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Minor-leaguers to watch in 2019

A few familiar names, and some not-so-familiar, as we head into the 2019 minor league season

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the first Monday of the season and the Cardinals are headed to Pittsburgh. Here’s hoping all of you with your streaming service open in another tab at work—I know I’m not the only one—are able to get your Cardinal baseball fix with no problems.

I’ll be doing the same weekly minor league recaps as last season, on Mondays instead of Sundays. Since games don’t start until this Thursday, we’ll instead take a look at six prospects, three pitchers and three position players, who are worth keeping an eye on this year.

I’m no prospect guru by any means, but who doesn’t enjoy the potential of a season ahead revealing a diamond in the rough?

Austin Ward did a detailed look at the Peoria Chiefs headed into 2019, and Andrew St. John did the same for Palm Beach. I’m going to try to avoid the names they’ve mentioned and the guys you might’ve heard about quite a bit in the spring or from prospect writers, minus an exception or two.

Most likely to make a 2019 impact

Pitcher: Genesis Cabrera, LHP

Age: 22 years, 5 months, 22 days

FanGraphs FV: 40

2019 Level: AAA

2018 Stat Line: (AA) 26 G, 25 GS, 138.1 IP, 4.23 ERA, 9.43 K/9, 4.55 BB/9

Genesis Cabrera is a very quick exception to the above.

John Mozeliak will often toss out the name of a prospect he feels has a chance to make an impact on the major league roster at some point in the upcoming season. Last year, it was Jordan Hicks. This year, it was Genesis Cabrera.

“If I had to guess, I might put it all on Cabrera,” Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. “Power lefthand arm. Could be very exciting, and someone who makes a real contribution this year.”

Cabrera is a hard-throwing lefty with a nice mix of secondary pitches. He spent most of his time in AA last season, also primarily with the Rays, before coming to the Cardinals in the Tommy Pham deal. He looked much better in his 113.2 innings with the Rays than he did in 24.2 with the Cardinals, with a 4.12 ERA and 4.00 FIP compared to 4.74/4.91 in Springfield.

Cabrera had just one appearance at AAA but looked good at Memphis, striking out three, walking one and allowing no runs in two innings of relief.

That final appearance of 2018 at AAA probably reflects what’s the best fit for Cabrera moving forward. Scouts agree that his fastball is a plus pitch—FanGraphs sees it as 60-grade while Baseball America is more optimistic at 70—but a somewhat violent delivery keeps his arm slot from settling and hurts his command quite a bit. The pitch tops out somewhere around 97-98 mph.

Aside from the fastball, Cabrera has another plus pitch in a changeup with some solid movement, graded with a 55 potential. His slider sits in the upper 80s but is closer to a cutter with how short and quick it is. He also throws a curveball that’s shown solid potential if he can get some bite to it.

All that to say, his repertoire is probably more than capable of keeping hitters on their toes, but not over five to six innings in the starting role he’s had for most of his development. The Cardinals have limited options when it comes to effective lefties out of the pen, and Cabrera is a potential multi-inning reliever who could take a stab at neutralizing something like that stretch of six left-handers we saw in Milwaukee.

Hitter: Ramon Urías, 2B

Age: 24 years, 9 months, 29 days

FanGraphs FV: 40

2019 Level: AAA

2018 Stat Line:

(AA) 44 G, 194 PA, .333/.406/.589, 14.9% K, 9.3% BB, 19 2B, 8 HR

(AAA) 46 G, 149 PA, .261/.291/.430, 19.5% K, 4% BB, 9 2B, 5 HR

Ramon Urías is the older brother of Padres top prospect Luis. Both middle infielders, Ramon obviously doesn’t have the excellent potential of his brother. Still, he fits the mold of the type of midseason call-up the Cardinals have utilized in years past.

Urías played two years of rookie ball with the Texas Rangers before heading to the Mexican League for five seasons. Often though to be a level of competition comparable to AAA, he understandably had struggles adjusting at first. By his last season in the league, 2017, Urias had posted a 1.010 OPS in 461 PA.

The Cardinals signed Urías to a minor-league deal and put him at Springfield, where he flourished. He made a ton of contact, striking out under 15 percent of the time and notching a wRC+ of 170. His adjustment to Memphis was a bit rocky, with much less consistent playing time and more pinch-hit appearances, with 84 wRC+.

This past winter, though, Urías returned to the Mexican Pacific League for some additional work and absolutely destroyed the competition. His slash line was .318/.432/.532 in 50 games for Los Mochis, swiping five bags as well, which was a skill he hadn’t shown in 2018.

Urías’s hit tool grades at 55 current, 60 potential, so the contact isn’t unexpected. His bat control is phenomenal. What’s been great to see is the power.

Even when he struggled at Memphis, his slugging percentage wasn’t terrible. If Urías can come into AAA with the same power he showed for Springfield and Los Mochis, he could easily earn a spot on the bench as a middle infielder, given his ability to play second, third and some shortstop.

Something’s gotta give

Pitcher: Anthony Shew, RHP

Age: 25 years, 4 months, 29 days

FanGraphs FV: N/A

2019 Level: AA

2018 Stat Line:

(A+) 8 G, 8 GS, 42.2 IP, 2.11 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 7.17 K/9, 1.48 BB/9

(AA) 19 G, 19 GS, 114.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 7.58 K/9, 2.53 BB/9

Shew isn’t discussed much, prospect-wise. He doesn’t have a lot of star power and he’s reaching a point where he’s a bit old for his level. Still, there’s some potential there.

Though his ERA hasn’t been excellent in his time in the minors, there’s one thing about Shew that’s certain: He has solid command.

His walk rate has never been higher than 6.5%, and that came at Springfield last season. He was excellent at High-A, but the transition to the offense-heavy Texas League was a bit of a struggle.

Shew may even start the season at AAA, but at this point he seems slotted for another try at Springfield. Especially given the Cardinals wealth of young pitching, he may not have much of a path unless he can increase his ability to generate swings and misses while not sacrificing his command.

Either way, the clock seems to be ticking on the 25-year-old.

Hitter: Delvin Pérez

Age: 20 years, 4 months, 8 days

FanGraphs FV: 40

2019 Level: A

2018 Stat Line: (A-) 64 G, 269 PA, .213/.301/.272, 20.1% K, 10.4% BB, 5 2B, 3 3B, HR, 8 SB

It seems strange to list a 20-year-old shortstop on a list like this, but Pérez has been around for a few years now.

Dealing with the fallout of testing positive for PEDs, questions about Pérez’s raw physical ability let him fall to the 23rd pick in the first round of 2016, where the Cardinals promptly scooped him up.

As a high schooler in Puerto Rico, Pérez was incredible. At 6’3”, his ability to play a plus-shortstop combined with a strong bat made him very promising, but there was an offensive decline accompanying the end of his PED usage.

At this point, Pérez still rates as a plus defender with excellent speed. He’s now had three professional seasons to prove the offensive spark could return, and it hasn’t. This isn’t to say the Cardinals would cut ties with Pérez, but his place in their plans for the future is quickly evaporating.

The way-far-off climbers

Pitcher: Perry DellaValle, RHP

Age: 23 years, 2 months, 9 days

FanGraphs FV: N/A

2019 Level: TBD

2018 Stat Line: (AA) 11 G, 7 GS, 45.2 IP, 1.97 ERA, 1.32 FIP, 13.20 K/9, 1.38 BB/9

At 23 years old, DellaValle isn’t a name you’d expect in this portion of the article.

He was drafted in the 27th round last year out of Seton Hill University.

He’s really under-the-radar. So much so that the only recent video I can find of him pitching is the one above with one strike delivered to break his school’s record.

I don’t think he’ll be unknown for long, though. DellaValle was already at a disadvantage being assigned to rookie ball as a four-year college graduate, but he mowed over all the batters he faced and showed he’s ready to make a pretty large jump in competition levels this season.

DellaValle struck out 67 in just under 46 innings, walking only nine batters. He gave up just 10 runs in that time, and his FIP indicates he was better than his sub-2.00 ERA would say.

It’s yet to be seen if he’ll fill more of a starter or reliever role, but be on the lookout for DellaValle in 2019, wherever he is. He’ll probably be climbing the ladder.

Pitcher: Jhon Torres, OF

Age: 19 years, 3 days

FanGraphs FV: 40+

2019 Level: TBD

2018 Stat Line:

(R—AZL) 27 G, 111 PA, .273/.351/.424, 21.6% K, 9.9% BB, 3 2B, 4 HR, 3 SB

(R—GCL) 17 G, 75 PA, .397/.493/.683, 20.1% K, 10.4% BB, 6 2B, 4, HR, 1 SB

Torres came over from Cleveland in the Oscar Mercado trade and absolutely erupted in the Gulf Coast League, slugging .683 in 75 plate appearances.

More importantly, he improved slightly on his contact ability. Torres grades to have a potential 50 hit tool, 60 game power and 65 raw power. That’s a plus bat no matter how you slice it. Striking out more than 20 percent of the time in the minors isn’t great, but it’s nothing to worry about when you look at the fact that Torres just turned 19 a few days ago.

He’s listed at 6’4”, 200 lbs now, but could continue to grow into his frame.

That’s a scary thought.

On top of it, he’s been an adequate fielder to this point, as well. He isn’t particularly speedy, but his 50-grade glove and 60-grade arm point to a potential average corner outfielder in the making—I could see him slotting into right field pretty well.

It’d be nice to see the Cardinals move him up to at least Low-A, but we’ll see if he logs a third year at rookie ball to iron out any kinks in his bottom hand-heavy swing.