Baez's towering blast (455 feet!) sets Spring Breakout mark

March 17th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- Dedicated to the development of their top young stars, the Cardinals were one of just two MLB franchises to commit to playing two Spring Breakout games, and they were one of just five clubs to make all top 10 players available for the inaugural event showcasing the stars of tomorrow.

After falling 3-2 to the Marlins on Friday, the Cardinals' prospects beat the Astros, 1-0, on Sunday on the strength of ’s towering fifth-inning home run and some strong pitching from Adam Kloffenstein, Michael McGreevy and Cooper Hjerpe.

Baez, who was a 2021 second-rounder, smashed a 455-foot solo home run over the wall in left-center in the fifth -- the longest homer measured by Statcast during the inaugural Spring Breakout series. The 6-foot-3 slugger connected on a 2-1 slider from Astros right-hander Jake Bloss and punctuated his towering home run with a bat flip as he yelled toward the Cardinals’ dugout.

The ball left his bat at an impressive 110.1 mph. For reference, no St. Louis batter has hit a homer harder than 105.5 mph (Paul Goldschmidt) in front of Statcast to this point in 2024.

“I actually just found out [about the data],” Baez said. “Four-hundred-fifty-five is crazy.”

With his rare combination of size, speed and strength, Baez was ranked as a top-five prospect in the Cardinals’ system in 2022 but fell to No. 30 in MLB Pipeline’s most recent rankings. Last year at Single-A Palm Beach, Baez hit just .218 with seven home runs in 91 games. His 34.1 percent strikeout rate was highest among all Cardinals Minor Leaguers with at least 350 plate appearances, and his 16.3 percent swinging-strike rate was third-worst among the same group.

As the batter in the box as those K’s have piled up, Baez is keenly aware of his need for a better hit tool.

“[My focus has] been trying to make things more simple,” he said. “Just look for a good pitch and really put a good swing on it.”

The swing-and-miss concerns aside, Baez still brings plenty of thunder when he is able to put bat on ball. His 106.6 mph 90th-percentile exit velocity was third-best among Florida State Leaguers (min. 250 PA) in 2023, three spots ahead of Top 100 prospect Termarr Johnson (105.3).

But even when he was at his most powerful in 2023, he still didn’t slug a homer as far as he did in Sunday’s showcase. In fact, the longest FSL homer measured by Statcast last season was 451 feet. It’s that level of pop that will keep the 20-year-old an intriguing talent for the long haul.

“I actually don’t like to look too much [at highlights],” he said. “But I’m definitely going on the MLB [website] and looking at it later.”

Kloffenstein shines in his start
Adam Kloffenstein started on Sunday and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings. The 6-foot-5 righthander came over to the Cardinals last July in the trade that involved Jordan Hicks going to the Blue Jays. Kloffenstein, the Cards’ No. 17 prospect, struck out two Astros in his two innings. Of his 22 pitches, Kloffenstein got 12 swings and six misses, per Statcast. All three of the swings against his cutter were misses by Astros hitters. His sinker topped out at 93.1 mph during his two innings.

Redmond records Cardinals' first hit
Chandler Redmond shot to fame in 2022 when he recorded what is thought to be just the second home run cycle -- a grand slam, three-run, two-run and solo home run -- in a Minor League game for Double-A Springfield. On Sunday, Redmond broke up the Astros’ no-hit bid 3 1/3 innings into the game.

Redmond ripped a changeup from Astros reliever A.J. Blubaugh deep into right field for a double and the Cardinals’ first hit. The ball left Redmond’s bat at an impressive 108 mph. Redmond, a 32nd-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2019 MLB Draft, hit .256 with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs last season with Springfield, with 167 strikeouts compared to 81 walks.

Bernal wastes no time
Catcher Leonardo Bernal, St. Louis’ No. 8 prospect, wasted no time putting the ABS system to use. When home-plate umpire Benjamin Phillips called the game’s first pitch a ball, Bernal signaled for a challenge. Upon review, Kloffenstein’s high and inside pitch clipped the edge of the strike zone and it was overturned to a strike. The successful review meant that the Cardinals held onto their three challenge calls.