The 2022 season saw the big league Cardinals make another postseason appearance. That appearance would not have been possible without significant contributions from their minor league system. Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, and Juan Yepez all gave the team valuable at-bats last season and look to play significant roles yet again this season. Even right hander Andre Pallante gave the Cardinals quality innings in both a starting and relief role last season, and is firmly slotted into their bullpen plans for this season as well.
Even with all those players graduating, the minor league system is far from bare. Led by two of the top-50 prospects in all of baseball, this system still has some serious talent. Thanks to a strong 2020 draft and one of the biggest breakout pitching prospects from last year, their top five is as strong as any organization. Outside the top five there is some intriguing young talent and also a slew of college arms from the 2022 draft that could move quickly through the system. There is a lot to like here.
Cardinals Minor League Affiliates:
Triple-A: Memphis Redbirds (International League)
Double-A: Springfield Cardinals (Texas League)
High-A: Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League)
Single-A: Palm Beach Cardinals (Florida State League)
Rookie: Florida Complex League, Dominican Summer League
A review of the tier system used here at Prospects1500 for our rankings:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years.
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor.
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor.
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact.
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster.
* – denotes player being on 40-man roster.
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022.
1. Jordan Walker, OF, 20, Double-A
No surprise here. Walker is a top-5 overall prospect and looks more and more the part of an All-Star level big leaguer. 20-year-olds should struggle with their first taste of Double-A ball. They are not supposed to hit .306/.388/.510, steal 22 bases, and only strike out 21% of the time. Here is a scary thought, some evaluators think there is more power coming. Getting to see him multiple times in person last year I can attest that the ball just comes off his bat different than his peers. A midseason change to the outfield has opened up his path to the big league club which is coming soon. His arm will work just fine out in right field.
What’s your favorite poem?
Ours is called, “Jordan Walker to Masyn Winn” pic.twitter.com/8bUm8CM3R6
— Springfield Cardinals (@Sgf_Cardinals) August 21, 2022
2. Masyn Winn, SS, 20, Double-A
It would be no surprise at all to me if Winn ends up the best fantasy asset on this list. That is not a slight on Walker at all, it is just an indication of what kind of talent Winn possess. He is virtually a lock to stick at shortstop where he will provide high level defense to go along with an above average power/speed combo offensively. Like Walker, he also saw the Double-A level last season and performed better than expected. With the Springfield club he hit .258/.349/.432 with 11 homeruns and 28 stolen bases in 345 AB’s. Crazy thing is his in game power hasn’t fully shown up yet, and when it does look out.
“A perfect strike right at the chest of Chandler Redmond.”
• Super talented defender
• Zero throwing errors
• Can throw 100.5 mph
Did we miss anything? pic.twitter.com/jUPiAjJd9f
— Springfield Cardinals (@Sgf_Cardinals) August 31, 2022
3. Alec Burleson*, OF, 24, MLB
Burleson is a guy that doesn’t get enough respect in my opinion. Is that because he doesn’t have that stand out 60 grade tool? Maybe. He isn’t going to steal many bases and he may never hit 30 home runs in a season. But the guy hits and he hits well. The 2020 draftee has 888 professional at-bats under his belt and has hit .300, with 42 home runs and 163 RBI, with and OPS of .842. He uses a great approach to make pitchers work and doesn’t get himself out. He may never be an All-Star, but he will help the Cardinals win games and could be a consistent contributor for your dynasty team.
4. Gordon Graceffo, RHP, 22, Double-A
Graceffo started the year at High-A and was truly dominant. In 45.2 innings, he had a 0.99 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, and had a K/BB ratio of 14. His promotion to the hitter friendly Double-A Texas League saw his numbers come back to earth. After some initial struggles, Graceffo adjusted. In his final three starts with Springfield, he went 16.2 IP, allowing only 5 hits, 0 runs, and 2 walks while striking out 22. With four pitches, a solid frame, and a repeatable delivery there is not much concern about him remaining a starter. With continued work on the command of his arsenal, he could be a good #3 and possibly even a #2 starter.
Gordon Graceffo, your St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year. pic.twitter.com/8RkvuVCfYz
— Springfield Cardinals (@Sgf_Cardinals) December 16, 2022
5. Tink Hence, RHP, 20, Single-A
His stuff is electric. He has two dominant pitches with his fastball and curveball and also a developing third pitch in his changeup. With further refining, he has the pure stuff to be a top of the rotation pitcher. What will need to come along for that to happen is the control and command of those pitches. At the Single-A level his stuff was good enough to get hitters out when he missed location. That will not work as he faces more advanced hitting. At 20-years-old and having only a total 60.1 professional innings pitched, time is on his side.
6. Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, 21, College
Hjerpe was the Cardinals 2022 first round selection out of Oregon State. The tall lefthander is polished and should move quickly once he gets on the mound. He was the Beavers weekend ace and even appeared as a stopper a few times. He throws from a deceptive crossfire, low 3/4 arm slot ala Chris Sale. If the delivery proves to be repeatable against professional hitters, he has the ceiling of a solid big league starter. If not the floor of a tough left handed specialist out of the bullpen is already there.
7. Jonathan Mejia, SS, 17, Rookie (DSL)
When the Cardinals signed Mejia in the International Draft last year, some evaluators slapped a lofty Javier Baez comp on him. Let me be clear, I am not a fan of comps and I don’t put a lot of value on them. I am fan of the tools that Mejia possesses, and I think that he has a chance to really catch fire this year when he comes over stateside. He has an advanced approach for his age, with great plate coverage and bat speed, making him one of the more intriguing prospects in this organization.
8. Moises Gomez*, OF, 24, Triple-A
The numbers that the minor league home run king put up last season were truly eye popping. Across Double-A and Triple-A he slashed .294/.371/.624, hit 39 home runs, drove in 94, and scored 89 runs. There are two things stopping me from buying all the way in. One, he spent the previous seven seasons in the Rays organization prior to being released, and the Rays rarely make mistakes in evaluating talent. Second, is a K rate north of 34%. I remain optimistic. Sometimes a change in scenery is just what a guy needs and plenty of sluggers have survived with a high strikeout rate. A repeat performance this season will make my #8 ranking look low, and that will be just fine with me.
Say hello to the 2022 Minor League home run champion.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 29, 2022
9. Matthew Liberatore*, LHP, 23, MLB
The more I see of Liberatore, the more I believe he profiles as a fourth starter in the big leagues. His curveball is a weapon, a true out pitch, but I question whether his fastball can get big league hitters out multiple trips through a lineup. I do think he could be a good fourth starter and there is value in that, but dynasty owners would be wise to adjust their expectations accordingly.
10. Joshua Baez, OF, 19, Single-A
The K rate is high and a .484 BABIP points to an inflated batting average but the power is legit and at 19-years-old there is still plenty of time for him to develop. He currently has the speed to play in center but a cannon for an arm would make rightfield a fall back if he loses some speed as he develops.
11. Won-Bin Cho, OF, 19, Rookie (FCL)
A sweet left handed stroke and a solid approach give a lot to dream on, but he is young and inexperienced and will take time to develop. He should be in A-ball this year where we can get a better read on just where he is in his development.
12. Brycen Mautz, LHP, 21, College
There is bullpen risk with the 6’3″ southpaw from the University of San Diego. But in this system, under Randy Flores’ tutelage, I think he could really be something special. He will need to develop a solid third pitch for that to happen, something to watch for this year.
13. Michael McGreevy, RHP, 22, Double-A
Much like Graceffo, McGreevy was dominant in High-A but found the hitters in Double-A to be stiffer competition. He likely starts this season back in Springfield where he looks to continue his development against future big league hitters. Thanks to solid control/command of his 4-pitch arsenal, he will likely continue to move quickly.
14. Ivan Herrera*, C, 22, MLB
The signing of Willson Contreras to a five year deal this offseason dealt a huge blow to Herrera’s dynasty value. He performed well in Triple-A last year and I still believe in the prospect, but without a trade he is hard to roster in most dynasty formats.
15. Zack Thompson*, LHP, 25, MLB
Thompson made his MLB debut last season throwing 34.2 innings mostly in relief with a 2.08 ERA. I still think he could have a future as a fourth or fifth starter but if he breaks camp with the big league club this year it will likely be back in the pen.
16. Victor Scott II, OF, 21, Single-A
Last years fifth round pick out of West Virginia has an enticing blend of speed and power. In a small sample size in Single-A those tools were on full display. He is one of the prospects that I am most excited to see over a full season this year.
17. Leonardo Bernal, C, 18, Single-A
The 18-year-old switch hitting catcher has a lot of promise and could very well be the Cardinals catcher of the future. He made his Single-A debut last season and showed a solid hit tool with decent pop, early reports are that his defense is advanced for his age as well.
18. Inohan Paniagua, RHP, 22, High-A
In his first full season as a starter, Paniagua was impressive. In 25 A-ball starts, he had a 2.81 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and had 9.48 K/9. If his changeup can become a viable third pitch his whole profile changes. He may not be a household name yet, but that could change very soon.
19. Connor Thomas*, LHP, 24, Triple-A
Thomas was named Pitcher of the Year in the hitter friendly Arizona Fall League, which lead to him being added to the 40-man roster. He makes hitters uncomfortable with his pace on the mound and induces a lot of ground balls. Look for him to fill a long relief role sometime this year for the Cardinals.
Connor Thomas set a blistering pace on the mound for the Rafters in the @MLBazFallLeague.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 18, 2022
20. Pete Hansen, LHP, 22, DNP (2022 draftee)
The last of three straight lefties taken atop the 2022 draft was Hansen. He already has a fairly safe floor as a backend starter with some deception in his delivery and a good breaking pitch that will likely result in decent strikeout numbers. The hope is to see him in Double-A Springfield in the second half.
21. Jimmy Crooks III, C, 21, Single-A
The ’22 draftee Crooks made a pretty good first impression. In 79 AB he slashed .266/.396/.468 with 3 HR, and 7 RBI while throwing out 32% of would be base stealers. Kid works his tail off and that will help him get the most out of his ability.
22. Mike Antico, OF, 24, Double-A
Antico stole 67 bases across two levels this season. If he can get on base at the higher levels of the minors this year, he might just enter the conversation of future leadoff hitter in St. Louis. He might just have enough pop in the bat to hit 10-12 home runs a year as well.
23. Freddy Pacheco*, RHP, 24, Triple-A
If everything breaks right, Pacheco could end up at the back-end of the Cardinals bullpen in the near future. His fastball explodes out of his hand and rides well up in the zone and when on, his slider is devastating to right-handed hitters. He needs to develop a better out pitch against lefties and continue to fine tune his command in order to reach his ultimate ceiling, but the potential is undoubtedly there.
24. Jake Walsh*, RHP, 27, Triple-A
Walsh got a small taste of the big leagues out of the bullpen last year and that is where his future seems to lie. His mid to upper-90’s fastball can touch triple digits in shorter bursts and he uses a nice 12-to-6 breaking ball to keep hitters off balance. He will make a push to break camp in the big league bullpen.
25. Max Rajcic, RHP, 21, College
26. Alec Willis, RHP, 19, Rooke (FCL)
27. Dionys Rodriguez, RHP, 22, High-A
28. Andre Granillo, RHP, 22, Double-A
29. Lizandro Espinoza, SS, 20, Single-A
30. Guillermo Zuniga*, RHP, 24, Double-A (Dodgers)
31. Jose Fermin*, IF, 23, Triple-A (Guardians)
32. Austin Love, RHP, 23, High-A
33. Ian Bedell, RHP, 23, Single-A
34. Zane Mills, RHP, 22, High-A
35. Matt Koperniak, OF, 24, Triple-A
Rajcic is a bulldog of a competitor that brings a solid four-pitch mix that he spots well in the zone. He could move quickly this summer. Rodriguez has some enticing skills to dream on, but will need to progress with his command for it all to work. Granillo led the organization in K rate last summer thanks to a high octane fastball and knee buckling slider. He profiles as a potentially dominant back-end of the bullpen guy. Zuniga, the former Dodger farm hand, is already on the 40-man roster and could figure into the bullpen competition in the Spring. Fermin was acquired from the Guardians back in November and instantly became part of the Cardinals utility infielder competition. Bedell has been slowed by Tommy John surgery rehab. Prior to surgery, the former Missouri Tiger had the looks of a pitcher that could move through the system quickly thanks to a solid arsenal and good command.
36. Luken Baker, 1B, 25, Triple-A
37. Ryan Holgate, 1B/OF, 22, Single-A
38. Patrick Romeri, OF, 21, High-A
39. Jose Davila, RHP, 20, Single-A
40. Ryan Loutos, RHP, 23, Triple-A
41. Samil De La Rosa, IF, 19, Rookie (FCL)
42. Andrew Marrero, RHP, 22, Single-A
43. Chandler Redmond, 1B, 25 Double-A
44. Jeremy Rivas, SS, 19, Single-A
45. Levi Prater, LHP, 23, High-A
46. Pedro Pages, C, 23, Triple-A
47. Jhon Torres, OF, 22, Rookie (FCL)
48. R.J. Yeager, CI, 24, Single-A
49. Thomas Francisco, 1B, 23, High-A
50. Nick Raposo, C, 24, Double-A
Baker has some of the best exit velocity in the system and if he can increase the contact rate he could make an interesting power bat off a big league bench. Redmond made history last summer by becoming only the second professional baseball player ever to hit for the home run cycle in a single game. Pages and Raposo both put up good offensive numbers last season but unfortunately they are also buried in this system. Loutos has a great story and is a guy that you can’t help but root for.
When Ryan Loutos graduated from Washington U. last spring, he had to pick between a job as a software engineer with a hefty paycheck, or play baseball. He thinks he made the right choice – and so do #STLCards https://t.co/lmxUMZPJKq pic.twitter.com/ioThlysBUG
— Rob Rains (@RobRains) June 9, 2022
Jeremy covers the St Louis organization and contributes on Prospects of the Week for Prospects1500. Born and raised in the Midwest, he is a lifelong fan of the Birds on the Bat. You can follow him on Twitter @JMahyfam for more baseball content.
"Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too." -Yogi Berra