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A look at the hitting prospects one month into the minor league season

Are you wondering how your favorite prospects are doing? Look no further! As long as they’re hitters.

2021 Sirius XM Futures Game Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s been a little over a month of play for the minor league season, which - while not exactly a good sample - is sometimes enough to give us an idea of how quickly the player in question should be promoted. Jordan Walker only needed 27 games in Low A last year before the Cardinals decided he should face his next challenge. They are rarely as aggressive with players as that, but nonetheless, sometimes it’s good to have a check-in.

I’m just going through the hitting side for this post. I’ll go through the Cardinals top prospects’ first, then other players of note. The age after the names is not necessarily what age they are on Monday, May 9th. For example, Corey Dickerson is currently 32, but on May 22nd, he turns 33. If he fell on a list such as this, I would list him at 33, because 2022 is his age 33 season.

Jordan Walker (3B) - 20-years-old

Stats (AA): 104 PAs, .302/.423/.407, 13.5 BB%, 22.1 K%, .105 ISO, .403 BABIP, 124 wRC+

Walker so far has been simultaneously encouraging while also likely needing to spend the entire year in AA. That’s because he has had virtually zero power. A .105 ISO in Springfield is like a .050 ISO anywhere else. Nothing to be worried about - he clearly still has a good approach judging by the K and BB rates. A high BABIP in the minors does not mean the same thing as a high BABIP in the majors, however I think you have to wait until the power comes at minimum to promote him. He had a .313 ISO in Low A, and a .195 ISO in High A, both significantly harder places to have power than Springfield. No worries, he turns 20 in two weeks.

Nolan Gorman (2B/3B) - 22-years-old

Stats (AAA): 107 PAs, .299/.355/.701, 7.5 BB%, 34.6 K%, .402 ISO, .347 BABIP, 170 wRC+

Power has not been Nolan Gorman’s problem. Not even close. I keep expecting his K% to decline, and it seems to be stuck around 35% for the moment. I can’t help but look at Julio Rodriguez’s start to his MLB career - who is just 21-years-old and had a 18% K rate in AA but skipped AAA - and struggle to see how Gorman in his current form wouldn’t strike out 40% of the time or more. I know people are clamoring for him to get promoted, but I feel like he’s got to get that K rate under 30% before you do. I also believe he wouldn’t be the quick fix people believe - a guy his age with his contact problems... you have to expect about 2-3 months or even more of struggling. Even Mike Trout wasn’t very good in his first 40 games.

Ivan Herrera (C) - 22-years-old

Stats (AAA): 62 PAs, .278/.371/.426, 12.9 BB%, 25.8 K%, .148 ISO, .361 BABIP, 119 wRC+

Not much to complain about here. If these were his end of season stats, I’d say he’s ready for the big leagues. You might hope for less strikeouts, maybe more power, but the translation of these stats to MLB numbers would be definitely be acceptable for a catcher in the big leagues. The most encouraging number, oddly enough, is his BABIP. He had just a .261 BABIP in AA. BABIP in the minors is one of those stats where a low one isn’t necessarily indicative of luck like it is for the majority of MLB players. It could be, but you might just be overmatched. So far, so good.

Masyn Winn (SS) - 20-years-old

Stats (High A): 247 PAs, .270/.321/.487, 7.3 BB%, 22.4 K%, .217 ISO, .341 BABIP, 105 wRC+

If you’ve been following Winn’s season thus far, you may be confused. His actual line - across 93 PAs - is .385/.457/.628 for a 200 wRC+ on a .453 BABIP, .244 IS0, 12.9 BB% and 16.1 K%. All numbers that suggest he should be promoted. And maybe he should be. But I thought it’d be more interesting to list his career High A stats - including his 48 wRC+ last season. He struggled mightily in High A last year, so I’d be a little bit more patient with a promotion. When these total High A lines look promotable, then you promote him. Right now his career lines suggest a below average walk rate, average-ish K rate, and lots of power. That ISO is slightly misleading though. He has 3 homers in 247 PAs. He’s just really fast and has 8 triples. Not portraying that as a negative thing, just ISO is usually correlated with HRs, happens to not be the case here. Also, I’m not listing stolen bases, but Winn has 27 steals to 3 caught stealing in High A.

We’re going to skip Juan Yepez, who we really don’t need an update for, and Joshua Baez, whose season in the complex league hasn’t begun yet, so we have no new updates on the player.

Alec Burleson (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (AAA): 96 PAs, .264/.333/.517, 8.3 BB%, 16.7 K%, .253 ISO, .262 BABIP, 124 wRC+

The excitement level for Burleson entirely depends on how much that BABIP number is unlucky and how much is his unknowable “true talent.” It’s quite literally impossible to say, because he has not much of a minor league sample and also he’s been promoted so quickly throughout his short minor league career, that what he has been is not necessarily what to expect. He has had not particularly high BABIPs thus far. It’ll be very interesting to see which of Burleson and Lars Nootbaar ends up emerging - hard to believe on a longer term basis that they will coexist as Cardinals. Maybe Nootbaar can handle center, but if both are limited to the corner outfield, they kind of serve the same function.

Lars Nootbaar (OF) - 24-years-old

Stats (AAA): 36 PAs, .207/.333/.379, 13.9 BB%, 22.2 K%, .172 ISO, .238 BABIP, 95 wRC+

Nothing to add, you were probably curious how he was doing in AAA, so I threw Nootbaar in on this list.

Malcolm Nunez (3B) - 21-years-old

Stats (AA): 95 PAs, .195/.347/.299, 18.9 BB%, 15.8 K%, .104 ISO, .230 BABIP, 78 wRC+

His line would have looked significantly better had I posted this a week ago. In his last 15 plate appearances, he has five strikeouts to one walk, and just a single to his name. Prior to those 15 PAs, he had a 102 wRC+. I’m still going to choose to look at the positives. A player who has not shown much proclivity to walking in his minor league career has an 18.9 BB%. That’s difficult to do over 95 PAs without a genuine change in approach. It’s not like Nunez was a big strikeout guy before either. All he really needs to do now - and I say it like it’s easy but it’s not - is figure out a way to keep his approach and add some power, which has been missing in AA. And by keep his approach, I simply mean a 10% or greater BB rate, not 19% which is absurd.

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

Stats (AAA): 76 PAs, .243/.289/.529, 5.3 BB%, 23.7 K%, .286 ISO, .234 BABIP, 110 wRC+

Luken Baker has similar questions to Nolan Gorman, even though they are far apart as prospects. Much like Gorman, I’m positive Baker could homer in the majors right now. A lot. But how many strikeouts to get to that point? And how much will he really be getting on base? Where the comparison ends is that Baker can only play 1B or DH and is also 25 already. He has posted OBPs of .327 in High A, .322 in AA, and so far, .289 in AAA. As much as I want to believe in Baker, he just doesn’t get on base. And that’s a problem from someone so limited defensively.

Ryan Holgate (OF) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 55 PAs, .204/.218/.259, 1.8 BB%, 34.5 K%, .056 ISO, .314 BABIP, 36 wRC+

Busts don’t really exist in baseball and they really don’t exist in the 7th round of a draft. But a relatively high round college age player getting utterly dominated by Low A pitching? That’s a bust of a pick. Maybe Holgate can turn it around. Somehow he’s worse than he was last year and he was not dealing with a high bar, but we have nearly 200 PAs of him in Low A and he’s literally been so bad, he might not even be in the organization next year. I don’t know what happened, it’s unfortunate, but it’s hard to see an MLB career here.

Jhon Torres still hasn’t played a single game, landing on the injured list at the beginning of the year for an undisclosed reason.

Pedro Pages (C) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 69 PAs, .286/.406/.536, 15.9 BB%, 29 K%, .250 IS0, .382 BABIP, 138 wRC+

You hope for less strikeouts, but a very good start for a guy who hasn’t really found his way on prospect lists. If he has a good enough offensive season, he probably will soon. So far, so good.

Chandler Redmond (1B) - 25-years-old

Stats (AA): 82 PAs, .236/.329/.403, 12.2 BB%, 22 K%, .167 ISO, .288 BABIP, 84 wRC+

I know there are least a few of you Redmond believers (I’m not), so I felt compelled to share his stats. On the bright side, he has significantly cut his K rate, which was absolutely necessary. On the downside, he’s only played 1B and DH this year, is already 25, and is running a below average line despite that.

Delvin Perez (SS) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 90 PAs, .216/.344/.243, 15.6 BB%, 18.9 K%, .027 ISO, .276 BABIP, 66 wRC+

The dream is probably dead. Perez just has no power whatsoever. I wouldn’t necessarily give up on him for good, but unfortunately I am giving up for him as a Cardinal. He is eligible for free agency, having spent seven seasons in the organization, and I just can’t see the Cardinals using a 40 man spot on him when they didn’t for Nick Plummer.

Matt Koperniak (OF) - 24-years-old

Stats (AA): 96 PAs, .250/.333/.369, 10.4 BB%, 17.7 K%, .119 ISO, .273 BABIP, 77 wRC+

It’s great that he’s even at AA honestly. Not the best start, but he clearly belongs and you just got to wait until the end of the year to see how he does before saying anything about him.

Moises Gomez (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 96 PAs, .391/.438/.954, 8.3 BB%, 31.3 K%, .563 ISO, .455 BABIP, 229 wRC+

I already wrote about Gomez. I’ll just reiterate what I said then. He essentially has two lost years of development, but is exactly where he should have been in 2020. He reminds me of Nick Plummer in the sense that I am in no way buying the hot start as much as I want to, because it just looks so fluky.

Aaron Atonini (C) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 72 PAs: .267/.347/.483, 9.7 BB%, 20.8 K%, .217 ISO, .273 BABIP, 132 wRC+

Atonini really seems like he should be in AA. He had an extremely odd 2021. He started in AAA, went down to AA, and finished the year in High A. He had a 92 wRC+ in AA, 84 wRC+ in High A. Just extremely confusing treatment of him. Anyway, he should be back in AA soon enough.

Jacob Buchburger (1B/3B) - 24-years-old

Stats (High A): 77 PAs, .362/.429/.435, 10.4 BB%, 18.4 K%, .072 ISO, .444 BABIP, 150 wRC+

He was signed as an undrafted player after that 2020 5-round draft - so to call him undrafted is perhaps misleading of his status. But he didn’t start his professional career until he was 22. Good start so far.

Noah Mendlinger (2B/3B) - 21-years-old

Stats (High A): 58 PAs, .222/.368/.267, 17.2 BB%, 13.8 K%, .044 ISO, .263 BABIP, 97 wRC+

Mendlinger will provide us with the answer to “how far can a perfect plate approach get you with literally zero power?” In Low A last year, he had more walks than strikeouts and a .088 ISO and managed a 128 wRC+. At some point, he’ll need a modicum of power. Not sure he has it in him, but he’s really young actually. Undrafted free agent from 2021. Good find even if he never gets that power.

Elijah Cabell (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (Low A): 55 PAs, .136/.309/.205, 18.2 BB%, 45.5 K%, .068 ISO, .278 BABIP, 69 wRC+

Somehow, his 40.8 K% from last year went even higher. He has doubled his walk rate. But his GB% went from 41.9% to 63.2% so he’s just hitting everything on the ground - that he’s not missing. He has three flyballs total, so his HR/FB% is 33.3% despite hitting just one homer.

On Thursday, I’ll cover the pitching side of the farm system after one month of play.