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A look at the hitting prospects halfway through the season

The update you’ve all been waiting for

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

It’s been too long guys. One month into the season, I shared the stats of all the Cardinals’ top prospects. Some in the comments wanted this to be a monthly thing, but honestly around the beginning of June, it looks like I was writing a lot of series previews. And the times I didn’t have a preview, I had something in mind to write. And then of course, I missed an entire week from vacation. But we are about halfway through the season, having entered July, and it’s about time for an update.

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

Stats (AA): 293 PAs, .309/.403/.500, 11.9 BB%, 20.8 K%, .191 ISO, .377 BABIP, 134 wRC+

On May 9th, I said the Cardinals could wait to promote Walker until his power came around since it was only a .105 ISO, which in Springfield is effectively no power at all. The power has came. He has a .236 ISO since May 9th. That power has come with only six homers, so I guess you can complain if you want, but 15 doubles and two triples complement the homers for that ISO. He’s also less reliant on BABIP with a .361 BABIP since May 9th. He’s walking slightly less but also striking out slightly less. If you were encouraged before, only positive news since May 9th!

Ivan Herrera (C) - 22-years-old

Stats (AAA): 129 PAs, .291/.388/.436, 12.4 BB%, 14.7 K%, .145 ISO, .326 BABIP, 124 wRC+

I skipped the players who had made the majors last time, but I do think a reminder of his AAA numbers is needed with Herrera’s struggles. He’s another player who has an improved wRC+ with a lower BABIP since May 9th. It’s a little hard to believe the same guy with a 36.4% K rate in the majors barely struck out in AAA, but he’s super young and still adjusting. That’s why I think it’s important he get some MLB reps, because you can get the struggles out of the way in a year where the other Cardinals’ catchers have also been terrible.

I am however going to skip 22-year-old Nolan Gorman who got promoted to the majors a little over a week after the last update, so the only new information is effectively in the majors.

Masyn Winn (SS) - 20-years-old

Stats (AA): 156 PAs, .252/.333/.430, 11.5 BB%, 21.8 K%, .178 ISO, .293 BABIP, 95 wRC+

Winn actually stayed in High A for about 50 more PAs since May 9th, and it went down. He had a 200 wRC+ at the time of the first update and finished High A with a 161 wRC+. But they promoted him, and since he’s been at AA, he’s more or less held his own. While his power at High A was entirely of the double and triple variety (11 doubles, 7 triples), he actually has five homers in AA with 9 doubles. Even though it’s a below average hitting line, this is very encouraging for a 20-year-old in his first stop at AA.

Alec Burleson (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (AAA): 299 PAs, .335/.378/.564, 6.4 BB%, 13.7 K%, .229 ISO, .344 BABIP, 146 wRC+

Talk about bad timing. If Burleson had arrived just a year earlier, when the Cardinals were attempting to make Justin Williams a thing, Burleson would already be in the big leagues. Lars Nootbaar, who did arrive a year earlier, could have been Burleson. If Nootbaar and Burleson traded places, Nootbaar would be trapped in AAA right now. If you want to nitpick, Burleson has become a less patient hitter and more reliant on BABIP. On May 9th, his BB% was 8.3% and he had a .262 BABIP. Since then, he has a 5.5 BB% and a .373 BABIP.

I will obviously be skipping both Juan Yepez (1B/OF) and Brendan Donovan (2B/3B/SS/OF) because no such update is needed on either.

Jonathan Mejia (SS) - 17-years-old

Stats (DSL): 73 PAs, .157/.411/.255, 21.9 BB%, 20.5 K%, .098 ISO, .222 BABIP, 108 wRC+

I’m following Fangraphs recent top prospect lists and that’s why they’re in the order they’re in. Fangraphs, or Eric Longenhagen in particular, really really loves absurdly young prospects who haven’t done anything yet. Personally, unless it’s like Bryce Harper or a 1st round pick, I don’t think I’d ever have a 17-year-old in my top 20. As much as you can read into these stats, he has a good eye. Or DSL pitchers suck. Who knows.

Leonardo Bernal (C) - 18-years-old

Stats (Low A): 53 PAs, .216/.226/.314, 1.9 BB%, 28.3 K%, .098 ISO, .278 BABIP, 52 wRC+

Bernal seems clearly outmatched at Low A, but I imagine the Cardinals want him to get “real” competition and not whatever is happening in the complex league which as far as I understand it is basically spring training. He’s outmatched offensively at least. You have to assume that the Cardinals are high on his defense if they’re giving him a DSL skip to Low A promotion at 18-years-old.

Lizandro Espinoza (SS) - 19-years-old

Stats (Complex): 60 PAs, .294/.383/.490, 10 BB%, 20 K%, .196 ISO, .359 BABIP, 136 wRC+

It’s cool that I actually have stats to share for lower level minors guys this time. Promising start, especially the power. He had a 124 wRC+ in the DSL last year but with only a .094 ISO. Seems to have a strong sense of the strike zone (12.1 BB%, 14.9 K% in DSL last year). I imagine he’ll be seeing Low A next year.

Malcolm Nunez (1B/3B) - 21-years-old

Stats (AA): 265 PAs, .253/.370/.457, 15.5 BB%, 19.6 K%, .204 ISO, .277 BABIP, 114 wRC+

I like Nunez and I like the new version where he has an incredible eye (he hadn’t touched 10% BB rate before this year), but he’s feeling like Elehuris Montero 2.0 for me. A guy destined to get traded. I’m basing this off their usage of him in the field, which has been almost entirely at 1B. I realize Jordan Walker is at 3B at the same level, but if the Cardinals actually thought he was a part of the MLB plans, wouldn’t they try him at OF even once? With Yepez kind of covering the DH part of the MLB for the foreseeable future, there’s not just a spot for him anytime soon.

It’s unfortunately getting very close to being a lost year for 19-year-old Joshua Baez (OF), who took exactly one plate appearance on May 17th, went on the injured list the day after, and hasn’t been activated since.

Won-Bin Cho (OF) - 18-years-old

Stats (Complex): 18 PAs, .250/.500/.333, 22.2 BB%, 22.2 K%, .083 ISO, .375 BABIP, 158 wRC+

I’m not entirely sure why he’s only taken 18 plate appearances. He hasn’t played in a week, which I guess explains the disparity in PAs between him and Espinoza, at the same level but with 60 PAs. Good first 18 PAs though?

Moises Gomez (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 257 PAs, .321/.401/.705, 10.5 BB%, 35 K%, .384 ISO, .434 BABIP, 172 wRC+

AAA: 26 PAs, .130/.231/.261, 11.5 BB%, 38.5 K%, .130 ISO, .167 BABIP, 33 wRC+

Boy his K% really took an increase in AA. I’m not sure he actually fixed any of the problems he had with the Rays, where he had a lot of power but could not make contact. Kind of seems to be the same hitter.

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

Stats (AA): 225 PAs, .233/.327/.446, 12 BB%, 28 K%, .212 ISO, .287 BABIP, 96 wRC+

Definitely not the kind of line you want from a 25-year-old who is repeating AA. To his credit, his K/BB numbers are vastly improved from last year, it’s just that he has a .287 BABIP and not a .478 BABIP so his numbers are quite a bit worse.

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

Stats (AAA): 272 PAs, .229/.283/.410, 5.9 BB%, 24.3 K%, .181 ISO, .259 BABIP, 80 wRC+

He did get off to a really slow start last year, so anything’s possible. But his K/BB numbers are not moving in a positive direction, his BABIP may be his talent level and not actually bad luck, and he doesn’t have as much power as you’d hope given he’s 1B/DH only. There’s not really room for him on the MLB roster either, so hopefully he can have a hot second half and the Cardinals can trade him (possibly with someone else) to someone who can use him and the Cardinals can receive (probably) an arm in return.

Delvin Perez (SS) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 188 PAs, .222/.324/.296, 12.2 BB%. 25.5 K%, .074 ISO, .301 BABIP, 69 wRC+

AAA: 28 PAs, .154/.214/.308, 7.1 BB%, 28.6 K%, .154 ISO, .176 BABIP, 35 wRC+

For those wondering, Perez is in the Plummer situation last year. He needs to be added to the 40 man roster or he becomes a minor league free agent. Unless he learns how to hit by the end of the year, the Cardinals will let him depart to sign with another team in the offseason. I suppose there’s a chance he re-ups to a minor league deal but that seems unlikely at this point.

Ryan Holgate (1B) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 74 PAs, .219/.230/.288, 1.4 BB%, 35.1 K%, .068 ISO, .340 BABIP, 46 wRC+

Nothing but bad news for Holgate fans. First off, the OF prospect became 1B-only this season. Then he did that as an old for the level prospect at Low A. He went on the injured list in June and hasn’t played since.

Connor Capel (OF) - 25-years-old

Stats (AAA): 252 PAs, .271/.361/.466, 11.9 BB%, 16.7 K%, .195 ISO, .300 BABIP, 121 wRC+

I had kind of assumed Capel was going to go the route of Kramer Robertson, where he would get an inkling of MLB time, and DFA’d as soon as the Cardinals needed room. And that may still be the case. But he’s only 25 and has pretty good stats in AAA. Might be something here.

Nick Dunn (2B) - 25-years-old

Stats (AA): 236 PAs, .261/.360/.369, 12.3 BB%, 8.9 K%, .108 ISO, .278 BABIP, 95 wRC+

He is repeating AA for the second time as a 25-year-old and does have a below average hitting line. But on the other hand, more walks than strikeouts? And by a good amount too. Don’t see that everyday. Too bad he has never had a higher than .300 BABIP in the minors.

Osvaldo Tovalin (3B) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 241 PAs, .313/.378/.429, 7.1 BB%, 15.8 K%, .115 ISO, .364 BABIP, 135 wRC+

High A: 62 PAs, .250/.323/.393, 4.8 BB%, 19.4 K%, .143 ISO, .286 BABIP, 100 wRC+

Pretty good 10th round pick in 2021. He was somewhat old for his level in Low A and played appropriately and now seems to be at a normal age for High A. Little worse, but seems to have an idea of what he’s doing.

Jeremy Rivas (SS) - 19-years-old

Stats (Low A): 274 PAs, .261/.322/.306, 7.7 BB%, 21.9 K%, .045 ISO, .339 BABIP, 86 wRC+

So, so young and that may explain his utter lack of power. He appears to be a glove first SS, so he doesn’t really need to hit much. But he does need more than a .045 ISO to become a real prospect.

Jhon Torres (OF) - 22-years-old

Stats (Low A): 68 PAs, .212/.235/.394, 2.9 BB%, 30.9 K%, .182 ISO, .262 BABIP, 78 wRC+

I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with Torres. He started the year on the injured list and in fact hadn’t played a game by May 9th, the first update. He had an 86 wRC+ in High A last year in 420 PAs, but when they activated him, they demoted him to Low A. It may very well be sort of a rehab type thing, letting him “hit” in Low A before they promote him back. But he’s hit worse in Low A than he did at High A. So not a great sign!

Pedro Pages (C) - 23-years-old

Stats (AA): 167 PAs, .232/.341/.413, 14.4 BB%, 33.5 K%, .181 ISO, .325 BABIP, 95 wRC+

AAA: 41 PAs, .139/.220/.139, 9.8 BB%, 26.8 K%, .000 ISO, .192 BABIP, 2 wRC+

Pages has been very bad since the last update. He had a 63 wRC+ with a 36.7 K% in AA when he was promoted to AAA, because Ivan Herrera got promoted to the majors, because Yadier Molina got hurt. When Herrera gets sent back to the minors - or possibly Knizner - Pages will return to AA. Hopefully, he can get his season back on track.

Matt Koperniak (OF) - 24-years-old

Stats (AA): 264 PAs, .245/.328/.354, 9.8 BB%, 19.7 K%, .109 ISO, .283 BABIP, 80 wRC+

He would make a great story. Signed as an undrafted free agent during the 2020 season, Koperniak started last year in Low A and after 58 games, got promoted to High A. He only saw 4 games there before he was sent to AA. So he got to AA quickly but has struggled since.

Aaron Antonini (C) - 23-years-old

Stats (High A): 181 PAs, .222/.311/.359, 9.4 BB%, 18.8 K%, .137 ISO, .237 BABIP, 87 wRC+

AA: 25 PAs, .261/.320/.348, 8 BB%, 16 K%, .087 ISO, .316 BABIP, 76 wRC+

Both catching prospects were doing MUCH better on the last update. Antonini had a 132 wRC+ in High A on May 9th. I am not going to look up how much worse of a line he’s had since but you can get the idea. He was also promoted when Yadi got hurt.

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

Stats (High A): 165 PAs, .302/.370/.369, 9.7 BB%, 18.2 K%, .067 ISO, .373 BABIP, 107 wRC+

Given where plays, he’s going to need to have power. And he just doesn’t seem to have any.

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

Stats (High A): 152 PAs, .209/.372/.243, 17.1 BB%, 15.8 K%, .035 ISO, .258 BABIP, 90 wRC+

Another player with no power. Mendlinger seems to have absurdly good plate discipline, walking more than he strikes out and somehow carrying a .372 OBP with a .209 average. But those lines only work if they come with power. He’s still really young and at a relatively high level so hopefully he can unlock just a little bit of power at some point.

Elijah Cabell (OF) - 23-years-old

Stats (Low A): 114 PAs, .154/.325/.321, 16.7 BB%, 48.2 K%, .077 ISO, .353 BABIP

He continues to strike out at a ridiculous pace and everything he hits goes straight into the ground. He has a 60 GB%. Already pretty old for his level, this can probably be the last update unless he improves.

Paul DeJong (SS) - 28-years-old

Stats (AAA): 179 PAs, .219/.268/.475, 6.7 BB%, 24.6 K%, .256 ISO, .216 BABIP, 86 wRC+

I wrote an article about “What to do with Paul DeJong” and it was premised on the idea that DeJong’s massively improving numbers would get better and made things difficult for the Cardinals. They did not get better and DeJong got hurt. So, for now things are easy for the Cardinals.

Ben DeLuzio (OF) - 27-years-old

Stats (AAA): 265 PAs, .276/.366/.470, 10.2 BB%, 20.4 K%, .194 ISO, .329 BABIP

The Cardinals drafted DeLuzio out of the AAA Rule 5 draft over the offseason. He was one of the guys who got kind of screwed by the pandemic. He was rising through the DBacks system slowly, but had reached AAA by 24-years-old in 2019. He seems to have spent most of 2021 injured. He’s never had a BB rate this high at full-season ball and his K rate is his lowest since Low A. He’s played exclusively at CF so he’s at least made himself interesting.

Julio Rodriguez (C) - 25-years-old

Stats (AA): 125 PAs, .227/.400/.330, 21.6 BB%, 22.4 K%, .103 ISO, .288 BABIP, 106 wRC+

Weird line to see from someone who didn’t walk much before this year. In his last non-injured year in High A, he had a 5.6 BB%.

Tre Fletcher (OF) has 33 professional plate appearances this year and he’s struck out in 27 of them. That is not a typo. He struck out in all 18 plate appearances he had in Low A.

On Thursday, I’ll cover the pitchers.