Prospects In Person: St. John’s University

March 10, 2024

The main attraction on Sunday afternoon at a cold, dreary and occasionally wet Jack Kaiser Stadium in Queens was a start by enigmatic St. John’s Red Storm starter Mario Pesca.

A big, Bronx-born righty at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, the sophomore was on the radar for the 2022 MLB Draft in his prep days, but according to a social media post from his Cardinal Spellman HS at the time, he “decided to decline this year and focus on his education and development.” Pesca was, back in those days, up to 91 miles per hour on the bump, and given his size, was a very intriguing projection play as he would potentially continue to develop into a true power arm.

That has seemingly yet to happen.

Still only 20 years old and with that upside still in play, Pesca struggled throughout the majority of his freshman year — he posted a 1.652 WHIP and struck out 33 in 46 2/3 innings, while also hitting a stunning 14 batters — and filled up nearly every column of his line in the box score on Sunday, including that last one.

In one of the first outings of his sophomore year, Pesca was mostly a two-pitch arm who lived at 87-89 after touching 91 a few times early in his outing; he allowed five hits (including two homers) in five up-and-down frames, walked three, hit two and struck out one.

He was never really able to settle in, never retiring more than three in a row, and couldn’t string together a clean inning. One would wonder if perhaps a move to the bullpen might unlock a little bit more of that velo that could help separate him.

Past Pesca — say that three times fast — the Red Storm did have some other potential prospects on their hands, perhaps some that could add to a very rich program history of producing contributors at every level, including recent big leaguers like Gavin Hollowell and Joe La Sorsa as well as more notable names from recent past like Joe Panik and Craig Hansen.

Right fielder Ben Beauchamp had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a homer in a wild, 9-8 win. An undersized redshirt senior outfielder at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he’s a right-handed bat who has shown good walk numbers in the Appy League.

The longball on Sunday was something of a bizarre one, as he smacked it to left center on the first pitch while his walkup music was still playing, but showed in-game pop to the gap in doing so…it’s hard to expect it on a consistent basis, however.

He was sparingly used last year, but could perhaps get on the pro ball radar with a big 2024 as an under the radar UDFA.

Jimmy Keenan certainly has the look; he’s a six-foot-three, 225-pound right-handed hitting sophomore catcher who is coming off a big freshman season and has some tools to work with. Still just 19 years old, Keenan is an advanced hitter — he had two hits on Sunday — but also impressed with his arm strength behind the plate with in-game pop times of 2.05 to second and 1.71 to third. Below average runner at 4.36 to first, but not a baseclogger catcher-type either. There’s some pop there with the stick; he had six NCAA homers last year and added nine more in the FCBL, and it would hardly be a surprise to see him start to get some attention as more of a mainstream prospect for the 2025 MLB Draft.

Mike Ashmore
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