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Tink Hence is your #3 prospect. Who is the #4 prospect?

I suspect it will still be one of the top 100 guys

Salt River Rafters v. Scottsdale Scorpions Photo by Jerry Kime/MLB Photos via Getty Images

There is going to be at least one voting result in this feature that will surprise me. While Masyn Winn was closer to being the #3 prospect than I expected, he still ended up at #2. Close behind him was Tink Hence and as it turns out, that was a good predictor that he would win the #3 spot and handily. Hence won with 56% of the vote with the next highest total getting 23%.

While last vote’s total suggests a two-man race with a clear favorite, I do feel like it could go in more than two directions. So far, the highest the third vote getter has gotten has been just 11%. There’s a good chance the following vote’s third highest vote getter surpasses that. In case you missed it, here are the top prospects according to the VEB community thus far:

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

Who to add to these lists will definitely get harder, but for this round, it was actually pretty easy. I went with the high upside prospects over closer guys because I felt a higher upside guy was necessary to supplant Hence specifically. While that may be true for who ends up becoming the #4 prospect as well, I feel now that we’re 11 names into this process, that I maybe should add some guys pretty close to the majors.

Thus, I’m adding two starting pitchers who may very well see some time in the majors before the 2023 season is over. One of them is a bit more of a longshot, but is pretty consistently placed among the top 10 prospects for the Cards and whom would have been added in the previous vote had I not prioritized upside: Michael McGreevy. And the other actually hasn’t been much of a prospect for most of his minor league career, but whose AFL stats are hard to ignore: Connor Thomas.

Last time I added the scouting information on these guys from Fangraphs, which was purely a convenience thing since I was already on Fangraphs looking at their stats. So quick primer on what that information means. 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.

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’m not going to make a habit of disagreeing with the scouting numbers posted, because I’m not a scout, but I do not really understand how his hit tool is a 45 right now. I believe this scouting information predated his MLB debut, so that’s not why. I could obviously understand not buying into the .331 average, but it’s not like he ran a .400 BABIP to achieve that.

The reason he’s not a better prospect is not because of his hit tool or potential hit tool, but because of the defensive questions that come with him. And this is scouting I do understand - that he might not have the power to reach that next stage of hitter that might be necessary to be valuable with his defensive questions.

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

There seems to be little doubt that Gordon Graceffo will be an MLB pitcher, and there’s a little more doubt, but not much more, that he will be an MLB starter. The question with Graceffo is more about his potential. He has potentially four above average pitches with above average command, which even if he reaches his potential in each category, could still lead to him being an above average pitcher, and not an ace. Or maybe ace is in his future.

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 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

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.

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

Mejia is a very tough prospect to grade at this stage of his career. The main issue is that we have zero idea what his stats in the DSL mean. Not a clue. We know he did well in the DSL, as you can see above. And that would seem to be a prerequisite for sure. But aside from that, doing well in the DSL means not a lot.

It means something that he was a good enough prospect for the Cardinals to pay him $2 million and that he has so far justified that belief, but one only needs to look at Malcolm Nunez’s DSL stats to see that it doesn’t suggest the same thing as great stats in High A or AA. In case you didn’t know, he had a 238 wRC+ in the DSL at the same age as Mejia and now he’s an okay prospect. Which... might be a point in Mejia’s favor too really. Nunez has the disadvantage of being stuck at 1B, and Mejia will at the least get a better positional bump than that.

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

I would love to give you Thomas’s scouting information, but he was such a non-prospect at the midpoint of the 2022 season that... they didn’t bother giving him any scouting grades. And I don’t think it would be super useful if they had. Things have changed a bit. Thomas straight up dominated in the AFL, using a newly mastered pitch - the cutter - that he didn’t really utilize, or utilize well at least, in the AAA season. In fact, in his 2nd attempt at AAA, he clearly pitched worse. There’s a reason he wasn’t listed on Fangraphs.

So well, this may be a bit aggressive to put him here so earlier. It’s kind of a leap of faith based on 25 innings. Some people may buy into those innings, and that may get him votes. That’s why here’s here now.


Who is the Cardinals #4 prospect?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Alec Burleson, 1B/OF
    (90 votes)
  • 57%
    Gordon Graceffo, SP
    (330 votes)
  • 8%
    Connor Hjerpe, SP
    (46 votes)
  • 6%
    Ivan Herrera, C
    (37 votes)
  • 7%
    Matthew Liberatore, SP
    (44 votes)
  • 1%
    Michael McGreevy, SP
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Jonathan Mejia, SS
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Connor Thomas, SP
    (12 votes)
570 votes total Vote Now