The Cardinals secured their first National League Central title in four years in 2019 as they overcame a .500 first half to win 47 of their final 74 games and finish with a 91-71 record. The club’s late surge continued into the Division Series, where they defeated the Braves in five games, though a four-game sweep at the hands of the Nationals in the NL Championship Series ended the Cardinals' season.
The offseason acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt provided the organization with another formidable right-handed slugger to go along with Marcell Ozuna, and the duo combined to hit 63 home runs. In the end, however, it was the Cardinals’ crop of homegrown talent that was the most valuable, as Jack Flaherty (6.0), Kolten Wong (4.7), Paul DeJong (4.1) and Tommy Edman (3.8) ultimately paced the team in Wins Above Replacement.
Edman, the Cardinals’ sixth-round pick in 2016, was the headliner of the organization’s rookie class, as he produced an .850 OPS with 11 homers and 15 steals across 92 games, all while showing the ability to play five different positions. 2016 first-rounder Dakota Hudson was a workhorse on the mound, logging 174 2/3 innings across 32 starts, and Ryan Helsley served as the Cardinals’ most effective reliever down the stretch. Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena and Andrew Knizner all fared well in their first big league exposures and provide the club with quality, cost-controlled depth heading into 2020.
And while the Cardinals should have plenty of outfield options next season, even after the potential loss of Ozuna to free agency, it might not be long until top prospect Dylan Carlson, the 2019 Texas League MVP, is ready to contribute at the highest level. Carlson and 2018 first-rounder Nolan Gorman give the organization a pair of high-ceiling hitters to build around in a system that stands out more for its depth than its potential impact talent.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Dylan Carlson, OF: The No. 33 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Carlson steadily improved throughout his pro career before erupting in his age-20 season. He won Texas League MVP honors after leading the Double-A circuit in slugging (.518) and ranking second in OPS (.882), runs (81), homers (21) and extra-base hits (51), while a torrid three-week stint in Triple-A pushed his combined season line up to .292/.372/.542. Carlson finished with 26 home runs and 20 steals, making him the Cardinals' first 20-20 Minor Leaguer since Terry Evans and Tyler Greene in 2006.
Junior Fernandez, RHP: Plagued by injuries early in his career, a healthy Fernandez put it all together in 2019 as he climbed from Class A Advanced Palm Beach to Triple-A Memphis en route to his Major League debut on Aug. 11. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 5.40 ERA with 16 strikeouts across 11 2/3 innings (13 appearances) out of the Cardinals’ bullpen after compiling a 1.52 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 65 innings (45 appearances), during which he limited opposing hitters to a .185 average and no home runs. More »
Ivan Herrera, C (No. 6): Signed out of Panama for $200,000 in July 2016, Herrera was pushed up to full-season ball at age 18 in 2019 and responded to the challenge by slashing .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs in 87 games across two levels, including Class A Advanced Palm Beach. After the season, Herrera continued to impress on both sides of the ball as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players.
Steven Gingery, LHP (No. 27): Gingery had most of his 2018 season at Texas Tech wiped out by Tommy John surgery, but the Cardinals felt the junior left-hander was still worth the risk and signed him for above-slot value after selecting him in the fourth round. A setback during Spring Training further delayed Gingery’s pro debut until July 29 -- roughly 18 months removed from surgery -- and he worked just two-thirds of an inning (in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League) before being shut down for the remainder of the season.
Draft: Zack Thompson, LHP, 1st round (No. 5 on Top 30); Trejyn Fletcher, OF, 2nd round (No. 17); Tony Locey, RHP, 3rd round (No. 21); Andre Pallante, RHP, 4th round (No. 22). Complete Draft list »
International: Jeremy Rivas, SS; Jose Davila, RHP.
Trade: Jeffrey Abreu, RHP (from Dodgers).
In a Draft that lacked high-end college arms, the Cardinals used their first-round pick on Thompson, a Kentucky left-hander, before selecting college pitchers with eight of their first 11 picks. Fletcher, the club’s second-round pick, signed for above slot value and gives the Cardinals a high-risk, high-reward lottery ticket. Rivas received the top bonus among the team’s international additions, signing for $600,000, and, overall, the Cardinals gave six-figure bonuses to 14 different players.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Carlson: The 2016 first-rounder broke out in his age-20 season, hitting .292/.372/.542 with 26 homers and 20 steals in 126 games across Double-A and Triple-A. The performance netted Carlson, a switch-hitter, Double-A Texas League Player of the Year honors, and he posted a 1.098 OPS with five homers in 18 games after advancing to Memphis. Carlson’s five-tool profile enables him to impact games in a variety of ways, and it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which he doesn’t spend most of 2020 as an everyday player for the Cardinals.
Hit: Dylan Carlson
Power: Nolan Gorman
Run: Trejyn Fletcher
Field: Edmundo Sosa
Arm: Adolis Garcia
Best athlete: Fletcher
Fastball: Génesis Cabrera
Curveball: Zach Thompson
Slider: Griffin Roberts
Changeup: Junior Fernandez
Control: Alex Fagalde
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
Non-drafted free agent: 2
With the Cardinals strong record in the Draft and international market, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 24 players on the organization’s Top 30 list are homegrown. Specifically, 11 of the team’s 12 Draft picks on the list were selected in the fifth round or higher -- Knizner, a 2016 seventh-rounder, being the lone exception -- and of the club’s 10 international prospects, only Arozarena and Johan Oviedo received seven-figure signing bonuses. Génesis Cabrera and Justin Williams, whom St. Louis acquired from the Rays in the Tommy Pham deal, have already reached the Major Leagues, and five of the team’s six trade acquisitions enter 2020 with experience at or above the Double-A level.
TOP 30 BY POSITION
The Cardinals may be thin on potential impact prospects outside of Carlson and Gorman, but they do have 18 players on their Top 30 list who have already reached the Minors’ upper levels. That depth should give them plenty of options with regards to plugging holes on their 2020 Major League roster, and the Cardinals also could potentially package some of those players together in a trade should the right deal arise.