photo: Nolan Gorman (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)
Next up in our annual countdown of the Cardinals top 10 stories of 2018 is one of two which are minor league-focused.
Back to the days of failed first-rounders Zack Cox and Brett Wallace, and later with the likes of Stephen Piscotty, Carson Kelly and Patrick Wisdom, the St. Louis Cardinals have used many of their early draft picks trying and failing to find a franchise third baseman.
They also took a shot internationally, spending $1.1 million in 2008 (the top bonus given by the Cardinals to any overseas hitter to that point) on another major third base disappointment, Roberto De La Cruz.
Some, like Cox and Wallace, fell short, while others like Piscotty and Kelly moved to different positions. When all was said and done, the only third sacker developed in house to become an impactful major leaguer in the last two decades is a too-old, fifth-year collegian picked in the 13th round in the 2009 draft, Matt Carpenter.
With the highly-successful Carpenter already 33 years of age and with at most two years remaining on his current contract, the Cardinals have stepped up their efforts to identify their third baseman of the future.
The organization has three strong candidates, all of whom played last season as a teenager. One is a first-round draft pick, another his league Most Valuable Player in 2018, and the third won his league’s Triple Crown immediately after signing in July.
Of course, I am referring to Nolan Gorman, Elehuris Montero and Malcom Nuñez.
These top 10 articles are not intended to be exhaustive in depth, as there have been many prior articles on this site recounting the many successes of the trio this past season. (To read more, just enter their names in the blue magnifying glass search area at the far upper right.)
Therefore, I will offer just a short burst on each.
Gorman – Taken 19th overall in the 2018 draft from a Phoenix-area high school, Gorman signed for $3,231,700. He was named an Appalachian League All-Star, a Baseball America Rookie-level All-Star and our Johnson City Cardinals Player of the Year.
At the time of his August 8 promotion to Peoria, Gorman was tied for the Appy League lead in extra-base hits (22) while ranking second in home runs (11), slugging (.662) and runs scored (41). He was also among the top five in the league in batting average (.350), doubles (10), total bases (94) and home runs per at-bat (1/12.91).
Montero – Named The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Year across the entire system (the Cards organization selected Tyler O’Neill instead), Montero was also promoted in early August – to Palm Beach – as Gorman took his place.
While in the Midwest League, Montero led the Class-A circuit in batting average (.322), slugging (.529), hits (123), total bases (201), extra-base hits (46) and doubles (28). He ranked third in RBI (69) and fifth in home runs (15).
Montero started in the All-Star Game and was Midwest League Player of the Month for July before adding the MVP honors at season’s end.
Nuñez – Selected as The Cardinal Nation’s Rookie Player of the Year for the system, the July 2nd signee finished his first partial month as a professional with 25 RBI, tied for tops in the entire Cardinals system and led all system hitters with his .401 batting average and 1.201 OPS. Then, in August, his first full month, he topped his July numbers at .420 and 1.345, respectively. As a result, Nuñez was named both TCN’s and the Cardinals organization’s August Player of the Month.
Nuñez ended the season not only tops in the Dominican Summer League in the Triple Crown categories of home runs (13), RBI (59) and batting average (.415), the right-handed hitter was also first in total bases (127). Further, he led the way in on-base percentage (.497), slugging (.774) and of course OPS (1.272), as well as wRC+ (238).
How they rank
Only because Nuñez dominated at the lowest level of play did he come in at 10th in The Cardinal Nation’s top prospect rankings for 2019, with Gorman and Montero still to be unveiled ahead. It is not a spoiler to suggest you should expect both among the top five players, whether pitchers or hitters, in the entire Cardinals system.
Though all may not man the hot corner at Busch Stadium one day, they each have legitimate big-league potential.
That is wealth!
The Cardinal Nation’s top 10 stories of the year countdown
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