The Cardinals have been big players on the offseason trade market in two of the past three years, acquiring Paul Goldschmidt prior to the 2019 season and landing Nolan Arenado in February.
After a tumultuous 2020 campaign during which St. Louis reached the postseason for the second consecutive season and lost to the Padres in the Wild Card Series, the Cardinals enter 2021 looking to get back atop the National League Central. While the acquired superstars will man the infield corners, the rest of the roster will be littered with homegrown talent.
The 2020 season was a strange one for all of baseball, but it impacted the Cardinals more than most teams as the club dealt with a coronavirus outbreak and ultimately made 151 transactions during the 60-game season. While the campaign was nothing short of hectic, it did provide opportunities for several of the Cardinals’ top prospects to debut and gain vital experience that may pay dividends in 2021 and beyond.
Dylan Carlson, the organization’s No. 1 prospect, made his debut in mid-August, and although he struggled initially, he hit .278 over the final 12 games of the regular season and went 3-for-9 in three playoff games. Carlson figures to be a key contributor to the Cardinals in 2021 and he’s not the only prospect who got his feet wet last season.
Right-handed pitchers Johan Oviedo, Kodi Whitley and Seth Elledge all made their debuts last season. Catcher Ali Sanchez also made his debut, albeit for the Mets as St. Louis didn’t land him until February. The Cardinals may also receive contributions from players such as Edmundo Sosa and Justin Williams who debuted prior to 2020 but still qualify for the list.
Looking a bit further down the line, St. Louis has several intriguing high-ceiling prospects who may contribute in a few years, or perhaps they could be packaged in a trade to help the Major League club if a potential suitor emerges.
The Cardinals have also shown a strong ability to Draft and scout international talent as 24 of their top 30 prospects, including eight of the top 10, are homegrown. Understandably, most of the drafted players were selected in early rounds, though the team has also found some gems in the later rounds, including outfielders Patrick Romeri (12th round) and Justin Toerner (28th round) and third baseman Evan Mendoza (11th round).
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list.
Jump: Patrick Romeri, OF (2019: NR | 2020: 26) -- A 12th-round pick from the 2019 Draft, Romeri has a good feel for the barrel and showed flashes of power in his professional debut, finishing tied for third with six homers (41 games) in the Rookie Gulf Coast League. The lost 2020 season hurt, but the Cardinals have been impressed with Romeri’s work ethic and view him as someone with the potential to be a fast riser
Fall: Tre Fletcher, OF (2019: 18 | 2020: 24) -- Selected in the second round of the 2019 Draft, Fletcher has an intriguing set of tools, but struck out in roughly 44 percent of his plate appearances during his professional debut. He’ll have to prove he can make consistent contact to reach his lofty ceiling.
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 -- Nolan Gorman (Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson)
Power: 60 -- Dylan Carlson (Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker)
Run: 65 -- Trejyn Fletcher
Arm: 65 -- Masyn Winn
Defense: 60 -- Dylan Carlson (Ali Sanchez, Evan Mendoza, Justin Toerner)
Fastball: 70 -- Edwin Nunez
Curveball: 60 -- Matthew Liberatore (Zack Thompson, Masyn Winn)
Slider: 55 -- Zack Thompson (Tink Hence, Johan Oviedo, Kodi Whitley, Andre Pallante)
Changeup: 55 -- Matthew Liberatore (Masyn Winn, Ian Bedell, Junior Fernandez)
Control: 55 -- Matthew Liberatore (Ian Bedell)
How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 8 | Trade: 6
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 11 | 2022: 7 | 2023: 8 | 2024: 4
Breakdown by position
C: 3 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 4 | SS: 1 | INF: 1 | OF: 8 | RHP: 9 | LHP: 3