St. Louis Cardinals’ 2021 Pre-Season Top 50 Prospects

Nate shares 50 Cardinal prospects dynasty owners may want to know.

The Cardinals have a reputation for finding talent where others haven’t.  Not so sure how many top 50 lists are going to have undrafted pitchers, late-round draft picks, and Dominican winter camp signings as much as this one.  Admittedly, writing a prospect list for an organization like them is a little intimidating because who knows where the next pop up player is gonna come from.

The list isn’t short of odd-shaped profiles either—it’s hard to imagine how some names fit into a big league roster, nevermind a fantasy one.  We will also see the quest they’ve seemingly been on to find a power bat early in drafts, which can be a hard profile to hit on.  Nevertheless, here is my best go at trying to line these guys up for you the way I’d prioritize my dynasty investments.

Don’t get too excited though.  I’d feel much better about this list if I were a real baseball GM, but as a fantasy owner, the most exciting profiles aren’t found here—yet there could be some hidden gems waiting to show themselves if things break right and the Cardinals do Cardinal things.

I am confident a player further down this list has a pretty good chance of becoming a nice big leaguer. That is a Cardinal thing, but taking stabs at who that may be is tough.  If we fast forward a year and a Patrick Romeri or Ian Bedell have shot up our list because of performance, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.  Let’s make some informed mistakes.

 

1. OF Dylan Carlson*

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: MLB

Barely still a prospect, Dylan Carlson, the 33rd pick of the 2016 draft out of HS (CA), is set to hit in the middle of the Cardinals lineup in 2021.  Carlson started looking like the hitter many thought he could be down the 2020 stretch, handling changeups better than he had in August, raising his average 60 points in September, and getting his first taste of hitting cleanup in the bigs.  Carlson, 6’2″ 200+ doesn’t have one huge calling card skill.  He hits well to all fields, can run a little, plays a good corner OF, makes good but not great contact, has nice pop, and the presence in the box of an MLB vet.  The son of a legendary HS coach in CA, Carlson is an extremely solid ballplayer, and I don’t say that negatively.  A 22 yo bat sitting in the heart of one of the most iconic franchises in baseball? It doesn’t get much better than this for dynasty owners.  If the Carlson owner in your league shows any trepidation over him, I’d start talking.  He was my pick to win NL ROY in 2020, and he’ll be my pick again in 2021.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

2. LHP Matthew Liberatore

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

The Cardinals’ main piece when they traded Randy Arozarena to the Rays, Liberatore has a repertoire capable of leading a rotation, but there is still development needed, and he’s yet to have pitched as a pro with the Cardinals.  Liberatore was a highly decorated prep (AZ) pitcher when the Rays took him 16th in the 2018 draft.  6’5″ 200lb, with four pitches that can all be above-average to plus; mid-90s FB/CV/SL/CH, exuding good command of three as a prep and no reason to think that hasn’t or can’t improve.  Dynasty owners still need to probably wait a few more years for an MLB debut, but he’s as worthy of any to fill a spot you want to bake a pitcher with.

ETA: 2022-23

 

3. C Ivan Herrera*

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

Signed during the 2016 J2 period out of Panama, Herrera is looking like the eventual catcher of the future in St. Louis and it may happen soon, which would be extremely fast considering both his age and highest level of competition.  6’0″ 190lb, and continuing to get stronger, Herrera displays a 55-grade line drive, high contact hit tool.  A .309 hitter in the minors so far, with a nice 69 to 130 BB to K ratio in 592 AB.  Herrera is also progressing into a more than serviceable backstop with a good arm and an advanced understanding of handling pitchers.  He’s only hit 11 pro HRs, but that is probably not conducive to how his power will eventually play.  Added to the 40-man roster, where he and Andrew Knizner are the only catchers at the moment, his chance is coming.  With the low bar at catcher for fantasy, Herrera is about as exciting of a young prospect it gets for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2021-22

 

4. LHP Kwang Hyun Kim*

 

Age: 32

Highest Level: MLB

At 32 yo he doesn’t fit the term “prospect” so well, but since he is a “prospect” in most dynasty formats, I included him.  What a nice signing Kim was for the Cardinals down the stretch in 2020, and for fantasy owners alike.  Kim started 2020 in the bullpen but was starting by season’s end whereupon he gave up just 6 ER in his last 6 starts, four of which he gave up none.

Set to start 2021 near the top of the Cards’ rotation, we will see if he can continue inducing soft contact and ground balls with his low 90s FB command, late-breaking SL, low 80s CH, and big swooping slow CV.  Workload concerns aren’t warranted for Kim like they may be for other Asian pitchers as he has proven he can log IPs in the KBO, throwing 190 of them in 2019.  Far from a big contributor in strikeouts, Kim could be one of those really nice compliments to a fantasy staff rich in Ks but needing an ERA n WHIP stabilizer.

ETA: 2020 debut (signed away from KBO)

 

5. RHP Johan Oviedo*

 

Age: 22-23

Highest Level: MLB

Signed in 2016 out of Cuba, Oviedo made 5 starts for the Cardinals in 2020, going 0-3 5.47 ERA 1.38 WHIP 16 K 10 BB in 24.2 IP.  6’6″ 210lb, Oviedo has the look and makeup of a big-league starter, featuring a mid-90s FB he throws well up in the zone, along with a CH and SL—which is his best pitch.  Oviedo has an advanced feel for the SL, and he can vary the break and throw in any count.  Control and command are a work in progress, but he has been making gains there.  Oviedo also has a history of needing a little time to adjust at a level before taking off.  Oviedo has the upside of a very good major league pitcher, and dynasty owners may find a cheap share of him paying off handsomely.

ETA: 202o debut

 

6. OF Lane Thomas*

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

A fifth-round prep (TN) selection of the Blue Jays in 2014, Thomas was swapped for some international pool money in 2017.  Promoted to AAA in 2018, Thomas’ career really took off after batting .268 with 17 HR in 2019, earning a call-up. He was off to a great MLB start before fracturing his wrist.  I’m not going to put too much weight into a 2020 season whereupon he got COVID and struggled his 18 games back in August.  Thomas has a nice set of skills; he’s a good runner, plus defender in CF with a strong arm, and has a hit tool capable of more if his aggressiveness tones down and his pitch recognition gets better.  Thomas is in the mix for a roster spot this spring and has some fantasy appeal if he gains the opportunity.  Dexter Fowler isn’t a spring chicken and Harrison Bader isn’t an entrenched vet in CF.  Thomas has the kind of profile I like to try and get as a throw-in, in larger dynasty leagues.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

7. 3B Nolan Gorman

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The 19th pick of the 2018 Draft, Gorman’s profile of plus raw power slugger coming out as a prep (AZ) has been a risky investment for MLB teams in the past, and one the Cardinals have been swinging at in recent drafts.  Opinions of Gorman reflect this with those who believe in the power and hit tool becoming very fantasy relevant and others—more like myself—who don’t project as much fantasy value here as the players all the way down to #13.  At 6’1″ 210lb, with a swing grooved for HRs, he also has the typical strikeout issues.  In 693 professional at-bats ranging from Rookie to High A, Gorman has K’d 228 times, and, as expected, increased in rate as he advanced.  To be fair, he has been given aggressive assignments and has been young for his leagues.  The power has shown up, hitting 32 HR in that time, which isn’t enough for some but has also been done in HR unfriendly leagues/parks.  He has the arm to stick at 3B, but the range to stay is questionable.  Reports from the alternate site were positive in 2020, saying he is showing his lefty swing could handle left-handed pitching.  Gorman’s chances at being a power MLB bat are as good as most, but that still may not be good odds for fantasy owners.

Pulling MLB drafts from 2000-2015, here is a look at how prep 2B/3B/SS drafted in Gorman’s range have fared fantasy-wise.  Gorman doesn’t fit this profile perfectly, with the other possible demographic being more of a power-hitting 1B type, which was significantly less likely to produce fantasy gains, let alone make the big leagues, than this group, so this is probably on the generous side for Gorman:

 

Type Position pick_range ss % made it avg_years_to_debut avg_year_to_peak Super Elite Elite 12-team Stud 12-team core player Average 12-team player 12-team relevant 15-team relevant 20-team relevant 30-team/AL/NL only relevant Bust
Prep 2B/3B/SS/IF MLB Pick 11-20 17 58.8% 4.0 6.5 0.0% 5.9% 11.8% 17.6% 23.5% 35.3% 35.3% 41.2% 58.8% 41.2%

 

So, there is historical standing to say Gorman might have a 25ish% shot at becoming an average 12-team asset.  The bottom line is whether or not you feel Gorman is showing to be more exceptional than his historical peers in these regards, and while I’m not confident saying he has, some are.  In no way am I knocking Gorman’s skills or potential, they are there.  I’m just not confident planting my flag by saying he is a wise fantasy bet at this point, whereas the consensus seems to feel better about it than I.  I’m not so sure he may be a better investment than a potentially similar fantasy producer such as #10 on my list, Elehuris Montero, who is closer to the bigs, and not nearly as expensive in dynasties.

ETA: 2022-23

 

8. SS/RHP Masyn Winn

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: NA

The Cardinals selected the two-way prep (TX) prospect with the 54th pick of the 2020 Draft.  At 5’11” 185lb, some are quick to assume pitching may not be the future, but the Cardinals haven’t ruled it out, and justifiably so.  Winn can get his FB to the upper 90s and has a breaking ball capable of being a plus pitch.  He’s a gifted athlete who could stick up the middle defensively where his glove plays and the pitcher’s arm is there.  At the plate, Winn has plus bat speed and more power than his frame suggests.  Oh, and he can run.  As we have seen with players developing as pros both ways, things can take longer to come together.  Winn, whose skills suggest he can do it all, is an intriguing dynasty option, just beware it may take some time before any fantasy reward comes, and none coming at all is a real possibility.  Winn is an extremely high risk/high reward play for dynasty owners, and I do not recommend spending highly.

ETA: 2025

 

9. C Andrew Knizner*

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

Selected in the seventh round of the 2016 draft from NC State, Knizner handled his minor league stops extremely well, proving to be another good find by the Cardinals later in drafts.  Knizner has always been an offense-first catcher, developing behind the dish second.  That hasn’t changed.  At the plate, Knizner likes to swing the bat, and he is capable of making loud contact with high EVs.  He doesn’t walk, but he also didn’t strike out excessively.  More of a line-drive hitter, he does have HR potential.

With Yadier Molina‘s future up in the air at the moment, opportunity could await Knizner in 2021.  This a great example of a questionable defensive tool holding back what could be a nice fantasy asset for an owner.  The offense could play very well in the barren landscape of C, but can he handle catching duties regularly at the big league level?  Knizner is a tough call for fantasy owners at this point with questions about his role and playing time, but if you want to stash a wait-and-see young C with offensive promise, he fits the bill.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

10. 3B Elehuris Montero*

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: AA (TL)

A 2014 J2 signing out of the Dominican Republic, Montero has long been on the Cardinals prospect radar and may finally get to debut in 2020.  6’3″ 225lb, Montero is strong and packs a punch at the plate.  Defensively, there is a chance he may be better suited for 1B which makes the bat even more important.  Montero, the former MWL MVP, is yet to prove he can hit at higher levels.  His AA test was cut short in 2019 by hamate bone surgery.  An aggressive hitter who probably has things to learn about approaching better pitching, Montero is a CIF bat dynasty owners will want to watch as he gets a shot at tougher competition in 2021.  The Cardinals seem to have a plan for him, but how that plays out is far from easy to tell.  Like I mentioned earlier; if a profile like Gorman’s is one you are after but can’t get, Montero isn’t a bad consolation, and much cheaper.

ETA: 2022

 

11. RHP Ryan Helsley*

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

A fifth-round pick out of Div II Northeastern State in 2015, Helsley moved up the ranks quickly with a triple-digit FB/CT/CH/CV arsenal.  Earning a shot at the bigs, the Cardinals decided to move him to the bullpen permanently where his stuff can play up.  Originally in the discussion as a darkhorse for the 2020 closer’s role, he left much to be desired after posting a 5.25 ERA in 12 appearances, where he walked 8.  Helsley is a young electric bullpen arm who has closer upside, in an org with questions there.  Helsley may be worthy of a speculative bullpen add in deep leagues, which could be an undervalued fantasy quest by some.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

12. LHP Zack Thompson

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The Cardinals took the 6’2″ 225lb LHP out of Kentucky with the 19th pick of the 2019 MLB Draft.  After getting a brief 15.1 IP for his first taste of pro ball in 2019, and the 2020 minor season getting canceled, we are yet to see much from Thomspon since his college days.  Thompson was coveted as a prep, not signing with the Rays after they took a stab at him in the 11th Rd, and instead went to Lexington where he became the Wildcat’s Friday starter.  Thompson has had his fair share of injury, and the command is questionable, but he does feature low-90s FB scouts have graded highly paired with a late-breaking SL, CV, and a questionable CH which could turn into a nice four-pitch mix.  Thompson dominated SEC hitters, putting up some ridiculous K totals when he was healthy and starting.  Thompson has a chance to become a viable big league starter, but without a very good CH, some injury concern, and control questions, the ceiling may be capped to a back end or long relief role, a profile not screaming dynasty priority.

ETA: 2022

 

13. SS Edmundo Sosa*

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

The 2012 J2 signee from Panama made his debut in 2019 but did not see time in 2020.  After some injury-riddled seasons, Sosa broke out in 2018, jumping three levels and turning into an offensive threat by tapping into some surprising power.  He rode that into 2019 where he hit .291 with 17 HR in the PCL and earned a few brief callups.  Once thought of as a defensive prospect with the ability to handle SS at the highest level, Sosa’s aggressive approach at the plate has added another element to his profile.  He doesn’t walk much and strikeouts are a concern, but Sosa may be carving a big-league utility role for himself.  If Sosa can win such a job, he will be a name to consider in large dynasty leagues.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

14. 3B Jordan Walker

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: NA

The Cardinals took a big swing on a big swing the 1st Rd of the 2020 draft, selecting the power-hitting prep (GA).  Walker is a big kid at 6’5″ 220lb, yet more athletic than most that size.  He has the arm for 3B but 1B may be more likely if he continues growing.  Slugging prospects miss at a very high rate relative to others’ profiles.  Considering 2000-2015 MLB Drafts and prep 2B/3B/SS drafted between slots 21-50, only about 42% of them ever made the bigs.  It’s even bleaker for their 1B counterparts.  Walker may not be all slugger though as he has the raw skills conducive to becoming an average hitter.  I like to sprinkle a few slugging prospect types into my rosters, but not many, and do so knowing the chances of getting nothing out of it are very real.  Plan accordingly with Walker.

ETA: 2024-2025

 

15. RHP Junior Fernandez*

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: MLB

A 2014 J2 signing out of the DR—though he did attend some high school in Miami—Fernandez has already tried his RP profile at the big league level, logging 14.2 IP between 2019 n 2020.  6’1″ 180lb, he features a plus sinker hitting triple digits, inducing ground balls, and can sit down hitters with a plus CH.  2019 was his breakout year in the high minors, dominating hitters as a reliever with an 11.1 K/9.  Command of his big sinker will determine if he can handle high leverage MLB innings.  Closer potential exists for Fernandez, and that could play for dynasty owners, but he is not there yet.

ETA: 2019 MLB debut

 

16. 3B Brendan Donovan

 

Age: 23-24

Highest Level: AAA (PCL)

Donovan was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft out of South Alabama and quickly found himself in AAA by 2019’s end after hitting .266/377/.405 in Low A.  Probably capable of 3B and 2B, his left-handed bat provides a lot of hard contact.  6’1″ 195lb and more of a line-drive hitter with a patient approach, he’s someone the Cardinals seem to want to test, and Donovan could have the makings of a big leaguer.  Dynasty owners may be well-served keeping an eye on a player who could be an MLB utility guy or more if he continues to produce at the upper levels.

ETA: 2022?

 

17. LHP Genesis Cabrera*

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

The 2013 J2 signee out of the Dominican Republic by the Rays came to St. Louis in the Tommy Pham trade.  Cabrera has logged an effective 42+ MLB IP, mostly out of the pen where he seems to be staying and his electric stuff can play up.  His fastball reaches the high 90s, and he plays a hard SL and a CH off of it.  One of many intriguing arms in a bullpen with lots of questions.  If Cabrera starts seeing some high-leverage IPs he could become more fantasy relevant.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

18. 1B Luken Baker

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The Cardinals took another shot at a slugger with the 75th pick of the 2018 draft, taking the 6’5″ 270lb right-handed Baker out of TCU.  Baker has had early pro struggles, chasing too many pitches and adjusting to better stuff, but a look at his 2019 FSL doesn’t reflect the gains he started making down the stretch as he slugged .654 in August.  Baker is strictly a 1B, and even then it’s as a passable one defensively.  Baker may not be all power though, as there is a hit tool to grow on as well.  Another high-risk investment for fantasy owners to group with the Gormans, Monteros, and Walkers on this list as big bats with risk, Baker probably the most unlikely of the bunch.

ETA: 2023?

 

19. RHP Griffin Roberts

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The Cardinals used the 43rd pick of the 2018 draft on the Wake Forest alum.  6’3″ 205, Roberts transitioned later in college to a starter where a late-running FB and fantastic slider led the ACC in Ks.  It’s still to be determined if Roberts will start as a pro, as his command is questionable and his two plus pitches play up out of the pen.  Roberts showed well during the 2019 AFL and the Cardinals are continuing to stretch him.  Roberts is an intriguing pitching prospect for dynasty owners to watch regardless if he lands in the pen or as a starter.  2021 and a try at some upper levels will start to paint a clearer picture.

ETA: 2022

 

20. IF Mateo Gil

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The Texas prep IF was the Cardinals’ third-round pick in 2018 (#95), and he followed up a solid 2018 pro debut with an even better one in 2019 after hitting .270/.324/.431.  6’1″ 190lb, Gil is the son of former big leaguer Benji Gil.  He doesn’t have any loud tools but is good enough to stick at MIF. He makes good contact, a developing approach at the plate, and there is reason to think some more power could come.  In a system devoid of some exciting fantasy upside, Mateo offers some hope for dynasty owners but he has a long way to go yet.

ETA: 2023-24

 

21. 3B Malcom Nunez

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

The 2018 J2 signee from Cuba made a loud pro debut in 2019 during a DSL season where he hit .415 with 13 HR in 164 AB, winning the DSL triple crown.  Nunez shot up prospect lists getting some dynasty owners overzealous, including yours truly.  Coming stateside in 2019, the Cardinals pushed him to Low A, where he struggled.  After a 21 game taste, enough was enough and he finished the year in the AZL where he hit .254 with 3 HR.  Nunez is more raw power and bat speed than he is a hitter.  He is also growing into a thick man at 5’11” 225.  Hee needs work defensively, and sticking at 3B is very questionable.  Nunez is still only a teenager, and there is an upside to be excited about, but red flags exist.  I wouldn’t call Nunez a priority for dynasty owners, but I don’t advise writing him off either.

ETA: 2023-24 debut

 

22. 1B/DH Leandro Cedeno

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

Another raw power bat on this list, Cedeno has it in spades.  A 2014 J2 signee out of Venezuela, Cedeno is a strong 6’2″ 200lb all bat prospect, as he is limited everywhere defensively.  By his third and fourth years of Rookie ball, he was putting up video game numbers, with OPSs of 1.143 and 1.011, eventually meeting his match in the MWL where he went .270/.330/.396.  There is some swing and miss in his game, but not as much as most young sluggers.  It remains to be seen how he will handle better pitching, and the profile is a tough one to ride to the bigs, but Cedeno may be a nice shot at a young power bat for a dynasty owner looking for one in a deep league with deep minors.

ETA: 2023-24

 

23. OF Justin Williams*

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

A second-round prep (LA) selection of the D’Backs in 2013, Williams earned a spot on the Cardinals 40-man and a small taste of the bigs in 2020.  The twice-traded OF has the arm for RF, but lacks the speed and range for CF.  A lefty who is more athlete at the plate than refined hitter, he does have some pop in the bat.  6’2″ 215lb, there is a track record of some injury, but a shot at a reserve OF role may be in the cards for 2021.  Williams is a name to know for deep league dynasty owners.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

24. RHP Angel Rondon*

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

A relatively older J2 signing in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic, Rondon legitimized himself as a big-league possibility in 2019 when he started 20 games, logging 115 IP to a tune of 3.21 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, with 112 Ks and 42 BBs.  6’2″ 185lb, he throws a FB sitting 93 but can get more on it, along with a hard SL.  Rondon’s delivery is unconventional and his command is a question, leading some to think the bullpen may be the future.  Already added to the 40-man, Rondon continues to rise fast and may get his big league chance in 2021.  With a murky role ahead of him, Rondon doesn’t need to be prioritized by dynasty owners, but a young arm on the precipice of the majors is something to keep an eye on.

ETA: 2021-22

 

25. 3B Evan Mendoza

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: AAA (PCL)

The Cardinals’ 11th-round pick in 2017 out of NC State, the 6’2″ 200 lb 3B would lead one to think there was more power to him; but that isn’t the case, with only 13 HR as a pro and no reason to think more could come.  Mendoza sacrifices power for contact, which he does very well.  He’s a tough out at the plate, only striking out 198 times in 1064 minor league PA.  Mendoza is a 70-grade defender, and perhaps even capable of SS at the MLB level.  The lack of offensive punch leans toward a utility role at the highest level, but Mendoza has a chance to be a big leaguer.  Perhaps a name to watch for large league owners, but nothing more at this point.

ETA: 2022

 

26. OF Conner Capel

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AAA

A fifth-round prep (TX) selection by the Indians in the 2016 draft, Capel was the second piece received in the Oscar Mercado trade.  Capel blends a nice mix of speed and decent power in his 6’1″ 185lb frame, holding his own through promotions which ended with a brief taste of AAA at the end of 2019.  A lefty who has struggled against lefties thus far, there is some hope he can put it together.  Having hit only 18 HR his last two seasons, he also needs to figure out how to tap into his raw power more as COF may be his best shot in the bigs.  Dynasty owners may be well served considering Capel a potential fourth OF type at this point and keep as a name to know.

ETA: 2022

 

27. 1B Alec Burleson

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: NA

The 70th pick out of East Carolina was the Cardinals’ second two-way selection of the 2020 MLB draft.  He will most likely be developed as a hitter in the pros but has RP potential to fall back on.  Burleson hit .341 in college and his hit tool is his best asset.  6’2″ 212lb, he is probably limited to 1B over COF because he isn’t super athletic and lacks the range. He also lacks the power usually desired from 1B. Burleson may have a hard time pushing his way into big league plans, but if he can hit for average at a high level in the minors, he has a chance.  I don’t recommend fantasy owners invest heavily here, but the hit tool shouldn’t go ignored.

ETA: 2023?

 

28. C Julio E. Rodriguez

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

The Cardinals found Rodriguez during their Dominican winter camp in 2016.  6’0″ 197lb, Rodriguez moves well behind the dish and could progress into a major league backstop.  Low A was no challenge for him, and he earned a AA promotion in 2019 where he got a 45 AB taste.  Rodriguez has a nice blend of hit and some power in his bat, but it doesn’t scream out plus attributes. Dynasty owners don’t need to go eating up roster spots on Rodriguez, like most young catchers, but he could become a serviceable fantasy C at some point in the future.

ETA: 2022-23

 

29. CIF/COF/DH Juan Yepez

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: AA (TL)

A J2 signing of the Braves in 2014, Yepez was traded to the Cardinals for Matt Adams in 2017.  The 6’1″ 200lb right-handed hitter has slimmed down trying to open up potential paths to the bigs.  As a strict 1B he may not have the offensive punch, and he has the arm for 3B yet limited range which hinders him in the OF as well.  He hits lefties well and is stronger than his minor league power numbers may suggest.  Some felt 2020 was going to be a transformative year for Yepez but we didn’t get to find out.  Another watchlist guy for dynasty owners from this system.

ETA: 2023

 

30. CF Trejyn Fletcher

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie (App/GCL)

Fletcher classified for the draft late in the game as a prep (ME) in 2019 and the Cardinals selected him 54th.  A nice sized speed-oriented CF type at 6’2″ 200lb.  The hope is a power/speed threat but he is far from a polished hitter.  Splitting time between the App and GCL during his pro debut, he hit .244 with 4 HR but struggled mightily against breaking balls, striking out at a 43% clip.  Fletcher is a work in progress, but the raw skill set is one dynasty owners should watch.  Fletcher is a talented teenager with the range of outcomes still quite large.  Like Winn who I slotted in the top ten, you have to consider the possibility that nothing ever comes of a fantasy investment, but also know things can come together for the young pro and change the narrative quickly.

ETA: 2024

 

31. RHP Andre Pallante

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: SS (NYP)

Drafted 126th in 2019 out of UC-Irvine, the 6’0″ 203lb righty showed well during his 35.2 IP pro debut.  Pallante offers a low-90s FB/good CV/below average CH and SL.  He does sequence pitches well, but the repertoire may be better suited as an RP, where his FB could play up.  The NYP wasn’t much of a challenge for him and it remains to be seen how his stuff plays against better competition.  No reason to invest for fantasy owners at this point, but a young arm worth watching as he develops.  He is more polished than a lot of arms in their system.

ETA: 2023

 

32. LHP Steve Gingery

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Rookie (GCL)

Injuries have derailed a promising profile up to this point.  Gingery had one of the most impressive starts to a Big 12 career ever at Texas Tech, tops or second to tops in ERA both seasons, playing a 70-grade CH, which may have been the best in college ball, off his low-90s FB, and mixing in a CV he can throw for strikes.  Tommy John struck his junior season and the Cardinals took him in the fourth round, signing him over slot.  After a long 18-month recovery, Gingery was shut down after just one outing in 2019.  6’1″ 210 with starter stuff, it’s hard to know what is in store for the future and how the arm is.  Dynasty owners should keep Gingery on a watch list as these are the kind of forgotten pitching talents capable of yielding returns from nothing investments.

ETA: 2023-24?

 

33. OF Jonatan Machado

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

The largest J2 signing ever for the Cardinals at the time, Machado signed for over $2 million out of Cuba in 2016.  The 5’9″ 170lb OF was slow to get going and still hasn’t been tested against upper levels, but put up numbers in 2019 suggesting it may be time for a tougher test.  Between SS/Low A as a 20-year old, he hit .287/.333./.356.  Lauded early on for his contact ability, power and SBs may never be a part of his game.  Rangy enough to play an average CF, CIF may be better suited for him; but he doesn’t have the typical COF bat.  Machado will have to hit extremely well at the high levels to force the issue and get a shot as a table-setter, and the skill may not be up for that challenge.  He doesn’t strike out an excessive amount, but he doesn’t take walks either.  Machado is a tough profile for dynasty owners to get excited about but he still has the opportunity to develop the raw hit tool the Cardinals heavily invested in.

ETA: 2022-23?

 

34. RHP Kodi Whitley*

 

Age: 25-26

Highest Level: MLB

Whitley has proven to be another needle in the haystack find for the Cardinals, selecting him in the 27th round of the 2017 draft out of small Mt. Olive in NC.  6’4″ 220lb, Whitley has carved out a role as an RP, making his debut in 2020 getting 4.1 effective IP in.  The only run Whitley surrendered was a solo HR.  In 156.2 minor league IP, he only gave up 5 of those.  Whitley’s FB can get up to the high 90s, which he pairs with a late-breaking SL and effective CH.  Whitley will have a chance to earn a bullpen role in 2021 where a dynasty owner will want to see how his stuff plays in a currently fluid bullpen.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

35. OF Jhon Torres

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

An Indians 2016 J2 signing out of Colombia, Torres was considered the main return in the Mercado trade.  After two impressive Rookie ball seasons with the Indians, the Cardinals started him at Low A in 2019.  It did not go well, and he was demoted to Rookie (App) where he hit at a .286 clip.  A lanky 6’4″ 200lb, Torres has upside as a solid defensive RF with a plus arm and offense to grow on if he can improve pitch recognition at higher levels.  With a lost 2020, dynasty owners should know fairly soon in 2021 if Torres is worth holding onto or not.  If producing outside of Rookie ball proves difficult again, it may be time to move on.

ETA: 2023

 

36. SS Delvin Perez

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

The Cardinals’ first-round choice in 2016 out of Puerto Rico, Perez has so far failed to live up to his draft slot, but 2019 in Low A was his best year yet posting a .269/.329/.317 slash.  Initially considered a top 10 pick type, he tested positive for PEDs and the once perceived raw power hasn’t shown up, hitting only 2 pro HRs in 4 seasons.  6’3″ 195lb with plus-plus speed, the hit tool and pitch recognition had been pretty bad up until 2019, and improvements started to show—though it’s still a work in progress.   Defensively he has all the tools to stay at SS, where he is athletic and flashes a strong arm.  Perez will never hit for power, but if the hit tool can come around, and you pair that with his defense, he may have a shot to make it.  If he shows well in 2021, I will keep watching, but if he doesn’t, it’s probably safe to move on.

ETA: 2023

 

37. OF Patrick Romeri

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie (GCL)

Romeri played for prestigious IMG Academy (FL) and signed for six figures as a 12th-round pick in 2019—so don’t be fooled by the lower draft slot, the Cardinals coveted him.  6’3″ 195lb and likely to add more mass, Romeri is a strong kid who will probably end up as a COF.  He exudes a strong disciplined approach at the plate, showing well during his debut season hitting 6 HR (third in the league) in 138 AB.  There is a lot of risk to Romeri’s profile as the hit tool needs some work, particularly learning how to hit to all fields, but he is a potentially sneaky name for dynasty owners to keep watch.

ETA: 2024?

 

38. RHP Ian Bedell

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: N/A

Bedell was the 122nd pick of the 2020 MLB Draft out of Missouri.  (He attended my old man’s high school, Davenport Central in IA.)  Young for his class, Bedell was not as advanced a college pitcher as his draft peers, only recently stepping into a starter’s role and really riding an impressive 2019 Cape Cod performance into the draft.  Billed as a command pitcher, his velocity and current stuff are not high level, throwing a low 90s FB, a slurvy breaking ball, and a developing CH.  Some believe the makings of a big league pitcher are here though, and his velocity might tick up.  Bedell fits the kind of under the radar profile I love to keep my eye on in dynasty.  He won’t be sought after in FYPDs, justifiably so, but if the Cardinals can start to mold him and it comes together, he could become a worthy speculative add down the road, as command is a battle many more highly touted prospects will not master.

ETA: 2024?

 

39. RHP Tink Hence

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: NA

17-years old at the time of this June’s draft, Tink was one of the youngest players selected as a prep arm from AK.  6’1″ 175lb with room to grow, Tink can get his FB up to 95, sitting low 90s, but his real assets are two breaking balls which can both be plus pitches.  Hence also mixes in a CH that shows some promise.  The Cardinals liked what they saw from him enough to take him with the 63rd pick.  Prep arms taken in this range of the draft are huge risks, as only 18% of them made the bigs out of the drafts 2000-2015.  With those kinds of bust rates and only a handful ever becoming real fantasy assets, a dynasty roster slot doesn’t seem warranted, but Hence is an exciting young arm to keep an eye on.

ETA: 2025

 

40. RHP Ludwin Jimenez

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: High A (FSL)

The Cardinals signed Jimenez out of the Dominican Republic in February 2018.  6’2″ 165lb, there is a lanky frame to add to.  Very much a developmental pitcher at this point, his FB sits in the high 80s, and he flashes a good CV and CH but is still very inconsistent with them.  He logged 70+ IP in 2019 between DSL/AZL/GCL, so it seems he is working towards a starter type workload.  Nothing more than a young arm for dynasty owners to be aware of.  The Cardinals do have a nice track record of developing young Latin pitchers.

ETA: 2024?

 

41. 1B/DH LJ Jones

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: N/A

The Cardinals took the strong 1B from Long Beach State with the 152nd pick of the 2020 draft, taking another shot at a power bat.  6’0″ 225lb, Jones hit .312 as a freshman but lost his sophomore season to a broken hand, and was off to a great start before COVID.  Jones started showing off his raw power in 2020 and it’s believed he is more power bat than hitter.  He will be limited to 1B at best because of his limited range and athleticism.  I wouldn’t feel the need to invest in Jones, but if the impressive power numbers start coming, pay attention.

ETA: 2024

 

42. OF Justin Toerner

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: AA (TL)

An afterthought during the 2018 draft, the Cardinals did well again with an end of the draft selection and found a potential 4th OF type in Cal State-Fullerton’s Toerner.  5’10” 165lb, Toerner’s play is larger than that.  Nice range and a good arm, Toerner could provide serviceable defense at all three OF spots.  He has proven himself at the lower levels and the Cardinals have challenged him promoting him to AA by the end of his second pro season.  The offense didn’t click in the TL right away, but there is no reason to think he can’t adjust with an advanced disciplined approach at the plate.  Toerner makes a lot of contact, not striking out a lot and drawing walks.  If Toerner produces in 2021 at higher levels, he becomes a name to watch for deep league owners.

ETA: 2022?

 

43. RHP Jake Woodford*

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

Woodford is a big pitcher at 6’4″ 220lb and has flashed some big stuff, but his consistency and strike-throwing have wavered at times. This seems to have landed him a bullpen role (at least in 2020 it did), where he logged 21 relief/opener IPs. Woodford seemed to settle down his last couple of outings in 2020.  Woodford does have the build and repertoire to start, but it appears that ship may have sailed.  He remains a name in an unsettled bullpen to know for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

44. RHP Seth Elledge*

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

A fourth-round pick by the Mariners in 2017, Elledge was traded for Sam Tuivailala in 2018.  The 6’3″ 240lb righty throws a highly spun, late-life FB sitting lower-90s and an average CV, a combo that produced an 11.64 K/9 rate in the minors.  Elledge struggles to control his stuff though, and control is definitely an issue which showed during his 11.2 IP in the majors, where he walked 8. Elledge has to learn how to tone down the walks before being considered an RP dart throw for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

45. LHP Evan Kruczynski

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: AAA (PCL)

A ninth-round pick in 2017 out of East Carolina (WI prep), Kruczynski has pitched his way into major league consideration.  A big lefty at 6’5″ 215 lb, Kruczynski is aggressive with his mid-90s FB that can get on hitters quick.  His secondary stuff is even better, with a CV/SL/CH that have all flashed better than average.  His command faltered in 2019, and a future as a long reliever may be more well suited for his profile; but if it comes around, starting in the bigs could become a reality.  Nothing more than a name to know in large dynasty formats at this point.

ETA: 2021?

 

46. 1B John Nogowski

 

Age: 28

Highest Level: MLB

Nogowski became one of the very few who to go from 34th-round pick out of college to major leaguer in 2020 when he started a game in August, where he went 1 for 4.  Always considered one of the most disciplined hitters in St Louis’ system, the 6’2″ 210lb 1B’s skills are limited, but he will have a shot to compete for a bench role in 2021.  Nogowski continued to work on his game in LIDOM this winter with pedestrian results.  Probably a AAAA type, only the largest of league owners need to think of Nogowski—and even then, it’s not for long.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

47. RHP Tommy Parsons

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: AAA (PCL)

You gotta love baseball.  Draft 40+ rounds and an undrafted player can still find success as a pro.  Parsons went undrafted out of Division III Adrian College in 2018 but quickly showed he belonged, getting to AAA by the end of his second season.  Perhaps he was moved along as nothing more than a filler type, but he took advantage.  Considered to have some of the best control in the system, Parsons stuff plays up because of it.  Parsons has a low-90s FB and a slow CV he isn’t afraid to throw in the zone and can locate well when he’s on.  His best pitch is a deceptive and fading CH he can put hitters away with.  Always a longshot and always advancing, Parsons is a great example of how pitching success can come from so many places.  If Parsons can find the consistency a pitcher like him has to have, a shot at the last level might be there.  If nothing else, Parsons is a name to watch just to see if he can do it.

ETA: 2021-22?

 

48. OF Laars Nootbaar

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA (TL)

Nootbaar was an eighth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2018 out of USC after a senior season saw his draft stock fall.  6’3″ 210 lbs, Nootbaar’s profile may be a tough fit as he doesn’t offer much power, but he does draw walks and make contact.  Perhaps he ends up as a table setting LF.  Limited defensively and probably strictly a LF or 1B type, Nootbaar will have to continue to prove himself offensively through the upper levels before dynasty owners need to concern themselves much.

ETA: 2022-23

 

49. C/1B/DH Edgardo Rodriguez

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie (GCL)

A 2017 J2 signee of the Rays, Rodriguez was part of the Randy Arozarena trade.  6’0″ 215lb, Rodriguez is not impressively athletic, and a move from 1B to C is a developmental experiment.  The young Venezuelan’s best tool is his raw power.  Yet to debut in the Cardinals system, Rodriguez is very much a project.  The hit tool could come along and pair with the power, but that needs to be proven.

ETA: 2024-2025?

 

50. RHP Logan Gragg

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Low A (MWL)

The big 6’5″ 200lb RHP was selected in the eighth round of the 2019 draft out of Oklahoma State.  With a two-pitch offering featuring an above-average mid-90s FB and a fringe SL, Gragg may be best suited for the bullpen, but he was starting games in Peoria.  Gragg needs polish, but the FB is big league in spurts, lacking consistency.  Not worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues, but a name to know.

ETA: 2022-23?

Nate Handy

Nate enjoys picking up the prospect scraps, turning over rocks to share what muddy treats he can find. Residing high up the Rocky Mountains with his wife and children, trying to stay cool, getting a broader view. A fan of the underappreciated, overlooked and disregarded. A true mud person trying to make informed mistakes.

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