Top 23 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

Author’s note: this post was updated to reflect changes caused by trades (Ozuna, Piscotty, etc.)

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 (stats-only) statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 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.

Last Year’s Cardinals List

Cardinals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Alex Reyes 23 MLB RHP 2018 60
2 Tyler O’Neill 22 AAA OF 2018 50
3 Jack Flaherty 22 MLB RHP 2018 50
4 Carson Kelly 23 MLB C 2018 50
5 Jose Adolis Garcia 24 AAA OF 2018 50
6 Yairo Munoz 23 AAA UTIL 2018 45
7 Andrew Knizner 22 AA C 2019 45
8 Harrison Bader 23 MLB OF 2018 45
9 Conner Greene 22 AA RHP 2019 45
10 Ryan Helsley 23 AAA RHP 2018 45
11 Jordan Hicks 21 A+ RHP 2020 45
12 Edmundo Sosa 21 AA SS 2019 45
13 Dakota Hudson 22 AAA RHP 2018 45
14 Junior Fernandez 20 A+ RHP 2019 45
15 Max Schrock 23 AA 2B 2019 40
16 Austin Gomber 23 AA LHP 2018 40
17 Oscar Mercado 22 AA OF 2019 40
18 Randy Arozarena 22 AAA OF 2019 40
19 Dylan Carlson 18 A OF 2020 40
20 Wadye Infante 20 R OF 2021 40
21 Delvin Perez 18 R SS 2021 40
22 Derian Gonzalez 22 A+ RHP 2019 40
23 Connor Jones 23 AA RHP 2019 40

60 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 40/50 55/70 55/60 40/50

As the baseball calendar turned over to 2017, Alex Reyes was arguably the best pitching prospect in the game and set to be the brightest young star on a likely playoff contender. Instead, he would need Tommy John before all of his teammates had even arrived for spring training. It was a disappointing twist in an already eventful, young career.

Reyes was born and attended high school in Elizabeth, New Jersey, before re-classifying as an international amateur late in 2011. He moved to the Dominican Republic, where he lived with grandparents, had a growth spurt, and started throwing harder. His fastball velocity climbed from the upper 80s into the 91-94 range during that time. He signed with St. Louis as an 18-year-old in December of 2012 for $950,000, the slot value of the 53rd overall pick in that year’s draft.

In four pro seasons, Reyes has successfully dealt with multiple setbacks and quickly navigated the upper levels of the minors despite little playing time there. He had a shoulder issue in 2015 that sent him to the disabled list, and he missed time later that season due to a marijuana suspension which straddled the 2015 Arizona Fall League and 2016 regular season. Despite that, Reyes reached the majors in 2016 and looked great, accumulating 1.4 WAR in 46 innings of work split between the bullpen and rotation. He did so largely with a fastball/changeup combination, his fastball cresting triple digits out of the bullpen while sitting 94-97 as a starter.

Reyes’s curveball was dominant early in 2016 and became less effective late in the year as he reincorporated a slider (an upper-80s cutter hybrid that was shelved early in 2016 and reemerged late in 2016 as a fringey, mid-80s slide piece) into his repertoire. It’s possible Reyes’s mix of pitches will look a bit different after rehab, but scouts thought he had a chance for a plus-plus fastball, curveball, and plus changeup at peak. It’s top-of-the-rotation stuff assuming Reyes eventually harnesses the incredible arm speed that allows for such viciousness. Most scouts think he’s athletic enough to figure it out.

There’s some risk associated with return from Tommy John, but the rate of recovery is about 80% and better for younger arms. Reyes has improved his physical conditioning during rehab, begun throwing bullpen sessions, and will continue offseason work in Jupiter, FL, at the team complex in preparation for 2018. The approximately 14-month timetable for modern TJ recovery puts him on pace to return early in the 2018 season, though that might be in the bullpen initially as a way to limit Reyes’s innings in his first season back. He has a front-end ceiling if his stuff comes back and his command improves, same as he did last year, with risk of non-recovery diluting his FV this offseason.

KATOH projection for first six years: 6.5 WAR

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2013 from Maple Ridge HS (B.C., Canada)
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/70 50/55 55/55 45/45 55/55

The brawny O’Neill was acquired from Seattle mid-season for oft-injured changeup specialist Marco Gonzales. O’Neill’s career-long issue with strikeouts persisted in Tacoma and changes were made to his swing after he was traded to St. Louis. Scouts have long maligned O’Neill’s poor hitter’s timing, which causes him to be late on hittable pitches and make poor contact in the form of pop ups and grounders squibbed off the end of his bat. After the trade, O’Neill closed off his stance and began loading his hands lower – down at chest level instead of up near his ear – improving the consistency of his swing’s angle. His infield-fly rate was cut in half after he arrived in Memphis.

While his considerable bulk contributes to the stiffness that causes O’Neill to be strikeout prone, it’s also the driving force behind the plus-plus, all-fields raw power into which O’Neill has been able to tap, despite his contact issues, throughout his career. He’s also an above-average straight-line runner with an above-average arm, and while he’s not an especially instinctive defender, he’s also not a liability.

Right fielders hit .256/.332/.443 in 2017. Many still consider O’Neill’s bat to be a bit more volatile and worrisome than is typical for an upper-level hitter who has had flawed but sustained success for multiple seasons. Barring a complete inability to contact major-league pitching, O’Neill’s combination of power and patience — he’s recorded a career .243 ISO and 9% walk rate — should enable him to clear that bar. He projects as an average regular.

KATOH projection for first six years: 7.1 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
55/55 50/55 55/55 40/45 50/55

A fluid righty with a prototypical 6-foot-4 frame, Flaherty reached the majors in 2017, just his third full pro season. His dominant 10-start run at Double-A – during which Flaherty walked just 4.6% of the hitters he faced – garnered him a quick, June promotion to Memphis. There, his walk rate regressed to 7%, his career rate, but he maintained a 2.74 ERA in 15 starts. He was called up in September and struggled with fastball command.

Flaherty’s fastball ranges 90 to 95mph, sitting mostly 92-94 with enough sink to mitigate its lack of downhill plane. He has a strong lower half and stays balanced on his landing leg as he finishes an efficient delivery. Flaherty will pitch with above-average fastball command at times and projects to locate consistently at peak, despite his erratic cup of coffee.

To put hitters away, Flaherty relies on a slider and curveball while occasionally mixing in a changeup. His curveball has a bit more depth and vertical action to it than the slider does and it’s his best secondary pitch on pure stuff, but Flaherty’s terrific arm-side command of his slider makes that his most effective. He has shown an ability to locate both breaking balls in the zone for early-count strikes.

Look for Flaherty to utilize that arm-side breaking-ball command to work left-handed hitters to their back foot. His fringey, sinking, upper-80s changeup induces ground balls but doesn’t miss bats right now, and well-located breaking balls are his best chance of whiffing lefties. He projects as a No. 3/4 starter.

KATOH projection for first six years: 8.3 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2012 from Westview HS (OR)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 30/40 20/20 55/60 50/50

Big-league catchers hit a combined .245/.315/.406 in 2017, averaging just 89 wRC+. Despite lackluster physical tools, Kelly should be able to clear that bar, based largely on his superlative hand-eye coordination and a sound approach, all complemented by excellent defense.

Kelly tracks pitches well and can move his barrel around the hitting zone. His swing has a bit of length but is otherwise simple and compact, allowing Kelly to make high rates of contact. That contact is usually not very strong, often on the ground and to Kelly’s pull side, which, especially when coupled with 20-grade speed, will likely dilute the way his bat plays on paper. I have it projected to a 50.

Kelly has average raw power but drives the ball into the ground too often to actualize it in games. He’ll likely max out with 40 game power.

Where Kelly begins to separate himself from most catching prospects is with his glove. He was drafted as a third baseman in 2012, then moved behind the plate in 2014 and picked up the finer points of catching rather quickly. He’s a good receiver, stealing strikes on the edges of the zone and just beneath it. He’s also more agile than his square, cinder-block frame suggests, and he effectively smothers errant, dirt-bound pitches. Kelly’s arm is average.

Yadier Molina is under contract with St. Louis through the 2020 season. Kelly’s skills should allow for a liberal time share until he transitions into the full-time gig, which, in the meantime, might help make Molina healthier and more effective when he plays. Kelly projects as an average regular who also tirelessly goes about executing the extra responsibilities associated with catching.

KATOH projection for first six years: 6.4 WAR

Age 24 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 45/50 60/60 45/50 70/70

Garcia, who won the Serie Nacional MVP for the 2015-2016 season, left Cuba late in the summer of 2016 and signed with St. Louis the following February for $2.5 million. He was old enough and had accrued enough playing time in pro baseball to be exempt from international bonus pools. International scouts were hung up on Garcia’s approach, which was ultra-aggressive in Cuba, or didn’t think he’d hit for corner-worthy power, and most viewed him as a fourth-outfield prospect. His work visa cleared in March and he hit the ground running with Double-A Springfield less than a month later, slashing .285/.339/.476 in 84 games there before promotion. He had continued success at Triple-A, hitting .301/.342/.478 there.

Garcia is a plus runner with a plus-plus arm, but his speed plays down in the field (and on the bases) due to poor instincts. He fits best in right field, where his range alone could make him a defensive asset despite his issues.

Offensively, Garcia does a lot of extra-base damage due to his effective combination of power and speed. His footwork in the box is very conservative. He drives the ball from gap to gap largely because of the strength and whip in his wrists. He tracks breaking balls well and can move the bat head around the zone. Garcia had 51 extra-base hits in 2017 and projects as an average hitter with average game power.

Garcia turned 24 in March, a bit old for someone who spent most of the year at Double-A, and his aggressive style of hitting still gives some evaluators pause about his future role. But he has big-league hitting ability, game-changing arm strength, and enough speed to make up for what he lacks in baseball feel. I have him projected as an average everyday player.

KATOH projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR

45 FV Prospects

6. Yairo Munoz, UTIL
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 165 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 55/55 45/50 55/50 45/50 70/70

The ultra-versatile Munoz was acquired from Oakland along with Max Schrock in exchange for Stephen Piscotty. He has multi-year experience at shortstop, second base, and third base and also began seeing time in all three outfield positions last year. His listed weight is a joke, as Munoz is much closer to 220 than he is 165 and, though his incredible arm strength helps hide it, he lacks prototypical lateral range for shortstop, but he’s now in an organization that has a history of ignoring this deficiency.

Munoz has long been a very aggressive, line-drive hitter whose big bat speed and raw power played down in games due to a ground-ball bat path. In 2017, Munoz got comfortable with a new stride and slightly lower load and impacted his launch angle pretty significantly. His offensive profile has improved, and he now profiles as a slugging super utility man with low OBPs.

Drafted: 7th Round, 2016 from NC State
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 50/50 30/45 30/30 45/50 45/45

Knizner was originally a third baseman at North Carolina State but moved to catcher after the talented but enigmatic Brett Austin moved on to pro ball. Knizner was heavy-bodied and immobile in college, but his catching has drastically improved and he now projects as a viable defensive catcher. His receiving is fine, his ball-blocking is improving, and he has fringe average arm strength, popping in the 1.98 to 2.05 range here in Arizona.

Offensively, Knizner has good hand-eye coordination and the ability to punch pitches away from him to the opposite field. His bat is exceptionally quick and Knizner can turn on fastballs up and in and drive them into the left-center gap or over the wall. His approach is aggressive and will likely limit his ability to reach base, but there’s above-average bat-to-ball ability and opportunistic power here that’s very intriguing for even a fringe defensive catcher.

Knizner began working at first base more frequently in the Fall League. He has much more offensive potential than Carson Kelly does, but scouts still mostly prefer Kelly because of what he does defensively. I think he’s is a potential everyday player who might need a trade to have an opportunity to prove it.

KATOH projection for first six years: 3.9 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
40/45 50/50 40/45 60/60 45/50 55/55

Bader made his MLB debut in 2017, just his second full pro season, and posted big power/speed numbers at Triple-A that have fantasy players salivating. He hit .283/.347/.469 at Memphis with 20 homers and 15 steals in just 123 games. He did so with a .345 BABIP and pull-heavy approach to contact that might earn him a shift in the big leagues.

Bader has big-league tools. He’s a plus-plus runner from home to first, and that speed allows him to play center field competently. He has above-average bat speed and is able to turn on good velocity on the inner half, generating reliable power to his pull side.

But he also has holes. Bader’s poor plate coverage leaves him vulnerable to breaking balls away and he often swings over the top of takeable sliders. His aggressiveness may compound this issue and inflate his strikeout rate, which has grown as he’s moved through the minors. Once we factor in what could happen to Bader’s offensive output due to MLB defensive positioning and pitcher adjustment/exploitation, his offensive future starts looking quite medium, even in center field. Barring mechanical adjustment or better breaking-ball recognition, I think he projects as a platoon option in center more than an average regular.

KATOH projection for first six years: 5.1 WAR

Drafted: 7th rd 2013, Santa Monica HS (CA)
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 50/55 40/50 30/40

Greene is coming off a maddening statistical season at Double-A New Hampshire, where he accumulated a 5.29 ERA in 132.2 innings. He experienced some success till the beginning of summer, entering July with a 3.23 ERA despite erratic command, but started getting shelled as the season continued. Greene has a plus-plus fastball that sits 94-97 and will touch 99. The pitch has heavy sink and arm-side movement, as well as notable downhill angle to the plate — a result, that, of Greene’s size, relatively upright delivery, and high three-quarters arm slot. It’s Greene’s best pitch and he uses it heavily, perhaps too frequently, as his strikeout totals are not commensurate with his quality of stuff.

The curveball (which was bad last fall) has taken a huge step forward and is now Greene’s best secondary pitch. It has traditional power curveball shape, bite, and depth. It projects to a 55 on the scouting scale. Greene’s changeup is inconsistent and a bit easy to identify out of his hand, as Greene is prone to drop his arm slot when he throws it. Due to his loose, fluid arm action and incredible arm speed, though, some scouts project quite heavily on the changeup. It pretty conservatively projects to average and has more upside than that. There’s a chance Greene develops two above-average secondaries to pair with his plus-plus fastball, but no measure of his ability to miss bats indicates anything remotely close to that.

Greene struggles to repeat his release point and has 30-grade control. He walked 13% of hitters he faced in 2017 and 83 total hitters in his 132.2 innings. Unless Greene’s ability to locate greatly improves, he’ll wind up in the bullpen. It makes sense to continue developing him as a starter on the off chance that he develops 45 or better command and simply as a way to get him more reps than he’d get out of the bullpen, but the Cardinals were quick to move Sandy Alcantara to the bullpen last year and seemed inclined to keep him there. They’re thought, by other clubs, to be considering pulling the bullpen ripcord on either or both of Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley. Greene would seem to fall into that bucket of still-raw, upper-level arms. He has a chance to pitch as a mid-rotation starter if the command comes, but he’s more likely to be a hard-throwing, above-average bullpen arm.

10. Ryan Helsley, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Northeastern St
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/70 45/50 40/50 30/40

After 17 strong appearances at High-A, Helsley was promoted to Double-A, where his stuff continued to dominate. His fastball will creep into the upper 90s and has bat-missing life both in the strike zone and up above it. He sits 94-97 and showed glimpses of commanding it until late in the year when his control evaporated. Scouts who saw Helsley struggle to command his fastball think there’s a chance he ends up in the bullpen. Others saw not only competent fastball command but also feel for locating his cutter and curveball down and to his glove side. Both were particularly effective against left-handed hitters when thrown there and have at least average projection. The breaking ball flashes above.

Helsley’s changeup is below average and his long arm action doesn’t portend much development in that area, but he may have the ingredients to deal with lefties in his cutter and breaking ball already, so a better change may not be necessary for him to start. He’s strong and repeats his delivery pretty well and may have only struggled to throw strikes down the stretch due to fatigue, as Helsley was in the middle of throwing nearly 40% more innings than he did the year before. He has mid-rotation stuff, and while there’s certainly relief risk here, I’m not ready to call it a likelihood.

KATOH projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR

11. 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 Slider Changeup Command
60/70 45/50 40/50 30/40

Hicks’ first taste of full-season ball went as just one might expect for a relatively untamed but immensely talented right arm. He sprinkled several dominant starts and a few duds in amongst 14 unassuming Low-A appearances. He was promoted to High-A Palm Beach in July and pitched 27 innings there, some in relief, before being shut down until the Arizona Fall League.

In Arizona, Hicks’ fastball was a caricature of its mid-summer iteration. While routinely sitting 94 or better during the regular season, Hicks’ heater sat 97-100 in the Fall League. It was hit hard in the AFL as Hicks had trouble keeping it down, where its sink is most effective. It very obviously doesn’t play like an 80-grade fastball despite its velocity, but even as velocities across baseball are spiking, arm strength like this is rare.

Hicks’ secondary offerings – a slurvy, mid-80s breaking ball and a changeup — are inconsistent, but both show signs of competency. The breaking ball has effective shape but isn’t always tight. When it is, it’s above average. Hicks’ changeup is firm but has some wiggle, and it was effective in the AFL against hitters who were cheating to try to catch his fastball. If he ever gets comfortable throwing it in fastball counts, I think it will be effective.

Some scouts think Hicks lacks starter’s command and that his future lies in the bullpen. He owns a 10% career walk rate. If one/none of Hicks’ secondary pitches develop, that would be his likely destination, anyway. There’s big ceiling here if everything comes together, but most of them need to if Hicks is going to start. And while Hicks has shown flashes of it happening, I think odds are he ends up in the bullpen, but I bet his stuff will allow him to pitch in the back of one.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

12. 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
30/50 40/45 20/30 50/50 50/55 50/50

A smooth defender with excellent feet and actions, Sosa does enough to stay at shortstop despite mediocre range and arm strength. St. Louis has been one of the clubs most willing to put up with fringe defenders at short (Aledmys Diaz, Jedd Gyorko, Paul DeJong, and Jhonny Peralta, to name a recent few), and Sosa is better than what Cardinals fans have typically seen there in recent years. He smothers everything he gets to and quickly sends the ball to its ultimate destination, projecting as an above-average defensive shortstop with an average arm.

St. Louis has likely made some defensive concessions at shortstop in order to get more potent bats in the lineup, hiding whatever deficiencies they can with batted-ball data and making up for it with more thump than is typical for short. Sosa isn’t that kind of player. He has some bat-to-ball ability but lacks any modicum of game power. (He suffered and returned from a broken hamate in 2017, an injury known for sapping pop, but Sosa has never hit for power.) He may not hit enough to be an everyday player, even at shortstop. Some scouts think he’ll have an above-average hit tool, citing improved bat control over the last two seasons, but don’t think the overall package screams “everyday shortstop.”

Sosa has begun branching out defensively in the Arizona Fall League, seeing time at second and third as well as shortstop. He projects as a luxury utility infielder or someone’s low-end everyday shortstop.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

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

Hudson had one of the 2016 draft’s deeper, nastier repertoires among college pitchers but fell to the back of the first round due to concerns about his delivery and health. Though Hudson’s stuff wasn’t always sharp and he sometimes struggled with command, he reached Triple-A in his first full season. Hudson’s strikeout rate at Springfield was 16%; in seven starts at Memphis, it was a paltry 11.8%. Only six qualified big-league starters had strikeout rates beneath 16% in 2017, and Zach Davies had the lowest xFIP among them, at 4.42.

When Hudson was missing bats in 2017 it was with his breaking ball. It’s a low-80s breaker to which some refer as a slider, but functionally it’s a curveball with 2-to-7 movement. Hudson used it to put away most hitters in his strikeout-heavy starts, but it was a below-average pitch late in the year.

Everything else Hudson throws is hard. He has a four-seamer and sinker that blend together in the 92-97 mph range, a short little fringey cutter just beneath them. His changeup is below average.

Hudson induces a lot of grounders. He generated a 57% ground-ball rate in 2017. MLB average is roughly 45%. It’s a necessary trait for pitchers who strikeout as few hitter as Hudson did in 2017, and even big-league models (Mike Leake, late-career Yovani Gallardo, etc) are all back-end starters. Thus, I have Hudson projected as a No. 4/5 starter. If his curveball becomes more consistent and enables him to avoid contact, his ceiling is a notch above that, but it’s also possible that he moves to the bullpen at some point if St. Louis thinks they have better rotation options.

KATOH projection for first six years: 3.0 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 Slider Changeup Command
55/60 40/45 60/70 40/50

He arrived at spring training still just 19, but Fernandez was assigned to High-A Palm Beach, where he had struggled down the stretch the previous season. His arm speed and fastball velocity weren’t as electric as they were last year. Fernandez’s heater sat 91-94, at times dropped into the 80s — he was 94-96 in 2016 and 93-97 during 2017 spring training — and he struggled to miss bats and, as he approached injury, to throw strikes. He was shut down in late July with arm soreness and didn’t pitch again during the season.

The injury adds to what some scouts already considered to be significant relief risk associated with Fernandez’s profile. He’s small — a short-limbed 6-foot-1 — and lacks repertoire depth. Scouts love Fernandez’s changeup, which projects to plus, but are skeptical of his fringe, mid-80s slider.

Fernandez’s strike-throwing issues really only popped up in his later starts, as he neared injury, and he’s otherwise a promising young strike-thrower. Assuming he returns healthy, he has all the ingredients to start despite his size. His ceiling, not his role, is what might be hampered by Fernandez’s lack of a dominant breaking ball. But Fernandez has also failed to put a satisfying bow on either of the last two seasons and had his career’s first two DL stints in ’17. He still has mid-rotation potential but is undoubtedly a riskier prospect than he was last offseason.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

15. Max Schrock, 2B
Signed: 13th rd 2015 from South Carolina
Age 23 Height 5’8 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 40/40 20/30 50/50 50/50 40/40

Schrock is a superlative, but very specific, statistical performer. He owns a remarkable 8% career strikeout rate thanks to his quick, simple swing, bat control, and hand-eye coordination. He has very little power and his BABIPs have run hot for his whole career. The average second baseman posted a 94 wRC+ in 2017, so there’s a chance Schrock gets to that, but when you normalize his BABIP, he falls short because he lacks power. His bat would play in a utility role, but Schrock hasn’t played anywhere but second base as a pro. He either needs to hit enough to play every day or start branching out, defensively.

16. Austin Gomber, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Florida Atlantic
Age 23 Height 6’5 Weight 235 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/45 50/55 45/50 45/50

Gomber had a strong finish at Double-A, allowing just six runs combined in six August starts and striking out more than a batter per inning during that span. Long considered a soft-tossing pitchability lefty, Gomber’s command backed up a bit in 2017, but his fastball ticked higher as the year went on — it’s now more comfortably in the low 90s than upper 80s — and it plays up due to deception, with the ball suddenly appearing out from behind his head, much as it does for Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery.

Gomber keeps the ball down, will challenge righties inside with his fastball, can locate his curveball in the zone, and mixes in a viable changeup. He was either varying his breaking-ball shape or mixing in a slider in 2017, something that may have impacted the effectiveness of a curveball (this seems to be an org-wide theme) that now draws more mixed reviews. At its best, though, the curve is an above-average pitch. The changeup is fringey but arguably plays up due to deception.

There are stable back-end starter ingredients here. Scouts aren’t enamored of Gomber’s build or athleticism and his stuff is just okay. But he can pitch and has had success against good hitters in the Arizona Fall League and at Double-A. He profiles as a No. 4/5 starter.

KATOH projection for first six years: 2.0 WAR

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Gaither HS (FL)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 45/45 30/40 60/60 50/55 50/50

It was a breakout year for Mercado, who hadn’t posted an OBP over .300 since 2014. He slashed .287/.341/.428 at Double-A Springfield and was assigned to the Arizona Fall League at season’s end.

Mercado was a potential first-round high-school shortstop who fell to the second round due to concerns about his on-field awareness and effort level. He got an over-slot $1.5 million from St. Louis, which kept him from a commitment to Florida State. He began transitioning to the outfield in 2016 with High-A Palm Beach. He hit .215/.296/.271 that year.

Mercado has embraced his modest, but viable, pull-side pop and his approach is largely geared for contact in that direction. This narrow approach caused his strikeout rate (a career 13% entering the season) to spike, but Mercado is making loud contact for the first time in his career. He’s also a plus runner who’s continuously improving in center field and could be above average there. Upper-level pitching may adjust to Mercado’s new approach, and most scouts would like to see him do this again next year before diving all-in on Mercado’s future. That said, his defensive ability and speed makes it likely that he plays some sort of big-league role eventually, likely as a fourth outfielder.

KATOH projection for first six years: 2.6 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 45/45 30/40 55/55 50/55 55/55

After two-and-a-half months of hitting for surprising power at High-A, Arozarena was promoted to Double-A, where he reached base at a .366 clip in 51 games. He’s an aggressive swinger, often ambushing early-count fastballs, with good plate coverage despite a strong proclivity for pull-side contact. Double-A pitchers quickly learned that Arozarena likes to turn on everything he can and stayed away from him as a result. His power output was limited while he was with Springfield.

Arozarena’s combination of bat speed and hand-eye coordination should enable him to be an above-average hitter. He’s an above-average runner but not an especially instinctive one, nor are his outfield jumps especially prescient. He’s limited to the outfield corners and may not hit for enough power to profile as an everyday corner bat once big-league pitchers learn to stay away from him. But the speed and bat-to-ball skills are both of clear big-league quality and should enable Arozarena to earn a stable bench role as a pinch-hitter, runner, and rangier late-inning option in left field.

KATOH projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR

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
20/40 50/60 20/50 45/40 40/50 50/55

After a bad start – he was hitting .197 at the end of May – Carlson made adjustments and had a good June. He cooled off as the season ended and finished with a .240/.342/.347 line that, viewed free of context, seems insufficiently promising for a corner-outfield/first-base prospect.

Consider, however, that Carlson, a switch-hitting 18-year-old, spent the entire year in full-season ball using a re-tooled left-handed swing that generated more airborne contact than it did last year. His fly-ball rate rose from 29% to 40%, according to our metrics, and Carlson held his 25% strkeout rate through this change while walking at an 11.5% clip.

He’s athletic and still physically projectable and likely to grow into more game power as he matures.

His right-handed swing is long and flat. He’s more strikeout prone from that side and has less potential for impact power. But Carlson made just 125 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter in 2017 and is seeing left-handed pitching that’s several magnitudes better than anything he saw in high school. He needs more time to adjust.

Some amateur scouts thought Carlson would grow into immobility and be forced to move in from the outfield and to first base. I saw him take reps at first in high school and didn’t think he had the hands for the infield, though he looked athletic enough to be fine there with time. For now, he remains agile enough to play a competent corner outfield and that’s where I have him projected.

While he’s still a great developmental distance away, Carlson has promising physical ability and has shown some ability to make adjustments. He’ll need to continue to do so. He’s a high-risk potential everyday player.

KATOH projection for first six years: 2.6 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 6’0 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/55 20/45 60/60 40/50 40/40

Despite a strikeout-prone first taste of affiliated ball (mostly due to a deep load), Ynfante had success, slashing .299/.374/.491 with seven homers and 11 steals in 43 games. He’s a good-bodied plus runner with a shot to stay in center field and has enough bat speed to compensate for his deep load, allowing him to drive the ball the other way.

Ynfante isn’t all that physically projectable and is unlikely to grow into much more raw power. If he can stay in center field, that will be fine. If he can’t, he and his below-average arm will need to move to left field, where his swing-and-miss issues will become more concerning. Reports on his makeup are strong.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

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 Command
20/40 30/40 20/30 60/60 40/55 60/60 40/45

Eighteen months after Perez was at or near the top of many clubs’ draft boards, his stock has tanked. As an amateur, he exhibited promising defensive traits at shortstop – twitch, expansive lateral range, a strong, untamed arm, athletic footwork – and some offensive competency. Though it wasn’t always pretty, Perez swung the bat hard and scouts thought that, with mechanical polish and physical maturity, he might be able to make an impact with it. He looked like a solid bet to be a plus defensive shortstop and do something with the bat, either hit or power, and some thought he’d end up doing both.

A few days before the draft, Perez tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and his stock slipped. Once a likely top-five selection, Perez slipped to the 23rd overall pick and signed for slot, $2.2 million.

Current reports on Perez remain bullish about his defensive profile, with scouts citing plus speed and arm strength as still-present assets that should allow him to remain at shortstop throughout his career. Offensively, though, Perez’s swing is flaccid and erratic. He has below-average bat speed and he seemingly lacks the promising physicality scouts saw pre-draft. Those who have only seen Perez in pro ball and have no prior knowledge of his previously considered premium toolset have him projected as a utility player, not a star.

Perez has also missed time with injuries. A leg injury limited him to 43 games last year and a broken hand ended his 2017 season after just 34 contests.

It’s possible some combination of these and standard developmental growing pains are responsible for Perez’s 2017. And, ultimately, we’re still talking about a physically projectable prospect who is likely to stay at short and have a relatively low offensive bar to clear. I think there’s still hope here, but the needle is pointing down.

KATOH projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 50/50 40/45 40/45

This Venezuelan righty was on the honorable-mention section of this list last year as a Low-A arm-strength prospect who most scouts thought would wind up in relief. He continues to serve as a starter, walking an acceptable 9% of High-A hitters in 2017 while continuing to miss bats with his average curveball and high-spin fastball, which sits 92-95. Gonzalez missed several weeks due to injury in 2017 and dealt with shoulder trouble in 2016, so perhaps the relief risk here is not in the command, but rather in season-long sustainability.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

23. 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 Changeup Command
45/50 50/55 45/50 45/55

Jones sat 92-96 with sink and had at least an average splitter and breaking ball as a sophomore at Virginia. He looked a bit stiffer as a junior and his stuff wasn’t as crisp, mostly in the low-90s. While Jones’s stuff hasn’t returned to peak form in pro ball, he still has a nasty sinker that led to a 69% ground-ball rate in his first full season. Dallas Keuchel led MLB starters with a 66% mark in 2017.

Jones’s breaking ball is a fringey slurve that he tries to use as a first-pitch surprise the second and third times he goes through the lineup. He has good changeup feel and can locate it to his arm side reliably. Both pitches project to average and, coupled with the sinker, befit a back-end starter. But Jones has had command issues for the past two years and might be limited to a bullpen or up-and-down role because of it. The sinker is freaky enough that I think some sort of big-league role is likely.

KATOH projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Elehuris Montero, 3B, 3.7 KATOH — While he’s quite thick for a 19-year-old, Montero’s above-average arm strength gives him a fair chance to stay at third base. If he can, he could be an everyday player: he has above-average raw power projection and some feel to hit. He slashed .277/.370/.468 in the GCL. The risk that he tumbles down the defensive spectrum kept him off the main section of the list.

Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, 0.8 KATOH – The 25-year-old righty began the year with Memphis. He was hit in the head by a line drive in May. He needed surgery to reduce the pressure being put on his brain, and he remained hospitalized for several weeks. It ended his season. Poncedeleon began rehabbing late in the summer and might have pitched in instructs if not for this year’s hurricanes, which pushed Cards activities to January. He has big-league stuff in an above-average downhill fastball, deep-breaking curveball, and fading changeup (which wasn’t as good in his few ’17 starts as it was last year), though he might just be a bullpen piece, as his control and fastball effectiveness vary if he’s not getting over his front side consistently.

Johan Oviedo, RHP, 2.8 KATOH – A 6-foot-6 Cuban righty, Oviedo’s fastballs have been in steady decline since he reportedly touched 97 shortly after signing. Since then, each time I’ve checked in things have been down: 92-95, 91-94, and then 89-92 toward the end of ’17. He’s huge, well-built (though, physically mature) and has some breaking-ball feel, so it’s far too early to just give up on him, but the arrow is pointing down.

Mike O’Reilly, RHP, 0.6 KATOH – A 27th rounder out of Flagler College last year, O’Reilly was promoted to High-A Palm Beach in late July after a dominant four-game stretch of Midwest League starts that included a complete game, one-hit, 12-strikeout performance. O’Reilly doesn’t throw all that hard, sitting 88-91, but he’s deceptive, can locate his breaking ball for strikes, and flashes a plus changeup. There’s some risk that O’Reilly’s fastball won’t be effective against upper-level hitters, but he has quality secondary stuff, throws strikes, and overall has a profile in line with valuable upper-level pitching depth.

Ian Oxnevad, LHP, 0.4 KATOH — A low-slot lefty with some changeup feel, Oxnevad has an average fastball and will flash an average curveball, though his breaking stuff wasn’t as crisp as it looked in 2016. He posted a 4.09 ERA as a 20-year-old at Low-A. He has a chance to pitch in the back of a rotation, though scouts struggle to find precedent for a delivery like this in a long-term starting role.

Jonathan Machado, OF – Machado has unique hitting mannerisms and sometimes walks from the back of the batter’s box to the front as the pitch is being delivered. He has some leadoff-hitter traits, but scouts are very skeptical of his physicality, or lack thereof. He has premium bat control and hand-eye coordination, but will have to prove that he can compete, physically, as he moves through the system.

Ryan Sherriff, LHP, 0.4 KATOH – A funky, low-slot lefty who sits 89-94 with varied amounts of sink, Sherriff has held lefties to a .170 average over the last two years. He has a sweeping, above-average slider that plays up due to Sherriff’s arm slot. He’s a quintessential LOOGY.

Jake Woodford, RHP, 0.5 KATOH – Woodford’s stuff – he was up to 95 in high school – has backed up. He’s now mostly 89-92 and his slider lacks the once-promising bite it displayed while he was in high school. Woodford’s changeup still has some fade to it and projects to average, but overall what was once a sinker/slider No. 4 starter profile looked more like an up-and-down arm in 2017.

Andrew Morales, RHP, 0.9 KATOH – Morales led DI in strikeouts at UC Irvine back in 2014 but was viewed as a likely reliever due to his size and the violence of his delivery. He’s dealt with myriad injuries as a pro, including shoulder problems. He began 2017 on the DL and returned to action in June as a full-time reliever. His fastball/breaking-ball combination would likely play somewhere in the bullpen, but his injury issues kept him from the main section of the list.

Fabian Blanco, LHP- A 19-year-old Venezuelan relief prospect, Blanco skipped the GCL and went right to Johnson City this year, where he struck out 42 hitters in 34 innings. He sits 90-93 with life and has an above-average curveball. His strike-throwing ability has improved and, if it continues to do so, he could move quickly.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, 1.5 KATOH – The 5-foot-8, 19-year-old Venezuelan righty struck out a hitter per inning in the Appy League. He sits 91-95 and projects to the bullpen (despite promising curveball and changeup feel) due to his size extreme overhand delivery. The curveball could be plus at peak.

Alex Mejia, UTIL, 0.8 KATOH – Mejia can play all over the infield. He has terrific defensive actions and a plus arm, though he’s not so rangy that you feel good about him every day at shortstop. He had the best offensive season of his career in 2017, slashing .335/.381/.466 at Triple-A. He had never posted a full-season wRC+ above 100 before, but his ’17 exploits earned him a 29-game stay in the majors. He struggled to hit there and projects as upper-level middle-infield depth.

Jacob Evans, LHP, 0.2 KATOH – Evans has dealt with multiple injuries over the last two seasons but has the stuff to easily neutralize left-handed hitters. He flashes a plus curveball and liberally mixes in a hard cutter/slider against them, as well. He’s a potential bullpen piece with more injury-based volatility than usual. He reached Double-A in 2017.

Ivan Herrera, C – Herrera was named MVP of the U16 Pan Am Baseball Championship last summer, then hit .335 in the DSL this year. He has a good shot to catch and make a lot of contact, with power a long-term possibility if his lithe 6-foot-1 frame fills out.

Josh Lucas, RHP, 1.8 KATOH – A righty reliever with a low-three-quarters arm slot, Lucas strides toward the third-base foul line rather than directly toward the plate, further aiding his deception against right-handed hitters. He works a sinking fastball in the 91-94 range in the bottom of the zone and in on the hands of righties before targeting an above average, mid-80s slider to his glove side. He projects as a righty specialist.

Tommy Edman, UTIL, 2.6 KATOH – Edman, a sixth rounder in 2016, is a passable defensive shortstop as far as range and actions are concerned and has just enough arm strength to moonlight there, though his skills are more naturally suited for second base. He has some contact skills and doubles power but probably not the bat to play every day. He projects as a low-end utility man.

Winston Nicacio, RHP, 0.3 KATOH – A 20-year-old Dominican righty who got a six-inning cup of coffee out of the High-A bullpen at the end of the year, Nicacio pitched fairly well in the GCL, posting a 2.61 ERA in 51.2 innings. He sits 90-94 with a Madison Bumgarner-y delivery, will flash an average breaking ball and changeup. He’s a potential back-end starter who’s a great distance from the majors.

Scott Hurst, OF, 1.0 KATOH – After a disappointing first two college seasons and 2016 Cape Cod, Hurst finally did what everyone assumed he’d do as soon as he set foot on Cal State Fullerton’s campus: hit. He hit .328 as a junior and smashed 12 of his 13 career home runs. He’s small and needs to hit a ton to reach the big leagues (but he might), as he has very little power projection on the body. He’s not a true burner but made some gutsy plays in center field in college and has a shot to play there.

Kramer Robertson, SS, 0.6 KATOH – Robertson was a prominent name/face in college baseball over the last few years (as LSU shortstops often are) and plays with the fire and verve Alex Box Stadium deserves. Scouts like his glove and think he could play a utility role if the bat develops.

Chase Pinder, OF, 0.3 KATOH – The club’s seventh rounder played center field at Clemson. He’s a plus runner with average pop. His contact is limited due to stiffness and he projects as a bench outfielder.

Evan Mendoza, 3B/SS, 2.4 KATOH — A rangy and slick defensive third baseman, Mendoza might get a look at shortstop next year despite lacking prototypical arm strength for the position. He hit an insane .370/.430/.550 in the New York-Penn League after signing, though that league is a step down from the pitching he saw in the ACC. He some has promising hitter’s traits led by a natural feel for opposite-field contact. He was an 11th-round pick in 2017.

Breyvic Valera, UTIL, 2.7 KATOH – Valera made his big-league debut in 2017. He has good hands and defensive actions but he’s heavy-footed and lacks true shortstop range. Batted-ball data can hide some of that, but probably not enough for Valera to be more than a bench option who can hit a little bit.

Brady Whalen, INF, 2.8 KATOH – A switch-hitting, 12th-round pick from 2016 out of the Pacific Northwest, Whalen is a big, switch-hitting infielder with power. He has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame. He also hit .089 from the left side in 2017. If he tumbles down the defensive spectrum due to his size, then we’re looking at, essentially, a R/R first-base prospect.

Leandro Cedeno, 1B – This 19-year-old Venezuelan first baseman has big raw power and posted 110 mph exit velos a few times over the summer. Righty-righty first basemen have zero margin for error and this guy will have to hit a ton to profile, but the power is for real.

Angel Rondon, RHP, 1.0 KATOH – After two summers in the Dominican, Rondon came stateside and acquitted himself well, posting a 2.64 ERA in 47.2 GCL innings. He’s somewhat physically projectable and sitting 90-92 with feel for a curveball. He turns 20 in December.

Wilfredo Tovar, INF, 1.1 KATOH – Tovar can really pick it but does too little with the bat to play a bench role. He’s capable upper-level middle-infield depth but doesn’t put the bat on the ball as often as some of the other, less twitchy middle infielders in this system, which is why he has yet to return to the big leagues since 2014.

Hector Mendoza, RHP – A 23-year-old Cuban righty who signed in June, Mendoza is an elder relief prospect who sits 91-93 with a potential above-average changeup and fringe curveball.

Patrick Wisdom, CIF, 0.8 KATOH – Wisdom has plus raw power swing and his combination of swing-and-miss issues and limited defensive profile (not everyone likes him at third) make him a Quad-A candidate. Some like him as a poppy corner-bench bat.

Yeison Medina, RHP – Medina, 24, struck out 74 hitters in just 44.1 innings. He sits 90-92 and has a plus slider, which he throws more often than the fastball. Medina’s lack of velocity and poor command cloud his future, but if he’s going anywhere, his breaking ball will need to carry him.

Will Latcham, RHP – The club’s 17th rounder will touch 95 and flash an average curveball. He has middle-relief potential.

Landon Beck, RHP, 0.4 KATOH – A 24-year-old righty reliever who missed bats at Double-A, Beck sits 91-93 with an average splitter and fringe slider. If he can work up and down with the fastball and split, he could be a middle relief piece.

Darren Seferina, 2B, 0.7 KATOH – Born in Curacao and drafted out of Miami-Dade CC, Seferina is a smooth-fielding defensive shortstop with a quick, low-maintenance swing that generates consistent, but mediocre, contact. Injuries have sapped his once enviable speed and he now projects as upper-level org depth, though scouts do appreciate his well-rounded competence, grace, and poise.

Zach Kirtley, 2B, 0.4 KATOH – The club’s fifth rounder out of St. Mary’s, Kirtley has a long track record of hitting in college, though he struggled with wood on the Cape. He already has among the most advanced feel for the strike zone in this system already. His defensive projection is limited to second base.

Nick Plummer, OF, 0.0 KATOH – The club’s 2015 first rounder out of a Michigan high school, Plummer lost valuable early-career reps to multiple hand surgeries. He struggled to do anything with the bat in 2017 despite posting a 15% walk rate. He’ll need to hit next year, as his likely defensive home is left field.

Joshua Lopez, C, 0.3 KATOH – A big-bodied catcher with all-fields power, Lopez hit .285/.348/.425 at State College. He has a well-below-average arm (or at least produces well-below-average pop times due to his size/immobility) and is unlikely to stay at catcher.

Edwin Figuera, INF, 1.1 KATOH – Figuera hit .284 in the New York-Penn League as a 19-year-old. He has precocious bat-to-ball ability (practically a prerequisite for playing in this system), but scouts aren’t sure if he’ll grow into enough power to profile at either second or third base, his two most likely defensive homes.

Rangel Ravelo, 1B, 1.3 KATOH – Ravelo was signed on a minor-league deal last offseason and turned in another good season at Triple-A, where he hit .314/.383/.480 with 9% walk rate, 16% strikeout rate, eight homers, and 25 doubles. Scouts think he lacks the raw power to play first base every day, and he lacks the defensive versatility to play a bench role.

Juan Yepez, 3B/1B, 1.3 KATOH – Acquired from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Adams, Yepez is a power-over-hit corner-infield prospect who scouts think will have to move to first at maturity. They’re skeptical about his ability to make enough contact to play there.

Kodi Whitley, RHP – A physical, 22-year old reliever, Whitley sits 92-95 with sink and has a fringe change and slider. If one of the secondary pitches progresses, he could be a relief piece.

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

Tommy Edman, 2B/SS, 2.6 KATOH+
It hasn’t been uncommon, in past years, for this section to serve as a kind of safe space for above-average defenders with strong contact skills and almost no power. Last year, for example, Wilfredo Tovar was designated as Cistulli’s Guy. The year before that? Alex Mejia. Such players have traditionally possessed high floors, if little in the way of ceiling. The probability of cobbling together a couple of average seasons with that skill set is actually pretty good — or, certainly better than the raw tools might suggest.

In the wake of a season during which Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez combined to hit 62 homers, however, the notion of a power ceiling seems suddenly antiquated. It’s possible that the conditions are only temporary, but they also appear unlikely to dissipate before the 2018 season. Those players who already possess other virtues (contact skills, defense) are the ones most well situated to benefit.

Tommy Edman is probably the best example of such a player in the Cardinals system. Advancing all the way from Low-A to Double-A this past season, he recorded a strikeout rate of 14.2% over 239 plate appearances in that final stop. Defensively, Edman lack the sort of tools typical of shortstops (as noted by Longenhagen above). Nevertheless, he was well acquitted by the methodologies employed both by Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport. It’s possible, of course, that he’ll never record another isolated-slugging figure above .100. Even average power, however, would complement the rest of the profile very well.

*****

System Overview
When discussing the Cardinals’ system, it’s mandatory to point out the number of players who’ve outperformed their scouting reports and grown into quality big leaguers. This past season saw Paul DeJong, Tommy Pham, and Luke Voit continue that tradition while the system remain packed with on-paper performers who otherwise elicit lukewarm shrugs from scouts. After losing their first two 2017 draft picks (and much of their bonus pool) in the Astros hacking scandal, St. Louis’s draft class consisted mostly of players like this, and it’s fair to wonder if the struggles of recent first-round high-schoolers Nick Plummer and Delvin Perez will drive the top of the amateur department to a more risk-averse path in the near future.

St. Louis spent heavily on the international market during the 2016 July 2 period. That group, which consists largely of Cuban talent, doesn’t look as strong as most other pool-busting international classes. Beyond the names mentioned above (Oviedo, Machado, Arozarena, Herrera) the Cardinals were also in pursuit of Luis Robert, who would have ranked second on this list.

This system’s depth, particularly the glut of upper-level outfielders, could help them land a big fish on the trade market this offseason. St. Louis is mentioned frequently in Giancarlo Stanton rumors and, while finances will undoubtedly play a significant role in those negotiations, this system clearly has more depth than any other club thought to be in pursuit, except for Philadelphia. It’s a good system, one that should help reinsert the Cardinals into NL Central contention, either via promotion or trade, in the next year.

We hoped you liked reading Top 23 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals by Eric Longenhagen!

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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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