St. Louis Cardinals Midseason Top 50 Prospects

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Outfielder Oscar Mercado has emerged as a dynamic force and is turning heads in the Cardinals system. Photo credit: Mark Harrell/ozarksportszone.com

 

A slew of promotions has thinned out what was a top-heavy system overflowing with Triple-A talent. But in true Cardinals fashion, while few high upside players abound, there are still plenty of solid-floor prospects that can find a home somewhere. Overall the system is flush with catchers and light on middle infielders and left-handed pitchers.

As a list geared toward dynasty leagues, I put a lot of weight on hitters because they’re a safer investment and I significantly downgrade relief pitchers or those with obvious bullpen futures. I have an affinity for lower level teens that show promise as these guys can often be lottery tickets that could explode. As a point of reference, here’s the link to my 2018 preseason Cardinals Top 50 Prospects.

Levels

AAA – Memphis

AA– Springfield

A+ – Palm Beach

A – Peoria

Short-season – State College

Rookie – Johnson City (Appalachian), Cardinals (GCL)

DSL

 

Prospects1500 Tiers:

Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster

 

Tier 1:

1. Alex Reyes, RHP (Preseason rank: 1)
Age: 23                       Level: MLB

He has exactly 50 innings pitched, meaning he’s still eligible in my book. Upside is still ‘Ace’, but injury concerns are mounting.

Tier 2:

2. Tyler O’Neill, OF (Preseason rank: 4)
Age: 23                       Level: MLB

A stacked St.Louis outfield has prevented him from carving out a full-time role. Has a 1.028 OPS at Memphis this year and should hopefully be an everyday outfielder in 2019.

3. Nolan Gorman, 3B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 18                       Level: Rookie (Appy)

The 19th overall pick in the 2018 draft is off to a loud start, hitting seven home runs in 23 games along with almost an equal number of walks to strikeouts. He was touted as the prep bat with the most power and so far he’s living up to the hype.

4. Oscar Mercado, OF (Preseason rank: 18)
Age: 23                       Level: AAA

If you like steals with some pop and a solid slash line, you’ll like Mercado. He’s carried forth his power breakout from 2017 into this year and is looking like a 12 HR/35 SB candidate once he reaches the majors.

5. Elehuris Montero, 3B (Preseason rank: 26)
Age: 19                       Level: A

Mercado and Montero were both preseason picks to rise in the system and they haven’t disappointed. Montero is among the league leaders in the Midwest League in home runs, RBIs, and average and he doesn’t turn 20 for another month.

Tier 3:

6. Andrew Knizner, C (Preseason rank: 14)
Age: 23                       Level: AA

Sorry, Carson Kelly fans, Knizner is the best offensive catcher in the system. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills and a strong approach at the plate that ensures his slash line doesn’t deviate too far from .280/.350/.415.

7. Ryan Helsley, RHP (Preseason rank: 10)
Age: 24                       Level: AAA

Helsley is one of the more underrated right-hand prospects in baseball. He has a big fastball that sits in the mid-90s along with a power curve and a developing change and cutter. He was promoted to Memphis earlier this season and has impressed in five starts (32 K%, 3.21 FIP).

8. Max Schrock, 2B (Preseason rank: 9)
Age: 23                       Level: AAA

The 5-foot-8 Schrock remains one of the hardest hitters to strikeout (7 K%) but he’s been more pedestrian in his first foray at Triple-A, owning a .687 OPS. He doesn’t provide much in power or speed.

9. Randy Arozarena, OF (Preseason rank: 6)
Age: 23                       Level: AA

Hard to envision him cracking the St.Louis outfield but carries modest value as a 10/20 outfielder thanks to above-average speed and hit tool.

10. Griffin Roberts, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 22                       Level: N/A

Thought to have the best breaking ball in college baseball, Roberts’ slider carried him to the 43rd overall pick this summer. Some command problems and repeatable delivery questions leave some to wonder if he’s destined for the bullpen where he can push his fastball to the mid-90s. Expect him to move fast.

11. Luken Baker, 1B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 21                       Level: Rookie (GCL)

Baker is a massive 6-foot-5, 265-pound cornerman who’s going to depend on his bat to get him anywhere. Above-average power (some think plus) paired with his good bat speed should make him a bit better in fantasy than real life, but the ceiling isn’t exciting.

12. Dylan Carlson, RHP (Preseason rank: 17)
Age: 19                       Level: A+

The switch-hitting Carlson has made some nice strides considering he reworked his left-handed swing entirely. He’s reverted to being more of a pull hitter this season with fewer groundballs and while his power is nothing to write home about, he’s performing admirably for a 19-year-old in High-A.


Tier 4:

13. Carson Kelly, C (Preseason rank: 7)
Age: 24                       Level: MLB

I’m not a big fan of rostering catchers in your farm system unless you’re in a 30-team league or a deep two-catcher league. While Kelly has developed into a strong defensive catcher, his bat leaves a lot to be desired, likely topping out at 10 home runs with an OK average in a typical year.

14. Ramon Urias, 2B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 24                       Level: AA

Older brother to Luis Urias, Ramon made the jump from the Mexican league to join the Double-A squad. After pushing his OPS past 1.000 in 34 games, he got the bump to Memphis where he’s slowed down. He has good bat speed with a feel to get the barrel to the ball which in turn is helping him tap into some good power. He’ll possess 20 home run power at his peak.

15. Dakota Hudson, RHP (Preseason rank: 13)
Age: 23                       Level: AAA

A 2.42 ERA belies what’s an overall mediocre profile for the righty. Hudson has a meager 18 K% with an average walk rate. His saving grace is his heavy fastball that’s limited opposing batters to just one home run in 110.2 innings pitched. His slider has been touted as an out pitch but it’s inconsistent in starts. He might be better suited to relief where his fastball reaches the high 90s as he showed in the Futures Game.

16. Adolis Garcia, OF (Preseason rank: 5)
Age: 25                       Level: AAA

Adolis (who dropped the ‘Jose’ from his name) is doing a good job racking up the counting stats (12 HR/9 SB) but has had trouble adjusting his approach (sub-4 BB%). His role is limited on a major league team until he fixes that.

17. Scott Hurst, OF (Preseason rank: 23)
Age: 22                       Level: A

Hurst is chugging along, virtually repeating his numbers from last season at short-season State College. Now at Peoria (Midwest), he has a respectable .771 OPS with average speed and below average power.

18. Austin Gomber, LHP, (Preseason rank: 12)
Age: 24                       Level: MLB

Gomber was off to a strong start in the minors (19 K-BB%) and earned a call up to the St. Louis bullpen before losing all semblance of control and strikeout stuff in 14.1 innings (3 K-BB%). Still, given his 6-foot-5 size and high three-quarters delivery should render this cup of coffee more flukish than anything.

19. Ivan Herrera, C (Preseason rank: 21)
Age: 18                       Level: Rookie (GCL)

20. Carlos Soto, C (Preseason rank: 30)
Age: 19                       Level: Rookie (Appy)

Herrera and Soto are two of the rookie ball catchers that should be on the periphery for Cardinals fans. Herrera is stateside this year in the GCL and needs his 6-foot-1 frame to fill out to get some power in games. Soto is a step ahead in Johnson City with a strong .987 OPS with more walks than strikeouts in about three weeks worth of games. Even better, he’s showing some power that he flashed in spurts last year.

21. Ramon Mendoza, 2B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 17                       Level: DSL

Mendoza signed out of Mexico earlier this offseason and is off to a fast start in the DSL. His frame doesn’t lend itself to much power growth but he’s showing a strong approach at the plate and good contact ability.

22. Jean Selmo, 1B/OF (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 18                       Level: DSL

The Cardinals claimed Selmo from the Diamondbacks in December. Still in the DSL, Selmo has a natural loft in his swing and is flashing some interesting power along with a .1000+ OPS this season.

23. Wadye Ynfante, OF (Preseason rank: 15)
Age: 20                       Level: Short-season

In short-season ball, Ynfante has taken some big steps backward as he’s now morphed into someone who’s become an extreme flyball hitter (57 FB%) and as a result, his strikeouts have skyrocketed and his walks have plummeted.

24. Nick Dunn, 2B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 21                       Level: Short season

Dunn, a 5th-round pick this season, is an intriguing fantasy prospect. He had a power outburst this year in Maryland with a .980 OPS and 10 HR with nearly double as many walks as strikeouts. Most importantly, in two seasons in the Cape Cod league, he was extremely comfortable with wood bats and was an all-star twice and again showed excellent discipline.

25. Luke Voit, 1B (Preseason rank: 25)
Age: 27                       Level: MLB

Voit just barely sneaks under the rookie requirement and it’s taken longer than the 27-year-old probably wants. He remains someone with a good eye and above-average power but is defensively limited and better suited for an AL team.

26. Delvin Perez, SS (Preseason rank: 11)
Age: 19                       Level: Short-season

Full disclosure: I nearly forgot to rank Perez. Our view of him has dramatically shifted since he was drafted in the first round of 2016. I have little hope he’s more than a glove-first shortstop with solid speed and little to no power.


Tier 5:

27. Connor Jones, RHP (Preseason rank: 20)
Age: 19                       Level: A

Jones remains a one-trick pony with his groundballs (62 GB% in AA) and while he continues to start, it’s more than likely he ends up in a long relief role.

28. Alvaro Seijas, RHP, (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 19                       Level: A

Seijas’ numbers aren’t impressive (14 K%, 9 BB%, ERA over 5.00) but he’s a teenager in the midwest league. The team likes the foundation he has with a fastball that can touch 95 and a developing change and curve.

29. Diomedes Del Rio, OF (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 20                       Level: Rookie (GCL)

In just over 20 games, Del Rio has a .1250 OPS…but he’s 20 years old and still in rookie ball; he should be doing that well.

30. Patrick Wisdom, 3B (Preseason rank: 31)
Age: 26                       Level: AAA

I have a soft spot for Wisdom. He’s in his third turn at Triple-A and this season the 26-year-old has improved his strikeout and walk rate by about three percentage points each (10 BB%, 26 K%) and even flashing some wheels (10 SB) that I thought he no longer had. He’s likely an org player but strikes me as someone who’ll have a couple of hot streaks once he’s on the club.

31. Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP (Preseason rank: 37)
Age: 26                       Level: AAA

Poncedeleon has experienced a nice boost in strikeouts, going from a 7 K/9 guy to 10 K/9 in 17 starts for Memphis. The walks (4.7 BB/9) are an eyesore but he’s kept the ERA in check at 2.15 (3.84 FIP). He’s also turned into an extreme flyball pitcher. With a big 6-foot-4 frame, there are the makings of a No.5 guy here.

32. Edmundo Sosa, SS (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 22                       Level: AAA 

I left Sosa off my preseason list because I think light-hitting middle infielders don’t excite me much. Not much has changed, but this is a tip of the cap to someone who’s in Triple-A as a 22-year-old. The Cardinals certainly like him.

33. Jonatan Machado, OF (Preseason rank: 19)
Age: 19                       Level: Rookie (Appy)

Machado, 19, has been struggling with an aggressive full-season ball assignment in Peoria with an OPS in the .430s. He still has strong bat-to-ball skills but very limited power potential. He hasn’t flashed his speed yet, which is another reason for the drop.

34. Carlos Soler, OF (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 18                       Level: DSL

The Cardinals were drawn to Soler’s potential power when they signed him. Though it hasn’t manifested itself in the DSL quite yet, his 6-foot-2 frame is ripe for growth.

35. Jose Moreno, RHP (Preseason rank: 24)
Age: 17                       Level: DSL
Moreno, who turns 18 next month and is still in the DSL, has improved his strikeouts from his first DSL stint but at the expense of his walk rate. His 6-foot-1 frame still needs to fill out which should help his present low 90s velocity.

36. Junior Fernandez, RHP (Preseason rank: 28)
Age: 21                       Level: AA

The inevitable happened: Fernandez was converted to a relief. The righty has a plus fastball and plus changeup. The bad news is in limited action this season the strikeouts still aren’t appearing, but he’s had less than 10 innings so we’ll have to wait to see if this continues.

37. Ludwin Jimenez, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 16                       Level: DSL

Ludwin still hasn’t turned 17 and he’s in the DSL. Information is limited but he’s on here because he’s playing at such a young age and he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds aka p-r-o-j-e-c-t-i-o-n.

38. Conner Greene, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 23                       Level: AAA

Greene has a better fastball than anyone below him (and it’s a 70-grade pitch) but he has no control or command. He’s a future reliever until he hones his wildness.

39. Jacob Patterson, LHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 22                       Level: A+

Patterson has one of the most unique deliveries you’ll see, complete with a short stride, slinging motion, and head whack. It’s risky and I’m not surprised that the Texas Tech alum is having control issues (11 BB%) in Palm Beach, but he still has a good breaking ball and should survive in a bullpen.

40. Jake Woodford, RHP (Preseason rank: 27)
Age: 21                       Level: AA

41. Johan Oviedo, RHP (Preseason rank: 22)
Age: 20                       Level: A

These two have taken a hit to their stock. Oviedo’s 2016 fastball never returned to form which is disappointing considering his 6-foot-6 frame. And Woodford has ascended to Memphis but has been very homer prone this season and as such has given up 55 runs in 96.1 IP (5.14 ERA) between AA and AAA.

42. Steven Gingery, LHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 20                       Level: N/A

Gingery is a good pick to climb higher on this list in six months. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in February but the Cardinals selected him 123rd overall in June thanks to what he’s flashed before. In 2017 for Texas Tech he struck out 107 in 91 IP with a 1.58 ERA and 0.97 WHIP and uses a borderline elite changeup to make batters look foolish.

43. Will Latcham, RHP (Preseason rank: 40)
Age: 22                       Level: AA

Latcham, a reliever, has already reached Double-A this season after 34.2 strong innings in Palm Beach where he had a 31.8 K% and 3.38 ERA (albeit with a 10 BB%).

44. Tommy Edman, 2B/SS (Preseason rank: 39)
Age: 23                       Level: AA

I labeled Edman as a glove-first prospect and while I’m not off that bandwagon, he’s stolen 19 bases in 21 attempts at Springfield with an average walk rate and above-average strikeout rate.

45. Mike O’Reilly, RHP (Preseason rank: 32)
Age: 23                       Level: AAA

O’Reilly began the year in the Springfield rotation and took a sizeable step backward with his strikeouts and ratios. The team then bumped him to Memphis but in the bullpen. It’s unclear if the Cardinals will keep him there. If so, his fantasy value is close to nil.

46. Alex Mejia MI/CI (Preseason rank: 29)
Age: 27                       Level: MLB

The oldest member of this list, Mejia had a bad 29-game debut last season and is back at Memphis where’s chugging along. He’s a glove-first infielder with little upside in the power or speed department.

47. Zach Jackson, C (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 20                       Level: Rookie (Appy)

Jackson has struggled to get his pro career off the ground. After going 4-for-41 in the GCL last year he’s improved to an average in the .270s this year but is striking out 36 percent of the time.

48. Mateo Gil, SS (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 17                       Level: Rookie (GCL)

Gil, a two-way player in high school, will stick in the infield dirt for now but might eventually shift to third. His swing is straight and he doesn’t portend to hit for power and has a modicum of speed.

49. Jeremy Martinez, C (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 23                       Level: AA

Martinez will stick at catcher but lacks any offensive upside thanks to his lack of power. He does have a pretty good approach at the plate, though.

50. Yowelfy Rosario, 3B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 18                       Level: DSL

Rosario has been in the DSL since he was 16. Now 18, he’s shown some flashes of power via doubles and triples. With a frame that could fill out, he could turn into an interesting player to watch but he’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts.

 

Article featured image of Nolan Gorman (from 2017 High School HR Derby from Miami) – via Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr

About Eddy Almaguer 6 Articles
Looking for the cure that'll force me to stop joining new fantasy baseball leagues each year. I pay the bills as a Video Production Coordinator for USF Athletics in Tampa. Raised in Miami, bachelor's from FIU, master's from UF. I tweet all baseball all day from @EddyAlmaguer.

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