The All-Star Break gives a clean break from the first half of the season with the promise of a different, better second half for every team. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the hope. Hope is what I’m going to be talking about this morning, but not in the hopeful belief of a great second half from the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s the hopeful promise of the future, the undefined and to be determined future.
The absence of any new information to talk about during the All-Star break means that it’s natural to direct our attention to the minor leagues. The Cardinals have a good farm system, with players of differing potential. I thought it would be fun - hopefully anyway - to look at the Cardinals top prospects, and perhaps other players of note, and see how their season is going at the “halfway” point.
The Top Prospects
Nolan Gorman (19, 3B), an aggressive #1 ranking from prospect guru A.E. Schafer, has so far justified the aggressiveness. Gorman repeated Peoria and improved on just about every stat with the exception of isolated slugging, which was a negligible difference. With a 128 wRC+ through his first 67 games, Gorman was promoted to Palm Beach. 15 games into Palm Beach, he has struggled, with a 30.6 K% and .105 ISO leading to a 78 wRC+. Palm Beach is rough on hitters so it’ll be interesting to see how he ends this year.
Andrew Knizner (24, C), the catcher of the future, is fine in a boring way. He has more power than he did in Springfield, though that can probably be chalked up to the new ball they use there now. He has a very similar profile, which is encouraging but a lower BABIP, hence the 94 wRC+. Elehuris Montero (20, 3B) has been disappointing in Springfield. He’s become a bit of a free swinger, with a 5.9 BB% and a 30% K rate. He’s been on the IL since May 26 as well. He’s turning 21 in August, so he has time, but he’s also playing the same position as Gorman.
Dakota Hudson (24, SP) has been a mixed bag in the majors, but I’m sure all reading know this. Dylan Carlson (20, OF) has been hitting highlight reel home runs in Springfield and hitting better than he has ever hit in the minors. Really nothing negative to say about any of his stats (138 wRC+). Alex Reyes (24, SP) is someone you all know about too, but if you didn’t know, his AAA stats are capital letters BAD. So hopefully he can figure that out sometime.
Ryan Helsley (24, RP) has shuttled between Memphis and St. Louis, working primarily as a reliever, which is a disappointing result for the #7 prospect in the system by VEB, especially with the results of the major league staff. He hasn’t been all that good at either level either. 43rd overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft Griffin Roberts (23, SP) was drafted in part for his reputation as a fast riser, but a pot suspension derailed his 2019 and he hasn’t started his season at Palm Beach all that strong with an 11.1 BB% and the same K rate in 6 starts.
The best thing you can say about Genesis Cabrera (22, SP) this year is that he did not suffer a drop off in stats from being promoted to the MLB. But if you’ve watched him pitch, you’d know that just means he’s been equally awful in AAA. Jake Woodford (22, SP) has a deceiving ERA, but has not been good in Memphis either with a 5.21 FIP and a 6.43 xFIP. Evan Kruczynski (24, SP) was the opposite in Springfield with an ugly ERA, but a 4.02 FIP and 4.11 xFIP. He’s seen some time in Memphis, but his numbers are best ignored if you want to remain optimistic on him.
Jacob Schlesener (22, RP) is a relief-only prospect who started the season in Peoria and pitched about the worst possible 16 innings you could with 35 walks and 23 earned runs. Yes, 35 walks. He got sent down to State College, where his numbers are fine but worse than last year’s. He’s probably not a prospect anymore. Steven Gingery, #30 on the list, does not appear to have pitched yet. The scouting report says “He should be back on the mound around midseason 2019, if all goes as planned” so this was expected.
Ramon Urias (25, IF) has not been able to crack AAA yet unfortunately with a 73 wRC+ on the year. Edmundo Sosa (23, SS) does not appear to be a materially better hitter with the reported swing change. He does have a .174 ISO but he also barely walks and only manages a .291 BABIP. His defense is his calling card, but he’s going to need to hit a little.
Malcolm Nunez (18, 3B) has played 21 games in Peoria, which was, to say the least, aggressive. He has proved why DSL players typically don’t skip all the way to full season ball, with a 36 wRC+ in 21 games. He hasn’t played since early June so it’s a good bet he’s injured right now. Rangel Ravelo (27, 1B) is doing well but a 27-year-old 1B only prospect with a 126 wRC+ doesn’t exactly jump out. Especially when it comes with a .374 BABIP. Luken Baker (22, 1B) has also struggled at Palm Beach with the main culprits being his power (.106) and BABIP (.279), though both being that low and him still managing a 97 wRC+ could be looked at as a positive.
John Nogowski (26, 1B) is walking more than he’s striking out to a 119 wRC+. So basically, if you’ve ever come across this guy before, he’s doing what he did last year in AA. If he played anywhere other than 1B, even at 26, I’d be preaching about this guy every day. Tommy Edman, 26th on the list, is pretty well-known her at this point. I hope he starts walking a bit would be my one comment. Max Schrock (24, 2B) is improved from last year, but still just a 78 wRC+ at Memphis. He seems to have revamped his approach since his BB rate is now 13% and his K rate is now 20.2%. Last year, it was 5.3% and 7.9% so that’s a big change.
Jhon Torres (19) is another guy who was aggressively promoted to Peoria to little success. He’s been good in Johnson City with a 123 wRC+, but also with a 36.2 K% so he’s probably going to ride the year out there. Lane Thomas (23) is also a guy with success in a limited sample in the majors but you probably had no idea he wasn’t doing that great in Memphis with an 81 wRC+ with a .336 BABIP. His power just hasn’t been there.
Randy Arozarena (24) has been laying waste to both AA and AA. Considering he did the same to AA last year, but struggled in AAA, this is encouraging. He is batting .388/.445/.561 in 25 games in Memphis. Pretty high BABIP of .449 but also a 151 wRC+. Connor Capel (22) has struggled in Springfield. Pretty low BABIP of .242 for his low line (76 wRC+) so it’s possible he might be looking at a better second half with just some better luck.
Justin Williams (23) has missed most of this year because he punched a TV and his AA stats so far can probably be ignored since they treated his AA stint as a rehab one. He’s hit 2 homers in 5 games in Memphis already. Joerlin De Los Santos (18) has played in 8 GCL games so far. He’s hit three singles, but he also has three walks and just one strikeout. Rough start, but he’s putting nearly everything in play there. Jonatan Machado (20) split his time between three levels last year with his best being a 98 wRC+ at the lowest level (Johnson City). Cards have kept it simple this year, sending him to State College and his first 12 games have gone very well (165 wRC+).
The DSL is being destroyed by yet another Cards guy with 18-year-old Diowill Burgos (OF) hitting .364/.457/.701 for a 197 wRC+. He has more walks than strikeouts with a 15.4 BB% and he has 18 extra base hits in 29 games, including 8 homers. 19-year-old SS Moises Castillo has a 146 wRC+ at State College with 6 stolen bases and one caught stealing for his first 21 games. Just five extra base hits, all doubles though.
17-year-old Hansel Otamendi (OF) is slashing .344/.446/.411 for the GCL. He has 16 walks to 11 strikeouts in 25 games. Also 17, Albert Inoa (2B) is slashing .281/.449/.382 in GCL with a 20.3 BB% in 24 games. Ivan Herrera is going to show up on prospect boards next year. The 19-year-old catcher has slashed .271/.364/.402 in Peoria. He’s done that over 231 PAs this year. Kramer Robertson (SS) demolished Springfield for 39 games with 6 homers (previous career high: 2) and a 15.5 K and BB rate. At Memphis, he has a 100 wRC+ in 42 games including 4 homers. So he became interesting fast.
Justin Toerner (22, OF) was unaffected by Palm Beach with a 142 wRC+ thanks mostly to walks and a .369 BABIP. His 22 games in Springfield have not gone well for him though. Zack Kirtley, as a 1B with limited power, seems to have a longshot but he’s now 22 in AA. He too was unaffected by Palm Beach with a 121 wRC+ and nearly double the power he showed in Peoria (which was still just a .135 ISO). He has a 112 wRC+ through 107 PAs at Springfield. 2B Irving Lopez hit well at AA (119 wRC+) so he’s been at Memphis for 19 games, where he has hit similarly well (112 wRC+)
Pitching-wise, Zach Prendergast is a longshot at 24 and only in Palm Beach, but he does have 55 strikeouts to 15 walks in 42.2 IP for a 2.87 FIP. 22-year-old Junior Fernandez fell off prospect radar because of his stats, but stats may get him back on it. He struck out 42 in 29 innings in Springfield with a 1.55 ERA and 1.90 FIP. 8 innings in Memphis haven’t gone much worse than that either.
22-year-old Edgar Escobar jumped from the GCL to Peoria this year and after a 2.44 FIP and 3.53 xFIP, he was promoted to Palm Beach. At Palm Beach in just 7 innings, he’s been better. Relief-only guy unfortunately. Seth Elledge had a relatively strong start in Springfield with 43 Ks to 13 walks in 33 innings, but he’s had a difficult first five innings in Memphis. Five innings though, not 50. 22-year-old lefty reliever Evan Sisk has very good in Peoria, getting a 50+ groundball rate and striking out over a batter an inning for a 3.34 FIP.
30th round pick in 2017, Alex Fagalde is already 25, but has pitched well at every level. On the strength of a 1.99 BB/9 - which was also his ERA - Falgade has gotten a midseason promotion to Springfield. He’s held his own through five starts, but he does have a 4.73 xFIP. Righty starter Tommy Parsons has pitched well at three levels this year. The 23-year-old started in Peoria (0.26 ERA in 5 starts), moved to Palm Beach (2.13 ERA in 7 starts), and is now in Springfield. He has 27 strikeouts to 3 walks in 29.2 IP so who knows maybe he’ll be in St. Louis at the end of the year. Lefty reliever Patrick Dayton is notable for having a 57.3 GB% and it not come at the expense of strikeouts with 32 in 35 innings. He’s 23 at Palm Beach.
6th round pick last year Edgar Gonzalez skipped Peoria for Palm Beach and has delivered. He has 84 strikeouts to 34 walks in 79.1 IP. Also a 50% GB rate. He’s just 22. Johan Oviedo had five good starts in Palm Beach and that was enough to get promoted to Springfield. He has an ugly ERA, but over a strikeout per inning and a 4.67 FIP so he’s not been quite too bad for a 21-year-old. And I think I’m going to end here, even though I could list more players.
I hope I put some players on your radar and let’s enjoy the second half of the baseball season.