Last spring, many were wondering what the Cardinals would do with third-base prospect Nolan Gorman after picking up Nolan Arenado in a blockbuster deal with the Rockies.
A year later, the Cardinals’ prospect depth at the hot corner is even more loaded.
The 19-year-old third baseman is coming off a powerful first full season in the Minors in which he hit .317/.388/.548 with 14 homers over 82 games at Low-A and High-A. He regularly registered exit velocities above 100 mph and projects for plus power. The 6-foot-5 infielder said he worked out at first base and some outfield spots to give himself some versatility in the offseason, but it might be a bit longer until St. Louis moves him off his natural position.
That isn’t true of Gorman anymore after the 21-year-old played the majority of his games at second base in 2021. The left-handed slugger earned solid, if unspectacular, reviews for his work at the keystone, and after playing 76 games for Triple-A Memphis last season, he could be pressing the issue to see St. Louis early in 2022. The same could be said of Liberatore, who spent all of 2021 at the Minors’ top level. The 22-year-old southpaw shows above-average stuff across the board in his four-pitch mix and doesn’t have much of an issue throwing strikes.
The rest of the Cardinals’ Top 10 is filled with near-Major League-ready types (Ivan Herrera, Juan Yepez, Zack Thompson, Alec Burleson) and young, burgeoning prospects with high ceilings (Masyn Winn, Joshua Baez). The group is perhaps weakest when it comes to outfielders -- only four such players make up the Top 30 -- but Baez, a second-rounder from last year, could be a star if he can make the most of his plus power and 70-grade arm from the grass.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2021 preseason list to the 2022 preseason list.
Jump: Juan Yepez, 1B/3B/OF (2021: 23 | 2022: 6) -- Yepez’s single-season career high for home runs entering 2021 was 10. After adding strength in recent years, he obliterated that mark with 27 between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He proved to be a solid all-around hitter as well with a .286/.383/.586 line and 18.9 percent K rate, and that performance helped him earn a spot on St. Louis’ Wild Card Game roster before he even made his Major League debut. After bouncing around the field, he still profiles best at first base and might benefit from the designated hitter coming to the National League in 2022.
Fall: Jhon Torres (2021: 9 | 2022: 24) -- Torres has the bat speed and raw power out of a 6-foot-4 frame to project for above-average slugging ability, but it didn’t play in games last season. He hit just .238/.302/.366 with six homers in 97 games with High-A Peoria, numbers that got worse as the season wore on. Torres will be 22 for the entire 2022 season, so he has some time on his side, but he’s also mostly a corner outfielder these days, upping his need to produce offensively.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 55 -- Juan Yepez (Alec Burleson, Brendan Donovan, Jonathan Mejia)
Power: 65 -- Jordan Walker
Run: 65 -- Delvin Pérez
Arm: 80 -- Masyn Winn
Defense: 60 -- Masyn Winn (Delvin Pérez)
Fastball: 70 -- Edwin Nunez
Curveball: 60 -- Zack Thompson (Tink Hence)
Slider: 60 -- Connor Thomas
Changeup: 60 -- Austin Love
Control: 60 -- Michael McGreevy
How they were built
Draft: 20 | International: 7 | Trade: 3
Breakdown by ETA
2022: 15 | 2023: 3 | 2024: 9 | 2025: 2 | 2028: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 2 | 1B: 2 | 2B: 1 | 3B: 3 | SS: 3 | OF: 4 | RHP: 12 | LHP: 3