2021-22 Dirty Flirty: An Argument

Updated: Nov 27, 2021


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Today, we present “An Argument.” An argument being, of course, how I would have rated the Top 40 prospects in the system if I was just doing it by how much I personally liked each kid. The bias heavy Dirty Flirty if you will. As part of “An Argument”, for the hell of it, I’m also going to try and give you a list of the top 21 highest-ceiling prospects and highest-floor prospects. The prospects that I will list will have not made a Major League debut.


I'm also going to throw in some additional thoughts about The Dirty as it's currently constructed, as well as offer some general thoughts about the organization as a whole.


This post will be followed by “The Shrine.” There will be “Part 1: The Pitchers”: and “Part 2: The Hitters.” This is a group of about 35-ish additional prospects in total that I want to give a quick thought or two on. It will be a quick little rundown for each player, and if you click on their name it will take you to their FanGraphs page.


I have decided to title these post this way, and arrange these post in this way, as an ode to one of my favorite songs of all time, “The Shrine/An Argument” by one of my favorite bands of all time, Fleet Foxes. Click the link and watch the live version because it has an extra verse-ish. Personally, I prefer their studio stuff, but you can't go wrong either way. There's never been an album that captures my inner monologue and the existential dread that I truly and constantly feel the way that Helplessness Blues does.


AND FOR REAL, did @CARDINALSGIFS outdo himself on this picture. The only reason that I am still doing any of this is because of Gifs. If not for him, I'd be gone forever.


A REMINDER that everyone is now one spot higher on The Dirty then where I reference them because of the Nick Plummer 40-man fiasco.




AN ARGUMENT


- I've mentioned it here and there, but I think that this is the most exciting group of high-end prospect that the Cardinals have had in a little while. When you get to Joshua Baez and Michael McGreevy at the back of the Top 10, well, you know that your organization has some great talent. Even if you were to move McGreevy and Baez closer to the top spot on the list, the guys that they'd push down are uber-talented kids with the potential to contribute at the Major League level. When I did my first rankings in 2018 for this site - and before I combined the list with Colin Garner of then Redbird Daily to get an aggregate - my personal Top 10 prospects were Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill (see, I'm always trying my damnedest to be objective), Andrew Knizner, Ryan Helsley, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Hicks, and Randy Arozarena (Austin Gomber and Adolis Garcia were next on the list). That is a pretty great Top 10, and I think there's an argument to be made that this group is better.


- I've also mentioned during this exercise that an argument should be made that the Cardinals' depth in prospects 25-55 could really be ranked in any order. This might be the deepest group of talent that the Cardinals have had in years. So, the question becomes "why was the organization win-loss record in 2021 one of the worst in baseball?" Well, I think that it could boil down simply to "pitching." To get even further into it, "Pitching at the beginning of the season." The Cardinals made more than a handful of additions to their MiLB depth during the season and that really helped to stabilize the entire system. It wasn't pretty throughout the season, but it did get better with those additions, from a win-loss standpoint. The hitting wasn't amazing, but it was so far ahead of the pitching on the farm for the majority of the season.


- We all spend a lot of time praising Randy Flores for his work with the draft, and we should definitely continue to do that. But we also need to be mindful about some concerns from Flores's drafts. Flores has swung and missed with A LOT of pitchers, and we saw that during the 2021 MiLB season. Griffin Roberts (43rd overall), Steve Gingery (123rd overall), and Connor Jones (70th overall) have all been early round picks that don't appear to have worked out. It was a really tough go for 19th overall selection in the 2019 draft Zack Thompson during the 2021 season. Going even further down the list of arms selected in the top 10 rounds of the draft, Sam Tewes, Evan Kruczynski, Wilberto Rivera, Brett Seeburger, and Edgar Gonzalez were all Cardinals Top-10 rounds picks between 2016 and 2018 that have either fizzled out or are hanging on for life. The only arms that Flores has hit on are Zac Gallen and Dakota Hudson, and we all know that Hudson wouldn't be as effective as he's been in nearly any other organization because of the Cardinals' defense. Shout out to Jake Walsh who is on the cusp of the Majors as a 16th round pick in 2017, too.


- Which brings us to the 2019 draft. The "Zig when they Zag" draft. The draft deep with collegiate middle infielders and weak with pitching. The draft where Flores decided to go pitching-heavy. We've already seen some good returns. Hell, two of those players - 3rd rounder Tony Locey and 10th rounder Jake Sommers - were sent to Colorado as part of the trade for Nolan Arenado. You can't beat that, and maybe this is what the Cardinals should do with all of the pitchers that Flores drafts. I say that, but I am also very encouraged by some of the arms that the Cardinals drafted that year. There is a lot riding on the shoulders of Connor Thomas, Andre Pallante, Jack Ralston, Logan Gragg, and Connor Lunn (who was drafted in the 11th round), and it was important and encouraging to see all of these kids perform well during the 2021 season. Because of his performance in the Arizona Fall League, Pallante seems like a prospect that a lot of pundits - and Cardinals brass - is going to be talking a lot about as a potential Major League contributor in 2022.


- In addition to some of the issues that the Cardinals have had with drafted arms, there has also been a gap in International signings that have contributed to the Majors for the Cardinals. Angel Rondon and Junior Fernandez were the only International "J2" free agent that pitched for the Cardinals in 2021, and they barely did. Edmundo Sosa would be the only position player. All of the other International signings that played for the Big Club in 2021 came from other organizations. Freddy Pacheco seems like he's on the cusp and Wilfredo Pereira might make a big jump in 2022, but part of the pitching issue that the Cardinals have had comes from some of the troubles that they've had developing from the International market. Infielder Elehuris Montero could have been a standout, but he was rightfully traded to Colorado in the Arenado trade. Same goes for Sandy Alcantara in the Ozuna trade. There are some good arms potentially on the deep horizon, but they don't seem ready just yet. There's obviously a lot riding on the arms of Edwin Nunez and Dionys Rodriguez, and the bat of Malcom Nunez, as well.


- With that in mind, I should have been more aggressive with ranking the 2021 draft picks, but I don't regret that I did it this way. The regret that I have is that I wasn't more aggressive in my rankings of Prospect #32 Wilfredo Pereira and Prospect #35 Dionys Rodriguez. Both of those kids are going to move up the list, and quickly.


- Just to put it out there one more time, allowing Nick Plummer to walk as a free agent is as dumb of an asset management move as I've seen the Cardinals make. Sure, they could still re-sign him (EDIT: They can no longer re-sign him because he just signed a Major League deal with the Mets). That'd be great, and they should be working to do that. And, yeah, he might never be anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder. Still, this is poor asset management. I've heard some really really dumb people say that they don't believe in Plummer's 2021 success, and I can't stress how uneducated of a take that is. I get the concern about his age and production at the levels that he played at (it's something that I talk about and write about A LOT), but Plummer changed himself to get to his success, he didn't just luck into it. Letting Plummer walk for free is dumber than any of the recent moves that the Cardinals have made with their assets, including trading Adolis Garcia for cash, Randy Arozarena for Matthew Liberatore (as part of a larger trade, of course), or any of the other moves that we bitch about as fans. How. Stupid. I hope that kid gets a chance to rake somewhere. Even if he ends up something like Oscar Mercado, think about how valuable of a piece Oscar Mercado was, from an asset standpoint. The Cardinals were able to acquire Jhon Torres and Connor Capel for him. And with the 40-man roster currently at 36 after the Cardinals added Brendan Donovan, Freddy Pacheco, and Jake Walsh to protect them from the Rule Five draft, the Cardinals are fresh out of reasons for their poor decision.


For a team built on development and asset management, they really blew this one.


- With all of this complaining in mind, it's worth stating how awesome it is to see so many hitters take large steps in their development. The Cardinals have made some dumb moves over the years trying too hard to strengthen their left-handed depth, both hitting and pitching. Here we are as we enter the 2022 season (hopefully), and the Cardinals are rich with left-handed depth, hitting-specifically.


- And while I'm thinking about great things, what a great draft the shortened 2020 draft was for the Cardinals. Even if it doesn't work out, drafting Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Tink Hence, Alec Burleson, Levi Prater, and Ian Bedell makes that draft a success. No disrespect To L.J Jones, of course. His bonus allowed the Cardinals to draft those other guys. Here's to hoping that Prater finds the strike zone, Bedell finds health, L.J continues to develop, and Walker/Winn/Hence/Burleson continue on their current tracks.


- It has become tradition for this thing to list some sleepers, so here we go. Per usual, we'll give one hitter and one pitcher for each. The regular level sleepers in the organization right now are RHP Wilfredo Pereira and catcher Pedro Pages. Pereira is older and Rule Five draft-eligible, but he's a command-heavy right-handed pitcher that can get lefties out at a hilarious rate. He needs to get better against righties as his write-up states, but he looks like a more-than viable relief option (at least) moving forward. Catcher Pedro Pages had a rough start to the season, but he was impressive in every way during the 2nd half of the Peoria season. A developing catcher with a potential 50+ grade hit tool, Pages reminds me a lot Andrew Knizner and in a lot of ways, as I mentioned in his write-up. Shout out to RHP Connor Lunn and OF/1B Todd Lott for this list, as well.


- To dig a little deeper, my deep sleepers would easily be RHP Dionys Rodriguez and outfielder Matt Koperniak. Rodriguez has a good mix of pitches and great size, as you know from his write-up. Koperniak will go largely unheralded because he went undrafted in the shortened 2020 draft, but the kid is just a hitter. It'll be a bigger jump for Rodriguez than for Koperniak, but there's a real chance that both could be at AAA by the end of the 2022 MiLB season. Shout out to outfielder Patrick Romeri and RHP Logan Gragg for this list.


- If you want to dig even deeper than that, I'd say that the deep deep sleepers in the organization are RHP Inohan Paniagua and catcher Zade Richardson. Actually, you could probably make an argument that all of the lesser know catchers - Richardson, Nick Raposo, and Aaron Antonini specifically - are deep sleepers. I'm going with Richardson because of his power potential and his toughness. If he can continue to work on his contact rate and some game calling things here and there, he could be a hot commodity because of how athletic and naturally gifted he is. With Paniagua, he could be a beast if he continues to add weight to his frame and harness his stuff. His stuff is lively and loud, but it doesn't mean shit if he isn't throwing strikes. It'll all come down to command and a third offering, but I really like his foundation. Shout out to outfielders Chase Pinder and Mike Antico, as well as RHP Zane Mills and LHP Alfredo Ruiz here.



OK, my biased Top 40 without context or reason would be:

1. Jordan Walker

2. Masyn Winn

3. Brendan Donovan

4. Juan Yepez

5. Nick Plummer (Even if he ended up only as a 4th or 5th outfielder, the Cardinals absolutely BLEW IT with asset management by allowing Plummer to walk. I just wanted to get that in there, and this will be the last time that I mention Plummer moving forward)

6. Joshua Baez

7. Ivan Herrera

8. Nolan Gorman

9. Alec Burleson

10. Freddy Pacheco

11. Angel Rondon

12. Zack Thompson

13. Markevian Hence

14. Gordon Graceffo

15. Austin Love

16. Michael McGreevy

17. Luken Baker

18. Malcom Nunez

19. Ryan Holgate

20. Wilfredo Pereira

21. Alec Willis

22. Luis Pino

23. Jake Walsh

24. Jack Ralston

25. Andre Pallante

26. Chandler Redmond

27. Connor Thomas

28. Todd Lott

29. Dionys Rodriguez

30. Connor Lunn

31. Patrick Romeri

32. Matt Koperniak

33. Pedro Pages

34. Jhon Torres

35. Delvin Perez

36. Kramer Robertson

37. Jacob Bosiokovic

38. Evan Mendoza

39. Felix Taveras

40. Inohan Paniagua



Now, if I had to rank my top 21 prospects in the organization based on ceiling – which is an incredibly, INCREDIBLY STUPID thing to do because nearly all of these kids have the same ceiling when you really think about it – it’d be in this order:


1. Masyn Winn

2. Joshua Baez

3. Jordan Walker

3. Michael McGreevy

4. Austin Love

5. Edwin Nunez

6. Trejyn Fletcher

7. Ivan Herrera

8. Luis Pino

9. Nolan Gorman

10. Markevian Hence

11. Matthew Liberatore

12. Ryan Holgate

13. Brendan Donovan

14. Juan Yepez

15. Malcom Nunez

16. Dionys Rodriguez

17. Zack Thompson

18. Jeremy Rivas

19. Alec Willis

20. Alec Burleson

21. Patrick Romeri


Finally, my Top 20 prospects with the “highest floor.” I don’t know what in the hell that means to you, but it usually means a prospect that would not “sink” if they were forced into an inning or an at-bat at the Major League level, to me. SO, I guess that's how I'll handle this:


1. Connor Thomas

2. Brendan Donovan

3. Juan Yepez

4. Nolan Gorman

5. Matthew Liberatore

6. Freddy Pacheco

7. Alec Burleson

8. Austin Warner

9. Jake Walsh

10. Kramer Robertson

11. Evan Mendoza

12. Jacob Bosiokovic

13. Zack Thompson

14. Andre Pallante

15. Ivan Herrera

16. Jordan Walker (yep, the bat is that good)

17. Julio Rodriguez

18. Michael McGreevy

19 Connor Lunn

20. Wilfredo Pereira

21. Gordon Graceffo


I honestly don’t even know with that last one means.


Anyway, this post is an embarrassment and I’m sorry that you clicked on it. More to come soon.





As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.


In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.


Thank For Reading!!

Kyle Reis