All posts by The Cardinal Nation staff

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 2023 Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2023 Prospect Guide is back for its sixth year. It features a record 292 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including over six dozen all-new player scouting reports.

TCN owner Brian Walton and scouting analyst Blake Newberry provide individual player profiles featuring scouting reports, probable 2023 team assignment, Rule 5 status, estimated MLB arrival, ultimate potential and more.

As always, the Guide can be purchased in two formats – the PDF version (offered at half-price for TCN annual subscribers) and the  popular printed book. Both versions are now available.

Click on the box immediately below to see full details and testimonials and to order your copy. PDF orders are filled the same day and printed books ship the next-day via USPS Media Mail.

Order TCN’s 2023 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Annual members can order the 2023 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price!

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Welcome 127 Players to Minor League Camp

photo: Morning warmups (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

On Friday, March 3, the St. Louis Cardinals released their player roster for 2023 Minor League Spring Training Camp, for which players report on Saturday, March 4. The group of 127 includes the 36 players already in Jupiter for the organization’s Spring Training Early Program (STEP) Camp.

Check back this weekend for Brian Walton’s analysis of the roster as well as his reports from the back fields.

Minor League Spring Training Roster 3.5.23

(Right click on the roster link to download and/or print it.)


Once I saw down and went through the roster name by name, I discovered a typo. The actual list includes 70 pitchers, not 69. That increases the camp total from 127 to 128.

I did not change the article title to reflect this very slight discrepancy.

Update #2

The Cardinals were kind enough to point out that pitcher number 70 and player no. 128 is pitcher Randel Clemente. It turns out that the right-hander was on a preliminary roster but is not in camp. He was removed from all roster views in their initial release, except for the Pitchers column. That has now been corrected so their 69 and 127 were accurate.

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals STEP Camp Report – March 2, 2023

Now available – 2023 Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2023 Prospect Guide is back for its sixth year. It includes a record 292 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of new scouting reports and much more.

Order TCN’s 2023 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Announce Five on 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot

photo: David Freese, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, Joaquin Andujar

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals have revealed Joaquín Andújar, Steve Carlton, David Freese, Matt Morris, and Edgar Renteria as the modern players nominated for possible induction into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, presented by Edward Jones. Fans can view the 2023 Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot and cast their selections online starting Saturday, February 25, at

The modern player with the most votes after fan voting concludes on Friday, April 21, will be selected for induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame during an enshrinement ceremony on Sunday, August 20. The full 2023 Cardinals Hall of Fame Induction Class, which will include a veteran player chosen by the Red Ribbon Committee and a Cardinals organization selection, will be announced during a televised special program on Bally Sports in early May.

“The annual Hall of Fame Induction process connects generations of Cardinals fans,” said Cardinals Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Bill DeWitt Jr. “I want to thank the Red Ribbon Committee for helping us navigate this process and for caring so much about Cardinals history.”

The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame was established to recognize the exceptional careers and significant achievements of the greatest players in Cardinals history. To be eligible, the nominees must have played for the Cardinals for at least three seasons and be retired as a player from Major League Baseball for at least three years.

All 50 members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame are permanently enshrined in the Cardinals Hall of Fame Gallery presented by Edward Jones located on the second floor of Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village, just outside the entrance to the team’s museum. The Hall of Fame Gallery is free and open to the public.

A full list of Cardinals Hall of Famers can be found at

A description of each 2023 Cardinals Hall of Fame nominee’s career as a Cardinal follows:

Joaquin Andujar (Getty Images)

Joaquín Andújar (RHP)
Years on Ballot: 1
Years: 1981 – 1985
68-53, 3.33 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 37 CG, 13 SHO, 540 SO, 1077.0 IP (153 GS)

Joaquín Andújar was a back-to-back 20-game winner with the Cardinals. He tied for the major league lead with 20 victories in 1984 and ranked tied for second in the National League with 21 the following year. The right-hander was an All-Star selection and finished fourth in N.L. Cy Young Award voting both seasons, and he won a Gold Glove Award in 1984. Andújar won the 1982 pennant-clincher against Atlanta and Games 3 and 7 of the World Series against Milwaukee. He also pitched for the 1985 N.L. champions. Andújar averaged seven innings per start over his four-plus seasons with St. Louis.

Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton (LHP)
Years on Ballot: 5
Years: 1965 – 1971
77-62, 3.10 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 66 CG, 16 SHO, 951 SO, 1265.1 IP (172 GS)

Steve Carlton began his National Baseball Hall of Fame career in St. Louis, capped with a 20-9 record and his third All-Star selection in 1971. He ranked second in the National League with a 2.17 ERA in 1969. The left-hander ranks eighth in franchise history with 951 strikeouts, tied for third with 13 games of 10+ strikeouts and is one of only two Cardinals pitchers to win 75 games before turning 27. In his five full seasons with the Cardinals, Carlton averaged 32 starts and 237 innings while working more than seven innings per start. He was a member of the 1967 World Series champions and for the 1968 N.L. pennant winners.

David Freese (USA TODAY Sports)

David Freese (3B)
Years on Ballot: 1
Years: 2009 – 2013
.286/.356/.427/.783, 448 H, 81 2B, 44 HR, 237 RBI, 195 R (466 G)

Third baseman David Freese became a postseason legend with the Cardinals. In Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against Texas, the local from Wildwood, Missouri, hit a game-tying, two-out, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth inning and a walk-off home run two innings later. St. Louis staved off elimination and went on to win Game 7. Freese was named World Series MVP on the heels of being the NLCS MVP, while setting MLB records for most RBI (21) and extra-base hits (14) in a single postseason. The following season, Freese posted career highs of 20 homers and 79 RBI while batting .293 and being selected to the All-Star team.

Matt Morris (USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Morris (RHP)
Years on Ballot: 8
Years: 1997 – 2005
101-62, 3.61 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 18 CG, 8 SHO, 986 SO, 1377.1 IP (206 GS)

During his eight seasons with the Cardinals, Matt Morris achieved a .620 winning percentage to rank seventh in franchise history among pitchers with at least 750 innings. He won 11 or more games six times. The right-hander’s finest season came in 2001, when he went 22-8 (tied for the most wins in the Majors), earned the first of back-to-back All-Star Game selections and finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting. Morris ranks sixth on the Cardinals’ all-time strikeouts list with 986. He pitched for five N.L. Central Division championship teams and made 11 postseason starts (third-most in franchise annals).

Edgar Renteria

Edgar Renteria (SS)
Years on Ballot: 8
Years: 1999 – 2004
.290/.347/.420, 973 H, 207 2B, 71 HR, 451 RBI, 497 R, 148 SB (903 G)

Among shortstops, Edgar Renteria ranks second in Cardinals history in home runs and stolen bases and third in hits, extra-base hits, RBI and batting average (min. 1,500 plate appearances). He won three Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Glove Awards in six seasons, including both in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, Renteria set franchise records for a shortstop with a .330 average and 47 doubles, to go with 13 homers, 100 RBI and 34 steals. A three-time All-Star with St. Louis, he played on four N.L. Central Division championship teams and batted .333 in the 2004 World Series against Boston.

Cardinals Hall of Fame Gallery (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum

The 8,000-square-foot St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum on the second floor of Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village celebrates the rich history of baseball in St. Louis and the legacy of one of baseball’s most storied franchises. Since its creation in 2014, the Cardinals Hall of Fame presented by Edward Jones, has inducted 50 former Cardinal players, coaches and executives. The Cardinals’ museum collection is the largest team-held collection in baseball and is second only to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in terms of size with over 22,000 memorabilia items and hundreds of thousands of archived photos. Fans can learn more about the museum at

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2023 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospects Ranked by Future Value and Risk

Now available – 2023 Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2023 Prospect Guide is back for its sixth year. It includes a record 292 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of new scouting reports and much more.

Order TCN’s 2023 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Congratulate Scott Rolen on Hall of Fame Selection

photo: Scott Rolen (Getty Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate former third baseman and Cardinals Hall of Famer Scott Rolen, who earned selection this evening Tuesday, January 24)  to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Rolen was the lone player who received the necessary 75 percent of all ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

“On behalf of the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization, I would like to congratulate Scott Rolen on the well-deserved honor of being selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” stated Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.  “Scott was a cornerstone of our infield and lineup during his six seasons in St. Louis, and helped create many fond memories as part of the great Cardinals teams of the mid-2000s.”

Rolen, a standout three-sport athlete at Jasper (Ind.) High School in baseball, basketball and tennis, was originally drafted and signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 1993 MLB Draft.  He played in 325 minor league games before making an instant impact in the Major Leagues with his debut on August 1, 1996 versus the Cardinals, starting and playing both ends of a doubleheader at Veterans Stadium.

The following season, Rolen won the 1997 Rookie of the Year Award in the National League, batting .283 with 21 home runs, 92 RBI, 35 doubles, three triples, 93 runs scored and a .377 on-base percentage.  He led the Phillies in games played (156), runs, home runs, RBI and tied for the team lead with a career-high 16 stolen bases.  Rolen was the first Phillies player to win rookie honors since Dick Allen in 1964.

The slick-fielding third baseman would go on to play 17 seasons in the majors covering 2,038 games while earning eight Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, fourth-most all-time among third basemen only to Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10) and current Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (10).  Rolen would add a Silver Slugger Award in 2002 and selections to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game seven times including four straight seasons with the Cardinals (2003-06).  He finished his career batting .281 with 316 home runs, 1,287 RBI, 517 doubles, 43 triples, 1,211 runs scored while amassing 2,077 hits and a .855 OPS.

On July 29, 2002, Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and played parts of six seasons helping lead the Redbirds to four postseason appearances, including two World Series and the 2006 World Series Championship.

His finest season came in 2004, during his age-29 season, when he set career-highs in home runs (34), RBI (124), batting average (.314), on-base percentage (.409), slugging percentage (.598), OPS (1.007) and bWAR (9.2), while finishing fourth in NL MVP voting alongside MV3 teammates Albert Pujols (3rd) and Jim Edmonds (5th).

In Game Seven of the 2004 National League Championship Series, Rolen’s two-run home run off Houston Astros starting pitcher Roger Clemens in the 6th inning, broke a 2-2 tie, shaking Busch Stadium II and sending the Cardinals to their first World Series in 17 years.  Rolen played in 32 postseason games for the Cardinals, and concluded his postseason efforts by hitting safely in his final 10 postseason games, scoring a run in nine of them.

Rolen concluded his career with parts of two seasons (2008-09) with Toronto and four years (2009-12) in Cincinnati.

Rolen will become the 54th individual with ties to the St. Louis Cardinals organization to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during its induction ceremony to be held on Sunday, July 23, 2023 in Cooperstown, N.Y., joining fellow Class of 2023 member Fred McGriff who was unanimously elected by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Era Committee in December.

Rolen is the sixth former player with ties to the Cardinals to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the last five years joining relief pitcher Lee Smith (2019), catcher Ted Simmons (2020), outfielder Larry Walker (2020), pitcher Jim Kaat (2022) and outfielder Minnie Miñoso (2022).

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

29 New Invitees to Cardinals 2023 Camp Have Diverse Backgrounds

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #1 – Jordan Walker

photo: Jordan Walker (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Everyone knows Jordan Walker is the clear no. 1 in The Cardinal Nation’s 2023 top prospect countdown. What is unclear, however, is his St. Louis arrival date and the height of his considerable future ceiling. FREE report!

Jordan Walker

Position: Outfielder
Age: 20 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 6’5/230
Acquired: Selected in the first round, 21st overall, in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft

Home: Stone Mountain, Georgia

Opened 2022: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Primary team in 2022: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Finished 2022: Salt River Rafters (Arizona Fall League)

Prior Top 50 ranking – 2022 #2, 2021 #6

Click on the above photo to be taken to Walker’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Walker’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 1

(current grade/future grade)

Hit Power Field Arm Run FV
45/50 60/70 40/50 70/70 55/45 70
.306 .388 .510 .898 19 22 5 10.8% 21.6%
BB/K ISO wRC+ GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
0.50 .204 128 45.5% 23.2% 31.4% 45.9% 25.2% 28.9%

I’ll admit that a 70-grade FV is preposterous. But Jordan Walker is preposterous. I would normally be hesitant to give any player that high of a grade because of the expectations it creates but Jordan Walker’s bat has a chance to be special and his power could be among the best in the game.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself by giving him a 70 FV. I can admit that. But I also am trying to grade players as accurately as I can and Jordan Walker is in a league of his own. Masyn Winn is a supremely talented prospect in his own right but there is a clear gap between he and Walker.

Winn may be the superior athlete and defender but Walker’s bat and immense power push him well ahead of Winn. And he’s a pretty good athlete in his own right. For example, his power is what he’s known for, but he actually tallied more stolen bases than home runs in 2022.

I’ve seen some suggest that Walker may become a 1B/DH type on defense but that simply isn’t the case, in my opinion. It’s certainly possible if Walker continues to add to his 6’5” frame but he has fantastic athleticism for someone of his size and he should have more than enough to hold down a spot in the outfield, where he will get plenty of chances to show off his plus arm that I may have underrated. I say that because he led the system in outfield assists (10) last year despite playing only 31 games in the grass.

His arm isn’t as strong as Winn’s, but it may even be a 65 or a 70. Since I haven’t gotten the chance to see much of it, I am being a little cautious with my grade, but he is absolutely someone that base runners need to think twice (or maybe even three times) about running against.

To my knowledge, he hasn’t been clocked at 100 mph yet, but I don’t doubt that he has it in him.

Walker has more than enough arm to stick in right field so he just needs to patch up his glovework a little bit. But that’s to be expected since he is still so new to the outfield. Reading a fly ball is a skill that takes time to learn, and it can be even harder to read a fly ball in the corner than in center field since balls hook more when they are hit down the line. Since Walker came up as a third baseman, I don’t expect he’s had nearly enough reps to be fully comfortable catching fly balls but that can change with time and effort.

What I will say is that Walker has the athleticism to play the outfield. I have no doubts about that. He is more than a 1B/DH type whose bat gets him in the lineup. His bat will get him in the lineup, make no mistake about that, but he can add value defensively with his above average speed and plus (at least) arm. I haven’t seen enough of him defensively to declare that he will be a good defender, but average seems well within the realm of possibilities.

He is the rare case of a top prospect who could benefit from being kept in the minors to work on his defense. He is simply too new to the position and he shouldn’t be brought up to DH, as he needs the reps in the outfield.

We’re now well into this write-up and I have yet to talk about the thing that Walker does best – namely clobber the ball. Let’s get to that now.

Walker’s first Double-A home run this year was a scorcher that traveled 109 mph off the bat. That’s an impressive home run but he does things like that consistently.

You can get a good look at his mechanics and his tremendous power from this video of one of his five AFL home runs.

Walker has clean and simple mechanics at the plate as he doesn’t need to do a whole lot to generate power. The right-handed hitter starts vertical but crouches down a bit during his load/stride. He has some down and back movement in his hands when he loads. He pairs that with a simple stride forward and a small leg kick, but there’s not a lot of movement and with his quick hands and a relatively short swing path for someone of his size, he does a great job of avoiding strikeouts.

The 20-year-old is quick to the ball and can even get caught out in front at times so he could benefit from waiting a split second longer which is a luxury that is afforded to him due to the quickness of his hands.

He has solid swing mechanics and a great feel for hitting which helped him dominate Double-A pitchers as a 20-year-old. Jacob and Kareem (@CardinalsReek and @KareemSSN on Twitter) gave us his exit velocity numbers for the year to prove that, and, boy, are they impressive.

For context, Juan Soto placed in the 85th percentile in average exit velocity and the 91st percentile in max exit velocity. Now, what this doesn’t mean is that Jordan Walker is Juan Soto. That’s an unfair comparison and, honestly, I’m not even going to try to do a comp with Walker. He’s both extremely talented and unique and it would be unfair to give him the lofty expectations that come with being compared to Soto or anyone else. And I know I gave him a 70 FV, but again, I want to rate him where I think he belongs, and it shouldn’t be disappointing if he only turns into an occasional all-star instead of a consistent top 10 hitter.

His bat is for real, though. There’s no other way to say it. He has a knack for barreling the ball and he makes a lot of contact for someone who is as long-limbed as he is.

The slugger may be known for power, but he has at least an average hit tool which helps him consistently tap into double plus power. The only thing holding his game power back is a propensity to hit too many ground balls. If he can improve on that, it’s not hard to imagine him being a 30+ homer or more guy at the major league level. Pair that with a reasonable average and good patience at the plate and you have a really, really productive hitter.

Walker may be known for his power but his well-rounded blend of skills make him the number 1 overall prospect in the system and one of the best prospects in the game.

Note that I have given a medium rating to his risk factor but that means he has a high risk of reaching his 70-grade FV, not that he has a medium risk of becoming a productive MLB player. That, I feel, is a safe bet.

Summary: Jordan Walker has the most power in the system, but he pairs that with at least an average hit tool, a plus arm, and above average speed to be more than a one-dimensional prospect. His well-rounded game and potentially elite bat give him a ceiling unmatched by any prospect in the system.

Future Value: 70
Role: Top 10 Hitter
Risk: Moderate

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 1


In 2019, as a junior playing for Decatur High School in Georgia), Walker hit .519 with 17 home runs. He then generated national attention in MLB’s Prospect Development Pipeline League by ranking third with five RBI that summer.

Like so many others, Walker was unable to complete his senior season due to the pandemic, but in May he was named Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year for 2020 after hitting .457 with four home runs in 16 games.

Perfect Game was impressed, rating Walker as their no. 2 high school player in the entire 2020 draft and MLB Pipeline ranked him no. 33 among all draft eligibles.

Walker’s signing bonus of $2.9 million was under the slot amount of $3.13 million, with the cost savings used to help cover the gap needed to sign second-rounder Masyn Winn.

Walker was one of just two of the seven players taken by the organization in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft to be included in the 60-man player pool, joining Winn. Organization officials said all the right things about his approach and results. This included exit velocities consistently in the 106- to 107-mph range.

Heading into 2021, Walker made his first appearance in a national top 100 prospect ranking, placing 92nd on Baseball Prospectus’ list. Looking ahead to the next winter, all the other name-brand raters in the field joined BP in recognizing Walker’s considerable potential.

The quick summary of Walker’s 2021 is that he exceeded every expectation for a first-year professional player, especially one who competed at 19 years of age.

Jordan Walker (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Not surprisingly, Walker was challenged out of spring training camp with an assignment to Low-A Palm Beach. After just two weeks, however, he suffered a sprained wrist that kept him out from May 20 until June 12.

At the time of his IL placement, Walker already led Palm Beach in home runs (2), was second in doubles (6) and third in RBI (8). Walker’s slash stats led the team in average at .333, slugging at .600 and OPS at 1.074.

Walker earned Low-A Southeast League Player of the Week honors twice – once before his IL stint (May 10-16) and once immediately afterward (June 14-20).

To observe that Walker came back strongly is an understatement. Though he only played part of June, he earned The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month honors, followed by the Cardinals organization’s same recognition. That month, Walker led the Cardinals organization in batting average (.390), slugging (.712), and OPS (1.169).

As the month ended and with his season to date line an absurd .374/.475/.687/1.162 and a 205 wRC+ in 122 plate appearances over 27 games, he received a promotion to A-Advanced Peoria.

Despite being known for his power, the then-third baseman did not collect his first long ball as a Chief until the final week of July. He made up for it late, serving as a power machine in his final 14 games. He batted .292 and smacked five of his eight total long balls with Peoria (and 14 homers overall) to close his first summer in league action.

In his 55 games with the Chiefs, Walker posted a slash line of .292/.344/.487/.831 and a solid 124 wRC+.

While adjusting to the better pitching in High-A, Walker’s walk rate dropped from 14.8% to 6.1% while his strikeout rate rose from 17.2% to 27.0%. He also experienced a decline in power, as his ISO dropped from .313 to .195. These changes are not too concerning, though, considering that 2021 was Walker’s first exposure to High-A just one year after playing in high school.

Jordan Walker (Peoria Chiefs)

Simply put, his 2021 was impressive across the board.

Walker is the only hitter to place among the top five in the Cardinals system in batting average (.317, first), on-base percentage (.388, fourth), slugging (.548, second) and OPS (.936, second) and stolen bases (14, tied for fifth). His success rate stealing was a stellar 87.5%, indicating an unexpecting added dimension to his game.

Because of his games missed, playing in just 82 contests in total, Walker’s counting stats did not reflect a full season. Specifically, he ranked just 21st in the system in plate appearances. Even so, the results hint of even more power and production ahead. His count of 25 doubles was just four off a share of the system lead and his triples total of four tied for fifth in the organization.

Walker’s wRC+ of 151 was second in the system, with only Juan Yepez’ breakout season keeping Jordan from receiving our system-wide Player of the Year honors. Even then, it was close. And Baseball America did bestow upon Walker their system Player of the Year award. Later, so did the Cardinals, but Walker shared the organization-wide honors with Yepez.

Coming off his 2021, Walker was anointed as the Best Power Hitter in the Cardinals system, also by BA, unseating prior honoree Nolan Gorman.

Walker not only blasted his way onto every national top 100 prospect list heading into 2022, he placed very highly. He had one top 10 placement (again, BP was most aggressive at no. 7), another in the top 20, one appearance in the top 25 and another in the top 30.

2022 recap

Walker seemed a lock to score his first-ever invitation to St. Louis’ spring training camp. However, the ongoing lockout put that opportunity in jeopardy. Not yet being on the 40-man roster meant that Walker could have at least joined minor league camp on time.

However, the labor stalemate was settled in time for Walker to receive his first non-roster camp invite. He didn’t stay too long, going 1-for-5 with a single, an RBI and four strikeouts, but he got his feet wet.

As expected, Walker opened 2022 with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. At 19, he was the youngest player in the Texas League and was one of only two teenagers on an Opening Day Double-A roster.

In May, Walker was already dominating Texas League competition to the tune of a .996 OPS despite being over four years younger than the average player at the level. He had an OBP over .400 as he drew 16 walks and 16 of his 28 hits went for extra bases. The Cardinal Nation named him our Player of the Month.

Jordan Walker (Springfield Cardinals Fanatic Photos)

In July, he participated in the MLB All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles. Walker was the NL’s cleanup hitter and manned third base.

Soon after, Walker made an in-season move to the outfield full-time.  After manning the hot corner for the first 80 games of the season, Walker started exclusively across all three outfield positions over his final 39 games. Right field will most likely be his future home. He was tested and answered the call as his 10 assists led the system.

Though it didn’t happen in game action until early August, Walker said he began the early stages of learning the outfield in spring training.

“In spring training, I was already working on it,” he said. “Cheo (Jose Oquendo) works with the fielders and is really, really wise in baseball. He is all about versatility and wants you to play wherever you can. He is the one who told me to get some work in the outfield when you can. And Gary (farm director LaRocque) told me the same thing. Taking reads off the bat, it wasn’t really serious then.

“After the All-Star break is when they told me, ‘You are going to move to the outfield,’” Walker recalled.

That still-fresh defensive transition may have been the reason he was not promoted to Triple-A Memphis during the summer despite putting up results that led to his second consecutive organization Co-Player of the Year award.

For the season, Walker slashed .306/.388/.510.898 with 19 home runs, 31 doubles, 22 stolen bases, 100 runs, 68 RBI and a .898 OPS across 119 games for Springfield.  He ranked among Cardinals minor league leaders in batting average (3rd), on-base percentage (9th), slugging (7th), OPS (7th), hits (141, tie 2nd), extra-base hits (53, 3rd), home runs (5th), doubles (tie 3rd), total bases (235, 2nd), runs (1st) and stolen bases (tie 5th).

Walker finished the season one home run short of the first 20 home run/20 stolen base season in Springfield team history. His 100 runs scored led all Texas League players, set a Springfield franchise record and were the most in a single-season by a Cardinals minor league player since 1998.

More positives are evident in his strikeout rate of 21.6%, down from 27% in High-A in 2021, and his walk rate of 10.8%, up from his 6.1% mark with Peoria.

He was named the 2022 Texas League Top MLB Prospect, a Texas League All-Star and was selected as the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America. BA also named Walker as having the system’s Best Outfield Arm, but Moises Gomez unseated him as the Best Power Hitter.

Jordan Walker (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Walker’s season was extended into the fall, as he participated in the 2022 Arizona Fall League, He earned selection to the AFL Fall Stars Game and was one of three outfielders named to the All-AFL Team.

From the stat sheet, he slashed .286/.367/.558/.925 with five home runs, six doubles, three stolen bases, 17 runs, 16 RBI and a .925 OPS across 21 games for the Salt River Rafters. Defensively, he spent some time elsewhere in the outfield, but his play was primarily focused on right field.

2023 outlook

Even more so than new catcher Willson Contreras perhaps, Walker may be the most anticipated and watched player in St. Louis’ 2023 spring training camp.

Granted, hyping prospects is part of his job, especially when his club’s winter signing actions were limited to one free agent, Contreras, and no trades. Still, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak shared very specific and extensive praise of Walker in a mid-December interview on KMOX Radio.

John Mozeliak via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“He’s a complete player, first of all,” the PBO said. “So, he checks almost every box. The one unique skill set he has is that he hits the ball really, really hard, and he does it consistently. Historically, when you look at players that have that kind of trait or skill, they end up being enormously successful in this league.

“I think he is going to be fun to watch. I think Spring Training 2023 is going be where he’s going to get a lot of opportunities and a lot of playing time. From more of fans and general public standpoint, they’re going to see what a lot of us have already got to witness.

“I suspect it is going to look even better than what we’ve seen because he is having a normal off-season, continuing to add strength and physically mature. And when that is happening, it’s exciting to watch. And so, I think the type of player he is, is the type of player you’re always hoping to have in terms of being a legitimate impact player at the major league level,” concluded Mozeliak.

Jordan Walker (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

With veteran players away for the World Baseball Classic, playing time opportunity in Jupiter should only increase for younger players like Walker.

But would it take tremendous spring numbers from Walker or an injury to a starting outfielder to open the door for Walker in March?

The answers are mixed.

One talent evaluator isn’t expecting to see Walker with St. Louis on Opening Day, but he can’t rule it out, either.

“Normally, I would expect that Walker would be kept in Triple-A at least until May 15 or whatever the date is (that would keep him from Super Two status), barring another injury to (Tyler) O’Neill. But another draft pick may be enough for the Cardinals to bring him up sooner,” the scout said.

As a reminder, the current CBA includes a new incentive for teams to promote top prospects earlier than before, perhaps.

A team is eligible for Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI) draft picks if a rookie-eligible player with 60 days or fewer of major league service who is included on a preseason top 100 prospect list by two or more of Baseball America, or is promoted and finishes high in award voting in any year before he is eligible for arbitration. The team would get an amateur draft pick for a Rookie of the Year or a top three in MVP or Cy Young…

However, there is no reason a player called up on May 15, for example, would not have plenty of time to earn the Rookie of the Year. To that point, 2022 NL top Rookie Michael Harris did not make his Atlanta Braves debut until May 28.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Walker followed in Harris’ shoes, both in his timing and potential first-year recognition – assuming he gets off to a good start at Triple-A and then adapts to the big-league game without a major hitch.

Future outlook

2023 is the beginning of the future for Walker. He has generated more excitement than any Cardinals hitting prospect in recent years. For example, most national raters have moved him into their top 10s.

One scout isn’t sure yet, seeing a soft spot in Walker’s armor, close to his heart, that needs to be scrutinized.

“Watch Walker on the inside fastball, and if he is jammed,” the scout said. “It will be a tell as to whether he can be (MVP Aaron) Judge or just another power hitter guy. He is 70% contact and 30% chase, but his contact is on the outer half.”

Jordan Walker (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Walker explained his approach.

“I don’t ever try to pull,” Walker said. “Every hitter gets big sometimes and pulls off a little bit, but mainly that is not my approach. I try to hit the fastball the opposite way and react to the slider.

“Most of the balls I pull, it is reaction. I don’t try to pull the ball too much. I am more of a gap-to-gap guy. I feel if I go to right field with the fastball, then I have more time to react to the slider. Try to see all the different pitches and hit everything. Nothing too complicated. I try to keep it pretty simple.

“If I hit the ball hard, I think the metrics will take care of themselves,” he concluded.

A Judge comp seems crazy, but that Walker could even be considered in the same sentence is a reminder of his considerable upside. Though he remains an unfinished product, either way, Walker should be a regular in the Cardinals outfield for the next six years, starting at some point in 2023. It is only a matter of when.

MLB debut: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #2 – Masyn Winn

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including access to every article in our 2023 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect No. 5 – Michael McGreevy

photo: Michael McGreevy (Springfield Cardinals)

Opening the top five of The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2023 is the first-round draft pick in 2021 who has already made 20 Double-A starts. What is needed in Michael McGreevy’s development and how soon may the right-hander reach St. Louis? FREE report!

Michael McGreevy

Position: Pitcher
Age: 22 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 6’4/215
Acquired: Selected in the first round, 18th overall, in the 2021 First-Year Player Draft

Home: San Clemente, California

Opened 2022: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Primary team in 2022: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Finished 2022: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)

Prior Top 50 ranking – 2022 #8

Click on the above photo to be taken to McGreevy’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to McGreevy’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 7

(current grade/future grade)

FB CB SL CH Command FV
45/50 45/55 50/55 40/50 50/60 50
144.1 28 28 3.99 1.25 19.8% 5.1%
0.94 3.9 2.29 (A+)

4.85 (AA)

3.37 (A+)

4.49 (AA)

49.8% 71.7% (A+)

69.3% (AA)

.305 (A+)

.319 (AA)

I view Michael McGreevy similarly to Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson. In fact, in my personal rankings, I had them ranked in succession at 9,8, and 7. To me, each looks likely to be an MLB pitcher but is held back from a mid-to-top of the rotation ceiling by at least one major factor. For McGreevy, that factor is stuff.

He has four potential average of better pitches but none of them are potential plus pitches and they still need some development to reach their ceilings. He can also struggle to put hitters away at times due to his lack of a true out pitch.

The good news is that McGreevy commands his arsenal well and that helps his stuff play up as he’s capable of hitting his spots or missing by only a bit. He’ll occasionally miss by more and he has worse command of his changeup than any other pitch but overall, it’s his best attribute.

With that said, I like his changeup a lot and it has flashed the potential to be the best pitch in his arsenal. It doesn’t show that potential enough for me to rank it as such and it’s not too uncommon for his changeup to get away from him but it has good tumbling action when he throws it well. It’s his lowest graded pitch for now and I think it has the widest range of potential outcomes. As I said, it could be the best pitch in his arsenal, but it could also be the worst if he doesn’t improve his feel for it.

His breaking balls have also shown a potential to be above average pitches with his slider being his main weapon and thrown more than his changeup and curveball combined, according to Baseball America. He commands the pitch well and though it doesn’t get a ton of break, it is a relatively hard pitch thrown in the mid-80s with enough drop to be effective.

This is the pitch that gets the most chases and whiffs from what I’ve seen and I am ready to call it his most effective pitch at this moment in time. It’s at its best when it’s buried beneath the zone but it’s hittable when it’s left up. As a command pitcher, though, he should have the ability to use it effectively.

His final secondary offering is a curveball and I think it has the potential to catch up to his slider, but it is a little behind it now, mostly due to location. The pitch gets more downward movement and, again, it plays better at the bottom of the zone, but he doesn’t always put it there. If he could refine his command of the pitch to keep it at a hitter’s knees, it could play as an average to above average pitch.

The pitch I am least fond of is McGreevy’s sinker. It averages around 92 mph and gets some arm side run but not enough to make it more than a fringe-average pitch. It’s simply not lively enough and not fast enough to grade as anything better than average and that is McGreevy’s limiting factor.

I feel similarly about him as I do about Liberatore in the sense that I think McGreevy would benefit from being a breaking/offspeed heavy arm. He threw his fastball over 50% of the time in 2022 and that might play fine enough at Double-A, but it won’t at the major league level unless he adds some velocity. That’s entirely possible as he has touched 96 despite sitting 92 and has a big 6’4”, 215 pound frame.

If he can add velocity, he will increase his prospect status as his fastball can be velocity dependent. He’s still going to be a guy who could benefit from mixing his pitches and keeping them down in the zone. That likely puts his curveball on the back burner as a curveball doesn’t tunnel well with a low sinker, but his sinker/slider/change combo plays really well at the bottom of the zone.

Regarding velocity, it looks like McGreevy may have a little bit of premature rotation in him as it looks like he has already started rotating his body a little when his front foot lands. Holding himself back an extra split second would increase the energy in his body and could help his velocity tick up. It’s not a huge amount of premature rotation if it’s there, though, and since MiLB TV doesn’t give me an angle from directly behind him, it’s difficult to tell if it’s there or not.

McGreevy’s arm can sometimes get a bit long and his relatively smooth delivery can occasionally become a more high-effort affair. I’ve seen him lean back a bit after front foot strike a la Jack Ralston, though it’s not as extreme as Ralston, and that can take away from his command when he does it. He doesn’t do it all that often though, so it’s not a worrying problem for someone who projects as a pitchability starter.

The final thing I want to note is that he does have some heavy platoon splits as right-handed hitters have a tough time squaring him up (.646 OPS)  but left-handed hitters hit him pretty well (.804 OPS) and tallied 11 of the 15 homers he allowed. Two possible solutions are to develop his changeup into a real weapon or to add a cutter to his arsenal. I like his changeup a lot as I said above but improving feel for the pitch can be difficult so I wouldn’t mind seeing him tinker with a cutter to see if that’s a viable option too.

McGreevy’s strongest traits are his potentially plus command and his ability to limit free passes, and those traits give him a high floor. His ceiling isn’t immense but his ranking here is largely due to his strong pitchability and potential for four average or better pitches. That gives him a strong starters profile even if he does lack a true plus pitch or high-end velocity. That may not be ace potential, but it makes him a solid prospect who is making the jump into our top-5 after throwing almost 100 Double-A innings in just his first professional season.

Summary: Michael McGreevy throws four potentially average or better pitches and pairs that with potentially plus command. He lacks high end stuff but he should have enough in his arsenal to stick as a no. 4 starting pitcher who relies on plus command to mix all his pitches and get ground balls.

Future Value: 50
Role: 4 starter 4:00 FIP/Low closer or high set-up
Risk: Moderate

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 5


In high school in California, McGreevy was a very good shortstop along with pitching. However, once he reached campus at Cal Santa Barbara, he was moved to the mound full time.

McGreevy operated out of the bullpen in his first collegiate season, making 29 appearances and posting a 5-1 record with six saves. He moved into the rotation for his sophomore season, but only made four starts due to COVID stopping the schedule. In his final year at UCSB, McGreevy started 16 games and threw 101 2/3 innings. He averaged 6 1/3 innings per start while walking just 11 batters and fanning 115.

The righty increased his strikeout rate each year, from 7.9 K/9 as a freshman to 10.2 K/9 as a junior. Despite the uptick in strikeouts, McGreevy did not sacrifice control and in fact improved from 1.9 BB/9 as a freshman to 1.0 BB/9 as a junior. He also limited home runs, having allowed just 10 in his 189 2/3 collegiate innings.

However, McGreevy’s aversion to walks also meant that he was hittable, allowing 9.6 hits per nine innings in his junior season. His WHIP (1.18) was still solid due to his excellent control, but he showed a need to more effectively manage contact.

His results as a junior were impressive and certainly drew the Cardinals’ attention. His 0.97 walks-per-nine innings ratio and 10.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2021 both ranked second among all qualified Division I pitchers. McGreevy led the Big West Conference with his 101 2/3 innings pitched in 2021, again earning First Team All-Big West honors and he was named a semifinalist for National Pitcher of the Year Award by the College Baseball Foundation.

As the 18th overall selection, McGreevy settled with the Cardinals for $2.75 million, almost three-quarters of a million below slot value. That savings covered most of the over-slot bonus given to second-rounder Joshua Baez.McGreevy is only the second college pitcher selected by the Cardinals with their first pick since 2015, following University of Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson in 2019. It is a return to the formula the organization followed in 2012 (Michael Wacha), 2013 (Marco Gonzales) and 2014 (Luke Weaver).

After the 2021-drafted pitchers had thrown a full spring season for their respective college or high school teams, the Cardinals brought them to Jupiter, Florida for evaluation once signed.

After workouts and scrimmages, most were slowly eased into official action in the organization’s entry-level US team, the Florida Complex League Cardinals, throwing a single inning every five to seven days.

This includes McGreevy. The right-hander progressed to facing external hitting in mid-August and made two game appearances before he was promoted to an age-appropriate level. He joined the Class-A Palm Beach Cardinals with less than a month to go in the season.

Michael McGreevy (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

McGreevy did not accelerate his workload level nor did he dominate with Palm Beach and did not move up further in 2021. He made five starts for the Beach Birds, four of which went for one inning, along with a single two-inning outing. He was charged with a symmetric, but less than ideal six earned runs in six innings.

Overall, in his seven brief starts between the two professional levels, McGreevy yielded at least one hit in every outing and was scored upon in six of seven for a 9.39 ERA. Needless to say, it wasn’t a dominating debut, though his xFIPs were far more palatable 2.35 and 3.89, respectively, in rookie ball and Class-A.

His high level of contact continued from college. This is illustrated by his .378 batting average against and a bloated 2.09 WHIP, primarily due to his 14 hits allowed. His BABIP was an unbelievably high .667 in the FCL and a still very high .391 with Palm Beach.

McGreevy fanned seven against two walks in his 7 2/3 innings and his ground ball to fly ball ratio was a strong 4.3-1.

Stepping back from the numbers, the raw material is clearly there. Following the season, Baseball America gave McGreevy the dual titles of Best Curveball and Best Control of all pitchers in the Cardinals system. No other organization hurler was as highly recognized.

2022 recap

It would be very unusual for a player drafted the prior July to receive a big-league spring training camp invitation in his first spring, so it was not surprising that McGreevy reported to 2022 minor league camp.

Michael McGreevy (Peoria Chiefs)

Assigned to High-A Peoria to open the regular season, McGreevy got off to a very fast start. He was named the Midwest League’s Pitcher of the Month for April after receiving the weekly award for the period of the 11th through the 17th.

McGreevy went 1-0 with a 0.76 earned run average over the course of four starts. He whiffed 25 batters in 23 2/3 innings and walked just one of the 83 batters he faced. As a result, he posted a sparkling 0.59 WHIP and held opposing hitters to a .159 batting average. Even so, his teammate Gordon Graceffo was slightly better, winning the organization’s Pitcher of the Month honors.

The two right-handers were promoted together, along with top prospect shortstop Masyn Winn, to Springfield on May 24.

McGreevy recorded his best Springfield monthly ERA in June (3.21) while going 3-1, giving up 14 runs on 35 hits and striking out 34 batters, his most in a month. His monthly marks were inconsistent with July (6.75), his only really rough period. He rebounded to 3.09 in August but finished with a 4.96 ERA over three September outings.

In 20 games started at Double-A, McGreevy posted a 4.64 ERA with a 6-4 record.

Michael McGreevy (Springfield Cardinals)

Between the two stops, McGreevy logged a 3.99 ERA/4.05 FIP. He struck out 117 for a rate of 7.3 batters per nine innings.  McGreevy finished with the most starts of any pitcher in the system with 28, and was just 1/3 of an inning off a share of the organization lead in innings pitched. His walk rate of 1.9 batters per nine innings was third in the system and he tied for the fourth-most pitching wins with nine.

2023 outlook

Back on draft day in 2021, Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores said that McGreevy thought he had “another jump in his physicality” ahead that would allow him to get stronger and further develop his pitches further, specifically his changeup and finding more velocity in his fastball (potentially up to 97 mph).

It would have been nicer had McGreevy delivered a more consistent performance in 2022, but for his first full season, it wasn’t bad at all. It is more that his fellow draftee Graceffo was even better.

After 20 Double-A starts in 2022, McGreevy should be ready for Memphis, where he could join returnees Matthew Liberatore, Connor Thomas plus Graceffo to form one of the strongest Cardinals Triple-A rotations in recent memory.

As Blake noted, McGreevy still has much work to do to bring himself to the front of that queue. Liberatore already has MLB experience and Thomas has both a year of Triple-A and a 40-man spot in his pocket. Even Graceffo looks to be ahead of McGreevy at this point, but that can change with further development.

Future outlook

There is no reason to believe that McGreevy cannot become a middle to back of the rotation starter in MLB. He just may not receive his first real chance until 2024, but if so, that should be just fine. There is no hurry to push him. For example, a full year-plus at Triple-A is what Liberatore and Zack Thompson needed before they were given their first shots with St. Louis.

McGreevy will become Rule 5 eligible following the 2024 season, so he has two more years to pitch his way onto the 40-man roster. That seems very doable if he continues to grow.

MLB debut: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #6 – Alec Burleson

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including access to every article in our 2023 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

photo: Masyn Winn, Tink Hence and Jordan Walker (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As St. Louis Cardinals players at all levels worked to improve their skills, more top prospects moved onto the national rankings and others emerged as players to watch in the improving minor league system.

To recognize those players with perhaps the brightest futures, The Cardinal Nation has developed our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List for 2023. Our 18th annual rankings will roll out in the days and weeks ahead.

An expanded role

Blake Newberry

As we unveil our 2023 Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List, a familiar TCN contributor will provide our player evaluations.

Blake Newberry has written for The Cardinal Nation since 2019 and has covered prospects via the draft, as rookies, in winter ball and now, is writing scouting reports on the best Cardinals prospects.

Blake’s interest and expertise in scouting prospects is important in keeping our Cardinals projections grounded. His tools-driven evaluations join Brian Walton’s assessments for this project.

The rankings

The process to set TCN’s new Top 50 for 2023 is a continuation of Walton’s members-only in-season monthly Cardinals prospect rankings, with adjustments based on fall and winter ball play as well as input from scouts and player development professionals.

Separately developed, Newberry’s top 65 list was averaged with Walton’s working top 65 to develop the site’s new Top 50.

(Players are eligible until they reach the MLB rookie levels of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched.)

In our daily countdown of the Top 50, starting on Monday, November 21, Blake delivers a scouting report on each prospect, highlighting the five major tools for position players and grades for pitches. These grades are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, noted with the risk associated with the player eventually achieving his Future Value (FV).

Walton provides background on each prospect, his progress in the organization, where he fits against others and his outlook for the coming season and beyond.

Following the countdown will be our annual series of “best-of”, “just-missed” and in-depth analysis articles of the Top 50 collectively. This series will likely continue beyond Winter Warm-Up, to be held in the second half of January.

As always, selected prospect reports will be made available to everyone, but for full access to all 50 write-ups and the following articles, one must be a member of The Cardinal Nation.   Join today!

To follow the countdown, you can either read each new story when posted on our home page every morning or click on the individual players’ names, which will be listed below as they are unveiled. You can also return to this page daily to check the current status of our Top 50 countdown.

Readers can join in the dialogue at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board, where there will be discussion surrounding that day’s entry onto the top prospect list.

To check out the corresponding rankings from each of the past 17 winters, click here, or you can always access them via the permanent link in the left column located underneath the site logo called “PROSPECT RANKINGS”.

The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospects – 2023

50. RHP Nelfy Ynfante (free)
49. RHP Jack Ralston
48. OF Chase Pinder
47. LHP Diorys Guerrero
46. 1B Chandler Redmond
45. 2B/3B Samil De La Rosa (free)
44. RHP Andrew Marrero
43. 2B Anyelo Encarnacion
42. RHP Gustavo Rodriguez
41. OF Matt Koperniak
40. RHP Ryan Loutos (free)
39. RHP Max Rajcic
38. SS Jeremy Rivas
37. RHP Ian Bedell
36. 2B/SS Adari Grant
35. OF Patrick Romeri (free)
34. 1B Luken Baker
33. C Pedro Pages
32. RHP José Dávila
31. OF Mike Antico
30. RHP Andre Granillo (free)
29. OF Victor Scott
28  RHP Dionys Rodriguez
27. RHP Zane Mills
26. RHP Alec Willis
25. RHP Trent Baker (free)
24. RHP Austin Love
23. OF Luis Piño
22. C Jimmy Crooks
21. OF Won-Bin Cho
20. RHP Jake Walsh (free)
19. LHP Connor Thomas
18. RHP Freddy Pacheco
17. C Leonardo Bernal
16. LHP Pete Hansen
15. RHP Inohan Paniagua (free)
14. OF Moisés Gómez
13. LHP Brycen Mautz
12.  OF Joshua Baez
11. SS Jonathan Mejia
10. LHP Cooper Hjerpe (free)
9.  LHP Zack Thompson
8.  LHP Matthew Liberatore
7.  C Iván Herrera
6.  OF Alec Burleson
5.  RHP MIchael McGreevy (free)
4.  RHP Gordon Graceffo
3. RHP Tink Hence
2. SS Masyn Winn
1. OF Jordan Walker (free)

There’s more!

At the conclusion of the countdown, a multi-part series follows, as we drill down into the details behind the Top 50. Most of these articles will be exclusively for TCN members.

We will analyze year-to-year changes and the top additions, highlight players who did not make the combined Top 50 and unveil our All-Prospect Team – the highest-ranked players at each position.

Next will be a view behind the numbers, a look back at our best and worst picks from the previous year, the top prospect list cut by level of play, those on the 2022 list who dropped off for 2023 and a potential-only based-list of the new Top 50.

Top 50 Analysis Series

2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally 
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Movers and Shakers 
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Newbies 
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Departed 
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – 2022 Picks and Pans 
The Cardinal Nation 2023 Cardinals All-Prospect Team (free)
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers 
2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Best of the Rest – Brian Walton 
2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Best of the Rest – Blake Newberry 
2023 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects by Level and MLB Debut 
2023 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospects Ranked by Future Value and Risk 

Scouting grading scale and risk

The following table aligns the level of each scouting grade for hitters and pitchers to the comparable future MLB role.

Grade Hitter role Pitcher role
80 Top 5 hitter 1-3 arm. Ace if multiple years
70 Top 10 hitter 2 starter FIP sub 3.00
60 All-Star 3 starter 3.30 FIP (200 IP)/High closer
55 Above average regular/occasional All-Star 3/4 starter 3.70 FIP (160 IP)/Mid closer
50 Average everyday player 4 starter 4.00 FIP (or 190+ IP)/Low closer or high set up
45 Platoon player 4/5 starter 4.20 FIP/Low set up
40 Reserve Backend starter 5.00 FIP/Middle relief
30 AAAA player AAAA player
20 Organizational player Organizational player

Behind these basic grades are more detailed scales which help translate player measurements by position types into grades. Examples include average and home run levels and home to first base times for hitters, pop rates for catchers and velocities, strikeout and walk rates for pitchers.

Risk is another measure included. It indicates the chances a player hits the Future Value scouting grade given.

  • Low
  • Moderate
  • High
  • Extreme

Now available – 2023 Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2023 Prospect Guide is back for its sixth year. It includes a record 292 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of new scouting reports and much more.

Order your copy in PDF or spiral-bound printed book form. 50% off the former for paying members of The Cardinal Nation.

Order TCN’s 2023 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Looking for more Cardinals prospect analysis?

There is plenty more of this kind of in-depth writing available here at The Cardinal Nation 365 days a year.

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect No. 10 – Cooper Hjerpe

photo: Cooper Hjerpe (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Opening the top 10 of The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2023 is the organization’s first rounder from 2022. Where will lefty Cooper Hjerpe open his career and how fast will he advance? FREE report!

Cooper Hjerpe

Position: Pitcher
Age: 21 years old
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height/Weight – 6’3/200
Acquired: Selected in the first round, 22nd overall, in the 2022 First-Year Player Draft

Home: Capay, California

Opened 2022: did not pitch
Primary team in 2022: did not pitch
Finished 2022: did not pitch

Prior Top 50 ranking – not applicable

Click on the above photo to be taken to Hjerpe’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Hjerpe’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 10

(current grade/future grade)

FB SL CH Command FV
50/60 45/55 45/55 45/55 50

No professional stats in 2022

I love Hjerpe and I fear that my initial ranking of him is too low. He’s just so unique. The lefty is essentially a sidearm thrower and releases the ball from a super low arm slot. That usually portends a fastball with a lot of running and fading action but that’s not the case for Hjerpe. His fastball does get plenty of run, but it also has hard riding action too, which is impressive since it can be hard for a pitcher to put backspin on the ball while throwing from that angle.

It sits in the low 90s and touches 94-95 so it doesn’t have much more than average velocity at best, but its unique look makes it a clear plus pitch for me. His motion and delivery give him plenty of deception and it’s rare to find a fastball that can pair running action with a rising effect.

He has good command of the pitch as he can locate it up and down and east and west, but it gets the most whiffs at the top of the zone. Again, that’s rare for a fastball with such a low arm slot and the fact that it has both run and rise means that it profiles well in all parts of the zone. That’s why it’s a plus pitch for me. It’s really the foundation of his arsenal and his other pitches build off it.

His breaking ball is a sweeping slider (though some call it a curveball) and it’s a solid offering that tunnels well with his fastball. He can manipulate it too. Sometimes the pitch is harder with sharper sweep and less drop and sometimes it’s a little loopier with more vertical break. That could be why some call it a curveball and some call it a slider, but honestly, he could be throwing both.

I prefer the sharper offering because I think hard sweep pairs better with his arsenal as a whole, but he has plenty of feel for both movement profiles. The 21-year-old likes to attack his glove side with the pitch as he has a filthy back foot slider against righties and the pitch is very effective sweeping away from lefties. He can work the pitch to his arm side too.

He gets a lot of uncomfortable swings and can freeze hitters with this pitch as it comes with deception and a funky arm slot and just absolutely annihilates lefties. I would like to see him throw it a bit harder, but it was a wipeout offering in college and generated a whiff rate above 50%.

And then there’s his changeup. I love this pitch and I honestly think it’s better than his slider. It has excellent fading action and it is nearly unhittable when paired with his fastball. He likes to throw it down and out to right-handers, but I think it’s good enough to play against left-handers too.

My problem with it is that he doesn’t throw it enough. The pitch tunnels very well with outside fastballs as the fastball rises and the changeup fades well below a hitter’s bat.

I’ve graded the two pitches the same, but I would give his changeup a slight edge although his ability to vary his slider in the zone and to hitters on both sides of the plate is a big plus.

We know that Hjerpe can miss bats. And that’s because he’s unique. All his stuff plays up because of his deception, weird arm slot, and ability to tunnel his whole arsenal. That’s a big reason for his 14 strikeouts per nine innings in his final year of college. But he’s more than just someone who misses bats.

I already mentioned that Hjerpe generates a lot of uncomfortable swings and freezes a lot of hitters and that’s how you can tell his stuff is better than it might look based on velocity or spin rate readings.

Because he makes hitters uncomfortable, he keeps them off balance, and that means that hitters have a tough time squaring him up. He generates a ton of ground balls, surrendered only three home runs in over 100 innings last year, and allowed just 5.8 hits per nine innings.

A guy who can limit hard contact and strike hitters out is the best of both worlds. It remains to be seen how well he will adjust to the professional game, but I don’t expect him to have many problems at the lower levels of the minor leagues. He is someone who could begin in Peoria or advance there after only a few starts with Palm Beach.

Summary: Cooper Hjerpe is a unique pitcher with tons of deception and an extremely low arm slot. The first-round pick pairs good stuff with potentially above average command and has a chance of being a mid-rotation starter who could move quickly through the system.

Future Value: 50
Role: 4 starter 4:00 FIP/Low closer or high set-up
Risk: High

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 10


After growing up in the Sacramento area, Hjerpe (pronounced “JER-pee”) committed to Oregon State and was not drafted as a high school senior in 2019. In his freshman year in college, he made six relief appearances and had a 5.25 ERA before the remainder of the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

In the startup summer Wild Wild West League, Hjerpe pitched well in limited action. He made three starts, including pitching four innings in the championship game. Over 8 1/3 total scoreless innings in the WWWL, he yielded just two hits, walked six and struck out 18.

After moving into the Oregon State rotation in 2021, his results improved. The redshirt freshman pitched in 17 games including 16 starts and posted a 4.21 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 27 walks over 77 innings.

That winter, Hjerpe went to Driveline Baseball in Washington to work on refining his secondary pitches, improving his slider, curve and changeup. The pitcher later called it “investing in myself.”

The focus showed in his sophomore campaign, as he dropped his ERA to 2.53 and cut his walk rate from 3.2 per nine innings to 2.0 per nine. As the Beavers’ no. 1 starter, Hjerpe led NCAA Division I with a school-record 161 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings. That 14.0 K/9 rate was up markedly from 11.5 the year before.

The many accolades given Hjerpe in 2022 include All-Pac-12 First Team, at least four different All-American honors and the National Pitcher of the Year from both Perfect Game and the College Baseball Foundation. ( A more comprehensive list is posted in his player profile at the top of this article.)

2022 recap

On draft day, the Cardinals clearly wanted Hjerpe, whom they took at 22nd overall. He surely would not have been around when the Cards’ pick came up again in the second round as he was ranked no. 33 by Baseball America prior to the draft and 34th among draft eligible players by MLB Pipeline.

Hjerpe signed for full slot value, $3,182,200.

An individual with knowledge of the Cardinals’ pre-draft thinking told me that they liked Hjerpe so much, they would have taken him fifth overall if that had been their spot. Maybe that was exaggeration and maybe not.

On the record, the organization was excited about their choice, as expected.

“Cooper possesses a tremendous set of weapons in his pitching arsenal that we are ecstatic about adding to our system,” said Cardinals assistant general manager and director of scouting Randy Flores on draft day.

Randy Flores and Cooper Hjerpe (St. Louis Cardinals)

“He has a unique look that can make opposing hitters uncomfortable as evidenced by his high strikeout totals and elite whiff rates,” continued Flores.

After signing, new draftees report to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida for medical and physical assessments before the playing decision is made.

Hjerpe was one of seven Cardinals 2022-draft pitchers who were not activated on a team roster. The earlier college workloads and the long delay between the end of the college season and post-draft signing coupled are often considered be enough for one season.

They were still working out separately from the Florida Complex League players but under a coordinated daily schedule.

However, not all players went home at the conclusion of the FCL schedule in late August. A few received a nice perk as the Cardinals held behind eight players in reserve (sort of like the big-league taxi squad) until Palm Beach finished its season on September 11.

Cooper Hjerpe (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Hjerpe was among them. I imagine he could have been speaking for all seven when he told me, “Sure, I’d like to get on the mound with Palm Beach and throw an inning. Pitching in games is why we are here.”

That didn’t happen, but Hjerpe and the others gained valuable experience for several more weeks while watching the Beach Birds play and prepare for the Florida State League playoffs.

2023 outlook

“Based on his three-year track record at Oregon State, our scouting department hopes that he can rise quickly through our system once we connect him with our player development staff,” said Flores on draft day.

That connection initially began midway through the summer of 2022.

Coach Dean Kiekhefer and Cooper Hjerpe (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

In fact, it very well could be that Hjerpe’s late 2022 stint auditing Palm Beach will be his only time spent in Low-A, albeit unofficial. If any of the 2022 drafted pitchers yet to debut jump to High-A Peoria to open the 2023 regular season, it should be Hjerpe. That assumes everything is normal in spring training, of course.

Future outlook

A scout commented about the organization’s draft and their first-rounder specifically.

“The Cardinals always have a non-sexy draft, so Hjerpe fits,” the evaluator said. “He could have success as a reliever, but he holds his velo deep into games. So, I would give him the chance to start until he proves not.”

This scenario reminds me of the path taken by another high potential college lefty taken in the first round three years earlier, Zack Thompson. The former Kentucky star did not pitch out of the bullpen until reaching the majors.

If Hjerpe spends a conservative one season per level, he could pitch in Double-A in 2024 and Triple-A in 2025. The organization’s first Rule 5 decision on him would be due following the latter season and position him to make his St. Louis debut in 2026. But he should throw a professional pitch before we take this any further…

MLB debut: 2026
Rule 5 Eligible: 2025

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #11 – Jonathan Mejia

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including access to every article in our 2023 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2023 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect No. 15 – Inohan Paniagua

photo: Inohan Paniagua (Ryan Dowd/Blue Leprechaun Photography)

Coming in at no. 15 on The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2023 is a two-time Pitcher of the Month in 2022 who only reached Peoria late in the season. Inohan Paniagua was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft but was not taken. What is next? FREE report!

Inohan Paniagua

Position: Pitcher
Age: 22 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’1/151
Acquired: International free agent signed December 2017

Home: Bonao, Dominican Republic

Opened 2022: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Primary team in 2022: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Finished 2022: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)

Prior Top 50 ranking – 2022 #48

Click on the above photo to be taken to Paniagua’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Paniagua’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 16

(current grade/future grade)

FB CB CH Command FV
40/55 50/60 40/50 40/55 45
137.2 25 25 2.81 1.053 25.8% 6.9%
0.8 3.7 3.01 (A)

5.60 (A+)

3.62 (A)

4.78 (A+)

40.5% 73.5% (A)

76.0% (A+)

.272 (A)

.257 (A+)

Inohan Paniagua began the year as The Cardinal Nation’s 48th ranked prospect and he will end it in the top 15. That’s one heck of a jump for the 22-year-old.

He is primarily a three-pitch pitcher with a sinker, a curveball, and a changeup, with his curveball the best of the three. He does throw a fourth offering – a four-seamer – but he doesn’t throw it nearly as often as his sinker.

His sinker gets a lot of run, which helps it play up despite sitting in the low-90s. It is effective when he locates the pitch to his glove side. He works it off the outer edge very well to righties and throws a beautiful front door sinker to lefties. Where he struggles is in pitching inside to righties. He simply doesn’t hit that spot very often.

In fact, when the catcher sets up inside, it’s not uncommon to see Panaigua yank the pitch to the outer edge. Even when it’s over the plate, that pitch is often called a ball simply because of how much the catcher needs to move his glove. So, not only does Paniagua not establish his fastball in all parts of the zone, he also costs himself some strikes. This is the biggest weakness of a fastball that I think has the potential to be above average given its large amount of arm side run from a somewhat low arm slot.

It’s a similar story with his curveball. I like the pitch a lot (and I mean, a lot), but he needs to improve his command of it as it can sometimes get away from him and he doesn’t always put it where he should. Specifically, Paniagua is caught between two negatives. He either leaves his curveball up a bit too much where it can be hit or he spikes it into the ground where it doesn’t tempt the hitter.

I love the downward action of the pitch and I think it can truly be a plus pitch or even better, but he needs to learn how to finish it, especially in two strike pitcher’s counts. The same can be said of his fastball as he sometimes has a tendency to sky it when using it as a strikeout pitch.

The good news is that he struck out over 25% of the hitters he faced despite having room to grow with putting hitters away. His stuff is very good, particularly his sinker and his curveball, and that’s part of the reason why he is ranked so highly despite having some flaws.

His final offering is a changeup that looks to have improved from last year. It sits around 84 mph but seems to have more sink and fade than it did a year ago. It’s still basically a lefty-only pitch, although it does get a good number of whiffs. His next step is to learn how to throw it more to right-handed hitters.

Beyond that, Paniagua doesn’t throw anything else. That is a little bit of a concern for me as he’s really a sinker/curveball only against right-handed hitters and both of those pitches still need some work. He dominated A-ball but the holes in his game make me wonder how he will fare against more advanced competition.

His results weren’t fantastic in his first eight High-A outings and that shouldn’t be held against him as there’s always an adjustment period when moving to a new level. I do think he needs some more refinement before he’s ready for Double-A and it may behoove him to add another pitch to his arsenal.

The good news is that, according to Peoria Chiefs play-by-play commentator Cory Schindler, Paniagua likes to tinker and experiment with pitches. He apparently played with a slider/cutter and a splitter in the spring, and I would love to see him bring one of those offerings into his arsenal to add another look for hitters. He may also want to make sure it’s a weapon he can use against left-handers as he had some heavy platoon splits (.575 OPS against RHBs, .722 OPS against LHBs).

I do think there’s more reliever risk for Paniagua that is probably typical of a top-15 pitching prospect but there’s also a lot of upside and that’s ultimately why I ranked him so high. Part of his upside is due to his projectability.

The right-hander is listed at 6’1” and 151 pounds so he has plenty of room to add weight to his frame and maybe get that velocity to tick into the mid-90s consistently. Then, that pitch could be a plus offering. A mid-90s sinker with a ton of arm side run can be a dangerous pitch. I want to add that I don’t believe Paniagua’s listed height is accurate because he looks smaller than that on video. I could be totally wrong, but he looks about as 6’1” as I do and I am just barely 6 feet tall. I think Paniagua is closer to 5’11” or 6 feet even. Regardless, he still has plenty of frame to which to add weight.

Paniagua is an athletic pitcher with an easy arm action and another 20 or 30 pounds of good weight could really make a difference for him and help his stuff tick higher. It’s also because of his athleticism and arm speed that I am willing to grade his command as potentially above average despite higher than average walk rates throughout his career.

His walk rate was just 5.8% in Palm Beach this year which is a huge development for him, but then it jumped to 9.75 in Peoria. It is fair to wonder if that was due in part to fatigue as he threw almost 100 innings prior to his promotion after never clearing 60 in a single season previously.

Workload is an important factor to consider for young players, and especially young pitchers, as they not only need to develop their skills but also their strength and stamina to be able to sustain the wear and tear of a full baseball season. That’s why I’m not worried at all about some of his struggles in Peoria and I think he will give a better account of himself when he returns there to start the 2023 season.

Because of the issues I mentioned above but also his strengths and his projectability, Paniagua’s future is wide open. I don’t feel confident saying that he is a surefire starter, but I do think he’s a really good arm and I believe in his stuff and his arm talent.

Summary: Inohan Paniagua is a pitcher who really emerged in 2022 and he is a really talented arm with some reliever risk despite being an athletic pitcher with good arm speed, three above average or better offerings, and plenty of projectability.’

Future Value: 45
Role: 4/5 Starter 4.20 FIP/ Low set up
Risk: High

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 14


Paniagua was a relatively late sign, coming to terms with the Cardinals in December 2017, three months short of his 18th birthday. His signing bonus was $160,000. He debuted in the 2018 Dominican Summer League and crafted a 3.77 ERA over 14 starts. He famed 51 and walked 16 in 57 1/3 innings.

For 2019, Paniagua was promoted to the US. Paniagua essentially made the jump from rookie ball to Class-A between that season and 2021. He did have two rough starts with State College in 2019, but primarily was a rotation member for the CCL Cardinals, where he logged a 5.98 ERA.

Paniagua opened the 2021 season in Palm Beach’s bullpen but earned a rotation spot by late May. Interestingly, he was better starting, with a 3.22 ERA and a .156 batting average against. Out of the pen, his marks were 4.50 and .272, respectively.

Given his solid results with the Beach Birds in 2021, including an overall 3.88 ERA, 3.64 xFIP and an impressive 12.0 strikeouts per nine in 46 1/3 innings, it may be surprising to some that he was not the recipient of an in-season promotion.

That could especially be the case when considering the inflated team ERAs across the system. Specifically, at the next level above, the High-A Peoria Chiefs’ team ERA was over five runs per nine innings in 2021 and his own Palm Beach club was at 5.66, a mark that includes his own far above average results.

Still, there was a reason Paniagua was not promoted to Peoria.

Injury. He missed almost two months of the season, from June 19 to August 17. Likely not fully built up upon his activation from the IL, Paniagua spent the final month of the season working out of the Beach Birds’ bullpen, gradually increasing the length of his outings to a third inning.

During 2021, Paniagua was effective versus both righties and lefties, with a batting average against of .230 and .207, respectively.

His control declined a bit in 2021 but it may be at least partially due to the big step up in competition. In rookie ball, his walks per nine innings were below three. Last season, it rose to 3.69.

Based on his 2.5 earned runs per nine innings improvement from his 6.38 ERA in 2019 short-season ball and over a run improvement over his career ERA prior to 2021, Paniagua was a contender for our 2021 Comeback Pitcher of the Year honors.

He also snared another award – The Cardinal Nation’s 2021 Emerging Pitcher of the Year.

2022 recap

In a surprise (at least to me), Paniagua not only was sent back to Palm Beach to open 2022, he remained there for a majority of the season. This is not what I had expected from a talented, emerging pitcher who would become Rule 5 eligible that fall. I thought he would have been promoted forward aggressively, but that did not happen.

As it was, to finally get to Peoria, it took him earning two consecutive organization Pitcher of the Month Awards, covering June and July. Paniagua was also the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Month in early July.

In all fairness to the Cardinals, Paniagua was actually moved up on July 26, so he hadn’t quite yet been named that Pitcher of the Month, but with the exception of his initial Peoria outing, his July results were already in the books.

He finished his second season as a Beach Bird with a stellar 2.18 ERA over 17 starts. Paniagua collected 107 strikeouts against 23 free passes issued in 99 FSL frames. His FIP was 3.01 and his BABIP was a bit low at .274.

Inohan Paniagua (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Palm Beach manager Gary Kendall looked back at Paniagua’s time with his squad.

“He was great for us here,” Kendall said. “He was Pitcher of the Week twice and now he is helping Peoria. He was a big guy for us.

“Real good breaking ball, very good changeup and he’s got a good heater.  He locates, elevates when he needs to. He’s got a really live arm,” the manager said.

In the six weeks remaining in the Midwest League season, Paniagua made eight starts for Peoria. He had two clunkers, during which he was charged with seven and six runs, respectively, but in the other six outings, he allowed a total of just six runs, all earned.

For the Chiefs, Paniagua had a 4.42 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. He struck out 38 and walked 16. Despite holding MWL batters to a collective .236 average, the eight home runs yielded stood out for the wrong reason. In his three prior seasons, 2018, 2019 and 2021, only nine balls left the park in almost 160 innings. So, this recent long ball phenomena will bear watching in 2023 as do his extreme left-right splits which Blake pointed out.

Paniagua’s 2022 total of 137 2/3 innings pitched ranked fifth-most in the entire system, meeting a target set by Cardinals player development.

“His growth, being able to log innings, because he is a wiry-framed guy, I think they had a plan to beef him up a little bit and be able to maintain over the length of the season,” Kendall said. “He’s been really good.”

Looking back at 2022, Paniagua was named The Cardinal Nation’s Palm Beach Starting Pitcher of the Year, edging out Tink Hence and Trent Baker, among other standouts.

In the fall, the Cardinals gambled by not protecting Paniagua from the Rule 5 Draft, but it paid off when he was not selected by any of the other 29 organizations on December 7. His relative inexperience in the context of being able to immediately contribute at the MLB level was likely the main factor.

2023 outlook

The Cardinals bought another year before having to decide whether or not to protect Paniagua again in the fall of 2023. Given his limited duration in Peoria in 2022, he seems a prime candidate to return to the Chiefs rotation to open 2023.

Considering where Paniagua is in his career, a Springfield promotion by mid-season would be good. Promotions should never be expected, but if Paniagua holds MLB hopes, he needs to become a fast mover – or at least not be a slow one!

Future outlook

Paniagua’s clock is ticking. Following the 2024 season, he could become eligible to walk away as a minor league free agent. Assuming he continues to progress, that shouldn’t be a factor. But if he doesn’t earn his way onto the roster, it means he did not develop as hoped. As with every prospect, no matter how much promise he may hold, this remains a real possibility – until it isn’t.

The Cardinals have many good starting pitching prospects who will be in direct competition with Paniagua over the next two years. His results will be the biggest factor in setting his future role, but a pen shift would not be too surprising later on.

MLB debut: 2025
Rule 5 Eligible: 2022 (not taken)

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #16 – Pete Hansen

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including access to every article in our 2023 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect No. 20 – Jake Walsh

photo: Jake Walsh (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Opening the top 20 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2023 is a reliever who just needs good health to stake out an MLB job. But can Jake Walsh shake the injury bug? FREE report!

Jake Walsh

Position: Pitcher
Age: 27 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’2/215
Acquired: Selected in the 16th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, 484th overall.

Home: Indialantic, Florida

Opened 2022: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
Primary team in 2022: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
Finished 2022: Memphis Redbirds injured list (Triple-A)

Prior Top 50 ranking – 2022 #27, 2019 #44

Click on the above photo to be taken to Walsh’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Walsh’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 24

(current grade/future grade)

FB CH CB Command FV
55/60 40/45 55/60 40/45 45
18 16 0 3.00 1.28 34.6% 11.5%
0.5 3.0 2.86 (AAA)

2.74 (MLB)

3.73 (AAA)

4.40 (MLB)

29.3% 90.4% (AAA)

33.3% (MLB)

.303 (AAA)

.429 (MLB)

Jake Walsh was one of the harder pitchers for me to rank. On one hand, he’s been excellent whenever he’s been on the mound but on the other hand, he hasn’t been on the mound very often. He’s already 27 years old but he’s only thrown 41 ⅔ innings (51 ⅔ if we count his AFL stint in 2021) since the end of the 2018 season.

In the end, I decided that 24th was the right spot for him but I do think he has the talent to be ranked higher. I simply want to see him on the mound more before I pull the trigger and put him in my personal top 20.

He does have a very high floor in my mind as a reliever with two plus pitches and a third pitch that flashes at times. His command lags behind and I may actually be a bit optimistic by giving him a 45 but I could also be a bit pessimistic with that too as it may improve once he gets healthy and has consistent mound time. That’s the thing I really don’t know how to grade yet.

I feel confident in my plus grades of his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits 95 but can touch the upper 90s with 2300 rpms of spin. It also has some good life to it. I have it as an above average pitch right now that could become a true plus pitch once he commands it better.

His curveball is my favorite pitch, though, and I was on the fence about making it a potential 65. This is the pitch that he thrives on. It’s a big downer curveball that sits in the low-80s with around 2500 rpms of spin and generates a ton of whiffs. It has sharp downward movement that dives below bats and often makes hitters look uncomfortable.

It looks like this:

First off, I want you to notice the nasty break on that pitch. I also want you to notice that it froze the hitter despite being left at the top of the zone. Or maybe it was because it was at the top of the zone. Regardless, you can see that he missed his spot as Yadier Molina set up at the bottom of the zone.

This pitch feels indicative of Walsh to me. His stuff is great and he can still be effective when he misses his spot. If he could improve his command, though, he would be even more effective. As I said earlier, simply staying healthy may help a lot with that.

He also throws a changeup that isn’t used much and isn’t consistent enough to be an average pitch yet but it does flash above average at times. He doesn’t need this pitch to be an effective reliever but it could make him that much better if he could bring a full three-pitch arsenal to every hitter.

Mechanically, I don’t have any major concerns with Walsh. He has a smooth, if somewhat high effort delivery. He really explodes with his lower half but he doesn’t get a ton of extension. He does keep the same arm slot, arm speed, and release point with both his fastball and his curveball and that helps both pitches play up.

Walsh is someone I expect to see in St. Louis in 2023. Really the only thing that has held him back is health. If he had been completely healthy the past few years, I would have expected him to already have a full-time role in the Cardinals bullpen. He is not a finished product yet as his command and his changeup still have some room for improvement, but I think he could be a good reliever right now.

Summary: Jake Walsh has two plus pitches and good enough command to be a major league middle relief option in 2023. Health and command are the biggest questions with him but if the former improves, the latter may as well. 

Future Value: 45
Role: Low set up
Risk: Low

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 18


Walsh pitched in relief after signing in 2017, but that was not concerning since he had already thrown in his spring college campaign at Florida Southern. Further, it also helps explain why Walsh did not register on our prospect radar that winter. After all, a successful college pitcher should do well in relief in the Appalachian League – and he did. We named him our top first-year reliever – both at Johnson City and for the entire system.

Walsh pitched well enough in 2018 spring training not just to make the Peoria roster but receive Opening Day honors. Despite throwing a full workload of 139 2/3 innings between the two levels of Class-A ball, Walsh finished strongly. In fact, his 1.38 ERA in August was good enough for him to be named the system-wide Pitcher of the Month by both The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization. Walsh went five or more innings in 24 of 26 appearances in 2018 while logging a 2.24 ERA.

From there, Walsh’s career took a major pause from which he has yet to fully recover. Elbow soreness that surfaced just prior to spring training 2019 led to months of rehab attempts before a UCL tear was diagnosed. Walsh finally had Tommy John surgery that August. He missed almost all of 2019 due to injury and he had to sit out 2020 as well, due to the COVID shutdown.

As the result of his medical situation, age and uncertain role going forward, Walsh fell out of our Top 50 heading into the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He earned his way back on, however.

Upon his return in 2021, Walsh became a dominant reliever and his 1.50 ERA was a very bright spot among a Springfield bullpen corps that registered a collective ERA of 5.95 that was dead last in the Double-A Central League.

For his part, Walsh was consistent from the start and became a trusted finisher, serving as his team’s last pitcher in 10 of his 13 outings. The Florida native was versatile, pitching anywhere from 1/3 of an inning to covering 3 2/3 innings (the latter on just one hit and no walks with five strikeouts). His fastball was clocked up to 98 and touched 100 that summer, according to reports from Hammons Field.

From there, the bumps in the road to St. Louis returned, however. Walsh was out from June until early September 2021, first due to injury, then as part of the COVID wave that swept through the Double-A Cardinals roster that August.

Jake Walsh (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As the season neared its end, Walsh was promoted to Triple-A Memphis. With the Redbirds, he logged four one-inning outings, two clean and two with two runs on his ledger.

As the Triple-A schedule concluded in early October, Walsh directly transitioned to the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase, where he was trusted with late inning work for the Glendale Desert Dogs,

In the desert, Walsh saved four of five opportunities, but logged an ERA of 8.10 in the process. The right-hander allowed far too much traffic on the bases, with 15 hits and six walks in 10 innings. Walsh fanned 10.

Walsh was one of four prospects promoted onto the 40-man roster, with his addition made as the AFL season concluded in November. Given his velocity and potential, it was a decision we predicted here at TCN.

2022 recap

Walsh reported to Jupiter for his first major league camp and pitched well enough to compete for one of the final bullpen spots until the very last cut, when another rookie, Andre Pallante, won out.

Through May 10, Walsh was exceptional for Memphis, working nine games in relief and allowing just one earned run in 11 innings for a 0.82 ERA while converting all six save opportunities. He fanned 16 and walked five. At that point, he received his first call to St. Louis.

After 10 days, Walsh was returned to Memphis with a few dents, but none were fatal. In his first three MLB appearances totaling 2 2/3 innings, he was touched for four earned runs (13.50 ERA) on three hits, four walks and a hit batter against five strikeouts.

On June 5, Walsh was called up again, but for just two days as the Cards wanted an extra reliever during a tight stretch of games vs. the Cubs. That time up, he did not pitch.

Jake Walsh (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Back in Memphis, Walsh was removed from his first return outing due to injury after retiring just one batter. Following that June 8 truncated appearance, he went on Memphis’ injured list. At that point, it was not expected to be serious and it was thought he could return in 2022.

After several weeks, he received a PRP injection to facilitate healing in his right elbow – the same one that required TJS back in 2019. By then it was late June, and the hope was that he could return to pitching in August. That did not transpire, however, with no further news as to what happened.

Walsh finished his 2022 with Memphis with a 1.17 ERA and .196 batting average against while striking out 22 in 15 1/3 innings. He converted all six save opportunities but not as appealing were his seven walks issued.

2023 outlook

At his age, the bloom is off Walsh as a prospect – at least according to most national raters. One of them reached out to me informally to bounce his Cardinals prospect rankings thoughts off me. He left Walsh off his top 30 and questioned my somewhat aggressive no. 18 ranking.

If Walsh’s elbow problems are back to stay, he might prove to be right. On the other hand, if healthy and not too rusty from the long layoff, Walsh should again be in the thick of the spring St. Louis bullpen derby.

Even in his best case, however, his relatively low status on the pen totem pole and his remaining options makes him a prime candidate to become a regular rider on the I-55 shuttle between St. Louis and Memphis. That will change once he tastes some big-league success and secures a more stable role with the Cardinals. That should be in 2023, but that shouldn’t be his final opportunity.

Future outlook

It is important to not lose sight of the fact that the Cardinals did not try to sneak Walsh through waivers in an attempt to reuse his 40-man roster spot on another player. That tells me they still have confidence that Walsh is going to help St. Louis.

While his age may suggest a sense of urgency, that is really not the case. Walsh still has two years of minor league options remaining. That means he would not have remain in the majors full time until spring 2025. Barring another long outage that would limit his career for health reasons, this should give him more than enough time to prove his mettle on a major league mound.

Until/unless he proves otherwise, I think Walsh has a decent MLB relief career ahead.

MLB debut: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: not applicable (40-man roster member)

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #21 – Won-Bin Cho

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including access to every article in our 2023 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.