Cardinals Quietly Churn Out Prospects

The Cardinals do not seem to promote their prospects as other teams do. It seems pitchers with 100 mile per hour fastballs are always trickling out of their system who no one has heard of until they step foot on the pitcher’s mound. They recently acquired Marcell Ozuna for one of those pitchers, Sandy Alcantara. With the acquisition Alcantara moved to the top of the Marlins prospect list. The Cardinals also have a number of outfielders, but they always seem to under perform. Quantity does not always guarantee quality.

One of those pitchers who the Cardinals have been waiting on for the last couple years that hits triple digits with the radar is Alex Reyes. Two years ago he missed significant time because of a drug failure. Last year he missed the season because of Tommy John surgery. Alex has been sitting atop the Cardinals prospect list for the last four years. The Cardinals hope the 2018 season is when he arrives. Don’t expect him to start the season with the club. He will need at least a half a season in the minor leagues strengthening his arm and enhancing his command. One of his weak points prior to the surgery was his lack of command. It will also be interesting to see the impact the surgery has on his velocity and the break in his curveball.

Another pitcher ready to break into the rotation in 2018 is Jack Flaherty. At 6′4″ he has the potential to be an innings eater. The 2014 first round pick did well in the minor leagues (14-4, 2.18) but struggled when promoted to the Cardinals (0-2, 6.33). He got too tentative facing major league hitters, walking almost one batter per two innings pitched. He has moved slowly through the Cardinals system but a good spring could see him slide into the back end of the Cardinals rotation to begin the season. His best bet would be to get a month of seasoning.

Dakota Hudson is another pitcher knocking on the door. The 2016 first round pick reached AAA last year after taming AA hitters. While his fastball hits the mid-90s on the radar his strikeouts to innings pitched is very weak (77 K’s in 114 innings). At 6′5″ he has the height to intimidate hitters so the lack of strikeouts is a concern. Myworld would prefer to see a little more swing and miss from his pitches before we jump on the Dakota train.

Junior Fernandez is one of those underrated pitchers the Cardinals develop who show up spitting triple digit heat when they appear on the scene. Like Dakota, that triple digit heat does not produce a lot of swings and misses (58 K’s in 90 innings). A lack of command and still below average secondary pitches make his fastball more hittable. Harnessing a second and third pitch will force hitters not to sit on his fastball.

The outfield situation is not as crowded with the trades of Magneuris Sierra and Stephen Piscotty. The two best outfielders left in the minors are Tyler O’Neil and Harrison Bader. Tyler will hit for pop, blasting 31 homeruns last year. His lack of speed will prevent him from playing center and his struggles to make contact could keep his average below .250. He had 151 K’s in 130 games at AAA, starting his season in Seattle and later being acquired by the Cardinals. The Cardinals outfield is a little crowded, but none of the participants come to spring training with his power.

Harrison Bader is your typical Cardinal outfielder. The 2015 third round pick is just barely above average in speed, arm and power. That would make him borderline as a centerfielder and/or corner outfielder. Last year he hit 20 homeruns which put his OPS at an .816. He played all season at the AAA level and at 23 he is knocking at the door of a very crowded room. The tools are there to be at least a fourth outfielder.

Other players who could weigh in on the outfield scene are Cubans Randy Arozarena and Jonathan Machado and former number one pick Nick Plummer. Arozarena has shown some power in the winter league and last year hit 11 homeruns. He has the speed to play center and sit at the top of the order, but needs to show better patience at the plate. Machado has the same tools but very little power. At 5′9″ he must thrive playing the small man’s game, stealing bases and bunting for base hits. For a first round pick Plummer has been a bust. The tools are there to be an above average player but a .198 average and lots of swings and misses will stunt the hype. He needs to hit because a below average arm restricts him to left field if he fails to capture center.

The best infielder of the group is 2016 first round pick Delvin Perez. He would have been higher than the 23rd player taken in the draft, but a positive drug test dropped his standing. Coming from Puerto Rico many compared him to Carlos Correa. He does not have the Correa power but he runs better than Carlos. His first full season in the minors was a struggle with a .203 average. If his bat can produce he has the tools to be a very good defensive shortstop.

His competition at short could come from Edmundo Sosa. The Panamanian has very good defensive tools but a questionable bat. He may be better suited to make a team as a utility player. Max Schrock has one of those line drive bats that will always be around the .300 neighborhood. He won’t hit for a lot of power or steal a lot of bases and his arm restricts him to second base, but he hits hard line drives. He has bounced from the Nationals to the Athletics and now to the Cardinals. Somebody always wants him.

Carson Kelly is ready to take over from Yadier Molina behind the plate. Defensively he may be the best catcher in the minor leagues. His arm is strong and he calls a good game. The concern is whether he will show enough bat to not be a detriment to the lineup. Last year he hit just .174 in a 69 at bat major league performance. Yadier is not ready to throw in the towel yet so expect Carson to mentor under him for at least one year.

A player to watch is 6′6″ righthander Johan Oviedo. The Cardinals spent $1.9 million to sign him and expect him to follow in the footsteps of Alex Reyes, Carlos Martinez and Sandy Alcantara as hard throwing righthanders. His fastball hits the mid-90s but it has room for growth as he matures. Command and secondary pitches are his biggest obstacles to this point.

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