Saggese highlights Cards' revamped farm in '24

April 4th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- While the 2023 season was undoubtedly a forgettable one for the Cardinals, the aspect of it that might actually be memorable for years to come is the prospect haul the franchise got upon trading away five pitchers at the MLB Trade Deadline.

By dealing Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Chris Stratton and Genesis Cabrera and looking toward what they hope will be a brighter future, the Cardinals were able to restock a farm system that had grown thin in recent years. Within those series of trades with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Rangers, the Cardinals acquired young pitching prospects Tekoah Roby, Sem Robberse, Drew Rom, Adam Kloffenstein and Zach Showalter -- most of them listed among the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals' system, per MLB Pipeline.

Combine those coveted arms with highly rated infield prospects Thomas Saggese and César Prieto and a young core for the future might have emerged for the Cardinals. Saggese, the MVP of the Double-A Texas League last year, is starting 2024 with Triple-A Memphis and he’s excited about a future that could potentially land him in St. Louis at some point in the season ahead.

“I’ve always known that I could do this, and that was something I knew coming into [big league] camp, but this definitely gave me more of a reassurance,” said Saggese, who hit .300 with three doubles, a home run and 11 RBIs in 23 Spring Training games with the Cardinals. “I know now that I can play at the big league level. Just being around those guys and hearing what they go through, I know now that it’s not that far off from what I’m feeling.

“All that matters to me is knowing that I’m going about this the right way, working on the right things and thinking about the right things. All the rest of it will take care of itself.”

Here is a breakdown of where the Cardinals top 30 prospects will start their respective seasons in 2024 and some players and pitchers to watch out for in the year ahead:

Triple-A: Memphis Redbirds
The Redbirds opened on March 29 against Charlotte. After playing a six-game series in Indianapolis this week, the Redbirds return home next week to host Nashville from April 9-14.

Player to Watch: INF Thomas Saggese (No. 4): The infielder who was acquired after Montgomery was traded to the Rangers did nothing but impress the Cardinals during Spring Training with a patient and disciplined approach at the plate. If the Cards suffer an infield injury, they now know that Saggese won’t scare at the big league level if called up midseason.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Gordon Graceffo (No. 8): Graceffo is at something of a crossroads in his career after a shoulder injury marred much of his 2023 season and he struggled in Spring Training. He needs a big bounceback season in '24.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Sem Robberse (No. 12), RHP Michael McGreevy (No. 14), C Pedro Pagés (No. 15), RHP Adam Kloffenstein (No. 16), INF César Prieto (No. 18)

Double-A: Springfield Cardinals
Opening Day: Friday, 7:05 p.m. CT, at Arkansas

Player to Watch: C Jimmy Crooks (No. 11): The former Oklahoma University star is full of confidence, and he backs it up with a big bat. The Cards are convinced that he could be their everyday catcher within a matter of years.

Pitchers to Watch: RHP Tink Hence (No. 1), RHP Tekoah Roby (No. 2): Hence, who was drafted along with Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn and Alec Burleson in 2020, showed off a new maturity as a pitcher in MLB’s Spring Breakout. Roby, who was acquired in the Montgomery trade with the Rangers, impressed the Cardinals with his ability to finish off hitters with his power breaking stuff.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Max Rajcic (No. 13), RHP Ian Bedell (No. 19), RHP Edwin Nunez (No. 23), RHP Andre Granillo

High-A: Peoria Chiefs
Opening Day: Friday, 6:40 p.m. CT, at Wisconsin

Player to Watch: C Leonardo Bernal (No. 7): After spending 2022 and ’23 with Single-A Palm Beach, Bernal will start with Peoria this season. He had a .743 OPS with three home runs in 78 games with Palm Beach last year.

Pitcher to Watch: LHP Cooper Hjerpe (No. 6): Hjerpe, the Cards' first-round Draft pick in 2022, proved in the Arizona Fall League that he was over the elbow surgery that ruined much of his first pro season. His funky delivery will give lefties fits this year.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Won-Bin Cho (No. 9), LHP Brycen Mautz (No. 20), OF Zach Levenson (No. 22), LHP Pete Hansen (No. 26), OF Joshua Baez (No. 29), 1B William Sullivan (No. 30)

Single-A: Palm Beach Cardinals
Opening Day: Friday, 5:30 p.m. CT, vs. Jupiter

Player to Watch: OF Chase Davis (No. 5): The Cardinals’ first-round Draft pick from 2023 put on 10 to 12 pounds of muscle this winter in hopes of improving his strength against pro pitching. A power hitter at the University of Arizona, Davis is still awaiting his first pro homer.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Zack Showalter (No. 17): The 20-year-old Showalter impressively struck out 42 in a combined 31 1/3 innings pitched in 2023 across Single-A and Rookie ball. He will be brought along slowly, but he should be in High-A Peoria by midseason.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: LHP Quinn Mathews (No. 21)