Top Prospects Series
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 our own observations. This is the third year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but we use that as a rule of thumb.
A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.
All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.
Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
Devil Magic CandidatesNathan Church, OFMike Antico, OFVictor Scott II, OFAlex Iadisernia, OF
This group of mostly old-for-the-level hitters tends to lack the power to profile at the positions they can play, but several of them have bat-to-ball feel or good secondary skills and might walk a version of the Jon Jay path. Church, a little lefty stick from UC Irvine, has the best bat-to-ball feel of this group but arguably the least physicality. Antico and Scott can both fly. Scott especially is playing well in the Midwest League, but we don’t see his swing as having long-term viability, as it’s so long. Iadisernia has some barrel feel and a compact lefty stroke and is doing well at Low-A.
Defense Might Carry ThemJimmy Crooks, CMichael Curialle, 3B/OFAaron McKeithan, CNoah Mendlinger, 2B
Crooks, a fourth rounder out of Oklahoma from the 2022 draft, has a collection of 40-grade tools that will play on a 40-man if he can become a 50 or better defender. Curialle has been a notable prospect since he was a high school underclassman. He performed well at UCLA, so he should be crushing the Florida State League and he is. His swing has some similarities to Justin Turner’s, but Curialle’s hands aren’t quite that quick. He’s not a lock to stay at third, but if he can play several corner positions, he’ll hit enough to be a 40. McKeithan is old for High-A, but he has on-base skills, sneaky pull pop, and plays a premium position. Mendlinger has been tough for upper-level pitchers to make swing and miss, and he plays second and third base.
Has a Relief ShotTrent Baker, RHPRoy Garcia, RHPAndrew Marrero, RHPNathanael Heredia, LHP
Baker has been in the Peoria rotation sitting 92-94 mph with his usual plus changeup. His delivery is as violent as the end of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and more typical of a reliever. Garcia and Marrero (also both with Peoria — Garcia was just promoted) sit about 95. For Marrero, that’s a four-tick bump compared to 2022, though he has very little release consistency right now. Garcia’s fastball plays down a bit due to its sink. Heredia hasn’t thrown at an affiliate as of list publication, but a source told us he’s been sitting 92-94 with sink and a fair slider in extended. That’s below our previous notes on him by a few ticks, enough to slide him here. He was recently assigned to Palm Beach and might get underway there soon, so keep an eye on his velo in case it rebounds.
Depth StartersMax Rajcic, RHPInohan Paniagua, RHPHancel Rincon, RHPCade Winquest, RHP
Rajcic has a vertical fastball/curveball combo that should do well in the lower levels of the minors. He sits 92-93 mph with riding life and has a pathway to the bigs as a multi-inning reliever if his slider and changeup keep playing against more advanced hitters. So far those pitches are performing well on a rate basis, but he’s barely throwing them. Paniagua is an athletic little righty with 30-grade velo and a good curveball who has been out with a shoulder injury so far in 2023. Rincon, 21, has a lot of starter ingredients in his repertoire depth (led by a changeup), and the ease and grace of his delivery. He’s only sitting 90-94 right now and is of smaller build, like Paniagua but without a nasty secondary pitch. Winquest is also athletic, throws strikes, and will bump 95, but he lacks an out pitch right now. He can land his breaking ball for strikes and has a really firm changeup that might develop into a power-action style cambio.
Big Money High School PicksAlec Willis, RHPJoshua Baez, DHTre Fletcher, RF
Willis was a $1 million prep signee in the 2021 seventh round. There was a point when the 6-foot-5 righty was sitting 82-85 mph as an amateur, then he came back from ulnar nerve decompression surgery and was peaking in the mid-90s. Arm issues have kept him from pitching much at all in parts of three pro seasons. Baez and Fletcher were also big money high school draft picks who, it turns out, are 20-grade hit tool guys.
The top of the Cardinals system is potent, thanks largely to their success during the truncated 2020 amateur draft. Their first three picks that year were Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Tink Hence, all of whom have made strides during their development to solidify their status as Top 100 prospects. They also selected Alec Burleson, who has already reached the majors, and Ian Bedell, who has had a strong showing since his return from Tommy John. Indeed, a majority of the players on this list are homegrown, which speaks to the org’s sustained success at both drafting and development, and is also an indication that they haven’t had a need to trade for prospects in a while. Overall this system is average, maybe a tad below. It is flush with near-ready relief pitching, but extremely light on position players.
The Cardinals do a fair job cultivating international talent but aren’t as active in the Dominican Republic as most other orgs. Instead, they tend to sign more Venezuelan and Panamanian players (both catchers on this list and Edmundo Sosa are recent hits) and leave bonus pool space open for Cuban or Asian players who hit the market later in the process. There isn’t a ton to show for that approach in the system right now, but it’s how they came to sign Randy Arozarena, Adolis García, Johan Oviedo, and several others. St. Louis’ approach to signing pitchers in the international market seems to yield either little, undersized athletes or huge-framed howitzers with poor control.
St. Louis’ approach to pitching in the domestic amateur space has been to target guys who throw strikes, particularly if they have a low release point, even if they generate a sink/tail style fastball from said release point. This arguably limits the ceiling you can hit when you use high picks on the Michael McGreevys and Cooper Hjerpes of the world, but you end up with a lot of solid backend arms, depth teams need to contend. Plus, the Cardinals have shown they can develop velocity, it’s just been rare for them to do so with guys who already have a strike-throwing foundation, Gordon Graceffo aside. It’s more common with relievers like Ryan Loutos and Andre Granillo.