TCN 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #50 – Brendan Donovan

photo: Brendan Donovan (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

Note: You may notice that the layout of our prospect write-ups have changed substantially for 2021. The major addition is scouting reports which include tool-by-tool assessments of each player on the standard 20-80 scale, written by Matt Thompson of Prospects Live.

Brendan Donovan

Position: 2B/3B
Born: 1/16/1997 (23)
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 195
Hits / Throws: L/R
Acquired: 2018 Draft- 7th Round (213th overall)
Rule 5 Eligible: 2021

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

Link to Donovan’s career stats

2021 individual rankings – Brian Walton #44, Matt Thompson #48.

Prior top 50 rankings – 2019 not ranked, 2020 #39

Matt Thompson’s scouting report

Physical Description: Good baseball frame. Reminds me of Tommy Edman physically. Smaller build with long legs, good athlete. Moves well. No long term issues with frame or sustainability.

Hit: Donovan has one of the more simplistic approaches you’ll find in the organization. Little to no wasted movement with a quiet swing. What I mean by that is he just barely lifts his front foot off the ground and is short and quick to the ball. He keeps the bat through the zone and rarely gets fooled. The approach is outstanding, and he had more walks than strikeouts during his career at South Alabama and was one of the best hitters in the Sun Belt Conference. All of that has translated into his first full season with a strong 13% walk rate.  Grade: 50

Power: The left-handed hitting Donovan will use all fields but when he drives the ball it’s more commonly to the right centerfield gap. Will slap the ball the other way or just take what’s given to him but he’s not physical enough to drive pitches on the outer half over the left field wall consistently. There’s more power here, but it would come at the price of some of his contact ability. I’d like to see him develop a more exaggerated load but that is a drastic swing overhaul. A long stretch with no real competitive games though would be the time to incorporate something like that. Grade: 40

Brendan Donovan (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Field: This is the primary reason a bat like this was available in the seventh round. It’s a profile the Cardinals historically do quite well with, the “position less” prospect. If Donovan could play an average shortstop he’s a top ten guy in the system, but he lacks the foot speed, range and arm to play short. He played primarily third in college and that’s likely his best spot but his profile fits best at second base and that’s where the Cardinals had him last season. He’s an average defender and that will play up a tick in a heavy shifting organization. Grade: 40

Arm: He has quick hands and his quick transfer will make up for some of the lack of carry on the throwing arm. He has enough arm to play on the infield, but don’t expect much on the throws that take his momentum elsewhere. Grade: 40

Run: Below average runner, but not base clogging slow either. It’s another secondary tool that Donovan lacks. Grade: 45

Overall: Donovan’s hit tool and approach will get him to the big leagues but he lacks the secondary skills to be anything more than a fun bench bat. Needs a little more power, or speed or arm to be an everyday option, and his inability to play shortstop has a negative effect as well. There isn’t much demand for offensive minded 2B/3B utility types anymore, but Donovan has an intriguing hit tool and I want to see how it plays in the current MLB offensive climate. 

Future Value: 40
Role: Bench bat
Risk: Moderate

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

2019 recap

After his 2018 professional debut was cut short due to a wrist injury, Donovan got off to a quick start with the Class A Peoria Chiefs. He was the Midwest League Player of the Month for July, hitting .390 and had the highest OPS (1.164) and extra-base hits (14) of anyone in the Cardinals system.

However, his August OPS was a whopping .474 points less, at just .690. In his defense, he kept his walk rate up and his strikeouts were under control other than a major spike in May. So, while that was his only month with a poor OBP, it was Donovan’s slugging that was really all over the map. In fact, in his other best two months combined, he did not have as many extra base hits as his 14 in July.

If you are wondering if fatigue was a factor, it is not an unreasonable suspicion given 2019 was his first year of playing into July and August. But that was not the case – at least the numbers don’t support it. His worst month was not August, but back in May, when his OPS was just .563.

Brendan Donovan (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

So, when I observe that Donovan’s season was extremely inconsistent, you can see what I mean. Is he the guy who OPSed 1.164 one month or the guy who played an entire other full month with an OPS less than half of that? The likely reality is somewhere in the vast gulf between. Exactly where that will settle over time is to be determined.

Still it should be noted that for the season, his Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 132.8 with the Chiefs was ninth-best in the system. Another positive indicator is that the Cardinals gave Donovan a nice late-season perk. He was promote to Triple-A Memphis as roster backfill for the season’s final series. It was a nice, albeit brief, reward for a good season.

2020 recap – Assignments

  • January instructional camp – yes
  • St. Louis spring training camp – no
  • St. Louis Summer Camp – no
  • Springfield alternate camp – no
  • St. Louis – no

2021 outlook

Last year at this time, I ranked Donovan #41 on my personal list, so his new placement five spots lower 12 months later is a reflection of newer arrivals slotting about him rather than any suggestion that he has taken a step backward during a season in which he did not play.

Brendan Donovan (Peoria Chiefs)

Having taken over 400 at-bats at Class A Peoria in 2019, Donovan may be slated to open the 2021 season as the regular second baseman for High-A Palm Beach. The combination of fewer affiliates and a growing number of more promising third base prospects in the system, most recently augmented by 2020 first-rounder Jordan Walker, would seem to close off the hot corner as a daily destination for Donovan.

However, with no Top 50 prospects in the system ahead of him at second base, Donovan should not be blocked when he demonstrates he is ready for further advancement. Immediately ahead are Irving Lopez and Nick Dunn with Chandler Redmond and Donivan Williams coming up behind.

Future outlook

As Matt noted, Donovan has been assigned a future value of 40 – a bench player in the majors, with moderate risk associated with the left-handed hitter achieving it. Think of a Max Schrock-kind of role here, but with a potentially lower batting average.

MLB debut: 2023

Our 2021 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 coming up at the rate of one article per day through the remainder of the year.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2021

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