This is a group of seven prospects that I just really like. I think that you could make an argument that they all deserve a spot towards the end of the D40, but I have decided to keep them off. If I were you, I'd definitely keep an eye on these guys.
These are the guys that might appear to have less-impressive stats and/or tools to scouts and evaluators, and that might stop them from being on your normal prospect radar. Some of these guys could also have been on the "25 and Up" list, but I've decided to do it this way because there is no justice in this world and god is dead. It's more chaotic this way, too, and I love chaos. True story.
There are so many more that I'd like to discuss like Moises Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Ramon Mendoza etc., but I'm stopping at six. I'd wager that I write about some more of these guys when I'm done with this hellish exercise in futility, a.k.a the way that I write.
LHP Austin Warner
27 Years Old
Signed out of the Independent League in 2017
Austin Warner isn’t sexy. Well he is, I guess. I mean, if that's your thing. But you know what I mean. From a prospect standpoint, that is. He isn’t a sexy prospect.
Man, I don’t even know what in the hell I’m saying.
WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY IS THAT WARNER IS JUST A REALLY SOLID PITCHER. See, dummy, it’s not that difficult to do.
Austin Warner is a perfect example of a veteran pitcher at the minor league level. He throws strikes and gets out. He works quickly, and for that I am forever grateful. He is a fierce competitor on the mound, and you can really tell that all he wants to do is get better and better.
Warner doesn’t throw with the most velocity, but his fastball has good life. Particularly when he is going inside on right-handers. Speaking of which, that is something that I love about him; Warner doesn’t back down from any batter. He’ll go inside with any of his pitches regardless of the handedness of the hitter. He’s a bulldog on the mound.
It might go unnoticed elsewhere, but there were few pitchers at the minor league level for the Cardinals that were as effective during the 2021 season as Warner was. He was also a savior for Memphis. He saved innings in the bullpen. He rescued some bad starts from starters. He was the emergency starter often when a double header was to be played. Warner was a huge and important part of what the Memphis staff did positively during the relatively disappointing 2021 season. One thing that I really love about him, and that you'll see in the gif below, is how well he tunnels his fastball and slider. This is an extra wrinkle in his stuff that makes him even more dangerous.
If I’m speaking honestly, I’d love to see Warner get a chance in another organization if he isn’t going to get an immediate chance with the Cardinals. It’s long overdue for this player that Cardinals signed out of Indy ball all of those years ago. I think that he could be a very valuable depth option for a major league club’s bullpen if given a chance.
OF Tyler Reichenborn
23 Years Old
Signed as a minor league free agent in 2019
There is something about Reichenborn that has really stuck with me since I saw him play for Palm Beach during the 2019 season. He is just one of those guys that can do a lot of different things, even if those things aren’t done loudly.
While Reichenborn isn’t the strongest prospect with the most power, and he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he more than makes up for it in speed and instincts. Reichenborn is a very good centerfielder, and there isn’t a play on the diamond that he won’t risk his entire body to make. I love the little flare for the dramatic that he has diving around for everything that he possibly can in center field, too.
If Reichenborn can either introduce more power into his game or increase his on base percentage, then there is a path for him into The Dirty. To be honest, the player that I watched in 2019 before the COVID shutdown had some real DIRTY potential. While he didn’t show that consistently in 2021, there were more than a few indications that Reichenborn was still capable of being that player. Especially because he has some really good bat speed when he's slapping the ball around.
While it’s hard to find a spot for Reichenborn on the Dirty or its other Annexes, specifically with so many other players deserving, he is more than deserving of a little shout out here.
RHP Nick Trogrlic-Iverson
Signed as an undrafted free agent following the shortened 2020 draft
Peoria and Palm Beach
Early in the season, aside from one rough start at Peoria, I was blown away by the impression that I could see Nick Trogrlic-Iverson making. His fastball would get into the mid-90’s-ish, and he'll throw it with enough deception and arm speed to keep people guessing. You can really see it in the gif below. There is a lot of late life to his stuff when he is really feeling it.
I also really like Trogrlic-Iverson’s pitch mix. He can get a lot of swings and looks when he uses his breaking pitch up in the zone, and that bodes well for when he uses his fastball up in the zone. I think there is a real chance that all three of his pitches will be able to profile average-to-above with a little more seasoning.
Maybe the thing that I like most about Trogrlic-Iverson is that striking batters out isn’t exactly his game. Even with the potential consistent mid-90’s fastball and a breaking pitch with good movement, Nick is more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher. He just tries to pitch for outs, and he does it while trying to keep the ball in the ballpark. It seems simple enough, but it’s easier said than done these days, especially during the 2021 minor league season.
While the last couple of weeks of his season leave a lot to be desired, the same can be said for a lot of the pitchers in the minors following a completely lost 2020 season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more consistent version of Trogrlic-Iverson in 2022. Something similar to the success that he had during the first four months of the 2021 season. He's a tough and smart kid with an underrated feel for how to pitch, and I think that bodes well for his future.
There is a lot of talent here with T.I, he just needs to find the consistency. If you are looking for a deep sleeper in the organization, his is a direction that I would send you in.
RHP Michael YaSenka
23 Years Old
Drafted in the 19th round of the 2019 draft
Let it be known that part of the reason that I am putting YaSenka on this list is because I think that he is secretly ripped underneath his jersey. If not "ripped" then he at least has done some strong upper body work. There is definitely something extra going on underneath that jersey.
I also like YaSenka because I think that there is more going on with what he has than what we saw during the 2021 season. YaSenka was one of the most successful pitchers in the organization during his draft season of 2019 in the Appy League. Even then, I was a bit more skeptical than most. My skepticism is part of the reason why he’s become one of my sneaky favorites to watch these days. You can tell from the first gif in his write-up that he has terrific late sink. From the gif below, you should be able to see a breaking pitch that also has the potential to have some great life. YaSenka's arsenal is at it's best when it's low in the zone. He'll probably be at his best when he's committed down there, as his arsenal is currently constructed.
YaSenka’s walk rate was a disastrous 13% in 2021, and that’s a damn shame because his stuff is really really good. YaSenka’s arm speed can be explosive, and he repeats his motion well enough to stay deceptive with his very good off-speed offerings. I truly love his slider. It gets some really nasty swings and misses. You can see all of these things coming together in the gif below.
It was odd to see YaSenka’s command betray him during the 2021 season because he demonstrated such great command in 2019. I have to believe that getting back on the mound in competitive action will spring board him to rediscovered success during the 2022 season if he spends this offseason reapplying himself to the craft. The only thing that is stopping YaSenka from entering The Dirty is himself. He just needs to rediscover his command.
RHP Griffin Roberts
25 Years Old
Drafted basically in the 1st round of the 2017 draft
ANOTHER SHORT ONE! HOORAY.
There isn’t much to say about Roberts other than his time in the organization has been nothing but disappointing so far.
In limited action early in the 2021 season, Roberts was terrible. He was terrible in the seasons leading up to 2021, as well. He has shown the ability to get outs with his plus slider and his fastball when he commands them, but he doesn’t manage to command them with any type of real consistency. As you'll see in the gif below, throwing the ball in the middle of the plate, even with some "ok" run, isn't going to cut it. This was the first pitch of the game, too.
So why is he on this list?
Well, this is a list of some of my favorites, and I love that slider from Roberts so much that I have to mention him/it in some capacity. You'll see how well it can all work in the gif below. For years now I've been adding gifs of his slider over and over and over again to these write-ups. It's truly a special pitch.
It might have just been a 2021 outlier kind of thing, but it really seemed like Roberts was easily rattled on the mound. It's as if his adrenaline gets the better of him and he can't calm himself down. It would make a lot of sense that some of his struggles are due to this, dating back to early-start struggles in 2019. Roberts had such a great turn in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 - albeit with diminished velocity - that it was such a bummer to see him struggle so greatly during limited action in 2021. There were even times during spring training in both 2020 and 2021 that Roberts was starting to put it together a little bit.
There is no telling what the future holds for Roberts. I don’t even know how much longer Roberts is going to be in the organization, at this point. It's anyone's guess as to what role he'll play and at what level moving forward. I don’t even know, exactly, why he missed nearly all of the 2021 season. What I feel like I know is that there is more to Roberts than what we have seen so far, and it’d be a damn shame if this was the closing chapter on his baseball story with the Cardinals. Maybe this is a breaking point in his career. Maybe it’s a chance for a new beginning. Either way, there is just so much more to Roberts than what he’s displayed thus far.
RHP Dalton Roach
26 Years Old about Opening Day
Signed out of the Independent League in 2019
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since writing this, Dalton Roach has been attacked and bitten by a bear that climbed a tree to get him. So, there's that.
It’s really simple with Roach: he was probably the most important pitcher for Springfield early on in the season. His ERA was never particularly pretty, but that’s because he was the only pitcher that was pitching beyond the start of the 5th inning – aside from Andre Pallante – on a regular basis. Often times, this meant that Roach would begin the fifth or sixth or seventh inning and end up getting shelled after letting up very little in the way of damage early in his start.
This tells me that there is absolutely a bullpen future for Roach, if not even a little more. He throws his fastball in the low 90’s, but there is mid 90’s potential in there in a relief role. He also throws the ball from a really compact arm angle that creates a lot of deception with his breaking pitch. It’s that catchers-esque release point that comes more from the ear, and he gets rid of it quickly. His arm did seem to slow down by the end of the season, however.
His stuff is really good and lively, too, and he appears to be able to command nearly all of it at an average-ish level in every quadrant of the zone, even if he does over-cook the fastball a little too frequently.
With Roach being a little older, I’d like to see a relatively immediate move to the bullpen for the 2022 season. You never know how quickly he’ll take to the role, but I’d wager from what I’ve seen that this is a young man that has a potential to make a major league debut in that capacity, even if those chances aren’t robust. Roach is legitimately one of my favorite pitching prospects to watch pitch.