The Cardinals system continues to be top-heavy. Dylan Carlson is one of the better prospects in the game and Matthew Liberatore is not far behind him. Plus, I like Jordan Walker, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2020. He’s a high school kid that is tooled up. If developed properly, he could be the best prospect on this list. The talent starts to fade after 10 with guys that have a slim to no chance at being impact players. That said, assuming healthy, I think everyone on this list gets to the big leagues and from where they were last year, that’s a big step forward.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Dylan Carlson
- Biggest Mover: Jordan Walker
- Emerging Prospect: Tink Hence
1. Dylan Carlson (OF)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Power-speed with the ability to get on base. The speed will fade as he matures, but the power should increase
With 43 days of service time and 109 at-bats, Dylan Carlson barely hangs on to his rookie eligibility. While fantasy owners were hoping to get a great contribution from Carlson, it didn’t happen. He hit a woeful .200 with three home runs and a stolen base while striking out 29% of the time. Plus his exit velocity was in the lower-third of baseball during his time. But, and it’s important…he was only 21-years-old and did play better as the season progressed. He’ll get better…but how much? I think a slash line of .270/.340/.450 is possible with 15 plus home run and stolen base potential. If you want a comp, I’m thinking Tommy Pham.
2. Matthew Liberatore (LHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
- Tools Summary: Still developing but the chance for three-plus pitches is there.
While I like Matthew Liberatore, I must point out that the Cardinals traded Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez for him last January. If you didn’t notice, Arozarena broke out in 2020 and looks like an emerging star. Liberatore, well is still primarily about projection. His fastball has taken a small step forward, but there is likely at least another grade in the tank. His signature pitch continues to be his hammer curve that is a true swing-and-miss pitch, particularly when he throws it for strikes. While a year of non-competitive games hurt his timing to the Majors, the present stuff and control are solid and he could move quickly in 2021.
3. Nolan Gorman (3B)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Huge power with huge strikeout concerns. If you believe he’s Joey Gallo 2.0, go get him. We are betting the under
Nolan Gorman has light-tower power and can hit the ball out of any ballpark. However, his strikeout rate will be north of 30% and while he should post a solid walk rate, has just not done that yet. Having said that, we must remember that Gorman is only 20 and still has time to hone his batting eye. The upside, if he improves his walk rate continues to be Joey Gallo, but more than likely, he’ll be more like Franmill Reyes or Hunter Renfroe.
4. Jordan Walker (3B)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B with risk
- Tools Summary: Tooled up first-round draft pick in 2020 with questions about his ability to hit
The Cardinals usually don’t go for the high-priced tooled up high school player at the draft table but in 2020 that’s exactly what they did. Jordan Walker has a bunch of plus tools including bat speed, raw power, and foot speed. Unfortunately, at 6-foot-5, there are natural holes in his swing and he is prone to chasing pitches out of the zone. That’s not a great combination. While he has star potential, there’s also a chance he doesn’t make it out of Double-A.
5. Zack Thompson (LHP)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
- Tools Summary: Above-average arsenal with average-at-best control. History of elbow problems also adds concern to the profile.
Zack Thompson was the Cardinals’ first-round in the 2019 MLB Draft (pick #19). He pitched college ball in Kentucky where he put up some gaudy strikeout numbers. In 14 starts covering 90 innings, he struck out 130. He has a great fastball-curveball combination but doesn’t always throw strikes. Plus, he still lacks a feel for a change-up. The upside is a number 4/3 starter with a chance to also move to the bullpen if the control does not improve or if his change-up doesn’t develop.
6. Ivan Herrera (C)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Offensive-oriented catcher who is still learning the ropes behind the plate.
Ivan Herrera is starting to open eyes within the Cardinals organization as his bat is making significant noise. A modest international signee in 2016, Herrera shows plenty of bat speed that should translate into future home run pop and a mature approach at the plate. Defensively, he’s still a work-in-progress with whispers of him ever having the ability to be a big-league catcher. But the bat should work and with the Cardinals history of developing catchers, I still think there is hope.
7. Masyn Winn (SS/RHP)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Tooled up athlete who can pitch or play the field
Masyn Winn was one of my favorite players to be drafted last June. He’s a great athlete who excelled as both a pitcher and a shortstop in high school. Because of his height, he’ll likely be developed as a positional player and has the all-around tools for Dynasty League owners to get excited. He’s a double-plus runner, has great bat speed and of course, can throw out anyone from deep in the hole. The question will be how much he can hit. From a report I received during draft prep, a scout was extremely encouraging about his ability to hit.
8. Elehuris Montero (3B)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Nice power with good hand-eye coordination. However, 2019 wasn’t good and we need to see a bounce back in 2020.
It was a lost year for Montero in 2019 as a broken hamate bone zapped his power and he expanded the strike zone leading to a 31% strikeout rate. 2020 was going to be an important year for him, but we will have to wait until 2021 to see if he can bounce back to 2018-form. If he can, there’s 20-25 power potential with solid contact skills to post a helpful batting average.
9. Jhon Torres (OF)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Intriguing offensive tools with plus power potential and a semblance of an approach
Torres might be the most intriguing Cardinals prospect on this list. He has the size and bat speed to hit for future power. Plus, I like the swing and think he’ll hit with what appears to be a nice approach. In summary, he’s got good size, bat speed, and a semblance of an approach. That sounds like someone in which I would invest.
10. Malcom Nunez (3B)
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 3B
- Tools Summary: 19-year-old who is demonstrating a nice approach at the plate. His bat speed also points to plus future power.
Malcom Nunez is a big kid that in his brief professional exposure, showed excellent bat speed that points to future plus power. There could be challenges as to where he plays based on his size. He’s currently 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds but looks heavier than that. The upside is not an all-star player, but he could hit enough and provide enough pop to be a full-time regular at the highest level. I do worry about conditioning which could limit him from reaching his ceiling.
11. Tink Hence (RHP)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Second round supplemental pick in the 2020 Draft with a nice fastball-slider combination
In addition to having a plus name, Tink Hence also brings a ton of athleticism with a fastball that will sit in the mid-’90s with a slider that should be able to miss bats. The upside is not huge but provided he can throw strikes; the Cardinals should put him in the bullpen and move him quickly through the system. The upside could be a closer.
12. Edmundo Sosa (SS)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Utility Player
- Tools Summary: Can play multiple positions and has a little power. However, his aggressive approach has put his ceiling at a utility player.
We’ve been writing about Edmundo Sosa for years. He was signed in 2012 out of Panama as a defensive first talent that the Cardinals hoped would develop some offensive skills. Now 24, he still is developing an approach that is more than “see ball, hit ball”. In 2,294 plate appearance in the minor leagues, he’s walked 129 times. That’s 5.6% of the time. While I like the power Sosa can provide and he can play multiple positions, the ceiling is a utility player in the Majors.
13. Conner Capel (OF)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
- Tools Summary: The scouting report continues to be good but the game production has yet to appear. There is good speed and power, but it comes with an aggressive approach.
Conner Capel has tools as he’s an above-average runner with bat speed that suggests he’ll eventually hit for power. However, he has yet to post a stat line that would turn heads at any level. He’ll turn 24 next May and was hurt by the missed season of instruction. There still is a chance he can develop into a full-time regular, but his realistic ceiling is that of a fourth outfielder.
14. Justin Williams (OF)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Backup Player
- Tools Summary: I’m still intrigued but he’s never performed to what his tools have suggested he could be
I’ve always been intrigued by Justin Williams. He has the size, speed, and bat speed that you want to see in a player. But, he’s just never developed, and at this point, he’s looking like an extra bat as a ceiling. He still makes our list because I dunno, I’m just not willing to write him off yet. There are plenty of guys that develop late and if he can develop a better approach, he could be one of those guys.
15. Junior Fernandez (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Reliever
- Tools Summary: Average stuff but if he can throw enough strikes, he could spend a few years in the Majors
The upside on Junior Fernandez isn’t great, but he’s gotten guys out in the Major Leagues, so that makes him relevant. He’s a sinker-slider pitcher that gets poor spin on his pitches which might be why the exit velocity is so high on his pitches. But the fastball will sit 94 MPH and if he can develop a change-up, he could be a reliever for a few years in St. Louis.
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