Even after harvesting the farm to add star-level MLB bats (Marcell Ozuna and Paul Goldschmidt) each of the last two off-seasons, the Cardinals’ system remains solid. 

We’ve known for years the Cards get more out of their fringe types than just about every organization. We even invented a phrase to encapsulate this quality, letting “Devil Magic” explain everything Cardinal for years before the Astros and Dodgers captured the zeitgeist. You’ll still hear the phrase, but not every ten minutes like once upon a time. These days, we know everyone’s just cheating and hacking and scratching and clawing for every little inch of advantage they can get, but hey, that’s the American Dream personified via sport. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. You can always find a fall guy no matter how ugly it gets. (See: Correa, Chris)

That’s a link to just one story, but it’s pretty good lore if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

1. OF Dylan Carlson | 21 | AAA | Early 2020

Don’t bother reading the scouting grades publicly available on Dylan Carlson. I have no idea what’s going on there. By which I mean he does not have a 30-grade hit tool at present. Nor does he have 40-grade game power. I could never say enough about how much I love the work Fangraphs puts out, but be careful with their current grading system. In general, they like to be late on guys. I doubt they’d say it in exactly those words, but they’ve said exactly that in a variety of ways. For the purposes of our game, being late means being too late almost every time, so Fangraphs is actually quite the dynasty assist monster, suppressing values across the minors so we can swoop in and move early. If you added Carlson last year while others were waiting or dissuaded by light grades around the Web, you’re in the money now, and it won’t be the last time. Trust thyself. And throw some extra trust at the Cardinals developmental staff while you’re at it. 

 

2. 3B Nolan Gorman | 19 | A+ | 2022

3. OF Randy Arozarena | 25 | MLB | Early 2020

Following up on the sunflare of his 2018 superhero season, Nolan Gorman’s shine waned when his 2019 was that of a mere mortal, but he’s still incredibly powerful and impressively young for the levels he’s been playing. All it would take is a few sunny months to slide Gorman back into the top 25 spotlight. 

I suspect I’ll be higher than the field on Randy Arozarena, but I’ve heard this St. Louis song so many times I know the melody by heart. Tommy Pham was not a prospect. Tommy Edman was barely a blip. Hell I still don’t like their shortstop, but that doesn’t change the fact that Paul De Jong has been way better than any prospect people gave him a chance to become. It’s not every Cardinals prospect who hits, but the under-the-radar, sum-of-the-parts, hit-tool types who smash the AAA level tend to actualize in this setting.

Anyway, I think we’re talking about the Cardinals best non-Edman fantasy outfielder right now. Maybe they’ll sign a guy. Maybe they’ll roll with Bader, Fowler, Carlson, O’Neill and Edman. It’s a cloudy path, is all I’m saying, and while that should help keep costs down on Arozarena, it also stacks the deck against him getting a chance to prove he can hit big league pitching. Like I said, they’re just playing the hits in St. Louis when they’re blocking their best outfielders, but that doesn’t mean this one will be blocked forever. 

 

4. OF Jhon Torres | 20 | A | 2023

A top 100 prospect coming into the season, OF Jhon Torres couldn’t adapt in the frigid April air of the Midwest League and got pulled out to regroup and wound up in the Appalachian League, where he posted a 149 wRC+ and gave some catnip to anyone who expects big things from a player whose physicality will always invite optimism. 

 

5. LHP Zack Thompson | 22 | A+ | Mid 2021 

6. OF Darlin Moquete | 20 | R | 2024

7. 3B Malcom Nunez | 19 | A | 2023

8. OF Diowill Burgos | 19 | R | 2024

9. C Andrew Knizner | 25 | MLB | Early 2020

10. OF Patrick Romeri | 18 | R | 2024

The Cardinals had something of a surprise up their sleeves on draft night 2019 when they took Zack Thompson of Kentucky 19th overall. It’s not that the draftniks didn’t like him; it’s just the Cardinals brass liked him more, and they’ve had enough success evaluating amateurs that Thompson’s outlook improved a little with the selection. If he can sharpen his delivery and hone his command, he could be a four-pitch lefty with above average stuff across the board. If not, he’ll still be in line for a decent career as a reliever. In fact, Thompson could be a great fit for the new age pitcher who can’t get through a lineup all night long but can handle nine outs or so with relative ease. 

OF Darlin Moquete the coquette didn’t capture the dynasty world’s imagination, but his 178 wRC+ brought 23 steals in 43 games and a .390 batting average. Full-season ball is a continent away, but if he hits stateside, the speed profile could be loud enough to make some noise in the echo chamber. My guess is the club keeps him back in instructs given the fates of Torres and this next guy. 

I got a little overeager about 3B Malcom Nunez in last winter’s supplemental drafts, and it was a tough beat for everyone who did. Only move we had was to drop him across all leagues and move on. I mean the guy put up a 238 wRC+ in the DSL, so even a significant step back against better competition would’ve seen him in pretty good fantasy standing, but he faced the same fate as Jhon Torres when sent straight from the Dominican Republic to the Midwest League. I get why the developmental team decided on that path. I mean this guy was just Babe Ruth. They’d have had to wait months and months at instructs to send him to the next logical step, be that Arizona or the Gulf or the Appy, and I guess it could’ve gone the other way in the end, but the outcome we have now is that Nunez merely held his own in the Appalachian League (103 wRC+) and will have to mash to breathe excitement back into his dynasty stock.

While his line did not look good, OF Diowill Burgos held his own in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 91 wRC+ despite being a little young for the level (-1.4 years). This was after a 213 wRC+ in 36 crazy games in the Dominican Summer League. 

I’m not big on swinging for singles such as C Andrew Knizner in dynasty baseball, but there’s unique value in a minors eligible catcher with a decent offensive skill set, especially if you’re in a contention window. Hate to burn a major league bench spot on a third catcher, so if you can put one in a minors spot and sub him in as needed, it opens a streaming or speculating spot on the major league side. Plus, Yadier Molina is human, right? That’s a real question. I mean, I think he is, but I’m open to the possibilities. Anyway, if he is human, that means he might get hurt, and if he does, you’ve probably got a decent starting option here. 

OF Patrick Romeri just screams Cardinals to me. He looks good in the outfield, has fast hands in the batter’s box and just posted a 129 wRC+ while playing at 1.4 years younger than average for the Gulf Coast League. Other players in this system have better individual tools, but as I mentioned in the Arozarena blurb, St. Louis does well with kids who bring across-the-board skill-sets that allow the sum value to exceed the apparent value of the parts. 

 

Radio Flier: 

  • OF Tyler Reichenborn | 21 | A+ | 2022

 

Doesn’t get much more air-born than this guy, a 35th round 2018 draft pick of the Dodgers who played Independent ball to get himself signed, Tyler Reichenborn has walked a unique path. He’s here mostly because I’m curious but also because two of the best developmental teams in the game identified him and took a shot even knowing it could get complicated. Reichenborn was an NAIA hero, leading Tennessee Wesleyan University to a national championship his final season and winning himself a gold glove award for brilliance in center field. 

  1. Jon Gray’s Broken Toe says:
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    Look Donald, are you trying to drain the swamp? First ESPN, then yahoo, now Fangraphs? I have always enjoyed Razzball’s common sense, from the ground up approach to fantasy. Thank you!

    I remember when a 6’7” Aaron Judge was a prospect and he had a 40 power on fangraphs … that is when I clued in that Fangraphs is purist on skill and sometimes a players physical gifts get list in translation. Jo Adell is another great example – he was a man amongst boys in the 2017 draft, a strong fast 6’3”, literally a standout if you lined them all up. It was right for him to fall to the angels because he was so raw (like judge). However, his 80-20 scouting report was a mess -everything was low despite being the strongest fastest player in his draft class. The only sense I could make of his 80-20 report was that Adell got dinged for speed cause he was going to grow out of it but he also got dinged for power presumably cause it had not showed up yet! I have Jordyn Adams pegged from the 2018 class. Do you have any names following the Dylan Carlson vein of logic from the 2019 draft class? Thanks!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thank you for the kind words!!

      I’m not sure I have a good Carlson comp, but I do think Bryce Ball is a monster who’ll soon be owned in all but the shallowest dynasty leagues.

      And Francisco Alvarez of the Mets wasn’t a draftee, but I think he’s gonna mash his way up the lists in a hurry.

      I like Reichenborn and Romeri enough to follow with interest too. They’re not Carlsons, probably, but they are Cardinals.

      Then of course there’s CJ Abrams, Corbin Carroll and Erick Peña, who I think are elite—well known but tucked away among the Rutchmans, Vaughns and Dominguezes in a deep class.

      Thanks again! Really dug your into ! ! !

      • HamPorter says:
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        Itch,

        Do you like Romeri or Ball over Misner, Shewmake, Stott, Baty, or Luis Garcia. In a NL only dynasty league and traded away some decent farm pieces in order to win last year. I also have Carlson, Carroll, Bohm, Brennen Davis, and Jesus Sanchez.

        Thanks for your input!

  2. Sweatpants Nation says:
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    Fangraphs tends to be conservative, even in their projections, so it’s right of you to look deeper and broader. Keep up the good work.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Sweatpants Nation!!

  3. Mike L says:
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    If you owned Grisham, Pham, Buxton, Conforto in a dynasty forever, would you drop any for Julio Rodriguez, Kelenic, Carlson, or Pache? I assume Grisham would be first off the list but I am in compete now mode. We carry 26 players and Vaughn is the only good prospect I own. My other OF is Trout, Acuna, and Gallo. Not bragging my team couldn’t sniff 8th place out of 12 for 3 years but now I’m loaded.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Dang, Mike: that’s tough . . .

      The contention piece clouds the issue a lot.

      Are trades out of the question before cut-down day?

      If not I’d be trying to consolidate like mad because Carlson, Kelenic and Julio should be owned. Would they be free to add?

      I’d be building two and three for ones and sending them around, realizing they might have to tilted the other team’s favor bc I’m trying to move fast and factor Carlson and Julio into the trade math.

      If I’ve gotta cut one, it’s probably Grisham for Julio.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        I cannot believe Julio is available. You should drop whoever immediately and add Rodriguez. He’s the next Acuna/Soto. Get him NOW.

  4. Mike L says:
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    For whatever reason, many in my league are completely in the dark on good prospects. Why do they play in dynasty??? I couldn’t tell you. Nate Pearson is out there, AJ Puk, Matt Manning, Madrigal, Brujan…just to name some. This league started in the early 90s and I joined 4 years ago. Trades are optional throughout the live season but adds and drops are ONLY allowed on draft days..which happen once before season starts, 8 weeks after, and the end of year draft that happens in early August or late July. So if you are trying to win, its very difficult to stash many prospects. I just feel like some of these prospects that are available are almost worth a blank spot in my lineup they’re so good.

  5. Dong Show says:
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    I know he’s not a prospect anymore and his shine has long worn off, but what are your thoughts on Alex Reyes, Itch?

    I made a trade for him, hoping he actually stays healthy because I still think his stuff is legit,(Jorge Soler was my inspiration to get him after last year; chase the talent which we have seen since as injuries are more often than not, unpredictable) but I wonder how much faith the organization has left in him.

    Keep up the great off-seaon work! Still reading everyday

    • Harley Earl says:
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      Dong,

      The organization loves Reyes and still has faith in him. You’ve made a very worthy investment. I wouldn’t give up on him. Of course, if he gets hurt again, I wouldn’t stay married to him either. It’s a worthy risk/reward bet.

      • Dong Show says:
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        Thanks Harley, that’s reassuring to hear. And I agree about if he gets injured, about not being Not being injured. It’s not like he forgot how to pitch.

        • Harley Earl says:
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          I’ve watched him very closely for three years. I live just west of Memphis and have been to see him pitch several times for the Triple-A affiliate there. The organization is committed to him. They’re going as slow and safe as possible to keep him healthy. Now, if there are other prospects with high ceilings available, I might reconsider. But Reyes will get his chance. I’m not a buyer but I’m not selling what I have either. I’ll wait and see where that road goes this season first.

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