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Walker, Winn are VEB’s top two prospects. Who will be voted #3?

I’m pretty sure I know how this will go, but we will see.

NL Fall Stars v AL Fall Stars Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The fans have voted! The Cardinals’ #1 prospect, to the surprise of nobody, was Jordan Walker. It seems I correctly assumed he would be voted the #1 pick and I did save myself a post by combining the #1 and #2 prospects. That will be the last time I do that, as I cannot possibly assume any further picks. Way too risky.

While the #2 prospect did end up going as expected, I was a little surprised at just how close the results ended up being. Which confirms that I can’t assume who will be picked going forward. While Walker won with 87% of the vote - as close to a consensus as we’ll get in the voting I imagine - Winn won with 44% of the vote. He narrowly beat Tink Hence who received 41%. Now you may be thinking - well now we know how #3 is going to go, and you may be right, but some Winn voters may not think Hence is the #3 prospect. So we’ll see.

Last time, I only listed the seven prospects who made a top 100 from at least one publication. That was the only criteria for making the initial vote. Now that two names are removed, and the picks will start to become a little less obvious, I am going to begin expanding the amount of players to vote for. I suspect the newly added names will not actually factor much in the voting immediately, but you never know.

I am going to add two names for the next several votes, until it maxes out at 10 players. Then I’ll add one each time to replace the latest pick. Which means you get seven names to pick from again. How will I land at these two names? Gut feeling I guess. I had to ask myself: Does this player have even a small chance of being the pick?

And ultimately, if one were to talk themselves into a surprise pick who isn’t in the top 100 by any publication, I suspect it would largely be for ceiling. Or at least the unknown. The possibilities are endless because there’s barely any information to use. And in the case of one pick, no information at all, at least statistically: first round pick Connor Hjerpe. In the second case, we only have Dominican Summer League stats: infielder Jonathan Mejia.

Final note: for the first vote, I just listed the prospects in roughly the order that national publications viewed them. In the interest of removing primacy bias, I will now list them in alphabetical order. Also if I put them in the order I add them to the list, it’ll be clear how they’re viewed which may also impact the voting.

Also a change - I am adding the scouting of each player by Fangraphs. This is purely a convenience thing and not out of a preference for Fangraphs scouting. I am already on their page to look at their stats. If you didn’t know, scouting is graded on a 20 to 80 scale. 50 is average. 40 is one deviation below average. 60 is one deviation above. Essentially highlighting how rare their skill is compared to everyone else.

And you’ll also see two numbers. The first is what they are now, the second number is their potential. For example, Jordan Walker has 55 game power, which is a little above average, but 80 potential game power, which you literally can’t get higher than. It’s a handy little tool that can help tell you both where they are now, their ultimate potential, and how close they are to reaching that. I’m not going to list the future value, because it’s not super useful to be honest on a list like this and mostly just serves to tell you how good of a prospect they are. And we’re trying to do that ourselves!

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

We’re both familiar with Burleson and not that familiar. The reason is that Burleson had his MLB debut but didn’t really show much in the majors that would suggest how good of a prospect he is. It is worth pointing out though that Burleson did manage to make better contact than his numbers suggest - he had a .322 xwOBA. ZiPS is projecting a .321 wOBA which translates to a 111 wRC+. We’d all feel better about Burleson if he did that at the majors, no?

That said, much like Juan Yepez, unless he really, really mashes, his glove might make a bigger difference. Because if he’s bad enough defensively, he won’t be all that valuable unless he is really elite with the bat. If he can even come close to average defensively, that would make a huge, huge difference.

Gordon Graceffo (SP) - 23-years-old

Acquired: 5th round of 2021 Draft, 151st overall

Stats (AA): 18 GS, 93.2 IP, 21.9 K%, 6.3 BB%, 45.3 GB%, 3.94 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 4.63 xFIP

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

If you’re wondering why Graceffo is such a good prospect with seemingly mediocre stats, there’s two pieces of information you should probably know. The first is the extreme hitter’s environment that the Springfield Cardinals play in. It is very difficult to be a pitcher in that league. The second is the scouting above - he has four pitches that are already average with average command and he has the potential to have four above average pitches.

In case you missed it, Graceffo talked with J.P., Blake, and guest Kyle Reis on the VEB podcast recently. If you want to learn more about him, highly recommended.

Tink Hence (SP) - 20-years-old

Acquired: 2nd round of 2020 Draft, 63rd overall

Stats (Low A): 16 GS, 52.1 IP, 41.5 K%, 7.7 BB%, 55.1 GB%, 1.38 ERA, 1.59 FIP, 1.94 xFIP

The main question with Hence is how exactly aggressive will they be with him? He was so absurdly dominant in Low A that the only reason he wasn’t promoted was because they had a plan and they stuck with it.

I suspect they will stick to their plan in this upcoming season, which evidently involves sending him to Springfield. Which makes sense. He was sent to the AFL, and though he was in the bullpen, he still had 9 strikeouts to 4 walks with a 2.16 ERA in those innings. High A might have been enough of a challenge, and they may want to keep him in one place all year. What is his innings goal for this year? I suspect at least 80, and possibly approaching 100. That would put him in line to have a mostly normal - though not completely unleashed - starter’s workload in the MLB by 2025.

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

Since Fangraphs does not currently have a Fangraphs page for Hjerpe, I do not have the scouting information on him, so I was forced to go to another source: our very own Blake Newberry, writing at The Cardinal Nation website, who provided the scouting information. If you want to buy into Hjerpe, I do recommend this piece who argues Hjerpe is a pitching unicorn and the best value in the draft (this was written before the draft)

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 haven’t made a habit of looking at the scouting, but that speed one threw me, but I guess it makes sense. The wear and tear of catchers leads to decreased speed. You don’t really hear about fast catchers and to the extent that you do, they’re usually still just average by sprint speed. Still an odd thing.

The scouting more or less reflects his current status: probably good at hitting, the fielding needs to improve, but no reason to think it’ll be a problem long-term.

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

If Liberatore were to ever reach that 70 command potential, it’s not going to matter that his fastball is just a 45. That will be the true test for Liberatore. His fastball needs to improve, yes, but the results will improve if he improves his command. Let’s hope that a possible reason for Liberatore’s struggles in AAA were because he and the Cardinals placed a bit more emphasis on improving his pitches than they were with the cold hard results.

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 added two players with very little statistical resumes, but they couldn’t be more different. Hjerpe is supposed to be a fast riser like Michael Wacha and Zack Thompson. So while technically he hasn’t accrued any stats, he stands a good chance of finishing the year in High A. Mejia probably won’t see High A, best case, until late 2024, and even then he’ll likely be starting the next season in High A as well, with a plan for him to spend most of the year there. Hjerpe might already have made his MLB debut by then. (This is not something I would expect by any means).

Being so far away from the majors explains why his current scouting numbers are so low. And I’m not real sure how useful it is anyway. He’s 18. He might find power while in the minors, that 45 potential power means just about nothing.

And there you go. I feel pretty good about my selections. We’ll see if the voting is surprising or exactly as expected.


Who is the Cardinals #3 prospect?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Alec Burleson, 1B/OF
    (74 votes)
  • 22%
    Gordon Graceffo, SP
    (152 votes)
  • 57%
    Tink Hence, SP
    (386 votes)
  • 2%
    Connor Hjerpe, SP
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    Ivan Herrera, C
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    Matthew Liberatore, SP
    (32 votes)
  • 0%
    Jonathan Mejia, SS
    (3 votes)
676 votes total Vote Now