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Minor League Update: Upper minors

Today we cover the AA and AAA players.

2022 Arizona Fall League Headshots - Photo by Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With just one game left in the season, it’s time to finish the minor leagues. The Springfield Cardinals ended their season on the 18th of September, while the Memphis Redbirds ended last Wednesday. And frankly, if I don’t do this now, it won’t get done until after the playoffs simply because it would be weird to give a minor league update during the playoffs. The prospect numbers are Fangraphs, mostly due to convenience for myself.

Nolan Gorman, 2B

AAA (Since 9/19): 41 PAs, .158/.195/.263, 46.3 K%, 4.9 BB%, .105 ISO, .263 BABIP, 15 wRC+

If you thought there was any chance Gorman would have been called up and competed for a playoff roster spot, well go ahead and look at those numbers and remove that hope. I don’t really think the Cardinals handled Gorman well late in the season. After he went 0-4 against the Nationals (the day after homering and doubling), Gorman had 5 total plate appearances from September 8th to September 16th, including six straight days off. Feels like.... maybe getting himself right in AAA would have been better in that span instead of just not playing him.

Ivan Herrera, C (#48 overall prospect in baseball)

AAA: 278 PAs, .268/.374/.396, 13.7 BB%, 18.7 K%, .128 ISO, .318 BABIP, 111 wRC+

I think if it were just about hitting a baseball, the Cardinals would feel reasonably comfortable handing the reins to Herrera. They may very well do that anyway. But especially at catcher, where the offensive standard isn’t very high, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of doubt at Herrera’s offense. I just wonder how much advancement he’s made on calling a game, the apparent reason he hasn’t gotten more of a shot when Yadi has been injured.

Matthew Liberatore, LHP (#61 overall prospect in baseball)

AAA (Since 9/10): 4 GS, 18.2 IP, 24.4 K%, 5.1 BB%, 3.86 ERA, 3.29 FIP

In my last update, I noted that Liberatore’s numbers since effectively being removed as an MLB option were quite bad. He had a 6.29 FIP, not a lot of strikeouts, and too many walks. Well since that update, he’s finished the season strong. Not without its drawbacks. In the middle of this run, he threw only 0.2, giving up four hits and hitting a batter. Kind of a quick hook, all the same, given he only faced 7 batters (precautionary due to injury?). But in any case, he struck out 18 and walked one in the other three starts while pitching at least 6 innings in each.

Freddy Pachecho, RHP (#16 prospect)

AAA: 33.2 IP, 32.6 K%, 9.1 BB%, 36.6 GB%, 2.41 ERA/2.97 FIP/3.92 xFIP

He’s already going to be 25 next year, so I wonder if the Cardinals intend or at least are open to Pacheco making the team out of spring training. Lots of swing and miss, though given his control problems - that walk rate isn’t bad, but he had a 13.8 BB% in AA - I can see another Junior Fernandez or really any relief pitcher who can’t quite make the jump to the majors. But he’ll get a chance surely.

Interesting note: Packy Naughton was sent down on the 21st of September, but never pitched in AAA, despite the season ending on the 28th. Kind of weird?

Genesis Cabrera, LHP

AAA: 13 IP, 25.9 K%, 6.9 BB%, 34.2 GB%, 7.62 ERA/3.12 FIP/3.90 xFIP

Cabrera has mostly been good in AAA actually. He is just extremely prone to blow-ups. In 7 of his appearances - 9.1 IP - he has not allowed a run while striking out 9 and walking just one. In his other three appearances (including his most recent one), he has allowed 11 earned runs. In 3.2 IP. That’s how you get a 7.62 ERA with relatively good advanced stats.

Jake Walsh (#22 prospect) never did return from injury, pitching his last game in June. Kodi Whitley has had a pretty bad September, with just a 14.6 K% and 7.92 FIP due to four homers allowed. Despite that, he does have a 3.97 ERA. James Naile since getting sent down has thrown 6 innings with one earned run, but just 3 strikeouts (10.7 K%). Fun story, I kind of think the Cards are going to DFA him this offseason though.

Kramer Robertson, SS (27-years-old)

AAA (Since 9/10): 70 PAs, .263/.400/.404, 11.4 BB%, 15.7 K%, .14O ISO, .311 BABIP, 124 wRC+

Robertson ended the season pretty strong. There’s still the central issue that, typically, players over the age of 25 will frequently have great stats in AAA, and then just can’t play in the majors (John Nogowski, there’s a lot more). But, if the Cardinals are tempted to keep Paul DeJong in his current role next year, it really seems like Robertson can do the exact same thing or better.

Pedro Pages, C (23-years-old)

AAA: 170 PAs, .222/.282/.353, 8.2 BB%, 27.1 K%, .131 ISO, .283 BABIP, 67 wRC+

Pages will be Rule 5 eligible at the end and I don’t think the Cardinals will need to protect him. He did manage a 94 wRC+ in AA, but it also came with a 33.5 K%. Still fairly young, so he should get a second shot at AAA next year.

Luken Baker, 1B (25-years-old)

AAA: 513 PAs, .228/.288/.394, 7.2 BB%, 25.1 K%, .166 ISO, .265 BABIP, 78 wRC+

That... is pretty bad. Whether or not the Cardinals keep Baker will probably have to do with who is knocking on his door. Because he still has two more years before he’s eligible for minor league free agency.

Delvin Perez, SS (23-years-old)

AAA: 149 PAs, .224/.302/.336, 9.4 BB%, 25.5 K%, .112 ISO, .290 BABIP, 72 wRC+

Perez is in the position that Nick Plummer was. Unlike Plummer, Perez shows really no signs of hitting. Perez is a year younger and plays (apparently) great defense at a premium position. So anything’s possible. But the Cardinals haven’t been afraid to cut their losses with high draft picks before (as we saw with Plummer), so I don’t expect him to be added to the 40 man.

Moises Gomez, OF (27th prospect)

AAA: 244 PAs, .266/.340/.541, 10.2 BB%, 34.4 K%, .275 ISO, .353 BABIP, 128 wRC+

The surprise prospect of the year. But my god he strikes out a lot. I don’t actually think most of the people excited about him would actually enjoy watching him play. Nobody really seems to like strikeouts, especially of this magnitude. But he will probably be added to the 40 man because well when he doesn’t strike out, he hits the hell out of the ball. Worth a 40 man spot to see if he can duplicate this at the MLB level.

Connor Thomas, LHP (24-years-old)

AAA: 28 G (25 GS), 135 IP, 17.9 K%, 6.5 BB%, 51 GB%, 5.47 ERA/4.53 FIP/4.29 xFIP

Thomas finished the season really poorly this year. Starting on August 17th, he allowed at least three earned runs in every start and in fact allowed at least 4 earned runs in 6 out of his last 8 starts. Kind of odd for a pitcher to have significantly worse stats his second go around at a level and not a particularly great sign.

Ljay Newsome, RHP (25-years-old)

AAA: 4 G, 5.2 IP, 22.7 K%, 4.5 BB%, 18.8 GB%, 4.76 ERA/2.27 FIP/4.02 xFIP

Remember Newsome? Of course you don’t. Last year, the Cardinals claimed him from the Mariners and they were able to do that because he had Tommy John surgery and was going to miss most of 2022, which he did. The Cardinals then DFA’d him themselves, nobody claimed him, and they’ve carried him on the minor league IL for most of the year. He rehabbed, made his way to AAA and posted those numbers in September. I think he probably needs to be added to the 40 man, though I don’t believe he’d qualify for minor league free agency. The Rule 5 draft though, yeah.

Ryan Loutos, RHP (23-years-old)

AAA: 22 G, 27 IP, 22.1 K%, 9.2 BB%, 52.8 GB%, 6.33 ERA/4.73 FIP/3.91 xFIP

Loutos was an undrafted free agent signing by the Cardinals after the 2021 draft. He was an old college draftee, at 22-years-old. He pitched okay in Low A last year, and started this season in High A. After a 30.9 K% and 5.5 BB% in 14.1 IP, he was promoted to AA. His stats somehow improved (sort of), and after 22 innings he was promoted to AAA. Kind of took the Kodi Whitley track this year, and if that’s any indication, we will see him in the majors soon.

Jacob Bosiokovic, RHP (28-years-old)

AAA: 15 G, 13.2 IP, 21.3 K%, 6.6 BB%, 32.5 GB%, 5.27 ERA/5.56 FIP/4.52 xFIP

Former 19th round pick who converted to pitcher with the Rockies back in 2019, was drafted in the minor league Rule 5 draft by the Cards and advanced his way to AAA last year. He seems to have struggled with injuries - those numbers were his numbers all year - and didn’t pitch particularly well when he was healthy. I had hope for him, but the injuries were not timely and he’s going to be eligible for free agency this year. You can’t really guarantee him a 40 man roster spot based off those numbers, so he’s probably gone.

Jordan Walker, OF (#6 overall prospect)

AA: 536 PAs, .306/.388/.510, 10.8 BB%, 21.6 K%, .204 ISO, .365 BABIP, 128 wRC+

As good as those numbers are for a 20-year-old in AA, I would not expect Walker to make the team out of spring training. Those numbers don’t exactly translate to “skip AAA” and plus there’s no rush. But he’s right on schedule to debut next year for sure, just a matter of when.

Masyn Winn, SS (#90 overall prospect)

AA: 403 PAs, .258/.349/.432, 12.4 BB%, 21.3 K%, .174 ISO, .308 BABIP, 100 wRC+

One huge reason for optimism about Winn is that he has some amount of power. After a .095 ISO in High A to finish the 2021 season, he had a .217 ISO in his repeat performance. Any concerns that it was not reliable - due to just one homer - are eased with 11 homers in AA (even if it’s at Springfield). He clearly seems to have a great approach so that’s not a concern. Probably would not expect him in the majors next year though.

Gordon Graceffo, RHP (#95 overall prospect)

AA: 18 GS, 93.2 IP, 21.9 K%, 6.3 BB%, 45.3 GB%, .237 BABIP, 3.94 ERA/5.07 FIP/4.63 xFIP

Those stats, which have the framework of a good pitcher, if unexciting, should tell us two things: 1) do not expect him to make an impact next year at the MLB level and 2) that pitching in Springfield is not easy. Remember: he is still just 22 and was drafted literally last year. Already in AA. He is likely to repeat AA, and the hope is that he dominates in a similar way to how he dominated in High A so he can quickly get to AAA. But I don’t think you start him in AAA.

Michael McGreevy, RHP (#10 Cardinals prospect)

AA: 20 GS, 99 IP, 18.4 K%, 6.3 BB%, 48.7 GB%, .319 BABIP, 4.64 ERA/4.85 FIP/4.49 xFIP

It’s interesting that Graceffo is the better prospect, but that in some ways, McGreevy actually pitched better at a younger age at the same level. Lower FIP, lower xFIP. That appears to be due to a higher GB rate. McGreevy does not like to walk batters, so it says something that 6.3% is kind of really high for him. Consider: in a little over half the innings he compiled in AA (52 IP), he walked 6 total batters at his other stops combined. Also gives you an idea of just how little professional innings he’s actually thrown too.

Chandler Redmond, 1B (#28 Cardinals prospect)

AA: 372 PAs, .235/.316/.480, 10.5 BB%, 29.8 K%, .245 ISO, .283 BABIP, 97 wRC+

I think his numbers were slightly more encouraging at the time, but it’s very weird to me that Fangraphs ranked him as a prospect. Because even at the time, he was entirely playing at just 1B or DH, a 25-year-old playing in AA who had significant contact issues. That dude is just not a major leaguer, sorry.

Griffin Roberts, RHP (26-years-old)

AA: 16 G, 17.2 IP, 23.7 K%, 21.6 BB%, 52.5 GB%, .308 BABIP, 10.70 ERA/8.23 FIP/7.64 xFIP

Roberts had his healthiest year since 2019, and it still wasn’t all that healthy and he hasn’t figured anything out. Got to think this year was his last chance?

Julio Rodriguez, C (25-years-old)

AA: 269 PAs, .252/.387/.436, 17.5 BB%, 23.8 K%, .183 ISO, .303 BABIP, 116 wRC+

The pandemic screwed Rodriguez. There’s no way around it. In 2019, he had a 115 wRC+ in High A as a 22-year-old, and got himself a promotion to AA to finish the year. He wasn’t good in 14 games, but 14 games. Then the missing season. And then he spent most of last year injured and wasn’t good when he was healthy. And then posted those numbers at AA. I’m pretty sure he’s eligible for minor league free agency, so I he’ll get a chance somewhere else.

Brady Whalen, 1B (24-years-old)

AA: 29 G, 108 PAs, .306/.355/.480, 6.5 BB%, 18.5 K%, .380 BABIP, 111 wRC+

In the Cardinals’ organization, if a player gets moved to 1B almost full-time, it’s the kiss of death. And not because of Paul Goldschmidt, though that doesn’t help. Whalen was moved to 1B before Goldy got here. It’s a white flag. “We don’t believe in this prospect” essentially. Especially when he’s moved after a season where his bat will certainly not play at 1B. Also, when a guy is not promoted aggressively, that’s another bad sign. Whalen had 503 PAs in Low A back in 2019 and... started 2021 in Low A. The year everyone was promoted aggressively. He quickly got promoted but still. He’s eligible for free agency, so he’s probably gone.

Jonah Davis, OF (24-years-old)

AA: 67 G, 201 PAs, .146/.300/.348, 12.9 BB%, 45.8 K%, .201 ISO, .250 BABIP, 70 wRC+

I thought Davis was kind of an interested minor league Rule 5 pickup, but I really didn’t expect him to strike out even more than his 43% rate last year. BABIP deserted him too.

Matt Koperniak, OF (24-years-old)

AA: 106 G, 437 PAs, .288/.359/.442, 9.2 BB%. 18.8 K%, .153 ISO, .331 BABIP, 106 wRC+

Koperniak also saw two games in AAA, and he got on base four times in five tries. One walk, one hit by pitch, two singles. Nothing too exciting here, but solid all-around with nothing to really critique either.

Mike Antico, OF (24-years-old)

AA: 60 G, 275 PAs, .233/.327/.383, 10.9 BB%, 24.4 K%, .150 ISO, .289 BABIP, 84 wRC+

An 8th round pick last year, Antico has sort of beat the odds by getting 275 PAs in AA already, just the year after he was drafted. An old draftee - 23 when drafted - Antico had a 116 wRC+ in High A when he was promoted to AA. Not great stats, but maybe he can surprise.

Connor Lunn, RHP (23-years-old)

AA: 21 G (17 GS), 81.2 IP, 21.1 K%, 6.5 BB%, 34.6 GB%, 6.61 ERA/5.30 FIP/5.02 xFIP

It’s probably less of a stark difference since Palm Beach is now in Low A, but the jump from High A to AA is typically pitching prospects’ undoing. You don’t know how many times a pitcher will have great stats in High A and then just suck in AA. Now, Lunn is just 23, but he was on track to fairly easily make the MLB and this is gonna be a roadblock.

Andre Granillo, RHP (22-years-old)

High A: 26 G, 34.2 IP, 34 K%, 12.7 BB%, 26.9 GB%, 3.63 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.74 xFIP

Full disclosure: Granillo should have been in the last update. He threw two total innings in AA this year. He struck out 5 and walked 2. Only problem was that he faced 15 batters. Seven of them got hits. And actually one of the walks was intentional. His FIP in AA is 1.76 and his ERA is 22.50. That’s wild. Anyway, Granillo started in Low A, struck out 40% of batters and then posted those numbers upon promotion to AA. Lots of control problems, but also hitters just don’t really make contact on him all that much.

And that’s it. If you want to feel more optimistic about both Graceffo and McGreevy, whose stats are otherwise not overly impressive, the leaderboard for Springfield pitchers is bleak. Of pitchers with at least 20 IP, seven pitchers have an FIP below 5.00. Three of them are at least 27-years-old and three others are under 25, but relievers. McGreevy is the only starting pitcher and Graceffo isn’t far behind. Pitching in Springfield is HARD.

The reverse is probably also true: hitting in Springfield isn’t that hard (look at Daniel Descalso’s AA season back in the day). So temper the expectations for some of the hitting stats here, maybe.