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.
- 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.