Top Prospects Series
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. This is the third year we’ve delineated between two expected relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed usually correspond to the year a player must be added to the 40-man roster to avoid becoming eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where it seems appropriate, but we use that as a rule of thumb.
A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.
All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers with sortable scouting information for each organization. It has more detail (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s roster so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. You can find it here.
Other prospects of note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
The devil’s magical candidates
Nathan Church, OF
Mike Antico, OF
Victor Scott II, OF
Alex Iadisernia, OF
This group of mostly old hitters tends to lack the power to profile at the positions they can play, but several of them have bat-to-ball feel or good secondary skills and could go a version of the Jon Jay path . Church, a small lefty out of UC Irvine, has the best bat-to-ball feel of this group, but arguably the least physical. Antico and Scott can both fly. Scott plays particularly well in the Midwest League, but we don’t see his swing as long-term viable since it’s so long. Iadisernia has some barrel feel and a compact lefty and does well at Low-A.
The armed forces can carry them
Jimmy Crooks, C
Michael Curialle, 3B/OF
Aaron McKeithan, C
Noah Mendlinger, 2B
Crooks, a fourth-rounder out of Oklahoma from the 2022 draft, has a collection of 40-grade tools that will play at 40-man if he can become a 50-or-better defender. Curialle has been a notable prospect since he was an underclassman in high school. He performed well at UCLA, so he should crush the Florida State League, and he is. His swing has some similarities to Justin Turner’s, but Curialle’s hands aren’t quite as fast. He’s not a lock to stick at third, but if he can play more corner positions, he’ll hit enough to be a 40. McKeithan is old for High-A, but he has on-base skills, sneaky pull-pop and plays a premium position. Mendlinger has been difficult for upper-level pitchers to swing and miss, and he plays second and third base.
Have a relief shot
Trent Baker, RHP
Roy Garcia, RHP
Andrew Marrero, RHP
Nathanael Heredia, LHP
Baker has been in the Peoria rotation, hitting 92-94 mph with his usual plus changeup. His delivery is as violent as the end of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and more typical of a reliever. Garcia and Marrero (also both with Peoria – Garcia was just promoted) sit at around 95. For Marrero, that’s a four-tick bump compared to 2022, though he has very little release consistency right now. Garcia’s fastball slows down a bit because of the sinker. Heredia hasn’t pitched to an affiliate like list publishing, but a source told us he’s been sitting 92-94 with wash and a fair slider in the extended. It’s below our previous notes on him by a couple of notches, enough to push him here. He was recently assigned to Palm Beach and could be starting there soon, so keep an eye on his velo in case it backfires.
Max Rajcic, RHP
Inohan Paniagua, RHP
Hansel Rincon, RHP
Cade Winquest, RHP
Rajcic has a vertical fastball/curveball combination that should do well in the lower levels of the minors. He sits 92-93 mph with riding life and has a path to the majors as a multi-inning reliever if his slider and changeup continue to play against more advanced hitters. So far, those pitches have performed well on a rate basis, but he barely throws them. Paniagua is an athletic little righty with 30-degree velo and a good curveball who has been out with a shoulder injury so far in 2023. Rincon, 21, has plenty of starting ingredients in his repertoire depth (led by a changeup), and the ease and grace of his delivery. He sits just 90-94 right now and is of smaller build, like Paniagua, but without a nasty secondary pitch. Winquest is also athletic, throws strikes and will hit 95, but he lacks an outfield right now. He can land his breaking ball for strikes and has a really solid changeup that can develop into a power-action style cambio.
Big Money High School Picks
Alec Willis, RHP
Joshua Baez, DH
Tre Fletcher, RF
Willis was a $1 million seventh-round prep signee in 2021. There was a point when the 6-foot-5 righty was hitting 82-85 mph as an amateur, then he came back from ulnar nerve decompression surgery and peaked in the middle of 90s. Arm problems have kept him from pitching much at all for parts of three pro seasons. Baez and Fletcher were also big-money high school draft picks who, it turns out, are 20-grade hit tools.
The top of the Cardinals system is potent, thanks in large part to their success during the abbreviated 2020 amateur draft. Their first three picks that year were Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn and Tink Hence, all of whom have made strides during their development to solidify their status as top 100 prospects. They also selected Alec Burleson, who has already reached the majors, and Ian Bedell, who has had a strong performance since returning from Tommy John. In fact, a majority of the players on this list are homegrown, which speaks to the organization’s continued success with both drafting and development, and is also an indication that they haven’t needed to trade for prospects in a while. Overall, this system is average, maybe a little below. It’s flush with almost clear relief pitching, but extremely light on position players.
The Cardinals do a fair job of cultivating international talent, but are not as active in the Dominican Republic as most other organizations. Instead, they tend to sign more Venezuelan and Panamanian players (both catchers on this list and Edmundo Sosa are recent hits) and leave the bonus pool open for Cuban or Asian players who hit the market later in the process. There isn’t much to show for that approach in the system right now, but it’s how they came to sign Randy Arozarena, Adolis García, Johan Oviedo and several others. St. Louis’ approach to signing pitchers on the international market seems to yield either small, undersized athletes or big-framed howitzers with poor control.
St. Louis’ approach to pitching in the domestic amateur area has been to target guys who throw strikes, especially if they have a low release point, even if they generate a sink/tail style fastball from said release point. This no doubt limits the ceiling you can hit when you spend high picks on the Michael McGreevys and Cooper Hjerpes of the world, but you end up with a lot of solid backend arms, depth teams have to contend with. Plus, the Cardinals have shown they can develop velocity, it’s just been rare that they’ve done it with guys who already have a strike-casting foundation, Gordon Graceffo aside. It is more common with relievers like Ryan Loutos and Andre Granillo.