’s notch 24 saves for Memphis while recording a 10+K/9IP rate, a cup of coffee in St. Louis and a PTBNL tag in the Mark DeRosa trade sending him to the Cleveland Indians. Todd pitched well in Indians AAA affiliate remaining exclusively a reliever during 2010.
It’s curious that the Indians released him this year (as did the Yankees). Whether it was a 40-man roster issue or not, Todd had performed well to date in every stop he made. He’s been bitten by some bad luck (high-BABIP, HRs) recently but his peripherals remain strong. Here’s his composite yearly strikeout and walk rates.
That looks like a pretty good reliever to me. Todd’d groundball rates are generally around league average though he’s tended to be a bit more of a flyball pitcher in the majors. Over the last four years, however, he’s posted strong rates that indicate he’s capable of pitching in the majors. Both ZiPS and Marcel liked Todd to be better than the replacement level reliever entering 2011 projecting a FIP around 4.00, which was on par with projections for Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Bryan Augenstein and Ryan Franklin. Todd also projected to be clearly better than Miguel Batista.
So the Cardinals managed to claim a player off waivers who, for some peculiar reason, doesn’t look like most of the players you find on waivers. Right now, Todd is trying to stem the tide in a rather weak Memphis bullpen but there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be considered an option in St. Louis either this year or next. Welcome back, Jess Todd. Please don’t destroy us.