This rundown would be incomplete if it failed to cite JKJ’s recent article from the pages of Razzball, Randy Arozarena & the Ex-Cardinals’ All-Star Team.
I’m not one for pouring salt into open wounds, but I think any sports fan can totally relate to the catharsis endemic to deconstructing the various rosters your team didn’t build, even as that team is relatively successful on the field.
The redbirds’ minor league build is fine. It’ll probably land mid pack or better for the people who rank whole systems. That evaluation will be a bit inflated by Dylan Carlson’s last gasp of prospect eligibility and Norman Gorman’s residual shine from his early returns, but there’s also plenty of topside waiting in the lower minors and an outstanding 2020 draft class on the way.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. OF Dylan Carlson | 22 | MLB | 2020
A power speed blend who struggled to get started in 2020, Dylan Carlson represents one of the most intriguing buying opportunities in 2021 fantasy baseball. After slashing .200/.252/.364 across his 35 regular season games, Carlson settled into the middle of the playoff lineup and went .333/.571/.444 in his 14 postseason plate appearances. Samples don’t get much smaller than either grouping here, and that’s kind of the idea here. We have not seen the version of Carlson we’ll get next season, but I think it’s safe to say his On-Base Percentage will settle somewhere between .252 and .571. The midpoint here is about .410, which is too high but a much more accurate representation of the skillset than .252. I think he’s a 20/20 type who hits about .275 as early as 2021.
2. 3B Jordan Walker | 18 | HS | 2024
Walker might’ve been the best pure athlete in this year’s draft. He’s 6’5” 220 pounds with the plus speed and a 92 mile per hour fastball from third base, where he’s also solid with his glove and footwork. The best among all his considerable tools is power, which is already elite. Might even be 80 raw. We’ll know more about his hit tool soon, but if it’s good enough to access his power in games, he’s about to rocket to the top of this list when Carlson graduates. It might surprise you to see him above Gorman here because this will likely be the only place that happens, but I’m comparatively high on Jordan and low on Nolan.
3. 3B Nolan Gorman | 20 | A+ | 2023
If you sold Gorman coming off his 2018, nice work. If you held this corner power bat with contact issues glowing up into the echo chamber top 25 lists, that’s understandable, and you might recoup a solid slugger for your troubles, but perhaps this can function as a case study. If a low-speed, medium-contact-skills player has an amazing year that tickles the fancies of prospect rankers across the game, you should probably check in with the trade market. He’ll still be young for his level when baseball resumes, but he’ll turn 21 in May and struck out 31.7 percent of the time in 58 high A games after striking out 28 percent of the time in A ball. I’ll be surprised if they move him to AA just to keep him ahead of the age-to-level math, and if he strikes out 30 percent of the time again repeating the A+ level, his prospect stock will sink.
4. LHP Matthew Liberatore | 21 | A | 2022
Liberatore might be on course to go down in infamy as the return for Arozarena the Gawd, but he’s got plenty of time to rewrite that script to focus on his features rather than his cost of acquisition. A deceptive lefty many thought was the best arm in the 2019 draft, Liberatore offers sky high topside if he maxes out his four-pitch mix. He might have to trim the slider or curveball to keep them separate, but those and his change up currently pair well with his fastball, which wouldn’t be elite from a righty but looks tough coming from a three-quarters lefty with plus extension.
5. SS/RHP Masyn Winn | 18 | HS | 2024
Announced as a two-way player on draft night, Winn figures to split his time between shortstop and the mound. He’s 5’10” with plus-plus athleticism, so even though he’s devastating on the bump (he hit 98 miles per hour at a Perfect Game event and has been mostly untouched in his high school career), he might find a home at short sooner than later while keeping pitching as a tasty fallback option. He’s got impressive hand speed at the plate, excellent chops with the leather, and a chance to keep adding power as he better incorporates his base. I’m not comping his hit tool to Mookie Betts’ by any stretch, but Mookie’s smooth, do-it-all athleticism pops to my mind anytime I’m imagining Winn’s future.
6. OF Jhon Torres | 21 | A | 2023
A 6’4” 200 pound wide receiver type, Torres looks the part of a high upside corner outfielder. His 2018 stats from the Gulf Coast League, where he was 1.8 years younger than the average age, ignited a flame in prospect circles. Anyone who slashes .397/.493/.683 will garner some deserved hype. Alas the line came in just 17 games and set us up to be dissatisfied when the Cards sent Torres to the Midwest League in 2019, where he was simply overmatched in 21 games, logging a brutal .167/.240/.212 and getting demoted to the Appalachian League. In his defense, that 2018 Spring was frigid, and Torres had never played in cold weather. It’s awful to hit in the cold, and he rebounded in a cozy Appy environment with a .286/.391/.527 line across 133 plate appearances. The jury is out on his ability to hit spin, but he’s enough plate patience to learn as he goes.
7. LHP Zack Thompson | 23 | A+ | 2022
If you squint, Thompson isn’t that far off from Liberatore. The two lefties offer a similar pitch mix, but I’m more bullish on Liberatore because he’s younger, lither, and better at repeating his delivery. Thompson has a big curveball that should be effective against batters from both sides of the plate, but the profile his pretty meh beyond that. He’ll have to max out on command or add some velocity to be an impact starter in the big leagues, but he’s got a strong college track record for performance in the SEC and pretty pitched well after getting jumped to high A in his draft season. He worked exclusively as a reliever there, throwing 13.1 innings in 11 games and posting a 1.50 WHIP and 4.05 ERA, but his 24.6 percent K-BB rate was impressive.
8. OF Darlin Moquete | 21 | R | 2024
Moquete stole 23 bases in 43 Dominican Summer League games in 2019, slashing .390/.459/.571. It’s not uncommon for players to rack up huge numbers down there, and Moquete was 1.2 years older than the average age in the circuit, so healthy servings of salt and skepticism are warranted here. That said, he’s a plus speed outfielder with a decent idea in the box and a lot of aggressiveness on the bases, and the runway is especially clear in St. Lou for a breakout or two after the recent outfield exodus.
9. 3B Malcom Nunez | 20 | A | 2023
A fever dream of 2018 with a 238 wRC+ in the DSL, Nunez came down to earth right alongside Jhon Torres in the Midwestern Spring of 2019. He’s still a thumper with plus plus raw power, and he still looks pretty smooth in the box for his size. The universal DH might help him a lot because the game is moving quickly away from players who add little to zero defensive value, and Nunez looks like he fit that description in the long term.
10. C Andrew Knizner | 26 | MLB | 2019
Just to be clear, Knizner exceeded rookie eligibility by riding the pine in 2020, but he’s still MiLB eligible in most dynasty leagues, so I’m including him. Yadier Molina’s 2021 destination remains undecided, so Knizner gets the last spot here, which would go to OF Patrick Romeri, RHP Tink Hence or RHP Kodi Whitley if Yadi were signed up for his last hurrah with the home team. I’m always worried a young catcher’s hit tool will back up while he’s not playing, but if Knizner can settle into his own natural gifts, he’s got a great idea of the strike zone, having posted strikeout rates around 13 percent and walk rates around seven percent throughout his time in the organization. If he can replicate that at the big league level, he’s got a shot to hit around .275 with a solid OBP and about 15 home runs at peak. Not the sexiest outfit in the wardrobe perhaps but perfectly fine zoomwear in a pandemic, which is kind of all we need from the catcher spot. He’s pretty close to free, and that’s how we like our second fantasy catchers to be.
Thanks for reading!
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