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Meet Thomas Saggese

There were a few things I wish I mentioned on Monday, had I known about them

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Wichita Wind Surge v Frisco RoughRiders Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images

I don’t know if I’m going to continue doing this for every prospect the Cardinals got, but I learned certain information about Thomas Saggese (Soo-Jay-see) that I think most fans would love to know. And I learned it after I had already posted about the trade returns of Jordan Montgomery/Chris Stratton and Jordan Hicks. And I was bummed that I couldn’t share that information in the previous post, until I realized I could just write a whole new post.

Saggese went to Carlsbad High School, located in Carlsbad, California, and in his junior season, he batted .422 with 10 homers to win MVP of Diego Avocado West League, which Baseball America tells me is one of the top high school leagues in the country. Unfortunately, his mother had breast cancer and he sacrificed his turn on the showcase circuit to be with her.

Then COVID happened. He played in just 7 games in his senior season and again sadly, his mother died from the disease shortly before the season was cut short. And that’s how the MVP of one of the best high school leagues in the country was completely off the radar heading into the 2020 draft. In an Athletic profile where I learned all this information, one of the scouts who was involved with the pre-draft evaluations called him by far the best human being I’ve ever signed.

Saggese committed to play at Pepperdine University, and according to Saggese, he committed fairly early and there weren’t a lot of offers. And for reasons that I am unclear about, his draft stock built up steam at the last minute. Probably because teams suddenly noticed how well he played his junior year. According to Kiley McDaniel, he had never heard of Saggese two weeks prior to the draft, but learned that he could go as high as the 3rd round as the draft approached.

According to Saggese, his agent told him (via the Rangers) that he would know if he would be drafted by the 2nd round, and when that passed, his agent told him the 3rd round, and by the time the 5th round rolled around, his agent asked him if he would sign at a particular price. He said no. 15 minutes later, he called back and said he changed his mind and he ended up getting drafted by the Rangers.

Now me personally, that’s a decision that I would think about often afterwards. What if I called too late? What if I changed my mind two hours later? If I ever get the chance, I’ll ask him this, but from the two podcasts I’ve watched that he was a guest on, he doesn’t seem to linger on things and I am envious of that. By the way, he signed for $800,000 in the 5th round, which was $424,800 above slot. So this story makes it seem like he settled, but he did pretty well. I suspect he was genuinely intending to go to college.

Drafted as a SS, it was always expected he would move to 2B, because he didn’t have the arm for short. It’s hard to say what the Rangers envisioned, positionally-speaking, because he has never played a primary position. In his first season, he played 22 games at 2B, 24 games at 3B, and 11 games at SS. He played more games at 2B the next season, but still played 30 at 3B and 15 at SS.

When Mozeliak talked about Saggese, he compared his defensive versatility to Brendan Donovan. Donovan didn’t actually start playing all around the field until he reached AA, and also he’s three years younger than Donovan when Donovan reached AA, so he’s got a bit stronger credentials.

That said, and this is where me listening to the podcast comes in handy, he hasn’t played outfield since he was a little kid. On the other hand, in both podcasts I watched, he was asked about his preference on where he likes to play and I can say he does not seem to care. When asked where he feels most comfortable, he says that it’s whichever position he has played the last few games. I can confidently say, without it coming directly from his mouth, that he will play outfield if the Cardinals want him to.

Couple things Cardinals’ fans will really like about him is that he doesn’t wear batting gloves, which I did mention on Monday. He has confirmed that he has in fact peed on his hands before, but in the shower don’t worry. The interviewers gave him an out and he admitted freely and claims it works, but I don’t think it’s a thing he commonly does because he doesn’t get blisters much due to calluses from the constant use of his hands to swing a bat.

He says he likes the grind of baseball. That’s what he loves about it. The practice, the preparation. You know, the things that most people don’t like about baseball. He seems very humble, and when asked what other activities he does besides baseball, he doesn’t really do much else. He was interested in surfing more, at least he was as of September of 2022.

By the way, very strange coincidence that the Rangers’ guys interviewed him six days ago and they actually asked him specifically if he was aware that he might be traded and how did he handle it. He said yeah he has thought about it, but he focuses on the day-to-day and then forgets about it. If you’re interested in the podcast, it’s here. He has a very chill, laid back vibe and it’s really no surprise he’s from Southern California. He doesn’t show up until the middle of it and there are questions about his teammates that probably aren’t interesting to Cardinals’ fans.

I also listened to a Tekoah Roby interview and he was asked who was the funniest guy on the team, and he actually named Saggese. He said on a day-to-day basis, he’s the funniest and also he wasn’t sure if he was trying to be funny. (I don’t have enough to write about Roby at the moment, but he’s a good interview and I know Jason and Blake want him on the podcast.)

A potential nickname, if you guys don’t want to type out Thomas Saggese, is he was sort of ironically called Tommy Flow. I say ironically, because he at least claims it was because he came into the camp with “no swag” and he actually had short hair. His hitting coach convinced him to grow it out, but by the time he interviewed six days ago, he had short hair again. It’s not a great nickname unless he grows out his hair honestly, but it’s certainly easier to type.

I’ve talked about his defense and some of his personal life, and I’ve somehow made it this far without really talking about his hitting, which is why the Cardinals traded for him. He has done nothing but hit. He had a 127 wRC+ in Low A at 19-years-old, 127 wRC+ at High A at 20-years-old, and a 133 wRC+ in AA before being traded. He runs high BABIPs - .351 is his lowest in his professional career, has more pop than either Donovan or fellow bare hand enthusiast Matt Carpenter ever had in their minor league career - his .179 ISO in High A is his lowest.

He doesn’t steal much, but would it surprise you to know he picks his spots well? He has 31 stolen bases throughout his minor league career with just 8 caught stealing. He’s an aggressive swinger, which I do wonder how he’ll adjust when he’s at a league where he can’t BABIP higher than .350. But he hit his first homer already as a Springfield Cardinal yesterday, which gives him 16 on the season. Given his age and performance, really seems like he has a very good chance of being a good MLB hitter.

While Tommy Flow was #17 in Fangraphs’ rankings and I’m not even sure he was ranked by MLB Pipeline, he was voted as the 7th best prospect by the readers of Lone Star Ball. Maybe things other than ball affected that vote, but the people most familiar with the Rangers’ system voted him 7th.

So the Cardinals enter an offseason where they have five viable current or future starters at the middle infield position: Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Masyn Winn, and I would throw Saggese into this group. Cesar Prieto is harder to imagine, but I think that says more about the depth than him. I’ve seen Nick Madrigal comp, although he definitely has more power than Madrigal. And Noah Mendlinger is still in this system as well, who is 22 and hitting for an above average line in AA. Cardinals are STACKED at middle infield organizationally. (and that’s not including Jonathan Mejia)

I bring all this up, because it is a poor idea to get too invested in a middle infield prospect who is technically the farthest away, because a couple of these dudes are getting traded, if I had to guess. The guy with zero MLB success, well that’s probably the best bet. And yet, I don’t know how you can read his story and not root for him to be a Cardinal. I mean hell, the two Cardinals he is most associated with (for me) are Brendan Donovan and Matt Carpenter. Carpenter was two years away from being drafted at Saggese’s age and Donovan at his age struck out 7 times in 18 plate appearances in short season A ball, a league that doesn’t even exist now. And this guy is on the verge of AAA.

So you’re welcome, here’s another guy we can hope won’t get traded.