I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.
I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).
There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.
Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each post, and I've done some medium editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please let me know what you think!
Palm Beach & Springfield
28th Round, 2018
As I mentioned when I did his write-up for the position rankings, Toerner is one of those guys that I have to eat a little crow in regards to. After the Cardinals took him in the 28th round of the 2018 draft, Toerner impressed, highly, over three levels (finishing at A-Advanced Palm Beach) in his draft season. He was impressive, and his bat-to-ball skills were evident.
Even with the success and clear hitting skill, I was not a believer. I saw a smaller-sized young man (listed at 5'10", but he seemed smaller), that looked like he was just throwing the bat at the ball. He seemed limited athletically, and I hadn't seen anything that made me feel like he was the type of player that wouldn't stall out when he reached the upper levels. I know that feels like a glib knock (and it probably is), but it's very hard to be good at the upper levels of the minor leagues, and the hitters that don't hit for much power, with limited athleticism, are usually the first casualties of the advanced pitching at these levels.
The first thing that I got wrong was how athletic Toerner is. I typecasted him as a corner outfielder that probably wouldn't hit for enough power to matter because of how I inaccurately viewed his athleticism. After watching him this season, I know for a fact that he is a very athletic young man, and he's going to be able to stick in center.
Now, if Toerner can't stick in center, or if his first chance at the next level is in a corner, I'll feel pretty good about that. He has a well-above-average arm, and he isn't afraid to sacrifice every bit of his body to make a play. The next gif is of his arm. The gif after that is of Toerner going over the wall to make a catch in Tulsa. HE DID THIS ON CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS!! If you'll remember, this is something that Lane Thomas did during the 2018 season (although he only did it once, lol). I don't remember if this gif is from the first or the second night, but it won the game for Springfield. It was literally a walk-off catch. It was the last play of the game (we'll get more into how fearless this kid is in a little bit)!!
The next thing that I was wrong about was in calling Toerner a "slap hitter." He isn't a slugger, and I don't want to give that impression, but he's more than just a slap hitter. He's a slap hitter in the way that you might describe Skip Schumaker, not in the way that you might describe Magneuris Sierra. That's to say, while he isn't going to hit a ton of home runs (I do love that he hit 11 in 435 plate appearances), he does sting the ball. Toerner does have a good feel for the barrel of the bat, and his swing path is the type that is going to be able to generate modest power when he is sitting on a pitch in the lower-half of the zone.
What I'm getting at is, Justin Toerner has every right to be considered a potential top 35 prospect in the organization with a major league debut potentially in his future. Ultimately, there's a lot about Justin Toerner that reminds me of the minor league version of Skip Schumaker. Both Toerner and Schumaker are scrappy guys who get the most out of their skills. Both play fast and work extremely hard to reach their potential. Schumaker had quick hands and little power, but was an excellent defensive center fielder with a strong arm. Toerner has more power potential than Skip had, but Skip did more as a hitter. Toerner will go with a pitch, too, and he's an all-fields hitter.
Toerner's last game of the season came on August 14th because he went head-first into the outfield wall making a dazzling catch that you'll see in the gif below. That's the way that this young man plays. For my money, this is the OF catch of the season in the system (and as I stated above, this is a guy that went over the wall in Tulsa on consecutive nights to rob a home run):
You might look at his Double-A stats and be less than impressed. I get it, for sure. At times, the league was just too much for him. His strikeout rate of 27.6% at the level is definitely a cause for alarm and unacceptable moving forward, but I'm telling you that Toerner was a more impressive hitter than his stats are showing at that level. He definitely struck out too much, but it's encouraging that his power spiked without compromising his patient approach that produced a 14.1% walk rate. He really struggles with elite fastballs up in the zone from righties, and basically everything that a left-handed pitcher throws. in 90 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, Toerner hit 183/332/183. This gives you some idea of how good Toerner's approach is and what he's trying to do at the plate, but it also shows you (in a small sample) of how compromised he is against advanced-level lefties.
Toerner is a fearless outfielder with a good feel for the strike zone. He's the type of player that I usually underestimate, and he made me a believer during the 2019 season. While this left-handed hitter still has a good deal of work to do to adjust to advanced lefties (and high heat from righties), He also has the ability to come up in the clutch. With an all-fields and patient approach, Toerner sees a ton of pitches. You can almost guarantee that he is going to give you a great at-bat. Another smart young man and hard worker, Toerner also has the baseball IQ that you hope for. Hopefully the season-ending catch from the gif above doesn't make him gun-shy in the outfield moving forward. I'm willing to wager that this fourth-outfielder type won't back down.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. What a mensch.
Thanks For Reading!!