This is the group of players that are a little bit older for prospect status. In the past, I've been bad about underrating the potential of some of the older kids in the organization, and this is my way of trying to course-correct that. There are players that are older than 25 on the D40-proper, but these are the players that are more on the fringes of the list.
Doing a list like this gives me a chance to highlight them in a way that I probably otherwise wouldn't have, even if they were on The Dirty. I really like all of these guys and they deserve more than just the basic mention that I am giving them.
Again, as a reminder, I am terrible at this. I am so sorry.
Utility IF Kramer Robertson
27 Years Old
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft
Kramer Robertson deserves to be on The Dirty. That he isn’t is a travesty, and a sign of my incompetency.
It could even be argued that he deserves to be in the 20-30 range.
I cannot begin to say enough about the type of baseball player that Kramer Robertson has become. With that, the most impressive thing about Robertson is the type of teammate and club house presence that he had become.
In talking with players, Robertson is constantly pointed to as both an on the field general and somewhat of a spiritual leader. It’s my understanding that Robertson is that rare combo of the type of person that knows how to hold his teammates accountable without pushing too far. A charming and charismatic athlete that leaves everything on the field, Robertson is chock-full of character in every definition of the word.
In the seasons leading up to 2021, it was clear that Robertson had a flare for the dramatics, and in a show-stopper kind of way. He definitely had some big questions about his arm on the left-side of the infield, and there were definitely concerns about his bat. I, for one, have been highly critical of both of these points of concern in the past.
Robertson used his off-time in 2020 to become the best version of himself that I’ve seen. To a degree or two, he has put many of my concerns in those areas to rest. Robertson's arm looked stronger than it ever has, even as he whips it from the third base bag. Somehow, he was even able to make the long throw from the hole between third and short in a stronger way than he had ever in the past. It takes him an extra millisecond to reach down and get it, but he can do it now.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Robertson is going to be some type of perennial all-star, or an everyday player at the major league level. While he has the skill set for that – from his speed to his determination to his relentless energy to his ability to do damage to the opposite field – his true value is going to be in his ability to be an intangible-ladened super-sub at the back of the bench. I say it too much, but, as fans, we can never truly appreciate how rare and valuable that is.
Maybe the most surprising part of what I saw out of Robertson during the 2021 season was that his type of power is sustainable for him. This is a young man that knows where a pitch has to be, and what type of pitch it has to be, for him to jolt it over the fence with his quick bat. He hunts that pitch when it’s time to hunt it, too.
It’ll go unnoticed to the untrained eye, but Robertson was such an incredibly important part of the Memphis ballclub in 2021, and in every way imaginable.
SS/IF Evan Mendoza
25 Years Old
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 draft
For real, I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve come to appreciate the skill level and baseball acumen that Evan Mendoza possesses. He is also a kid that truly loves the game of baseball. Spreading the joy of the game to others is a part of his life, and that deserves a ton of appreciate.
Before we get to nuts and bolts of baseball, I would also like to point out that Mendoza is doing some awesome stuff artistically in the NFT world. You should give his TWITTER PAGE a follow, and you should also support this incredible artist if you can.
Entering the COVID shutdown, Mendoza was the clear-cut best defensive third baseman in the Cardinals system. An argument could also be made that he was the best defensive infielder regardless of position in the system. He was as sure-handed, rangy, and as gifted as any player in the organization defensively, and he did it in such a professional and consistent way. I took to pen and paper and the airwaves to tell people on the regular how dumb it was that the Cardinals would waste so many looks on him at first base in spring training because he was better than that, and because his value was minimized there. Even then, Mendoza was really good defensively at first.
NOW, in the past, there was a small experiment with Mendoza at short stop in the minors. I wouldn’t say that it didn’t go well, but I would say that it left a lot to be desired. I’ll even go so far as to say that I was just fine with that experiment ending when it first appeared to end.
But then COVID happened and, boy, how dumb am I.
We first started to see the glimpses of brilliance at short in the Caribbean Winter League during January of 2021. Then, we started to hear tales of how good and consistent he had become at short stop in the Caribbean League. I had someone that I trusted GRATELY tell me that they thought that Mendoza was by far the best defensive short stop in that League when it rebooted in 2021.
And now, here we sit. One full season as a regular short stop in the books, and I feel confident in saying that Mendoza is the best defensive short stop in the organization at this moment. That’s not to short-change Delvin Perez or, more importantly, Masyn Winn. Rather, it’s just to say that Mendoza has reached a level of polish and consistency that those other gentlemen just haven’t reached yet (also, shout out to Kramer Robertson who just makes play after play after play regardless of what position he is playing). Think of Mendoza as a more rangy version of Paul DeJong. That is to say, he’s not going to make many mistakes, and he’s going to do more-than everything that you need him to do. He reminds me a lot of former Cardinals legend Alex Mejia, in that way.
Of course, the big issue with Mendoza is that he doesn’t hit for anything that resembles power these days. It's really all that is keeping him off of The Dirty, even though he probably deserves a spot towards the back of the list, anyway. I worry about how he handles plus heat, too, and he's often beat if he isn't ahead in counts. I don't think either criticisms are too far off from the normal for this type of prospect, but I had to state them. He would be a surefire Dirty member If he can just manage to tap back into some of the power that he displayed in 2018. Especially if he kept his current hitting philosophy while he incorporated that power.
Alas, that just doesn't appear to be a part of Mendoza’s game anymore. At least, as it stands right now. That's OK, though! What Mendoza’s game is, is a short stroke engineered for contact, specifically towards the opposite field as a right-handed hitter in all types of counts. There was a period of time when he was far superior to anyone else in the organization at dumping singles in front of the opposite field outfielder (shout out to Nick Dunn, who did it better than anyone in the 2nd half of the season).
All of this is to say that I love Evan Mendoza because he knows who he is and what he does well. Sometimes, there is more to a baseball player’s life than just appearing on some random creep's list of best prospects. The truly dangerous prospects are the guys that know what they do well, and continue to do it well over and over.
That’s Evan Mendoza.
RHP Tommy Parsons
26 Years Old
Undrafted Free Agent following the 2018 draft
So, I really like Tommy Parsons but, man, was he a trash starting pitcher this year. I mean, it was BAD. Like, super bad. And not like the movie “Superbad” which, I mean, I enjoyed because I’m a fucking child. No, it was super bad in that it was the opposite of super good. As you'd suspect, giving up 17 homers and a slugging percentage against of .574 over 61.1 innings as a starter/long reliever to start the season usually tells us that strange things are afoot at The Circle K.
It really sucked, for sure, but part of the beauty of Minor League Baseball is that a guy can kind of suck for awhile as he works on things. Sometimes that "thing" that he works on is the role that he plays.
With about a month left in the season - after he missed about a month between July and August - the Cardinals moved Parsons into a relief role that resembled more of a one-inning-and-done role. It became clear right away that this really benefited him in a big way. As you’d suspect, his fastball velocity ticked up a little bit (from 90-ish MPH to low-to-mid 90's and topping out around 94/95), and his curve and change also did enough to keep hitters off-balance.
When Parsons got back on the mound in that short inning role, his stats got much cleaner in a much smaller sample. Over 12.1 innings in 11 appearances, struck out about 23% of hitters while only walking 4.2%. He did allow three doubles and two homers, with a slugging percentage against of .455, which is a bummer. Parsons is really going to have to work to learn where he can throw the ball to advanced hitters to not get blown up.
A good spot for Parsons to start would to increase the usage of his off-speed stuff. He gets a lot of swings with his off-speed offerings, and it's his fastball that needs the most work. I'd like to see him toy with that pitch a little. Hell, if he's destined for short usage out of the pen then maybe they should commit to going curve/change heavy with Parsons. I'm on board with it, at least.
It really was a shame to see Parsons have so much trouble in both a starting and long-relief role during the 2021 season. With as much trouble as the entirely of the Cardinals’ system seemed to have pitching in 2021, he certainly wasn’t in the minority with his lack of success. It was just so disappointing that someone as talented as Parsons was throwing so much either right over the middle of the plate or way outside of the zone. Even if the one inning reliever role seems like it suits him best moving forward, I can’t help but believe that there is still more to him than that.
OF Justin Toerner
25 Years Old
Drafted in the 28th round of the 2018 draft
Memphis and Springfield
Toerner is an animal in the field. I just don’t know how else to put it. He runs around with reckless abandon. He has that instinct that you look for as a defensive player. I love him in center, but he has all of the tools that you’d want out of a corner outfielder, including reading how the ball slices off of the bat of both a left-handed and right-handed.
Toerner also has one of the more under-the-radar, big-time arms in the outfield in the organization. It's generally as strong as it is accurate.
Toerner also has some sneaky speed. You can see that on the base paths, burning a bit from first to third. He didn’t steal much during the 2021 season, but I believe that there is more stolen base potential in there somewhere. Especially because of how good his baseball instincts appear to be.
Toerner made a great impression during a brief spring stint with the big club during ST 2021. He’s an eye-catching player. While the necessary level of consistency needed was evasive for him during the 2021 MiLB season, there were so many reasons to get excited about him. You can see so much potential in his swing. He has good timing and quick hands, and he really turns on pitches from both lefties and righties on the inner-half of the zone. Toerner is also capable of using the entire field to get his hits, even if he wasn't consistent enough in finding those hits during the 2021 season.
I obviously love his walk rate, and I think that he is a better hitter with a much more advanced contact tool than his strikeout rate would tell you. I also think that there is potential for more power in his swing. However, I think that he is hurt in both of those categories because he is kind of a hitter caught between the two approaches.
Toerner has every chance to be a member of The Dirty – and a major league 26-man roster – if he can find a consistent balance between hitting for power and hitting for contact in his approach.
OF Chase Pinder
26 Years Old on Opening Day
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft
Pinder’s 2021 season was largely lost to injuries, but he deserves some love for the clear alterations that he made to his swing. Between those adjustments and an obvious desire to commit to driving the ball and trusting his swing, Pinder has a chance to be a bit of a "pop-up" prospect in 2022. Even if he is a little older for that designation, I think that his commitment to have the intent to do damage makes him an interesting kid.
You'll see in the gifs within this little capsule that Pinder is going to be heavily reliant on the front-foot timing mechanism as he progresses through the ranks. Even though he began to hit for more consistent power when he was healthy during the 2021 season, I don't think that his swing is engineered for that, even with the step-timing mechanic. I say that, but I've seen this type of kid put on more muscle and out-kick my power projection, so maybe Pinder will be able to work through that flat-ish swing and really access some of his power. I think he has the hands to do it, at least. It appears to me that Pinder has a similar bat-path to David Freese, but with less bat speed or "oomf" in his swing.
Regardless of his lost 2021 season, the one thing that we have always said about Pinder is that he has the potential to be a very good defensive outfielder, even if he gets a little gun-shy here and there. He has some sneaky speed, too, in the ilk of the outfielders of the past that we haven’t rated their speed tool accordingly. During the 2021 season, I joked around a lot about how outfielder David Vinsky and second baseman Nick Dunn were the same guy but hitting from different sides of the batter's box. Same build. Same look. Same skill-sets. In a way, Toerner and Pinder are kind of the same thing. Sneaky speed. Above average defenders with eye-catching arms. Maybe both caught between approaches and understand which approach is best for each to take.
OK. So, to be honest here. This is like the third annex that I have tried to write in one day and I just really don’t have much else to say. So, basically, there were a lot of really positive things about Pinder’s injury-shortened season, and I just want you to know that he exists and that he could break out and that you should maybe pay a little more attention to him and this is a fucking run-on sentence and fucking deal with it. FUCK.