St. Louis Cardinals 2019 Top 30 MLB Prospects Midseason Update
After missing the playoffs three straight years for the first time since 1997-99, the Cardinals went for broke in the offseason. They acquired Paul Goldschmidt in a blockbuster trade with the D-backs, signed Andrew Miller, extended Miles Mikolas and added Matt Wieters in spring training for additional depth.
Even with those additions and a wave of reinforcements from a stout farm system, the wins haven’t come. Down years, offensively, from Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter have weighed down the lineup, and the Cardinals find themselves hovering around .500 heading into the trade deadline. They are still in the thick of the playoff race in a tight NL Central and wild card race, but at no point have they separated themselves and their offense remains in the bottom third of the majors in scoring.
The Cardinals could very well ride it out and hope a second-half resurgence from Goldschmidt and Carpenter will give the offense the boost they need to go on a run, but after three straight seasons without October baseball, the Cardinals are likely to be aggressive at the trade deadline.
The good news is they have both the top-end prospects and farm system depth to add impact players, although with an aging lineup, keeping some of their top-end young talent will be important for the coming years. The Cardinals should be buyers as July 31 approaches, but a lot will depend on if their offense can start to show signs of life within the next two weeks.
1. Dylan Carlson, OF
Carlson’s physical ability has caught up to his advanced baseball IQ and led to a breakout season at Double-A Springfield. He has few weaknesses in his well-rounded game and projects as a solid everyday regular at least.
2. Nolan Gorman, 3B
Gorman has cooled off considerably since his scorching start, but evaluators still see a potential All-Star third baseman who hits .250-.260 with 25-30 home runs once he stops trying to lift everything and lets his natural power play.
3. Elehuris Montero, 3B
Montero missed three weeks in April with a sprained wrist, is currently out with a broken hamate bone and was visibly overmatched by Double-A competition in the 25 games he was healthy this year. Most observers consider Montero’s struggles a product of being rushed and still see the tools of a potential everyday player.
4. Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Cabrera began the year as a starter in Triple-A before making his major league debut and eventually moving to the bullpen, which has long been expected. Whether he lives up to his closer potential will depend on if he can harness the life on his 95-97 mph fastball and improve his control in general.
5. Tommy Edman, 2B
Edman followed a stellar spring training by batting .305 with 23 extra-base hits in 49 games at Triple-A to earn his major big league callup. While by no means a physical specimen, Edman’s sneaky tools, advanced instincts and underrated hitting ability have him in line for at least a utility role and possibly more.
6. Andrew Knizner, C
Knizner continues to hit for average and earned his first big league callup at the end of May. His defense continues to improve, with the ability to better block balls in the dirt now a focal point of his development.
7. Ryan Helsley, RHP
Helsley’s fastball sat 98 mph and touched 102 mph in his explosive first taste of the majors in April. He continues to show the traits of an impact, late-inning reliever, but in June his troublesome right shoulder landed him on the injured list for the second straight year.
8. Zack Thompson, LHP
Thompson fell to the 19th pick in the 2019 draft only because of an injury history that includes elbow and shoulder issues. With four average or better pitches and improving control, he has mid-rotation potential if he can stay healthy.
9. Ivan Herrera, C
Herrera has handled the jump to full-season ball and impressed offensively at low Class A Peoria. His defense, in particular his prohibitively long throwing stroke, continues to need polish.
10. Lane Thomas, OF
Thomas made his big league debut in April and memorably homered in his first career at-bat. His speed, defense and arm give him a solid foundation, but he needs to cut down his swings and misses in the strike zone to be more than a reserve.
11. Johan Oviedo, RHP
12. Junior Fernandez, RHP
13. Jhon Torres, OF
14. Jake Woodford, RHP
15. Julio Rodriguez, C
16. Adolis Garcia, OF
17. Angel Rondon, RHP
18. Randy Arozarena, OF
19. Justin Williams, OF
20. Malcom Nunez, 3B
21. Edgar Gonzalez, RHP
22. Tommy Parsons, RHP
23. Trejyn Fletcher, OF
24. Mateo Gil, SS
25. Seth Elledge, RHP
26. Luken Baker, 1B
27. Griffin Roberts, RHP
28. Edmundo Sosa, SS
29. Austin Warner, LHP
30. Kramer Robertson, SS
Cardinals Won't Waver From Hitting Philosophy
Despite a fitful hitting performance in 2019, the Cardinals are committed to the organizational hitting plan they put in place before the season.
OF Dylan Carlson has turned his tools into performance in becoming one of the minors’ top hitters this season. He ranks in the top 10 in the Double-A Texas League in hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, walks and OPS, all at just 20 years old.
C Julio Rodriguez’s offense has caught up to his defense and made him a threat in all phases of the game, elevating his status from an organizational catcher to a potential everyday backstop.
RHP Angel Rondon has gone 9-3, 2.81 with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings while rising to Double-A. His 94-95 mph fastball and hard slider play as a starter and have a chance to tick up if he moves to the bullpen.
3B Malcom Nunez hit .183 in 21 games at low Class A Peoria before being demoted to extended spring training. Scouts noted a lack of athleticism, wildly inconsistent defense and an undeveloped all-around game among their concerns, even in the context of his background and youth.
SS Delvin Perez continues to lack the strength to impact the ball in any way at the plate. The 2016 first-round pick is now seen as an org player by many scouts. He is batting .266 with nine extra-base hits in 83 games at low Class A Peoria.
2B Max Schrock made an effort to hit the ball in the air more this season, but the result has been a 12 percent increase in his strikeout rate and a .252/.350/.346 slash line in a repeat year at Triple-A.
OF/1B Leandro Cedeno has gotten prohibitively large and isn’t getting to his power at low Class A Peoria. He has four home runs and a .364 slugging percentage in in 65 games.
3B Elehuris Montero (hamate) has been out since he broke his left hamate bone on a swing on May 26. He is tentatively scheduled to return in mid- to late July.
RHP Ryan Helsley (shoulder) missed two weeks in June with a right shoulder impingement. It’s the second straight year he went on the injured list with a shoulder issue.
OF Justin Williams (leg) missed a month with an unspecified lower-body injury but returned in late June. He also missed the first month of the season recovering from a fractured right hand after he punched a television in the offseason.
LHP Steven Gingery (torn UCL) suffered a setback in spring training while rehabbing from last year’s Tommy John surgery. He is currently on a throwing program in Jupiter, Fla.
2B Max Schrock (oblique) missed most of June with unspecified back issues, returned for a week and then strained his oblique running out a bunt and was put back on the injured list on July 5.
RHP Alex Reyes graduated from prospect eligibility with four relief appearances but was sent back down to the minors after the first week of the season. He had a 7.39 ERA at Triple-A Memphis with 24 walks in 28 innings before going on the injured list on June 25 with a strained pectoral.
OF Tyler O’Neill has provided impact power with five doubles and five home runs in 34 games with the Cardinals, but his swing-and-miss issues remain a concern with 36 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances.
RHP Dakota Hudson is 8-4 with a rotation-best 3.48 ERA for the Cardinals. He has a 2.78 ERA over his last 13 starts after logging a 5.63 ERA in his first six appearances.
RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon has ably filled in both starting and relieving with a 2.80 ERA in 35.1 innings.
RHP Giovanny Gallegos leads all Cardinals relievers with a 2.49 ERA and has 61 strikeouts against just seven walks in 43.1 innings this season.