Now that we are in September, we are starting to gain a strong understanding of which Cardinals breakout prospect are legitimate. The team boasts one of the deepest farm systems in the league featuring 6 top 100 prospects. Four of whom have broken out this year resulting in them making their debuts on the list this season. A stockpile of top prospects this deep will certainly allow the team to make a major trade this winter if they want to improve the roster without splashing the cash in free agency. Although, it also allows Cardinals fans to get excited as to who the next young Cardinals stars might be. So, who are the four prospects that have risen into the top 100 and will they be a part of the Cardinals next core?
Masyn Winn - SS - AA
2022 stats - .290/.362/.483, 445 AB, 34 2B, 12 HR, 53 BB, 107 K, 37 SB
The Cardinals 2020 second round pick has been the team's biggest riser this season going from a non-top 100 prospect coming into the year to currently being ranked as the 54th best prospect on MLBPipeline. He has taken a bit of a step back at AA this season with a triple slash of .266/.345/.449 compared to the .349/.404/.566 slash he posted in 33 games at A+. His slugging percentage has taken a sizable step back at AA, although his HR/AB tally has risen significantly. Winn hit 1 homer in 129 A+ ABs. He has hit 11 long balls in 316 ABs at the AA level. Those numbers are more than respectable for a 20-year-old playing in AA, and it is great to see that kind of uptick in his power numbers. If Winn can start hitting the ball over the fence with more consistency, his ceiling goes from All Star caliber player to a player who can get MVP votes. Winn is certainly going to be a part of the next Cardinals core and will very likely be one of if not the main face of it.
Gordon Graceffo - RHP - AA
2022 stats - 3.25 ERA, 24 GS, 127 ⅓ IP, 28 BB, 123 K, 1.00 WHIP
Graceffo was selected out of Villanova by the Cardinals in the 5th round of the 2021 draft. The Jersey native was not highly regarded as MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 204th best player in the class that year. Based on that ranking the Cardinals did reach on him by quite a bit although it is already looking like a genius move by St. Louis. Graceffo got off to a blistering start at A+ ball this season. In 8 starts the former Wildcat posted a 0.99 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 19/1 K/BB ratio all over the course of 45 ⅔ innings. He has taken a considerable step back though at the AA level. Through 81 ⅔ innings and 16 starts he has an ERA of 4.52, 1.18 WHIP and a 2.9 K/BB ratio. Graceffo is 22 years old, making him 2 and a half years younger than the average AA player so there is an expected learning curve. He certainly has the stuff needed to become a contributor on a big-league staff, although he does need to improve in some areas including his K/BB ratio in order for that to happen.
Alec Burleson - OF - AAA
2022 stats - .328/.370/.532, 427 ABs, 25 2B, 20 HR, 29 BB, 67 K, 4 SB
Burleson’s stock has skyrocketed. He closed last season as the Cardinals 11th best prospect, nowhere near the top 100 overall prospects. Now the 2020 second round pick is the 92nd best prospect in the game on MLBPipeline. His numbers at AAA have taken a complete turn from last season. In 2021 he posted a .234/.310/.357 triple slash along with 4 homers, 7 doubles, 17 walks and 27 strikeouts in 154 plate appearances. Burleson is breaking out in his age 23 season making him about 3 and a half years younger than the average AAA player. It does remain to be seen as to where Burleson will play when he gets to the majors as his glove is not ready yet, although his bat certainly is, and it will allow him to carve out a lengthy big-league career.
Tink Hence - RHP - A
2022 stats - 1.49 ERA, 15 GS, 48 ⅓ IP, 13 BB, 77 K, 0.85 WHIP
The 2020 draft was pretty good to the Cardinals. Along with drafting Burleson and Winn the team also snagged Hence with the 63rd overall pick. He barely pitched last season, only throwing 8 innings at rookie ball and he has not pitched a whole lot this season either, only starting 15 games. Although those games have been dominant, he has faced 189 total batters and has only allowed 1 home run. Hence has done this largely in his age 19 season meaning he’s three years younger than the average age of the players he is facing, which is crucial when evaluating a pitcher, especially one this young. It remains to be seen what level the Cardinals are going to start Hence seeing as he only has 56 ⅓ pro innings under his belt thus far. Although regardless of where the former second rounder starts it is very easy to get excited about his potential as a front-line starting pitcher.