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A look at the high minors performances in Cardinals’ system

Mostly players who could make the majors soon

Arizona Fall League Media Day Photo by Zachary BonDurant/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The MLB season is over, so naturally I’m going to talk about the minor leagues. Back in the day, the AAA season ended in early September and players could call up anybody from the 40 man roster to play in September. They tightened those restrictions to 28 players and because they still wanted fresh and MLB ready guys to replace anyone injured, the AAA season now ends near the end of the MLB regular season. The AAA playoffs ended yesterday! (Which the Memphis Redbirds did not make)

Let’s get started, because there are a lot of names:

Tink Hence (#3 prospect by VEB)

Stats (High A): 11 GS, 41.2 IP, 27.9 K%, 7.3 BB%, 44.3 GB%, 2.81 ERA/3.48 FIP/3.26 xFIP

AA: 12 GS, 54.1 IP, 22.2 K%, 9.2 BB%, 39.1 GB%, 5.47 ERA/4.98 FIP/4.61 xFIP

As much as I enjoy sharing great stats and not needing to provide context, context makes Hence’s 2023 performance much more impressive. Firstly, if he played the entire year in High A, aside from outrage that he was never promoted, you’d probably not have any reservations about him being a future ace. But his line in AA is more or less average. The average ERA in the Texas League is 4.79 and since FIP is meant to mirror ERA, he’s roughly average with a bit of a home problem and a low LOB%. If the average ERA was 4.00, you would be thrilled with a 4.20 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, and 4.68 ERA. Well it’s the same season in a different run environment.

He’ll probably start the year in AA next year and get promoted to Memphis at some point. I would not expect him to contribute to the starting rotation next year, though potentially the bullpen.

Tekoah Roby (#64 prospect by Fangraphs)

Stats (AA): 14 GS, 58.1 IP, 28.9 K%, 6.3 BB%, 38.6 GB%, 4.63 ERA/3.54 FIP/3.59 xFIP

I combined his stats with the Frisco RoughRiders (awesome minor league team name) and the Springfield Cardinals. We haven’t seen the last of Roby either. He will be adding innings through the Arizona Fall League. In fact, he’s pretty much the perfect AFL player. Right in between AA and AAA who will benefit from more playing time.

Roy Garcia (22-years-old, RHP)

Stats (Low A): 10 G, 17.2 IP, 26.3 K%, 15.8 BB%, 38.6 GB%, 2.04 ER/4.31 FIP/4.20 xFIP

High A: 15 G, 24 IP, 34.4 K%, 7.5 BB%, 52.8 GB%, 1.88 ERA/1.71 FIP/2.54 xFIP

AA: 18 G, 22.1 IP, 23.9 K%, 14.2 BB%, 48.5 GB%, 8.46 ERA/4.99 FIP/5.08 xFIP

Quite the story within these stats, huh? Not quite sure why I never posted his stats in the A ball section, probably too many players to cover, but Garcia repeated Low A to start this season and in fact his K/BB numbers were actually better last year. Then, everything clicked in High A for whatever reason, and he struggled but more or less held his own at his third level of the year in AA. Interesting reliever, in any case.

Matt Svanson (24-years-old, acquired in Paul DeJong trade)

Stats (High A): 24 G, 29.1 IP, 31.3 K%, 9.6 BB%, 56.3 GB%, 1.23 ERA/2.48 FIP/3.27 xFIP

AA (with Cards): 15 G, 21 IP, 29.1 K%, 5.8 BB%, 66 GB%, 3.00 ERA/2.45 FIP/2.97 xFIP

Well, that’s exciting. Svanson got promoted after the trade and pitched better at a higher level which usually doesn’t happen. He will be a part of the bullpen depth next year, assuredly.

Alex Cornwell (24-years-old, LHP)

Stats (High A): 15 G, 13 GS, 20.6 K%, 4.4 BB%, 54 GB%, 2.94 ERA/3.07 FIP/3.40 xFIP

AA: 7 GS, 36.2 IP, 20.9 K%, 5.4 BB%, 60.6 GB%, 2.70 ERA/3.45 FIP/3.88 xFIP

There are reasons to be skeptical. The sample size isn’t there for AA and he’s 24. But if he managed to do what he did for a full season in AA, there’d be some reason to think he could have a chance to start. As it stands, I think he has a good shot to be a reliever in the majors, especially being a lefty. Not bad for a 15th round pick.

Connor Lunn (24-years-old, RHP)

Stats (AA): 25 G, 23 GS, 130 IP, 20 K%, 5.6 BB%, 34.6 GB%, 4.71 ERA/4.42 FIP/4.59 xFIP

See, it’s almost unfair that I show Hence first and at this point in the article, you are fully aware that Lunn’s stats are decent. He’s still 24 and repeating AA, so he’s not exactly on my radar to make an MLB impact quite yet. But he at least bounced back from a poor showing in AA last year.

Chandler Redmond (26-years-old, 1B)

Stats (AA): 550 PAs, .256/.375/.503, 14.7 BB%, 30.4 K%, .247 ISO, .327 BABIP, 129 wRC+

Redmond has to be at least a little frustrated that he made it to AA in his second professional season and is still stuck there. I imagine he’ll get a chance to Luken Baker the AAA next season, although it does appear his contact issues will be a problem as his K% actually rose from repeating AA from last year. Not what you want to see at his age.

Noah Mendlinger (22-years-old, 3B/OF)

Stats (AA): 95 G, 401 PAs, .299/.422/.393, 13.7 BB%, 10.7 K%, .093 ISO, .331 BABIP, 127 wRC+

This is not a comparison that will do Mendlinger any favors, but he is giving me that Matt Carpenter, that Brendan Donovan vibe. I got the Carpenter vibe from Donovan after his first pro season. And I’m not saying Mendlinger will be either. Just that elite eye who keeps performing. And gets literally no attention whatsoever as a prospect. I get it, because he has no power. I’m not sure if the Cardinals believe in him, but let’s put it this way: he was primarily a 3B last year, and this year, got 73 games in the outfield, his first time in the outfield. They are priming for a utility role.

Victor Scott II (22-years-old, OF)

Stats (High A): 66 G, 308 PAs, .282/.365/.398, 9.1 BB%, 16.9 K%, .117 ISO, .338 BABIP, 117 wRC+

AA: 66 G, 310 PAs, .323/.373/.450, 5.8 BB%, 14.5 K%, .128 ISO, .362 BABIP, 119 wRC+

I just want you all to know that you did not rank him in your top 20 prospects. On the final vote, he got 11% of the vote, behind four other guys. I share my own rankings, and I made two smart moves: I put Scott at 17th, and Bedell at 16. I also put Connor Thomas 9th and Austin Love 20th, so you win some, you lose some. Combined, Scott had 95 steals to 14 caught stealing.

Pedro Pages (24-years-old, C)

Stats (AA): 117 G, 497 PAs, .267/.362/.443, .177 ISO, 11.9 BB%, 19.3 K%, .305 BABIP, 113 wRC+

These stats do not show Pages’ greatest attribute: his defense. The only real stat I can share there is that Pages caught 38% of base stealers this year. They attempted a lot of steals off him too, so he caught 47 guys stealing. With the bat, he significantly cut down on his K rate while improving his walk rate.

Mike Antico (25-years-old, OF)

Stats (AA): 545 PAs, .265/.350/.447, 9.9 BB%, 23.1 K%, .183 ISO, .322 BABIP, 110 wRC+

It is not a terribly great sign, in my opinion, for a team who is fairly aggressive with call-ups, for them to not call Antico up once. He also mostly played the same as last year with a better BABIP, which is obviously important, but his K rate and BB rate basically stayed the same. Old for his level and repeating the level.

Gordan Graceffo (23-years-old, VEB’s #4 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 21 G, 18 GS, 86 IP, 20.9 K%, 11.6 BB%, 41.8 GB%, 4.92 ERA/4.69 FIP/5.21 xFIP

Definitely a disappointing season, but it was derailed pretty quickly by an injury. He missed two months after making just five starts. That affected at least one of his starts (the one immediately preceding his trip to the injured list when he gave up 6 in 5 IP) and I’m not sure he ever quite got his mojo this season. Graceffo really puts into perspective how young Liberatore is, they are the same age. And Liberatore has three years experience at either the AAA or MLB level.

Ivan Herrera (23-years-old, VEB’s #6 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 375 PAs, .297/.451/.500, 20 BB%, 20.5 K%, .203 ISO, .371 BABIP, 147 wRC+

If Herrera isn’t a top 100 prospect, it’s prospect fatigue. Look at those stats! He’s a 23-year-old catcher! Now, the walk rate is almost certainly influenced by the ABS, but he still had a near 14% BB rate in his last two seasons. He has incredible patience. We should hold onto this guy.

Michael McGreevy (22-years-old, VEB’s #9 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 24 GS, 134.1 IP, 18 K%, 6.2 BB%, 52.4 GB%, 4.49 ERA/4.52 FIP/4.37 xFIP

McGreevy essentially repeated what he did in AA last year in AAA this year. If he adjusts as quickly to AAA as he did in AA this year - when he made three fantastic starts before getting promoted - he is likely getting MLB starts next year. If he’s successful, he’s not walking people and getting groundballs.

Moises Gomez (24-years-old, VEB’s #10 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 567 PAs, .232/.293/.457, 6.9 BB%, 31.7 K%, .226 ISO, .287 BABIP, 79 wRC+

I thought this ranking would age badly, but I didn’t think it would rank this badly. And sure he’s still just 24, he could redeem that ranking later on. He just strikes out too much. He cut his K rate technically, but it also came with his lowest BB rate since he was 19, so that’s not a tradeoff that is actually making him better.

Connor Thomas (25-years-old, VEB’s #14 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 21 G, 17 GS, 94.1 IP, 15.7 K%, 7 BB%, 50.9 GB%, 5.53 ERA/4.57 FIP/4.74 xFIP

What a weird trajectory he has. He made it to AAA at just 23-years-old, pitched fairly well. And now he’s on his second straight season of declining numbers despite repeating a level. Thomas also had injuries derail his season, moreso than Graceffo.

Guillermo Zuñiga (24-years-old, VEB’s #18 prospect)

Stats (AAA): 29 G, 30.2 IP, 25.3 K%, 13.7 BB%, 31.4 GB%, 7.63 ERA/5.95 FIP/5.92 xFIP

This is not completely unexpected. He didn’t pitch particularly well in AA last year for the Dodgers. There is still a stats versus stuff disparity with Zuñiga and the hope is that they will get closer together.

Sem Robberse (21-years-old, acquired in Hicks trade)

Stats (AA): 18 GS, 88.2 IP, 23.1 K%, 8.9 BB%, 42.7 GB%, 4.06 ERA/4.61 FIP/4.12 xFIP

AAA: 8 G, 7 GS, 35.1 IP, 26.2 K%, 14.3 BB%, 38.9 GB%, 4.84 ERA/5.58 FIP/4.84 xFIP

Slightly misleading AAA line or at least it doesn’t tell the whole story. In his last three starts, Robberse struck out 25 batters to 8 walks in 16.1 IP. He also allowed just four earned runs combined. In fact, of his 19 earned runs, 5 were in his last four appearances, the other 14 were in his first four appearances. Maybe he figured something out.

Adam Kloffenstein (22-years-old, acquired in Hicks trade)

Stats (AA): 17 GS, 89 IP, 27.6 K%, 8.9 BB%, 51.3 GB%, 3.24 ERA/3.47 FIP/3.37 xFIP

AAA: 9 G, 8 GS, 39 IP, 21.2 K%, 12.7 BB%, 45.2 GB%, 3.00 ERA/5.78 FIP/5.60 xFIP

Kloffenstein was not very good in AA last year before doing what he did last year. Again, another case where if a player adjusts successfully to the level the same way they did the previous level, Cards have a future starter in the mix.

Andre Granillo (23-years-old, RHP)

Stats (AA): 44 G, 55 IP, 31.2 K%, 10.8 BB%, 28.5 GB%, 4.42 ERA/3.91 FIP/4.02 xFIP

AAA: 9 G, 13.1 IP, 26.2 K%, 20 BB%, 15.2 GB%, 6.08 ERA/6.12 FIP/7.05 xFIP

Well, we might just have a future Gio Gallegos on our hands. I’m referring of course to the utter lack of groundballs. He allowed 2 homers in his 13 innings and it was borderline lucky. Still a lot of swing-and-miss in his game.

Ryan Loutos (24-years-old, RHP)

Stats (AAA): 48 G, 71.2 IP, 24.1 K%, 11.3 BB%, 46.8 GB%, 6.40 ERA/4.24 FIP/4.66 xFIP

It’s interesting how relievers are used in the minor leagues. They prep them as if they will throw more than an inning per appearance and then very rarely is that how relievers are actually used. Nothing else to add.

Kyle Leahy (26-years-old, RHP)

Stats (AAA): 46 G, 83.1 IP, 23.8 K%, 10.1 BB%, 47.8 GB%, 6.26 ERA/5.18 FIP/4.57 xFIP

Leahy did start four games, but again lot of innings per appearance. Leahy is in the same category as Zuñiga, with better stuff than results so far.

Thomas Saggesse (21-years-old, acquired in Montgomery trade)

Stats (AA): 567 PAs, .318/.385/.551, 8.6 BB%, 22.9 K%, .233 ISO, .379 BABIP, 142 wRC+

Saggesse did play 13 games in AAA and for the first time in his pro career, he did not hit. He had a 51 wRC+. But 13 games. I also did not realize Saggesse was THIS young.

Cesar Prieto (24-years-old, acquired in the Flaherty trade)

Stats (AA): 249 PAs, .364/.406/.476, 6 BB%, 6.8 K%, .113 ISO, .379 BABIP, 144 wRC+

AAA: 291 PAs, .288/.334/.419, 5.2 BB%, 12 K%, .131 ISO, .310 BABIP, 88 wRC+

You see the downside in his profile in his AAA performance. If the BABIP isn’t high, the batting line is probably not very good. Prieto also brings likely below average defense, which hinders his potential even if his bat is above average.

And there you have it.