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Key Cardinals Prospects Will Not Have Breakthroughs This Season

With the minor league seasons cancelled, here are some notable prospects missing out on the chance to impress

Due to COVID-19, the minor league season will not be played in 2019. This clearly affects all of the prospects in the Cardinals organization. However, the 2019 minor league season was going to be crucial for some prospects who, for some reason or another, needed to make an impression on the Cardinals. However, due to the cancellation of the season, these players will need to wait another year to make an impression, which could have a negative effect on their careers.

Delvin Perez

The Cardinals first round selection in the 2016 draft put together his best offensive season in the minors since his professional debut with the Cardinals rookie-level affiliate. After batting just .213 in 2018 with a 76 wRC+, Perez posted a .269 batting average and 95 wRC+ with the Cardinals A-Affiliate in Peoria. Despite the overall increase in production, Perez slashed his walk rate from 10.4% to 5.3% while also raising his strikeout rate from 20.1% to 23.1%. These are certainly not encouraging trends for Perez. Additionally, his BABIP increased more than 80 points from 2018, so combined with his strikeout and walk numbers, there is potential for Perez’s modest success at the plate last season to be a fluke. At 21 years old, there is still plenty of time for him to develop and it was likely encouraging for the Cardinals to see him hit the ball better last season. However, given the fact that his peripheral numbers do not support his improvement at the plate, it would have been nice to see him be given the chance to show that his numbers were not simply a fluke. However, it appears that he will not be given this chance until the 2021 season.

Bryce Denton

The Cardinals second round pick in the 2015 draft has struggled since entering the Cardinals organization. Denton tallied decent numbers at the Cardinals rookie-level affiliate as well as short-season affiliate state college. However, since making the jump to full season ball, he has been unable to post even an average wRC+. He tallied a 97 wRC+ in 356 plate appearances with A-Afilliate Peoria in 2018, but then struggled with a short promotion to A-Advanced Palm Beach. When he was made to repeat the levels last season he could not replicate his success. He split time between Peoria, where he posted a 66 wRC+, and Palm Beach, where he posted a 59 wRC+.

Denton has now spent five seasons in the organization without much success. Even though he is still just 22 years old, he needs to show some progress soon or his career could be at risk of stalling in the low minors. Even more concerning for Denton is that he posted a career high strikeout rate of 31.7% at Palm Beach last season after striking out in just 23% of his plate appearances at Peoria in the previous season. He is certainly trending down and would likely have spent a third straight year bouncing between Peoria and Palm Beach this season if the minor league season was to be played. This might have given him the chance to prove that he can perform well at these levels and get his career back on track. However, he will now have to wait until 2021 to accomplish the same thing, and at that time he will be 23, and nearly 24 years old.

Ramon Santos

Santos is a reliever who has been in the Cardinals system since 2012, but has struggled to gain any kind of upward momentum. The right-hander spent five years with the Cardinals rookie level affiliates, largely pitching as a starter, before breaking into full season ball in 2017. He struggled to perform as a starter, which explains why he was in rookie level ball for so long, so he converted into a relief pitcher in 2017. He pitched much better in this role, finishing the season with a 3.54 ERA (4.48 FIP) at Peoria and a 2.81 ERA (3.62 FIP) at Palm Beach. As a reward for this success, Santos spent nearly all of 2018 at the Cardinals Double-A affiliate in Springfield. He did not pitch very well there, however, as he ended the year with a 5.49 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 57 13 innings.

This caused him to go backwards in 2019 and spend the entire season back at Palm Beach where he experienced great success. He posted a 3.00 ERA (3.08 FIP) as well as a career high 10.26 K/9, showing plenty of improvement from the previous season when he tallied just a 7.22 K/9. This is a large increase in strikeouts that can likely be attributed to something more than just being older than his competition. At 25 years and 8 months old, though, he is older than many other pitchers in the system. If he could have played this season with Springfield and shown a similar level of production as 2019, then he could have been on the cusp of the big leagues. However, he will now have to wait until he is 26 years old, and nearly 27, until he has another chance at the Double-A level. For a prospect as old as he will be, that is not a great situation as there are bound to plenty of younger pitchers who he will be competing with for a limited amount of major league innings.