Top 35 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals by Eric Longenhagen April 8, 2021 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher. 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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2021 2020 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Cardinals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Dylan Carlson 22.5 MLB LF 2021 60 2 Nolan Gorman 20.9 A+ 3B 2022 55 3 Ivan Herrera 20.9 AA C 2023 50 4 Matthew Liberatore 21.4 A SP 2022 50 5 Jordan Walker 18.9 R 3B 2025 45+ 6 Zack Thompson 23.4 A+ SP 2022 45 7 Masyn Winn 19.0 R SIRP/SS 2025 45 8 Johan Oviedo 23.1 MLB MIRP 2022 45 9 Jhon Torres 21.0 A RF 2023 40+ 10 Luken Baker 24.1 A+ 1B 2021 40+ 11 Tre Fletcher 19.9 R CF 2024 40+ 12 Tink Hence 18.7 R SP 2025 40+ 13 Ian Bedell 21.6 R SP 2023 40+ 14 Edwin Núñez 19.4 R SP 2025 40 15 Junior Fernández 24.1 MLB SIRP 2021 40 16 Edmundo Sosa 25.1 MLB SS 2021 40 17 Seth Elledge 24.9 MLB SIRP 2021 40 18 Kodi Whitley 26.1 MLB SIRP 2021 40 19 Justin Williams 25.6 MLB LF 2021 40 20 Alec Burleson 22.4 R RF 2024 40 21 Juan Yepez 23.1 AA 1B 2022 40 22 Malcom Nunez 20.1 A 1B 2024 40 23 Jake Woodford 24.4 MLB MIRP 2021 40 24 Leonardo Bernal 17.2 R C 2025 35+ 25 Andre Pallante 22.6 A- SP 2023 35+ 26 Ali Sánchez 24.2 MLB C 2021 35+ 27 Patrick Romeri 19.8 R RF 2023 35+ 28 Adanson Cruz 20.5 R LF 2023 35+ 29 Steven Gingery 23.5 R SP 2022 35+ 30 Jesus Cruz 26.0 MLB SIRP 2021 35+ 31 Connor Jones 26.5 AAA SIRP 2021 35+ 32 Roel Ramirez 25.9 MLB SIRP 2021 35+ 33 Edgardo Rodriguez 20.4 R C 2023 35+ 34 Griffin Roberts 24.8 A+ SIRP 2022 35+ 35 Rodard Avelino 21.8 A SIRP 2024 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 60 FV Prospects 1. Dylan Carlson, LF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Elk Grove HS (CA) (STL) Age 22.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr S / L FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 50/55 45/55 50/40 50/55 40 Carlson is balanced and coordinated while hitting from both sides of the plate, his left-handed swing has gorgeous lift and finish, and he has advanced bat control and rare on-field poise for a switch-hitter his age. He’s also athletic and moves well for his size. I still have some questions about his ultimate upside because I think he’s much more likely to end up in left field than in center. His instincts in center are okay, but I don’t think he has the long speed that is typical at the position. His 2019 minor league TrackMan data indicates his statline from that year was a bit of a caricature, but his Savant page indicates the opposite with regard to his 2020 debut struggles. I wonder if pro models have been overrating Carlson due to his age because even though he’s only the age of a college bat, he doesn’t have the physical projection you’d expect of a hitter that age. Of course, it’s not like Juan Soto still has physical projection, either. The league-average offensive production in left field has been lower than you might expect (good for a 100 wRC+ over the last five years) and Carlson might also be able to play a situational center when the Cards are behind and need offense, as well as some first base. That versatility is valuable icing on a switch-hitting cake. Carlson projects as a well-rounded switch-hitter with excellent feel for the strike zone. (Alternate site, MLB) 55 FV Prospects 2. Nolan Gorman, 3B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from O’Connor HS (AZ) (STL) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 65/70 25/60 40/40 40/45 50 There’s no change to Gorman’s report, as he was at the alt site all year, but the Arenado trade complicates his defensive future, which I’ll address toward the end: By torching the Appy League during his first pro summer, Gorman laid to rest any concerns that his whiff-prone pre-draft spring was anything more than a hiccup caused by the whiplash of going from facing elite, showcase high schoolers (who he crushed) to soft-tossing, Arizona varsity pitchers. He struck out a lot (again) during the 2018 stretch run, when St. Louis pushed him to Low-A Peoria because he wasn’t being challenged in Johnson City. Sent back to Peoria for the first half of 2019, Gorman adjusted to full-season pitching and roasted the Midwest League to the tune of a .241/.344/.448 line, cutting his strikeout rate by eight percentage points. He was promoted to the Florida State League for the second half, and while his walk rate halved and his strikeout rate crept above 30% again, Gorman still managed to post an above-average line for that league as a 19-year-old. His strikeout issues will only become a real concern for me once Gorman stops showing an ability to adjust over a long period of time. His huge power, derived from his imposing physicality and explosive hand speed, is likely to play in games because of the lift in Gorman’s swing and his feel for impacting the ball in the air. Because we’re talking about a teenager of considerable size, there’s a chance he has to move off of third base at some point, and now that Nolan Arenado is in town, St. Louis will see how Gorman looks at second and in left field. I bet he’ll be able to make routine plays on balls hit to him at the keystone, but I have no idea what he’ll look like operating around the bag. There are apt body comps to be made to either of the Seager brothers, while the offensive profile looks more like Miguel Sanó’s. (Alternate site) 50 FV Prospects 3. Ivan Herrera, C Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Panama (STL) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 50/55 25/45 30/30 45/55 50 There’s no change here as Herrera was only at the alt site: When I began sourcing data on the Cardinals system in 2019, I wasn’t aware of a max exit velocity for a teenager in excess of 109 mph (Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio) — until I learned of Herrera’s. It was surprising considering that Herrera is physically quite modest, and looked sluggish at times during that year’s Fall League, but by that point he had played in three times as many games as he had the year before, and was likely exhausted. Regular season Herrera was a little leaner, twitchy, and athletic, and was an advanced defender with a mature approach at the plate. He also hit .286/.381/.423 as a 19-year-old catcher in the Midwest League. This guy checks all the proverbial boxes and looks like a well-rounded everyday catching prospect. (Alternate site) 4. Matthew Liberatore, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Mountain Ridge HS (AZ) (TBR) Age 21.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/55 60/60 50/55 35/55 92-95 / 97 Liberatore throws at a Phoenix-area facility called Fuel Factory and was cruising in the low-90s during offseason bullpens, then was 90-93 in a heavily-scouted live BP exhibition just about a week before the top 100 was published. Because Liberatore’s fastball has sinker movement, the growth of his changeup is going to be the most important aspect of his development, since those two pitches have similar movement and will theoretically tunnel better. That pitch has indeed improved and will likely be his putaway offering in the big leagues. That may surprise readers aware of his curveball’s reputation. Indeed, Liberatore’s curveball has all-world depth, but I think its results may suffer because he doesn’t have an up-in-the-zone four-seamer to pair with it. Instead it’s the sort of pitch I think he’ll use to get ahead of hitters late in outings, dumping that curveball into the zone for strike one. It’s the type of pitch that’s hard to hit even if you know it’s coming, but might be easy to lay off of when Libby tries to bury it in the dirt, because its Loch Ness Monster hump is easy to identify out of the hand. All of the advanced pitchability stuff — Libby started learning a slider during his senior year of high school, he varies his timing home, and he’s likely to pitch backwards with his breaking balls — is here, too, and that’ll be important given the lack of a bat-missing fastball. The slider isn’t there quite yet but, based on Liberatore’s natural ability to spin the ball, I bet it will be eventually. He profiles as an innings-eating, 2-ish WAR starter. (Alternate site) 45+ FV Prospects 5. Jordan Walker, 3B Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Decatur HS (GA) (STL) Age 18.9 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 60/70 25/60 40/30 40/50 55 Walker’s showcase summer look was among the most exciting in the entire 2020 draft class. He looked like a potential top 10 pick, then came out of the gate slow the following spring and never really had a chance to totally course correct because of the pandemic. Walker pitched and played shortstop during his pre-draft summer, and had among the best present raw power and pretty clearly the best raw power projection of any of the 2020 high schoolers because of his huge frame. With that frame came a perceived likelihood that he would eventually end up at third base and the possibility that he might need to move all the way over to first. Those seeming eventualities remain, but Walker also has really rare measureable power for someone his age and he’s a remarkable athlete for how big he is. Physically, he might end up in Joey Gallo territory at maturity. The Cardinals sent him to the alt site after the draft and Walker began to separate himself from the other high-variance teenagers in the org there. He was an offseason Pick to Click and is a potential 35-plus homer force. (Alternate site) 45 FV Prospects 6. Zack Thompson, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Kentucky (STL) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr S / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 40/45 45/50 60/60 45/50 91-94 / 97 Arguably the most talented college arm in the 2019 draft, Thompson fell (at least in part) because of injury issues speckled throughout his amateur career. He was used pretty conservatively in a bullpen role after he signed for workload/health reasons, then spent 2020 at the alt site rather than race to the upper levels like most Cardinals college draftees tend to. The headline pitch here is the curveball, a deadly, mid-70s parabola much like Liberatore’s. Like Libby, Thompson’s fastball traits don’t fit perfectly with it, which limits his curveball utility, but it’s a great in-zone offering he can use to get ahead of hitters. His velocity actually ticked down throughout 2021 spring training — he was 90-94 early, then 88-92 late — but a source told me he was back up to 95 the week before this list published. There’s a new-ish cutter/slider here, too, and it’s interesting that even though Thompson has elite curveball spin rates, that hasn’t translated to the spin on the cutter/slider at all; that pitch’s rates were close to 2,000 rpm during the spring. It looks below-average to the eye. He threw few if any changeups this spring. So health and pro development hasn’t enabled Thompson to make a rapid, instant leap in stuff quality. Rather than a No. 4/5 starter foundation with a chance to really pop, he looks more like a low-variance No. 4/5 guy. (Alternate Site) 7. Masyn Winn, SIRP/SS Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Kingwood HS (TX) (STL) Age 19.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/60 20/50 60/60 40/50 70 Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/70 60/70 30/50 20/40 93-96 / 98 The Cardinals are going to try developing Winn as a two-way player. From a pure athleticism standpoint, I think he has a chance, though whether his diminutive frame can withstand the physical toll that would come with it is harder to say. Winn is an elite on-mound athlete and also has plus-plus bat speed, rotating with explosion on par with lots of Top 100 prospects. His straight line speed and arm strength make him a developmental fit at shortstop and if he can tone down some of the noise in his swing without compromising its explosiveness, he could end up hitting for power, too. The potential for power and viable defense at short would give him a pretty low contact bar to clear; he could only develop a 40 bat and still be a slam dunk everyday player. He didn’t pitch the summer before his draft year and has a pretty violent head whack, so there’s relief risk on the pitching side of the ledger here. But Winn will bump 98 and has an absolute hammer breaking ball, as well as the arm speed to occasionally sell a good changeup. It makes sense to develop Winn as both a hitter and pitcher for a while if only to make sure the position you pick is the correct one. He’s going to be on an innings limit during his first year or two of pro ball, so there’s little cost to his development to do so. He’s one of the more exciting and fascinating prospects in all the minors. (Alternate site) 8. Johan Oviedo, MIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL) Age 23.1 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 50/50 45/50 35/45 93-95 / 99 Oviedo was one of the not-quite-ready-for-primetime players pressed into major league duty last year because of the Cardinals’ COVID outbreak, and he struggled in a limited big league look. A hulking 6-foot-6, Oviedo has a workhorse starter’s build that comps to a young Josh Beckett, he throws really hard, and he flashes above-average breaking stuff. All of these components are present intermittently, but Oviedo just hasn’t leveled up as a strike-thrower yet, and his slider and curveball aren’t nasty enough to override his loose command; they need to be located. The same is true of Oviedo’s fastball. Even though it’s in the mid-90s and has something close to a backspinning axis, his size creates more downhill plane on the pitch than a fastball with these other traits wants to have. I’m pretty confident Oviedo’s going to be an integral part of a pitching staff eventually. At 23, it’s looking more like that will be in relief further down the line, though right now it makes more sense to have him stretched out as starter depth. His repertoire depth and starter pedigree make him a strong candidate to work in a four-to-six out role. (Alternate site, MLB) 40+ FV Prospects 9. Jhon Torres, RF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (CLE) Age 21.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 55/60 30/55 50/40 40/50 60 There’s no change to Torres’ blurb as he was not at the alternate site: After Torres, who was acquired from Cleveland for Oscar Mercado during the summer of 2018, paved over rookie ball, the Cardinals skipped him over two levels, sending him right from 2019 extended spring training to Low-A in early-May. He struggled, striking out nearly 40% of the time, and after a couple of weeks the Cards hit the breaks and sent him down to Johnson City for the remainder of the summer. Torres bounced back in a huge way, hitting .286/.391/.527 in the Tennessee humidity. This is a traditional corner outfield projection prospect. Torres is an immense teenager built much like Franmil Reyes was at the same age. Torres has a chance to grow into similar power as he fills out, though hopefully he stays a little more agile than Reyes has and is able to play better outfield defense. Some of the swing elements (how long the barrel is in the zone, the stride length) may need to change to max out the game power, but there’s middle-of-the-order thump here. (At-home dev) 10. Luken Baker, 1B Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from TCU (STL) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 265 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 70/70 35/60 30/20 40/45 60 Baker’s amateur career was bedeviled by freak injuries — a left arm fracture and ligament and muscle tear, a few missed games after taking a bad hop to the face, a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligament suffered while sliding into second base — which likely snuffed out our chances of watching him play two ways at TCU. Because Baker is the size of one of the Easter Island Moai statues, there’s some fear about his athletic longevity. But he has monstrous raw power and has performed when healthy (I’m not sweating a .390 SLG in the Florida State League), so he has a fair chance to hit at least enough to be a CJ Cron/Jesús Aguilar sort of performer. He seems to carry more weight in trade talks than a run of the mill 40 FV and could have a Luke Voit career arc that Cardinals fans will actually get to enjoy. If not, he’s going to hit a ton of homers overseas. (Alternate site) 11. Tre Fletcher, CF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Deering HS (ME) (STL) Age 19.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 55/60 25/50 60/55 40/50 55 Fletcher emerged very early in the recruiting/scouting process as an ultra-toolsy prospect due to a power/speed combination that is rare, especially coming out of Maine. He played at East Coast Pro, a major summer showcase, as an older-than-his-peers member of the 2020 class, but against 2019 prospects a grade above him (though about his age). He played well there and decided to reclassify to the 2019 graduate/draft class in March of that same year; Fletcher also switched high schools. Clubs weren’t prepared and hadn’t scouted Fletcher the summer before with the same intensity they would have had they known he’d be eligible the next year. They had only a few months of rain-filled Maine high school games versus weak competition to make what was potentially a seven-figure decision. Between having Scott Boras as his agent, a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, and the off-field drama surrounding his eligibility, some teams punted on Fletcher because they couldn’t get enough info to be comfortable by draft day. The Cardinals were not one of those teams, but both they and more casually-engaged clubs saw flashes of plus raw power, speed, and arm strength from Fletcher before the draft. St. Louis popped him in the second round for an overslot $1.5 million deal and pushed him to the Appy League after nine good GCL games to get him under the lights and in a more professional game atmosphere, where Fletcher struggled a bit. Then Fletcher spent 2020 sequestered at the alt site. Reports coming out of there weren’t very good, but it’s unsurprising that a guy who was at a high school in Maine struggled with what amounts to Triple-A pitching. There’s some early-career smoke surrounding Fletcher’s ability to lay off breaking balls but let’s see how he does against run-of-the-mill full-season ball before declaring him any more of a hit tool risk than he already was. (Alternate site) 12. Tink Hence, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Watson Chapel HS (AR) (STL) Age 18.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/55 50/60 40/50 25/55 90-94 / 96 Hence gets a lot of Triston McKenzie comps because he’s similarly skinny but also has advanced feel to pitch for someone his age, his fastball has carry, and his breaking ball has quality shape but needs more power. You can go wild projecting on the changeup and command because Hence is so athletic, is well balanced over his landing leg, and repeats his release so consistently. Last I saw him was at the 2020 Dream Series, unwittingly one of the last events I attended in 2020, and he had the best bullpen at the event (that’s all the pitchers do at the annual MLK weekend showcase) and there’s still room to shorten up his arm action. So long as you’re not worried about Hence’s lack of size (he also goes by “Tink” Hence) impacting his durability in a serious way — I think it modulates my expectations for his innings workload but isn’t a red flag — he has mid-rotation upside. (Alternate site) 13. Ian Bedell, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Missouri (STL) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/50 55/60 40/50 35/60 88-93 / 94 Bedell’s velocity was down during the month-long 2020 college season and it had an impact on his draft stock. He was bumping 95 in 2019 but was more 88-92 in February and early-March of 2020. Even though he wasn’t throwing as hard, Bedell struck out 35 and walked just four in 24 innings of work (he did give up five tanks, though). That’s because Bedell executes his pitch locations so consistently, especially his curveball, which has above-average depth and plays like a plus pitch because of his command. The delivery here is a little scary. Bedell’s delivery is stiff-looking, he’s a 4 athlete, and he has a long, violent arm swing. He might benefit from a more open stride home (something more like what Michael Wacha used to look like so he’s not throwing across his body so much), which might help him create more vertical action on his fastball at the same time. This spring, Bedell came to camp with his old, harder fastball and was sitting 90-94 tuning up for minor league spring training in Florida. His chances of remaining a starter are among the best in this system and the Cards like to push college pitchers pretty fast. This is a breakout candidate. (At-home dev) 40 FV Prospects 14. Edwin Núñez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 19.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 55/70 45/55 20/50 92-96 / 99 Núñez is your pretty standard teenage pitching prospect. He’s a projectable 6-foot-3, his fastball sits in the mid-90s and will climb higher than that at its very peak, and he has good breaking ball feel and an athletic, picturesque delivery. He’s a fantastic developmental ball of clay who has a much better chance to start than the host of single-inning relievers who occupy most of the rest of the 40 FV tier in this system. The Cardinals got him for just north of $500,000 after Núñez was suspended a year due to an age discrepancy, but as a prospect he’s pretty comparable to recent high schoolers who signed for close to $1 million, like Matt Thompson, Carter Baumler and Andrew Dalquist. (International Signee) 15. Junior Fernández, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/45 60/60 30/35 95-97 / 99 Fernandez has a no-doubt, bat-missing changeup that doesn’t even need to be located toward the bottom of the zone to be effective, as hitters geared up for his mid-90s heater are flummoxed by its speed and movement. You’ll see him freeze hitters with cambios near the top of the zone, and the pitch has stretches where it’s so dominant that Fernandez looks like he’ll be able to pitch high-leverage innings. But his track record of injuries, his below-average athleticism, and 30-grade control (his fastball command isn’t that bad but it’s good his changeup is so nasty because he doesn’t locate it consistently) all slide him below the 40+ FV tier even though he clearly has late-inning stuff. (Alternate site, MLB, LIDOM) 16. Edmundo Sosa, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Panama (STL) Age 25.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/45 45/45 30/30 50/50 55/55 50 Now out of options, Sosa has become the good-gloved bench infielder on the Cardinals active roster, replacing the departed Kolten Wong. Because he spent most of 2020 at the alternate site, Sosa’s 2019 minor league statline makes it tempting to put him in the 45 FV tier as a low-end regular or high-end utility type, but even though some of the proprietary expected stats I sourced from 2019 think he’s close to a .420 SLG guy, he just hits the ball on the ground so much and can only make good contact in such a small section of the zone that I’m keeping him in the 40s. He doesn’t have big range but Sosa does have plus feet, hands, and actions, and will make the occasional acrobatic play. He’s a versatile glove/contact bench infielder who should be on the field when the Cardinals are protecting late leads. (Alternate site, MLB, LIDOM) 17. Seth Elledge, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Dallas Baptist (SEA) Age 24.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 55/55 60/60 30/40 92-94 / 96 Elledge’s feel for locating his plus slider will sometimes evaporate completely. When it’s there, he’s a no-doubt middle reliever with a mid-90s sinker and plus slide piece. (Alternate site, MLB) 18. Kodi Whitley, SIRP Drafted: 27th Round, 2017 from Mount Olive (STL) Age 26.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 55/55 50/60 40/40 92-95 / 96 Whitley and his Josh Collmenter-style delivery carved the upper levels in 2019, posting a 1.60 ERA mostly at Double- and Triple-A. He had a velocity uptick during the summer (93-96, touch 98) but it was down a bit during his Fall League stint (more 92-93, touch 94 or 95) and has kept falling since. He was only sitting 91-94 during spring training and 90-92 during his last outing. He lives at the top of the strike zone and gets his swings and misses there, while his secondary stuff gets help from his delivery, which puzzles opposing hitters. He has worked multiple innings, working against seven hitters over two frames when things go smoothly for him, but for now, I have him projected as a middle relief piece, and maybe more if that peak velo comes back and sticks. (Alternate site, MLB) 19. Justin Williams, LF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Terrebonne HS (LA) (ARI) Age 25.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/55 60/60 40/40 40/40 40/40 50 Williams has made an appearance in three seperate big league seasons dating back to 2018, but has still only played seven total games as he’s been toward the back of the Cardinals’ recent outfield logjam at the upper levels. Williams does a lot of good stuff in the box. He has plus raw power and has feel for the zone. I’ve seen him pull his hands in and get the barrel on pitches up and in, and I’ve seen him make mid-flight adjustments to breaking balls and hit them hard the other way. Williams’ problem has been that he struggles to lift the ball. He had the second-highest 2019 average exit velo in this system but also had lowest average launch angle. With a couple of different swings across three different orgs (he was drafted as a high school shortstop by Arizona, traded to Tampa Bay for Jeremy Hellickson, then sent to St. Louis for Tommy Pham), it’s probably too late for a relevant change. But Williams still has enough offensive utility to play a corner platoon role. John Nogowski arguably outhit him during the spring (in my opinion, Williams’ at-bat quality was better than his raw numbers indicate) but Williams is the better roster fit with the other big league Cardinals due to his handedness. An extra option year was imposed on Williams before the season and retaining that option by rostering him increases his short-term trade value a little bit. He should end up making an occasional start against a righty and come off the bench to face them later in games. (Alternate site, MLB) 20. Alec Burleson, RF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from East Carolina (STL) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 214 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 50/50 30/40 30/30 30/45 60 Burleson was a two-way prospect at East Carolina, and while he was a pretty good pitcher who got his fair share of whiffs with well-located breaking stuff below the zone, his fastball averaged about 87 mph in 2020, so he’s more likely to be a 1B/OF prospect in pro ball. Burleson has average pull-side pop and really good feel for moving the barrel around the zone, especially for someone whose attention has been split between hitting and pitching so far. He only struck out three times during the shortened 2020 collegiate season and had a 9% career strikeout rate all throughout college. He may not have enough power to be an everyday guy, but he looks like a platoon corner bat. (At-home dev) 21. Juan Yepez, 1B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 23.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 60/60 40/50 40/40 40/45 55 Traded from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Adams, Yepez is a heavy-bodied, power-hitting prospect who’s passable at a few positions. His best fit is probably first base, but with a remade body, he also saw meaningful time at all four corners in 2019, which helps his likely big league profile of a lefty-mashing extra bat. Yepez’s calling card is his plus raw power, but he’s been dialing in his offensive approach to make more contact. He’s one of a number of corner-only righty power bats in the system, along with Baker, Burleson, and Nunez. (At-home dev) 22. Malcom Nunez, 1B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (STL) Age 20.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/45 55/55 30/50 30/20 30/40 55 Nunez became famous back in 2018 when he posted a god-like .415/.497/.774 line with 31 extra-base hits in 44 DSL games. He was bigger and stronger than most of the kids down there, so the industry was ultra-skeptical of that line. After a little time in Florida (two months after he turned 18), St. Louis sent him to Low-A to stress test the bat. Nunez flopped and was demoted to the Appy League later in the summer. He’s a big-bodied, projectionless, 1B/DH prospect who needs to mash all the way up the ladder. (At-home dev) 23. Jake Woodford, MIRP Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Plant HS (FL) (STL) Age 24.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/45 50/50 40/40 45/45 90-94 / 96 Woodford was a widely-known prep prospect because he was teammates with Kyle Tucker at Plant. He was a sandwich rounder who fell off our lists as his fastball velocity ticked down (he was 91-93, touch 95 around draft time, then 88-92 in the following few years). He had a 2019 resurgence, was added to the 40-man, and returned to the lower part of the Cardinals list. He’s a kitchen sink righty with below average control, and is likely to be a long reliever/swingman type. Woodford’s stuff is actually down slightly from last year, both in terms of his fastball velocity and the spin across all of his pitches. (Alternate site, MLB) 35+ FV Prospects 24. Leonardo Bernal, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Panama (STL) Age 17.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 40/45 20/40 40/40 30/55 55 Bernal is the Cardinals’ top 2021 international signee, a physical, switch-hitting 17-year-old Panamanian catcher. He’s really short to the ball from the left side of the plate and has a good-looking swing from both sides. That, combined with his strong chances of staying behind the plate, give him a everyday ceiling. Teenage catching is notoriously risky, of course. (International signee) 25. Andre Pallante, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from UC Irvine (STL) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 50/50 40/45 35/50 90-93 / 95 Pallante was young for a college draftee (just 20 on draft day), and had a strong two-year track record of starting at Irvine. He threw on the Cape and for Team USA, so he’d been seen by most everyone and wasn’t subject to the anti-small school bias. He has four pitches, including two quality breaking balls and a fastball that might play a little better than its velocity. He has a backend shot. (At-home dev) 26. Ali Sánchez, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela (NYM) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 40/40 30/30 30/30 55/55 55 I have Sanchez evaluated as a third catcher, a guy who will spend a long time on a club’s 40-man roster. He’s a solid defender who does a mix of one-knee catching and traditional squatting. His receiving and ball-blocking are also fine, and Sanchez has perfectly adequate arm strength. I think what I see as clearly below-average bat speed slides him behind the prospects who I have evaluated as active roster backup catchers. (Alternate site, MLB) 27. Patrick Romeri, RF Drafted: 12th Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (STL) Age 19.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding 20/45 40/50 20/45 50/50 40/50 Romeri was a slightly-over-slot 12th round pick in 2019 from a loaded IMG Academy prep squad that included Brennan Malone (first round), as well as Rece Hinds and Kendall Williams (both second round). Romeri was so below the radar on that team that many scouts didn’t have him turned in despite watching him numerous times on what was likely the most-scouted high school team in the country. In fairness, the seven-hole hitter on a high school team is not usually where you find a prospect; he wasn’t on our pre-draft rankings either. Romeri is a solidly average runner and thrower who profiles in right field, and his exit velos and OPS both stood out in his pro debut in the GCL. There’s a faint chance for a low-end regular but he’ll more likely profile as a part-time player. (At-home dev) 28. Adanson Cruz, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 20.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 50/60 35/55 40/40 30/40 40 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 all fields. He could grow into plus, playable power, and as he’s likely a left field-only fit, he’ll need to. He missed almost all of 2019 due to injury and played in some sandlot games during 2020, so we’re talking about a very volatile 2021 follow here. (At-home dev) 29. Steven Gingery, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Texas Tech (STL) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 45/45 55/60 35/50 88-93 / 94 Gingery had Tommy John in March of 2018 before he was drafted, and finally took a pro mound in late-July of last year. He was 87-91, up to 92 in his lone outing before he blew out again and required a second TJ. As of February, he was throwing off a mound and rebuilding his arm strength. Healthy Gingery had a nasty changeup, advanced command, and projected as a backend starter. (TJ Rehab) 30. Jesus Cruz, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (STL) Age 26.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 50/50 30/35 94-96 / 98 The Cardinals signed Cruz when he was 21 and pitching for Sultanes de Monterrey in Mexico. After coasting through the lower levels of the minors, Cruz’s walk rate started to climb into red flag territory as he approached the big leagues, though in 2019 he still struck out well over a batter-per-inning at Double- and Triple-A. That year he sat 94-96 and touched 98. His arm strength was way down during his 2020 debut, when Cruz topped out at 93. In the spring of 2021, Cruz was more 93-94 and touched 96. He has a pretty typical fastball/slider middle relief combo and is a softer-bodied guy with below-average athleticism and feel to pitch. He looks like an up/down relief sort right now, but the 2019 version of Cruz had a better shot at locking down a permanent middle relief job. (Alternate site, MLB) 31. Connor Jones, SIRP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Virginia (STL) Age 26.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/55 40/40 35/35 92-95 / 97 Jones had a storied if somewhat tumultuous amateur career (he was an early-round prospect in high school but, like many after him, was convinced to go to UVA), which included being a huge part of a national title team and several fluctuations in the quality of his stuff, perhaps brought about by heavy use during said title run. He’s now a sinkerball reliever (63% groundball rate) whose heater has been comfortably in the mid-90s for the last couple of seasons, including during the spring of 2021 when Jones was peaking at 97. His lack of fastball command is a little bit more of a problem than it would be for most relievers because Jones’ flavor of fastball has less margin for error in the strike zone. Look for him to try to work back into counts with his slider for this reason, too. He projects in up/down relief. (Alternate site) 32. Roel Ramirez, SIRP Drafted: 8th Round, 2013 from United South HS (TX) (TBR) Age 25.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/45 60/60 40/40 92-96 / 97 Initially a bit of an afterthought (in my mind, anyway) in the Tommy Pham trade with Tampa Bay, Ramirez had a great 2019 as a multi-inning reliever at Double-A Springfield and was really good during the 2019 Fall League, but struggled in his very brief 2020 big league debut and throughout 2021 spring training. He has the repertoire depth for a long relief role, but his fastball has cut action rather than ride/carry, so it accidentally runs into barrels. That might be problematic, but based on arm strength and the pitch mix, he’s pretty clearly a lower-leverage long relief type. He’ll mostly work in the 92-94 range with a mid-80s slider and a splitter that I thought was plus during Fall League. He’s used that pitch less often than the slider in his big league outings. (Alternate site, MLB) 33. Edgardo Rodriguez, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 20.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 207 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 40/45 30/40 30/30 40/50 50 Part of the Liberatore/Arozarena/José Martínez trade, Rodriguez was injured for almost all of 2019, so his report is unchanged as there’s been nothing new gleaned about him for quite a while now; he remains in the same FV tier as before: It’s not abundantly clear whether Rodriguez will be able to catch, as he’s already a pretty big, long-levered kid who was initially unsure if he even wanted to try it. But Rodriguez can really hit. He has excellent timing, bat control, and feel for all-fields contact, and he can open up and get his barrel on pitches inside. He might end up at first base or in an outfield corner, but he might hit enough to profile at those spots, and if he can catch, he has relevant ceiling. (At-home dev) 34. Griffin Roberts, SIRP Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Wake Forest (STL) Age 24.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 55/60 40/40 40/40 90-93 / 95 There’s no change here: Roberts had one of the best breaking balls in the entire 2018 class, a two-plane Wiffle ball slider that was at least a plus pitch on draft day. But his stuff was down in 2019 amid a weed suspension, and he’s already almost 25. What looked like a lock to be a quick-moving, breaking ball-heavy reliever now requires a bounce back. (At-home dev) 35. Rodard Avelino, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/70 45/60 20/30 94-98 / 99 There’s no change here: Avelino has no idea where most of his pitches are going (he has 99 walks in 51 career innings) but he has big time arm strength for his age (94-99) and several other fastball traits that could make the offering dominant — even elite — if he ever becomes an even passable strike-thrower. The chances of that happening seem low considering how badly Avelino has struggled with it to this point, but his stuff is just too good to stick him in the honorable mention section. (At-home dev) Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Catching Depth Julio Rodriguez, C Pedro Pages, C Rodriguez, 23, has some power and arm strength, and aside from a bad 2018, he’s always performed. He missed 2021 spring with a wrist injury. Pages, 22, is similar but faces an uphill climb as far as visual evaluations are concerned because he’s closer to Alejandro Kirk on the physical spectrum. Both of these guys have good minor league stat lines. Young Arm Strength Fliers Levi Prater, LHP Luis Ortiz, RHP Logan Gragg, RHP Yordy Richard, RHP Alvaro Seijas, RHP Luis Tena, RHP Nathanael Heredia, LHP Leonardo Taveras, RHP Tyler Statler, RHP Had the Cardinals had instructs, a couple of these guys probably would have shown enough improvement to be on the main section of the list. Alas, they did not. Prater is a super loose, athletic lefty drafted late during the shortened 2020 affair. He sat just 88-92 in 2020 but has great breaking ball and changeup command. If you think his looseness is a sign he’ll throw harder, he could break out in 2021. Seijas and Taveras are the oldest names in this group (they’re 22). Seijas gets up to 97 and has a good changeup, but for last year’s list I also spoke with someone who saw him sit 90-92. He has relief projection if the velo can settle into the 94-plus area. Taveras has a live arm (up to 98), and he’s somewhat projectable at 6-foot-5. His mechanical inconsistency impacts his control and breaking ball quality. He also has relief ceiling. Ortiz, 20, is the most projectable of the group at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds. He was up to 94 with lots of spin and some curveball feel in 2019. Gragg’s velo was up after he was the Card’s eighth rounder in 2019. He’s 92-94, touching 95, with a slider that could use some tweaking. Yordy Richard is only 18 and up to 94 with an advanced changeup. His frame is a little more stout. Tena’s is, too. He’s 21 and has been up to 96, though the secondaries are fringy. Heredia is 19, projectable, and up to 95; the delivery is a little less good than others here. Statler is purely a physical projection lottery ticket. He’s a very wiry 6-foot-6, and up to 93 with a sinker. Various Kinds of UTM (Up The Middle) Bats Chandler Redmond, 2B Franklin Soto, SS Albert Inoa, 2B Nick Dunn, 2B Joerlin De Los Santos, CF Ramon Mendoza, 2B Redmond is a huge guy with huge power who is in the Muncy/Shaw non-traditional second base mold. Go peep his 2019 Appy League line. His exit velos from that year are obviously sky-high. Soto, 21, has plus bat speed and a good build, but his in-the-box footwork is rough right now. Inoa, 19, is a contact-oriented second baseman with a medium build and some speed. Dunn also has contact skills, but he’s a 40 athlete who needs to perform, and he didn’t last year. Mendoza is similar but a few levels behind Dunn. De Los Santos lacks physical projection but is twitchy and athletic. Conversion Arms and Older Dudes Ben Baird, RHP Edgar Escobar, RHP Evan Kruczynski, LHP Angel Rondon, RHP Mitchell Osnowitz, RHP Escobar is 23, and has a swing-and-miss heater up to 96 and an average slider. Kruczynski’s velo and command backed up in 2019 but I liked him as a four-pitch, No. 5-7 starter before that happened. He’s now at the alt site. Rondon is also an arm strength-only relief type who shoved at the Cards’ alt site last year. His velo was back down in the low-90s this spring. Osnowitz is 29 but might pitch in the big leagues. He’s up to 98 with other bat-missing fastball traits (backspin, mostly). Baird was a 2015 Perfect Game All-American as a position player. He was into the mid-90s early during his 2019 conversion but that’s all we know at this point. System Overview My geographic proximity (or lack thereof) to Southeast Florida and all of the Cardinals’ affiliates makes their org one of the toughest for me to write up every year. But because they didn’t have instructs and many of their alt site players either appeared in the big leagues or were 2020 draftees, they were actually one of the easier teams to do this year. It also means they’ll likely have among the most volatile and active in-season updates since that whole group of young pitchers in the honorable mention section will be seen for the first time in a while, some of them for the first time in the States. Note that this org seems to be zigging while everyone else zags on fastball shape. The org is full of sinker-oriented guys rather than ones with cut and carry; that they dealt Zac Gallen is further evidence of this. In the draft room, the Cardinals have been able to snag falling, high-profile high schoolers a couple of times over the last few years. Nolan Gorman unexpectedly fell into their laps after a bad senior spring; Jordan Walker did too, and Masyn Winn’s stock was likely impacted because he didn’t really pitch during his pre-draft summer. When it comes to the trajectory of a player’s multi-year, pre-draft narrative, it can be tough to decide what you should classify as recency bias and what you should classify as actual skill progression or regression. I think it’s clear this org is more apt to look at a player’s bigger picture in the draft room than they are to extrapolate performance. Scouting Director Randy Flores was at Chase Silseth’s start last Thursday, for you mock draft nerds. This year’s mocks are going to be really tough because masks make it harder to recognize executives, but ex-big leaguers stand out. We don’t know much about St. Louis’ pro scouting because they’ve been so consistently competitive for the last long while that they’ve not had to rebuild. Any of the prospects they’ve acquired from other clubs have typically been a part of larger trades. They have whiffed on some internal assessments, though (Luke Voit, Randy Arozarena, arguably Gallen).