photo: Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore (St. Louis Cardinals)
The next subject in our Top 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022 series is the organization’s best minor league prospects, sorted by position. At the end, all Top 50 members are shown by position groupings in an organizational prospect depth chart.
The selection process is very straightforward. We have already unveiled our Top 50 prospects in the system. Putting together this year’s All-Prospect Team is as simple as culling the top-ranked player at each position from that Top 50.
The annual The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals All-Prospect Team includes 11 players – eight position players, including two corner outfielders, plus three pitchers – left and right-handed starters and a reliever.
Listed are each player’s ranking in the 2022 Top 50, age and highest level played in 2021.
The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals 2022 All-Prospect Team
|All Prospect Team 2022||Player||Rank||Age||2021 Level|
|First Base||Juan Yepez *||6||23||AAA|
|Second Base||Nolan Gorman # C||1||21||AAA|
|Third Base||Jordan Walker *||2||19||A+|
|Corner Outfield||Lars Nootbaar *||10||24||MLB|
|Corner Outfield||Alec Burleson *||14||23||AAA|
|Center field||Joshua Baez *||12||18||Rk|
|LH Starter||Matthew Liberatore||3||22||AAA|
|RH Starter||Michael McGreevy *||8||21||A|
|RH Reliever||Tink Hence *||19||19||Rk|
* new members
C = unofficial captain
# position change
Prior to the four new members of the 2021 All-Prospect Team, a more typical year had higher turnover, in the seven to nine range. 2022 returns to that level with the total count of new members at seven. (Newbies are denoted by an asterisk * above).
With one spot open again for the second consecutive year, left-handed reliever, that means just four of the 11 are holdovers. Catcher Ivan Herrera and shortstop Masyn Winn are back for a second year. Left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore is tops at his position for the third time and his childhood friend, Nolan Gorman leads the way with four straight selections.
However, the latter, qualifies at a new position, having moved from third base to second base. Not only is Gorman is the top-ranked prospect on the team (and for the entire system), his four years of seniority makes him the clear choice as is our unofficial team captain.
The seven new members of the team come from just two different sources. First baseman Juan Yepez was acquired in trade in 2017, from Atlanta for Matt Adams. The other six were Cardinals draftees – outfielder Lars Nootbaar (2018), third baseman Jordan Walker, outfielder Alec Burleson and relief pitcher Tink Hence (all in 2020) and center fielder Joshua Baez and right-handed starting pitcher Michael McGreevy (both in 2021).
The 19-year-old Hence holds an unusual distinction. With his number 19 ranking for 2022, the 63rd overall player taken in the 2020 draft may still be considered a starter, but on this list, he has become the top-ranked reliever.
The reason is that through his first full season (after taking 2020 off), Hence threw eight one-inning outings. Perhaps the wraps will come off in 2022, but so far, Hence hasn’t performed as a starter. (The next closest reliever is Jake Walsh at no. 27.)
TCN St. Louis Cardinals All-Prospect Teams – 2018 through 2021
All-Prospect Team members from the previous four seasons are included for comparison purposes.
|Catcher||Ivan Herrera||Andrew Knizner||Andrew Knizner||Carson Kelly|
|First Base||Luken Baker||Luken Baker||Luken Baker||Luke Voit|
|Second Base||Chandler Redmond||Ramon Urias||Max Schrock||Max Schrock|
|Shortstop||Masyn Winn||Edmundo Sosa||Tommy Edman||Yairo Munoz|
|Third Base||Nolan Gorman||Nolan Gorman||Nolan Gorman||Evan Mendoza|
|Corner OF||Jhon Torres||Jhon Torres||Tyler O’Neill||Tyler O’Neill|
|Corner OF||Dylan Carlson||Dylan Carlson||Dylan Carlson||Adolis Garcia|
|Center field||Trejyn Fletcher||Trejyn Fletcher||Lane Thomas||Harrison Bader|
|LH Starter||Matthew Liberatore||Matthew Liberatore||Evan Kruczynski||Austin Gomber|
|RH Starter||Johan Oviedo||Jake Woodford||Alex Reyes||Alex Reyes|
|LH Reliever||none||Genesis Cabrera||Genesis Cabrera||Ryan Sherriff|
|RH Reliever||Junior Fernandez||Junior Fernandez||Seth Elledge||Josh Lucas|
Here is how the seven players who left the 2021 All-Prospect Team departed. Three graduated to the majors – outfielder Dylan Carlson, right-handed starting pitcher Johan Oviedo and reliever Junior Fernandez.
Second baseman Chandler Redmond was bumped by Gorman, Luken Baker was supplanted by Juan Yepez at first and outfielders Jhon Torres and Trejyn Fletcher were passed by Alec Burleson and Joshua Baez, respectively.
Age and experience – 2018-2022
The 2022 All-Prospect Team includes a very unusual development. Youth has been served again, as the average age has dropped in each of the last five years. Even more unique is that for the first time since at least 2007 (when I first recognized his team)., the average age of the group is under 21 years of age.
Only three of the 11 are 23 years of age or older, same as in 2021. The eldest is Nootbaar at 24, with Yepez and Burleson at 23.
The level of play reached by the average player is Double-A, one level higher than last year. That is interesting in that the team is younger, but more experienced. That suggests the Cardinals are pushing top players ahead a bit faster. One reason could be the lost 2020 season with another possible factor being the elimination of the Short-Season Class A and Rookie Advanced levels.
After four consecutive years without a short-season representative, the 2021 All-Prospect Team included two who played in Rookie ball in the prior season. That streak has been extended to two years with the choice of Joshua Baez as the 2022 representative in center field.
Depth Chart (name/overall ranking)
I will close with the 2022 Top 50 Prospect List oriented by position. Remember that the members of the All-Prospect Team are listed first in each position grouping. This provides a quick visual snapshot of system-wide balance at all positions across the system.
|Pos||#||Name (Top 50 rank)|
|C||4||Ivan Herrera (4)||Ali Sanchez (23)||Julio Rodriguez (33)|
|Pedro Pages (36)|
|1B||5||Juan Yepez (6)||Luken Baker (16)||Chandler Redmond (25)|
|Todd Lott (45)||Thomas Francisco (50)|
|2B||2||Nolan Gorman (1)||Brendan Donovan (11)|
|SS||3.5||Masyn Winn (5) (+RHR)||Kramer Robertson (26)||Delvin Perez (30)|
|Jeremy Rivas (46)|
|3B||2||Jordan Walker (2)||Malcom Nunez (15)|
|COF||7||Lars Nootbaar (10)||Alec Burleson (14)||Jhon Torres (18)|
|Ryan Holgate (20)||Patrick Romeri (28)||Matt Koperniak (35)|
|Conner Capel (38)|
|CF||3||Joshua Baez (12)||Luis Mario Pino (31)||Trejyn Fletcher (32)|
|LHS||4||Matthew Liberatore (3)||Zack Thompson (7)||Connor Thomas (24)|
|Levi Prater (29)|
|RHS||14||Michael McGreevy (8)||Angel Rondon (9)||Andre Pallante (13)|
|Gordon Graceffo (17)||Ian Bedell (21)||Austin Love (22)|
|Alec Willis (34)||Dionys Rodriguez (37)||Logan Gragg (39)|
|Zane Mills (40)||Connor Lunn (42)||Wilfredo Pereira (43)|
|Inohan Paniagua (48)||Yordy Richard (49)|
|RHR||5.5||Tink Hence (19)||Jake Walsh (27)||Jack Ralston (41)|
|Edwin Nunez (44)||Freddy Pacheco (47)|
I feel pretty good about this Top 50 positional distribution. On first blush, the right side of the infield may appear a bit overrepresented, especially at first base. However, a number of them are multi-positional in real life, giving the Top 50 additional flexibility.
Another way to look at the team positively is that the All-Prospect Team (excluding reliever Hence) are ranked in our top 14. And all 11 are in the new top 20.
In terms of depth, most positions are at least two deep in the top 26 with the exception being center field. At that important position, new international signee Luis Mario Piño and sliding Trejyn Fletcher back up 2021 draftee Joshua Baez. The Cardinals may have recognized this by taking Baez in the second round and they may need to continue to focus on the position in the future.
The corner outfield has decent quantity with seven, but the group after Nootbaar and Burleson still have a lot to prove. The group could be joined by third baseman Jordan Walker if he is moved to the outfield.
Shortstop is another thin position behind Winn. Kramer Robertson isn’t likely going to a starter and Delvin Perez’ star is fading. So another of the up-the-middle positions could be a continued draft focus.
While the bullpen depth isn’t particularly strong, the wealth of starting contenders, augmented by the 2021 draft class, has made a good start in bolstering the struggling pitching depth in the system. But more is probably needed.
Specifically, among starting pitchers, the right-handed supply is higher than ever at 13.5, recognizing that Winn’s future as a two-way player is still partially cloudy. The mid-to-low tier offers plenty of less experienced pitchers from international ball with uncertain ceilings.
The quantity of left-handed starters is consistent at four, with Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson above the others, but Connor Thomas really made big strides in 2021. Don’t sleep on him.
There are no left-handed relievers in the Top 50 for the second consecutive year, which is not a major concern.
In upcoming articles in this series, we dig into the top prospects by level of play and their expected MLB debuts as well as taking a different look at the Top 50 – based on potential only.
Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s message boards.
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