Exceptional young hitters

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    AvatarBob Reed


    With the events of the past 48 hours casting a cloud over the team (in both games the Cards had a 94% or better chance to win at some point, and yet…well, you know) this seemed like a good time to look toward one aspect of the possibly very bright Redbird future.

    The lower levels of the Cardinal organization performed quite well this year, and it felt like the hitters much more than pitchers were responsible. So I checked to see exactly how good the teenaged bats had been, compared to the competition.

    I used the Fangraphs site and took a tally of the top 15 hitters by wRC+ (age 17 and under only) in the Dominican Summer League. I set a minimum cutoff of 100 plate appearances.
    And then I did the same for the age 18 and under hitters in the 4 U.S. rookieball leagues (Pioneer League, Appy, Gulf Coast, and Arizona).

    So what we have is 30 batters, very successful, and very young. Therefore if the talent were distributed evenly, we would expect the 30 MLB organizations to be represented once each. Well, duh.

    But of course the young hitting talent is decidedly UNevenly distributed. Here’s the ranking:

    StL 7 players
    Phils 3
    Texas 2
    Yanks 2
    Tampa 2
    LA 2
    One apiece for Cubs, Brewers, Red Sox, Twins, D-Backs, Pirates, Frisco, Friars, Rockies, Mariners, Jays, and Mets
    The other dozen had nada, obviously.

    In the domestic rookieball leagues Nolan Gorman had the #1 spot among all 18 & unders, with a 183 wRC+. Intriguing right fielder and recent trade acquisition Jhon Torres had a 163 across two leagues to rank 5th, and catcher Ivan Herrera was 10th overall with a 160, after posting a 155 as one of the youngest regulars in the Dominican League last year.

    In the Dominican League, it will surprise no one here that 17-year-old Malcom Nunez ranked first with his historic Triple Crown season, and a Ruthian 238 wRC+. (Well, almost Ruthian anyway, as the Babe’s best was a 239 in 1920.)
    But as others at this site have noted, young Mr. Nunez wasn’t the only dandy Dominican League player for the Birds. Centerfield speedster Joerlin De Los Santos was a strong 3rd in wRC+ at 174, infielder Ramon Mendoza posted a 162 for 4th, and strong-armed outfielder Adanson Cruz — 13 assists in just 66 games — registered a 145 wRC+ for 14th in the league.

    I don’t want to get into the more granular details about plate discipline or defense or how the players trended through their admittedly brief seasons. (Though it must be noted that Jhon Torres’ short time in the St. Louis organization seemed to have a wondrous effect on his hitting.) Just wanted to put some positivity out there as some of us are no doubt at a bit of an emotional low ebb.

    Conclusion: I’d say that given average health and boring unexceptional development, the above 7 batting standouts should produce one star player for the Cards, one solid regular, and a useful bench guy, maybe two. Obviously no other organization can say the same, or even come close.


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    That’s a good analysis, Bob. It would be interesting to track those numbers over time and see what became of the excellent classes of young hitters in other organizations. I, like you, would imagine that at least a couple of those 7 guys would be future big league players, if not more. Gorman and Nunez look like potential stars with the bat, if the gloves are solid.


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    Thanks Bob!


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    Very interesting. Perhaps our young hitters can develop while our young pitching bears fruit.


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    It would be interesting to track those numbers over time and see what became of the excellent classes of young hitters in other organizations.

    That’s the key. I wonder how many 17 and 18 year old “future stars” flamed out, and how many current stars were not necessarily considered strong hitting prospects at 17 or 18? It seems like the distribution would be wide, as many kids develop a lot between 17 and 23, both physically and maturity-wise. Some kids are already pretty much “men among boys” at 17, while others take another 2 or 3 years to get there.


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    I would like to see how some of the Dominican dandies do in a higher classification before getting enthused about them.Same for all the younger kids in lower leagues.I do think Gorman will be legit and I think he held his own in a league were he was 3 years younger than the average age.He needs work on cutting the Ks as do most power hitting kids.I think Luken Baker (21) will be a fast rising player in the system.Elihuris Montero held his own in the tough FSL. in the month he was there.


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    I would like to see how some of the Dominican dandies do in a higher higher classification before getting enthused about them.

    I would typically agree, although I think it’s fair to be excited about Nunez. His season was historic.

    It’s also usually a good sign that guys young for any level perform well. Since Bob’s bounds for this exercise encompass that, I’m fine with saying that there’s a reason to be optimistic for these 7 players based on their good seasons. It’s probably not worth going nuts over, but it’s also worth noting with some level of positivity.


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    The position players drafted 11-40 rds. didn’t fare too well this season. Only a handful had decent numbers.
    Brandon Riley-OF 14th rd. hit .294 at Johnson City, got up to Peoria but landed on the DL. Josh Shaw-2B 19th, hit .266 at GCL with a K/Rate of a very low .079. Andrew Warner-OF 40th, hit .342 at GCL. 6’3″ SS Michael Perri (21st rd.) hit .267 at Johnson City.

    Our 28th rounder Justin Toerner had the best season of this category. He hit .292 (171ABs) at State College, .500 (20ABs) at Peoria, and .300 (40ABs) at Palm Beach. He showed he could hit at all three levels and may be a sleeper.

    Only Toerner showed enough to be on a level with some exceptional prospects from the draft class of ’18.



    What about the pitching Bob, did Ludwin Jimenez rank highly?

    AvatarBob Reed


    First, thanks for all the feedback, guys.
    I was pretty sure the Cards would have the strongest group of (very) young position players. Just didn’t know the gap would be so pronounced between themselves and all other farm systems. Makes me want to take a time machine to 2023.

    Reverie aside, let’s check on Ludwin Jimenez, Wiley.

    Ludwin was first among all DSL 16-year-olds in innings pitched, and #1 in both strikeout metrics, with 9.8 K/9 IP and a 26.1% rate of fanning batters. That’s with a minimum of 40 IP.

    Unfortunately only a handful of 16-year-olds qualified, roughly 10 or so. So let’s expand the rankings to include Jimenez’ 17-yr-old peers. There were 67 of them who tossed at least 40 innings this season, so that makes for a much more meaningful sample.

    If you place Ludwin Jimenez within the 67 17-yr-olds, he’d be 5th in innings, 6th in K/9, and 7th in K%. Pretty darn impressive, I’d say.

    Of course, all of this comes with the massive caveat that pitchers — unlike hitters — can’t be effectively graded by their stat lines alone. (But it’s always better to be healthy & successful than not.)



    Thanks Bob, I appreciate you taking the time to answer that question. Young pitching like that is hard to gauge. Seijas and Oviedo are considered top prospects, but have never pitched well. Guys like Jimenez and Jose Moreno out-perform at their age level and don’t get consideration. I know ‘stuff’ is a major factor, but if you can’t control it, what’s the point. ‘Heat’ rules the day right now, which is how Fernandez and Alcantara got their ranking. How would you rate Jimenez, Hector Soto and Moreno in today’s voting or is it too soon to consider them?

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Only a side point, but while Alcantara got a lot of attention from his velo, he is also very good. Was just called up in the 9/1 group and threw seven innings of shutout ball against the Phillies. 3H 2BB 6K.

    Sandy celebrates his 23rd birthday today. He left the org for a good reason – you have to give talent to get it in return.

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