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Vote on the Cardinals’ best prospect - 2024

The system has weakened with graduations

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, I introduced the VEB top prospects, by having readers vote on ranking the Cardinals’ top prospects. I began that feature in February, and it carried all the way to right before Opening Day. So with the risk of a few of these prospects getting traded by the time this is finished, I am beginning this feature early. Beginning it early also allows me to occasionally write about different topics, if I am so inclined.

Let’s look at last year’s top 20 first.

  1. Jordan Walker
  2. Masyn Winn
  3. Tink Hence
  4. Gordon Graceffo
  5. Alec Burleson
  6. Ivan Herrera
  7. Cooper Hjerpe
  8. Matthew Liberatore
  9. Michael McGreevy
  10. Moises Gomez
  11. Joshua Baez
  12. Leonardo Bernal
  13. Jonathan Mejia
  14. Connor Thomas
  15. Won-Bin Cho
  16. Jimmy Crooks III
  17. Brycen Mautz
  18. Guillermo Zuñiga
  19. Inohan Paniagua
  20. Alec Willis

Jordan Walker and Alec Burleson were up most of the year and Liberatore was pretty close to not being a prospect last year, so all three graduated past these lists. Ivan Herrera and Masyn Winn are debatable. If prospect eligibility mirrored rookie eligibility, Herrera would no longer be a prospect and Winn would. But if Herrera’s not a prospect, Winn’s not a prospect for me. Winn would have been a prospect if the draft pick incentive didn’t exist, so I feel comfortable leaving him off the voting.

So that’s five of the top 8, and luckily the Cardinals received an infusion of talent at the trading deadline, making up for some of this. For the vote for the best overall prospect, last year I simply included any player who was in a top 100 list. I think the beginning of this pre-dates a few top 100 lists, so I’ll just include anyone who has an argument for making a top 100 list, unfortunately as decided by me.

Tink Hence (SP) - 21-years-old

Last Year’s Ranking - 3rd

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

There was talk that Hence would skip High A last season, but instead he made 11 great starts before getting promoted. He both proved why it was a good idea to skip High A while also proving why it was a bad idea. He had few problems in High A, proving he was above that level, but then struggled at AA, proving he was below that level. Well sort of. He basically was average in AA. But the run environment makes it look worse.

It doesn’t always work like this, but typically prospects go one level a year, and that’s especially true for high school draftees. Hence pitched so well in his first 27 professional starts, that he was pushed to a level I don’t think the Cardinals had planned at the start at 2022. But he’ll repeat AA and I’m sure an excellent 11 starts would prompt the impulse to promote him again.

Tekoah Roby (SP) - 22-years-old

LYR: Not in organization

Stats (AA): 14 GS, 58.1 IP, 28.9 K%, 6.3 BB%, 38.8 GB%, 4.63 ERA/3.54 FIP/3.59 xFIP

AFL: 5 GS, 13.2 IP, 28.1 K%, 9.4 BB%, 5.93 ERA

Roby was the fifth best prospect in the Rangers system who missed most of last season to shoulder trouble. But he did manage to return and make four starts for the Cardinals and five starts in the AFL. He made quick work of the AA hitters, but struggled mightily in the AFL. We all know how hard it is to pitch in the AFL, so that isn’t unexpected.

I’m curious on the Cardinals’ 2024 plans for Roby. The midseason injury threw a wrench into things, though he’s not likely a Cardinal without that injury. Roby’s career high in innings is still higher than Hence, but he only threw 72 innings last season. Are his innings managed, or will he get a chance to pitch a full season? Both Hence and Roby have a good case to get promoted to MLB bullpen - with success of course - to help manage their innings and gain exposure to MLB hitters slowly.

Gordon Graceffo (SP) - 24-years-old

LYR: #4

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

I’ll the say the same thing for Graceffo as I did for Hence. He was probably in AAA faster than the Cardinals reasonably expected due to how well he ended up pitching in his first minor league stops. His excellent appearances in the season after being drafted started him in High A for 2022, and his utter domination there got him a promotion to AA after just 8 starts. The Cardinals, in retrospect actually, somewhat aggressively put him in AAA when he was not particularly dominant in AA. I guess I didn’t realize how mediocre looking his AA stats were until now.

In any case, Graceffo got injured midseason so it’s difficult to know how much of these stats could be injury-influenced, or recovering from injury influenced. Maybe some, maybe none. Hopefully, it was a one-year thing and he can have a healthy season next year.

Thomas Saggesse (IF) - 22-years-old

LYR: Not in organization

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

AAA: 63 PAs, .207/.270/.345, 4.8 BB%, 22.2 K%, .138 ISO, .256 BABIP, 51 wRC+

Saggesse was having a very good season for the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers when the Cardinals acquired and then his bat exploded upon arriving to Springfield. The AA stats above are a combination of his two teams. He struggled in AAA, but it was both only 13 games and also he was still 21-years-old.

2024 will represent a fresh start in AAA and a full season to adjust to pitchers. I suspect he could really improve his national rep as a prospect if he performs at AAA, cause it’d be basically impossible to ignore him at that point. He’s on this list, because he might have an argument to be a top 100 prospect, even if I don’t see most sites actually put him on there.

Victor Scott (OF) - 23-years-old

LYR: Not ranked by the readers, but I had him 17th.

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

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

Is Scott maybe an aggressive inclusion here, given his unlikeliness to actually make a top 100? Yes. But I see a hitter who has always been above average hitter, despite the scouting worrying about it, I see a fielder who has the chance to be elite in center field, and I see a baserunner who will steal a lot of bases. He will also be in AAA, so he’s close. That’s when I struggle to imagine I’d have 99 prospects better than him.

And that’s it! Only five guys to vote on. Last year it was seven, and all seven were unquestionably top 100 prospects. This year, that’s only true for two guys. (Of course, this system looks completely different if we call Masyn Winn a prospect, which he technically is).

Poll

Who is the Cardinals’ #1 prospect?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Gordon Graceffo
    (23 votes)
  • 43%
    Tink Hence
    (393 votes)
  • 11%
    Tekoah Roby
    (99 votes)
  • 11%
    Thomas Saggese
    (107 votes)
  • 30%
    Victor Scott II
    (277 votes)
899 votes total Vote Now