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Order The Cardinal Nation’s 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2024 Prospect Guide is back for its seventh year. The Guide features 282 pages of in-depth commentary covering the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including in-depth scouting reports on over five dozen players.

TCN owner Brian Walton and scouting analyst Blake Newberry provide Individual player profiles featuring scouting reports, probable 2024 team assignment, Rule 5 status, estimated MLB arrival, ultimate potential and more. Also included in the Guide is a recap of the 2023 season and an extensive history section on past drafts, international signings, awards and more.

As always, the Guide is available in two formats – the PDF version (offered at half-price for TCN paid subscribers) and the very popular spiral-bound printed book.

Click on the box below to read full details and place your order to secure your place in the first wave of book shipments – or get your PDF copy today!

Order TCN’s 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect Guide


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© 2024 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Announce Quartet on 2024 Hall of Fame Ballot

photo: Steve Carlton, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, George Hendrick

Fans to select one of four former St. Louis Cardinals Modern Era greats for team Hall of Fame induction on September 7 with voting to begin Saturday, February 24.



St. Louis Cardinals release

The St. Louis Cardinals have revealed Steve Carlton, George Hendrick, 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 2024 Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot and cast their selections online starting Saturday, February 24, at cardinals.com/HOF.

The modern player with the most votes after fan voting concludes on Friday, April 26, will be selected for induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame during an enshrinement ceremony on Saturday, September 7. The full 2024 Cardinals Hall of Fame Induction Class, which will also 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.

In addition to the ballot announcement, the Cardinals and Edward Jones also announced that they have agreed to a ten-year extension of their long-term marketing agreement through 2033. The agreement includes Edward Jones’ advertising rights on all Cardinals radio and television broadcasts, promotions, use of the team logo, and stadium signage, along with an extension as the title sponsor of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

“We are proud to continue our long-standing partnership with Edward Jones,” said Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III. “Their commitment to Cardinals baseball and the St. Louis community have remained steadfast and we are grateful to have one of the nation’s leading financial services firms as a prominent supporter of our organization and title presenter of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.”

All 52 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 cardinals.com/HOF. #CardsHOF

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

A description of each 2024 Cardinals Hall of Fame nominee’s career as a Cardinal follows:

Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton (LHP) Years on Ballot: 7

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.

George Hendrick

George Hendrick (OF) Years on Ballot: 2

Years: 1978 – 1984 .294/.345/.470, 978 H, 187 2B, 122 HR, 582 RBI, 457 R, 270 BB (893 G)

Acquired via trade during the 1978 season, “Silent George” was a strong and steady presence for the Cardinals for seven seasons. He led the club in home runs and RBI four consecutive years from 1980-1983, receiving MVP votes in each of those seasons. A two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, Hendrick delivered the game-winning RBI in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series to seal his second career World Series title. Hendrick finished his career with the Cardinals ranked fourth in OPS and fifth in home runs among all outfielders in franchise history.

Matt Morris (USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Morris (RHP) Years on Ballot: 9

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: 9

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 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 52 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 cardinals.com/museum.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

30 Cardinals Minor Leaguers Report to 2024 STEP Camp


Now Available – 2024 Cardinals Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2024 Prospect Guide is back for its seventh year. It includes 282 pages of in-depth commentary about more than 60 of the best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including in-depth scouting reports, 2023 recap, extensive draft and international histories and more.

Special half-price off deal for paid subscribers. Order your PDF or printed book copy today.

Order TCN’s 2024 St. Louis 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.

© 2024 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesdays With Walton Returns!

The Cardinal Nation’s Brian Walton is joined by scouting analyst Blake Newberry for a weekly discussion of St. Louis Cardinals news, with a focus on player development and the minor leagues.

Our Wednesday podcasts are quick hitting and timely, covering a short list of current topics in 15-20 minutes. More information on everything we discuss can be found in articles here at The Cardinal Nation.

This week, we discuss the various spring camps, dates, types of players invited as well as identifying what we are looking for this spring from prospects Chase Davis, Tekoah Roby, Tink Hence and Masyn Winn.

Notes

All episodes of the return of Wednesdays With Walton at The Cardinal Nation can be found here.

This is a reboot of Brian’s former podcasts at ScoopsWithDannyMac.com. We will be forever grateful for Dan McLaughlin’s support over the five-plus years we worked together.


Now Available – 2024 Cardinals Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2024 Prospect Guide is back for its seventh year. It includes 282 pages of in-depth commentary about more than 60 of the best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including in-depth scouting reports, 2023 recap, extensive draft and international histories and more.

Special half-price off deal for paid subscribers. Order your PDF or printed book copy today.

Order TCN’s 2024 St. Louis 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.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2024 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 2024

photo: Victor Scott and Tekoah Roby (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

To recognize those players with perhaps the brightest futures in the St. Louis Cardinals system, The Cardinal Nation has developed our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List for 2024. Our 19th annual rankings are rolling out in the days and weeks ahead.

A proven process

Blake Newberry

As we unveil our 2024 Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List, Blake Newberry will once again provide his in depth player evaluations.

Blake has written for The Cardinal Nation since 2019 and has covered prospects via the draft, in winter ball and via in-depth scouting reports on the best Cardinals prospects.

Blake’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 2024 is an extension 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 list of his best 65 prospects was averaged with Walton’s working top 65 to develop the site’s new Top 50.

Players are eligible until they surpass the MLB rookie levels of 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days of service time. Among those now ineligible are catcher Ivan Herrera and first baseman Luken Baker.

In our daily countdown of the Top 50, starting on Monday, November 20, Blake provides 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 will provide 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 18 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 – 2024

50. RHR Guillermo Zuñiga (free)
49. 2B Adari Grant
48. RHS Zane Mills
47. 1B Chandler Redmond
46. SS Jeremy Rivas
45. OF Matt Koperniak (free)
44. RHS Alec Willis
43. RHR Leonardo Taveras
42. OF Alex Iadisernia
41. RHR Andrew Marrero
40. RHS Austin Love (free)
39. RHR Dionys Rodriguez
38. UT Noah Mendlinger
37. LHS Connor Thomas
36. CF Michael Siani
35. LHS Alex Cornwell (free)
34. RHR Matt Svanson
33. OF Zach Levenson
32. OF Joshua Baez
31. OF Mike Antico
30. RHS Trent Baker (free)
29. LHS Drew Rom
28. C Pedro Pages
27. RHS Inohan Paniagua
26. RHR Andre Granillo
25. RHS Zack Showalter (free)
24a. RHR Ryan Fernandez
24. LHS Quinn Mathews
23. IF César Prieto
22. OF Moisés Gómez
21. OF Travis Honeyman
20. RHR Edwin Nuñez (free)
19. SS Jonathan Mejia
18. LHS Pete Hansen
17. RHS Adam Kloffenstein
16. LHS Brycen Mautz
15. RHS Ian Bedell (free)
14. RHS Sem Robberse
13. CF Chase Davis
12. OF Won-Bin Cho
11. C Jimmy Crooks
10. RHS Max Rajcic (free)
9. C Leonardo Bernal
8. RHS Michael McGreevy
7. LHS Cooper Hjerpe
6. RHS Gordon Graceffo
5. 2B Thomas Saggese (free)
4. CF Victor Scott
3. RHS Tekoah Roby
2. RHS Tink Hence
1. SS Masyn Winn (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 2023 list who dropped off for 2024 and a potential-only based-list of the new Top 50.

Top 50 Analysis Series

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/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

Order Now – 2024 Cardinals Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2024 Prospect Guide is back for its seventh year. It includes 282 pages of in-depth commentary about more than 60 of the best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including in-depth scouting reports, 2023 recap, extensive draft and international histories and more.

Special half-price off deal for paid subscribers. Order your PDF or printed book copy today.

Order TCN’s 2024 St. Louis 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.

© 2024 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #1 – Masyn Winn

photo: Masyn Winn (Memphis Redbirds)

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches no. 1 with the 21-year-old starting shortstop of the St. Louis Cardinals. Masyn Winn has the defense along with the tools to improve on his MLB introduction at the plate and play in the majors for a long time.

Masyn Winn

Position: Shortstop
Age: 21 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5’11/180
Acquired: Selected in the second round of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft, 54th overall

Hometown: Katy, Texas

Opened 2023: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
Primary team in 2023: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
Finished 2023: St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2023 #2, 2022 #5, 2021 #8

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

Link to Winn’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 1

(current grade/future grade)

Hit Power Field Arm Run FV
50/55 40/45 50/65 80/80 70/70 60
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS BB% K%
.288 (AAA)

.172 (MLB)

.359 (AAA)

.230 (MLB)

.474 (AAA)

.238 (MLB)

.834 (AAA)

.467 (MLB)

18 (AAA)

2 (MLB)

17 (AAA)

2 (MLB)

2 (AAA)

1 (MLB)

8.8% (AAA)

7.3% (MLB)

16.7% (AAA)

19.0% (MLB)

ISO wRC+ GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.187 (AAA)

.066 (MLB)

108 (AAA)

29 (MLB)

39.8% (AAA)

46.9% (MLB)

24.0% (AAA)

13.3% (MLB)

36.2% (AAA)

39.8% (MLB)

39.6% (AAA)

28.7% (MLB)

26.9% (AAA)

33.7% (MLB)

33.5% (AAA)

37.6% (MLB)

Masyn Winn struggled immensely in his first exposure to the majors but that doesn’t change his top prospect status in my view because he still showed flashes of his talent and promise. I was most surprised by Winn’s defense as he struggled a bit more than I thought he would as a major league shortstop but I’m still high on his glove long term, and, to put it simply, I’m still high on him long term.

It’s important to add context to Winn’s struggles. He was only 21 years old when he made his debut, and he won’t turn 22 until March 2024. There’s still plenty of growth ahead and he has had an offseason to adjust after experiencing the majors for the first time.

Most impressive was Winn’s ability to stay within the strike zone and put the bat on the ball. His hit tool has always been the most advanced part of his offensive game so that shouldn’t be too surprising but a strikeout rate of just 19% and a whiff rate of just 21.6% (MLB average is 24.8%) is notable for a 21-year-old whose value is likely to be driven by his glove.

Winn’s glove was below average according to defensive metrics like DRS (-1) OAA (-3) and UZR/150 (-3.9) but he still possesses the same athleticism and rocket arm as always. That gives him the ability to make plays that other shortstops can’t.

It’s not just his arm strength that stands out but also his accuracy. Paul Goldschmidt said as much this winter:

While Winn makes spectacular plays because of his athleticism and his elite arm strength, he isn’t the most instinctive shortstop and doesn’t always get the best read off the bat. This can improve but it’s what limits his glove from being a true plus-plus tool.

Even so, I’m not worried about Winn’s defense. It may take him some time to reach his defensive ceiling but he’s not a below average defender or even an average one. He has the potential to be a standout defender at a premium position and that will drive his value.

Like Victor Scott, Winn is a defense-first prospect but even so, his bat has the potential to catch up to his glove and add value at the major league level.

I mentioned that Winn has a great feel for contact but also has above average raw power in the tank, as evidenced by his 110.1 mph max exit velocity in Triple-A. The trick will be tapping into that power more often as he can struggle to reach his top end exit velocities consistently. Winn can also struggle to pull fly balls which will limit his power even further. So, despite the above average raw power, he’s probably going to settle around 45-game power in the majors.

Regarding his hit tool, Winn can make frequent contact and he loves to spray the ball around the field. He struggled to hit line drives in the majors, but I expect that will change as he becomes more comfortable with major league pitching. Winn was adept at hitting the ball on a line in Triple-A and has potential to fill the gaps more than in 2023.

His speed enables him to take extra bases and beat out infield singles, which remains a key asset. Despite his elite speed, he’s not the most aggressive base stealer but he should still be able to steal quite often at the highest level.

I expect Winn to draw about an average amount of walks, but his swing decisions need to be refined. He was more aggressive at the plate in Triple-A than in the majors and the aggressive approach likely serves him better. He did a great job of staying within the zone in the majors, but he was an extremely patient hitter overall and swung at a well below league average amount of pitches in the zone.

How he settles his approach will be important. Ideally, he will become more aggressive in the zone and retain his patience outside it but that’s not always possible. If he’s unable to do that, he would likely have more success attacking hittable pitches more often and living with a higher chase rate.

I expect Winn will develop a better plate approach over time and I wouldn’t be shocked if it was significantly improved in 2024. In fact, that approach is probably the most malleable part of Winn’s game and will have the biggest impact on his performance at the plate in the upcoming season.

Once he settles that, he’ll be able to maximize his great contact abilities and get back to spraying the ball all over the field, letting his speed work for him, and even clearing the fence from time to time,

Another point in favor of Winn’s hit tool is his demonstrated ability to hit all pitch types. This was true throughout his minor league career, and I expect that to remain a strength.

To bring everything together, we’re looking at an explosive athlete with big speed, huge arm strength, an above average feel for contact, and decent raw strength in his bat. He’s still bringing his whole game together but that’s a lot of tools.

Also, for a player who has already reached the majors, I think considerable development is possibly still ahead in Winn’s game. He’s still a long way from his ceiling and that’s exciting.

Winn is an electric player who can really wow you on the field and it’s hard to put a ceiling on someone like that. He looks like a glove-first prospect with a good hit tool and there’s a chance that he can turn into an average or better hitter playing really good defense at shortstop. That’s a player who can go to All-Star games if he puts everything together.

Summary: Masyn Winn is an electric athlete with a lot of tools and the ability to turn heads at any moment. There’s still some refinement and adjustment needed on defense and at the plate before he reaches his ceiling but Winn is an extremely exciting player.

Future Value: 60
Role: All Star
Risk: Medium

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 1

Background

During his Texas high school years, Winn starred as a two-way player, hitting .410 and posting a 1.33 ERA with a strikeout rate of 12.7 batters per nine innings while throwing 98 mph from the mound.

Pre-draft, Baseball America wrote, “Pound for pound, Winn could be the most purely talented player in the 2020 draft.”

After the Cardinals selected him, Winn received a signing bonus of $2,100,000 – substantially above the slot amount for the 54th overall pick of $1,338,500. After signing, Winn was one of a select few who worked out in the alternate camp under organization supervision while the regular season was canceled.

While some scouts felt Winn’s pre-draft pitching was ahead of most 18-year-olds, the Cardinals primarily focused him on playing shortstop and acclimating to hitting fulltime with a wood bat. In Springfield, Winn threw off the mound the last two weeks of the alternate camp, but by the start of the 2021 season, the Cardinals asked Winn to concentrate solely on shortstop.

Winn apparently put in enough work in Springfield and in 2021 minor league spring training camp to progress to a full-season assignment with Palm Beach to make his official professional debut.

After a slow three-week start (.494 OPS), Winn figured out Low-A pitching. From May 25 until his July 26 promotion to High-A Peoria, Winn placed in the top 11 in the Southeast League in key offensive categories including all four slash stats (.303/.395/.449/.845) along with 54 hits, 80 total bases, 32 RBI and 32 runs scored. During that hot stretch, Winn was named the Southeast League Player of the Week for the period of June 7-13. His highlight was a seven-RBI game on June 13.

His only real offensive weakness in Low-A was an extreme split. Winn pummeled left-handed pitching to the tune of a 1.120 OPS but registered a pedestrian .696 mark against righties.

Masyn Winn (Ryan Dowd/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Joining the Peoria Chiefs at the end of July, Winn initially scuffled, with a .504 OPS in August and a .534 mark in September. His strikeout rate increased from 21.1% at Palm Beach to 26.0% at Peoria as he struggled at times with the elevated pitch. More concerning was his walk rate plummeting from a very good 14.1% with the Beach Birds to just 3.9% with the Chiefs.

At Palm Beach, Winn committed 24 errors in 86 games at short, but improved during the season, with just six errors in 30 games in the field with Peoria.

Another positive is that Winn became more aggressive on the bases in High-A while maintaining his high level of efficiency. He matched his Low-A total of 16 stolen bases in roughly half the number of games at the higher level. His success rate for the season was a very strong 86.5% and his season total of 32 swiped bags was 33% higher than any other player in the Cardinals system.

Winn was not invited to 2022 major league spring training camp, which was not a surprise. From minor league camp, he was sent back to Peoria to open the season. To note that his second shot at the Midwest League was an improvement would be a colossal understatement.

When promoted to Springfield on May 23, the leadoff man was leading the Chiefs in most offensive categories, including batting average (.349), slugging (.566), OPS (.970), doubles (11) and runs (22), and topped the Midwest League in triples with seven. Win was a perfect 15-for-15 in stolen bases and his OBP was “only” .404.

Unlike his experience when joining Palm Beach and Peoria, Winn did not hit badly from the start in his new, higher league. Overall, in 86 games at Double-A, he drove in 48, hit 11 home runs, stole 28 bases in 33 attempts and registered a slash line of .258/.349/.432/.781.

Along with Jordan Walker, Winn was selected to represent the Cardinals in the MLB All-Star Futures Game held in July at Dodger Stadium. His 100.5 mph throw from shortstop drew national attention.

During 2022, Winn was second in the Cardinals system in plate appearances with 550, not including 81 additional accrued later in the Arizona Fall League. Across the organization, he was third in hits (134), first in doubles (36), first in triples (8), tied for second in walks (63), second in runs scored (91) and his surprising .468 slugging percentage was fifth in the system.

Winn was also second in stolen bases in the organization. He swiped 43 bags and was caught just five times for an excellent success rate of 89.6%, a slight improvement over his stellar 2021 mark of 86.5%.

Masyn Winn (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

To conclude his 2022, Winn was sent to the AFL. Originally moved to second base because of teammate Jordan Lawlar, the top prospect of the Diamondbacks, Winn took over at shortstop when Lawlar was injured and remained there for the rest of the schedule. In the desert, Winn recorded a .294 average with an impressive .407 OBP in 20 games. He also went 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts and drove in nine. With one double and a home run, Winn had a .760 OPS.

Winn was named to the AFL Fall Stars Game, during which he made another eye-catching play at shortstop for the national television audience.

Baseball America continued their praise of Winn, naming him the Best Athlete and having the Best Infield Arm in the Cardinals system – for the third consecutive year. Prior to 2022, BA had also anointed Winn as the organization’s Fastest Baserunner, but he ceded that title to Mike Antico.

At the 2022 AFL, I asked a scout about Winn’s offense.

“He is a little exposed by the high fastball,” the evaluator said. “He has a low scoop swing, but elite (90%) contact. These contact over power guys tend to hit.”

2023 recap

With Tommy Edman away from spring training camp for the World Baseball Classic, Winn received as much playing time as any Cardinals regular in Jupiter. He performed well with four walks, 12 singles, two doubles, two triples, two home runs, nine RBI and 11 runs scored. Winn tied for the team lead with four steals in five attempts. In 61 plate appearances over 18 games, he slashed .333/.393/.556/.949.

Winn became the youngest player in Triple-A baseball to begin 2023. Continuing his prior pattern, Winn struggled in his first month with Memphis, slashing .223/.287/.321/.608. However, his offense improved substantially in May and June.

In July, Winn’s offense caught up with his defense. In his new peak as a professional, he slashed .359/.427/.750/1.177 in 21 games. Winn led all qualified Cardinals minor leaguers in OPS and topped all system hitters in multiple counting stats – 33 hits, of which 18 went for extra bases including eight home runs, along with 26 RBI, 26 runs and 69 total bases. Winn reached base safely in 20 of his 21 games.

He was the consensus Player of the Month from the Cardinals organization and The Cardinal Nation and completed his recognition with the International League Player of the Month award.

Masyn Winn (Memphis Redbirds)

When Paul DeJong was traded to Toronto on July 31, speculation was high that Winn would receive the call to join St. Louis. Instead, Jose Fermin was promoted from Memphis.

On August 18, the opportunity finally came when St. Louis placed Lars Nootbaar on the injured list and promoted Winn. Edman became the regular center fielder and Winn played daily at shortstop for the remainder of the season. The motivation to wait for the promotion seemed to be that the Cardinals wanted to keep Winn underneath the qualification bar so he would remain rookie-eligible in 2024. (Not coincidentally, he finished 2023 with exactly 45 days of service time, right on the line.)

In his first season of play at Triple-A, in 498 plate appearances over 105 games, Winn slashed .288/.359/.474/.833, with 18 home runs, 61 RBI and 17 stolen bases.  At the time of his promotion, he led minor league baseball with 99 runs scored and was tied for second in hits (128) among all Triple-A players. With Memphis, Winn had four separate hitting streaks of at least 10 games, including a career-high 16-game streak.

Like what occurred when he first joined Palm Beach, Peoria and Memphis, Winn initially struggled with the bat with St. Louis. But in the majors, the visibility, scrutiny, and the stakes are much higher. In 137 plate appearances over 37 games, Winn slashed a disappointing .172/.230/.238/.468. An extenuating circumstance was a very low .196 BABIP that should normalize over time. His strikeout rate crept up from Triple-A but was ok at 19%. His walk rate fell to 7.3%, an area that needs attention.

2024 outlook

Any speculation about Winn’s status coming into 2024 should have been quelled during the Winter Meetings when Cardinals PBO John Mozeliak disclosed the starting lineup, including Winn at short and Edman in center field. Yet, there are those who feel Edman should be the starter at shortstop. The reality is that the Cardinals do not have three other starting quality outfielders without him. Tyler O’Neill was traded, Nootbaar is better in left and Dylan Carlson cannot consistently hit right-handed pitching. In other words, Edman is needed most in center field.

Despite what some may think, having Edman in center is a positive for the Cardinals, as is playing Winn at short.

I probed a Cardinals insider about the level of commitment of the organization to Edman in center. I was told that Edman is “an unbelievable center fielder” and according to a prominent staffer, he is the best center fielder on the team. However, there is concern about the potential of requiring Edman to move back to cover short if Winn is hurt, as greater defensive stability appears to be a 2024 team desire.

The Cardinals have given Winn their clear stamp of approval as the regular shortstop. How long that might continue if his offensive struggles are not limited to his 2023 debut is unknown. For multiple reasons, perhaps a roster depth addition at short is coming by spring.

Future outlook

Winn has been and still is the Cardinals shortstop of the future. The only question remaining is how ready he is to be the shortstop of the present. I think Winn should be able to improve his offense enough to hold onto his starting berth with St. Louis. In 2023, he demonstrated a mastery of Triple-A, but not every player clicks in his first MLB action, especially at the age of 21. And if Winn shows he needs more finishing in the minors, it will only be a matter of time until he is back, likely for good.

In the short term, if Winn can break out, it would be the kind of performance that could help stabilize a borderline club into a contender. For the long haul, it could enable him and Walker to evolve into roles as part of the next generation of team leaders.

MLB debut: 2023
Minor league options remaining: 3


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #2 – Tink Hence


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50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2024


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Cardinals Name Chaim Bloom as Assistant to Mozeliak

photo: Chaim Bloom (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Monday, January 8) that they have named Chaim Bloom (pronounced “High-em”) as an Advisor to President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.

“I have known Chaim for a long time, and feel that this is a great opportunity for the St. Louis Cardinals,” said Mozeliak.  “It will be good to get an outside perspective of our organization from someone who is as well-respected as Chaim.  Having a fresh set of eyes on all aspects of our baseball operations should be helpful.”

Bloom, 40, most recently held the title of Chief Baseball Officer for the Boston Red Sox from October 28, 2019 thru September 14, 2023.  The Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series in 2021 under Bloom’s watch.

“I’m excited to join the Cardinals and to be a part of this great organization,” said Bloom. “Mo and his team have given me such a warm welcome, and I’m eager to build relationships here and to learn, contribute, and help us win.”

Prior to joining the Red Sox, Bloom spent 15 years (2005-19) in the Tampa Bay Rays baseball operations department, including the final three as Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations.  During his time with the Rays, Bloom worked in all areas of baseball operations including player development, scouting, contract negotiations, salary arbitration and strategic planning.

A Philadelphia native, Bloom is a 2004 graduate of Yale University. He held entry level intern positions to begin his baseball career with both the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball.

Brian Walton’s take

This move is a good one and had been expected. Time will tell if Bloom is able to drive organizational change.

As outlined,  Bloom has been in key leadership roles running two other organizations. Of the five who currently serve as the PBO, general manager and AGMs, only one, Gary LaRocque, has prior experience that broad, and he has been with the Cardinals for 16 years.

Perhaps Bloom’s years with the Rays as right hand man to Andrew Friedman, now leading the Dodgers, will be more relevant than his time in Beantown.

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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #2 – Tink Hence

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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #5 – Thomas Saggese

photo: Thomas Saggese (Springfield Cardinals

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches no. 5 with an advanced hitter who won the 2023 Double-A Texas League MVP award. After Thomas Saggese masters Triple-A, how and when might the second baseman fit onto St. Louis’ roster?

Thomas Saggese

Position: Second baseman
Age: 21 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 5’11/175
Acquired: from Texas with Tekoah Roby and John King for Jordan Montgomery, Chris Stratton and international cap considerations on July 30, 2023. Originally selected by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft, 145th overall

Hometown: Carlsbad, California

Opened 2023: Frisco RoughRiders (Texas, Double-A)
Primary team in 2023: Frisco RoughRiders (Texas, Double-A)
Finished 2023: Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – not applicable

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

Link to Saggese’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 4

(current grade/future grade)

Hit Power Field Arm Run FV
50/55 50/55 45/50 50/50 45/45 50
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB CS BB% K%
.306 .374 .530 .903 26 12 2 8.3% 22.9%
ISO wRC+ GB% LD% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
.224 142 (AA)

51 (AAA)

36.5% 24.8% 38.7% 41.1% 24.1% 34.7%

I really like Thomas Saggese, a player who tends to get underrated by the national prospect sites because of his lack of high-end Statcast data. I can’t confirm the truth of the prior statement because all I have is 63 plate appearances of Triple-A data to go from and those weren’t his best.

Still, the supposed lack of high-end exit velocity doesn’t bother me because I feel confident that Saggese can continue to hit for power. His swing is built to put the ball in the air and he’s good at doing so. That allows him to consistently get to his power in game.

He pulled the ball a lot less after being traded to the Cardinals but that’s due in part to the fact that he hit many line drives and sprayed them around the field. While that was impressive, it was more of a hot streak than a trend we should expect to continue. Saggese is very good at hitting the ball at optimal launch angles, with a lot of line drives and hard fly balls.

I’m also a believer in Saggese’s hit tool. Because I tend to believe in both his power and his hit tool a bit more than other evaluators, I have Saggese at the Cardinals #4 prospect instead of putting him somewhere in the 5-10 range.

This depends on how we define “hit tool”. If it is a measurement of how adept he is at making contact, then he’s probably right around average. That’s a 50. I think we need to look at more than that, though. Saggese has been a consistent .300 hitter in the past two seasons because he makes enough contact, and it is quality contact. That has me higher on Saggese than some.

On the surface, it looks like Saggese has an average feel for contact, but I think it’s better than that. He makes a lot of in-zone contact which is important because he’s thrown an absurd quantity of breaking balls. I commented on it when the Cardinals first acquired him, and I mention it again here. Because the righty hitter was so dangerous at the plate, pitchers stopped throwing him fastballs and fed him mostly breaking and offspeed stuff. Those pitches are tougher to hit.

Saggese’s chase rate was a bit high because of that and a large percentage of his whiffs came on pitches out of the zone.

Another part of Saggese’s game that stands out is that he is a very good breaking ball hitter.

Here’s are some examples:

He was a bit too aggressive at times, which is understandable since he was a 21-year-old in Double-A and Triple-A who had to deal with being pitched around constantly. So, while it’s fair to say that he could improve his approach, I expect this to occur with time.

I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Saggese have early success in the majors if pitchers attack him with fastballs instead of using the off-speed approach that minor league pitchers deployed in 2023.

Defensively, Saggese has a utility profile. He appeared most at second base but played significant time at third base and even mixed in a bit of shortstop. He’s not a great athlete and doesn’t have a great range so he doesn’t profile best at shortstop. But his ability to play there in a pinch is a positive.

He is a dependable fielder so he should be able to play a solid second base at the highest level. While his arm isn’t outstanding, it’s enough for him to play third base without being overmatched. He profiles best at second, but I wonder if the Cardinals will try to add corner outfield in 2024 to help enhance his defensive profile.

Saggese is a decent defender but not much more and that’s not a bad thing. It’s his bat that will carry him. He plays good enough defense at multiple positions and that will get him in the lineup where his bat can add value.

I’m (marginally) higher on Saggese than Victor Scott because Saggese’s offensive profile is surer. Scott plays great defense at a more valuable position, but I have very few questions about Saggese’s bat and his ability to dominate Double-A pitching. He did this despite the way he was pitched and even though he was more than three years younger than the average Texas League hitter. That bodes well for him going forward.

His Triple-A introduction may not have gone well but Saggese is too good of a hitter to not rebound in 2024 and that’s exactly what I expect him to do now that he’s had a taste of the level.

Summary: Saggese profiles as a potential impact bat who can play multiple positions well enough to get in the lineup. His instinctive feel for the barrel and ability to hit breaking pitches portend a hitter much more advanced than his youth suggests.

Future Value: 50
Role: Average everyday player
Risk: Medium

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 6

Unlike Blake, I don’t have Saggese ahead of Scott in my rankings. Between Scott’s plus defense at a premium position and- game-changing speed, I think the center fielder is a better prospect and has what appears to be a much clearer future path to a starting job in the majors. The two will likely be 2024 teammates with Memphis, which should be fun to watch.

Background

Saggese (soo-JAY-see) was the Rangers’ final (fifth-round) selection in the truncated 2020 draft after having a relatively low profile, ranked just 279th among eligible players by Baseball America. The California prepster was convinced to forgo his commitment to Pepperdine by a bonus of $800,000. That $425,000 over slot amount was especially significant in a draft in which there was less money than usual to shift among players. (This was the same draft in which the Cardinals chose high schoolers Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn and Tink Hence.)

Starting his career and 2021 at Low-A Down East, Saggese played in 73 games with a line of .256/.372/.463/.835.

Opening 2022 in High-A, he batted .308 in 98 games, barely missing out on the South Atlantic League batting title. One of the youngest players in the Sally League, Saggese also placed in the circuit’s top 10 in slugging (.487) and OPS (.846) and was named to the post-season All-Star team.

The Rangers moved him up to Double-A in mid-September, and he immediately earned his first Texas League Player of the Week award. Saggese remained with Frisco through the playoffs and played well with his new team, establishing a base to build upon for 2023.

Following the season, Saggese received the Texas organization’s True Ranger Award for his core values demonstrated on and off the field. He was Baseball America’s 23rd-ranked Rangers prospect and no. 19 in the system per MLB Pipeline coming into 2023.

2023 recap

As expected, Saggese returned to Frisco for 2023. He was putting together a sensational year when the Cardinals acquired him with major league lefty John King and top prospect right-handed pitcher Tekoah Roby in a trade with Texas at the July deadline for Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton. It was suggested at the time that perhaps a reason Saggese was made available was an abundance of infielders already in the Rangers’ system, though he had worked his way up to no. 8 among Texas prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Thomas Saggese (Springfield Cardinals)

The right-handed swinger did not miss a beat after the trade, and in fact, was even better in his month-plus as a Springfield Cardinal. In August, Saggese led the Cardinals system in hits (37), extra base hits (17), runs scored (23), triples (three), home runs (nine), RBI (26), slugging (.714), OPS (1.140) and isolated power (ISO at .362) plus he was third in batting average (.352). That included a cycle on August 19. Not surprisingly, he earned consensus system-wide Player of the Month honors.

After Saggese played in 33 games with Springfield, September 8 marked his well-earned promotion to Memphis. Between his two Double-A stops in 2023, Saggese had slashed .318/.385/.551/.936 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI. Despite leaving the Texas League with a month to play, for the season the 21-year-old led the circuit in batting average, RBI, OPS, hits (158), extra base hits (60) and total bases (274).

With Memphis, Saggese ventured into uncharted territory. Not only was it his Triple-A debut, but he also struggled for the first time as a professional. It was only 63 plate appearances in 21 games, so certainly not a long period of time. Yet it was quite a contrast with his splashy arrivals in Frisco the year before and Springfield the month prior. His Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 51 with the Redbirds was the first time in his career he registered below 127, 27 percent above league average. Saggese slashed .207/.270/.345/.615 in his maiden International League action. His strikeout rate was constant from Double-A, but his walk rate dropped by half to just 4.8%.

After the season concluded, Saggese was named to the 16-member 2023 Texas League All-Star Team, along with Springfield teammates Pedro Pages and Chandler Redmond. Saggese was also the deserving selection as the Double-A league’s Most Valuable Player. He became the S-Cards’ third Texas League MVP in the last four played seasons, following outfielders Moises Gomez (2022) and Dylan Carlson (2019).

2024 outlook

A return to Triple-A to open 2024 seems almost certainly the Cards’ initial plan for Saggese, after giving him a long look in his first major league spring camp, I imagine.

While his initial Triple-A numbers likely won’t be the norm going forward, improving his offensive results against the better pitching in the International League will be especially important for the bat-first Saggese in 2024.

While keeping him fresh at multiple positions makes sense, most agree his best defensive spot is second base. His early use since arriving in trade supports this. But if the infield was crowded in Texas, the situation isn’t that much different in St. Louis’ system.

Interestingly, the Cardinals acquired another infielder during the same week Saggese arrived. Cesar Prieto is not as promising a prospect as Saggese, so my guess is that he will be used more at third base while Saggese plays up the middle. But the Cardinals also have 40-man roster infielders Jose Fermin and newcomer Buddy Kennedy, potentially crowding the Memphis mix. None of them are really shortstops, but that is a matter for another time.

Then there is the static second base situation with St. Louis. Even putting aside the most versatile player on the roster, Tommy Edman, who is penciled in to be the starting center fielder, the Cardinals still have two starting quality second sackers in Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan. Both are established major leaguers who have not even yet reached arbitration eligibility, let alone become close to free agency.

In other words, there looks to be a lot of traffic ahead for Saggese to negotiate through to reach St. Louis in 2024. Of course, injuries to others could help his chances.

A professional scout is unsure why the Cardinals acquired the infielder. “He was great in the Texas League, but he is not a good defender, and he doesn’t play shortstop, so what do they do with him?”, the scout asked rhetorically. “Every team already has a right-handed batter who hits doubles, and he is not half as good as (current utilityman Brendan) Donovan (who has the advantage of hitting lefty). I don’t see the fit.”

Future outlook

There is no impending pressure to have answers to all these questions. For example, and reference, Saggese is three years younger than Donovan. Over time, perceived roster log jams can work themselves out.

The Cardinals can afford to give Saggese all of 2024 if needed to play up to the level of Triple-A. A 40-man roster decision will be required in the fall of 2024 and there seems little reason to doubt he is going to be protected from the December Rule 5 Draft.

Once on the 40-man and with a period of Triple-A success added to his portfolio, Saggese should be ready to compete for a reserve role with St. Louis by 2025. How the rest of the roster evolves in the interim is perhaps a greater wild card than Saggese’s expected performance, but he is going to need both opportunity and results.

MLB debut: 2025
Rule 5 eligible: 2024


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #6 – Gordon Graceffo


Our 2024 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 2024


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #10 – Max Rajcic

photo: Max Rajcic (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches no. 10 with the organization’s Pitcher of the Year. In just his second full season, Max Rajcic should soon be testing his exceptional control and five pitches in Double-A.

Max Rajcic

Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 22 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’0/210
Acquired: Selected in the sixth round of the 2022 First-Year Player Draft, 187th overall

Hometown: Fullerton, California

Opened 2023: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Primary team in 2023: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Finished 2023: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2023 #39

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

Link to Rajcic’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 11

(current grade/future grade)

FB SL CB CH Command Future Value
45/50 40/45 55/60 50/55 50/60 45
IP G GS ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9 K-BB% FIP xFIP GB% BABIP
123.1 23 23 2.48 1.01 25.2% 5.5% 0.4 19.7% 3.08 (A)

3.21 (A+)

3.50 (A)

4.02 (A+)

36.3% .242 (A)

.320 (A+)

If we strictly considered pure stuff, I would probably have Ian Bedell and Sem Robberse ahead of Max Rajcic. I don’t, though, because Rajcic is a good pitcher who knows how to deploy his arsenal whereas Robberse is still learning how to use his below average fastball and Bedell has a lengthy injury history.

I love watching Rajcic pitch because he can attack a hitter in so many ways with his deep arsenal. He works up and down with his four-seamer and hammer curveball, an effective combination that really limits hard contact.

This is the righty’s bread-and-butter combination, and he leans on it heavily. The fastball isn’t super impressive on its own as it only sits 93 mph, but it gets moderate ride (17 inches of IVB) to go with almost nine inches of running life. That’s a solid enough movement profile to give me hope for Rajcic’s fastball going forward. It’s not likely to be an above average offering without more velocity but it can be average or fringe average and play effectively because of how he uses the rest of his arsenal.

His fastball has been up to 96 mph and has ticked upward since his early college days so there is a bit of an upward trajectory here. Whether or not he has more velocity in the tank remains to be seen but a 93-mph fastball with ride and command is playable so credit to Rajcic for coaxing out an extra few ticks.

He throws the fastball frequently. While that hasn’t hurt him at the lower levels of the minors, I suspect that it might once he gets to Double-A and Triple-A, so I would like to see Rajcic lean more on his secondaries going forward. That may be one of his biggest areas for development. He can work vertically with his fastball and big downer curveball but using his slider and changeup more could add more of a lateral element to his attack.

He already uses these pitches, but I want him to lean on them more heavily to attack hitters in every direction at any time. His changeup is an effective arm side offering that can tunnel well with his curveball. That combination can eat lefties alive.

In fact, the changeup and curve are why Rajcic showed zero platoon splits in 2023. Lefties had more plate appearances against him than righties and only OPSed .572. Compare that to the.576 OPS that righties recorded and it’s clear that he’s as platoon neutral as it gets.

That’s part of the reason why I’m so high on Rajcic. Between his deep five-pitch arsenal, plus command, plus curveball, and lack of platoon splits, the righty projects as a solid backend starter.

The fourth pitch in Rajcic’s arsenal is a slider with good two-plane break and over seven inches of sweep on average. The pitch is a decent bat misser but I wonder if Rajcic would fare better with a harder gyro slider that presents more of a mid-point between his fastball and curveball. The pitch sits 82-83 mph, but he could potentially trade movement for velocity, which isn’t great for every pitcher but could be effective for him.

His slider is probably below average and flashes average but it’s a usable pitch and one with potential.

I appreciate Rajcic’s ability to generate breaking ball spin (his curveball averages almost 2700 rpm and his slider averages almost 2500 rpm). Even though I see Rajcic’s slider as a clear fourth pitch right now, there’s plenty of potential for improvement.

Rajcic toyed with a cutter a little bit in 2023. It got about one inch of cut and was thrown in the 85-86 mph range. I am interested in would look like as a full member of his arsenal. I’m still partial to the gyro slider (which has more depth than a cutter) if he can throw it at the same velocity but it’s still interesting to see Rajcic experimenting. That’s something to keep an eye on for 2024.

While we’re talking about his arsenal, I want to mention Rajcic’s sinker. It gets more depth and an extra four inches of run compared to the four-seamer. While I don’t like the sinker as much, it’s still a nice little offering that gives him another fastball shape to attack hitters. He’ll use it against both lefties and righties and commands it well to his arm side.

Command is the strongest part of Rajcic’s game. He knows how to pitch and mixes his pitches well. Although he could do it more effectively, his command is very good. He’s able to consistently put his pitches where he wants them and that’s especially true for his fastball and curveball. He can work his curveball to both sides of the plate and generally keeps it at the knees or below while he can also spot his four-seamer up and down, though it generally plays better to his arm side.

Rajcic also loves to attack the zone with his fastballs and use them to set up chases for his secondary pitches. He’ll live outside the zone but close to the edge with his secondaries and hitters tend to expand the zone against them. That’s where Rajcic gets most of his whiffs. The relative lack of in-zone strikeouts is a bit of a concern but his ability to consistently get hitters to expand the zone helps alleviate that concern.

Rajcic isn’t the most electric pitching prospect in the Cardinals system, but he does a great job of generating weak contact and should be able to maintain a low walk rate with a moderate number of whiffs going forward. That makes him a higher probability starter going forward than some of the names we’ve already discussed. It’s not hard to envision him a back-end guy who could push into a mid-rotation spot if he can find extra velocity or figure out how to balance his pitches most effectively.

That’s a great outcome for a former sixth-round pick, albeit one who was given third round money. I’ve really come to appreciate Rajcic more in 2023 and I’m excited to see how he grows his game in 2024.

Summary: Future plus command is the calling card for Rajcic but his deep five-pitch arsenal and vertically oriented fastball/curveball combination give him a solid back-end starter profile going forward.

Future Value: 45
Role: 4/5 starter
Risk: High

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 11

Only because our overall ranking is based on the average of two scores can a player just outside the top 10 on both voters’ lists still end up no. 10 overall. I had Jimmy Crooks at 10 and Blake liked Chase Davis there, with Rajcic the more consistently scored beneficiary.

His leap from no. 39 in these rankings to no. 10 is a testament to his exceptional season as well as the fact that 2023 was his professional debut. As we look ahead, expectations are higher.

Background

As a California high schooler, Rajcic (pronounced like “magic”) first drew national attention while pitching for the U-18 National Team in 2018 and 2019. The first year, he tossed 5 2/3 no-hit innings of relief with eight strikeouts at the COPABE Pan-American Championships. In 2019, he allowed just two runs and struck out 10 in two starts totaling 13 1/3 innings in the WBSC Baseball World Cup.

An effective closer for UCLA in 2021, Rajcic earned seven saves in 24 appearances with an ERA of 1.65. He struck out 36 hitters in 32 2/3 innings pitched and allowed just one home run.

However, the Rajcic of 2022 was significantly different as he made a seamless transition into the Bruins’ rotation. Finishing with an 8-5 record and an ERA of 3.28, he struck out 92 hitters in 85 innings pitched as the Friday night starter.

Despite Rajcic being their sixth-round selection, the Cardinals ponied up and gave the junior the majority of their overslot money in 2022. In the early stage especially, the magnitude of the financial commitment spoke loudly, and his results to date suggest that the money was well spent.

Specifically, the $600,000 he received to sign is late third-round money. Today, in these rankings (reflecting his mound results), Rajcic has pulled ahead of the second and third-round picks in his class, Brycen Mautz and Pete Hansen.

After signing and through August and into September, Rajcic worked out in parallel with the Florida Complex League Cardinals in the Jupiter facility along with six other college-trained pitchers in his draft class. However, none of them were activated in 2022.

2023 recap 

From the Cardinals’ 2022 pitching draft class, only first-rounder Cooper Hjerpe opened his professional career at High-A Peoria. Rajcic was among the majority who started at Low-A Palm Beach.

Fast forward and Rajcic put together the most decorated season of any pitcher in the Cardinals system. In my view, he is the early leader to be labeled “the steal of his draft”.

He got off to a fast start, receiving The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of Month honors in April (1.25 ERA in four starts). Next was the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week award for the period of May 30-June 4.

After posting a 1.89 ERA with 68 strikeouts to just nine walks in 62 innings across 12 starts at Palm Beach, Rajcic was promoted to Peoria on June 26. In those 12 FSL starts, he allowed zero or one run eight times, including four scoreless starts of at least five innings. When promoted, Rajcic ranked among all Low-A pitching leaders (50 or more innings) in wins (six, tied for first), WHIP (0.81, first), and ERA (second).

Rajcic was named the Cardinals Minor League co-Pitcher of the Month for June, the first to be recognized during his first professional season since 2011.

Max Rajcic (Peoria Chiefs)

With the Chiefs in August, he registered a 1.55 ERA across five starts, earning both the organization’s and TCN’s Pitcher of the Month for a second time in 2023. In Cardinals history, Rick Ankiel in 1998 is the only other two-time, first-year monthly award winner.

Rajcic finished his time with Peoria with a 3.08 ERA over 11 starts, allowing two or fewer runs in nine outings. He helped power his club into the Midwest League playoffs for the first time since 2018.

At the conclusion of the season, he was recognized as a Florida State League Post-Season All-Star and the FSL Pitcher of the Year. He was also named a Cardinals organizational All-Star by MiLB.com and Baseball America designated him as a Low-A All-Star and having the Best Control of any pitcher in the system.

Across the two levels, Rajcic finished his first professional season with a 9-6 record and a 2.48 ERA with 123 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP across 23 starts (123 1/3 IP). He was among all Cardinals minor league pitching leaders (25 or more innings) in wins (fourth), strikeouts (tied for second), ERA, FIP and WHIP (both second), games started (tied for third), innings (seventh), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.56, fourth) and opponents average (.217, 10th).

So, it should not be a surprise that Rajcic was The Cardinal Nation’s Palm Beach Starting Pitcher of the Year, and the Pitcher of the Year for the entire system according to both the Cardinals and TCN.

In Cardinals history, he is just the third to be named the organization’s Pitcher of the Year in his first professional season, following Ankiel (1998) and Anthony Reyes (2004).

Rajcic closed 2023 with his second promotion, this time to Double-A Springfield. He made one relief appearance in the Texas League playoffs.

2024 outlook

I am being somewhat repetitive in noting the influx of starting pitchers acquired by the Cardinals at the 2023 deadline and since has made rotation spots at Double-A and Triple-A very competitive.

Having said that, Rajcic accomplished everything expected of him and more in his first year. That end-of-season preview with Springfield is indicative of where he should be reporting at the end of spring training 2024.

However, even if he is held back with Peoria, Rajcic shouldn’t have to be there long. 2024 will be his year to shine in the Texas League.

Future outlook

A year ago, before he even threw an official pitch as a professional, we wondered if a lack of clear plus pitch could limit Rajcic to a reliever role at some point in his advancement through the Cardinals’ system. While it could still happen down the road, his progress during 2023 strengthened his starting case.

Even though he will probably continue to be utilized as a starter to give his arsenal the longest possible window to develop, the Cardinals might be tempted at some point to alter his course. Given his fast movement though the system and his experience closing at UCLA, if they think he can contribute more quickly from the big-league pen, they might test that route.

A conservative schedule would have Rajcic finish Double-A in 2024 and master Triple-A in 2025. At that point, a 40-man roster decision will be required, and he should have shown enough by then to make that call easy. A 2026 St. Louis debut feels quite possible, though as noted, an earlier move to relief could accelerate this estimate, perhaps substantially.

MLB debut: 2026
Rule 5 eligible: 2025


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #11 – Jimmy Crooks


Our 2024 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 2024


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #15 – Ian Bedell

photo: Ian Bedell (Peoria Chiefs)

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches no. 15 with a talented right hander who seemed to have put his injuries in the past in a standout 2023 season. Drafted in 2020, Ian Bedell has the stuff, but needs to move ahead quickly after three years in A-ball.

Ian Bedell

Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 24 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’2/214
Acquired: Selected in the fourth round, 122nd overall, of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft

Hometown: Davenport, Iowa

Opened 2023: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Primary team in 2023: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Finished 2023: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2023 #37, 2022 #21, 2021 #26

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

Link to Bedell’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 15

(current grade/future grade)

FB SL CB CH Command Future Value
45/50 50/55 45/55 50/60 40/55 40
IP G GS ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9 K-BB% FIP xFIP GB% BABIP
96 276 19 2.44 1.15 27.2% 8.7% 0.66 18.5% 3.50 3.72 39.3% .292

I wouldn’t be shocked for Bedell to pitch his way into the top 10 of our countdown next year. He re-established his prospect status after a great 2023 season in Peoria and his combination of command and stuff makes me comfortable projecting him a surefire starter moving forward. Bedell could maybe reach mid-rotation status if he takes a jump in 2024 when he’s another year removed from injury.

I’m keeping him at a 40 FV for now because of the injury history but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bedell exceeds that projection – if he stays healthy and pitches like he has shown.

My favorite aspect of Bedell’s profile is that he not only has two effective breaking ball shapes but also throws a downright nasty changeup. In fact, I’m willing to break from the consensus and call Bedell’s changeup his best pitch even though all his pitches could be above average offerings going forward. His arsenal is good and balanced and deep and plays well against both lefties and righties.

He can struggle a bit with consistency, and I think that’s really the part of his game that needs to be cleaned up the most. His fastball command was inconsistent at times, but the pitch plays well when he’s locating it. He also had velocity fluctuations with his fastball, generally sitting 92-94 mph but on occasion the heater looked softer than that.

His nasty changeup was also not quite as nasty as it can be at times and that’s another thing that should and can be improved.

These consistency issues aren’t uncommon for a pitcher who hadn’t thrown serious innings since 2019, when Bedell came out Missouri’s bullpen and then pitched on the Cape. The COVID stoppage and injuries prevented him from throwing more than 40 innings combined from 2020-2022 so it’s not weird for him to show some rust in his first full season back on the mound.

It is encouraging that he was able to throw nearly 100 innings after so little work in competitive environments in recent years. So, 2023 is the season during which Bedell re-established himself and I wouldn’t be surprised if he shoots through the system in 2024 and reaches Triple-A while even challenging for a late season promotion to St. Louis.

Yes, those are high expectations, so we shouldn’t expect that. I want to point out that it’s well within his range of outcomes because of how good his arsenal is.

Let’s dive into that arsenal now.

Bedell throws a four-seamer and sinker that sits around 92-94 mph, but his four-seamer can occasionally look firmer. Both pitches are lively with plenty of arm side run and Bedell is good at locating them to the arm side. He’ll climb the ladder a bit with his four-seamer which doesn’t have as much depth as his sinker and that gives him a vertical element to his attack.

Both pitches are effective and grade out as solidly average for me because of how lively they are. His fastballs seemed to tick up slightly in 2023 and if he can jump up again in 2024, his fastballs could be clear above average pitches, and even though I’m grading both pitches as average, they flash above average at times.

Here’s an example of how lively his fastball can be:

I’ll get to the breaking balls soon, but I want to review the changeup because it’s my favorite pitch in Bedell’s arsenal. It gets about an extra 10-12 inches of depth than his sinker and a lot of arm side run, upward of 20 inches, while sitting in the 84-mph range. The shape and velocity make the pitch incredibly effective, and it can look especially nasty at times.

Here’s a nice changeup fading away from a lefty hitter:

Bedell doesn’t throw this pitch enough for my liking, but that’s understandable considering the quality of his breaking balls and how well they play against righties.

The pitch that first drew eyes to Bedell was his curveball. It’s been his bread and butter for years as a sharp breaking 12-6 with hard downward movement and just a little bit of sweep. It’s a good pitch and probably above average which plays effectively against both lefties and righties.

With that said, the curve took a back seat to Bedell’s slider in 2023, a pitch that was brand new for him. The slider gets good two plane break with sweepy movement and plays effectively with his changeup and running fastballs. It misses a lot of bats and is an above average offering that flashes plus and could very easily get to that level with another year of familiarity.

Bedell’s curveball command is still a bit inconsistent, and he can often leave it up in the zone but it tends to freeze the hitter in that location, so it doesn’t work to his detriment unless he leaves one middle-middle. The slider, though, is generally located well to the glove side and can be nasty breaking away from righties and into lefties.

So that’s the arsenal. It’s hard to pick out one pitch as better than the other and even though I side with the changeup, you could make a compelling argument for any of his secondaries as being top of the class.

That’s why Bedell could rise through the system quickly if he stays healthy, but considering his checkered medical history that is a sizable “if”. Still, Bedell is an extremely promising arm and one that, if healthy, has a solid chance at becoming a big-league rotation piece.

Summary: A good and deep five-pitch mix drives Bedell’s promise and the addition of a slider to an already good arsenal has helped him take a leap in his first full season back after a long stretch of injuries.

Future Value: 40
Role: Backend starter/middle relief
Risk: High

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 15

Bedell is the slowest moving member of the loaded 2020 draft class in which high schoolers Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn as well as collegian Alec Burleson have reached St. Louis. In fact, Burleson already has accrued over a full season of MLB service time and Walker is just short of one year.

Then there is Tink Hence, another 2020 high schooler, a promising pitcher who has been babied in terms of professional workload. Yet, he has half a season at Double-A, 156 1/3 career innings, a Futures Game appearance and a stint in the Arizona Fall League, all while being three years younger than Bedell.

Finally, there is Bedell himself, who came into the Cardinals system from a major college program in 2020 but is still in High-A and with just 104 1/3 career innings over three full seasons. A positive is that 96 of those frames were logged in 2023, his first healthy year as a pro.

In his three prior seasons in these rankings, Bedell was as high as no. 21 heading into 2022, but a year ago, he dropped to no. 37 before his 2023 rebound.

Background

In 2018, hailing from Davenport, Iowa Central High School, Bedell was one of the elite prep prospects nationally. He was expected to go off the board early in the First-Year Player Draft as a prep senior.

Instead, Bedell reclassified, skipping his senior year of high school to enroll early at the University of Missouri. Though he did not impress in limited action as a freshman, his fortunes took a major upturn in 2019.

As a sophomore, Bedell dominated in relief, posting a 1.56 ERA. He followed it up with a starting and starring role in the summer Cape Cod League, crafting a 0.59 ERA with 36-to-3 strikeout to walk count in 24 ⅓ innings. That led to his selection as the 2019 CCL Pitcher of the Year.

With heightened expectations, Bedell moved into Mizzou’s rotation as a junior but the 2020 season was quickly shortened by COVID. He made just four starts, compiled a 3.70 ERA and registered strong 35-to-4 K/BB counts. He became one the youngest college players (20 years, 9 months) in the draft pool, but that significant age advantage has since been lost due to his subsequent injury problems.

Ian Bedell (University of Missouri)

Despite Bedell having just one full college season under his belt, and that as a reliever, plus the Cape success, the Cardinals gave Bedell a hefty signing bonus of $800,000. That was $331,000 above his slot value and equivalent to early third-round money. It was the Cardinals’ second highest overslot payment in 2020, after Winn.

As with the final five of the Cardinals’ seven 2020 draft picks, Bedell was not placed in the organization’s 60-man pool once signed, meaning his professional debut did not occur until 2021.

As 2021 spring training concluded, his first official assignment was an aggressive one – High-A Peoria. His season was over almost as quickly as it began. Bedell threw 68 pitches over 2 2/3 innings before being placed on the injured list on May 13. In his two appearances, Bedell allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits, a walk, and a hit by pitch. Four of his eight outs secured were via the strikeout.

In essence, he also lost the 2022 season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. By mid-August, he was finally seemingly ready to go, assigned to the Florida Complex Cardinals to ramp up. Nine days after joining the rookie level club, Bedell’s rehab was moved to the nearby Low-A Palm Beach Cardinals. In three FCL innings, he had allowed no runs on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

Bedell’s three subsequent outings with the Beach Birds did not go well. He threw 2 2/3 innings, charged with five runs, two earned, on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Florida State League batters hit a collective .429 against his offerings.

On September 5, the Cardinals decided that was enough for 2022. Bedell was brought off his rehab and injured list status and reassigned to the FCL Cardinals, whose season had already ended.

2023 recap

Finally healthy coming into 2023 and ready to fully resume his career, Bedell returned to High-A Peoria, from where it had been interrupted by injury two years prior.

Half a year older than league average at 23 years and seven months, Bedell rejoined a promising Chiefs rotation that by then featured Hence and 2022 first-rounder Cooper Hjerpe, among others.

To be accurate, Bedell didn’t open among the starting five, as he ramped up his workload in long relief early before transitioning into the starting rotation in May. He quickly established himself as one of the most reliable arms on a Peoria club that reached the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

Bedell put together a season that culminated with Midwest League Pitcher of the Year honors as well as The Cardinal Nation’s nod as Peoria Starting Pitcher of the Year.

In 27 appearances including 19 starts, he logged a 2.44 earned run average, the lowest among any MWL hurler with at least 95 innings pitched. Bedell’s batting average against was a stingy .218.

Among all pitchers in the Cardinals system throwing at least 40 innings, Bedell had the lowest ERA, was third in FIP (3.50) and xFIP (3.72) and fourth in WHIP (1.15) but was not among the organization leaders in any key counting stats.

Coming off nine days rest, Bedell took the Game 2 loss in the MWL West Division playoffs. He was pulled with no outs in the fourth inning after yielding six hits and five runs.

All told, Bedell’s 2023 was a clear success, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have questions.

His best career effort was on July 3 against Cedar Rapids when he allowed just one hit over six shutout innings, lowering his season ERA to 1.98. It seemed like an ideal time to promote Bedell to Double-A Springfield, but that was not in the Cardinals’ plans. In comparison, at that same time, his rotation mate Hence (and his 2.81 MWL ERA) was sent to the Futures Game and promoted to Springfield immediately after.

Interestingly, that six-inning outing was the only time during 2023 that Bedell was allowed to throw more than five innings. In fact, he went beyond four frames in just four of 27 appearances all year long. Further, none of his “longer” outings occurred after July 8. Normally, with a starter building up after injury, one would expect starts to go longer as the season progressed, but for Bedell, the Cardinals did the opposite, dialing back his workload.

During the second half, as Bedell’s innings total crossed the 60 mark, the Cardinals clearly began to curtail the length of his starts, much like they have done with Hence ever since he became a professional.

Being cautious is completely understandable given Bedell’s injury history, but this kind of care can make results appear better than they might have been in a unconstrained environment. Just as I have pointed out with Hence for three years, a pitcher’s stats are going to look better when he is pulled after just four innings, before he must face a lineup a third time and potentially gets deep into jams that he must find a way to work out of or pay the price.

Some observers were concerned that Bedell was high risk for selection in the December 2023 Rule 5 Draft, but I was not among them. The Cardinals chose not to add him to the 40-man roster and that turned out to the right decision, as Bedell was not taken.

The combination of his injury history, his relatively short mound outings and lack of any Double-A or Triple-A experience heading into his age 24 season made him a low odds possibility to contribute at the Major League level in 2024.

Ian Bedell (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

2024 outlook

Instead of being at the back end of an MLB bullpen as a Rule 5 pick to open 2024, Bedell should be in the Springfield rotation. While I have written extensively about the logjam of starting pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, Bedell will almost certainly be given priority ahead of most others.

The step up to the increased level of competition at Double-A is arguably the most important phase of a prospect’s career. From the competitiveness and offering perspectives, Bedell should be up to the challenge.

For obvious reasons, the right-hander remains a darling of analysts and scouts alike.

“I expect Bedell will be promoted rapidly and be in Triple-A by year end (2024),” said a professional scout. “As much as any pitcher I’ve seen in that organization, he competes well and has advanced pitchability. (In the majors) he will be at the back of the rotation or a good relief pitcher if not.”

Despite all the accolades, I am still going to be “from Missouri” until Bedell “shows me”.

I will be watching his durability, of course, but also his usage. Hopefully, in Bedell’s second full year after his return from Tommy John, the Cardinals will take off the wraps and we will see him pitch into the final third of a game for the first time. He needs to become more than a four-inning phenom.

Future outlook

Given the lost time, representing basically half of Bedell’s years before minor league free agency, his career must get moving – with a sense of urgency.

The most expeditious route would seemingly be to put him in the bullpen. Referencing his strong results as a college reliever, he could still have a high career floor working out of the pen. Yet, given his recent success starting, I don’t see that shift as likely at this time.

With no Double-A or Triple-A experience to date and his usage and health questions, I am continuing to assume it will take Bedell the better part of the 2024 and 2025 seasons to reach St. Louis.

This is extremely important because if he doesn’t reach St. Louis by the end of the 2025 season and isn’t placed on the 40-man by then, Bedell will reach minor league free agency at the age of 26.

He wasn’t added for Rule 5 purposes yet, but another decent season at the upper levels of the system and that would likely change. The security and associated three option years that go in hand with 40-man placement would relieve much of the time pressure on him.

But first things first. Bedell needs to log two more solid seasons on the mound while extending the duration of his outings. The results should follow, perhaps including a shot at St. Louis’ rotation. However, any setbacks to this rough timeline and the bullpen could become a viable option for his future.

MLB debut: 2025
Rule 5 eligible: 2023 (not selected)


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #16 – Brycen Mautz


Our 2024 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 2024


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #20 – Edwin Nuñez

photo: Edwin Nuñez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

In a FREE article, The Cardinal Nation’s prospect countdown for 2024 reaches the Top 20 with a hard-thrower who put it together in Class-A, followed by a solid stint in the Arizona Fall League. 22-year-old Edwin Nuñez is our top-ranked reliever this year but has more work ahead.

Edwin Nuñez

Position: Relief pitcher
Age: 22 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’3/185
Acquired: International free agent signed in June 2020

Home: Nagua, Dominican Republic

Opened 2023: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Primary team in 2023: Peoria Chiefs (High-A)
Finished 2023: Scottsdale Scorpions (Arizona Fall League)

Prior Top 50 rankings – 2023 not ranked, 2022 #44, 2021 #24

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

Link to Nuñez’ career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 22

(current grade/future grade)

FB SL CH Command Future Value
55/60 45/60 50/55 30/40 40
IP G GS ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9 K-BB% FIP xFIP GB% BABIP
63.2 41 0 3.39 1.35 23.4% 10.8% 0.7 12.6% 3.37 (A)

4.69 (A+)

3.37 (A)

4.69 (A+)

42.2% .319 (A)

.271 (A+)

The progression of Edwin Nuñez has been fun to watch. The righty has always been armed with a fastball that can touch 100 mph, but prior to 2023, his command was practically nonexistent.

Things are different now, though. This past season, Nuñez really started to control his body better and develop some command. That brought fewer walks and the added benefit of fewer meatballs.

It looks like he’s starting to put it all together. That’s a good thing for both him and the Cardinals because there’s a whole lot to like from a raw tools perspective.

Nuñez’s primary fastball is a sinker that sat around 95-97 mph in 2023 but has questionable shape. He throws it a lot but not as much as he used to when he was almost exclusively a fastball pitcher in his younger years. He’ll also mix in the occasional four-seamer which is thrown a tick harder on average and has average to slightly above average ride with a good amount of run.

Simply from a shape perspective, neither pitch is overwhelming, but the four-seamer does look better to me. I would be curious to see its results with more usage as it could turn Nuñez into more of a true strikeout pitcher as (good) four-seamers tend to be better at missing bats and sinkers tend to be better at managing contact.

Regardless, both fastballs get excellent velocity and have a lot of spin (2300-2400 rpm). The velocity helps the pitches play now but the spin gives them the potential for better shape which would really take them to the next level.

While Nuñez’s fastballs are what first brought attention to him, it’s his secondary pitches that have really helped him become a more complete pitcher.

I already mentioned that Nuñez was almost exclusively a fastball pitcher in his early days as a prospect, but he adopted heavier usage of his changeup in 2023 and mixed in a sweepy breaking ball as well.

The 22-year-old has really developed feel for his changeup and it’s a bat missing pitch. It sits around 88 mph with good depth and some arm side run and he’s able to consistently locate it to his arm side. It’s a pitch that has shown a lot of growth, so much so that Nuñez isn’t afraid to throw it to same-sided hitters.

While Nuñez can consistently locate his changeup to his arm side and to the bottom of the zone, he struggles to keep the pitch in the zone and that is a limiting factor. The same can be said about all his pitches as Nuñez rarely puts his breaking ball in the zone and throws fewer than half of his heaters in the zone as well.

It’s this lack of control that hurts his profile. It is encouraging that Nuñez’s misses generally go in the same area that they were supposed to (i.e. low target misses low, arm side target misses arm side).So, there is some command in the profile; it just needs to be sharpened.

The breaking ball has also made some progress but still needs more before it can reach its potential as a wipeout offering. It’s technically listed as a slider, but it gets slurvy and is more of a slider/curveball hybrid than a true slider or a true curveball.

Basically, it’s a sweeper with more depth or a curveball with a lot of sweep and a little less depth. The pitch sits around 78-80 mph and misses a lot of bats, but its movement profile could stand to be straightened out a bit. Nuñez would benefit from turning the pitch into a true slider or a true curveball or perhaps separating the pitch into two distinct offerings and throwing two true breaking balls.

It’s the latter option that I find most intriguing because Nuñez doesn’t have a bridge pitch that can split the velocity and the movement difference between his running fastball and his sweeping breaking ball. That pitch could be a hard slider, or it could be a cutter, but I do think Nuñez would benefit from developing either of those offerings.

The good news is that even though he throws a slurvy breaking ball, he generates a ton of spin with the pitch (2800-2900 rpm) which really gives it a lot of potential if he can work out a good shape.

While Nuñez has made a lot of progress, you can see that he still has a way to go. His mechanics can still get wild on him at times and that can mess with his release point. He also could benefit from working on his pitch shapes pretty much across the board.

Even with all that development still needed, Nuñez is the top-rated relief pitcher on our list because of his high potential.

His ability to generate velocity bodes well for the effectiveness of his fastballs going forward and improving his pitch shapes would help those offerings become truly plus or even double plus at the highest level. Taken by itself, that’s a great trait for a reliever but Nuñez isn’t done there. His ability to generate a lot of breaking ball spin bodes well for his ability to throw a good breaking ball in the future, even if he’s not quite there yet.

But, again, he isn’t done there. The righty has really developed his feel for a changeup and that gives him another weapon in his arsenal even though his breaking ball has the potential to surpass his changeup as his go-to secondary offering.

We’re looking at a pitcher who has probably the most upside of any reliever in the system which more than justifies his ranking inside the top 20.

Summary: Edwin Nuñez has made a lot of progress and is still a long way from his ceiling, but he possesses the most upside of any reliever in the system with his ability to generate both huge velocity and huge breaking ball spin.

Future Value: 40
Role: Middle reliever
Risk: High

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 20

Few prospects have been on the kind of ranking roller coaster that Nuñez has been riding. After signing, he was ranked in our Top 25 before falling to 44th in 2022. The skid continued as he dropped off the Top 50 entirely during 2022 and heading into 2023 before his major upturn during the season, and now, securing his best ranking yet.

Background

The Cardinals first started scouting Nuñez in the Dominican Republic when he was 16, He showed glimpses of velocity to come at 90-92 mph on his fastball. By the time his deal was finalized at 18, he was renowned for touching 100 mph.

The Cardinals stuck with Nuñez after he was declared ineligible by Major League Baseball for one year. The issue was his age, as he presented himself as one year younger than he was determined to be. As a result, the Cardinals got a player one year later and two years older than originally hoped. COVID then added to the delay.

Nuñez’ signing was not official until June 2020, as the Cardinals held back the final $525,000 from their 2019-2020 international budget to land him. The amount given to the 37th signing in his class was the organization’s highest bonus allocated to any player that period.

Due to the timing of his signing and the pandemic, Nuñez was unable to become acclimated to professional ball at the Cardinals Dominican Academy after signing as hoped. Because of his limited prior experience, the impact on Nuñez’ early development may have been more significant than most prospects.

Even so, to open 2021, the Cardinals doubled down, skipping him over both their rookie teams in the Dominican Summer and the Florida Complex Leagues. For an international teen, debuting in Low-A was unprecedented in my recollection. With the benefit of hindsight, it was not a successful gambit.

Consider these top international pitching prospects from the organization. At age 18, Carlos Martinez apprenticed a year in the DSL before jumping to Class-A. Alex Reyes spent one summer in the Rookie Advanced Appalachian League in his age 18 debut before reaching Class-A. Sandy Alcantara pitched two seasons (at ages 19 and 20) in rookie-ball before his arrival in Class-A.

Nuñez opened 2021 in the rotation of Class-A Palm Beach (after a quick one-batter tune up). In two starts, he was bombed, yielding nine earned runs in a total of five innings on seven hits and six walks.

He spent the remainder of the season working in relief, though his non-admirable average of more than two baserunners per inning pitched continued. Specifically, his WHIP for the season was 2.24, highest of all pitchers in the Cardinals system who threw 25 innings or more, whether starters or relievers.

Nuñez’ strikeout rate of 9.9 per nine innings was good, but his walk rate of 9.4 per nine was of major concern. In fact, among pitchers throwing in 25 innings or more, it was third worst in the organization.

Edwin Nunez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Despite the fact he was clearly overmatched at Low-A, Nuñez received an uncomfortable five-month baptism by fire. The Cardinals kept him at Palm Beach for the entire season, when other pitchers who were struggling less were sent down to the FCL. His ERA for 2021 was 10.90 in 53 2/3 innings. His BABIP was a very unlucky .383 and his xFIP was “only” 7.02.

His return to Palm Beach to open 2022 was not a surprise. How he was handled, however, was quite different. This time when Nuñez struggled in the first three weeks of the season, he was sent down to extended spring training. He was soon back for a second shot with Palm Beach in May, but as soon as the FCL schedule opened in June, Nuñez was returned to rookie ball for the remainder of the summer (where in hindsight he should have been the year before.)

Sending him backward for more work seemed the right move. For the Beach Birds, Nuñez had appeared in five games in relief and was blistered for nine earned runs in 6 1/3 innings (12.15 ERA). He allowed “only” eight hits but walked 11. Clearly, his heralded 100-mph velocity was not going to be enough.

In the FCL, he threw 26 2/3 innings, walking 15 and striking out 23 while posting a 4.05 ERA. In his 22 appearances out of the bullpen, he earned four holds but blew two of his four save opportunities.

2023 recap

I cannot recall a player who was assigned to Low-A three consecutive years, and certainly not a top prospect – until now, that is.

Nuñez opened 2023 back in the Beach Birds’ pen. He settled into a late inning role, saving five of seven chances while logging a 3.62 ERA. Over 27 1/3 innings, he fanned 35, but most importantly, walked “just” 14 while holding Florida State League batters to a collective .219 average.

On June 26, he finally received the promotion to High-A Peoria. With the Chiefs, Nuñez logged a 3.22 ERA and his lowest walk rate yet, 4.0 per nine innings. His strikeouts were down to 7.4 per nine, but his overall results led to his selection as our Peoria Chiefs Reliever of the Year.

Edwin Nunez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Veteran manager Gary Kendall had Nuñez at Palm Beach in each of the last two seasons and notes the change in the right hander.

“Command is the big thing for him,” Kendall said. “Last year, he was a thrower. This year, he is learning how to pitch… This year, he was able to use his slider and change up more. He was made to use his slider and he got to the point he was leading hitters off with it, so it started to get some consistency.

“So, I was glad to see him move up the ladder and hopefully, his career blossoms because he has a really good arm,” the manager concluded.

Measured at the bottom line, Nuñez’ overall improvement in 2023 was exceptional. Specifically, compare his career ERA of 8.90 coming into the year to his 3.39 mark between the two Class-A stops in 2023. That 5.51 ERA difference powered him to The Cardinal Nation’s Emerging Pitcher of the Year honors.

After Peoria was ousted from the Midwest League playoffs, Nuñez received his second promotion of the year, joining Double-A Springfield. In his only appearance, he allowed one run on two hits and no walks in one inning during the Texas League postseason. It was good recognition and a sign of things to come.

His 2023 did not end in Springfield, however, as he was sent to the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase. This was a plum assignment for a player so young and relatively inexperienced. While some are sent to the AFL to log more innings after injury and others are there to provide additional input for a pending Rule 5 decision, Nuñez seemed to be there because of his considerable potential.

He was assigned uniform number “0,” worn by Masyn Winn with St. Louis. This also gave him the opportunity to spend six more weeks getting acquainted with Springfield pitching coach Eric Peterson, who was in the same role with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Edwin Nunez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Against more advanced hitters in the desert, Nuñez performed well, converting two of three save opportunities in eight games. The 22-year-old posted a 2.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 10 2/3 frames.

2024 outlook

Especially given how his 2023 concluded, Nuñez seems a lock to make his Double-A regular season debut to open 2024. It may be preceded by his first-ever big-league spring training camp invitation. This is an amazing advancement from his place 12 months earlier – coming off three months in the Florida Complex League to return to Low-A for the third year in a row.

My guess is that Nuñez will be given an opportunity to work the ninth inning for Springfield. The Texas League will be a major test, but if he can sustain his 2023 progress, getting to Memphis during the second half would not be out of the question.

Future outlook

While the early hopes that Nuñez could become a front-line major-league starter seem to be out the window, a future role as a hard-throwing reliever, maybe even a closer, would be a good outcome.

With a decision on Nuñez for Rule 5 purposes coming after the 2024 season, right now, it seems like he is firmly on track to receive a 40-man roster spot by fall. In that scenario, a spot in the 2025 Memphis pen could turn into his St. Louis debut with a simple phone call. If he can continue to keep his control under control and develop his secondaries further, a productive MLB career could ensue.

MLB debut: 2025
Rule 5 eligible: 2024


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TCN 2024 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #21 – Travis Honeyman


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