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TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #20 – Ryan Holgate

photo: Ryan Holgate (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Opening the Top 20 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a major college-trained, left-handed hitting outfielder taken 70th overall in the 2021 draft.



Ryan Holgate

Position: Outfielder
Age: 21 years old
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height/Weight – 6’2/193
Acquired: Selected in the Competitive Round B of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, 70th overall.
Primary team in 2021: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Finished 2021: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – not applicable

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

Link to Holgate’s career stats

Jake Tweedie’s scouting report

(current grade/future grade)

HIT POWER FIELD ARM RUN FV
30/45 35/55 45/45 45/45 45/40 40+
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS K% BB%
.193 .279 .289 .569 3 0 0 35.7% 10.1%
ISO wRC+ GB/FB GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.096 60 1.33 41.8% 26.9% 31.3% 44.9% 26.1% 29.0%

Holgate is very different from most outfielders currently on this top prospect list. He is more of a hitter than a fielder and does so with plenty of pop from his bat. Although he did not initially showcase this after signing in 2021, his potential was evident in college as he hit 19 home runs and 101 RBI in his three seasons there.

Usually hitting for solid average (.314 in college), Holgate struggled in his first season in professional ball, with an average of just .193. There is certainly a high ceiling on his power potential, maybe more so than his contact potential, but Holgate should experience an improvement in his end product once he settles in for another full season of pro ball.

Holgate keeps his stance fairly low, with bent knees, but he generates a ton of power through his front foot lift and the way his arms swing the bat through the pitch. There may be some doubt in his approach due to his high strikeout rate last season (35.7%), but he was much more controlled at the plate in college, and his plate discipline should show more in 2022.

Defensively, Holgate is athletic and moves well in the outfield, but his arm is a little fringy for center field, so a corner outfield role may be more suited for him.

Future Value: 40+
Role: Reserve
Risk: High

Video

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Background

As a 21-year-old, Holgate had a highly productive 2021 spring for the University of Arizona after struggling to hit for average as a freshman. However, Holgate did show promise early, leading the Northwoods League with 13 home runs and walking 34 times in 222 at-bats in the summer of 2019.

Due to the shortened 2020 COVID season, Holgate played in just 15 games for the Wildcats but showed massive improvement. The progress continued in 2021 as he slashed .351/.421/.576/.997 with 11 home runs.

As a junior, Holgate had a high strikeout rate for a collegian, at nearly 19%. Even so, it did not hinder his ability to hit for average. Additionally, of his 86 hits, 32 went for extra bases.

Ryan Holgate (Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics)

In his final season at Arizona, Holgate played all 55 games in right field, but some scouts believe he profiles better as a left fielder in the professional ranks. When I asked him about his preferred position, he shared what he knows best, while also expressing his versatility.

“Right field is normally where I play – but I can play anywhere in the outfield and I can play first base,” he said.

A general lack of defensive standout tools and below-average foot speed will put more pressure on Holgate’s bat, which will need to be his carrying tool.

Hustle and 100% effort should never be a concern, however.

“I characterize my game as being as competitive as possible, be hard-nosed and do everything I can do win,” Holgate said.

2021 recap – professional

Considered a safer pick, Holgate was taken with the Cardinals’ next selection after high-risk, high-reward high school outfielder Joshua Baez 16 spots prior, at 54th overall. Cardinals director of scouting Randy Flores called Holgate “aggressive” with “zero fear” and lauds his ability to make contact.

With the pool amount for his pick at $906,800, Holgate settled with the Cardinals on July 20 for about $30,000 less, coming to terms at $875,000.

He immediately reported to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter and soon joined Low-A Palm Beach, making his professional debut on August 1. For the struggling Beach Birds club that had lost many of its top hitters to promotion, Holgate was most often placed into the number three spot in manager Jose Leon’s batting order.

As captured in the above video, Holgate blasted a solo home run and singled in his debut and scored twice. The left-handed hitter commented on the benefit in collecting his first important hit early on.

“It was big, especially after taking a little break after the season, and coming off the long season, it was good to come back and feel the barrel again,” he said.

Ryan Holgate (University of Arizona)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing from there, however. The five total bases in Holgate’s first game turned out to be the high-water mark in his 30-game initial season (tied on September 10).

Though the plate appearances were relatively small, Holgate especially struggled against left-handed pitching, with a slash line of .130/.231/.130/.361. Overall, he came in at .193/.279/.289/.568.

I spoke with Holgate early – about two weeks into his seven-week debut professional season – asking him to identify his 2021 focus.

“In this short time, I am pretty much trying to put the results aside and focus on taking the next steps with my game and do everything I can to improve my ability as a baseball player and do what I can to move up to the next level,” Holgate said.

2022 outlook

Speaking of that next level, Holgate did not earn the High-A promotion during his brief 2021 debut, but that is not a negative in any way. He received just 129 plate appearances to open his professional career, so if he returned to Palm Beach to start 2022, it would not be the end of the world.

Then again, it would not be out of the ordinary for the Cardinals to challenge Holgate out of the gates with a promotion to Peoria. Either way, I expect he will log the majority of his 2022 at-bats in the High-A Central League. It will be important to see if he can iron out some of the roughness from his debut.

Future outlook

Holgate stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 205 pounds. His size, left-handedness and general profile are similar to that of another collegiate outfielder, Alec Burleson, whom the Cardinals took one year earlier with the exact same 70th overall pick in the draft.

If he can manage his strikeouts, Holgate is another college-trained candidate to rise quickly through the Cardinals organization. But despite the inevitable comparisons, it is not reasonable to expect Holgate to reach Triple-A in his first full season as did Burleson – though late 2023 seems a reasonable stretch.

Holgate generates plenty of power, as evidenced by the monster home run he hit against Kumar Rocker in the College World Series. He can put his bat on most offerings but will need to cut down on his swing-and-miss against breaking pitches to become a big leaguer.

However, like other corner outfielders (including Burleson), the rate at which Holgate’s power emerges may be his biggest professional differentiator – whether starter or reserve at the big-league level.

Reaching St. Louis before his Rule 5 eligibility in December 2024 is a possibility, but mastering the three increasingly difficult levels between is the more pressing and immediate challenge.

MLB debut: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024

Our 2022 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 planned daily into early 2022.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022


For members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #21 – Ian Bedell


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 2022 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

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

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #25 – Chandler Redmond

photo: Chandler Redmond (Peoria Chiefs)

At number 25 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a versatile infielder who performed especially well following his August promotion to Double-A. FREE report!



Chandler Redmond

Position: Infielder
Age: 24 years old
Bats/Throws: L/R
Height/Weight – 6’1/231
Acquired: Selected in the 32nd round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft, 965th overall
Primary team in 2021: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Finished 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2021 #44

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

Link to Redmond’s career stats

Jake Tweedie’s scouting report

(current grade/future grade)

HIT POWER FIELD ARM RUN FV
35/45 35/45 50/50 60/60 40/35 40
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS K% BB%
.259 .354 .474 .827 18 3 2 34.8% 9.1%
ISO wRC+ GB/FB GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.197(AA) 129(AA) 1.93(AA) 40.8%(AA) 38.0%(AA) 21.1%(AA) 41.1%(AA) 34.2%(AA) 24.7%(AA)

Redmond is a player that profiles to be a strong first baseman, but his athleticism and abilities allow him to be a better second/third baseman than perhaps at first. He is agile, reads the game well and positions himself in the right places. However, with his size and stature, first base will probably always be his go-to position regardless of his other abilities.

Defensively Redmond looks solid. He can make plays, is s decent thrower, and can be versatile when needed. The general infielder tag perhaps doesn’t give him the credit he deserves, but first base is certainly an area he needs to continue to work on.

At the plate Redmond is very hit and miss. His positives are that he can launch the ball, and does do regularly, but the negative is that his strike rate is far too high.

His body is solid and his head doesn’t have too much movement. He leaves a big chunk of the bat in the zone during his swing, which can make it difficult for him facing lefties, but generally he can create solid contact and target the opposite field a bit more than other hitters.

Redmond opens his body up, which could cause him issues against lefties, but it allows him to target all areas in the field rather than being restricted to a pull shot. Generally, he makes full use of this, but unfortunately there have been too many times he has been caught out by left-handed pitchers.

Because of this opening up he doesn’t allow himself much time to react to breaking balls, or adapt to their pitch path. This is something he needs to refine moving forward, because when he does time his swing, he can cause big problems for pitchers.

Redmond is an exciting prospect with plenty going for him. He is powerful, barrels the ball well, defends well and can even pick up a stolen base here and there. However, he will need to make first base his proper defensive home and work on his struggles when opening up to left handers.

Future Value: 40
Role: Reserve
Risk: Moderate

Video

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Background

The left-handed hitter was snagged by the Cardinals in the 32nd round of the 2019 draft from tiny Gardner-Webb College. Playing first, second and third base, Redmond was the offensive catalyst for the 2019 Appalachian League Cardinals. Then, he earned “Player of the Postseason” honors as Johnson City won the league title in the Rookie-Advanced level franchise’s swan song.

Across all first-year hitters in the system, Redmond was first in slugging (.552, 12 home runs, .265 ISO), OPS (.935) and wRC+ (151). He drew 25 walks (11.8 percent), but his 55 strikeouts in 212 plate appearances (28.8 percent) was not ideal. Redmond drove in 40 runs in 54 games.

Not surprisingly in his dominating debut, Redmond was our Johnson City Player of the Year and our system-wide Rookie Player of the Year. That winter, I tabbed Redmond as my deep sleeper pick for 2020 – the non-Top 50 prospect who most caught my eye as someone who could emerge the next season.

However, he was a tweener in 2020, not yet good enough or advanced enough to make the exclusive alternate camp in Springfield. As a result, Redmond sat out the season – hardly a negative reflection of him.

Still, his results and promise were high enough that he cracked our Top 50 one year ago at no. 44. A bit skeptical, nonetheless, I was anxious to see what Redmond could do against more age-appropriate pitching in 2021.

He did not disappoint.

2021 recap – professional

Redmond broke out in 2021, playing across two levels. He showed impressive power while playing six different positions in the field, including as an emergency pitcher. His 18 home runs tied for fifth in the entire organization and his .474 slugging percentage placed in the top 10.

Brendan Donovan and Chandler Redmond (Trevor Travis/Peoria Chiefs)

He opened the season at High-A Peoria, one of a group who leapt over Low-A despite having been unable to play in 2020. Redmond performed well from the start, picking up High-A Central League Player of the Week honors announced on May 30.

In 263 plate appearances with the Chiefs, the left-handed hitter slashed .234/.350/.459/.809. Redmond launched 13 home runs and plated 34. His wRC+ was 120, 20% above a league-average hitter.

One negative while with Peoria was his strikeout rate of 33.8%. Another was his mediocre results against left-handed pitching, indicated by his OPS of .619.

On August 10, Redmond moved up to Double-A Springfield, one of the many who benefitted from the openings created unexpectedly when a number of the Double-A Cardinals were sidelined by COVID.

To his credit, he showed he belonged – immediately. Unlike many others who need time to acclimate to a new, higher level of play, the infielder continued to produce offensively, with an .857 OPS in his first partial month with Springfield. Redmond’s overall slugging of .533 was third in the system as was his total of five home runs in August.

As the disappointing season for the Double-A Cardinals came to its close, Redmond kept hitting. He plated 14 runners in his 14 September games and logged a robust .864 OPS in the final month.

Again, the strikeouts continued to be a problem, with his overall rate at Springfield 37.6%.

2022 outlook

Redmond will likely return to Springfield to open 2022 but should reach Memphis at some point during the season. On one hand, his versatility benefits him. On the other, it is not as much of a differentiator as one might think. Many of those ahead of him (including Brendan Donovan, Kramer Robertson, Evan Mendoza and Anderson Tejada) can play multiple positions, too.

One scout who spoke about Redmond said, “He can definitely hit, but he is less athletic than Donovan. The big question is what to do with him defensively.”

Future outlook

That Redmond can play first, second, third, left and right fields is great, but can he perform at a major league level at any of them? And if first base is his eventual home, he may be able to carve out at-bats with Springfield now and Memphis later, but his outlook to secure a spot with St. Louis seems cloudy.

Will he be able to hit lefties enough to avoid becoming a platoon player or pinch-hitter? Then again, would that really be a disappointment coming from a 32nd rounder or another success story for Cardinals scouting and player development?

The pyramid narrows among infielders at the highest levels of the system, making the timing of his promotions ahead dependent as much on others as on his own success. Redmond needs to keep hitting and be ready to take advantage of opportunities created by others becoming unavailable – as he did in 2021.

Reaching the majors seems quite possible in 2023 or later, but it is unclear if it will be with St. Louis. Redmond will become Rule 5 eligible in the winter of 2022 and will need to emerge as Donovan did in 2021 to be protected.

MLB debut: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: 2022

Our 2022 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 planned daily into early 2022.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022


For members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #26 – Kramer Robertson


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 2022 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022

photo: Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Lars Nootbaar (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

2021 was a year of both change and return to normalcy for Minor League Baseball. Though the season opened a month late, games were played for the first time since 2019. However, its return included two fewer levels of play as the Short Season Class-A and Rookie Advanced levels were abolished.

Even so, over 200 minor leaguers from Triple-A through the twin Dominican Summer League squads competed for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Along the way, new players became Cardinals through free agency and the slimmed-down 20-round First-Year Player Draft.

Players worked to improve their skills, and many of the best did so in 2021, despite the organization fielding losing teams at every level.

To recognize those players with perhaps the brightest futures, The Cardinal Nation has developed and will roll out our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List for 2022, our 17th annual rankings.

A new voice

As we begin to unveil our 2022 Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List, a key new contributor will provide our player evaluations.

Jake Tweedie

Jake Twiddie (Twitter @MLBUKAnalysis1) has followed baseball closely for many years. Having become interested in the game watching baseball in the UK, he started to write about minor leaguers and has covered numerous organizations for various scouting-focused sites, including Prospects1500 and Prospects Worldwide.

Using his job-related knowledge of kinesiology and human movement, he studies players in-depth. A keen lover of the game in its entirety, Jake enjoys scouting the Cardinals among other teams, and in particular, their farm systems. 

Jake’s 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 2022 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.

In our daily countdown of the Top 50, which begins on Tuesday, November 23, Jake will provide a scouting report on each prospect, highlighting the five major tools for position players and grades for every pitch offering. We provide both current and future grades, with the former a new addition to our rankings for 2022. 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 will provide background on the 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 16 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 – 2022

50. Thomas Francisco (free)
49. Yordy Richard
48. Inohan Paniagua
47. Freddy Pacheco
46. Jeremy Rivas
45. Todd Lott (free)
44. Edwin Nuñez 
43. Wilfredo Pereira
42. Connor Lunn
41. Jack Ralston
40. Zane Mills (free)
39. Logan Gragg
38. Conner Capel
37. Dionys Rodriguez
36. Pedro Pages
35. Matt Koperniak (free)
34. Alec Willis
33. Julio Rodriguez
32. Trejyn Fletcher
31. Luis Mario Piño 
30. Delvin Perez (free)
29. Levi Prater
28. Patrick Romeri
27. Jake Walsh
26. Kramer Robertson
25. Chandler Redmond (free)
24. Connor Thomas
23. Ali Sanchez
22. Austin Love
21. Ian Bedell
20. Ryan Holgate (free)
19. Tink Hence
18. Jhon Torres
17. 
16. 
15. (free)
14. 
13. 
12. 
11. 
10. (free)
9. 
8. 
7. 
6. 
5. (free)
4. 
3. 
2. 
1. (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 2021 list who dropped off for 2021 and a potential-only based-list of the new Top 50.

Top 50 Analysis Series

2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally 
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Movers and Shakers
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Newbies 
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Departed 
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – 2021 Picks and Pans 
2022 The Cardinal Nation Cardinals All-Prospect Team (free)
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers 
2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Best of the Rest 
2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects by Level and MLB Debut 
2022 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospects Ranked by Future Value Only 
2022 St. Louis Cardinals Top Position Player Prospect Tools 
2022 St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospect Best Pitches 

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 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

Last chance to buy The Cardinal Nation’s 2021 Prospect Guide – at 20% off

The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is in its fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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© 2021 and 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #30 – Delvin Perez

photo: Delvin Perez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

At number 30 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a former first-rounder who is running out of time to make his mark offensively. FREE report!



Delvin Perez

Position: Shortstop
Age: 23 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’3/175
Acquired: Selected in the first round, 23rd overall, in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft
Primary team in 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Finished 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2021 #42, 2020 #33, 2019 #35, 2018 #16, 2017 #3

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

Link to Perez’ career stats

Jake Tweedie’s scouting report

(current grade/future grade)

HIT POWER FIELD ARM RUN FV
25/40 20/35 45/50 60/60 60/60 40
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS K% BB%
.265 .322 .339 .661 4 24 8 23.2% 6.6%
ISO wRC+ GB/FB GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.075 80 1.35 44% 23.4% 32.6% 41.9% 24.9% 33.2%

It had been all quiet on the Perez front until the 2021 season unfolded. Previously struggling to be consistent, the shortstop created a renewed level of energy around him this past summer.

The return of home runs (4) and stolen bases (24) added a bit more to his game than what he already had demonstrated.

Struggling at times at the plate with his short swing, Perez is prone to striking out far too often (321 times in 1528 career plate appearances), however the development of his base hits and finding the gaps with higher velocity hits has enabled him to step up his game. There is little chance of Perez becoming a power hitter, but a cleaner swing and action may allow him to make more genuine hits into the outfield. He again needs to focus on being consistent throughout. In the first half of 2021, he had the makings of a first round pick, but he started to show signs of fatigue and his season took a bit of a nosedive.

He has an interesting stance and swing. Perez looks good before the pitch, but he looks like he was over swinging far too often. He is already out in front of the lower breaking pitches, while he looks a bit more comfortable with faster thrown offerings. Perez’ aggression can get the best of him and have him swinging at air shots, but he has a nice swing path and quick hands to make plays happen occasionally.

Defensively, he is one of the best in the organization. The athleticism, his play-reading, his quick hands and quick reactions allow him to possess all the qualities needed to be a Major League fielder. However, his batting and inconsistencies let him down somewhat.

His quick reactions are due to his lightning speed. He is quick in the field but also quick between the bases. 24 stolen bases is no small feat, but again his inconsistencies with his running decisions should have resulted in him being thrown out more often than he was.

Perez has the potential to be a solid fielder, and a decent contact hitter in the big leagues, but he needs to improve his offense if he is to progress to the top of the organization and stay there.

Future Value: 40
Role: Reserve
Risk: Moderate

Video

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Background

By now, the story of Delvin Perez should be pretty well-known among the Cardinals fan community, fitting with his draft pedigree. His first-round selection in June 2016 was a long time ago, however, as 2022 is his sixth year on this top prospect list.

Today, the exceptional fielder is MLB-ready in that aspect of his game, but his offense has been far enough below average for so long that it has put any meaningful MLB projections in serious limbo.

Perez has yet to have a good of a year with the bat as in his first partial season of 2016 – in the rookie level Gulf Coast League. That is the case whether comparing all four slash stats or his rookie-year wRC+ in the GCL – 123 – his only season in which he hit above league-average.

In his age 20 season in 2019, Perez batted .269 in 118 games at Low-A and was recognized as a Midwest League mid-season All-Star. Even so, his wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) of 95 meant his results were five percent below average for MWL hitters. His .654 OPS ranked 10th – on his own Peoria team – while his walk rate declined and his rate of strikeouts increased year to year. Further, his 2019 BABIP of .359 was a career high, suggesting good fortune was at least partially in play.

In 2020, Perez was a repeater in the organization’s January instructional camp in Jupiter, but was given the summer off, not being one of the 60 in the active pool of players between St. Louis and its alternate camp in Springfield, MO. Newly signed draftee shortstop Masyn Winn was there, however.

In these annual rankings, Perez slid from his initial no. 3 heading into 2017 to no. 16 to three straight years languishing in the 30’s and 40’s – among other less heralded crapshoots.

2021 recap – professional

Perez kept alive his dubious career-long streak of never having earned an in-season promotion, spending all of 2021 at Double-A Springfield. To his credit, he had skipped over High-A, the level at which he would have competed during the lost season of 2020.

While some may suggest that Perez made progress offensively in 2021, I don’t see it. His overall wRC+ was 80, 20% below the average league hitter, despite a BABIP which remained very high (.344).

There were positives, albeit relatively brief ones. For a lone 30-day period, Perez seemed to have figured it out with the bat. In June, he launched three of his four home runs and slashed .347/.405/.525/.930.

Delvin Perez (Springfield Cardinals)

However, that was his best month – by almost 300 points of OPS compared to his next-best 30 days!

To open 2021, his May OPS was .609 and he followed his stellar June with monthly marks of .636 (July) and .442 (August) before finishing at .553 in September.

So which was the outlier – the four bad months or the one exceptional one?

A veteran scout said, “Perez made improvements (in 2021) – but not enough. He can play the field at an MLB level, but his bat gets sawed off.”

2022 outlook

Perez will be left exposed in the Major League phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, if/when the delayed proceedings are held. It is the second consecutive year he was not protected. Same as before, I do not expect any of the other 29 organizations will be prepared to give Perez a spot on their 40- and 26-man rosters, in which case he will remain a Cardinal.

With Perez’ minor league free agency looming, the Cardinals may as well push him ahead to Memphis in 2022. However, even if he makes the Triple-A roster, daily playing time may not be assured. Other more experienced middle infielders who may open back with the Redbirds include Kramer Robertson, Evan Mendoza, Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman along with minor league free agent signee Anderson Tejeda.

In what is hardly a newsflash, the pyramid narrows as St. Louis approaches. Among the five names just mentioned, Perez is behind four of them and arguably, all five. The solution is to start hitting, of course.

While another former first-round pick who wasn’t panning out offensively (Nick Plummer) finally found his swing in 2021 between Double-A and Triple-A, there seems less reason to hope that Perez could accomplish the same.

Further, even Plummer’s breakout 2021 wasn’t enough for him to earn his way onto the 40-man roster after five prior lackluster seasons. He is now a New York Met.

Future outlook

2022 represents both Perez’ current and future opportunity as a Cardinal. If he can somehow make the 40-man roster and is called upon to join St. Louis, it will probably have to be in 2022. Otherwise, Perez will likely have to attempt to further his career elsewhere.

While reaching the big leagues is surely possible due to his glove, his bat just isn’t strong enough to keep him there for long. Unfortunately for Perez, the days of a great-fielding, weak-bat shortstop starring in the Majors are history.

Another former Cardinals first-round shortstop, Pete Kozma, was able to accrue parts of eight seasons in the bigs. His career minor league OPS is .645, just one point lower than Perez’ mark to date.

So, hope remains. It just must be moderated significantly after multiple seasons falling short of expectations.

MLB debut: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: 2020


Our 2022 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 planned daily into early 2022.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022


For members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #31 – Luis Mario Piño


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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 2022 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #35 – Matt Koperniak

photo: Matt Koperniak (Palm Beach Cardinals)

At number 35 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a non-drafted outfielder who was the top hitter at Low-A Palm Beach and advanced to Double-A in his first season. FREE report!



Matt Koperniak

Position: Outfielder
Age: 23 years old
Bats/Throws: L/R
Height/Weight – 6’0/200
Acquired: Non-drafted free agent from Trinity College (CT) signed in June 2020
Primary team in 2021: Low-A Palm Beach Cardinals (Rookie)
Finished 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – not ranked

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

Link to Koperniak’s career stats

Jake Tweedie’s scouting report

(current grade/future grade)

HIT POWER FIELD ARM RUN FV
35/50 30/40 50/50 50/50 40/35 40
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS K% BB%
.306 .405 .445 .851 7 4  3 14.1% 10.5%
ISO wRC+ GB/FB GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.120 (AA) 94 (AA) 2.11 (AA) 53.2% (AA) 21.6% (AA) 25.2% (AA) 51.3% (AA) 21.2% (AA) 27.4% (AA)

Koperniak had a progressive 2021 to say the least. In his first professional action, he competed at three different levels of the system, including a positive stint at Double-A to end the year.

Koperniak has a nice low approach to his game. His stance isn’t too upright, but also not too bent to be struggling to lift pitches in the air. He has a rhythmic smooth swing and makes full use of the strike zone. Although this leads to him pulling the ball a lot (51.3%), he has an assurance about his swing that you know he won’t strike out regularly. Koperniak’s discipline and batting average show this, and he chips in with the occasional home run.

He is disciplined and works right handers really well, however he can struggle against left-handed pitchers. His batting average is .344 against RHP while his average is just .207 against LHP. This pull dominant approach seems to lead to his struggles against LHP but can be refined in order for him to have more success.

Defensively, Koperniak is sound. He can make plays in corner outfield and made a few diving catches but doesn’t really stand out in the field. He has an average arm, and is an average fielder, though consistent and versatile. He played in left with a fielding percentage of .976 and in right with a fielding percentage of .989.

Playing at age 24 in 2022, Koperniak will need to move up the system quickly if he is to become a Major Lesgue prospect, however his 2021 shows that there is plenty to like about him. He is an interesting prospect with a big year coming up.

Future Value: 40
Role: Reserve
Risk: Moderate

Video

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Background

Koperniak played his college ball in the small northern state of Connecticut, also the home of Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque. The Division III star at Trinity College had recently transferred to use his final semester of eligibility at Kansas State in 2021, but instead decided to sign with St. Louis in June 2020, this despite there were no minor league games to play.

He was a two-time all-conference first-teamer at Trinity. In 2019, Koperniak hit .394 with six home runs and 31 runs batted in. As a junior, he had batted .388 with five home runs and 20 RBI. In three games in the spring of 2020 before play was halted, he went 7-for-13 including a double and a home run with four RBI and three runs scored.

Koperniak demonstrated ability to make consistent contact. In nearly 500 collegiate plate appearances, he struck out just 34 times. He was not only fast on the bases, but was also intelligent and good at getting jumps. Koperniak stole 48 bases and was only thrown out six times. There is some power potential. Though he hit just 13 home runs in his college career, he also added 30 doubles and nine triples.

Koperniak also stood out in summer ball. In 2019 as a designated hitter, He was third in the summer New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) with a .376 batting average and seventh with 37 RBI. He hit five home runs and collected 15 doubles. In the same league in 2018, the left-handed batter hit .318 with a home run and 24 RBI.

Though Koperniak is accurately portrayed as a non-drafted free agent, one must also remember that his draft class consisted of only five rounds. Had 2020 been a normal draft of 20 rounds, he almost certainly would have been selected.

2021 recap – professional

Opening his professional career at High-A Palm Beach, Koperniak was overshadowed by top prospects Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn but was highly successful in his own right. The left-handed hitter’s slash line was .322/.443/.470/.913. Impressively, his walk rate was 13.2% versus a strikeout rate of 14%. In his 58 games, he posted a very high BABIP of .367, however, suggesting some good fortune in his outcomes.

Defensively, Koperniak was versatile, playing each position in the outfield while with Palm Beach. He primarily roamed left field (26 games) with a fielding percentage of .962. The right-handed thrower also appeared 12 games in center and 18 games in right field.

At the start of August, Koperniak was deemed ready for High-A, and was promoted to Peoria. Just a few days later, his immediate fortunes improved further. The roster of Double-A Springfield was decimated due to a COVID outbreak and Koperniak was among those dispatched to Missouri to help out. As a result, his stint with the Chiefs was just four games.

To conclude the season, his slash line with Springfield was much more down to earth as he slashed .271/.326/.391/.717 in 33 games. Koperniak held his strikeout rate constant (13.9%) but his Double-A walk percentage of 6.3 was just half his Low-A rate. Still, his play was good enough that he was not returned to Peoria and remained in Double-A.

Following the season, Koperniak received The Cardinal Nation’s recognition as our 2021 Palm Beach Player of the Year. Though other contenders like Walker and Winn had moved ahead in the system more quickly, Koperniak’s results made him a worthy selection.

Stepping back further, compared to all first-year players in the system, Koperniak had a tremendous year.

In fact, only former first rounder Walker was better. Koperniak’s wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) of 135 was second to Walker’s 151. It was the fourth-best of all hitters in the organization, with Juan Yepez and Nick Plummer the only others ahead. Recent 40-man roster addition Brendan Donovan at 134 was just behind.

Overall, Koperniak tied for fifth in the system with seven outfield assists. His .306 batting average only trailed Walker among Cardinals farm players and his .405 on-base mark was second in the system to Plummer. He was one of eight Cards minor leaguers to collect more than 100 hits. Of his 101 hits, 25 went for two bases, tying him with Walker for third in the farm system.

2022 outlook

It would be difficult for anyone to cast aspersions on Koperniak’s 2021. Starting from off the radar, he advanced quickly after hitting very well at Palm Beach. And it is not surprising his play leveled off with Springfield in a season that was his first exposure as a professional.

Having said that, Koperniak will most likely return to the S-Cards to open 2022. Improvement over his .717 OPS and 94 wRC+ in his second stint against the advanced pitching at Double-A will be expected. To avoid the platoon label ahead, the left-handed hitter will need to improve in his performance against left-handed pitching.

Future outlook

The jury remains out. Koperniak has the raw materials to continue to improve and advance. If he can demonstrate additional progress, he can position himself to potentially move up to Memphis in late 2022. That would put him in the queue to be ready and compete for a possible call to St. Louis in 2023. If so, Koperniak would be added to the 40-man roster before his first Rule 5 eligibility date of December 2023. His most likely future role at this time would be as a reserve Major League outfielder.

MLB debut: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: 2023


Our 2022 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 planned daily into early 2022.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022


For members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #36 – Pedro Pages


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 2022 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #40 – Zane Mills

photo: Zane Mills (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

At number 40 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is the Cardinals’ fourth-round pick in 2021, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from Washington State. FREE report!



Zane Mills

Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 21 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’4/220
Acquired: 2019 Draft – 4th round (120th overall) from Washington State
Primary team in 2021: Florida Complex League Cardinals (Rookie)
Finished 2021: Florida Complex League Cardinals (Rookie)

Prior Top 50 rankings – not applicable

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

Link to Mills’ career stats

Jake Tweedie’s scouting report

(current grade/future grade)

FB SL CH COMMAND FV
45/50 40/45 45/50 45/50 40
IP G GS ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9
7.2 7 0 1.17 0.52 32.1% 0.0% 0.00
K/BB xFIP GB% SwStr% CStr% Swing% Contact% BABIP
9.00 3.19 64.7% N/A N/A N/A N/A .235

Mills was utilized minimally in the 2021 season following his selection as the 120th overall pick in the 2021 draft. He made seven appearances for the FCL Cardinals and will look to build upon that in 2022.

His fastball sits in the low 90s and he has solid control of this pitch. Although not the quickest, he has remarkable control on the mound and his wind-up sets himself to hit the part of the zone to which he is aiming. Mills has a three-quarters slot with a slow build up and then a quick arm action that generates his velocity.

Mills’ secondaries include a slider and a change up. He manages to keep the tunnelling the same and this increases the deception of the pitch. It goes low and away from left-handed hitters, and he has solid control of the offering.

His change up comes into the same bracket as his fastball. Mills has good control and solid command with it, and again it comes out of the same tunnel to be a consistent pitch.

There wasn’t much volume to see from Mills in 2021, but he certainly has the stuff to fully establish himself in 2022.

Future Value: 40
Role: Backend starter 5.00 FIP/Middle relief
Risk: High

Video

This clip comes from Mills’ complete game start for Washington State in the spring of 2021. In an earlier outing of seven innings, he fanned a season-best 13.

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

2021 recap – college

Mills began his college years in the bullpen with Washington State and moved to the rotation in the COVID shortened 2020 season. In 2021, The 21-year-old concluded his junior year with a 4.15 ERA in 80 1/3 innings including 83 strikeouts and 22 walks.

Zane Mills (Washington State University)

The Oregon native had two earlier stints in the Northwoods League, performing well both summers. In 2019, the right-hander finished with a 2.89 ERA while starting and relieving. In 2020, he posted a 0.58 ERA as a starter, likely drawing the attention of Cardinals scouts.

2021 recap – professional

Mills came to terms for $375,000, saving the Cardinals more than $100,000 against slot value, which they used on overslot signings Joshua Baez and Alec Willis.

Despite signing relatively early, on July 19, Mills was one of the later players from his draft class to appear in game action. His professional debut was on August 17. The reason for the delay is unclear, whether due to fatigue or minor injury. Another possibility was the long time off following his last collegiate start, on May 28.

With about a month remaining in the season, Mills still had time to make seven relief appearances three or four days apart. With only one exception, he threw just one inning at a time, walking none and scattering just four hits against the youthful hitters of the Florida Complex League. His only professional run yielded to date came in his debut. Over his 7 2/3 innings, Mills fanned nine and hit two batters, but the numbers lack critical mass.

Mills certainly did not disappoint, nor was he challenged to the level he faced in his college years. That will surely change in 2022.

2022 outlook

Assuming he is healthy and effective in camp, the only question seems to be whether Mills will skip Low-A and open 2022 in High-A Peoria. In a vacuum, I would guess the latter. His results will dictate how quickly he progresses from wherever he lands.

Then again, nothing is assured, as possible competitors for the Peoria rotation are numerous. Among those from the 2021 draft are Alec Willis, Michael McGreevy, Gordon Graceffo and Austin Love, the latter three who already have some experience with Palm Beach. Also in the mix should be 2021 Beach Birds standouts Inohan Paniagua, Dionys Rodriguez and Levi Prater. In other words, it should be a spirited battle for starting berths come spring.

It is worth noting that his 88 innings between Washington State and the FCL Cardinals set a new career high for Mills. His extended time off between the two stints is a reminder that his durability as a minor league starting pitcher (throwing 120 innings or more) has not yet been demonstrated.

His 2022 will tell us a lot more about what to expect from Mills down the road.

Future outlook

Mills fits the classic Cardinals profile as a pitchability right-hander with more command than pure stuff. He does not project to be a high-strikeout pitcher. Rather, he profiles more as a dependable, strike-throwing, innings eater. Commanding three pitches gives him a nice edge, with the hope further velocity will emerge. That may ultimately help decide his role and ceiling.

With Mills’ such limited track record, one is flying blind trying to determine when he will reach St. Louis and in what role. One would hope a polished collegiate arm would move more quickly than most others, but I will wait until I see meaningful results and appropriate progress to make that prediction. Conservatism reigns in the meantime.

MLB debut: 2025
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024

Our 2022 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 planned daily into early 2022.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2022


For members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Cardinals Minors Leaders – Defense


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 2022 Top Cardinals Prospects series.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2021

Continuing our 15-year tradition, the staff of The Cardinal Nation will share our recaps of the just-completed season at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals system. We will also crown three award winners for each team – The Cardinal Nation Minor League Starting Pitchers, Relievers and Players of the Year.

We will unveil our selections, one team recap or award per day, every day, beginning on Monday, September 27, and continuing into early November. Club recaps are first, then the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Red Reliever of the Year and all the way through the Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year.

Several special awards will be added and of course, our top selections for the entire Cardinals minor league system for 2021 as well as the best-performing rookies and top emerging and comeback players follow. The series will conclude with our choice as the top manager in the organization.

Those at the keyboard are our team of locally-based reporters – covering every Cardinals minor league affiliate first-hand – as they select the very best of the best at each level and overall, from approximately 250 players.

TCN staff include Bryant Dacus (Memphis), Cole Sutton (Springfield), Anthony Cullotta (Peoria), Bryce Totz (Palm Beach) and Paul Ivice (Gulf Coast League). Veteran TCN analysts Leonda Markee will recap 2021 for the two DSL clubs and Blake Newberry will single out the top first-year players.

Note: While the team reports and all winning names will be made available to everyone as this master article is updated daily, the detailed commentary behind most of the player awards in this series will be exclusively for The Cardinal Nation members. All major league articles will again be free for all.

This 40-article series will include analysis from our local reporters as well as comments by scouts, Cardinals players, coaches and executives. We explain what tradeoffs were made and what we saw in the best players to take the field at each level of the Cardinals system during the 2021 season.

Again, we begin the process with a daily series recapping each minor league club’s 2021 season in depth, looking at records, injuries, player movement, key stats and much more. Once they are published, you can click on the highlighted team names below to read those articles if you missed them the first time.

2021 The Cardinal Nation Recaps and Award Winners/Schedule

Team (free articles) Writer Reliever Starter Player
Florida Complex Paul Ivice Omar Sanchez Jose Davila Jeremy Rivas
Palm Beach Bryce Totz Edgar Manzo Dionys Rodriguez Matt Koperniak
Peoria Anthony Cullotta Jack Ralston Wilfredo Pereira Leandro Cedeño
Springfield Cole Sutton Ramon Santos Andre Pallante Nick Plummer
Team (free) Writer Reliever Starter Player
DSL Red UConn Card Augusto Calderon Diorys Guerrero Felix Taveras
DSL Blue UConn Card Juan Peralta Benjamin Arias Maycol Justo
Memphis Bryant Dacus Austin Warner Matthew Liberatore Juan Yepez
Writer Reliever Starter Player
Rookies of the Year Blake Newberry Gordon Graceffo N/A Mike Antico
Players of the Year Brian Walton Freddy Pacheco Dionys Rodriguez Juan Yepez
Writer Pitcher Player
Emerging Brian Walton Inohan Paniagua Todd Lott
Comeback Brian Walton Jesus Cruz Nick Plummer
Manager of the Year Brian Walton Ben Johnson
New for 2021 Writer
Offensive leaders Blake Newberry Counting stats Rate stats Defense
Pitching leaders Blake Newberry Counting stats Rate stats

Click on the name highlighted in the table above to be taken to that detailed article. In addition, select each team name to read the 2021 overall summary for that level.

Then, join the daily discussion at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board, as each selection is unveiled.

If you ever forget the location of this article, you can always use the permanent link on The Cardinal Nation homepage. Underneath the site logo in the left column, click on “Season Recaps/Top Players”, and select the year.

Our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect Ranking countdown for 2022 will begin in November after this series concludes. Please remember that the two processes are separate and distinct.

This effort is to recognize the top performances on the field in 2021, whether or not the players are projected to have a major league future down the road. In other words, this is all about current year results at the assigned level of play, not future potential.

2021 Prospect Guide now 20% off!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale

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

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.