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Graceffo is your #4 prospect. Who is the #5 prospect?

With the top four, near-consensus top 100 prospects out of the way, it’s a new ballgame.

Springfield Cardinals v Amarillo Sod Poodles Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

For some odd reason, I had expected a closer result for the #4 prospect. Oh sure I had my logic. Gordon Graceffo was a distant 2nd to Tink Hence in the previous vote and only separated himself from Alec Burleson by a measly 11%. What I probably should have considered is that most of the Tink votes were going to go to Graceffo. So Graceffo is the #4 prospect. Here’s the list so far:

  1. Jordan Walker (87% of the vote)
  2. Masyn Winn (44%)
  3. Tink Hence (56%)
  4. Gordon Graceffo (58%)

The only real competition so far as been for that #2 slot, with Winn beating Hence by a few percentage points. Otherwise, the readers have been pretty united as to who should occupy the next slot. At the risk of making the wrong prediction again, I think that may change now. To date, Graceffo is missing from the Baseball America Top 100, but otherwise the first four are consensus top 100 prospects among MLB, ESPN, BA, and the MLB website. Nobody else featured in more than one top 100. There is a lot more debate to be had among the rest of the prospects.

As far as who I decided to add, it was a tougher decision. It’s difficult to figure out who is going to click with voters and who won’t. And instead of trying to guess who would be the #12 and #13 prospects (or higher), I realized the next two votes would add four players, and just focused on which four players that should be. I was able to whittle it down to five players, and unless I change my mind, those five should be the next five additions.

But who for the first two? The order isn’t particularly important as I would be shocked if any of them became a top 7 prospect. However, I do have a little bit of a clue as to how voters vote, and luckily enough there are prospects who somewhat parallel prospects already on the vote. Thus, the next two adds are Moises Gomez and Joshua Baez, two very different kinds of prospects who... are very alike at the same time.

Feel free to skip this part if you’ve already read it or understand how scouting is graded, but if you don’t, this is necessary to understand it. Scouting is graded on a 20 to 80 scale, with 50 being average. 40 is one standard deviation below average, 60 is one above. It’s meant to grade the rarity of their skill in that category. You’ll see two numbers, the first of which is their scouting grade right now and the second number is their potential. It’s meant to show where they are now, and how close they are to reaching their potential.

I’ll use Jordan Walker as an example again, because it’s fun. His actual power is graded at 55 right now and his potential is 80. 55 is marginally above average power and 80 is Aaron Judge. You will not see any 80s in any category moving forward. You might not even see 70s.

Joshua Baez (OF) - 20-years-old

Acquired: 2nd Round of 2021 Draft, 54th overall

Stats (Low A): 79 PAs, .286/.418/.540, 13.9 BB%, 38 K%, .254 ISO, .484 BABIP, 170 wRC+

Scouting: 20/40 Hit, 25/60 Game Power, 60/70 Raw Power, 50/40 Speed, 40/50 Field

Baez so far has a huge hole in his swing and taking the scouting information at face value, he will always have a hole in his swing. He will always have swing-and-miss in his game. But that can be overcome if he’s a decent fielder and has genuine 60 game power. Hence, his placement on prospect lists.

Alec Burleson (1B/OF) - 24-years-old

Acquired: 2nd round of 2020 Draft, 70th overall

Stats (AAA): 470 PAs, .331/.372/.532, 6.2 BB%. 14.3 K%, .201 ISO, .350 BABIP, 137 wRC+

Scouting (FG): 45/55 Hit, 30/40 Game Power, 50/50 Raw Power, 30/30 Speed, 30/45 Fielding

I said it in the last post, I’ll say it again: I think Burleson likely has better than a 45 hit tool right now and I’m a little flabbergasted at the idea that he doesn’t. Everything else about his scouting makes sense, that does not to me. He doesn’t strike out, and he’s not likely to strike out much. My main concerns are his abilities to take a walk and power. If he goes wrong as an MLB hitter, that’s where it will come from. Especially in today’s age, where a good hit tool can be a .260 average and an 18% K rate.

Moises Gomez (OF) - 24-years-old

Acquired: Signed as minor league free agent in November 2021

Stats (AAA): 244 PAs, .266/.340/.541, 10.2 BB%, 34.4 K%, .275 ISO, .353 BABIP, 128 wRC+

Scouting: 30/35 Hit, 40/50 Game Power, 60/60 Raw Power, 40/40 Speed, 40/40 Defense

I said above that Gomez and Baez are both very different as prospects and also very alike. They have the same central issue, which is they can’t stop swinging and missing. When Gomez first exploded on the scene, I was encouraged because his K rate was manageable, but as the season went on, it ticked up and up and up and pretty much ended up where it was when he was in Tampa Bay’s system.

But his power had mostly been missing in Tampa, and it sure exploded here. If Gomez is to succeed at the MLB level, it will almost entirely be because of power. If you’re going to pick only one thing, power sure can overcome a lot of other problems.

Cooper Hjerpe (SP) - 21-years-old

Acquired: 1st round of the 2022 MLB Draft, 22nd overall

Stats (College): 17 GS, 103.1 IP, 161 strikeouts, 23 walks, .180 BAA, 2.53 ERA

Scouting (TCN): 50/60 Fastball, 45/55 Slider, 45/55 Change, 45/55 Command

One thing I’m curious about with Hjerpe is that most starting pitcher prospects have four pitches, even if all four of them aren’t above average. Most starting pitchers out of college also do not need four pitches. They develop on their weaker pitchers while in the minor league system. So will he be adding a fourth pitch? Or is he going to rely on three strong offerings and that’ll be enough, because it really sometimes is.

Ivan Herrera (C) - 23-years-old

Acquired: Signed as amateur free agent out of Panama in July 2016

Stats (AAA): 278 PAs, .268/.374/.396, 13.7 BB%, 18.7 K%, .128 ISO, .318 BABIP, 111 wRC+

Scouting: 50/60 Hit, 40/45 Game Power, 50/50 Raw Power, 50/40 speed, 40/50 fielding

I wanted to see if my belief in Herrera’s hitting was justified, so I checked Carson Kelly’s history to compare the two. Up until last season, Herrera was pretty consistently a better hitter in the minors and it actually wasn’t particularly close. Kelly took the edge in his age 22 season (120 wRC+), but he took a step backward in his age-23 season (107 wRC+ with significantly less power (.176 to .126 ISO)

They are actually pretty similar hitters, the thing that makes Kelly a not very good hitter is that he runs really low BABIPs, with just a .252 career BABIP in his MLB career. So this comparison is actually a good one, because a Carson Kelly with between 40 and 50 speed should run reasonable BABIPs and be a decent hitter. Belief justified.

Matthew Liberatore (SP) - 23-years-old

Acquired: Traded with Edgardo Rodriguez for Randy Arozarena, Jose Martinez, 2020 supplemental 1st round pick

Stats (AAA): 22 GS, 115 IP, 23.4 K%, 8.3 BB%, 36.4 GB%, 5.17 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 4.27 xFIP

Scouting: 40/45 Fastball, 50/55 Slider, 60/60 Curveball, 45/55 Change, 55/70 Command

I’m oversimplifying, but Liberatore has somewhat become a stats versus scouting guy. That’s not exactly right as there are people on this very website who use scouting to defend Liberatore in the comments, but Liberatore’s best argument for being high on this list is in the projections, frankly.

He has really good projections. ZiPS projects him as a 2 WAR starter in 26 starts, which basically means they already see him as an above average starter. You may not completely buy into that, but it’s not coming from nowhere. And that’s hard to ignore.

Michael McGreevy (SP) - 22-years-old

Acquired: 1st round of the 2021 MLB Draft, 18th overall

Stats (AA): 20 GS, 99 IP, 18.4 K%, 6.3 BB%, 48.7 GB%, .319 BABIP, 4.64 ERA/4.85 FIP/4.49 xFIP

Scouting: 40/45 Fastball, 50/55 Slider, 45/45 Curveball, 30/50 Change, 45/55 Command

One thing I think people miss about McGreevy is that he’s really young. Both Graceffo and McGreevy were drafted in the 2021 draft, but McGreevy is a year younger. He was drafted as a 20-year-old. He threw 7.2 total innings in the 2021 season, and has made 20 starts in AA and could soon be in AAA. There’s a reason he was a first rounder, but that is still a fast ascent.

He basically got thrown into the fire of the Texas League hitting environment and while he wasn’t great, he survived with respectable stats. McGreevy’s stats were not meaningfully different than Graceffo (the more advanced pitching information was however different I must add).

Jonathan Mejia (SS) - 18-years-old

Acquired: Signed as amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in January 2022

Stats (DSL): 208 PAs, .267/.418/.479, 15.9 BB%, 23.1 K%, .212 ISO, .348 BABIP, 145 wRC+

Scouting: 25/60 Hit, 20/45 Game Power, 30/45 Raw Power, 55/55 Speed, 40/55 Fielding

I mentioned above that part of why I chose who I chose was because of parallels already on the list. Which mainly had to do with one guy, a name I’ll share next week. Because I did try my best to compare Mejia to Baez, but I’m not sure they are necessarily suggestive as a parallel. And by that I mean, how people vote on Mejia does not necessarily indicate how they’ll vote on Baez. But that’s also why I chose Baez. Because Mejia has not gotten many votes yet.

Mejia might be the hardest to grade, because he’s the youngest and also maybe the farthest away. But also maybe not. It’s really not hard to imagine him flying past Baez in the coming years. At least by the DSL stats, there is no apparent weakness in his game yet. By the scouting, there really isn’t either. Slightly below average power at SS is not a weakness. That’s the only below average potential.

Connor Thomas (SP) - 25-years-old

Acquired: 5th round of 2019 MLB Draft, 155th overall

Stats (AAA): 25 GS, 135 IP, 17.9 K%, 6.5 BB%, 51 GB%, 5.47 ERA/4.53 FIP/4.29 xFIP

Scouting (N/A): Fangraphs does not have scouting for him

Pretty simple equation with Thomas. How much do you buy into his AFL stats? He struck out over 30% of hitters while walking less than 5% of hitters. He also did this in an extreme hitter’s environment. On the flipside, he pitched worse in AAA in 2022 than he did in his first go-round in 2021. And the AFL is just 25 innings. But also, he mastered the cutter


Who is the Cardinals #5 prospect?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Joshua Baez, OF
    (13 votes)
  • 35%
    Alec Burleson, 1B/OF
    (217 votes)
  • 2%
    Moises Gomez, OF
    (13 votes)
  • 20%
    Connor Hjerpe, SP
    (124 votes)
  • 15%
    Ivan Herrera, C
    (95 votes)
  • 14%
    Matthew Liberatore, SP
    (90 votes)
  • 6%
    Michael McGreevy, SP
    (38 votes)
  • 1%
    Jonathan Mejia, SS
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Connor Thomas, SP
    (10 votes)
607 votes total Vote Now

(maybe) and that’s why he was dominant in the AFL and that was a pitch he hadn’t figured out during the AAA season.

He’s probably a harder placement than most, because at least the young, far away guys is a matter of potential versus likelihood to make the majors. With Thomas, you really just need to figure how much you’re buying into 25 innings.