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WBN’s International Player of the Week: Cardinals Pitching Prospect Ettore Giulianelli

 Julian Guilarte  |    Jun 7th, 2024 1:00pm EDT

Ettore Giulianelli of the St. Louis Cardinals warms up prior to a minor league spring training game against the New York Mets at the George Kissell Quad on March 19, 2023 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The winner of WBN’s International Player of the Week is Italian St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Ettore Giulianelli.

The right-handed Giulianelli, 21, has one of the nastiest pitches in Minor League Baseball with his screwball. His screwball went viral on X after his appearance on May 25 for the Cardinals Low-A affiliate, the Palm Beach Cardinals, when he struck out two batters against the Detroit Tigers affiliate, the Lakeland Tigers.

In the sixth, the screwball that went viral had 58 inches of vertical break and eight inches of movementand an absurd spin rate of 2,192 rpm. Lakeland’s Jose De La Cruz swung over it to make it a 0-2 count. He got De La Cruz to ground out on the screwball at 74 mph later in the at-bat.

He closed the inning out with a strikeout against left fielder David Smith on the cutter. His screwball was posted on X by MLB and several other notable accounts such as Pitching Ninja.

In the seventh, he struck out Tigers’ top prospect Max Clark. Clark is ranked 12th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospect Rankings. 

Giulianelli’s line on May 25 was 1.1 inning pitched, one hit, zero earned runs, two strikeouts, and three walks. He topped out at around 92 mph against Lakeland, also mixing in a slider in the low 80s.

MLB Pipeline.com reporter Sam Dykstra wrote about Giulianelli’s May 25 outing and dove deeper into this screwball. His data is updated through May 25 and it doesn’t account for his last two outings. 

“In the pitch tracking era, there have been only 27 total Major League pitches delivered with 55+ inches of drop, 8+ inches of armside movement, and 2100+ rpm. Giulianelli has thrown six such pitches in the Florida State League this season alone,” Dystra said. 

He’s thrown four more screwballs since May 25 and one of them fits the criteria explained by Dykstra above. Giulianelli has 11 swings and misses out of the 15 times batters have swung at his screwball. That’s a whiff rate of 73 percent, which is the highest of any breaking ball in all of baseball.   

Giulianelli was born in Rimini, Italy, and was signed by the Cardinals as an international free agent in 2019. He pitched the past three seasons from 2021-23 for the Cardinals Florida Complex League team throwing 43.2 innings, 65 strikeouts, one save, and an ERA of 4.75 in that span.

In his latest outing on June 4 against the Dunedin Blue Jays he pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. Both of his strikeouts were on screwballs. 

His season stats are 14.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, 22 walks, and an ERA of 4.40. The biggest issue is that he has had trouble consistently finding the strike zone. He has walked 13.8 batters per nine innings and has given up 10 hits. 

His WHIP of 2.23 jumps off the page as something that isn’t sustainable if he wants to reach higher levels of the Minor Leagues. His stuff is so good that he can pitch his way out of most jams. Giulianelli just needs to figure out how to harness his control and he could be set up for long-term success. 

He could also be an option for Team Italy’s pitching staff in the 2026 World Baseball Classic.

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Julian Guilarte