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. Those write-ups are the shells for these posts. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each and I've done some MAJOR editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!
Catcher Ivan Herrera
Peoria Chiefs and Palm Beach Cardinals
International Signing, 2016
Well, if you had to pick one player in the organization that is going to be this season's Dylan Carlson, you'd start with Herrera. I'm not even sure if there's a #2 (but if there is, it's Jhon Torres).
This kid has real swagger, and a presence that can't be quantified exactly. I am HERE for it.
Herrera is THERE. He's the prospect on the cusp. He's the player that will be a top 100 prospect by the Rankers Of Record by mid-season. Hell, he's already starting to show up on some of those lists. Just like with prospect #5 ZacK Thompson and prospect #3 on the list, there is probably a good case to be made that Herrera is the second best prospect in the Cardinals' organization. It's almost at the point where he couldn't possible meet the expectations that come with all of the "breakout prospect" hype that is following him around right now.
His power hasn't manifested yet, exactly, but it's on its way. You can see it in his swing and his approach. That's part of the reason why it feels like he's going to break out like Dylan Carlson did in 2019; there's just so much raw power within that swing that can be accessed without compromising the refined approach that he already has. If you had to pick one prospect in the organization to hit 15+ home runs in 2020 that didn't hit double digits in home runs in 2019, Herrera is your man. You can go ahead and double down on him out-pacing his doubles numbers, at that.
He has an impressive two-strike approach, and he's shown the ability to hit all pitches to all parts of the field. It doesn't take this teenager long to feel comfortable at a new league, either, as you'll see from the success that he had at Palm Beach. And he actually struggled there, at first!
I've said it before, but Herrera kind of reminds me of an early-stage Andrew Knizner. They have a similar approach and skill-set, but Herrera has a higher-upside because he is younger and further along behind the plate than Knizner was when Kiz entered the system. Neither are precisely burners, but they both have enough in the tank to take an extra-base or go from second to home when needed. Both have the ability to use the entire field to get hits. Neither over-extends at the plate. Both are in tremendous shape, and both would have standout lower halves if not for those thoroughbred legs on Ryan Helsley. I swear, so far this spring, it looks like Herrera is going to bust out of his baseball pants. There's definitely some "Thunder Thighs" going on here!
Herrera has made huge strides behind the plate, especially blocking the ball in the dirt. You'll see that in the next gif. I had two other gifs of this, but I can't find them and I am infinitely sorry about that. He gets up and out of his crouch a little too early at times (which is another thing that gets Kiz every once and a while), but most of the time he's low and squared.
What you won't see in any of these gifs, and I am ashamed of myself for not providing you with an example, is how strong Herrera's arm is. It's a cannon, and the rumors in spring training are that it's only gotten stronger. Again, I don't evaluate catchers as well as I evaluate other positions, but I've been told that the area that he has to work on is his foot work out of the crouch. I've been told that he has a good pop time, so that's good. Sometimes it looks like he wants to turn his glove the wrong way when he tries to frame a pitch and that's probably going to need work, but no more work than any other 19-year-old catcher in the minor leagues.
There wasn't one thing about Herrera's 2019 season that wasn't impressive. I'll take a 19.2% strikeout rate with the 12% walk rate in the Midwest League from the kid that is a month younger than Nolan Gorman. 18 extra base hits in 291 Midwest League plate appearances for a player this young is pretty damn good, too. His sample with Palm Beach is wayyyyyy too small to dissect, of course, but I really like everything that I saw out of him during his final series against Bradenton. He looked like the same hitter and catcher that I saw for Peoria, but adjusted to the league. This is, as opposed to the League adjusted to him. I don't know. I don't know what in the hell I'm saying. I'm trying to say that he looked like he belonged in the FSL by the end of the 2019 season, and then some.
Aside from the impressive 2019 output that you'll see in his stat line above, Herrera was the most impressive Cardinals' affiliated hitter in the Arizona Fall League. Herrera was the second youngest players in the league as a 19 year old, and that makes his success even more impressive. In 34 at-bats, Herrera hit 324/439/382 with two doubles and six RBI. To show you how advanced his approach is for his age, he also walked five times while striking out four times. Man, do I love this kid's approach. It reminds me of something similar that we saw out of Carson Kelly's time in the AFL. In 2016, at the age of 21, Kelly hit 286/387/455 with three home runs and four doubles in 94 AFL plate appearances. Those numbers were great, but what really stuck out was that Kelly walked an incredible 13 times while only striking out 4 times in those 94 plate appearances. It's worth emphasizing that Kelly was two years older than Herrera was while playing in this league, and that Herrera was one of the youngest playing in the league. Man, was Carson Kelly always going to be good if given a real chance. I don't think there's any doubt at this point that Herrera is going to be pretty damn good himself if he continues down this developmental track.
Every write-up about a catcher should come with the warning that the catching position is the toughest in all of professional sports, and that catchers usually take longer to develop than other positions. Even LEGENDS like Yadier Molina take time to grow into the Legend that they become.
Herrera is a catcher with beautiful "Thunder Thighs." One year ago, there were questions about his ability to stick behind the plate. Those concerns have all-but evaporated, and that's why we don't overreact to defensive struggles at the toughest position in sports from a teenager. At the plate, Herrera seems to have the rough foundation for the type of breakout that we saw out of Dylan Carlson in 2019. He's a hitter that can use all of the fields to do damage, with the potential to tap into his understanding of the strike zone and his raw power to reach the next level of his development. I'm telling you if you are listening; this young man has catching-version-of-Edgar-Renteria written all over him.
Herrera is going to be the "hot" name within the organization during the 2020 season. Familiarize yourself with him now, if you haven't already. I'm not one to bank on Yadier Molina retiring after the 2020 season (or even the 2021 or 2022 seasons), so Herrera as his heir-presumptive (shout out to Rusty Groeppel for the term) seems to fit better on the timeline than Andrew Knizner.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. Other than Carolyn Blankenship, he's the best of the Cardinals Twitter Universe.
Thanks For Reading!!