Last week we looked at three prospects who have been trending upwards since the start of the year. In this article we are going to be reviewing three prospects whose stock is trending down so far this year. There were a lot fewer choices for this list which speaks to the depth of the Cardinals system as well as how good most of their top prospects have been to this point in the year.
Luken Baker - AAA - 1B
2022 stats .215 AVG, .273 OBP, .430 SLG, 7 HR’s, 14 RBI’s, 9 BB’s, 35 K’s
The Cardinals are in an odd situation with Baker. On one hand he has shown that he has plus power that will likely play in the Major League’s hitting 33 home runs in his last 125 games dating back to the start of the 2021 season. However, there is not a need for him at the Major League level with an already crowded infield and DH spot. Baker also has not done much in terms of play this season to force the Cardinals hand. This is his age 25 season which is still considered young for a AAA player however he is old enough to where excuses cannot be made for his play so far this year. A K% a hair under 29% is not necessarily alarming but it is also not overly encouraging, and it is fair to expect that number to jump up if he was called up at any point this season. St. Louis has shown a bit of what they think of Baker overall as they did previously leave him off of the 40-man roster when he was eligible for the rule 5 draft and could have been taken for free by any club. With Baker being a very one-dimensional player at what was already an area of strength for the Cardinals it was a bit difficult to see him carving out a role with the big-league club and his continued rise in K% as well as well below average batting average only increases those suspicions.
Delvin Perez AA - SS
2022 stats .208 AVG, .319 OBP, .238 SLG, 0 HR’s 15 BB’s, 27 K’s, 9 SB’s
The former 2016 first round pick has really struggled to get it going so far in the 2022 season. Perez is coming off of a year in which he showed some promise hitting .265 with 24 stolen bases and a career high 4 home runs in 98 games. However, this year as displayed by his stat line he has really struggled to build off of that success. There is still a long way to go but if the season were to end today it would be his lowest batting average since 2017, his lowest SLG% since 2017, 33 total points lower and his lowest OPS since 2018. His glove has also taken a big step back this season as he has already committed 8 errors at shortstop with a .924 fielding percentage. It is concerning to see this with a player such as Perez who makes up for his lack of hitting with what is typically a very strong glove. Now if a positive was to be taken from this season so far it would be his K/BB ratio. In 32 games this season he has already drawn 15 walks compared to the 28 he drew in 98 games last season. To go along with this, he has 27 K’s thus far this season compared to the 98 he had last season. This has the feel of a make-or-break year for Perez who will be playing the entire season in his age 23 year, hopefully he can turn it around and start to play more like he did in the 2021 season.
Julio E. Rodriguez - AA - C
2022 stats .204 AVG, .371 OBP, .327 SLG, 2 HR’s, 8 RBI’s, 12 BB’s, 10 K’s
Coming off of what was a rather disappointing 2021 season which saw him hit .196 in 29 games at AA last season. There had to be some hope around the Cardinals organization that he would show enough this season in terms of at the plate production to promote him to AAA as a glove first catcher to provide the organization with a bit more depth at the position. However, he has not done anything close to that this season. He has shown little in terms of offensive production hitting right above the Mendoza line with a .204 average. He is doing a good job of drawing walks totaling 12 in 15 games, thus far the same amount he got in 36 games last season. Although, despite his ability to draw walks it is almost impossible to envision Rodriguez being anything more than a below average hitter at the AAA level let alone the Major League level. Statistics aside though arguably the most concerning number for Rodriguez is his age 24/25 season which means he is older than the average AA player. Typically, in the prospect world when we see a player struggle at their respective level when they are above the average age they are almost at their ceiling as a player. Now hopefully that is not a trend that is true for Rodriguez, and we can see him turn it around however it is difficult to envision as things currently stand.