St. Louis is a city rich in baseball tradition and baseball success. From Stan “The Man” Musial and Bob Gibson to Lou Brock, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols, the list goes on and on. Only the Evil Empire has more World Series championships than the Cardinals 11, two of which came in the last six years of the Pujols era. Speaking of Pujols, he was a 13th round pick by the Cardinals in the 1999 draft and progressed into one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. He’s just one of the many top-notch prospects the Cardinals have developed over the years, and in particular, the 21st century. This organization has been one of the best at developing talent and that remains true to this day. If you’re a fan of offense, you’re going to love this current batch of Cardinals prospects.
Outside of Alex Reyes, the pitching depth in this system is suspect with plenty of question marks, but that’s certainly not the case with the position prospects. Nine of the top 10 and 20 of the 25 names on this list are position players, including the new top dog in the system. A player with massive offensive upside that fell to St. Louis with the 19th pick in June’s amateur draft. Maybe St. Louis sold their soul to make that happen. Whatever it was, that 19th overall pick is where we start these rankings after a dominant first professional season.
Overall System Grade: B
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Memphis – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Springfield – Texas League
Single-A (Advanced): Palm Beach – Florida State League
Single-A (Full): Peoria Chiefs – Midwest League
Short-season Single-A: State College – New York-Penn League
Rookie: Johnson City – Appalachian League, one team in the Gulf Coast League, two teams in the Dominican Summer League.
Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Podcast on the Fantrax Podcast Network with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney.
New Top 25 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects
1. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Bats: L, DOB: 5/10/00, ETA 2020/2021
2018 Stats (RK/A): .291/.380/.570/.950, 13 2B, 17 HR, 1 SB, 12.4 BB%, 27.7 K%, 237 AB
Do I have a man-crush on Nolan Gorman? You’re damn straight I do. The #19 overall pick back in June possesses 70-grade (at least) raw power and quickly became a nightmare for opposing minor league pitchers. Out of the 445 hitters drafted in June that received at least one plate appearance in 2018, none had more home runs than Gorman’s 17 taters.
— Peace, love, and dirty feet (@mufuhkajones) July 17, 2018
This is a swing geared for a ton of power. Gorman loads deep onto his back leg, times with a moderate leg kick, and explodes through the zone with a clean, uppercut swing. His quick wrists and strength create plenty of bat speed, loft, and hard contact. There are some swing and miss tendencies to his game, as evident by his 36.4 K% with Single-A Peoria, but the contact skills are good enough to hit in the .270-.280 range to go along with 40-plus homer upside. A middle of the order monster in the making.
2. Alex Reyes, RHP, DOB: 8/29/94 ETA Debuted in 2016
2018 Stats (4 Levels): 23.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 17.2 K/9, .096 AVG
2018 Stats (MLB): 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
The year was 2016. Cardinals top prospect, Alex Reyes, made his Major League debut, pitching 46 innings across five starts and seven relief appearances. That left him 4.1 innings shy of exhausting his prospect status (130 AB, 50 IP, 45 days on active roster). Now, approaching three years later, Reyes will finally graduate from Prospect University with the first out he records during the 2019 season. Tommy John surgery in February 2017 and a torn Lat tendon that required surgery this June have limited him to that one lone start over the last two seasons.
We all know Reyes has ace upside. That’s blatantly obvious if you’ve ever watched him pitch. A triple-digit fastball, hammer curve, and a fading, upper-80’s changeup which are all plus or better offerings make up his arsenal and causes fits for opposing hitters when he’s commanding them. That command has been the one facet of Reyes’ game that has lagged behind and tends to come and go at times. There’s ace upside even if the command stays as it is. And if it improves, Reyes could become one of the top 5-10 pitchers in the game.
3. Elehuris Montero, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 8/17/98, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): .315/.371/.504/.875, 37 2B, 16 HR, 3 SB, 7.2 BB%, 19.4 K%, 480 AB
Montero has the potential to be a special offensive player in this league. From the right side, Montero’s swing is direct through the zone with plenty of bat speed. While his swing is geared more for line drives right now, some added loft to his swing as he develops will help him tap into his 30-homer upside. Montero controls the strike zone well and doesn’t chase many pitches outside of the zone so hitting for average shouldn’t be a problem here longterm. This offensive profile will play fine at either third base or across the diamond if he’s forced to move over there due to his lack of speed and range.
4. Malcom Nunez, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 3/9/01, ETA 2023
2018 Stats (RK): .415/.497/.774/1.272, 16 2B, 13 HR, 3 SB, 13.1 BB%, 14.6 K%, 164 AB
I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, don’t take rookie league numbers too seriously. The hitting is always more advanced than the pitching and the statistic follow suit. With that being said, it’s hard to not be excited about the offensive potential of Malcom Nunez, The Cardinals signed the Cuban third baseman this July to a 300K signing bonus, which due to previously exceeding their bonus pool allotment, was the maximum they could offer Nunez.
Starting week 3 of my international scouting trip. Here's Malcom Nuñez, 16-year-old Cuban third baseman here in the Dominican Republic. pic.twitter.com/YAnID1Ul8s
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) November 5, 2017
Look at Nunez in the above video for a second. This is a strong man with a swing geared for hard contact, and particularly, hard contact in the air. Nunez has quick wrists and generates plenty of bat speed and hard contact to all fields with a slight uppercut swing. While his swing is hard, he doesn’t sell out for his plus raw power and should hit for strong batting averages moving forward. He’s no speedster, but is quick enough to make the necessary plays at the hot corner with a very strong throwing arm. Look for Nunez to shoot up prospect rankings over the next 12-18 months if he continues to develop as expected. This is a potentially special offensive talent, but remember, he’s still 17. There’s a long way to go.
5. Jhon Torres, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 3/29/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK): .321/.409/.525/.933, 9 2B, 8 HR, 4 SB, 10.2 BB%, 19.9 K%, 162 AB
To free up some of their outfield logjam, the Cardinals dealt Triple-A outfielder Oscar Mercado to the Indians for Connor Capel and Jhon Torres. Yes, both Capel and Torres are outfielders, but much further away from the Majors than Mercado was. Torres is further away than Capel is, but has the higher upside of the duo. The 18-year-old Colombian registered a .933 OPS this season in rookie ball and was one of the best hitters in the Gulf Coast League after the trade. There’s plenty of power projection here and the hit tool shows promise as well. Torres generates consistent hard contact and loft from the right side and fits the mold of a power-hitting corner outfielder quite well.
6. Randy Arozarena, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 2/28/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .274/.359/.433/.792, 21 2B, 12 HR, 26 SB, 8.2 BB%, 20.3 K%, 358 AB
The common theme in these rankings thus far has been top notch offensive talent with raw power but not much speed. That all changes now. Speed is Arozarena’s most noteworthy tool. In two seasons since signing out Cuba, Arozarena has swiped 44 bases in 234 games while getting caught 15 times for a 74.6% success rate. That speed has also been an asset to Arozarena in the outfield, where he displays good range in centerfield with an average or better throwing arm.
At the plate, Arozarena displays an advanced approach with solid contact skills and plate coverage. His quick swing is geared more for gap shots than home runs, but there’s enough strength here for 10-15 home runs annually. The biggest problem here that there’s no spot for him to play. St. Louis still has Dexter Fowler and Marcel Ozuna under contract and both Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neil vying for playing time as well.
7. Andrew Knizer, C, Bats: R, DOB: 2/3/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .313/.368/.430/.798, 18 2B, 7 HR, 0 SB, 7.2 BB%, 12.8 K%, 335 AB
The Yadier Molina era might be nearing the end, but the Andrew Knizer era is just beginning. Okay, maybe Carson Kelly will have something to say about that. Kelly is the superiors defender, but Knizer is more than adequate behind the plate and has the edge on Kelly offensively. Knizer is one of those hitters that doesn’t walk or strike out that much. He puts the ball in play often and can use the whole field. His swing is geared more for line drives, but he’s strong enough to hit 10-15 home runs annually to go along with a batting average of .270 or better.
8. Dylan Carlson, OF, Bats: S, DOB: 10/3/98, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A/A+): .246/.348/.390/.738, 22 2B, 11 HR, 8 SB, 12.4 BB%, 17.7 K%, 423 AB
The Cardinals first-round pick in 2016, Carlson brings a little bit of everything to the table, but lacks a plus tool or overly high upside. A switch-hitter, Carlson covers the plate well from both sides and limits his strikeouts. At the very least, we should expect solid batting averages and OBPs from him moving forward. The raw power currently outweighs Carlson’s game power, but there’s enough strength here to reach 20 homers with some added loft. Overall, Carlos projects as a major league starting outfielder that is average or better on both sides of the ball. He doesn’t quite have the range for center, but is more than adequate in right with a strong throwing arm.
9. Luken Baker, 1B, Bats: R, DOB: 3/10/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A): .319/.386/.460/.846, 11 2B, 4 HR, 0 SB, 10.3 BB%, 19.0 K%, 163 AB
Baker is a big boy at 6’4/260 with the power to match. He doesn’t quite have Gorman-esque power but diplays plus raw power and can generate hard contact to all fields. Plate coverage is currently a strength, but Baker will need to shorten his swing if he wants to continue to hit for a high average and not be exposed by advanced pitching moving forward. Speed? What speed? A total lack of speed limits Baker to first base or DH for his entire career, but he has the offensive upside to fit right in at either spot.
10. Connor Capel, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 5/9/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A+): .257/.341/.376/.717, 23 2B, 7 HR, 15 SB, 11.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 439 AB
Capel has a good blend of raw power and speed, but has struggled to translate that into production thus far in his minor league career. He’s made strides with his hit tool and shortened his swing so don’t be surprised if the numbers started to improve in 2019. Defensively, he’s solid in center field with good range and an above-average throwing arm.
11. Griffin Roberts, RHP, DOB: 6/13/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A+): 9.2 IP, 5.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 12.1 K/9, .176 AVG
Let me start off here with a video of the pure filth that is Roberts’ slider.
Cardinals fans will like this breaking ball from their draft pick at #43 Griffin Roberts from Wake Forest pic.twitter.com/tDfMhRexw8
— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) June 5, 2018
Yeah, that’s nasty. Roberts’ slider was arguably the best breaking ball in the 2018 draft class along with Carter Stewart’s hammer curveball. A true out pitch that gives hitters on both sides of the plate fits. Now, as beautiful as that pitch is, you can’t throw your slider 100% of the time. Your arm will fall off, grow wings, and fly away. Outside of the slider, Roberts features a low-90’s fastball with some life and got up into the 96-98 range when relieving during the 2016-2017 seasons. Roberts converted to the rotation in 2018 and has a shot to stay there longterm if his fading changeup continues to develop and he keeps his command in check. If not, Roberts fastball/slider combination would excel in a late-innings role.
12. Ryan Helsley, RHP, DOB: 7/8/94, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (RK/AA/AAA): 70.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 10.5 K/9, .194 AVG
Helsley’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s with life and has shown a plus curveball at times, though, it’s an inconsistent offering for him due to his spotty command. He also mixes in a cutter and a changeup, both of which are average offerings at best. Command is going to determine whether Helsley remains a starter or shifts to the bullpen. As of now, Helsley has shown enough command to stay in the rotation but is no lock to remain there longterm. Upside is a #3 starter with high strikeout totals or back-end bullpen arm.
13. Joerlin De Los Santos, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 9/16/00, ETA 2023
2018 Stats (RK): .359/.459/.500/.959, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 30 SB, 14.5 BB%, 12.8 K%, 234 AB
A converted shortstop, De Los Santos possesses blazing speed with plus contact skills and plate coverage. He struck out more than he walked during the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old experiencing his first taste of the minor leagues. There’s more power projection here as well. De Los Santos has a quick right-handed swing and should grow into more power as he develops. Nothing massive, but the 15-20 range is a reasonable expectation. Expect him to come stateside in 2019 and really start making a name for himself in prospect circles.
14. Justin Williams, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 8/20/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (AAA): .251/.306/.378/.684, 21 2B, 11 HR, 4 SB, 6.5 BB%, 21.2 K%, 426 AB
This now makes six outfielders in the top-14 of these rankings, in case you weren’t keeping track. Williams came over in the Tommy Pham trade and just adds to the outfield logjam in this system. I’ll be honest, I’m not overly intrigued by Justin Williams as a dynasty prospect and struggle to see him carving out a role in this organization. There are some solid contact skills and enticing raw power here, but that gets suppressed by his extreme groundball tendencies. If Williams can add some much-needed loft to his swing, there’s 20-25 homer upside in his bat. However, outside of that, there’s not a lot to get excited about now that he’s in St. Louis.
15. Dakota Hudson, RHP, DOB: 9/15/94, ETA Debuted in 2018
2018 Stats (AAA): 111.2 IP, 2.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, .254 AVG
2018 Stats (MLB): 27.1 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 5.9 BB/9, 6.3 K/9, .196 AVG
After 2.5 years in the system, Hudson got his shot at the Majors by way of the Cardinals bullpen during the second half of the 2018 season. And that’s exactly where I believe he’ll end up long term. Hudson’s mid-90’s and sharp slider are both plus pitches, but outside of those, the rest of his arsenal is very average and the command comes and goes. The Cardinals will likely give him every chance to remain a starter, but without further development of his changeup or control, I don’t see that happening. I’m not even sure he has what it takes to thrive as a closer either. Most likely, we’re looking at a future middle reliever.
16. Leandro Cedeno, 1B/OF, Bats: R, DOB: 8/22/98, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (RK): .336/.419/.592/1.011, 13 2B, 14 HR, 2 SB, 8.5 BB%, 26.7 K%, 223 AB
Immense raw power has always been the calling card for Cedeno and that finally translated into games this season in the Appalachian League. For now, Cedeno has gotten by with his longer swing in rookie ball, but that won’t be the case as he advances to the upper minors against more experienced pitching. If he wants to keep his strikeouts in check and continue to capitalize on that raw power, Cedeno will likely need to adjust his swing to be more direct to the ball and quicker through the strike zone.
17. Nick Dunn, 2B, Bats: L, DOB: 1/29/97, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-/A): .253/.329/.361/.690, 14 2B, 3 HR, 3 SB, 8.2 BB%, 10.7 K%, 249 AB
Here’s your safe prospect on this list. Selected in the 5th round back in June, Dunn displays a plus hit tool and exceptional plate discipline, which led to almost as many walks as strikeouts in his professional debut. His swing is quick and clean from the left side and Dunn even added some loft during his final season at Maryland. Don’t expect a ton of category juice here, especially steals, but Dunn has the offensive upside to hit .280 with 15-20 home runs annually.
18. Genesis Cabrera, LHP, DOB: 10/10/96, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 140.1 IP, 4.17 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, .223 AVG
Another piece to come over from Tampa Bay in the Pham trade, Cabrera saw his both his walk rate and strikeout rate rise in 2018. Unfortunately, those both aren’t good things. Like most young pitchers, command and lack of a consistent changeup are lagging behind for Cabrera. Though, he has shown improvement with his changeup and repeats his delivery well. If he’s unable to develop those facets of his game, his fastball/slider combination would make him a weapon out of the pen from the left side.
19. Lane Thomas, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 8/23/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .264/.333/.489/.823, 23 2B, 27 HR, 17 SB, 8.7 BB%, 23.3 K%, 515 AB
Look what we have here, another Cardinals outfield prospect. Good luck finding a spot Mr. Thomas. Even that Triple-A outfield in Memphis is getting crowded at this point. A former Blue Jays farmhand, Thomas broke out last season, setting career-highs in doubles, home runs, RBI, and runs scored. The speed had been there in the past but he had never even hinted at this type of power potential. Before this year, his car Thomas began making more hard contact in the air and pulling the ball more this season, which is a big reason for the power surge. I’m not a believer in his power to this extent, but he should have no issues reaching the 15-20 area more often than not. With no spot for him at the moment, Thomas will likely head back to Triple-A Memphis to start 2019.
20. Max Schrock, 2B, Bats: L, DOB: 10/12/94, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (AAA): .249/.296/.331/.627, 22 2B, 4 HR, 10 SB, 5.3 BB%, 7.9 K%, 417 AB
It wasn’t too long ago that Schrock was considered one of the top Cardinals prospects in the system. Not so much anymore. He puts the ball in play a ton and rarely strikes out. You got to give him props for that at least. However, Schrock doesn’t drive the ball with enough regularity and is unlikely to ever reach double-digits in home runs without adjustments to his swing. I’d expect some slight positive regression to his batting average, but the .300-plus averages he posted in the past likely aren’t coming back. Consider him a .270 hitter with 5-10 home runs and 15-20 steals likely his ceiling.
21. Jonatan Machado, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 1/21/99, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK/A-/A): .230/.284/.291/.575, 14 2B, 2 HR, 12 SB, 6.5 BB%, 19.9 K%, 326 AB
Might be lacking the H in his name but damn sure isn’t lacking in the speed department. Machado possesses game-changing speed and has exceptional range in center field because of it. That speed hasn’t translated into too many steals quite yet, but once he learns how to read pitchers and develops as a base stealer, expect the stolen bases to come in bunches. The biggest question surrounding Machado is his hit tool. Currently, his contact skills are below average. However, thanks to his clean swing, quick wrists, and exceptional bat speed, it’s easy to project a much better hit tool in the future. If progress is made there, Machado could become a dynamic leadoff hitter with intriguing fantasy upside.
22. Edmundo Sosa, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 3/6/96, ETA Debuted in 2018
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .270/.313/.420/.734, 30 2B, 12 HR, 6 SB, 4.5 BB%, 19.3 K%, 452 AB
2018 Stats (MLB): 0/2, R, BB, K
The upside here with Sosa isn’t overly high, but he does enough things well to become a starter at the Major League level. Defensively, he shows good range and the versatility to play second and third, where he spent some time in 2018. His arm isn’t the best at short or third, so second base might end up being his long term defensive home. Offensively, his hit tool is above-average and he’s done a good job limiting his strikeouts during his minor league career. Both the power and speed are minimal, but project to reach double-digits in both. Sosa is likely going to settle in as a utility infielder or a bottom of the order starter.
23. Carlos Soler, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 10/29/99, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK): .337/.402/.500/.902, 14 2B, 8 3B, 1 HR, 7 SB, 7.9 BB%, 21.4 K%, 202 AB
Hey dynasty leaguers, this is a name to file away in the back of the old noggin. Soler has enticing offensive upside with the potential to hit for both average and power down the road. His swing is currently lacking loft, but there’s plenty of additional power projection in his athletic 6’3 frame. This could be a name that shoots up prospect lists over the next year or two.
24. Delvin Perez, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 11/24/98, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-): .213/.301/.272/.573, 5 2B, 1 HR, 8 SB, 10.4 BB%, 20.1 K%, 239 AB
A defensive wizard, Perez has a solid chance of making it to the Majors solely on his defensive abilities. That is, if he can show any level of adequacy at the plate, something that hasn’t happened yet. He has shown the ability to work the count and keep his strikeouts in check. It’s just that whole making hard contact thing that he has a problem with. Even with improvements at the plate, the ceiling is likely a .240-.250 hitter with 20-25 steals annually.
25. Adolis Garcia, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 3/2/93, ETA Debuted in 2018
2018 Stats (AAA): .256/.281/.500/.781, 25 2B, 22 HR, 10 SB, 3.3 BB%, 23.1 K%, 406 AB
2018 Stats (MLB): 2/17, 3 R, 0 BB, 7 K
I didn’t include Garcia originally on this list due to the fact that I see him as a Quad-A type of player. He’s going to be 26 before opening day 2019 and is thoroughly blocked in St. Louis. He has above-average raw power and a touch of speed, but the plate approach needs major work and will likely be exposed consistently against Major League pitching.
Up – Nolan Gorman (3B), Malcom Nunez (3B).
Down – Max Schrock (2B), Dakota Hudson (RHP).
Other Team Prospect Reports
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.