I thought about my early days at Razzball while building this list. He’s a link to my draft recap from 2020: Baseball is Back With a Whimper: Pandemic Draft Week RecapSt. Louis did about as well as you can at just about any task in that draft. They picked after 20 teams had their choice, but the top four names on this list were their top four picks in that draft, and they’re all exciting players with likely big league outcomes. 

 

1. 3B/OF Jordan Walker | 20 | AA | 2023

If I had to reshuffle the Top 100 today, I think I’d put Walker number one overall. At 6’5” 220 lbs with 80-grade power, plus athleticism and easy speed, Walker belongs to a rare class. No offense to Corbin Carroll or Gunnar Henderson. I’m just slightly more confident Walker will be an impact fantasy player. Check out Grey’s Jordan Walker, 2023 Fantasy Outlook for more. Fun videos in there. Really drives home how easy it can look for Walker when he’s on his game.

 

2. SS Masyn Winn | 21 | AA | 2023

A dynamic defender with unique arm talent who can push the upper nineties on the mound, Masyn Winn is the shortstop of the near future in St. Louis. The club abandoned their efforts to make Winn a two-way player and turned him loose on offense. He responded with 12 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 119 games across two levels. The power output was new, as Winn bumped his slugging percentage from .304 in 36 High-A games last year to .566 in 33 games there this season. Such a leap wasn’t especially surprising given Winn’s exceptional hand-speed and double-plus athleticism. He controlled the plate well in Double-A, posting a 12.4-to-21.3 percent walk-to-strikeout rate while slashing .258/.349/.432 with 11 home runs in 86 games against much older players. Between Tommy Edman and Paul DeJong and Brendan Donovan, the Cardinals have him “blocked” in the softest sense. Would be out of character for the club to turn to Winn even in a crunch this season, but he’ll probably look like their best option before the All-Star break this year.

 

3. RHP Tink Hence | 20 | A | 2024

Trying pretty hard not to overthink this one. I’m not usually the type to rush an A-ball pitcher up my lists, especially with so many on-the-cusp bats in the organization, but I’m pretty low on those guys, and I’m excited about Hence. I don’t really sway with the market on these, but I do think Hence has more dynasty trade value than any of the names below him here, so it’s not like I’m alone on this island. The Cardinals saved some scouting money in 2020, drafting Hence from the same travel-ball team as Masyn Winn. Imagine watching your kid go up against that bunch in high school. St. Louis has moved slowly with Hence, a skinny kid on draft night who checks in at 6’1” 175 lbs now, and he’s rewarded them by dominating whenever they did let him pitch. His Low-A numbers are preposterous: 0.17 HR/9 allowed in 52.1 innings; a 33.8 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate; a 0.88 WHIP and .173 batting average against. Nothing left to prove there. He’ll open in High-A and should be in Double-A before his 21st birthday on August 6.

 

4. OF Alec Burleson | 24 | MLB | 2022

Another hit from that gleaming 2020 draft class, Alec Burleson debuted just a season later after slicing his way through the minor leagues, cutting his strikeout rate every step of the way while maintaining plus power output. In another organization, I’d be more interested. He’s a talented hitter, as evidenced by his .331/.372/.532 slash line and 14.3 percent strikeout rate across 109 Triple-A games. I’m just uncertain about the playing time and don’t really see how he can force the issue. That’s not a death knell by any means. Just means I’d rather not wait around for a platoon-type bat without the speed to matter in that category. On the other hand, he’s not exactly “blocked” in the endless sense. Dylan Carlson hasn’t been great. Lars Nootbar played well enough but probably doesn’t have a spot on lockdown. Juan Yepez started hot but faded. Trouble is, this club likes veterans and will probably scoop a couple off the free agent pile. They also like Nolan Gorman, so even if Yepez falters at DH, Burleson isn’t necessarily the next man up.

 

5. RHP Gordon Graceffo | 23 | AA | 2023

A 6’4” 210 lb fireballer with upper-nineties heat and plus control, Graceffo feasted on High-A hitters for a couple months before leveling off in Double-A, where he was still good (1.07 WHIP) but not so amazing he maintained that early trajectory that landed him on dynasty rosters in even medium-sized leagues.

 

6. LHP Matthew Liberatore | 23 | MLB | 2022

Liberatore did not pitch well in 2022, posting 5.17 ERA in Triple-A and a 5.97 ERA in 34.2 major league innings. He’s young, and lefties sometimes require a little extra patience, but I’m more or less out on owning this lib. His command grade on Fangraphs is 55/70, which, okay, I guess you could put anything on a guy’s future value number because hey you’re talking about the future, but I don’t know how anyone who sees Liberatore walks away thinking he’s got plus command right now. His 1.38 WHIP and 8.3 percent walk rate in Triple-A are just one piece of evidence. His 1.73 WHIP and 11.2 percent walk rate in the majors is another. A quick visual evaluation would give you the same read, unless you happened to see him on a night or two when he’s at his absolute peak in terms of repeating his delivery. I don’t really know where I’m going with this one. Was just shocked to see those grades still on the site today, especially when it takes them half the season just to finish the team reports. The scouts have always been optimistic, but the last time Liberatore posted a WHIP under 1.25 was 2018 in rookie ball.

 

7. OF Joshua Baez | 19 | A | 2026

Baez is upside personified in the batter’s box. He’s all of 6’4” 220 lbs and swings like he’s killing snakes. He struck out 38 percent of the time in 20 games at Low-A but slashed .286/.418/.540 anyway because he hits the ball so hard it finds the grass, and he’s patient at the plate. Might take a while for it to come together, but Baez gets a boost from me in the rag ball era. He could probably hit a basketball out of Busch.

 

8. OF Moises Gomez | 24 | AAA | 2023

Moises Gomez is a nice change of pace for Cardinals fans tired of seeing their “extra” outfielders sent away to other places where they flourish. He’s not going to make anyone forget Randy Arozarena, but Gomez represents a nice windfall profit when Tampa couldn’t squeeze him onto their 40-man roster. Found money is tricky though. The whole gambling industry is built upon it. When the book wins, they keep the profits. When the gambler wins, that found money gets rolled right into the next day’s bets. On the field, Gomez hit 39 home runs in 120 games split evenly across two levels, and while he came back to earth a bit at Triple-A, he still slashed .266/.340/.541 despite striking out 34.4 percent of time. As I prep this piece, we await the club’s decision on his 40-man status, but it’s hard to predict they’ll let him walk as a minor league free agent after such a powerful season.

 

9. LHP Cooper Hjerpe | 22 | NA | 2025

I liked the Hjerpe pick on draft night. Cards got him a 22 overall after he dominated during his Junior season at Oregon state, striking out 161 batters in 103.1 innings on the strength of his plus command and deceptive delivery. Can sort of trace a path from Liberatore to Hjerpe, who tops out in the low-90’s. Liberatore checks every 1990’s box, but the release point and pitch shapes make him hittable. Hjerpe hasn’t debuted yet, but I’m expecting him to dominate the lower levels.

 

10. C Ivan Herrera | 22 | MLB | 

Ivan’s been the Herrera apparent since they traded the last one, but his fantasy upside remains to be seen. Most catchers cook slow, so it’s no surprise he hasn’t dominated older players to this point, but it’s encouraging to see him generally hold his own. He controls the zone so well it can float the profile while he awaits a power surge. He posted a 111 wRC+ in 65 games at Triple-A despite a .396 slugging percentage, which was right in line with his outcomes at his last couple stops.

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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Harley Earl
Harley Earl
12 days ago

Hey Itch,

I don’t think you saw my last post on the Pirates piece you did, so I’m going to copy and paste it here, hoping for some insight on Endy Rodriguez. Also, hope you’re right about Walker. The Cardinals simply don’t produce elite hitters in their system. I mean, the last elite hitter to come out of their farm was Pujols. As a Cardinals fan, I’m in a wait and see approach on Walker. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. Seems that happens a lot when the Cardinals have a big name prospect … Carlson being the latest disappointment.

Anyway, here’s that other post:

Really happy to see this write-up, as I happened to find Endy Rodriguez at the end of this season on the waiver wire and made him a late addition. I’m hoping I stumbled onto something here like I did Gunnar Henderson and Ely De La Cruz. So my question is, with your much more vast knowledge, what kind of ceiling and floor would you give Rodriguez?

I’m also curious how convinced you are of him. Thanks.

Last edited 12 days ago by Harley Earl
Harley Earl
Harley Earl
Reply to  The Itch
9 days ago

Thanks bud. Glad to know you’re really high on him! Looking forward to your Top 100 list!

TurnandCoughlin
TurnandCoughlin
12 days ago

Hi Itch, dynasty league. Jordan Walker or Corbin Carroll?.
Thanks

Philip
Philip
13 days ago

Nice list, Itch. I’m looking at Graceffo here. Your description of him sound a bit like George Kirby. Is that accurate? What kind of upside, and are you targeting him? Thanks, homie!

junior56
junior56
13 days ago

Morning Itch!

Love the write up you nailed it! Looking forward to seeing Winn at AA see what he’s got in his bat. Liberatore is meh.I think the Cardinals go to FA and get a C,a decent RP arm, and cheap vet bat. With Holliday back as bench coach I think a Holliday/Carp reunion could be in the works for a Pujols like farewell tour. Hjerpe is on my radar as well.

Thanks

toolshed
toolshed
13 days ago

I’ve been rebuilding a dynasty team and have several young, high upside pitchers. I favor hitters for many reasons, but my league tends to over value pitchers so I hope to flip a couple of these guys. Who would you be more likely to move out of hence, espino, tiedemann, gavin williams. Thx

tinstaapp
tinstaapp
13 days ago

Fantastic work, as always, The Itch! Although I don’t like that you’re favoring Walker over Carroll and Henderson now. I own those two on multiple teams, but my roster cupboards are empty of Walkers.

I’m going off topic, but what are your latest thoughts on Vaughn Grissom? I was very excited to see him thrive initially after getting called up, but The Braves’ usage (or lack thereof) of Grissom down the stretch was concerning.