Top 40 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here.

Cardinals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Alex Reyes 24.2 MLB RHP 2019 55
2 Andrew Knizner 23.8 AAA C 2019 50
3 Nolan Gorman 18.5 A 3B 2021 50
4 Dylan Carlson 20.1 A+ RF 2020 45
5 Dakota Hudson 24.2 MLB RHP 2019 45
6 Jhon Torres 18.6 R RF 2023 40+
7 Elehuris Montero 20.2 A+ 3B 2021 40+
8 Ryan Helsley 24.3 AAA RHP 2019 40+
9 Edmundo Sosa 22.7 MLB SS 2019 40
10 Griffin Roberts 22.4 A+ RHP 2019 40
11 Adolis Garcia 25.7 MLB CF 2019 40
12 Andy Young 24.5 AA 2B 2020 40
13 Conner Capel 21.5 A+ CF 2021 40
14 Wadye Ynfante 21.2 A- CF 2021 40
15 Genesis Cabrera 22.1 AAA LHP 2019 40
16 Lane Thomas 23.2 AAA CF 2019 40
17 Junior Fernandez 21.7 AA RHP 2019 40
18 Connor Jones 24.1 AAA RHP 2019 40
19 Justin Williams 23.2 MLB LF 2019 40
20 Randy Arozarena 23.7 AAA OF 2019 40
21 Tommy Edman 23.5 AAA 2B 2020 40
22 Ramon Urias 24.4 AAA 2B 2019 40
23 Stephen Gingery 21.1 R LHP 2020 40
24 Nick Dunn 21.8 A 2B 2020 40
25 Luken Baker 21.7 A 1B 2021 40
26 Daniel Poncedeleon 26.8 MLB RHP 2018 40
27 Johan Oviedo 20.7 A RHP 2022 40
28 Malcom Nunez 17.7 R 1B 2024 40
29 Evan Kruczynski 23.6 AA LHP 2020 40
30 Delvin Perez 20.0 A- SS 2021 40
31 Conner Greene 23.6 AAA RHP 2019 40
32 Seth Elledge 22.5 AA RHP 2019 40
33 Ivan Herrera 18.5 AA C 2023 40
34 Juan Yepez 20.7 A+ 1B 2021 40
35 Evan Mendoza 22.4 AA 3B 2020 40
36 Giovanny Gallegos 27.2 MLB RHP 2019 40
37 Derian Gonzalez 23.8 AAA RHP 2019 40
38 Adanson Cruz 18.1 R RF 2023 35+
39 Joerlin De Los Santos 18.2 R CF 2024 35+
40 Mateo Gil 18.3 R SS 2023 35+

55 FV Prospects

1. Alex Reyes, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 45/50 60/70 55/60 40/50 93-97 / 101

We erroneously peeled Reyes off this list during the summer. When he departed his May 30 start after four innings, he had thrown exactly 50 career frames. The MLB rule for rookie eligibility states that it has been exceeded when a pitcher has thrown more than 50 innings, so he’s technically still eligible.

Reyes has developed amid constant setbacks. He had a shoulder injury in 2015, a marijuana suspension that spanned the 2015 Fall League and start of the 2016 season, underwent Tommy John later in 2016 and then suffered a right lat ligament detachment in his first big league start back from TJ in 2018. The surgery to reattach his ligament took place in early June, which, with a six month recovery, means Reyes should be ready for 2019.

Healthy Reyes is one of the best arm talents on the planet. His fastball will sit 93-97 and hover near 100 out of the bullpen. He’ll also show you a plus changeup and curveball. His feel for each can be inconsistent, which is understandable given how little he has pitched over the last three years. If fully realized, Reyes has top of the rotation stuff.

It’s unclear how St. Louis will usher Reyes along next spring, both as far as his role and workload are concerned. He has the stuff to be a dominant multi-inning or high-leverage relief arm should the Cardinals think he’s more likely to stay healthy that way. His innings total will likely need to be manicured somehow, and perhaps that’s the way to go about building Reyes back up even if the org considers him a traditional starter long term.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 7th Round, 2016 from North Carolina State (STL)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 40/45 30/30 40/45 45/45

Knizner backed up his breakout 2017 campaign with a .313/.368/.430 2018 season line, mostly at Double-A. His swing is compact and rhythmic, and he’s very difficult to beat with velocity because he can time just about everything. This, combined with an ability to guide the barrel around the zone, drives a promising, contact-first offensive package that would be quite valuable at catcher.

Knizner moved from shortstop (in high school) to third base (as a college freshman) to catcher (as a sophomore) and has been behind the plate for four seasons now. He remains below-average in most aspects of catching, but isn’t so bad that he’ll surely have to move. He’s not nearly as skilled a defender as Carson Kelly, but Knizner has a much better chance to make an offensive impact.

Yadier Molina is signed through 2020, which creates the illusion of a catching logjam, but he’s somewhat fragile and Knizer and Kelly’s experience at corner infield spots (Knizner has played some first base as a pro, but did not in 2018) could enable the Cardinals to carry all three of them at some point. If tasked with everyday duty, we think Knizner would produce like an average everyday player.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from O’Connor HS (AZ) (STL)
Age 18.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 70/70 30/60 40/40 40/45 50/50

Gorman mashed good pitching as an underclassman and was universally regarded as one of the two safest high school hitters in the 2018 class until he suddenly started swinging over the top of mediocre high school breaking balls as a senior. In addition to those troublesome strikeouts, he looked less agile on defense than he had the previous summer. Teams generally thought these issues were correctable but they, and a few odd draft day dominoes, contributed to his slide back to the 19th overall pick.

After signing, Gorman paved over the Appalachain League (.350/.443/.664) and received a very aggressive promotion to Low-A, where he struggled to make contact. Gorman’s hand path is similar to Kyle Seager’s and that loop creates power, but also some length, so there’s some hit-related risk here. But Gorman is a physical beast with a chance to stay at third and hit for huge, potentially middle-of-the-order power.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Elk Grove HS (CA) (STL)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr S / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/60 40/55 50/40 45/50 55/55

Though his surface-level stats — .245/.340/.376 in parts of three pro seasons — aren’t impressive, Carlson is a 2019 breakout candidate. Switch-hitters with power are rare and Carlson has all-fields pop from both sides of the plate that, in 2018, was masked by the cavernous ballparks of the Florida State League. A waist-high leg kick and loose, active hands provide much of the thump, and Carlson is athletic enough to make use of a swing with that much movement and not have it negatively impacted his timing. Though he has limited bat control, Carlson is adept at picking hittable pitchces to attack, and cut his K% down to 17% in 2018 while maintaining his above-average 11% walk rate.

Defensively, Carlson projects in right field. He saw ample time in center in 2016 and 2017 but really only played in either corner last year. There’s a non-zero chance he thickens substantially through his mid-20s and loses the mobility to play the outfield, but that might also mean he’s grown into more power than we’re projecting and fits at first base–offensively anyway. There’s a good chance Carlson turns into a solid everyday outfielder immune to modern pitching staffs’ desire to exploit hitters’ handedness.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Mississippi State (STL)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
70/70 55/55 55/55 40/45 94-97 / 98

Hudson has angry stuff. His then-four-pitch mix was on par with the best college pitchers in the 2016 draft, but Hudson fell to the back of the first round due to concerns about his delivery — his arm action is quite long — and how it effects his command and perceived ability to stay healthy.

Though Hudson has ascended rapidly through the minors, concerns about his ability to throw strikes have proved prescient, as he has posted slightly worse-than-average walk rates as a pro, and twice the average starter’s rate in his short big league stint. Throw in the redundant shape and utility of Hudson’s secondary pitches, now limited to a low-90s cutter and mid-80s slider that belnd together in the upper-80s, and there’s a strong chance he ends up a late-innign reliever instead of a long-term starter. But his nasty sinker, which has generated a 58% career ground ball rate and tops out at 98, and the quality of those two secondaries might enable him to start or at least have multi-inning value. He’s big-league-ready and poised to play a integral role on St. Louis’ staff next year.

40+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (CLE)
Age 18.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 55/65 30/60 50/40 40/50 60/60

For the first time in 2018, the Cardinals deployed scouts dedicated to the lowest levels of the minor leagues and it netted them one of the more explosive physical specimens on last year’s desert backfields. Traded in a prospect-for-prospect deadline deal that sent one of the Cardinals’ many upper-level outfielders, Oscar Mercado, to Cleveland, Torres dominated rookie ball on either side of the deal and slashed .321/.409/.525 combined in the AZL and GCL.

Built like a Division I tight end, Torres’ body is a baseball rarity, and he still has growth potential from both a physical and mechanical perspective. Torres doesn’t always transfer his weight effectively and his swing can be bottom hand-heavy, but it has a workable foundation and he has the requisite bat speed, strength and hand-eye coordination to hit and hit for power. At maturity, he could be a 6-foot-5, 230 pound power-hitting force in the middle of a lineup.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/60 30/55 40/40 40/45 55/55

Montero’s strong initial foray into full-season ball — .322/.381/.529 with 46 extra-base hits in 103 games — was his second straight year of on-paper success, and he was still just 19 when the Cardinals promoted him to Hi-A Palm Beach for the season’s final month.

Montero is a scaled-down version of Miguel Sano. His swing is mechanically similar and he, too, has a power-driven profile undercut by a thick frame that may not stay at third base despite plenty of arm. Montero’s raw power and natural feel for lifting the basebal in the air may not be statistically evident next season due to Palm Beach’s hitting environment, so don’t worry if he’s not posting a huge SLG% next year. Focus should instead be on Montero’s approach (which is a little aggressive for some) and how mobile he’s able to stay. So long as one of those two attributes pan out, Montero will likely be a good big leaguer. If both do, he could be a 3-plus WAR entity.

8. Ryan Helsley, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Northeastern State (STL)
Age 24.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 40/45 45/50 40/50 94-97 / 100

Helsley, who is of Cherokee heritage, likely would have reached the majors in 2018 had he not been sidelined with shoulder fatigue in early-June. The injury effectively ended his season, as he was up for one August rehab appearance and then shut down again for the rest of the year. The exact nature of the injury is unknown and it’s not clear if Helsley will be ready for the start of spring training.

When healthy, Helsley has an effective four-pitch mix led by a fastball that sits in the 93-97 range and will touch 100. Helsley doesn’t have precise fastball command and throws a middling ratio of strikes, but he throws hard enough to get away with mistakes in the zone, and his ability to execute his breaking balls — the slider down and to his glove side, the curveball in the bottom of the zone or beneath it — gives him a pretty good chance to start.

There are clubs that have Helsley evaluated as a reliever either because of the lack of fastball command or due to perceptions about his deilvery and health. If not for uncertainty surrounding his injury, he’d be right behind Hudson on this list as a near-ready mid-rotation arm or dominant 70-80 inning reliever.

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Panama (STL)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 45/45 30/40 50/50 55/55 50/50

Plus hands and actions drive Sosa’s ability to stay at short, where his range and arm strength are only okay. Indigenous to shortstop, Sosa began getting reps at second and third base during the 2017 Arizona Fall League, and he continued to see time there (66% SS, 18% 2B, 18% 3B) in 2018. He hit .269/.314/.419 split between Double and Triple-A, a line that includes more in-game power than in ’16 and ’17.

At some point in 2017, Sosa added a leg kick that drove this improvement, but it didn’t pay off in games until 2018, either because he added it too late or because the after-effects of a broken hamate were making his power. Additional evidence that this uptick in power is real is the change in Sosa’a ground ball rate, which has dropped from 50% in ’16 and ’17 to 38% in ’18. Because he’s such a free-swinger, Sosa will probably run pretty low OBPs as a big leaguer, but he has barrel control and his hands have life, so he’s going to hit some. In the last year he’s improved from a viable shortstop who might hit an empty .260 to a versatile infield defender with some pop, and he looks poised to play an integral big league role pretty soon. He’s the best defensive infielder on St. Louis’ 40-man.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Wake Forest (STL)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 60/65 40/50 45/50 90-93 / 95

Roberts was the closer for Wake Forest as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2017 and turned down six figure offers to go back to school as a 22-year-old junior and try his hand at starting. His hellacious plus-plus slider was just as good and his velocity held, working 89-93 and touching 95. Roberts’ command is enough to start and his changeup flashes average, but some scouts project him as a Luke Gregerson-like slider-heavy reliever, both because of his arm action and his slider-heavy approach.

In today’s velocity-obsessed game, Roberts’ only ability that is above average is his slider and he leans on it heavily, which would make him ideal for a multi-inning hybrid role and doesn’t describe many traditional big league starters. The Cardinals would like to see if he can turn into a volume starter, but he’ll likely get to the bigs quickly regardless since he could help soon and in multiple roles.

(STL)
Age 25.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/55 45/50 60/60 55/55 70/70

Garcia’s explosive toolset is undermined by his exploitable, pull-heavy approach to contact and his propensity to chase. These deficiencies make him very easy for right-handed pitchers to beat by feeding him breaking balls away, which he can often neither touch nor take. Despite this, there’s a viable path to big league playing time for Garcia because he sees lefties well-enough to hit for difference-making power against them, and his speed and arm are assets on defense. He has a chance to be a good role-playing ouitfielder, but Garcia’s approach means his floor is like the bottom of a wet paper bag.

12. Andy Young, 2B
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Indiana State (STL)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 55/55 45/55 40/40 40/45 50/50

Middle infielders with power are rare and yet Young, who is exactly that, somehow lasted until the 37th round of his draft and signed for just $3,000. This is the Cardinals archetypical draftee; a power-first prospect with questionable mobility. Collect enough of these and, through a combination of luck and good player development, some of them will turn into passable defenders and become solid big leaguers. Young has hit his way to Double-A and is tracking like the successes that have come before.

Though he does most of his damage on pitches on the inner half, Young has enough barrel control to spoil pitches away from him until he gets something he can square up. When he connects, he does so with power. Buff and square-shouldered, Young’s physicality is a driving component of his power but it’s also why he’s somewhat limited defensively.

Young has seen time at shortstop, third base and left field as a pro but was mostly kept at second base in 2018. He should be passable defender there, but his lack of versatility in the field could be a barrier to a call up, especially because the Cardinals big league roster is already full of players without positional flexibility. He’s a strong internal candidate to eventually replace either or both of Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong in the next couple of years.

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Seven Lakes HS (TX) (CLE)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 50/50 40/45 55/55 45/50 60/60

Two seasons ago, Cleveland narrowed Capel’s stance to force him to move his weight forward when he would stride and it inverted his offensive profile. A contact-oriented speedster in high school, Capel has become a pull-heavy hitter who can lift the ball. Though not aesthically pleasing, Capel’s swing is effective. He sees the ball well against righties and connects with pitches all over the strike zone, sending them to the right side of the diamond.

Capel projects to have a well-rounded statline — 50 or 55 hit, 50 power — against righties, but he’s so vulnerable against lefties that he’d likely need a platoon partner in the big leagues. He projects to play a role similar to the one Ben Gamel and Travis Jankowski currently play.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 21.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/55 20/45 60/60 45/55 40/40

Ynfante followed up a promising 2017 campaign — .299/.374/.491 — with a strikeout-laden dud in 2018. His K% spiked up to a whopping 35%. Despite that, Ynfante has some of the more promising physical tools in the system. He’s a comfortably plus runner with a good chance to not only stay in center field, but be very good there. He also has some pop.

His complete inability to hit could be fixable, as it may be largely swing-related. Currently, Ynfante bars his lead arm and loads his hands late, often making his barrel late into the zone. He also strides open, making him vulnerable to breaking stuff tiliting away from him. These issues are not immutable, and Ynfante’s physical abilities — his bat speed and ability to move the bat around the zone a bit — are very promising. There’s much work to be done here. Ynfante is the most volatile prospect in this system and there’s a good chance he never turns into anything, but he has uncommon physical talent and potentially correctable issues.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (TBR)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 45/45 45/45 50/55 40/40 92-96 / 97

Acquired as part of the return from Tampa Bay for Tommy Pham, Cabrera has a near-ready relief profile that might yield multi-inning value because of the depth of his repertoire. He brings 95-98 mph heat from the left side and complements it with a bevy of inconsistent secondary offerings.

Opinions vary scout to scout as to which of Cabrera’s other pitches is best. The changeup has the best movement but Cabrera struggles to set it up because he can’t locate his fastball consistently. His slider is short and cuttery, the curveball has depth but lacks bite. Taken together, they could be enough to flummox hitters one time through the order, but probably not several times.

16. Lane Thomas, CF
Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Bearden HS (TN) (TOR)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 50/50 40/45 55/55 50/55 55/55

In 2017, the Cardinals traded away some of their International pool space for minor leaguers, including Thomas, who had a breakout 2018 at the plate. A high school shortstop, Thomas got a $750,000 bonus to sign with Toronto as a fifth rounder in 2014. He played some second base, third base and outfield for the Jays before moving off the dirt entirely in 2017. Thomas has struggled intermittently to stay healthy and to hit. He has missed the equivalent of an entire season since 2015 due to injuries, and hit for no power until, in 2018, he exploded for a .264/.333/.489 line between Double and Triple-A, including more home runs (27) than in his previous four seasons combined.

Thomas does have meaningful raw power and he’s a good defensive outfielder. His upright, pull-only style of hitting is perhaps exploitable, dampening our enthusiasm for Thomas as a regular. It’s possible his defensive ability and power will be enough to carry his profile, but we think it’s more likely that he’s a fourth outfielder.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/45 55/60 40/45 95-97 / 99

Injuries robbed Fernandez of much of his last two seasons and brought about a move to the bullpen in 2018. While lightning quick, his arm action is quite violent, which detracts from Fernandez’s command and has created a perception of heightened injury risk. But he also has an upper-90s fastball and plus changeup when healthy and reached Double-A as a 21-year-old last year.

The Cardinals are incentivized to extract big league value out of Fernandez while he’s healthy and has good stuff, so it’s possible we see him and his high-leverage offering as early as next year.

18. Connor Jones, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Virginia (STL)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 50/55 50/55 40/45 92-96 / 98

Jones was a well-regarded high schooler whose commitment to Virginia was so strong that he began incorporating some of UVA’s pitching dogma into his delivery before he had even matriculated. His stuff ticked up (92-96 with sink, an above-average split, average slider) as a sophomore and then backed up the following year. While Jones has not performed statistically in either of his two full pro seasons, his sinker is back and has been very difficult for minor league hitters to lift, enabling him to generate a 66% ground ball rate during his pro career.

In the Arizona Fall League, Jones’ sinker was a heavy 92-96, touching 98. His curveball is average, flashes above, and is consistently located down and to his glove side. His profile has some concerning elements: his stuff and command have been inconcsistent, his repertoire has been altered in several ways, and he missed three weeks due to injury in ’18. But Jones has shown an ability to make adjustments and he has a freakish pitch. He’s likely to play some kind of bullpen role, at least.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Terrebonne HS (LA) (ARZ)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 60/60 40/50 40/40 50/50 50/50

Williams was a strong early-career statistical performer thanks to his big, strength-driven raw power that found a way to play in games despite a swing path that drove the ball into the ground. As he reached the upper levels, that swing became untenable and needed to change.

It did in 2017, when Williams opened his stance, utilized a big leg kick instead of an odd, double toe tap and began to lift the ball more. His ground ball rate dropped from 60% to 52% (which is still high) and he had a monster 2017 before regressing in 2018. Williams doesn’t close all the way when he strides and he’s become very pull-heavy and easier to pitch to. Other than the power, the rest of Williams’ toolset is pretty generic, so he’s going to have to hit a ton to profile. St. Louis has had success tweaking the swings of similar players in the past and Williams’ ground ball rate dropped to 42% after the Cardinals acquired him in the Tommy Pham trade, though that was only in a 76 PA sample. There’s also an approach issue here as Williams really likes to swing.

With Williams’ power and pedigree, we’ll continue to monitor him in case anything changes or improves, and if it does he could be a valuable role-playing corner outfielder. If not, he doesn’t have the diverse skillset required to play a bench-only role.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL)
Age 23.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 45/45 30/40 55/55 50/55 55/55

A classic tweener outfielder, Arozarena is without the pure speed and instincts to play center field, and lacks the power to play everyday in a corner. He does have good feel for contact and runs well enough to play above-average defense in left or right field. His likely role is that of the lesser platoon, defensive replacement, pinch-running variety.

21. Tommy Edman, 2B
Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Stanford (STL)
Age 23.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 40/40 30/30 55/55 40/45 50/50

Edman is a switch-hitting Joey Wendle. He just passes at shortstop and is a range-driven, above-average defender at second. He has more power when hitting right-handed but doesn’t project to much damage in games. Edman’s flat-planed swing is most effective at catching pitches in the upper half of the zone, which makes him well-positioned to hit if the hitter vs pitcher metagame continues to trend toward letter-high fastballs. Bat-to-ball skills dictate powerless profiles like Edman’s. He either hits enough to be a 50, or he doesn’t and won’t be rosterable unless he starts playing more defensive positions.

22. Ramon Urias, 2B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Mexico (TEX)
Age 24.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 40/40 30/35 45/45 50/50 50/50

After two DSL seasons with Texas, Urias’ rights were loaned and then sold outright to Diablos Rojos in Mexico City, where he hit .318/.402/.467 over five seasons before the Cardinals came calling in the spring of 2018.

Urias’ return to affiliated ball went well. He hit .300/.356/.516 in 90 games between Double and Triple-A. His bat-to-ball skills have propelled Urias to the precipice of the majors. He has remarkable bat control, but it was surprising that he hit for as much power as he did last season given his ultra-conservative footwork in the box. He projects as a multi-positional (second, third, some short) bench option, but he also might be a swing tweak away from power that would play every day.

23. Stephen Gingery, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Texas Tech (STL)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 55/60 45/55 88-93 / 94

Gingery won’t make his pro debut until some time in 2019 because he was drafted and signed while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in March of his draft year. He hit the big stage as a key part of the Texas Tech rotation in a 2017 College World Series run as a sophomore, then pitched for collegiate Team USA that summer, where most scouts saw him for the first time. Gingery walked off the mound the following February with that elbow injury, but the Cardinals had seen enough to give him $825,000 in the fourth round, as he had buzz in the top two rounds before the injury.

He’s a typical back-end type lefty starter, with average or better command, who works 88-92 mph with an average fastball/curveball combo, but backs it up with a plus changeup he uses as a weapon in almost any situation. With the success rate of Tommy John surgery somewhere around 75% (depending on your definition of success), expectations are that Gingery will be back to what he was (which is similar to former Cardinals first rounder Marco Gonzales, though not quite as athletic) by the end of 2019 or early in 2020, with a chance to move quickly if everything goes to plan.

24. Nick Dunn, 2B
Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Maryland (STL)
Age 21.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 50/50 30/40 35/30 40/45 45/45

Dunn doesn’t have exciting upside, but seems likely to have a big league career of some sort. He’s a below average runner, thrower and defender, but plays a passable second base for now. Dunn may get shifted to left field or just a general ‘bat that you find a spot for’ position, because he’s one of the few college hitters in his draft class who drew near consensus 60 hit grades. He has average raw power that he doesn’t tap into as often as you’d like, so there’s some shot for a swing adjustment (think more aggressive mechanics and/or more lofted swing path) that could make him some version of Daniel Murphy. Or, if he continues on this path with only his hit tool rating above average, he could be more of a Tommy LaStella bench bat type. There’s obviously plenty of space between those two ends of the spectrum and the Murphy outcome is obviously a longshot, but in today’s game, we feel obliged to outline a best case scenario with so many advanced hitters finding game power we didn’t foresee.

25. Luken Baker, 1B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from TCU (STL)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 265 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 70/70 40/60 30/20 40/45 60/60

Baker’s amateur career was dashed by a series of freak injuries. As a freshman at TCU, it appeared as though he might single-handedly drive national interest in college baseball as an Ohtani-like two-way force. His injury woes began the following year when he suffered a fracture of, and ligament and muscle tear in, his left arm. The following year he missed a few games after taking a bad hop to the face, and he’d later be shut down for the season when he fractured a fibula and tore an ankle ligament while sliding into second base.

When on the field, the Kaiju-sized Baker has performed. He walked more than he struck out at TCU and tapped into much of his parking-lot-threatening power. He appears to have the physical abilities needed to profile at first if he can stay healthy.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2014 from Embry-Riddle (STL)
Age 26.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 45/50 50/50 50/50 90-95 / 97

The city-appropriate, 180 degree arch created by the letters on the back of Poncedeleon’s jersey accentuates his gawky, rectangular frame, which is so thin that it looks two-dimensional. The Rec Specs, stripey socks, and conquistador mustache complete the comical ensemble, which belies Poncedeleon’s competitive edge. Poncedeleon has a mix of four average pitches. His curveball and changeup are arguably better than that, but both are identifiable out of his hand due to their varied release points, which may be why Poncedelon works most often with his fastball and cutter.

A viable big league arm, Poncedeleon could fit in the back of a rotation or in a relief role.

27. Johan Oviedo, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/50 50/55 45/55 30/40 90-94 / 96

A late-season uptick in stuff was the silver lining around an otherwise frustrating season for Oviedo, who walked nearly 15% of hitters he faced. His velocity has been all over the place throughout his pro career, ebbing and flowing anywhere between 87 and 97 mph since he signed. Early in 2018, he was 90-94 with below-average secondaries. Late in 2018, he was touching 96 and flashing a plus changeup and curveball.

A mammoth 6-foot-6, it’s possible Oviedo’s command will come later as he gains control of his limbs. He has mid-rotation upside if the quality of his stuff becomes more consistent and he irons out his control issues. He has a wide range of possible outcomes from traditional mid-rotation starter to enigmatic release candidate.

28. Malcom Nunez, 1B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (STL)
Age 17.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 55/60 30/60 40/30 30/45 55/55

Trapped in the International Amateur market’s penalty box after their 2016 Cuban shopping spree, the Cardinals were still able to find some interesting $300,000 talent in each of the following two years. Nuñez is the best hitter of that bunch and he posted god-like numbers in the DSL last year, slashing .415/.497/.774 with 31 extra-base hits in 44 games.

Already to be taken with a healthy grain of salt, DSL numbers are often faulty when the prospect in question is more physically mature than his peers, and the hefty Nuñez is a classic case. He will likely need to move to first base, perhaps even while he’s still in the minors, putting a ton of pressure on his admittedly prodigious bat to fully actualize. There’s not much physical projection here, so the raw power Nuñez currently has is pretty close to what he’ll have at peak, meaning the bat-to-ball component is what will drive his stock going forward.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2017 from East Carolina (STL)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/50 45/50 50/55 45/50 88-92 / 93

Kruczynski is a big, athletic college lefty who, like many Cardinals draft picks, has been pushed very quickly through the minors. He has already reached Double-A and had success there in a six-start sample. He has four average pitches that play well up due to Kruczynski’s ability to get way down the mound and release the ball right on top of hitters. His range of potential outcomes is quite narrow, going from backend starter to up-down spot starter or bullpen contributor.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Int’l Baseball Academy HS (PR) (STL)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 30/40 20/30 60/60 45/55 55/55

As a high schooler in Puerto Rico, Perez looked like he had a chance to be a five-tools monster. He was a svelte-but-strong 6-foot-3 with plus, unpolished bat speed, plus-plus footspeed and every physical trait necessary to stay at shortstop. A positive PED test ahead of the draft tanked his stock, and Perez exhibited a steady physical decline in the year and a half that followed this revelation.

Still viable at shortstop, Perez’s ability to swing the bat with verve has evaporated. His age and frame are still indicative of physical growth, but unless Perez reclaims some of the offensive explosion he showed in high school, he profiles as a glove-only shortstop prospect.

31. Conner Greene, RHP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2013 from Santa Monica HS (CA) (TOR)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 40/40 45/50 40/40 92-95 / 96

For a 25-start stretch across 2014 and 2015, Greene threw strikes. Outside of that, he has posted an 11% walk rate, largely due to release variance that also tips his curveball. Greee’s stuff is good. He has a viable four-pitch mix, including a nasty, tilting slider. This mix gives him a chance to yield multi-inning value and perhaps even start if his control comes late, so Greene is ahead of the single-inning relief prospects on this list. One of two pitchers acquired from Toronto in exchange for Randal Grichuk, Greene is on the St. Louis 40-man and we’ll likely see him in the big leagues at some point next year despite his clear volatility.

32. Seth Elledge, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Dallas Baptist (SEA)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 45/50 40/45 91-94 / 96

A fourth round pick by Seattle in 2017, Elledge was traded to the Cardinals for Sam Tuivailala just over a year after he was drafted. The Cardinals push college pitchers up the minor league ladder very quickly, and they sent Elledge to Double-A immediately after acquiring him. Though he only sits in the low-90s, Elledge’s fastball results in uncomfortable swings from opposing hitters because he generates big extension and hides the ball well. He’s a low-risk middle relief prospect who should be ready for the majors relatively soon.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Panama (STL)
Age 18.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 40/45 30/40 30/30 45/55 50/50

Some late-season catching dominos fell in such a way that the Cardinals needed another Double-A receiver in early-September. Advanced in all facets and coming off of a strong stateside debut in the GCL, Herrera was promoted all the way to Springfield, where he made a single start. Physically and technically mature, Herrera is more advanced than he is prospecty and his tools are more in line with a backup catcher than one who clearly projects as a starter.

34. Juan Yepez, 1B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (ATL)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/45 60/60 30/50 40/40 45/50 55/55

Traded from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Adams, Yepez was a heavy-bodied, power-hitting prospect with no position. Since the trade, he has remade himself physically, and now has a physique similar to Tyler O’Neill. Long term, Yepez still projects to first base and he may lack the approach and contact skills to produce at the level necessary to profile there.

35. Evan Mendoza, 3B
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from North Carolina State (STL)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 50/50 30/40 40/40 45/50 60/60

Mendoza has moved through very quickly, and reached Double-A in his first full season. He’s a rangy defender at third base and has even played a little shortstop. He has ugly, but effective, bat control that has, so far, enabled a rather expansive approach. He could be a Matt Duffy-type of player, who succeeds early and then is forced to adjust once opposing pitchers learn to exploit his aggressiveness. More likely, he’s a bench option once he eventually starts branching out to other defensive postions.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Mexico (NYY)
Age 27.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 50/50 40/40 93-95 / 96

The Yankees and Cardinals exchanged upper-level surplus talents during the summer in the swap that sent Chasen Shreve and Gallegos to St. Louis for Luke Voit. Gallegos is a standard, single-inning relief arm with a funky, vertical release point that makes his fastball tough to square and his slider’s shape and quality are very inconsistent.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela (STL)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 50/50 50/50 45/45 91-94 / 95

Gonzalez is a generic fifth starter/middle reliever tweener with a 55 slider that he commands well. He has missed several weeks due to injury during each of the last three seasons.

35+ FV Prospects

38. Adanson Cruz, RF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 18.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+

A $300,000 signee from 2017, Cruz has a traditional corner outfield profile. He has a projectable 6-foot-3 frame and a swing geared to lift the ball to his pull side. He could grow into plus, playable power. He’s likely a left field-only fit, so he’ll need to.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL)
Age 18.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+

De Los Santos signed for $250,000 in 2017 and had a strong summer in the DSL, hitting .360/.460/.500 with more walks than strikeouts. Though he also worked out as an infielder as an amateur, De Los Santos lacked the arm and actions for the dirt and began his pro career in center field. He’s a plus runner and though his frame is mature, it’s quite compact and he’s not likely to get so large that he must move to a corner. His skillset is exactly the kind that often crushes the DSL; he’s much stronger than most of the league’s lanky teens and his speed takes advantage of bad DSL defenses. There are big league tools here, they just come with some reasons to doubt the elite-level performance.

40. Mateo Gil, SS
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Timber Creek HS (TX) (STL)
Age 18.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+

Gil was drafted because of his athleticism and defensive ability. He has a low-probability bat, but proponents think it will come with physical maturation.

Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Polished, Contacted-Oriented Hitters

Scott Hurst, OF
Chase Pinder, CF
Stanley Espinal, 3B
Max Schrock, 2B
Jonatan Machado, OF
Kramer Robertson, SS

Most of these prospects are classic tweeners who have a skill or two that might one day be strong enough to propel them into a big league role. Hurst, who is fine in CF and above-average in the corners, might hit enough to play everyday but his likely ceiling looks more like a reserve OF. The same goes for Chase Pinder, who also might be just a swing tweak away from shooting up this list. He has some raw pop but hits the ball on the ground a lot. Stanley Espinal was acquired from Boston for international pool space in 2017. He has the best bat of this group but might end up at first base. Schrock went backward in 2018. He’ll either hit enough to be a 50 or he won’t, in which case he’s a 30. Machado got $2.3 million in 2016 and he hasn’t added an ounce of muscle since then. He has good bat control for someone with zero physicality. He also has one of the more distinctive swings in the minors, because at times he walks from the back of the batter’s box to the front during the pitcher’s windup. Robertson has a glove-only profile.

Power-only Profiles

Johan Mieses, OF
Patrick Wisdom, 3B/1B
Leandro Cedeno, OF
Victor Garcia, OF
Lars Nootbaar, 1B
Terry Fuller, 1B

Mieses, who was acquired from the Dodgers for Breyvic Valera, also has above-average straight line speed, but he’s a little too aggressive at the plate. Wisdom has huge pop but a dubious glove at third and too much whiff to comfortably profile at first. The others here are all big bodies with pop who need to hit a ton to profile at the bottom of the defensive spectrum.

Young Arms

Ludwin Jimenez, RHP
Freddy Pacheco, RHP
Winston Nicacio, RHP
Dionis Zamora, RHP

Nicacio perhaps doesn’t belong in this group because he’s a 21-year-old with average stuff that played better when he was moved to the bullpen (and demoted) mid-summer. Of the teenage arms here, Jimenez has the least velo (upper-80s right now) but he’s smooth, projectable, throws strikes, has an advanced changeup and his curveball has good shape. Pacheco has touched 95, while Zamora has touched 93, but both have raw secondaries that really only flash average right now.

Shrug Emoji

Nick Plummer, OF

We liked Plummer in high school but multiple hand surgeries have derailed the early stages of a career that was already likely to start slowly due to his background (he was a Michigan high schooler who only saw good pitching during the summer). Pro scouts don’t consider him a prospect, but we’re keeping an eye on him because of his pedigree.

System Overview

The hitter categories in the “Others of Note” section could be applied to most of the hitters in this system as a whole, as they’re nearly all either big power hitters on the wrong end of the defensive spectrum or up-the-middle players with vanilla physical tools and strong baseball instincts. Acquiring talent like this has served the Cardinals well for a quite a while.

While this organization remains grounded in old maxims, it has also branched out a bit lately. The Cardinals had in-person coverage on the complexes for the first time in 2018. It netted them Jhon Torres at the deadline. Torres was acquired by shipping off some of the upper-level outfield logjam (Oscar Mercado), but there are still a lot of guys pushing for playing time that need to be sorted. Look for the Cardinals to continue to consolidate some of that talent via trade and for the pitching staff to have a modern, multi-inning relief theme in 2018.

We hoped you liked reading Top 40 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel!

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newest oldest most voted
nickthekid87
Member
nickthekid87

Was there no Cistulli’s Guy section in this one because his guy is so obviously future-MVP Max Schrock?

majnun
Member
majnun

The real reason was much sadder!