Data Driven Top 12 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects

Jacob
42 min readFeb 3, 2023

By Jacob and Kareem H

We have spent months compiling this list through sorting, ranking, and analyzing data. This article includes bits of data that can’t be found anywhere else on the internet, so it’s worth a quick scroll at the very least. It should also be noted that not all of the data that was used to influence the rankings are mentioned throughout the document, but each player’s write-up includes our very own tool grades, as well as some tidbits and data tables, along with TONS of Trackman data. Let’s get it started:

#1: Jordan Walker (OF)

Age: 20, Height/Weight: 6'5"/250

Highest Level: AA

Drafted in Rd. 1 (2020) by STL, 21st OVR

Fun Fact: His 99.5 MPH throw from an AZFL game would’ve ranked in the 91st Percentile in Max Arm Strength among all MLB OF in 2022

Introduction

Heir Jordan. Unicorn. Superstar. A man by many names, Jordan Walker is an otherworldly talent about to make his MLB debut. At 6’5” and 250 lbs, Walker has a larger frame than any player he steps on the field with. Unexpectedly, Walker not only boasts terrific size, but incredible speed and agility; Jordan clocked in at 29.9 ft/s at the Arizona Fall League. His terrestrial power consumes opposing pitching like a black hole, tearing them apart at the seams. The future is bright, and Walker is the Sun.

OF Jordan Walker’s 2022 season at Springfield (AA):

  • .306 AVG
  • .388 OBP
  • .510 SLG
  • .898 OPS
  • 128 wRC+
  • 10.8% BB%
  • 21.6% K%

Profile

Hit: Jordan Walker struck out at a 21.6% clip last year which is a relatively average mark, but his BABIP skills are phenomenal due to hitting the ball so hard. Walker’s .365 BABIP helped him hit .307 on the season.

Walker made contact 67.4% of the time in 2022, which might seem concerning at first glance, but due to his zone aggressiveness, he will overperform those numbers. Walker’s 75.9% Z-Swing% is in elite territory and would rank 11th in the MLB in 2022 behind hitters like Corey Seager, Kyle Tucker, and Rafael Devers.

While many will point to Walker’s plate discipline as a major flaw in his profile, we disagree. Sure, you’d love for him to improve his 32% Chase%, which ranked in the 26th percentile for MiLB hitters, but he’s aggressive inside the strike zone and crushes everything thrown to him. Even with the poor chase rate, Walker still walked an above-average 10.8% of the time. We don’t think Walker’s below-average chase rates will stop him from keeping an average walk rate.

Walker can certainly improve on hitting the ball on the sweet spot more. His 27.3% SweetSpot% ranked in the 30th percentile for MiLB hitters. Walker hit a groundball 45% of the time in 2022. Due to hitting the ball so hard, Walker will be able to overperform most hitters in terms of groundball production. From a hitting perspective, the batted ball profile is solid overall, but he will need to hit more balls in the homerun launch angle range to maximize his game power. As we’ve mentioned several times already, Walker is a unicorn who can overperform several things, and his hit tool is a great example.

Power: Jordan Walker has light tower raw power. We gave him an 80 grade on the 20–80 scale. See how his exit velocity numbers compare to 2022 Home Run Derby Champ Juan Soto:

Walker vs. Soto: Let’s take a look at his batted ball data compared to Juan Soto’s from 2022.

Jordan Walker’s pure exit velocity numbers at 20 years old are just phenomenal, and we can’t begin to imagine how hard he will be hitting the ball in his prime.

As we mentioned earlier, Walker could do a better job at hitting the ball on the sweet spot. Hitting groundballs and low line drives with his exit velocities will warrant production regardless, but as fans, we’d like to see him elevate the ball more and hit more home-runs.

Walker showed signs of improvement in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit 5 home-runs in 90 PA’s and put together an impressive .558 SLG and .598 xSLG. During his time in the AFL, Walker averaged 94.8 mph off the bat, which would’ve ranked 3rd in the MLB in 2022 behind only Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez.

Walker also improved his SweetSpot% by 3.1% in the Arizona Fall League while chasing less and being just as aggressive on pitches in the strike zone. It’s only a 90 PA sample, but Walker’s time in the AFL was very encouraging.

Walker vs. Carlson: Jordan Walker is without a doubt the best prospect the Cardinals have seen in decades. The most recent top MLB prospect that belonged to the Cardinals was Dylan Carlson, who ranked 17th overall on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list in 2020. While it’s easy to see why Carlson was thought of with such value at the time, he was never really doing what Walker is doing right now.

In 2019, Carlson hit 26 homeruns in 562 PA, splitting time between AA Springfield and AAA Memphis. Since debuting with the Cardinals, Carlson has hit just 29 homeruns in 1226 plate appearances. That’s just 13.3 HR per 562 PA, almost exactly half of what he hit as a minor leaguer in 2019. Jordan Walker is different. His power numbers are way better than Carlson’s ever were. Let’s take a look at how the two stack up against each other when comparing their breakout MiLB seasons:

Carlson: 2019 (AA,AAA,AZFL) vs. Walker: 2022 (AA)

While Carlson had better plate discipline, Walker destroyed him (literally) in every batted-ball metric.

When Walker puts the ball in play, he’s doing damage. This is highlighted by his .456 wOBA on contact, a remarkably high number. Carlson has played at a 2.4 fWAR/150 pace through 312 games in his career. While he hasn’t been bad by any means, his unimpressive batted ball data has matched up with his career 103 wRC+.

Walker is just not the same. With Walker clearing Carlson by a mile on virtually every batted ball stat, there’s much more upside in his prospect profile. Steamer projects Jordan Walker to have a 112 wRC+ as a 21 year old. This is a great sign, and it’s nice to see the projection systems agreeing with how well Walker played in 2022.

Despite being only 20 years old, Walker averaged 90.9 MPH off the bat at Springfield (AA) in 2022. Only Lars Nootbaar and Albert Pujols had a harder average exit velocity last season for the Cardinals. Walker also hit a ball 114.7 MPH at Springfield (AA). His power numbers would rank among MLB’s best hitters in 2022.

Walker’s MaxEV

Defense/Arm/Run: Jordan Walker is not known for his defense, but he’s still got some upside there. While Walker spent most of his time at 3B in 2022, he’s made the transition to OF. During the regular season, Walker played 200 innings in RF and only 41 at LF and CF combined. In the 2022 Arizona Fall League, Walker played 97 innings in RF, 60 in CF, and 10 in LF. Reports have not shown that he’s an elite outfielder, but his range and arm give him a high defensive ceiling. During the fall league, Walker showed off his cannon from right field, unleashing this 99.5 MPH throw:

This throw unleashed by Walker was harder than any throw by a Cardinals outfielder since Statcast became public in 2015. The next fastest throw was a 99.2 MPH bullet from Harrison Bader in 2018. This throw would’ve placed him in the upper 10th percentile in max arm strength in 2022. There were only 17 outfield throws harder than this one in 2022. Walker is a literal freak. Oh yeah, he’s also 20 years old.

The fun doesn’t end there. Walker has recorded elite sprint speeds, and his fastest sprint speed from the 2022 AZFL was measured at 29.9 ft/s. For reference, only 11 players averaged (Avg of top third of HP to 1st sprint speeds) faster than 29.9 ft/s in MLB last season. Walker also stole 22 bases last season while only being caught 5 times. Not many people know that Walker is a threat in the field and on the bases.

Outlook

Jordan Walker has the ability to destroy fastballs better than practically every minor leaguer. Walker had a .501 wOBA on contact against all fastballs, and a .588 wOBAcon against fastballs above 93 MPH. Walker did have some trouble with breaking pitches and offspeeds, but he’s only 20.

Walker has been mentioned as the #1 prospect in baseball, and it’s quite easy to see why. While Walker’s whiff rates are concerning, his in-zone swing% was 75.3%. If you swing more, you’ll naturally whiff and chase more. The aggressive plate approach that Walker has is what led to his .510 SLG and .456 wOBA on contact. The slugger will almost undoubtedly have an impact on the Cardinals roster in 2023.

#2: Tink Hence (RHP)

Age: 20, Height/Weight: 6'1"/175

Highest Level: A

Drafted in CB rd. (2020) by STL, 63rd OVR

Fun Fact: Became the first ever Cardinals minor-leaguer to allow 1 HR or less while striking out at least 40% of batters at Low A (min 50 IP)

Introduction

Tink Hence is the most exciting arm in the Cardinals’ system. Drafted along with Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn in 2020, Hence broke out in 2022 for a 1.38 ERA in 52 innings.

Hence only allowed 1 home run the entire season, giving him an incredible 0.17 HR/9. Although Hence spent the full season at Low A Palm Beach, he’s only 20 years old.

Let’s take a closer look at how good Tink Hence was in 2022:

  • 52.1 IP
  • 1.38 ERA
  • 1.59 FIP
  • 41.5 K%
  • 7.7 BB%
  • 35.5 CSW%
  • 32.3 Chase%
  • .243 xwOBA
  • .370 xwOBA on contact

Profile

Four-Seam Fastball: In 2022 Hence averaged 95.5 mph on his FF with 16.1 IVB coming from a low 5.2' vRel. Due to his low release and exceptional command of the high-heat, Hence generated a -4.19 VAA on his FF, which was 3rd flattest among Cardinals MiLB pitchers in 2022. The solid IVB paired with a flat VAA generates a rising effect on his fastball. Hence induced a 32.3 Whiff% on the Four-Seamer, and it’s easy to see why. Overall, this is a fantastic piece of Hence’s arsenal. It’s a lively fastball, and it’s even better when paired with his offspeed and breaking pitches.

  • 550 Pitches
  • 95.5 Average MPH
  • .282 xwOBA
  • 16.1” Induced Vertical break
  • 12.1” Horizontal Break
  • 32.3 Whiff%
  • 29.9 Chase%
  • 33.4 CSW%

Curveball: Tink’s primary breaking pitch is his curveball. Tink’s curveball would’ve ranked 12th among CU’s in xwOBA in MLB last season, right ahead of names like Max Fried and Clayton Kershaw, with Corbin Burnes and Jhoan Duran among the group as well. His 40.3 Whiff% on the curveball is his 2nd highest compared to the other 3 pitches in his arsenal, just trailing his changeup. These insanely high marks look very good to the naked eye, but the level of play is very weak. While curveballs already had a 35 Whiff% across all MiLB levels, it’s hard to imagine that Low A hitters did not contribute to that number. The shape is rather traditional on the pitch. It’s hard to look too deep into the results he got, warranting a 55 overall grade.

  • 172 Pitches
  • 79.6 Average MPH
  • .195 xwOBA
  • -8.8” Induced Vertical break
  • -8.7” Horizontal Break
  • 40.3 Whiff%
  • 33.7 Chase%
  • 36.0 CSW%

Changeup: Hence used his changeup sparingly in 2022, but the pitch has elite metrics. Hence’s changeup generated the highest whiff rate of any pitch in his arsenal with a 59.4% Whiff%. He certainly has to work on his command and feel for the pitch, but the pitch has solid shape and has the makings of being a great pitch against lefties. Hence’s changeup gets 16.2" arm side run which is an above-average mark. Hence also has a 12 MPH difference in velocity between his fastball and changeup, which is elite. He’s been working on improving his already elite CH so far this offseason. Stuff-wise, it’s his best secondary offering.

  • 66 Pitches
  • 84.3 Average MPH
  • .162 xwOBA
  • 10.7” Induced Vertical break
  • 16.2” Horizontal Break
  • 59.4 Whiff%
  • 35.7 Chase%
  • 40.9 CSW%

Slider: Tink Hence also has a slider in his arsenal but he only used it 23 times in 2022 so we decided not to grade it. It’s a 82.5 mph sweeping slider with 9.2 inches of horizontal break. Hence’s slider is currently his worst offering and he would greatly benefit by adding a more gyro-heavy slider to complement his fastball which gets a lot of run.

Outlook

It’s been a while since the Cardinals had a pitching prospect of Tink Hence’s caliber. Hence has a lot of developing to do, but he’s certainly got the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, and Cardinals fans should be excited. Tink Hence’s arsenal features a flat 4-seamer, a solid sinker, an above-average curveball, a sharp slider, and a developing changeup with excellent metrics. Hence has set himself up for success due to this great arsenal. One of his most prominent concerns as of right now is his ability to go deep into games.

Hence hasn’t faced more than 16 batters in a game and has experienced velocity drops in longer outings, but let’s not forget he’s only 20. I applaud the Cardinals for taking it slow with Hence after only pitching 8 innings in 2021. We’d like to see Hence add some weight as his 6'1, 175 LBS frame is undersized for a starting pitcher, but regardless we do envision more of a starting pitcher workload this coming season if he can stay healthy. 2023 will be a big year in Tink Hence’s development and everyone should stay tuned.

#3: Masyn Winn (SS)

Age: 20, Height/Weight: 5'11"/180

Highest Level: AA

Drafted in Rd. 2 (2020) by STL, 54th OVR

Fun Fact: Threw a ball 100.5 MPH in the 2022 MiLB Futures Game

Introduction

In the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, the Cardinals selected two-way player Masyn Winn out of Kingwood High School.

Since joining the Cardinals, Winn has been primarily used as a shortstop, but he did pitch a scoreless inning in 2021. With that comes a rocket of an arm, and that’s no understatement for Winn. Winn’s 100.5 MPH throw during the 2022 futures game would be the fastest infield throw in statcast history. The 20 year old broke out offensively in 2022. In 147 PA’s to start the season at Peoria (A+), Winn produced a remarkable 163 wRC+ which triggered his promotion to Springfield (AA).

Masyn Winn is the most athletic player in the Cardinals system. His 80 grade arm is undoubtedly his best tool, but due to his supreme athleticism, he’s a well above-average baserunner and fielder. Offensively, he does a great job at making contact and pulling the ball.

SS Masyn Winn 2022 season at Peoria (A+) & Springfield (AA):

  • .283 AVG
  • .364 OBP
  • .468 SLG
  • .832 OPS
  • 117 wRC+
  • 11.5% BB%
  • 20.9% K%
  • 49.2% Pull%

Profile

Hit: Between Peoria (A+) and Springfield (AA), Winn compiled an above-average 78% Contact Rate. Winn carried a 12 degree avg launch angle throughout the season, which is a relatively average mark. You’d usually want it to be higher, but the EV numbers dont suggest a large jump in production if the LA were to rise. While his Sweetspot% of 24.4 is subpar, Winn generates results on contact noted by his .414 wOBAcon. This results from Winn’s optimization of his contact by pulling the ball.

Power: While nothing here jumps off the page, once again Winn is just 20 years old and carries a 5’11” / 180 frame. Once he develops into his physical prime, the power could see a bit of a boost. While he may not be at the top of the exit velocity leaderboards, Winn’s hit tool will prove to be a key factor of his offensive success.

550 PA (A+ and AA)

  • 356 Balls in Play
  • .305 xwOBA
  • .332 xwOBAcon
  • 105.6 Max Exit Velocity
  • 100.1 90th Percentile EV
  • 84.8 Average Exit Velocity
  • 27.5 Hard Hit%
Masyn Winn’s wOBA on Contact vs Each Pitch Type in 2022

Defense/Arm/Run: Fielding is what makes Winn such a highly-regarded prospect. While most of the prospect community was aware of his defensive talent already, Winn showed off his rifle of an arm at the 2022 Futures Game.

Masyn Winn’s 100.5 MPH throw from shortstop would’ve been the hardest thrown ball by an MLB infielder in Statcast history, had he played in the Majors. The blue dots symbolize each qualified MLB shortstops’ hardest throw from 2022, and Winn’s Futures Game throw is marked in red.

This isn’t the only time we’ve seen Winn show off his arm on live TV.

Personally, I love this throw even more than the other. It shows how important it is to have this type of arm. After stopping the ball but not fielding it cleanly, most shortstops would put it in their pocket and not even attempt a throw. After all, they’re already in the hole and it would require a change in momentum direction to even get an accurate throw over there.

Not only did Winn get the throw over, but he beat the runner and got the out. Here’s Jorge Mateo with a similar opportunity, only he fields it cleanly and still is not able to make a strong throw from that position. Mateo had 11 Outs Above Average last season, and ranked in the 64th percentile in average arm strength velo.

While MiLB throw velo data is hard to come by, Baseball America posted this article in July of 2021. The article contains Winn’s 15 fastest throws from his first 57 professional games. This only makes up 26.4% of his total games played from 2021 to 2022, so he’s likely topped all of these since then. Nevertheless, we have a dataset of 15 Winn throws.

Baseball Savant’s arm strength leaderboard displays each shortstops’ average velo of the top 5% of their throws. Here’s the exact definition:

Statcast position player arm strength metrics are available beginning with the 2020 season. Given that there is no rulebook definition of “a throw where the player is trying hard,” and many non-competitive lobs are captured, we have elected to take the average of the top portion of a player’s throws. Since the demands of each position grouping are different, the averages and qualifiers are different as well.

2B/SS/3B — average of top 5% of throws — minimum 75 throws to qualify

So, let’s compare each shortstop’s average velocity to this dataset of Winn’s throws from Baseball America.

The red circle is Masyn Winn, and the one next to it is Oneil Cruz. And let’s keep in mind that this is just a group of his throws from his first 57 games in 2021. Who knows how hard he’s been throwing since then. Masyn Winn has the best arm in professional baseball.

Let’s watch some more Masyn Winn defensive plays.

This could honestly go on forever. Watching him play defense is so, so, fun. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, Masyn Winn was worth +4.1 runs saved above league average.

Fielding Runs Above Average is Prospectus’ individual defensive metric created using play-by-play data with adjustments made based on plays made, the expected numbers of plays per position, the handedness of the batter, the park, and base-out states.

There is a ton of risk here, though. While Winn obviously has an amazing arm along with tons of range, he experiences some of the same issues that guys like Javier Baez and Fernando Tatis jr. have dealt with. You obviously have the throwing errors, but there were some cases where Winn just rushed or put too much effort on routine plays. This can be a huge problem. While this isn’t saying Winn’s defensive ceiling isn’t through the roof, there’s some work to be done here. The glovework and tempo could use some improvement. Winn did make 14 errors last season.

Here’s an example of Winn making a usually easy play for him a bit more complex than it needs to be. His arm allows him to throw from almost any position, but here he rushes the throw a bit and pulls the throw off the bag.

For this one, he simply picks his glove up too early and it goes right through the wickets. Not much to say besides the fact that these need to be made and all MLB shortstops make them. Not everyone can be perfect though.

Overall, Winn’s arm and range are two huge parts of his defensive identity. The glove is not amazing, and that provides a bit of risk for his profile. Nonetheless, he’s a generational talent and has the highest ceiling imaginable on defense. The fact that this infield is a possibility is mind boggling to me:

  • Paul Goldschmidt 1B (56 DRS)
  • Tommy Edman 2B (42 DRS)
  • Masyn Winn SS
  • Nolan Arenado 3B (155 DRS)

Run: Due to his tremendous athleticism, Winn is also an exceptional and aggressive baserunner. Winn stole 43 bases in 2022 and was only caught 5 times, generating a fantastic 89.6% success rate.

Outlook

While there is virtually no debate on who the Cardinals’ #1 prospect is, Masyn Winn still might be the most exciting player in the Cardinals farm system. His supreme athleticism is on display in all phases, every single game. Whether it’s on the basepaths scoring from 2nd on a sac fly or gunning down runners at 1st at record-setting speeds, Winn is a special talent.

#4: Gordon Graceffo (RHP)

Age: 22, Height/Weight: 6'4"/210

Highest Level: AA

Drafted in Rd. 5 (2020) by STL, 151st OVR

Fun Fact: One of only 2 Cardinals’ minor-leaguers with a CSW% above 30% with at least 1500 pitches thrown in 2022

Introduction

Gordon Graceffo is one of the best righties in the Cardinals system. Graceffo’s fastball topped out at 100.4 MPH, and his 94.6 MPH average fastball velocity ranked in the 87th percentile among all MiLB pitchers. Graceffo, 22, threw 139 innings between High-A and AA combined. Graceffo pitched very well in 2022 and got great results to further prove that.

RHP Gordon Graffo 2022 season:

  • 139.1 IP
  • 2.97 ERA
  • 3.97 FIP
  • 25.6 K%
  • 5.1 BB%
  • 31.7 CSW%
  • 30.2 Chase%
  • .263 xwOBA
  • .323 xwOBA on contact

Those stats are really fun to look at. A Cardinals starter who’s able to generate whiffs and chases while limiting damage on balls in play? Sign me up.

Profile

Four-Seam Fastball: Gordon Graceffo has a lively fastball that’s able to reach the high 90’s when needed. A 19.7% Whiff% is not ideal, but there could be a few reasons why he doesn’t miss bats with it. His -5.17 VAA and 16.3” IVB are decent, around average, but the main issue arises from poor location. His Whiff% jumps to 36% in the upper third of the zone, but he often attacks the middle of the zone with the fastball to try to limit walks. This is not ideal, but improved pitch shape and slightly better command could make all the difference.

  • 891 Pitches
  • 94.6 Average MPH
  • .272 xwOBA
  • 16.3” Induced Vertical break
  • 10.8” Horizontal Break
  • 19.7 Whiff%
  • 26.0 Chase%
  • 27.5 CSW%

Slider: Graceffo’s slider might be his best pitch. He’s able to limit damage on contact and gets tons of whiffs and chases on the pitch. With 12.7” of HB separation and 8.4 MPH of velo separation, Graceffo creates a really solid tunnel between his Four-Seam Fastball and his Slider. Better tunnels usually help increase Chase%, and Graceffo has above average chase rates on both his fastball and especially his slider. This is a really big pitch going forward, and I’m excited to see what he can do with it.

  • 404 Pitches
  • 86.2 Average MPH
  • .230 xwOBA
  • 2.9” Induced Vertical break
  • -1.9” Horizontal Break
  • 42.4 Whiff%
  • 40.1 Chase%
  • 37.9 CSW%

Curveball: While Graceffo isn’t able to get many chases outside the zone on his curveball, it’s deemed his best pitch by CSW% as he misses lots of bats with it. The fact that Graceffo has multiple pitches with a Whiff% surpassing 42% is a great sign.

  • 303 Pitches
  • 79.1 Average MPH
  • .185 xwOBA
  • -13.2” Induced Vertical break
  • -2.1” Horizontal Break
  • 43.6 Whiff%
  • 26.8 Chase%
  • 38.6 CSW%

Changeup: His 4th and final pitch is the changeup. His changeup helped him have a 32.4 CSW% against left-handed batters, and the 14.2” of HB is a great spot to be at for a changeup. This sidespinner saw great results in 2022, earning just a .284 xwOBA on contact and missing bats on 42% of swings. Yet another amazing pitch in Graceffo’s arsenal.

  • 218 Pitches
  • 83.0 Average MPH
  • .226 xwOBA
  • 6.2” Induced Vertical break
  • 14.2” Horizontal Break
  • 42.3 Whiff%
  • 35.6 Chase%
  • 29.4 CSW%

Outlook

Gordon Graceffo is a great arm for the Cardinals to have in the system. I’m in love with his arsenal. Graceffo has added tons of velocity since being drafted, and it’s proven to be a key for his success. He’s one of the hardest throwing righties in the Cardinals system. His slider and changeup work well off of his fastball, and he’s able to induce whiffs at a high rate on every pitch besides his fastball. He has above average command to go along with all of this. We can’t wait to see what Graceffo has in store for 2023.

#5: Cooper Hjerpe (LHP)

(Written by Peter M)

Age: 21, Height/Weight: 6'3"/200

Highest Level: N/A

Drafted in Rd. 1 (2022) by STL, 22nd OVR

Fun Fact: Tied Oregon State Baseball’s single-game strikeout record with 17 K’s in April of 2022

Introduction

Cooper Hjerpe (JER-pe): The top college arm in the 2022 Draft, Hjerpe pairs an elite fastball-slider combo with a funky, low-release delivery. In his sophomore season, Hjerpe utilized this FB-SL punch to post a 2.53 ERA on the back of a 43% strikeout rate and a 44% ground ball rate. This led to an NCAA Pitcher of the Year award, and his first-round selection by the Cardinals.

Cooper Hjerpe 2022 Season at Oregon State:

  • 103.1 IP
  • 161 Ks
  • 23 BB
  • 14.0 K/9
  • 2.0 BB/9
  • 2.53 ERA

Profile

Four-Seam Fastball: Hjerpe’s fastball is a masterpiece, an otherworldly combination of approach-angle and location. The pitch enters the zone with an average Vertical Approach Angle of 4–4.5 — a flat, ‘rising’ pitch. Hjerpe utilizes this lower release angle to his advantage, zoning the pitch high in the zone leading to more whiffs and success overall. Hjerpe currently sits in the low-90s on his FF, but has the potential to improve the velocity as he moves through the minors, leading to more success.

Slider: Paired brilliantly off the fastball is his slider. With great, sweeping action, the Slider cuts across the zone with nearly 15-inches of sweep. The pitch succeeds further due to a great VAA difference between his relatively flat FF and a downward breaking slider. The combination of high VAA and HAA lends this pitch to major success against RHH. A +15 IVB difference between the FF and SL, Hjerpe is able to use this seemingly two-pitch arsenal to dominate and excel against all levels of competition.

Changeup/Cutter: Hjerpe primarily relies on his FF and SL to generate whiffs, but has an arsenal that complements these two well with a changeup and cutter. The CH has similar specs to his FF — similar spin and release height — but generates whiffs due to its late, in-zone drop. With effective tunneling, Hjerpe is able to mask the CH in his dominant FF to lure hitters into a plethora of strikeouts.

His most recent addition to his arsenal, his cutter, is a pitch that could take the Golden Spikes Award finalist to even grander levels of success. Sitting at about 85 MPH, the FC has a smaller horizontal movement profile than his SL (two distinct pitches). This variation helps to keep batters wary, and helps to change up the look of a primarily two-pitch arsenal.

Command: For Hjerpe, as with every pitcher, command and sequencing are paramount. Hjerpe’s major success comes when he is able to zone his FF high, and capitalize off of the high IVB difference between that and his SL. Coming out of a near side-arm release helps too, and Hjerpe is able to toy with opposing batters to better set up his sweeper and rising fastball.

Outlook

Hjerpe should skyrocket up the minor league system. The major key to Cooper’s growth will be his ability to tap into his arm talent to add more velocity. The Cardinals have already developed multiple MLB arms who have added tons of velocity since they were drafted, specifically Andre Pallante and Zack Thompson.

On top of this, the further development and usage of Hjerpe’s cutter will only widen the difference between the SL-FC-FF and evolve the arsenal and pitch mix into a true, deadly weapon.

#6: Alec Burleson (OF)

Age: 24, Height/Weight: 6'2"/212

Highest Level: MLB

Drafted in 2CS Rd. (2020) by STL, 70th OVR

Fun Fact: Was drafted with a bonus pick from the Braves, the result of Marcell Ozuna declining the Cardinals’ Qualifying Offer

Introduction

Alec Burleson debuted at High-A Peoria on May 4th 2021, and got the call to the Cardinals big league roster on September 8th 2022. In the span of just 492 days, Burleson made his MiLB debut and his MLB debut. He sped through the minor leagues at the speed of light, showcasing his elite hit and power tools everywhere he went. Burleson is the first player to debut from the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, and the 7th overall from the first two rounds. Burleson took 973 plate appearances in his 2 years in MiLB, slashing .300/.350/.492 with a 122 wRC+ and .368 wOBA.

OF Alec Burleson 2022 season at Memphis (AAA):

  • .306 AVG
  • .388 OBP
  • .510 SLG
  • .898 OPS
  • 128 wRC+
  • 10.8% BB%
  • 21.6% K%

Profile

Let’s look at his 2022 season as a whole. Burleson took 470 PA at AAA, before being called up for 53 plate appearances in early September. Here are his full season stats, across those 523 PA:

  • .374 wOBA
  • .414 wOBA on contact
  • .361 xwOBA
  • .398 xwOBA on contact
  • 6.5 BB%
  • 14.5 K%
  • 89.4 Average Exit Velocity
  • 102.7 90th Percentile EV
  • 40.7 HardHit%
  • 31.3 SweetSpot%

Burleson was nothing short of elite at the plate in 2022. While he only took 53 PA in the majors in 2022, it’s important to dive into his first stint on the big stage.

Burleson did not have great results in his time with the Cardinals. He slashed just .188/.264/.271 with a 58 wRC+, but there’s more to be said about how he played. Burleson showed off solid plate discipline facing major league pitching for the first time. While a 24.7 Whiff% and 28.6 Chase% aren’t fantastic by any means, putting up average plate approach numbers in your first MLB stint is a great sign.

He also had a 78.8% Zone-Swing% and 92.9% Meatball Swing%, showing he’s not afraid to attack pitchers when they make mistakes. Those marks are both well above the league average for hitters in 2022. Burleson also only had a 10.5% Whiff% on breaking pitches in the majors, which isn’t usually a strong suit for young hitters.

The issue with Burleson here is the long-term PD. While these were great signs, it’s a very small sample. His plate discipline in the minor leagues was not nearly as good as it was during his SSS MLB stint, meaning it was likely a fluke. Burleson is a very aggressive hitter, as he had a 80% Zone-Swing% in the minors. His Z-Swing% was above 80% on Fastballs and Offspeed pitches. With that though comes a very high Chase%, and that’s what we saw with Burleson in MiLB. His 37% Chase% is a cause for concern, but what’s interesting is he chases secondary pitches less than fastballs. This is unusual. Burleson’s Chase% was nearly 40% on pitches 93 MPH or faster, whereas he only chased breaking pitches 33% of the time. Still not great, but something to note.

Burleson’s batted ball data in his small-sample did not display a .245 wOBA by any means.

  • 39 Balls in Play
  • .211 BABIP
  • 4 Barrels
  • 19 Hard Hit Balls
  • 10.3 Barrel%
  • 48.7 HardHit%
  • 91.7 Average Exit Velocity
  • 95.0 Average Exit Velocity on Flyballs
  • 43.6 Pull%
  • 35.9 SweetSpot%
  • 4.0° Average Launch Angle
  • .188 BA / .248 xBA (+.060)
  • .271 SLG / .415 xSLG (+.144)
  • .245 wOBA / .322 xwOBA (+.077)

These are fantastic numbers, especially for a 24 year old rookie. While he was definitely unlucky, there’s not much he could’ve done about it because it was less than 60 PA.

There were only 3 MLB players last season who had a higher HardHit%, Contact%, and lower K% than Alec Burleson last season:

  • Yandy Díaz
  • Alejandro Kirk
  • Freddie Freeman

Pretty good company if you ask me.

Outlook

Burleson’s batted ball data and plate discipline not only suggest that he should’ve gotten better results in 2022, but that he’ll also be a great hitter next season. Let’s see if his steamer projections agree with that statement:

  • .273/.321/.446
  • 22 Home Runs
  • .333 wOBA
  • 118 wRC+
  • 2.3 Steamer/600 fWAR

Not only does steamer project Burleson to play well next season, but this is almost a breakout. A 120 wRC+ in his age 25 season would be such a great addition to the already-elite Cardinals lineup. Burleson is ready to produce for the Cardinals in 2023, and he slots in perfectly at #6 on the list.

Extra tidbit: Alec Burleson got a hit off of Jacob deGrom (ST), Max Scherzer (ST), Corbin Burnes, and Devin Williams in 2022. Those 4 pitchers have combined for 6 Cy Young awards, 2 Rookie of the Year awards, 2 single-season ERA titles, and 15 All-Star appearances. See for yourself:

#7: Iván Herrera (Catcher)

Age: 22, Height/Weight: 5'11"/220

Highest Level: MLB

Signed with STL as international FA in 2016

Fun Fact: In 2022, he became the first Panamanian-born catcher to debut in MLB since Christian Bethancourt debuted in 2013

Introduction

The Cardinals signed Ivan Herrera out of Panama in July 2016 for $200,000 in an international class headlined by former OF prospect Jonathan Machado ($2.35 million). Other names signed internationally in 2016 for the Cardinals include OF Randy Arozarena ($1.25 million) and RHP Johan Oviedo ($1.9 million).

Herrera was primarily used as a backup during his first lengthy big-league stint, which lasted from June 17th to July 4th. During this stretch, Herrera amassed all of his 22 MLB plate appearances. He did not perform during this short time in the big leagues, as he produced a -7 wRC+, but he was not given an opportunity to play regularly.

Ivan Herrera 2022 season at Memphis (AAA):

  • .268 AVG
  • .374 OBP
  • .396 SLG
  • .770 OPS
  • 111 wRC+
  • 13.7% BB%
  • 18.7% K%

Profile

Hit: One of Ivan Herrera’s biggest strengths as a player is his ability to make contact. Last season, Herrera made contact 79.6% of the time, which ranked in the 87th percentile for MiLB hitters.

Despite making a lot of contact, Herrera’s lack of hitting the sweet spot gives him a slightly above-average hit tool. His 23.0% SwSp% ranked in the 18th percentile for MiLB hitters. Herrera has hit groundballs and infield fly balls at a high rate throughout his minor league career. Last season, his GB% and IFFB% were 50.8% and 25.5%, respectively, leaving room for improvement.

Herrera is also a very patient hitter who rarely chases pitches. In 2022, Herrera chased only 17.3% of the time, which ranked in the 93rd percentile for MiLB hitters. What’s more impressive is that against offspeed and breaking pitches, Herrera still refused to chase. He had a 19.3% and 23.0% chase rate against offspeed and breaking pitches, respectively which is exceptional.

It’s important to acknowledge that Herrera is able to do this by refusing to swing the bat. Herrera only swings 37.1% of the time with a 58.2% Z-Swing%, both remarkably low numbers. You’d like to see Herrera be more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone.

Herrera’s ability to make contact frequently while chasing pitches rarely gives him a solid foundation as a hitter. He will have to improve his barrel accuracy, though, as he hits too many balls at suboptimal launch angles.

Power: Ivan Herrera’s power tool is interesting to evaluate. Herrera has plenty of raw power, shown by his impressive 110.6 mph max EV, which is 1.5 mph higher than the 2022 MLB average (109.1 mph). Herrera also has a feel for pulling the ball when he hits it in the air, which is optimal for power production.

Herrera falls flat, though, at producing game power. Herrera’s 85 mph avg EV would rank in the 3rd percentile for MLB hitters in 2022. As previously mentioned, Herrera hits the ball on the ground at a 50% clip which is way too high for someone who doesn’t frequently hit the ball hard. Herrera’s ISO in 2022 was .128, which is below average, but in 2021 that number was an impressive .176.

Although Herrera’s average exit velocity numbers aren’t optimal, he still has a 45 power tool due to his upper-percentile exit velocities and ability the pull the ball. Additionally, he’s produced power in games in the past, specifically his 17 home run 2021 campaign.

Field/Arm/Run: It’s challenging to evaluate defense in the minors as there are few tools to assess defensive value. Baseball America rates Herrera as a below-average fielder, while MLB Pipeline grades him as an above-average defender. I agree more with the latter, and here’s why.

Scouts rave about Herrera’s ability to frame, and the numbers back it up. Last season, Herrera had 3.4 framing runs, according to baseball prospectus, where 0 is average. In 2021, he also ranked above average at 1.7 framing runs.

Ivan Herrera has an average throwing arm for a catcher. In 1 attempt at the big league level, his 1.98 pop time would have ranked in the 44th percentile for MLB catchers.

Herrera ranked in the 26th percentile for sprint speed at the MLB level in 2022. He’s certainly a below-average runner.

Outlook

Ivan Herrera is a patient, contact-savy catcher with excellent framing skills. His contact rates and defense give him a safe floor as a backup catcher. While his chase rates are elite, Herrera must be more aggressive in the strike zone. In his short time in the MLB, his ultra-patient approach was exploited.

#8: Moisés Gómez (OF)

Age: 24, Height/Weight: 5'11"/200

Highest Level: AAA

Signed with STL as MiLB FA in 2021

Fun Fact: Led Minor League Baseball in HR’s, wOBAcon, and xwOBAcon in 2022

Introduction

On October 22nd 2021, Moises Gomez was released by the Tampa Bay Rays and now finds himself on our top 10 Cardinals’ prospects list. Gomez played over 450 games in the Rays’ system until his eventual release, from 2015 to 2021. He slashed .246/.310/.417 with a 104 wRC+ across 1535 plate appearances in this span. Gomez’ main issue was his strikeout problem, as he struck out 533 times (34.7 K%) leading to his release.

How did Gomez respond? He led the minor-leagues in homeruns with 39. Moises Gomez and Chicago’s Matt Mervis were the only two minor-leaguers with a SLG over .600 with at least 500 PA. His .330 ISO led MiLB. Let’s dive into his destruction of AA and AAA in 2022.

OF Moises Gomez 2022 season at Springfield (AA) & Memphis (AAA):

  • .294 AVG
  • .371 OBP
  • .624 SLG
  • .996 OPS
  • 149 wRC+
  • 10.8% BB%
  • 34.7% K%

Profile

Gomez’ batted ball data jumps off the page, to say the least. Gomez had a .635 wOBAcon, which is essentially a players wOBA on all balls in play, as “con” stands for “contact”. This removes SO, BB, and HBP’s from wOBA. His .635 wOBAcon was in the 100th percentile of minor leaguers. For reference, Aaron Judge was the only player in MLB with a wOBAcon over .600 last season, and the rest of the list is quite impressive as well.

Some of the names here besides Judge include, Kyle Schwarber, Paul Goldschmidt, Yordan Alvarez, Manny Machado, Austin Riley, and even the two 2022 Rookie of the Year winners in Michael Harris II and Julio Rodríguez. Harris isn’t on the qualified leaderboard, but ranks 6th overall among players with as many PA’s as him. These guys all mash, and so does Moises Gomez.

Gomez also had a .573 xwOBAcon which is, you guessed it, xwOBA on contact. His mark of .573 would’ve only trailed Aaron Judge, and the list is once again full of massive power hitters.

Yordan Alvarez, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña jr., you get it. When Moises Gomez puts the ball in play, he’s doing damage.

To strengthen this idea, let’s look at the rest of his batted ball profile.

  • Stat: __ (Where Gomez ranks on an MLB percentile scale)
  • Max EV: 115.4 MPH (91st)
  • Avg EV: 90.9 MPH (80th)
  • 90th% EV: 107.1 MPH (87th)
  • HardHit%: 50.0% (91st)

Gomez crushes the ball, and he’s up there with the best players in Major League Baseball in terms of power numbers.

How come Gomez went from a 58 wRC+ with TB to 149 with STL in a span of just one season? Launch direction and K%. While Gomez’ 34.7 K% in 2022 exactly matches his career K% with Tampa, he struck out at a career-high rate of 38.3% in 2021. The 3.6% decrease made a difference. As we already know, Gomez relied on putting the ball in play last season. In 2021, Gomez had a SwStr% of 21.6%, which is the percent of total pitches that he whiffed on. In 2022, that mark dropped to 17.1%, a major difference. While his whiff and strikeout issues are still a cause for concern, there’s a large gap in these numbers from last year to this year.

Another reason why Gomez saw much better results in 2022 was launch direction. Gomez had a 37.9 SweetSpot%, which is the percent of batted balls with a launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees, out of every BBE. Some MLB players last season with a SweetSpot% between 37% and 38% included Bryce Harper, Austin Riley, Mike Trout, Tim Anderson, and many more. Gomez’ 19.6 degree avg launch angle was also huge for him, and we all saw what he could do when he paired his exit velocity numbers with great launch angles.

What really sticks out here is the LD%. While Gomez had a great GB/FB of 0.59 in 2021, it was almost identical in 2022 at 0.60. He was hitting line drives at a 10% higher rate, while also cutting down on some GBs. This was huge for Gomez in 2022.

Outlook

So, what puts Gomez at 8? Shouldn’t he be much higher? While Gomez has turned himself into an established slugger, there’s not much else to say. His defense and speed are not worth highlighting, and the batted ball data might not matter if he can’t make contact against MLB pitching. That’s what makes 2023 such a huge year for Moises Gomez. If he can prove that he’s able to hit MLB level pitching, he’s all set.

The 63.6 Contact% and 30.9 Chase% are causes for concern. Gomez had a sub-70% Contact% and Zone-Contact% on fastballs, as well as fastballs above 93 MPH and didn’t have much better luck with breakers or offspeeds either. This creates a worrisome profile for Gomez, and many power-first prospects end up struggling much more against MLB pitching compared to MiLB. This makes them so hard to rank. But here’s the catch: if he makes contact, there’s nothing to worry about. 57.9 Contact% on breaking balls? No problem, .770 wOBAcon against them. Gomez has a lot to prove next season, and I personally cannot wait to see what he can do with his opportunity.

#9: Leonardo Bernal (Catcher)

Age: 18, Height/Weight: 6'0"/200

Highest Level: A

Signed with STL as international FA in 2021

Fun Fact: One of 4 minor-league catchers 18 or younger to reach Low A

Introduction

The Cardinals signed Leonardo Bernal out of Panama in January 2021 for $680,000. Later that year, he made his pro debut in the DSL and showed promise for a 17-year-old. Bernal displayed his power potential blasting five home runs in 178 plate appearances for an ISO good for .165.

Bernal also refused to strikeout, as his 15.7% K% was quite the mark for a teenager in his pro debut. Despite striking out at a low rate, Bernal’s .224 BABIP significantly hurt his ability to get on base and left him with a 90 wRC+ in 2021.

Even though his 2021 DSL wRC+ was not ideal, Bernal’s power/contact combination impressed the Cardinals enough for him to play his 18-year-old 2022 season for Palm Beach. Bernal flourished in this opportunity and produced a 117 wRC+ while taking significant leaps in BABIP and ISO, leading to greater offensive production.

C Leonardo Bernal 2022 season at Palm Beach (A):

  • .256 AVG
  • .316 OBP
  • .455 SLG
  • .771 OPS
  • 117 wRC+
  • 7.0% BB%
  • 18.7% K%

Profile

Hit: Bernal has done an extraordinary job limiting strikeouts in his first two professional seasons. As previously noted, Bernal struck out only 15.7% of the time in his 2021 pro debut in the DSL. In 2022, his strikeout percentage went up but remained under 20%, 18.2% to be exact. The average K% in MLB was 22.1% last year.

Despite the adequate K%, Bernal made contact at a below-average rate in 2022. His 70.5% Contact% ranked in the 35th percentile for MiLB hitters last season. I expect some regression in Bernal’s ability to limit strikeouts, but he should still be around average when all is said and done.

While his overall contact% was not great, Bernal did a good job, however, at making contact on fastballs. Last season, Bernal had an 81.9% contact% against fastballs, and against fastballs 93+ he did an even better job with an 83.6% contact%. This is encouraging as he will see higher velocity fastballs at the next level. Younger hitters usually struggle to make contact against offspeed/breaking pitches, and Bernal is in the same boat. Bernal made contact on 60.4% of offspeed pitches, and against breaking pitches, that number was even lower at 57.1%.

Bernal’s SweetSpot% in 2022 was 27.0%, ranking in the 35th percentile for MiLB hitters. Similar to the other talented Panamian catcher in the Cardinals system, Bernal hits a lot of groundballs. Last season he hit a groundball 46.4% of the time, which certainly can use improvement. Bernal does a better job at limiting infield fly balls than Herrera, as his 13.9% IFFB% while not great, is serviceable.

The most notable shortcoming in Bernal’s offensive profile is his chase rate. Last season, Bernal chased 32.9% of pitches, ranking in the 18th percentile for MiLB hitters. Due to swinging outside the strike zone at such a frequent rate, Bernal only walked 12 times in 171 plate appearances in 2022.

Power: Leonardo Bernal’s power tool is undoubtedly a strength for the young backstop. In his 2021 debut season in the DSL, he produced a respectable .165 ISO as a 17-year-old. The following season as one of the youngest players in low A, Bernal delivered an exceptional .199 ISO, which led the Palm Beach Cardinals.

Bernal’s exit velocity numbers are awfully similar to his fellow Panamanian Cardinals catching prospect, Ivan Herrera.

The key difference here is that Bernal’s xwOBAcon is .040 points higher than Herrera, primarily due to better launch angle optimization.

Bernal can surely improve on hitting the sweet spot more, but in comparison to Herrera, he does a considerably better job. Bernal hit the sweet spot 4% more than Herrera, and in turn, his average launch angle was 2 degrees higher. While their raw power is extremely similar, Bernal maximizes his power potential more than Herrera when he makes contact.

Bernal’s 86.4 mph average exit velocity ranked in the 57th percentile for MiLB hitters. That number would also rank in the 10th percentile for MLB hitters. While that might not sound great, we must remember that he’s only in his 2nd professional season as an 18-year-old, and that’s a phenomenal number for a teenager.

Additionally, Bernal’s upper percentile velocities suggest he has room to hit the ball harder and more consistently in the future. Bernal’s 90th percentile exit velocity was 102.2 mph, ranking in the 54th percentile for MiLB hitters. His 110.4 mph max exit velocity ranked in the 68th percentile for MiLB hitters and was 1.3 mph higher than the average MLB player in 2022.

Defense/Arm/Run: I want to preface this section by saying it’s tough grading these tools with the lack of data accessible. Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and Fangraphs all grade Bernal as a good receiver and believe he will stick at catcher. The biggest gripe in Bernal’s defensive profile is his fringy arm strength. Last season at Palm Beach, Bernal only caught 11 out of 55 stolen base attempts. Based on reports, Bernal is a good athlete for a catcher but is still a below-average runner.

Outlook

Leonardo Bernal is a very exciting teenage catching prospect in the Cardinals system. His ability to reach high top-end exit velocities while averaging 86.4 mph is impressive for his age. While his contact rates aren’t exceptional by any means, more importantly, he is making contact on fastballs. Defensively, I’ve heard nothing but good things from a receiving standpoint, but he can certainly improve on throwing out baserunners.

#10: Freddy Pacheco (RHP)

Age: 24, Height/Weight: 5'11"/203

Highest Level: AAA

Signed with STL as international FA in 2017

Fun Fact: His Slider would’ve led the Cardinals in individual-pitch Whiff% in 2022 at 55.5%

Introduction

Last offseason, the Cardinals added RHP Freddy Pacheco to the 40-man roster. Despite being healthy and pitching very well, he did not get an opportunity to debut in 2022, which was disappointing. He was the only Rule-5 protected Cardinal that did not see MLB playing time in 2022, as Brendan Donovan and Jake Walsh each made appearances. Heading into the season, it felt like he was ready to contribute at the big league level, but the Cardinals chose to keep him in the minors.

2021: In 2021, Pacheco threw 54 innings across three levels (A+, AA, AAA) and struck out 95 batters for an outstanding 15.8 K/9. Edwin Diaz was the only qualified reliever in the MLB last year with a higher K/9. Pacheco’s biggest drawback is that he walks hitters at an above-average clip. In 2021, he walked 29 batters which resulted in a 4.8 BB/9. Even though the walk rate isn’t where it needs to be, Pacheco allowed one less hit that season than walks, which is ridiculous. Hitters slashed .151/.269/.290 (.559 OPS) against Pacheco in 2021. The Venezuelan fireballer finished the 2021 season with a respectable 3.67 ERA. Pacheco pitched exceptionally in limited time at AA and AAA in 2021, but the Cardinals chose to start him off at AA for the 2022 season.

2022: In 2022, Pacheco set a career-high in IP with 62 while also setting a career-low 3.05 ERA since rookie ball. As previously mentioned, Pacheco started his season at Springfield (AA) and pitched to a 3.81 ERA in 28.1 IP. His ERA was higher due to giving up more home-runs. Pacheco gives up a lot of fly balls, and with the Texas League being a hitter-friendly league, his HR/FB ratio suffered. Pacheco still had a K/9 over 13 at AA while limiting hitters to a .208 AVG. Pacheco was even better after getting promoted to Memphis (AAA). The right-hander put up a 2.41 ERA while limiting batters to a hilarious .145/.237./.205 (.442 OPS) slash line. I’ve mentioned several times how Pacheco’s biggest concern is the walk rate; well, in 33.2 IP at AAA last year, he only walked 12 batters which is good for a respectable 3.21 BB/9. The RHP did not strike out nearly as many batters but still had an 11.5 K/9 at AAA. Pacheco’s underlying data was also fantastic in 2022. The right-hander owned a combined .244 xwOBA and 29.7 CSW% between AA and AAA last year.

Freddy Pacheco 2022 season at Memphis (AAA):

Profile

Four-Seam Fastball: Freddy Pacheco’s FF (Four-Seam fastball) is nothing short of great. On the 20–80 scouting scale, it’s a true 65-grade pitch. Pacheco last year averaged 96.6 mph on his fastball while generating 20.2 IVB from around a 6′ vertical release point. That gives Pacheco a fastball with above-average rise that hitters struggle to hit. Pacheco threw his fastball over 70% of the time in 2022, and hitters only produced a .265 xwOBA against it.

Four-Seam Fastball Specs

Slider: Pacheco’s second most used offering (26.3% usage) was his gyro-slider. The right-hander averaged 84.5 mph on it with -3.1 inches of HB and 0.3 IVB. Between his FF and SL, there are 10.5 inches of horizontal separation, so the pitches tunnel exceptionally. His slider is still an above-average offering in a vacuum, but it played up due to the fantastic FF. A slight velocity uptick on his slider would be great, as it would close the large velo gap between the FF and SL.

Slider Specs

Changeup: Pacheco would greatly benefit by working on his changeup as it would improve his arsenal against OHB (Opposite Hand Batters). His Whiff% saw a 9.5% decrease when facing left-handed batters compared to righties, contributing to the 6.5% CSW% advantage he had vs. SHB (Same Handed Batters) compared to OHB. His two-pitch mix will work well in the pen, but a usable changeup against lefties would greatly improve his overall results.

Outlook

Freddy Pacheco is going to have a significant impact on the 2023 Cardinals. Outside of Helsley and Gallegos, the Cardinals could use another dominant strikeout pitcher in the bullpen, and I envision Freddy Pacheco being that. Cardinals fans have gotten used to a “Fastball Freddy” in Milwaukee, but they’ll have their own in 2023.

#11: Jimmy Crooks III (Catcher)

Age: 21, Height/Weight: 6'1"/210

Highest Level: A

Drafted in Rd. 4 (2022) by STL, 127th OVR

Fun Fact: Led Cardinals minor-leaguers in Sweet-Spot% in 2022 (Minimum 90 PA)

Introduction

In the 4th round of the 2022 draft this past summer, the Cardinals selected C Jimmy Crooks III. Crooks has always been a hitting-first catcher, but he’s solid defensively. The main intrigue with Crooks is the bat. Crooks’ ability to hit for power while limiting strikeouts definitely stood out to the Cardinals. Crooks is a left-handed hitting slugger with lots of offensive upside.

Jimmy Crooks III in 23 games at Palm Beach (A):

  • 96 PA
  • 54 BIP
  • .381 wOBA
  • .433 wOBAcon
  • .411 xwOBAcon
  • 75.5 Contact%
  • 24.7 Chase%
  • 87.6 Average EV
  • 42.1 SweetSpot%
  • 11.7 Average LA

Profile

The 20 year old had a great stretch with Palm Beach to finish off 2022. In his first 5 games, he slugged just .231 going 2 for 13. From that point on, Crooks tallied 19 hits in 66 at bats with 7 XBH. He slashed .288/.397/.515 with a .420 wOBA in this stretch, showing off some power with a .227 ISO and 3 HR. Crooks had a 47.4 Pull% and a 36.4 LD%. Although he had a 2.18 GB/FB, he’s only 20 years old and this is still a small sample size. Perhaps the most impressive part of Crooks’ game so far is his ability to hit fastballs.

  • 37 Balls in Play
  • .497 wOBAcon
  • .476 xwOBA
  • 89.9 Contact%
  • 91.0 Zone-Contact%
  • 61.1 Zone-Swing%

Crooks had no problem making contact with fastballs, especially on zone swings. While this is quite impressive, he was even better against high velocity (FB 93+)

  • 19 Balls in Play
  • .450 wOBAcon
  • .497 xwOBA
  • 91.4 Contact%
  • 92.6 Zone-Contact%
  • 81.8 Zone-Swing%

Crooks is aggressive and ready to hit fastballs. Fastball hitting is a clear strong suit of his, and that’s an awesome sign going forward. However, Crooks had a lot of trouble with off-speed and breaking balls. He whiffed at over 50% of the breaking pitches he swung at, and had an xwOBA of just .210 against them. While he only chased breakers 27.9% of the time, it’s likely due to general patience. He swung at breakers in the zone just over 46% of the time, indicating a lack of aggressiveness against them. As for offspeeds, Crooks did not have great results either. He had a .177 wOBAcon and 73.7 Zone-Contact% against them. While this goes without saying, this does not define Crooks’ overall outlook and potential. He was drafted 6 months ago, and the sample size is not large enough to come to conclusions just yet.

Outlook

Jimmy Crooks III showed lots of great signs in his time at Palm Beach. Lots of positives, not so many negatives. Crooks is one of the best left-handed sluggers in the Cardinals organization. Fantastic pick by Randy Flores. Crooks hopefully have a larger sample size to look at next season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he jumps into the Cardinals’ top 10 by the midway point in the season at the latest.

#12: Joshua Baez (OF)

(Written by Peyton F)

https://www.fourseamimages.com/

Age: 19, Height/Weight: 6'4"/220

Highest Level: A

Drafted in Rd. 2 (2021) by STL, 54th OVR

Fun Fact: Ranked 6th in wOBAcon among Low A hitters

Introduction

Taken with the 54th pick in the 2021 draft, Joshua Baez is one of the premier power bats in the Cardinals’ farm system. In his junior year of high school, his bat speed was recorded at 75.1 MPH. His quick hands and lofty swing provide a powerful combination of launch angle and exit velocity. The lofty swing is tailored to kill hanging-breaking balls and mislocated fastball low in the zone. He takes a big step on his front foot and keeps his hands back before launching his swing.

OF Joshua Baez 2022 season at Palm Beach (A):

  • .286 AVG
  • .418 OBP
  • .540 SLG
  • .958 OPS
  • 170 wRC+
  • 13.9% BB%
  • 38.0% K%

Profile

Hit: The hit tool isn’t so great, and I can see a situation where a small sacrifice in bat speed in favor of improved barrel accuracy can go a long way. Baez’s issues at the plate are solely whiff related, and a lower Zone-Swing% makes his league-average Chase% make more sense.

Baez’s swing is pretty steep, which makes him vulnerable to the high heat, and it has been a struggle so far. On fastballs at least 93 MPH, his Contact% is only 60.9%, with his Zone-Contact% being 62.9%. Even though he’s only 19, this is a little concerning and raises some question marks on how high others are on him thus far.

Over time, I can see him making improvements on making contact with better spin recognition as he gains more experience throughout the minor leagues. He’s only 19 and hasn’t gotten a full year of professional experience, so my concerns can only be taken lightly at the moment. The Cardinals have developed players similar to him well at the plate so far, and I would be willing to bank on them getting good peak seasons from Baez at the plate. The current 30 rated hit tool can turn into a 35–40 rated tool.

Power: Over 122 plate appearances last year, Baez had a 111.6 MPH Max Exit velocity, 107.4 MPH 90th percentile Exit Velocity, and .558 wOBAcon. There are times when if he gets his pitch, there is no doubt that it’ll be a moonshot into left-center field. However, there are also several times when he gets caught out in front or is beaten by a fastball up in the zone.

Defense/Arm/Run: Defensively, Baez projects as a corner outfielder long-term. His home-to-first time has been clocked at around 4.2, though that’s a flawed way to grade sprint speed, it is proof that he should have zero issues staying in the outfield even if/when he fully fills out. In addition to his above-average speed, he possesses one of the best-position player arms in the Cardinals system with the ability to touch 98 MPH from the grass. Right now, there isn’t much I can cover about his defense without filling the page with meaningless words, so I’ll conclude for now that he’s a 40/50 on the defensive scale.

Outlook

Joshua Baez has more power than almost every Cardinals minor leaguer. His ability to reach high exit velo’s with an aggressive plate approach does not go unnoticed. While there’s room for improvement with Baez, he’s still at the very young age of 19 and the Cardinals are one of the best organizations when it comes to fixing plate discipline and whiff issues.

Thank you for making it this far! We hope you enjoyed.

You can find us on Twitter at @/CardinalsReek and @/KareemSSN

GIF CREDIT: Kyle Reis

Also used: MiLB, MLB, Texas Leaguers, BRef, Fangraphs, Savant

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