Top 24 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATLMIA, NYMPHI)

Cardinals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Alex Reyes 22 MLB RHP 2017 65
2 Delvin Perez 18 R SS 2021 55
3 Sandy Alcantara 21 A+ RHP 2018 55
4 Carson Kelly 22 MLB C 2017 50
5 Luke Weaver 23 MLB RHP 2017 50
6 Jack Flaherty 21 A+ RHP 2018 50
7 Dakota Hudson 22 A+ RHP 2019 50
8 Eliezer Alvarez 22 A 2B 2019 45
9 Magneuris Sierra 20 A OF 2020 45
10 Edmundo Sosa 20 A+ SS 2019 45
11 Harrison Bader 22 AAA OF 2017 45
12 Junior Fernandez 19 A+ RHP 2018 45
13 Paul DeJong 23 AA 2B 2017 45
14 Jordan Hicks 20 A- RHP 2020 40
15 Austin Gomber 23 AA LHP 2018 40
16 Randy Arozarena 21 AAA UTIL 2018 40
17 Marcos Gonzalez 24 MLB LHP 2017 40
18 Jake Woodford 20 A RHP 2020 40
19 Nick Plummer 20 R OF 2021 40
20 Dylan Carlson 18 R OF 2020 40
21 Andrew Morales 24 AA RHP 2018 40
22 Connor Jones 22 A- RHP 2019 40
23 Zac Gallen 21 R RHP 2019 40
24 John Gant 24 MLB RHP 2017 40

65 FV Prospects

1. Alex Reyes, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republlic
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 45/50 60/60 55/60 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Average fastball velo was 97 mph in big-league appearances.

Scouting Report
The rate at which Reyes missed bats during his 46-inning big-league stint last year is encouraging considering he only turned 22 in August and his repertoire is still relatively amorphous. By now you should know about his fastball, a plus-plus seed that sits in the mid-90s and will crest 100 during relief outings. That velocity arguably allows an already average-to-above changeup play as plus as hitters are geared up for elite velocity only to wave helplessly at a fading 86-91.

You’re probably also aware of his plus curveball, generally 75-80 mph, that has bat-missing bite and depth and of which Reyes has shown glimpses commanding to both the corners of the strike zone and down below it. In the 2015 Fall League, Reyes was also showing an average cutter/slider thing in the upper 80s. Early during his 2016 campaign, especially in his first several big-league outings, that pitch was gone. It returned late in the year, this time as more of a two-plane, low-80s slider that sometimes ran together with his curveball and diluted the effectiveness of both. That Reyes was able to miss bats while clearly tinkering and making on-the-fly adjustments is another encouraging sign for what is already considered a very bright future. Just on pure stuff scouts are already seeing at times (7 fastball, at least a 6 curve, 6 change, average slider/cutter) he’s a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.

The concerns about Reyes are relatively mild compared to the boisterousness of his stuff. He had a DL stint in 2015 due to shoulder soreness (if I had to pick one thing to be worried about, I guess it’s this), he’s missed time on a drug (marijuana) suspension last year (although he won’t be tested for weed anymore now that he’s on the 40-man), his delivery has some cross-body components that contribute to his currently below-average command, and not everyone thinks those will be totally solved.

Even if Reyes never develops above-average command (he’s a good athlete with a big, strong body that’s maybe a little soft, though he’s still listed at a comical 175 on the team site), he’s still a likely good mid-rotation starter at worst because of how dominant the stuff is. I have a future 50 on the command and am pretty confident he gets there because of his athleticism. If more than that comes, he’ll outreach my overall projection, which is already that of the best (domestic) pitching prospect in baseball.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 13.8 WAR

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Int’l Baseball (PR)
Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 40/50 20/40 70/70 45/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .292/.354/.393 in GCL, didn’t turn 18 until Thanksgiving.

Scouting Report
Purely from a talent standpoint, I thought Perez was a top-five prospect in last summer’s draft. He’s a 70 runner (was about 6.5 in the 60-yard dash at Perfect Game National) with the range, flexibility, athleticism and arm (plus) needed for shortstop. He has an explosive first step to the ball and then throttles down his feet into efficient little ballerina steps to position himself to field balls in front of him and make a quick, strong, accurate throws. He seems to do this very naturally. He projects as a plus defender at short.

He also has Goldilocks Zone physical projection, as his long-limbed and wiry frame looks as though it’s going to fill out in a way that adds the sort of mass and strength that could allow him to make an offensive while still retaining the relevant physical characteristics to be a terrific defender at shortstop. He was already exhibiting plus bat speed in games last year, and the thought of average or better raw/game power coming down the line is as reasonable as it is exhilarating. This is what All-Star shortstops look like in high school.

Perez’s game swing is not geared for loft/power at present. It’s more of a flat, line-drive and ground-ball bat path, and there’s some stiffness there as well. Unlocking his raw power in games might mean tweaking the swing, and there’s some risk involved in doing that. If you like a 6 defender at short that hits, but not for power, you might not want to risk that profile by becoming cavalier with Perez’s development — even if you’re trying to make a superstar. There’s a chance he just naturally learns how to put the ball in the air more consistently as he matures.

There were pre-draft questions about Perez’s makeup and he tested positive for PEDs just days ahead of the draft, the latter development representing the cause for his fall on draft day, as nobody is really sure how much of what they saw from Perez was legitimate. The Cardinals’ organizational stability and player-development program has yielded great results for a long time now, and I feel better about Perez’s prospects in this system than I would were he with a club that has had trouble nurturing young players.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republlic
Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 50/60 45/60 30/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 153 strikeouts in 122.2 innings.

Scouting Report
The reports on Alcantara’s stuff are among the most superlative I’ve encountered during this series. This is a 21-year-old (turned 21 in September and pitched all last year at 20) whose fastball sits 95-97 and will touch 101 with plus movement and whose breaking ball and changeup both flash plus. Alcantara is listed at 6-foot-4, 170 with a slight, angular build that isn’t as projectable as it looks on paper but definitely has room for more weight. It’s a good reason to be optimistic about him maintaining this velocity as his workload continues to grow. If you think that, eventually, Alcantara’s secondaries will solidify as plus pitches based just on stuff, independent of command/delivery (which I’ll get to shortly), this is one of the better pitching prospects in all of baseball.

The thing tempering scouts’ enthusiasm here is largely the inconsistent nature of Alcantara’s mechanics and, it follows, his control. Though his delivery isn’t overtly violent, varied stride length, direction and Alcantara’s slingy arm slot all contribute to below-average control. He’s a good, quick-footed athlete and, when everything falls into place and he lands on a stable front leg, the delivery will look efficient and picturesque. Given his youth, I’m less apt to sew a scarlet RP onto the scouting report here. I think there’s a good chance that, as Alcantara grows into his body, he’ll get stronger and improve his ability to repeat, throw strikes and generally avoid the issues that currently cause his fastball to wander. He has already had success at High-A with the current iteration of his command and, even if he’s only ever a fringe-average strike-thrower, I still think his stuff will play as a starter in the big leagues, even if it’s as an inefficient one. The upside here is substantial, and I’m bullish about Alcantara’s ability to approach it. I think there’s a chance he gets a cup of coffee in the big-league bullpen at some point in 2018.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.8 WAR

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2012 from Westview HS (OR)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 35/40 20/20 55/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .289/.343/.395 across three levels in 2016.

Scouting Report
Though not an especially interesting offensive prospect, Kelly’s ability to play a premium position, play it very well, and profile as at least competent with the bat make him a likely bet to become a solid-average everyday player. Kelly is a terrific receiver, is deceptively mobile behind the plate despite fringey athleticism, and blocks balls well. He has exceptional makeup, communicates well with pitchers, has burgeoning game-calling skills, and projects as a plus defender with a plus arm. It’s rather impressive considering Kelly is a converted infielder who only began catching in 2014.

Offensively, Kelly’s swing can get a little long at times, and he only has fringe to average bat speed, but he keeps things simple, sees the ball well, and showed impressive breaking-ball recognition in the Fall League. His approach and the threat of his average pull power should enable him to reach base at a good clip while he hits around .260 and pulls out around a dozen homers annually as a starter. He’s a high-probability regular due to the makeup and proximity to the majors.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.1 WAR

5. Luke Weaver, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Florida St.
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command
50/50 45/45 55/60 50/55 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Struck out 88 over 105 innings at High-A in 2015 but K’d 45 in 36 big-league innings in 2016.

Scouting Report
Those who have questioned Weaver’s upside (myself included) did so because, in college, he lacked a good breaking ball. Weaver’s fringey curveball remains so today, but he’s a good athlete who has developed plus command and added an average cutter to his repertoire in pro ball. He now projects as a solid, league-average starter, about a half-grade higher than I had on him on his draft day.

Of course, Weaver’s best offering is still his above-average changeup, which missed fewer bats in the majors than I anticipated but was still effective and should continue to improve going forward. Weaver is an above-average athlete who repeats and has good command to all axes, especially of his fastball and cutter. He has a drop-and-drive delivery that sucks a good bit of plane out of his fastball (which might be why he was homer prone in his big-league stint last year) and, while the pitch is a tick above average on velo and movement, it plays as a 50.

Some see Weaver’s frame and wonder if it will hold up under an MLB workload. He stayed back in extended spring training in 2015 as he dealt with a dead arm, but there haven’t been any arm-related injury issues since then. He suffered a fracture to his left wrist early in the spring of 2016 and missed two months, but that was a freak thing. If you want to be a little paranoid about Weaver’s ability to throw 170-plus innings, you could cite the fact that the greatest number of innings he’s thrown during a regular season was the 106 he threw as a junior at Florida State. Weaver had a 101-pitch outing against Milwaukee in September (his most of the season) and then got bombed in his final three appearances of the year. I think it’s something worth monitoring, but it isn’t something about which I’m overly concerned right now.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 6.0 WAR

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Harvard Westlake (CA)
Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 50/55 45/50 50/60 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 22% strikeout rate at High-A, didn’t turn 21 until October.

Scouting Report
Flaherty continues his waltz toward a future in the middle of a rotation, with a low-90s fastball (mostly 90-94) and deep coffer of average secondaries of which his command and usage are relatively advanced. He’s large, physical and athletic and has added a bit of velocity as he’s filled out since being drafted. Scouts are mixed as to whether or not the cement on the body is dry and, even if it is, above-average command of 90-94 with some sink will play just fine in the big leagues.

Flaherty’s best secondary pitch is his changeup, which should continue to progress with reps and could be plus at maturity. His two breaking balls run together a bit. Generally, the slider is average with two-plane tilt (you could argue it will play up due to his command of it, especially away from righties), while his curveball (which he can back door to lefties) is more vertically oriented.

As Flaherty enters the upper levels of the minors his relatively unsexy stuff will be put to a more difficult test. You could argue that he already dealt with such an issue with Palm Beach last year, as hitters were anecdotally chasing pitches out of the zone less and making contact with his fastball a bit more, which forced Flaherty to nibble a little bit. He was only 20 and, considering he wasn’t even a mainstay in his high-school rotation until after Lucas Giolito and Max Fried were drafted and yielded rotation spots, he’s progressed very well. He projects as a solid No. 3 or 4 starter for me with, barring injury, a floor just beneath that.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 8.5 WAR

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Mississippi St.
Age 22 Height 6’5 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command
55/55 45/50 40/50 55/60 50/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
After throwing 120-pitch complete game against Arkansas on May 19th, allowed 20 hits and conceded six walks over final 14.2 innings for Miss State.

Scouting Report
I saw Hudson last spring and thought he was the second-best healthy college arm in the draft. He sat 92-95 with plane and sink, and was still touching 96 in the sixth inning with a nasty cutter/slider at 87-91 that he worked inside to lefties with impunity. He was also sporting a Frisbee curveball in the upper 70s that he worked back door to lefties and flashing feel for creating movement on his changeup, though he noticeably decelerated his arm when he’d throw it.

He looked like a potential mid-rotation starter to me, but his stuff wavered as the year went along. His long arm action is part of a somewhat ugly delivery and teams were concerned about injuries. He barely pitched in pro ball after signing (probably a good idea, considering the innings uptick Hudson took on between his sophomore and junior years at Mississippi State) but had some command issues when he did. There are scouts who think he ends up in relief either because of the command issues they’ve seen or because they think it’s best to cash in on Hudson before he breaks. He could be dominant in a relief role but, with this repertoire, I’m resolute in projecting Hudson as a No. 3 or 4 while acknowledging that he offers more risk than your average first-round college arm.

45 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republlic
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 165 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/50 30/40 55/55 40/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 19% strikeout rate, 10% walk rate, .152 ISO.

Scouting Report
This guy rakes. There’s not much raw power here and, at age 22 with a relatively mature build, there’s not a whole lot of reason to think much more is coming. Nevertheless, Alvarez has several traits indicative of frequent, high-quality contact. He is effortlessly smooth and comfortable in the box, swinging without much exertion while still producing above-average bat speed. He has some bat control, tracks pitches well, and has shown an ability to hit to all fields. Scouts with whom I spoke think this guy is going to be a doubles machine, peppering both foul lines, both gaps, and stretching looped singles into extra bases with his above-average speed. Alvarez stole 36 bases last year, but he’s more of an instinctive baserunner than he is a pure burner.

Defensively, there’s clear physical ability to play second base (the range and arm are fine) but also a general lack of polish and natural aptitude for the position. Scouts think he’ll play there, but most just have a future 50 on the glove after seeing inconsistent execution last year.

The bat-first second-base prospect is not an endangered species by any stretch, and it takes either a special hit tool (which I think Alvarez has) or some other form of contribution (elite defense or slugging) to profile there, especially with the offensive landscape at the big-league level tilting toward power. His ceiling is probably capped by the lack of pop, but he’s a potential average everyday player.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republlic
Age 21 Height 0’0 Weight 0 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 35/45 20/35 70/70 55/70 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Repeated Midwest League in 2016, saw strikeout rate drop from 27% in 2015 to 17% last year.

Scouting Report
The first thing about which scouts talk when discussing Sierra is his defense in center field. He’s a 70 runner with great range who takes efficient routes to the ball and has solid-average instincts for the position. He’s a potential doubles-eating, crowd-silencing, Gold Glove defender in center field. His arm is average.

Offensively, things are still evolving for Sierra, whose style of hitting was more slappy and opposite-field oriented early in the year and then more pull-oriented late in the summer. He has above-average bat speed and a little bit of bat control, but the quality of his at-bats is poor. Sierra regularly overswings, waves at early-count braking balls in the dirt, and just generally gives away at-bats. I think there’s a chance Sierra develops into some sort of offensive threat, either as a high-strikeout hitter who runs into a handful of homers every year or a squib-and-sprint type of bat. I can’t envision a scenario where he gets to have contact and eat for power, too, and there’s a pretty good chance he never hits enough to be more than a seven- or eight-hole bat.

But the foundation created by his defense is pretty stable, and we’ve seen plenty of no-stick center fielders yield solid, impactful big-league value just because of their defense. Even if we ignore total freaks like Billy Hamilton and Kevin Kiermaier, players like Travis Jankowski and Leonys Martin are solid everyday options for their clubs. It’s that type of player Sierra projects to be, an average everyday big leaguer on the back of his defense with a chance he makes no progress with his bat and falls a tad short of that.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.9 WAR

10. Edmundo Sosa, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Panama
Age 21 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/50 30/40 45/45 40/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded walk and strikeout rates of 5% and 19%, respectively.

Scouting Report
There’s nothing especially loud about Sosa’s tool set, but scouts think he’s solid bet to remain at shortstop as a 45 or 50 defender there due to mature instincts and actions. I’m inclined to agree — especially considering the organization in question and the success they’ve had despite deploying less-than-ideal fielders at shortstop. As I’ve mentioned on other team lists, batted-ball data is good enough now that clubs can hide marginal defenders by improving their positioning and, even if Sosa slows down and fills out as he ages, he’ll still be a viable defensive shortstop because of this.

Similarly with the bat, Sosa is solid, perhaps somewhat unremarkable. He has above-average bat speed, fringe average raw pull power right now with some feel to hit, though scouts would like to see the pause his hands take mid-load to be sanded away at some point to eliminate the stiffness that might make him strikeout prone at upper levels. On its own, the offensive profile is generic and non-impactful; on a viable defensive shortstop, however, the prospect of .250 with around a dozen homers looks pretty good. Sosa has a good chance to be an average everyday player.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Florida
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 50/50 40/45 60/60 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
ISO dropped from .214 at Double-A to .122 at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
Bader has plus bat speed and some raw power, but it’s hard for him to utilize it in games because his swing is so flat and linear. He has to really adjust his lower half to move his barrel up and down in the hitting zone and, while this worked at Double-A, not everyone thinks it’s sustainable in the big leagues. Additionally, Bader has trouble seeing the ball against right-handed pitching, especially breaking balls, over the top of which he often swings. It’s more of a 40/45 hit/power profile which doesn’t play everyday in a corner, but Bader was an above-average runner for me in the Fall League and plus during the season for some scouts with whom I spoke, so some orgs think he can moonlight in center field.

Teams either like Bader as a low-end regular in center or as a good fourth outfielder who could put up excellent rate stats if he’s consistently put in situations that are advantageous to his skill set.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.7 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republlic
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 45/50 60/70 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate dropped from 19% to 12% after promotion to High-A.

Scouting Report
Fernandez reaches back, throws as hard as he possibly can, and hopes whatever comes out of his hand finds the strike zone. Often, it does not. Both his max-effort delivery and diminutive frame point to a future in the bullpen, though I have spoken with scouts who think he keeps things under control for long enough that he could one day start. And that would be interesting because what comes out of Fernandez’s hand is nasty. He’ll show you 97-98 with big movement, a plus changeup that has garnered future 70s from scouts to whom I’ve spoken, and a fringey but deceptive power curveball.

Between his head whack and command issues, I’m projecting Fernandez as a reliever, though I think it makes sense to run him out as a starter for as long as possible — if for no other reason than to get him the reps needed to tighten up the curveball. He could be dominant at the back of a bullpen with two plus-plus pitches (rare for ‘pen arms, even as upper-90s fastballs become more common) and a third viable offering, even with poor command.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

13. Paul DeJong, 2B
Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Illinois St.
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 50/50 40/45 40/40 40/45 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit 22 homers at Double-A Springfield.

Scouting Report
DeJong spent time at third base and, less frequently, shortstop in 2016. Based on what I saw in the Fall League (40 range at short, below-average arm), I have him projected to second base, though I suppose he could be passable at third, as well. He has plus bat speed and makes hard, all-fields contact, though his average raw power really only plays to his pull side in games. I don’t think his 22-homer season at Double-A was an aberration as much as I think it was an exaggeration. He puts the ball in the air pretty regularly, and the bat speed and bat path for some game power are certainly present. He doesn’t track pitches well and can get swing-happy, so the overall hit/power combo is right around fringe average because there’s a good bit of swing and miss going on here, as well. That’s probably a little short of profiling as a regular at second or third and, unless you’re buying heavily into the “we can hide bad defenders because of batted-ball data” theory and think he fits at short, he’s either a low-end everyday guy or very solid bench bat. I’m inclined to put a firm 40 on bench players who can’t play a premium position, but I buy into DeJong’s bat enough to bump the grade up a bit.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

40 FV Prospects

14. Jordan Hicks, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Cypress Creek HS (TX)
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 50/60 30/45 30/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Only made six starts across two rookie-level or short-season affiliates.

Scouting Report
A relatively undercooked prep arm from the 2015 draft, Hicks didn’t have remarkable on-paper success in 2016 but his stuff was good. His fastball sits 90-94, will touch 96, and comes in at an odd angle with some late sink. He has some nascent feel for an average power curveball in the 78-83 mph range that will flash 55/60 on the scale. His command wavered due to some pretty heavy release-point variation but he’s a solid athlete with a good body and the command should come with time. I have it projected to average.

It doesn’t sound like there’s much changeup feel here right now, and you have to project on it pretty heavily to envision Hicks as anything more than a league-average starter. That said, if you buy into the delivery and athleticism (scouts are mixed on the former), then it’s possible. We have to see if Hicks can maintain this kind of velocity over a 20-plus-start season and he’s a great distance from the majors, but I have him tentatively projected as a high-risk No. 4 starter and consider him the most interesting domestic draftee pitcher in the system.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

15. Austin Gomber, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Florida Atlantic
Age 24 Height 6’5 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/45 55/55 45/50 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has produced 2.62 ERA over three pro seasons.

Scouting Report
I really enjoyed watching Gomber pitch during the Fall League, where he worked mostly 87-92 with downhill plane and a little bit of run, threw strikes, and worked quickly. His feel not only for spinning but also locating his curveball (which carved up AFL hitters) was a welcome respite for scouts stuck in Glendale on that day who passed out from the heat/sun (thanks, Mrs. McCourt) only to wake up 20 minutes later and see that it was the sixth inning, Gomber was still pitching, and had yet to allow a run. Gomber’s stuff (I also saw a change, flashing average, 80-84) isn’t great aside from the above-average, rainbow curveball, but he makes the most of what he has because of his command. I think it’s a low-risk fifth-starter profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.5 WAR

16. Randy Arozarena, UTIL
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 35/40 20/40 55/55 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Hasn’t played regularly in games since 2014.

Scouting Report
Arrozarena (I’ve seen it with one and two Rs) is an explosive physical specimen without a clear position. He worked out in the middle infield before signing (but not for all the teams who saw him) and in center field (where his above-average speed is fine but unexceptional). Arrozarena has above-average bat speed and generates great torque with his hips to whack balls from gap to gap and turn them into extra-base hits with his speed. He showed some ability to recognize and adjust to breaking balls in Cuba, but we haven’t seen him do that since his last regular in-game reps in 2014. Scouts question the bat control and note that most of the hard contact comes from Arrozarena’s raw physicality and not because he’s squaring up balls with any real authority the way most good major-league hitters do. Arrozarena projects as a utility type who plays a number of positions, though probably not shortstop, and acts as an interesting catalyst toward the bottom of a lineup when he gets the occasional start.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Gonzaga
Age 25 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/45 45/50 60/60 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Didn’t play due to injury.

Scouting Report
Remember Marco Gonzalez? He’s still rookie eligible after making his big-league debut back in 2014 and proceeding to deal with various injuries (including a shoulder issue in 2015, TJ early in 2016) since then. Healthy Gonzalez was 88-92 with tail and life (he’d miss bats up in the zone with that fastball) while featuring a plus changeup in the 76-78 mph range with significant fade, a fringe to average curveball, and flashes of plus command. He was — and, you could still argue, remains — a potential mid-rotation starter. He was missing bats in the spring of 2016 before getting injured. He’s begun throwing again and should be ready to face hitters at some point toward the end of spring training, at which point we’ll see how much of his stuff is there.

18. Jake Woodford, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Plant HS (FL)
Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
45/50 50/55 45/50 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 47% ground-ball rate per MLBfarm.com.

Scouting Report
A terrific prospect in his own right, Woodford was seen a lot by top executives as a high-school senior because he was teammates with top-five pick Kyle Tucker at Plant High School in Florida. His velocity has ticked down a bit since then — now mostly 89-92, when he was 91-93 and touching 95 last spring — though he can still reach back for 93 or 94 in big spots. It’s not uncommon for pitching prospects, now pitching every fifth day for an entire pro season rather than once a week for eight weeks until school lets out, to lose some velocity when they turn pro. I don’t think it’s necessarily something about which to be concerned here. Woodford’s profile is still essentially what it was when he was drafted, that of an inning-eating No. 4 or 5 starter who throws strikes with a sinking fastball and locates a solid-average slider and changeup.

Woodford has good size, average athleticism and showed comfort and poise on the mound in his first pro season, which is exactly what you expect from an experienced South Florida prep righty. His delivery has some violence and, while it hasn’t prevented him from throwing strikes so far as a pro, he did miss time in 2016 with shoulder soreness. It adds some risk to a modest but still valuable back-end starter’s profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Brother Rice HS (MI)
Age 20 Height 5’10 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/50 20/50 55/50 40/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Didn’t play due to injury.

Scouting Report
Plummer quelled concerns about his ability to hit elite pitching (prep bats from Michigan don’t see a whole lot of great pitching) by tagging balls on the showcase circuit as a rising high-school senior. Though he lacked physical projection, he had a good feel to hit, playable power, and enough speed/athleticism that some scouts thought he could stick in center field, while others though he could be an above-average defender in a corner.

Plummer’s first full pro season never got off the ground as he dealt with two hand surgeries, one to remove a piece of his hamate bone and another to deal with a tear in his hand. He missed the entire season. He’s kept in good shape despite missing game reps, but there’s not much else to report because Plummer wasn’t quite ready to play during instructional league, either. We’re in complete wait-and-see mode here.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Elk Grove HS (CA)
Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw S/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/60 20/50 45/40 40/50 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .251/.313/.404 in GCL after signing.

Scouting Report
Though not especially twitchy, Carlson is a solid athlete for his size and, in part because he was young for his class, continued to grow into raw power as his draft spring rolled on. The Cardinals popped him toward the back of the first round and signed him to an underslot deal that helped enable overslot bonuses for others, most notably Dakota Hudson.

I didn’t like Carlson’s hands at first base during Area Codes and preferred him in the outfield, but he might simply be too big to play out there at maturity. He’s an elite makeup kid with plenty of athleticism for first base who would likely be at least average there with reps. He played center field for the Cardinals’ GCL club after signing, but is a 45 runner from home to first, about average underway right now, and is unlikely to play there long term.

Offensively, Carlson’s left-handed swing is smooth, comfortable, has natural loft, and good extension. He could have plus raw power from that side eventually, while his right-handed swing is more geared for all-fields, line-drive contact. His feel for contact is a bit rough, and he doesn’t square everything he should. Switch-hitters develop a little differently, though, and I think the hit tool will be average with reps. The bar for offensive performance at the corner-outfield spots and first base is high, and Carlson’s ceiling is probably that of an average everyday player. If you think makeup is a significant probability variable, then Carlson is a low-risk prospect for you. As a corner-only prep bat far away from the majors, I think the risk is rather significant, because the profile has very little margin for error.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.4 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from UC Irvine
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/65 60/60 40/45 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has allowed 28 home runs combined over last two seasons (212 innings).

Scouting Report
Morales led Division I in strikeouts back in 2014 but was seen as a likely reliever in pro ball due to his size, his effortful delivery, and a lack of repertoire depth. He mitigates some of those issues by generating good downhill plane on his plus, runaway fastball and he’s thrown an acceptable number of strikes in pro ball despite the effort in his delivery. But Morales’ changeup is still fringey, he experienced shoulder tightness in 2016, and had two separate DL stints last year.

If the fastball (which is plus) plays up in relief then it, combined with a plus, two-plane breaking ball, should make for a sound relief profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR

22. Connor Jones, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Virginia
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command
50/50 50/50 50/55 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 72 strikeouts in 103 innings at UVA in 2016.

Scouting Report
Jones was a potential first-rounder in high school but fell due to signability concerns. He matriculated to Virginia, where he mostly pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman (he threw 54 innings) before becoming the ace of a National Championship team as a sophomore (when his workload increased to 115 innings). I was at Regionals in Lake Elsinore that year and a scout who saw Jones throw there told me, “That guy’s going top 10 next year.” Jones was sitting 92-96 with sink, an above-average splitter, and an average slider at the time. As a junior, Jones’ stuff went backward. He was more 90-92, touching 94, missing fewer bats with a stiffening arm action. This downturn — plus the recent disappointment of UVA arms in pro ball — largely forced teams off of Jones, who fell to the 70th-overall pick in 2016. It was a solid buy-low opportunity for the Cardinals, but based on reports from last year it’s tough to project much more than a fifth starter here, unless Jones rediscovers a way to garner strikeouts.

23. Zac Gallen, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from North Carolina
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command
50/50 50/50 45/50 45/50 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 95 strikeouts in 90 innings at UNC.

Scouting Report
Gallen sits 89-93 with a fastball that has some plane and movement, throws his curveball at 73-76 with average depth, has a fringey diving changeup that should develop to average with reps, and a mid-80s cutter that’s still a relatively new aspect of the repertoire. Scouts like Gallen’s on-field demeanor and athleticism. They’re maybe not quite as fond of his arm action, but consider him a solid bet to pitch toward the back of a rotation. This is a relatively fresh arm (especially for a UNC pitcher, condolences as always to Kent Emmanuel) who played prep ball in New Jersey and threw a modest 84-90 innings in each of his three years at UNC, so you could argue the stuff has some rep-based projection remaining.

24. John Gant, RHP
Drafted: 21st Round, 2011 from Wiregrass Ranch HS (FL)
Age 24 Height 6’5 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/55 40/40 60/60 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Now has 49 strikeouts in 50 big-league innings.

Scouting Report
The good-bodied and eccentric Gant is probably the likeliest to yield big-league value of the triumvirate acquired by St. Louis in the Jaime Garcia trade. He’s already spent time there, having thrown 50 major-league innings in 2016. As a rookie, Gant struck out nearly a batter per inning (recording a 22% strikeout rate) but also struggled with walks (9.5%). Gant’s fastball sits in the low 90s, mostly 90-93, but will touch as high as 96 and has a slightly above-average spin rate. His changeup is his best secondary offering and best pitch overall. It’s a plus, low-80s cambio that disappears away from lefties as it approaches the plate. Gant maintains his fastball’s arm speed throughout release. There are times when Gant makes a visible effort to create extra movement on the pitch, alters his arm action, and causes his change to flatten out. He also has a loopy, below-average mid-70s curveball. He’s had to use the curve more frequently than a pitch of this quality usually warrants in order to navigate his way through minor-league lineups multiple times. He projects as a Tyler Clippardish reliever.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.9 WAR

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Johan Oviedo, RHP – I’ve gotten mixed reports on Oviedo, with some having seen the monstrous 6-foot-6 righty’s fastball creep into the upper 90s while others have seen a soft-bodied 92-94 with no physical projection. Everyone agrees there’s some curveball feel here, though, and you can’t teach teenagers to be this size and spin a breaking ball like Oviedo reportedly does, so I’m very interested. Though he was old for the class (Oviedo turns 20 in March) the Cards gave him $1.9 million as an IFA last summer. He could be much higher on this list next year.

Jose Godoy, C?, 1.5 KATOH+ WAR – Scouts are impressed enough by Godoy’s ability to make contact that they think he can be a big leaguer if he can catch. The problem for many of them is that they haven’t seen him there often enough to have a solid opinion about whether or not he can. Godoy had only played in around 35 games per year during each of his first four pro seasons and started just 55 of his 80 games there in 2016. Those that have seen him think there’s a chance he stays back there. He moves well laterally, has an average arm but needs to work on receiving and game calling.

Ian Oxnevad, LHP, 1.2 KATOH+ – Oxnevad is pitchability lefty with breaking-ball feel who repeats a simple, efficient delivery and throws a ton of strikes. He’s mostly upper 80s with a downhill fastball, so there’s not bat-missing stuff here (unless you really project heavily on secondaries, there is some changeup feel, too) but he’s a potential No. 5 starter. A good prospect and great get in the eighth round of 2015, even as an overslot signee, he’s only down here due to the combination of a lack of upside and his great distance from the majors.

Ronnie Williams, RHP, 1.3 KATOH+ – A pure relief prospect for the scouts to whom I’ve spoken, Williams is an undersized righty with a fastball in the 88-93 range, a potential plus changeup and average curveball. The fastball is a little easy to elevate and would probably benefit from the few extra ticks of velo it would theoretically add in a bullpen role.

Jonathan Machado, CF  – An eccentric burner, Machado has a flat, linear swing and unique hitting mannerisms that bear a resemblance to Ichiro Suzuki. While he has the speed and defensive chops to remain in center field, and may even be an impact defender there, I’ve gotten mixed reviews about the bat speed and long-term viability of the swing. The frame here is small and slight (listed at 5-foot-9, 155) and Machado was a bit older than his July 2 peers (he just turned 18), but it sounds like the body has already filled out a bit. In two years his scouting reports paragraph may look quite similar to what Magneuris Sierra‘s looks like now.

Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, 1.2 KATOH+ – Good size, low-90s with some movement, 55 slider, 50 change, fringe control. Already 25 but a potential late-blooming back end arm.

Rowan Wick, RHP – A converted right fielder, Wick was 92-97 for me throughout the Fall League with a fringey upper-70s curveball. He throws a lot of strikes and benefits from a good bit of deception, so the breaking ball might play up. He’s a potential middle-relief piece.

Chris Ellis, RHP, 1.5 KATOH+ – Once part of the package returned from Anaheim in exchange for Andrelton Simmons, Ellis’ command issues and lack of a quality changeup at age 24 point to a likely role in middle relief. In 146 innings between Double- and Triple-A, Ellis struck out 126, walked 87 and posted a 4.49 ERA. He was mostly 90-94 in his Arizona Fall League stint with an average, vertically breaking slider in the 78-83 mph range. He generates good plane on the fastball because of his overhand arm slot. His changeup is below average, as is his command, and the change has little projection because it’s hard to create movement on it from Ellis’ arm slot. If the fastball/slider tick up in relief, he’s a solid big-league middle-inning piece.

Bryce Denton, 3B, 0.9 KATOH+ – A second rounder fomt he 2015 draft, Denton has a decent feel to hit and idea of the strike zone. At third base, though — and some scouts would say Denton projects to an outfield corner or first base due to arm/athleticism — he’s going to require more power. While small on paper (6-foot, 190), Denton’s frame looked like it had some room to add mass as an amateur, but it hasn’t come yet and neither has the pop. He’s still only 19, though, and Denton’s feel for contact and ability to ID balls and strikes is encouraging.

Carlos Soler, OF – Soler has a great baseball body and a significant physical projection. The two primary things to watch here are (a) the body, currently listed at a rangy 6-foot-3, 165 and (b) how viable the hit tool is, and if it looks like there’s a chance for both hit and power. Soler is very likely to end up in an outfield corner so the bat is going to have to carry him.

Jeremy Martinez, C, 3.0 KATOH+ – Even at an overslot price, Martinez was good value in the fourth round, a product of a remarkably deep class of college catchers in last year’s draft. He takes good at-bats and has good breaking-ball recognition and bat control, so there’s a chance he does some damage with the stick, though he lacks game power. Defensively, Martinez has above-average arm strength that plays down at times due to slow footwork. Otherwise, he’s a good athlete for a catcher, with good defensive mobility, ball-blocking ability and 40 straight-line speed. Without the power, it’s probably more of a backup profile but still good value for where they grabbed him.

Derian Gonzalez, RHP, 1.6 KATOH+ – Gonzalez is a good-bodied righty who sits 92-94 with the fastball and throws a potentially above-average curveball. A middle reliever for the scouts with whom I spoke.

Tommy Edman, INF, 3.6 KATOH+ – An undersized middle infielder with good feel to hit and a good approach, Edman’s physical tools point more to second base than shortstop, and there probably isn’t enough power to play there every day, so the on-base skills will need to max out.

Victor Garcia, OF – Garcia has more present power — and arguably more present raw than any other July 2 prospect besides Soler — but is also an inferior athlete whose ultimate position and feel to hit have come into question.

Walker Robbins, LF/1B – A physically projectable power bat, Robbins showed some promising raw thunder on the showcase circuit thanks to a good combination of strength, bat speed and a committed weight transfer. His swing has a late trigger, and some are concerned about how much he’s going to swing and miss. He’s limited to left field and, probably down the line, first base due to his size and fringe athleticism.

Breyvic Valera, UTIL, 2.0 KATOH+ – Valera has been preparing for multi-positional duty since he debuted stateside in 2010, and he has some patience and contact skills but lacks the tools needed to remain entrenched on the 25-man roster as a versatile bench threat. He’s more of an up-and-down utility type than a true 40.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, 1.2 KATOH+ – Seijas is a short righty with a high-effort, long-armed overhand delivery. He’s been 91-95 in the past with some curveball feel, but the body and delivery point to the bullpen.

Oscar Mercado, UTIL, 0.9 KATOH+ – Mercado has average bat speed but isn’t especially twitchy or explosive in the box or in the field. He’s about an average runner, maybe above underway. Mercado profiles as a utility man but reports I’m getting on the defense aren’t so great that he belongs in the 40 FV section as a legitimate shortstop bench guy.

Brian O’Keefe, C, 1.0 KATOH+ – Big-bodied and stiff, O’Keefe has impressive raw power but is unlikely to remain behind the plate. If he can be passable there he’s got a good chance to be a club’s third or fourth catcher.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Wilfredo Tovar, SS, 2.0 KATOH+

After debuting for the Mets in 2013 at the tail end of his age-21 season, Tovar has recorded just three major-league plate appearances in the meantime. His appearance here ought not to be confused with a full professional endorsement. Tovar is unlikely to be a star. Tovar is unlikely to be a major-league regular, even. He makes contact at a considerably above-average rate, however, and has remained at shortstop — at which position he’s received strong defensive marks over the past couple years. After leaving Minnesota as a minor-league free agent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him develop a role with the Cardinals.

*****

System Overview

St. Louis has developed a considerable amount of Latin American talent in recent years, and that trend continues today. Carlos Martinez, the late Oscar Taveras and Alex Reyes are all star-level homegrown talents, Aledmys Diaz significantly exceeded my expectations last year (though I’m still skeptical about his output’s sustainability), and Sandy Alcantara‘s career is tracking in a very favorable way. St. Louis’s international staff is comprised of about 15 scouts, more than twice what some other teams employ, and it shows in the wide array of countries represented on this list. The advanced but tool-deficient, stat-friendly prospects that once comprised much of this club’s system are still extant but not nearly as pervasive as they have been in the past. It might be a sign of the effect new amateur scouting director Randy Flores has had on the club in his short time on the job — or perhaps we’re only now seeing the effects of Jeff Lunhow’s departure at the upper levels. This club still targets lots of college performers in the draft, it’s just doing it in the middle rounds instead of up top. They’ve been pretty heavy on high schoolers with their early picks in the last few drafts.

In the immediate future, those “early picks” won’t be as early. MLB’s sanctions against the Cardinals in response to the club’s hacking of the Astros database were imposed yesterday. The Astros will receive pick Nos. 56 and 75 overall from St. Louis and the Cardinals will pay a $2 million fine. MLB’s investigation into the matter found that “evidence did not establish that any Cardinals’ employee other than [former amateur scouting director Chris] Correa was responsible for the intrusions into the Astros’ electronic systems.” Unsealed court documents show Correa accessed Houston’s database 48 times over a two-and-a-half year span, and court transcripts show Correa admitted to sharing the information he learned with Cardinals employees. The Cardinals won’t pick until the 94th overall selection in this year’s draft as a result of the sanctions.



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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.


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