A Minor Leaguer the past five years prior to his MLB callup last week, Drew Rom got to live out the dream of any left-handed pitcher when he struck out lefty sluggers Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber on Sunday.
Of course, Schwarber -- an offseason workout partner of Rom’s in the Cincinnati area -- opened Sunday’s game with a towering home run on the lefty’s first pitch of the game, but that did little to rattle the Cardinals' rookie starter. Rom was understandably a bit jittery earlier in the week when making his MLB debut in Pittsburgh in front of 40 friends and family, but he rebounded with a much better effort on Sunday in Philadelphia. Over 5 1/3 innings, the 23-year-old Rom held the high-powered Phillies offense to just five hits and two earned runs. Even more impressively, he struck out six -- including Harper and Schwarber -- and walked just one batter.
Rom was one of 10 players, including nine Minor League prospects (seven of which were pitchers), the Cardinals acquired at the MLB Trade Deadline in deals involving Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Jordan Montgomery, Chris Stratton and Génesis Cabrera. He showed off his vast potential in his second MLB start on Sunday. What Rom might lack in raw velocity, he makes up for with a confusing, crossfire motion, different arm angles and a four-pitch mix to keep hitters -- especially lefties -- off balance.
In promising pitchers Tekoah Roby, Sem Robberse, Adam Kloffenstein, Zack Showalter and Rom and hot-hitting infielders Thomas Saggese and César Prieto, the Cardinals were able to restock their Minor League system with young prospect talent. Roby, the top-ranked talent acquired at the Deadline, had a stellar first outing with Springfield on Saturday night, striking out six over three innings.
Here’s a look at how some of the Cardinals' top-ranked prospects -- newcomers and incumbent players -- have performed lately throughout the club’s Minor League system:
Acquired in the Flaherty trade with the Orioles, Prieto, a 24-year-old infielder and the No. 14 prospect in the system, continues to handle the bat well at the Triple-A level. With Memphis, the Cuban-born Prieto has hit .333 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He had his 15-game hitting streak snapped on Aug. 22, but he responded with hits in each of his next four games. Prieto had a big night on Thursday against Charlotte, going 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs.
Gordon Graceffo (4-2, 4.40 ERA) and Michael McGreevy (8-5, 4.55) could be in line for late-season callups to the Cardinals, but both have struggled lately. Graceffo, the No. 6 prospect in the system, has surrendered 19 earned runs in his last seven outings, and McGreevy (No. 12) has allowed 18 earned runs in his last four starts.
Robberse, the Cards' No. 8 prospect, who was acquired in the Hicks trade, had a second rough outing for Memphis on Thursday. The Netherlands native gave up seven hits and six earned runs with four strikeouts against Charlotte.
The Double-A Cardinals incredibly rallied for nine runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday to defeat Corpus Christi, 15-14. It’s been that kind of magical season for Springfield, which sits in third in the Texas League standings.
Saggese, acquired from Texas in the Montgomery trade, had three more hits on Sunday in the stirring victory. He hit two home runs on Friday and hit for the cycle with four RBIs earlier in the month against Wichita. In 24 games in Springfield, the 21-year-old infielder has hit .363 with an eye-popping 1.180 OPS, nine home runs and 21 RBIs.
Right-handed pitcher Tink Hence, the likely No. 1 prospect in the system with Masyn Winn now with the Cardinals, had one of his best outings since being promoted to Double-A earlier this season on Friday night against Corpus Christi. Over 4 2/3 scoreless innings, Hence allowed just four hits and three walks and struck out five. In eight starts, Hence has 36 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings.
Roby, the No. 5 prospect in the Cardinals system and the second-highest touted pitcher behind Hence, opened eyes with his overpowering stuff in his first start with Springfield. Mixing his mid-90s fastball with his big, overhand curveball, Roby allowed just one hit and struck out six in three innings on Saturday night. He capped the outing by striking out the side in his third and final inning.
Catcher Jimmy Crooks, the No. 15 prospect in the system, continues to show why the Cardinals made him a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma University in 2022. In the recent series against the Western Michigan Whitecaps, Crooks went 10-for-20 with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .279 with an .816 OPS. He’s added 12 homers, 68 RBIs, 27 doubles and a triple.
Left-handed pitcher Cooper Hjerpe, the No. 22 pick from the 2022 Draft, has not pitched since May 23 after having a loose body removed from his left elbow. Cardinals president John Mozeliak said earlier in the season the club believes that Hjerpe -- the No. 7 player in the system -- will pitch again this season.
Single-A Palm Beach
Chase Davis, the No. 21 overall pick in last month’s MLB Draft, came through in a big way on Sunday with two doubles and a career-best six RBIs. Oddly enough, the 21-year-old Davis -- who hit 39 home runs over his final two seasons at the University of Arizona -- has yet to homer in his first 26 professional games. He’s hit just .220 with 21 RBIs and five stolen bases.
Twenty-year-old outfielder Won-Bin Cho, the Cards' No. 13 prospect, has grown his profile within the Cardinals by hitting .264 with six home runs and 45 RBIs this season with Palm Beach. His speed has been evident with his 13 doubles and four triples and his 28 stolen bases in 38 tries.
Left-hander Pete Hansen, the No. 26 prospect in the system, has been one of the most impressive pitchers to come out of the 2022 Draft class. In 21 starts for Palm Beach, Hansen is 10-3 with a 3.32 ERA. He has 114 strikeouts in 103 innings pitched.