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Ranking the New Prospects By My Excitement Level

The Cardinals brought in some exciting prospects at the deadline but some excite me more than others.

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals traded for 10 players at the trade deadline and today I want to rank 8 of those 10 in order of how excited I am for them to be in the system. The two players I’m leaving out are Sammy Hernandez (return from the Genesis Cabrera trade) and John King, who’s a major league reliever.

My list starts with two pitchers, but maybe not the two you would expect, and then moves to a hitter that I like a lot. Keep reading to see where I ranked each player and why`.

If you want more on the new guys, I went back and watched a lot of video on each player and then wrote 20 total pages of in-depth scouting reports on the new players over at The Cardinal Nation. We’ve also had plenty of coverage of them here at VEB.

Now, let’s get into the ranking.

#1 - Tekoah Roby

Tekoah Roby is really the only option for me in the top spot because he has legitimate top of the rotation potential. He has one of the better fastball among Cardinals pitching prospects and a devastating curveball that pairs nicely with it.

Those are the two main pitches but he has a solid mid 80s slider with a similar shape to his curveball and a changeup with a lot of run but not a ton of depth. Both are perfectly fine third and four pitches and give him a good four pitch arsenal to go with solid control, as he’s never had a walk rate above 8% in the minors.

That’s the profile of someone who has the potential to be really good. Pair that with the fact that he’s still just 21 years old and in Double-A and Roby becomes probably the second best pitching prospect in the system, behind only Tink Hence. Yes, I have him ahead of Graceffo.

The right-hander gives the Cardinals system a boost of depth and upside and the organization’s pitching pipeline needed that pretty badly. I know there are some arm issues with Roby (shoulder in 2021 and elbow in 2023) but that doesn’t cut down my excitement at all becuase my excitement is based much more on upside and Roby has plenty of that.

#2 - Zack Showalter

Zack Showalter will probably get thought of as the third piece in the Jack Flaherty deal but that’s unfair to him as he’s probably the best piece the Cardinals got in that deal. Prieto and Rom are fine upper level prospects without a ton of upside but Showalter is the exact opposite - a 19-year-old pitching prospect in Single-A with a ton of upside.

That’s why I have him ranked second here.

The other reason is because I love his fastball, It’s a mid 90s offering that comes out a low release. It doesn’t have a ton of riding life but the low vertical approach angle does help offset that and helps the pitch miss bats and play up in the zone. He pairs that with a promising looking breaking ball that looks to have inconsistent sharpness at times but does have a good shape and enough velocity (low 80s) to be effective.

I’ll also note is that his mechanics are also super weird but they do help him hide the ball pretty well. Here’s a video so you can see for yourself.

That fastball/slider combo really his bread-and-butter right now. The righty does have a changeup that he’ll use a little bit but his command of it is a mess. The pitch gets a lot of run but not a ton of depth and often misses pretty heavily to the arm side and nowhere near the zone.

The changeup is a feel pitch, though, and this is a guy who likely never really had to throw it much in high school as he could get by with his fastball/slider combination. He simply needs to throw more at this stage of his career to try and build the feel that he lacks. If that doesn’t work, he seems capable of spinning the ball well enough to add a curveball and a cutter could also be an option.

I’m less concerned about the third pitch at this point, though, and more focused on the arm talent. Showalter is already having success in Single-A and missing a ton of bats and I’m really excited to see how he progresses.

The last thing I’ll add is that while Showalter was an 11th round pick, he received a signing bonus of $440,000 to forego his commitment to South Florida. That’s equivalent to a late-4th round signing bonus.

#3 - Thomas Saggese

I love watching Saggese hit and I’ll argue that he’s a better hitter than scouting reports give him credit for. You could garner that knowledge from scouting the stat line, which tells you that he’s never been worse than a 27% above league average at every level. He’s also been young for every level which is important to factor in too.

Saggese doesn’t really stand out in one area. He makes enough contact but he doesn’t have better than average bat-to-ball skills, at least from a pure contact rate perspective. He has decent power, especially for his size, but it’s probably nothing better than average or maybe above average.

He’s also a bit of an aggressive swinger so he doesn’t take a ton of walks though he will walk at a decent enough clip. So why am I excited about him? Because he’s just a good hitter. I’ve gone back and watched a lot of his games (and that’s true for everyone I discuss in this article) and the first thing that jumped out to me was how many non-fastballs Saggese sees.

There’s really no such thing as a fastball count when he’s at the plate which means he can’t really sit on a 2-0 fastball over the plate like other hitters can. For starters, that’s a sign of just how good of a hitter he’s been but it’s the fact that Saggese has still dominated Double-A pitching despite being pitched around that impresses me. He’s simply a really solid breaking ball hitter.

I also love that he consistently elevates the ball as that really helps him get to his power in game. And that brings me to my next point. For someone with a fly ball oriented swing, Saggese does a really good job at hitting high pitches. He doesn’t have the same weakness that we’ve seen with Nolan Gorman and Paul DeJong.

So there’s really not a situation or pitching matchup in which I would doubt Saggese. The guys just flat out hits and I love it.

#4 - Adam Kloffenstein

I love watching Adam Kloffenstein pitch. He pitches off his cutter, which is unusual, but even beyond that, everything moves. He’ll start a hitter with a cutter but then he can follow up with a sinker or a slider or a curveball or a changeup. Or he can then throw his four-seamer with a little extra juice to try and take him by surprise.

Kloffenstein is just a fun pitcher. His slider gets a ton of whiffs and may be the only above average pitch in his arsenal but his curveball and changeup can also miss some bats.

He’s a player that I think is really underrated by some of the prospect ranking outlets and I think he’s a lot closer to Robberse than most rankings give him credit for. I get the hesitations as he doesn’t have standout stuff by any means but his sequencing, ability to throw any pitch in any count, and ability to throw a bunch of different looks at hitters really helps his stuff play up. He does get a lot of whiffs with his slider and can miss bats with his curveball and changeup too.

I’m excited to see how Kloffenstein’s stuff plays in Memphis after he dominated Double-A hitters to the tune of a 3.24 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 27.6 K%, and 51.3 GB%. That’s another point too. Any pitcher who can get strikeouts and ground balls immediately stands out on my radar.

#5 - Sem Robberse

I’m being hard on Robberse here but I really couldn’t figure out where to place him. I’m not listing these prospects in the order that I would rank him in a prospect ranking but rather, I’m listing them in order of my excitement so it’s fine putting Sem here.

That’s nothing against him. He’s more of the 4b to Kloffenstein’s 4a in my ranking and neither guy is far behind Saggese. Really the drop off after Robberse is much steeper.

I basically have Kloffenstein ahead because I’m really intrigued by all his pitch shapes and how he uses them to play off each other. Robberse is different because he “only” throws three pitches and his fastball just isn’t exciting enough for me to give him the bump over Kloffenstein. I’ve seen some scouting sites call it an above average pitch but it sits in the low 90s with a pretty pedestrian shape to my eyes so I’m not ready to call it anything more than average.

I’ll get the pitch data after he pitches his first Triple-A game so that’s when I’ll be able to confirm the opinion I have from the eye test.

What Robberse does have going for him is two strong secondary offerings. His sweeper is his go-to swing-and-miss pitch and his changeup, which he throws much less, also looks like a good offering.

The changeup specifically is interesting to me because he throws it hard so there’s a lot less velocity separation from his fastball than the typical changeup. I’m always suspect of power changeups because they can imitate a fastball too much in both velocity and movement and thus be easier to hit. I’ll have that concern in the back of my head for Reobberse until I can see the pitch movement data but the pitch seems to get a lot more depth than you would expect from a changeup thrown in the upper 80s. That’s a good sign that the pitch won’t be too much of an imitation.

Overall it’s a good profile with a fine fastball, two good secondary pitches, and the potential for plus control. That should play just fine. I also love Robberse’s story, which I detailed in an earlier article, and the fact that he played in the Dutch Baseball league, called the Honkbal Hoofdklasse, before signing.

Robberse is a fun prospect that I would (and did) rank higher than Kloffenstein in prospect rankings so don’t let my somewhat low ranking here cool you on him.

#6 - Matt Svanson

I’ll keep these next 3 a little shorter since these are the guys I’m least excited about. And I don’t mean that as a slight to them. Rather, I’ve spent the last week or so watching a ton of video and writing in-depth scouting reports for each player and discussing them in various places so at this point, I’m ready to move on.

I will say that I like Svanson a lot as a relief prospect. He has a really good sinker/slider combination and the unlike a lot of sinker/slider pitchers, Svanson can pitch up in the zone effectively. In fact, that might be where he’s most effective.

The righty’s sinker get over 16 inches of run on average and his arm slot is on the lower side, which gives the pitch the necessary shape and vertical approach angle to play at the top of the zone. The pitch sits around 93-94 mph but can tick higher.

Svanson’s slider gets good two plane movement and tunnels well with his sinker. It has also missed a lot of bats in the lower levels.

Svanson’s production has been excellent as a 24-year-old in High-A as he’s earned a 1.23 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 31.3 K%, and 56.3 GB%. He is old for the level so I would be concerned if he wasn’t pitching as well as he has but it’s more than just the ERA and FIP that have me excited. It’s the fact that he can not only strike out opposing hitters but also keep the ball on the ground.

It’s a great profile for a reliever and I would love to see the Cardinals move him aggressively to make up for lost time.

#7 - Cesar Prieto

Prieto looks like a bench utility guy long term based on his plus hit tool and defensive versatility but he’s also still getting used to minor league ball as he’s only in his second full season outside of Cuba.

Their are some major red flags in his Prieto’s profile that limit his ceiling despite his exceptional bat-to-ball skills. For starters, Prieto has a 40% chase rate. That would place him around the 4th percentile in the majors leagues. On top of that, he doesn’t hit the ball too hard as his max exit velocity is 105 mph and his average exit velocity is 87 mph.

I’ll emphasize again that the hit tool is legit but that will have to carry his profile as he doesn’t walk much and doesn’t hit for a ton of power. I will saw that while Prieto does chase, he really only chases pitches that are just off the plate and does a good job of laying off pitches that are more than a ball length or a ball length and a half off the plate. I would wager that his ability to hit everything makes him more aggressive in the zone and that his eye is better than what his chase rate might indicate. A tweaked approach could really help him.

And while it’s true that he doesn’t have a ton of power, he does do a good job using the lines, and dumping balls into the gap. He’s also good at hitting both breaking balls and lefties, the latter of which is uncommon for a lefty hitter.

Prieto probably does enough to have a major league role but his ability to adjust his game will determine if that role is an everyday one or a bench one.

The last thing I’ll add to this section is the story of Prieto’s defection from Cuba and the people who helped him. It’s a great read.

#8 - Drew Rom

I have Drew Rom last on the list because his stuff isn’t too overwhelming and his control has faltered in Triple-A. He’s managed to miss bats despite a fastball that sits 90-91 mph and his sweeper doesn’t have as much movement as you would want to see from a pitch that sits around 78 mph. He throws a splitter too but he doesn’t throw it enough and it’s another pitch that doesn’t profile as a dominant offering.

Rom’s stuff plays up due to the deception that he brings from his crossfire motion and ability to manipulate his arm slot.

Still, I think Rom profiles best as a reliever in the majors so his fastball can tick up and he can be used more exclusively against lefty hitters. He could also be ticketed for a spot starter/long relief role. Then there’s the chance that he re-finds his control and his deception is enough for him to stick as a #5 starter, but I think that’s the least likely option.

He’s actually pretty fun to watch if you like lefties with deception, though, so even if I am ranking him last, it’s not because I don’t like. Rather, it’s because the Cardinals got so many other interesting and exciting prospects at the deadline.


I really like what the Cardinals did at the deadline and I really like the group of prospects that they got in exchange for their rental players.

This is probably the last time I’ll write about these players for little while but you can head to The Cardinal Nation (if you’re a member) to read my in-depth scouting reports of all these players, or you can listen to the most recent VEB podcast where I and the rest of the writing team profiled many of the new prospects.

Thanks for reading, VEB. Have a great Sunday. Feel free to let me know in the comments which prospects you’re most excited for.