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TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #25 – Johan Oviedo

photo: Johan Oviedo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with a big right-handed pitcher who still has rough edges but remains a promising talent at 20 years of age.

2018 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
24 RHS 3 02 98 6-6 210 R R 2016 IFA

Link to Johan Oviedo’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2018 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP G/AO BABIP
PEO 10 10 4.22 4.21 25 23 1 121.2 108 57 6 79 118 0.238 1.54 0.66 0.304

TCN Scouting Grade: 5.5, Risk: high (click here to review scales)


Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (34): During the community vote, Johan Oviedo finished as the 34th highest rated player, much lower than the cumulative Cardinal Nation vote. Oviedo got a lot of support early in the vote from VegasJim at pick #20.

Dennis Johnson liked that Oviedo is a big, strong right-handed pitcher, definitely one to keep an eye on. Stlcard25 mentioned that Oviedo has been pitching at a higher velocity this year, which is promising given he is still just 20 years old. CariocaCardinal posted that Oviedo’s issue with allowing walks are beyond being just an issue. The issue is a showstopper. Vegasjim commented that Oviedo seemed to hit a nice groove for a large part of the second half, going 9-5 with a 3.10 ERA with 79 K’s in 81 innings pitched.

Last year, bccran was curious how the Cardinals would allow Oviedo to progress given all the high-upside pitching in front of him. Flash forward a year and many posters, like Grenadier1, see the donut hole in the system now and are looking forward to seeing Oviedo pitch in the High-A Florida State League and progress to Springfield by the end of the summer. – Jeremy Byrd


Johan Oviedo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Derek Shore (24): Oviedo’s first year in full-season ball, at Low-A Peoria in 2018, proved to be a tale of two halves.

After posting a 5.82 ERA in a rough first half, Oviedo quickly settled down to become one of Peoria’s more durable starters down the stretch. He finished the season 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA over his last 13 starts.

The Cuban righty struck out 68 batters through 70 ⅔ innings in that span, holding opposing hitters to a .212 average.

“There was a really good amount of progress made by Johan as far as just overall maturity and being in his first full season,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “It is always what you like to see – guys getting stronger as the season goes along.”

Like many 20-year-old pitchers, Oviedo is not all that consistent yet, but he did make steady improvement. He cut his ERA by nearly three runs from the first half to the second half while also improving his walk rate and holding hitters in check for the most part.

“He corrected some things,” Swauger said. “He moved a little bit better and worked on the delivery of his throws. He was throwing more consistent strikes. That was the biggest thing with him. He was able to fill up the strike zone and start controlling all four of his pitches.

“He has got premium stuff. Now that he has been able to control it a little bit more, the results clearly spoke for themselves. A lot of that is maturation and hard work in the right direction by Johan.”

From a scouting perspective, a late-season uptick in stuff was the silver-lining for Oviedo in an up-and-down first full season. His velocity has been all over the place in his pro career, being anywhere from 87 to 97 mph since he signed.

Early in 2018, Oviedo was at 90-94 with below-average secondary stuff. As the season went on, though, he touched 96 and flashed a plus changeup and curveball.

At a workhorse-like 6-foot-6, it seems reasonable to think Oviedo’s command will come later the more he grows into his body and is able to control his limbs.

He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation hurler if the quality of his stuff stays consistent and he refines his control. There is a range of potential outcomes for Oviedo from a possible starter to candidate to be released.

All in all, there is no denying the potential with Oviedo, who once was proclaimed as having frontline starter potential when he first signed with the organization two years ago.

Expect to see him start next year at High-A Palm Beach with an outside shot at Double-A Springfield.


Johan Oviedo (Peoria Chiefs)

Brian Walton (21): If this was a ranking of results in 2018, Oviedo would not be at no. 21 on my list. But these rankings are about potential and he has a lot of it. In my opinion, Oviedo has as much upside as any pitcher in the system who pitched at Springfield or below in 2018.

In his scouting grade, I had Oviedo pegged last year at “6 high,” which is an upper-to-mid rotation starter. This year, he is down a half-step to “5.5 high,” where “5” is a back-end guy. That is still pretty darned good, but the “high” indicates the rough edges that remain.

Let’s step back for a moment. Oviedo left Cuba in his teen years before his path brought him to sign with the Cardinals on July 2, 2016 for a $1.9 million bonus. I do not have details on what he was doing in his formative years, but he settled in Haiti, not exactly a baseball hotbed. Oviedo is likely less developed as a pitcher than the average 20-year old from the US who spent years on travel teams and in showcases.

Physically, Oviedo is the most impressive physical specimen of any pitcher in the system, in my opinion. He is tall and while large, is well-built. Could he do more in the weight room? Good question, but I do not know his level of commitment today. I can say that he was listed at 220 pounds when signed but now is 260, on a 6-foot-6 frame.

With fewer than 100 career innings as a professional, Oviedo was placed by the Cardinals into cold-weather Peoria to start the 2018 season in April. He was a year and a half younger than the average pitcher in the league and the second-youngest pitcher on the Chiefs (after no. 37-ranked Alvaro Seijas).

Results were not great to start, but as noted above, he showed enough to remain, going on to make a team-high 23 starts for the Chiefs.

Here is a summary of his first- and second-half splits.

Oviedo Avg IP ERA K/9 BB/9 WHIP BAA
1H 2018 4 1/3 5.82 8.8 6.9 1.80 0.272
2H 2018 5 1/3+ 3.06 8.7 5.1 1.38 0.212

Oviedo pitched on the average more than an inning deeper into his second-half outings. He held his strikeout rate and lowered his walks considerably, which the latter still his primary problem. His batting average against dropped 60 points to a very strong .212. In doing so, he allowed almost one fewer baserunner on the paths every two innings. Given all that, basically cutting his ERA in half from the first half was a reasonable, deserved and strong result.

So, as the season progressed, Oviedo demonstrated considerable improvement. Isn’t that the idea? Challenge a young player and watch him work his way up to the level of his league, and beyond.

Still, I think Springfield would be too aggressive for Oviedo out of the gates in 2019. Perhaps he can hone his control and solidify his fastball velocity while initially working in the larger ballparks of the Florida State League and go from there.

Link to Oviedo’s career stats


Our 2019 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects – 2019

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #26 – Evan Mendoza


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #30 – Seth Elledge

photo: Seth Elledge (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with the first player drafted in 2017 to reach Triple-A Memphis, a big, strapping right-handed reliever acquired from Seattle.

2018 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Drafted Round
NA RHR 5 20 96 6-3 230 R R 2017 4th (Sea)

Link to Seth Elledge’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2018 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP G/AO BABIP
A+Sea 5 1 1.17 2.61 31 0 9 38.1 18 5 1 15 54 0.140 0.86 1.14 0.221
Spr 3 1 4.32 4.47 13 0 4 16.2 13 8 3 6 20 0.220 1.14 0.88 0.250
Total 8 2 2.13 44 0 13 55 31 13 4 21 74 0.165 0.95 1.05

TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: medium (click here to review scales)


Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (28): Seth Elledge, the return from the Sam Tuivailala trade with the Mariners, is the 28th highest rated player during the community vote. Elledge finished just behind a slew of position players, indicating a clear divide from the higher-rated pitchers in the system and the second tier of pitchers. Dennis Johnson began voting for Elledge first at #14.

Stlcard25 remarked that Elledge has excellent K rates and a good WHIP in his career. He thinks that Elledge will factor into the bullpen as soon as 2019. Bw52 liked that Elledge, a hard-throwing reliever, had 74 strikeouts in his 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Cardinals27 echoed that, saying that Elledge has a mid-90’s fastball and supposedly could gain velocity. CariocaCardinal believes Elledge has starter potential even. – Jeremy Byrd


Seth Elledge (Modesto Nuts)

Derek Shore (31): When Elledge was traded to the Cardinals this past summer from the Mariners in exchange for right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, he admitted he was surprised.

“There was definitely a little bit of a shock-factor,” Elledge said. “Being with the Mariners for the last year – that is kind of all that you think about. Whenever the news came, I was excited for a fresh start with a new team.

“It was quite the adrenaline rush knowing that I was getting traded to an organization as good as the Cardinals. I enjoyed my time with the Mariners. I feel like I developed a lot as a person and as a pitcher. I just want to thank them for drafting me and believing in me and giving me a chance to start my pro career.”

Elledge, who was drafted by Seattle two years ago in the fourth round out of Dallas Baptist, is yet another in the long line of hard-throwing relievers to come from that program. It is a program that preaches its pitchers’ velocity gains and sharpening off-speed offerings.

The 6-foot-3, 230 pounder, took to that philosophy and saw his fastball tick up to 92-95 with the ability to touch 96-97 mph. That helped him become the Patriots’ all-time saves leader, converting 27 saves.

With a lively fastball, Elledge also developed a hard curveball which was considered major league average going into the 2017 draft. That combination allowed him to strike out 11.9 batters per nine innings in his final season with Dallas Baptist.

After receiving $400,000 signing bonus, Elledge began his pro career with the Low-A (short-season) Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League.

After appearing in four games with Everett, he was promoted to Low-A Clinton in the Midwest League, finishing his debut summer there with a 3.00 ERA over 15 games and 35-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio through 38 ⅓ innings pitched.

Evaluators in the industry took notice of Elledge. Baseball America rated him as Seattle’s No. 17 prospect following the 2017 season with scouts raving about his high-spin fastball and deceptiveness that induces a lot of swings and misses by opposing hitters.

Elledge’s outstanding success continued into his first full season in 2018. He posted an excellent 1.17 ERA in 38 ⅓ innings at Modesto in the High-A California League, which is a very hitter-friendly league. He also sported an impressive 54-to-15 strikeout to walk ratio and had a stretch where Cal League hitters went 0-for-38 against him.

Modesto pitching coach Pete Woodsworth gave his assessment of Elledge.

“I have seen a guy that when he is in the right situation, a save situation with a little pressure, he rises to the occasion,” Woodsworth said. “He has a switch that he can flip on which is very rare to see at his age, having that closer mentality.

“When he flips that switch on, he throws bowling balls and atom bombs. He is very difficult to square up. With two pitches, he gives righties and lefties a very uncomfortable AB.”

Elledge credited his success at Modesto to having a more consistent second pitch this season.

“My main goal coming into this year was sharpening my curveball and making that a true number two weapon to play off my fastball,” Elledge said. “Just being able to throw it for strikes and being able to throw it for a put-away pitch to complement my fastball. I would probably say that has been my biggest growth from last year to this year.”

Prior to the trade, Baseball America rated Elledge as the M’s 10th-best prospect, which stood out to the Cardinals’ brass.

“When we’re looking at where we need to be the rest of this season and into next year, we were a little nervous about guys without options and not having that flexibility as we move forward,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said regarding Tuivailala.

“Trying to get someone like we did in that trade made a lot of sense to us in Elledge because he gives us that flexibility. He’s someone we believe will move quickly.”

Elledge was assigned to Double-A Springfield, where he posted a 4.32 ERA over 13 games. The 22 year old converted four saves in six chances, striking out 20 batters through 16 ⅔ innings pitched.

The reliever was asked if the natural movement he generates on his fastball is something he has always possessed.

“Yeah, I guess you could say so,” Elledge replied. “That is not something I strive for. I guess it just kind of happens whenever I throw it. I really just try to throw it with full intent, aggressiveness, and attack the hitter with it.”

Something that also stands out about Elledge is his deceptive delivery, which is both high-energy and high-effort, but he has shown he can repeat it well and command his two pitches.

“I really don’t know (where the deceptiveness comes from),” Elledge said. “I have heard that term thrown around. I like to think of it as a positive, so I just go out there and do my thing. The deception helps. I don’t really think there is anything that I can do that can generate that. It is definitely a good tool to have in my back-pocket.”

With the potential to be a seventh inning to set-up man in the big-leagues, Elledge is expected to be ready for the majors sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, though, he should open 2019 at Triple-A Memphis.


Seth Elledge (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Brian Walton (30): Despite being big and durable at 6-foot-3, 230-pounds, Elledge was a true under-the-radar acquisition among the flurry of moves of prospects into St. Louis’ system for major leaguers that occurred in July.

Though the most recent of the Cardinals’ seven trade acquisitions to have turned professional, Elledge could be the first to make an impact with St. Louis. In fact, Seattle’s fourth-round selection in 2017 could help make up some for what has been to date is a disappointing 2017 Cardinals draft class to date. When he was promoted to Memphis as the regular season neared its end, Elledge became the first player from that year’s draft to reach the Triple-A Redbirds – ahead of all 38 players drafted by St. Louis.

A fast riser in Seattle’s system before the Tuivailala trade, the sturdily-built reliever had saved all nine opportunities with a 1.17 ERA at high-A Modesto, and was named a California League mid-season All-Star. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Elledge was in the system of wheeler-dealer Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto, known for his numerous trades, many of which have strained Seattle’s farm depth to the maximum.

The Mariners’ loss is the Cardinals’ gain. When announcing the deal, the Cardinals disclosed their expectation that Elledge’s rapid ascension would continue. They proved it by immediately promoting the 22-year old to Double-A Springfield, and then upward to Memphis as mentioned above. At his final stop, the Frisco, Texas native logged valuable post-season experience, tossing a scoreless frame against Fresno and likely previewing his initial 2019 destination.

The fastball/curveball specialist impressed his first Cardinals manager, Johnny Rodriguez.

“(He is) a competitor,” Springfield’s leader said. “He competes and throws strikes. Not afraid. The ball has life. It gets on you quick and he has a deceptive delivery. You can just see it when he gets going. It’s hard to pick up. The hitters don’t get going on time. He is 92-to-95 (mph) with some finish.

“I call him “Edge,” because that is what he gives me,” Rodriguez said.

Looking at Elledge’s numbers, there are several suggestions his impact in Springfield was greater than his 4.32 ERA. These include a .220 batting average against, a 20-to-6 strikeout to walk count and a 1.14 WHIP. Three home runs hurt, but all three were in his final trio of Double-A outings. Perhaps the grind of his first full professional campaign, consisting of 45 outings, manifested itself in this manner.

Two different scouts queried agreed independently that Elledge could contribute to St. Louis’ bullpen as soon as 2019. While he is still several years from Rule 5 consideration, he can force the 40-man and 25-man issue with continued strong performances, because there will always be a need for bullpen help in St. Louis – if not one week, then the next.

I set his initial scouting grade at “4 medium,” meaning an impact reliever ceiling with some, but not extensive, gains needed to get there. The more Elledges the Cardinals can find and develop, the fewer veteran reliever disappointment risks they will need to take. And who can disagree with that approach?

Link to Elledge’s career stats


Our 2019 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects – 2019

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Potential Cardinals Farm System Trade Fodder


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #35 – Delvin Perez

photo: Delvin Perez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with St. Louis’ top draft pick from 2016 who has yet to turn the corner offensively.

2018 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
16 SS 12 24 98 6-3 175 R R 2016 1st

Link to Delvin Perez’ player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2018 stats

Tm AVG BABIP G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wRC+ OBP SLG OPS
SC 0.213 0.272 64 239 22 51 5 1 21 28 54 8 76 0.301 0.272 0.573

TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: high (click here to review scales)


Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (37): Delvin Perez has now dropped three straight off-seasons in the community prospect vote from a best of #4 in the 2017 rankings to #20 last year to finishing at #37 this year. In the most recent voting, Mrperkins first raised Perez in the community rankings rather early at #10.

Mrperkins justified his early vote, comparing Perez to former prospect Oscar Mercado. Mercado looked horrible after his first two years and then turned it on and Mrperkins believes Perez could have just such a resurgence. Grenadier1 posted that Perez had a better year at State College in 2018 with fewer of the maturity issues showing up. He mentioned that Perez is still not far off from where Francisco Lindor began as a prospect, although Perez likely doesn’t have that kind of a ceiling any longer. Grenadier1 also believes that Perez will put it all together in Low-A Peoria and move back up the ladder.

Stlcard25 commented that the bat is in need of a boost, but the glove plays. Wiley was surprised by the votes for Perez, questioning why the shortstop receives a free pass for being a former steroid user and a bust. – Jeremy Byrd


Delvin Perez (State College Spikes)

Derek Shore (35): St. Louis’ 2016 first round pick started showing signs of life with the bat in 2018 at Low-A (short-season) State College.

Case in point, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said on Dan McLaughlin’s Scoops with Danny Mac podcast in the early part of the New York-Penn League season he thought Perez had finally turned the corner at the plate.

“It is definitely coming together for him.” Mozeliak said on the July 9 Monday’s with Mo podcast “Obviously, that is a challenging league, and to see him have early success is great. From his standpoint, having some confidence as he moves forward is exactly what he needs. I also think getting out of Florida – he is more refreshed and there is more of a bounce in his step.

“From an offensive standpoint, it is just great to see he is swinging it.”

But after a fast start (.709 OPS in June and .645 OPS in July), Perez slowed down considerably with the stick, finishing the season with a .157 average (17-for-108) over his final 30 games with the Spikes.

Despite the struggles, State College manager Joe Kruzel liked what he saw in his young shortstop.

“It really looks like Delvin is starting to come into his own a little bit,” Kruzel said. “His defense is excellent. He is making the routine plays and then some. He is really doing a tremendous job out there on defense. Now, his offense is starting to pick up a little bit, so that is a great sign.”

From a scouting standpoint, evaluators said Perez had a down year offensively again. As an amateur, he had the look of a five-tool machine, but the positive PED test tanked his draft stock and his physicality declined significantly.

While his offense has fallen off, Perez is still an exceptional defender at shortstop with above-average speed.

Offensively, he struggles to command the strike zone, particularly having troubles picking up breaking balls. The hit tool is still a big question mark, but he did flash gap type line drive power this past season.

Overall, his body strength and durability are concerns as well, though his age and frame suggest he has room for physical growth.

And from the makeup side, scouts said Perez showed a lot of maturity compared to previous seasons.

All in all, Perez still has a chance to become an everyday shortstop, especially if he progresses offensively to grow into an all-around performer.

“Delvin has three tools you can see playing in the big-leagues,” Kruzel said. “His defense has really improved. He has got good hands. His arm strength and his ability to run. You have those three traits with him.

“Hopefully as he matures and gets a little older and keeps progressing on the path that he is with his offense, he will move in the right direction.”

Expect to see Perez open next year at Low-A Peoria.


Delvin Perez (St. Louis Cardinals)

Brian Walton (35): I was wrong again about Perez. I thought that with his pedigree, he would play well enough to make full-season Peoria out of spring training. That jump from Johnson City would have been the same move at the same age as fellow 19-year old prospect Alvaro Seijas made. The latter, a starting pitcher, stuck the entire season in the Midwest League, yet has already appeared in this prospect countdown.

So why is Perez ranked ahead of Seijas (and a number of others who put up better numbers)? The shortstop received over $2.2 million dollars to sign two and a half years ago. That premium draft pick halo continues to remain, but how long should it?

Instead of progressing to full-season ball in 2018, Perez did not break camp until short-season began, with State College in June. Though Perez had suffered a season-ending wrist injury in 2017, he played in the U-18 World Cup qualifier last November. Perhaps the extra two months of work in extended spring training was deemed best, though he was not there the entire time.

The bottom line is that this became his third year in short-season ball. At this methodical pace, Perez would play in Triple-A in 2022, only to become a minor league free agent following that season.

I am not predicting that will occur, but I am also straining to see progress. In one of our many prospect discussions at The Cardinal Nation message board, a reader drew a parallel between Perez and another former Cardinals first-round draft pick shortstop, Pete Kozma. While the latter became a journeyman rather than a star, his glove has kept him employed at Triple-A this entire decade, with annual appearances at the MLB level.

Pete Kozma (USA TODAY Sports Images)

As that thought intrigued me, I looked into the numbers. Though both were high school draftees, Kozma was 19 years of age at the time and Perez just 17. That is the only comparison factor in Perez’ favor, however.

Kozma spent just his first summer in short-season ball, not three years, and he OPSed .701 (mostly at Johnson City). His OPS generally dropped as he moved closer to MLB. In his three seasons in short-season ball, Perez’ OPS was .745 (GCL) then .585 (JC/GCL) and .573 (State College). So, Perez’ OPS is falling annually, too, but on this trajectory, he is not going to hit enough to ever reach the majors.

In other words, a Kozma comp appears too lofty because Perez’ offense just is not there.

How bad is it?

You many have noticed an earlier comment about improvement in gap power. While Perez is not a burner, he has above-average speed. Still, in 2018, he managed a grand total of just five doubles and three triples in 269 plate appearances. Including a lone home run, the only one of his career to date, Perez compiled an anemic .272 SLG and .059 isolated power (ISO) in 2018.

.272 is the lowest slugging percentage of any current player in the entire Cardinals system who had at least 150 at-bats this season. Yet, as bad as they were, Perez’ 2018 power numbers represent considerable improvement over his .222 SLG and .039 ISO at Johnson City in 2017. That same summer, he had been briefly demoted to the Gulf Coast League.

Overall, Perez’ OPS+ of 76 means his offense was 24 percent below the average New York-Penn League hitter this season.

With both being middle infielders from Puerto Rico, it was understandable that Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo would take special interest in Perez. Though they worked together regularly in 2016 and 2017, Oquendo returned to the St. Louis staff for 2018. Still, the teacher and pupil remained in frequent contact.

Delvin Perez, Jose Oquendo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“He (Oquendo) is like my Dad,” Perez told me in July. “I just treat him like my Dad. He teaches me a lot. I love him. He is the best guy in this organization. I talk with him daily.”

The extra attention hasn’t accomplished its desired effect with the understudy as of yet, however. As Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch wrote regarding Perez last month, “… The Cardinals and coaches also feel that he needs some improvement with his preparation and strength and devotion to the practice of being a better player.” Also noted is a need for Perez to “take responsibility”. This is consistent with what I have seen and heard independently.

Yes, Perez has the athleticism and the potential ability to go far, but we’ve been saying that for three years now. The results are not there offensively, nor is his overall trend positive. After all, in the first winter after he was drafted, Perez was our no. 3 Cardinals prospect. Last year, he fell to no. 16 and now he is no. 35.

Taking everything into account, I lowered Perez’ prospect grade considerably from last year’s “7 high” to “5 high”. In good conscience, I can no longer pretend to squint and proclaim that Perez’ ceiling is that of an MLB All-Star. An average starter seems a much more realistic goal, and honestly, that also seems far, far away.

Link to Perez’ career stats


Our 2019 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects – 2019

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Potential Cardinals Farm System Trade Fodder


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system, including all 50 of our top prospect list analyses.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #40 – Scott Hurst

photo: Scott Hurst (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with St. Louis’ top draft pick from 2017 who looks to put an injury-plagued 2018 behind him.

By The Cardinal Nation staff

2018 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
37 OF 3 25 96 5-10 175 L R 2017 3rd

Link to Scott Hurst’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2018 stats

Tm AVG BABIP G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wRC+ OBP SLG OPS
GCL 0.400 0.462 5 15 5 6 3 0 2 5 2 2 223 0.550 0.600 1.150
Peo 0.295 0.353 49 190 28 56 11 3 25 19 41 7 121 0.361 0.411 0.772
PB 0.354 0.421 14 48 10 17 6 1 9 8 10 1 180 0.439 0.542 0.980
Tot 0.312 68 253 43 79 20 4 36 32 53 10 0.389 0.447 0.836

TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: high (click here to review scales)


Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (41): Hurst dropped from 38th in the community vote to 41st this year after manning the outfield primarily for the A-ball Peoria Chiefs and the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals. Hurst was first selected in the community vote this year at #30 by Bw52.

Hurst caught CariocaCardinal’s eye during August after he went 0-for-20 after his promotion to Palm Beach, then went 10-for-12 after. Grenadier1 stated that if Hurst can stay healthy, he could see him moving up rapidly in the system as he has a good hit tool and a great arm. Stlcard25 believes Hurst has a higher ceiling than another Cardinals outfield prospect, Chase Pinder. He likes that Hurst doesn’t strike out a lot and is a decent defender.

Desmetlas12 posted that Hurst had an overall line in 2018 of .312/.389/.447 and he liked that Hurst performed better after getting promoted to Palm Beach. Robert Reed mentioned that Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport like the defense in centerfield and he believes that Hurst’s likeliest outcome is Shane Robinson, a mighty fine bench guy for a few years. – Jeremy Byrd


Scott Hurst (State College Spikes)

Derek Shore (38): After a solid start to his pro career with Low-A (short-season) State College, Hurst’s performed well in a 2018 season during which he was on the disabled list four different times.

Only because of a minor arm injury did Hurst, the Cardinals’ highest-drafted player last June, remain behind in extended spring training to start the year. The only question was whether St. Louis’ third-rounder from Cal State Fullerton would make his full-season introduction at High-A Palm Beach or Low-A Peoria.

The latter wound up being the case as he was assigned to Peoria on April 25.

But two months later, the 22-year old, who slashed .295/.361/.411 over 49 games for the Chiefs, landed on the shelf with a hamstring injury.

Hurst returned to official action on August 1 with Palm Beach, where he hit .354/.439/.542 in 14 games in-between two DL stints.

Despite spending the majority of the season on the DL, Hurst still opened the eyes of his coaches.

“He is an exciting player,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “He did a lot of things well. He has got a good amount of fast-twitch characteristics. Good runner. Very explosive bat. He has some impressive power at times. Very good arm strength. Very good defender at all three outfield spots.

“He has got some versatility. He takes good at-bats. He just does a lot of good things. When you look at him on the surface you might not think there is a ton there, but then you watch him play a game or two and you realize this is a very exciting player. He has some true assets and will play at higher levels.

“I’m excited to see what he can do as long as he is healthy.”

From a scouting standpoint, Hurst is a tweener through and through. The California native is a fine defender in center field and above-average in the corners, might hit enough to play every day but he profiles best as a reserve outfielder.

The main reason why he is a tweener is because he doesn’t have the power for a corner (projects to hit for doubles power) and will have to prove he can stick in center despite just average speed.

Hurst will get that shot at either Palm Beach or Double-A Springfield to open 2019.


Brian Walton (44): It is not Scott Hurst’s fault that he is the flag-bearer for the Cardinals’ shortened 2017 draft class. That blame goes to Chris Correa for his illegal activity and to his former colleagues in the front office for their decision to sign then-free agent Dexter Fowler. As a result, three picks were forfeited and Cal State Fullerton’s outfielder Hurst became the organization’s initial pick, at 94th overall, in the third round.

It is also not Hurst’s fault that the remainder of his draft class has not yet delivered on its collective promise. Other than Evan Mendoza and Evan Kruczynski, two prospects yet to come in this prospect countdown, Hurst is the best-ranked prospect from his class – at 40th overall in the system. Ouch!

Still, it is difficult not to consider other standout Cardinals such as Andrew Knizner, Harrison Bader, Jordan Hicks and Paul DeJong, all of whom were drafted later than 94th overall in the two years immediately prior to 2017.

It is also not Hurst’s fault that he was injured so much in 2018, but the reality is that he was. Instead of his first full season being a triumph, it became a morass of DL stints and rehabs. Instead of a full-season of about 140 games, Hurst played in just under half, 68. At least the injuries do not appear chronic, with a later issue being hamstring-related. Still, his legs are key to his game.

At the start of August, the 22-year old was promoted to Palm Beach. (In fact, he had already been rehabbing for some time in Jupiter, making the final month move easy,)

While Hurst’s numbers took an uptick at high-A around his final two DL moves, his BABIPs should cause concern. An already-high .353 mark at Peoria jumped up to an unreasonable .421 in the Florida State League. In other words, a considerable downward correction was likely just ahead.

When all is said and done, instead of stepping forward in his first full season, Hurst lost ground in our prospect rankings year to year.

It is clearly not all negative, but as Derek already outlined, Hurst is a jack of all trades, but likely will be a true master of few at the big-league level, with a most likely ceiling of a reserve outfielder. This is reflected in the “4 high” scouting grade. Hurst can get on base, but doesn’t steal a lot. He can hit for average, but not with power. He can play all three outfield positions well, but isn’t a prototypical specimen at any.

It seems like the Cardinals have had so many outfielders with a similar profile in the past. Specifically, it is hard for me to get overly excited about a Shane Robinson II from a third-round pick.

Again, my caution based on others who came before him may not be fair to Hurst. He can change my tune with a healthy and productive breakout in 2019. There should be roster room when he shows he is ready for Double-A. Triple-A may be another matter, but first things first for Hurst.

Link to Hurst’s career stats


Our 2019 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects – 2019

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.


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TCN 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #45 – Julio Rodriguez

photo: Julio Rodriguez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with a 21-year old who shared the catching load with fellow prospect Dennis Ortega at Class-A Peoria.


By The Cardinal Nation staff

2018 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
BOR C 6 11 97 6-0 197 R R 2016 IFA

Link to Julio Rodriguez’ player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2018 stats

Tm AVG BABIP G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wRC+ OBP SLG OPS
Peo 0.258 0.298 76 291 26 75 15 8 47 13 60 0 93 0.288 0.405 0.693

TCN Scouting Grade: 4.5, Risk: high (click here to review scales)


Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (46): Julio Rodriguez, a 6-foot tall, 21-year old catcher, jumped in the community rankings, placing 46th after finishing at #55 last year. 14NyquisT and Cardinals27 were especially high on Rodriguez, putting him in their personal top 30s.

CariocaCardinal, when choosing between Rodriguez and fellow Peoria catcher Dennis Ortega, believed Rodriguez to be more consistent offensively despite having two years less of organized baseball experience. Cardinals27 echoed that feeling, saying that Rodriguez has more pop in his bat, but also that his defensive stats are better. 14NyquisT thought that Rodriguez is an adequate bat and a disciplined hitter with a K/AB of .105.

Robert Reed noted that Rodriguez gunned down 47% of potential base-stealers after having a 48% rate last year. He thinks Rodriguez is a really good sleeper prospect in the system. – Jeremy Byrd


Julio Rodriguez (Peoria Chiefs)

Derek Shore (44): Simply put, there is a lot to like about Julio Rodriguez.

First, the 21-year old has proven he can handle advanced pitching the past two years. After tearing up the Dominican Summer League in his introduction as a professional, Rodriguez jumped over the Gulf Coast League in 2017 and OPS’ed .794 in his first season stateside at rookie-level Johnson City.

“He was a guy that would have been young for the GCL had he played there, but it motivated us to give him the opportunity to play in the Appy League and he had a great year,” Johnson City manager Roberto Espinoza said last fall. “Compared to the other top catchers in the league, he was in the top four in most of the offensive numbers and defensively he really improved a lot.”

Rodriguez received his first shot at a full-season club this past season with Low-A Peoria. As expected, he went through his share of ups and downs in the Midwest League, holding his own to the tune of a .258/.288/.405 slash line while continuing to exhibit solid gap-to-gap and occasional home run power (15 doubles and eight homers).

Rodriguez appeared in only 76 games with the Chiefs, as he split time behind the plate with fellow catching prospect Dennis Ortega.

Peoria manager Chris Swauger offered his praise for Rodriguez following the season.

“Julio is one of the best catchers I have had the pleasure of working with,” Swauger said. “He does everything pretty well defensively. He has premium arm strength with a really quick release. He shows a lot of leadership qualities and pitchers really enjoy throwing to him, so he is a great clubhouse presence.

“And then he possesses a really good swing. He still has some things to work on as far as what to swing at with plate discipline. That’s to be expected for somebody at his age and somebody in his first full season. There is a lot of things to be excited about with him. He and Dennis (Ortega) push each other a lot. They challenge each other and they both have bright careers ahead of them.”

Scouting-wise, most evaluators see Rodriguez as a backup catcher in the big-leagues because of his profile as a below-average hitter. Though, he is aggressive at the plate and has shown the ability to use the whole field.

Rodriguez also has pop to boot, especially to the pull-side, where he uses a gap-to-gap approach. His best tool is his plus arm strength, which is considered to be very accurate.

One scout who saw him prefers him over Ortega defensively because he is more vocal and takes charge better. He also receives and frames well.

With the way Rodriguez has advanced through the system already, perhaps he is ready to take on Double-A Springfield in 2019.


Julio Rodriguez (Johnson City Cardinals)

Brian Walton (46): Invariably, the Rodriguez-Ortega comparison is a major discussion point – here and everywhere. After all, the organization made the unique decision to place the two catching prospects on the same team. Instead of one pulling ahead of the other, each showed his strengths and weaknesses this season.

Still, when the three of us did our independent rakings, all placed the two together, with Ortega one spot higher. In other words, the two have not yet differentiated themselves, but the older player receives the slight edge. (Another spoiler alert: I guess you can surmise that Ortega will be appearing very soon in this countdown!)

When called upon, Rodriguez delivered in bursts, though overall, his wRC+ of 93 indicates his offense was slightly below league average. But we must also remember that he began the season at 20 years, nine months of age, more than a year younger than the Midwest League average hitter.

In the Midwest League post-season, Rodriguez went 4-for-11 (.364) with a walk. The Dominican Republic native finished the season on a nine-game hitting streak, one short of his season best. Still, Ortega played more often.

During the season, Rodriguez exhibited a number of very productive stretches at the plate. His season highlight was on May 14 versus Clinton, when he collected a Chiefs season single-game high of 10 total bases on a double and two home runs. Earlier, on April 26, he had his first two-home run outing of the season and nine total bases. Rodriguez later collected four hits in the opener of the June 22 double-header vs. Burlington.

Another 2018 Peoria team-best was Rodriguez’ six consecutive games with an RBI. The mark was set over the period of April 25 through May 3. Par for the course, however, was the fact that he did not appear in three games during his most productive stretch at the plate.

As Derek touched on above, the Cardinals could provide that differentiation between the two catchers in 2019 if they decide to skip one of the backstops over Palm Beach and place him at Double-A Springfield, while assigning the other one to the Florida State League Cards.

Here is how I see it could play out. Ortega needs to move ahead more quickly, as he has just two more seasons remaining before becoming a minor league free agent. (Further, he is already Rule 5-eligible.) If the organization first wants to see what they have in him at higher levels, Rodriguez could get the nod a Palm Beach, a tough place to hit.

I do expect Rodriguez’ to receive his first non-roster invitation to big league camp this spring. Though extra catchers do not get in 1 p.m. games often, there will be amply opportunities to impress Mike Shildt and his staff.

I like Rodriguez’ ceiling a bit more than the other prospects in the countdown to date, giving him a 4.5 in our scouting grade, but the “high” risk assessment is appropriate given the challenges still ahead.

Link to Rodriguez’ career stats


Our 2019 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects – 2019

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Potential Cardinals Farm System Trade Fodder


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If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.