WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#27: Outfielder Ryan Holgate
21 Years Old
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft
Look at the coiffure on this fucken guy.
As someone who is constantly looking for the easy way around tough work, I understand why it is easy to default to simple comparisons. In the case of our number 27 prospect on the countdown, outfielder Ryan Holgate, I definitely understand why so many people compare him to former first round draft pick Trevor Larnach. They are both left-handed with a similar swing. They are both big and lean with the same type of body-build. They were both drafted by the twins at some point, though Holgate didn't sign with them. Also, they both might actually have profiled best at first base had things gone differently for them.
There is a reason why Holgate wasn't taken in the first round and Larnach was (this isn't a knock on Holgate. Being a Second Round selection as part of the Competitive Balance Round is a hell of an achievement and speaks to his talent level). While he is a bat-first position player option, Holgate doesn't possess the consistent in-game power that Larnach did in his final collegiate season. And you know what? That is just fine!! From what I've witnessed in the last year in the Cardinals organization from a position player standpoint, I would not be surprised at all if Holgate eventually gets into some of that extremely vibrant raw and natural power that he clearly has in both his body and his swing. The fact that his power can play loudly to all fields is the real big "plus" here. You'll notice in the gif below that throwing Holgate a pitch in this quadrant of the zone isn't going to work out well for a pitcher.
The truth is, I really don't care if he reaches his all of his power potential. What I want to see out of Holgate is the same thing that we saw in 2021 out of so many of the hitting prospects in the organization. I want to see him embrace using a shortened stroke to all fields in every count. I want to see that raw power become a product of his swing and approach and not of an attempt at power. I want to see him continue to work counts and focus on being a hitter. I want him to follow the Alec Burleson template, where he lets his hands and eyes do the work and trust your understanding of hitting.
To elaborate a little more, a 20-ish% K rate is pretty good these days at the minor league level. In college, it’s a little bit more of an alarm. Sure, it’s cool to hit a big-time homer in a big game off of a stud like Kumar Rocker when the world is watching. It’s even cooler to do it when there isn’t a chance that you are going to strikeout if you aren’t grooved one right down the middle.
I don’t mean this to say that Holgate can’t do more than just hit balls that are right over the middle of the plate, just that he really needs to work on doing more with the pitches that aren’t right over the plate than he has done so far. I don't want that last statement to gloss over the fact that Holgate has done some tremendous work to his approach over his collegiate tenure. You can tell that he has taken some huge steps forward, and that he is trending in the most positive of directions. he has some extra work to do against lefties and I'd anticipate some immediate struggle in that area in 2022, but I think that he has it in him to learn and grow. Maybe even quickly, too.
Now, I think it's safe to assume that Holgate would have been further up on the list had I had a chance to really see him. Watching him, I can see, at least, a top 20 or 25 member of this here list, potentially. However, I don't think that he is there yet. As I mentioned, it will all come down to how willing he is to buy into what the Cardinals are teaching. I’ve been getting every indication that Holgate is a student of the game, and that he is on board with learning the Cardinals system and approach. Keep in mind that this has been beneficial to so many prospects already, as they use the resources at their fingertips to refine at the Minor League level. IF THIS IS THE CASE, then don’t be surprised to see Holgate make a move up all the prospect list similar to how Burleson did. While Burleson’s template was more attuned to what the Cardinals are now teaching and developing, and with better defensive capabilities, Holgate possesses more raw gifts at the plate, and a more aesthetically pleasing and traditional left-handed swing.
The other questions about Holgate's game are in how he runs and the defensive prowess that he has. Personally, I don’t have enough of a view of him to be able to commit one way or the other. I have decided to exercise caution, and that is part of the reason why he isn’t higher on The Dirty. Right now, it seems like the scouting community is split on if he’s more than a left-fielder DH type, a potential right-fielder, or someone that might be just athletic enough to switch to first base. There are also big questions about how he runs around the bases. Again, I haven’t seen anything one way or the other to feel comfortable enough to comment. I am definitely ready to see as much of him as I can in 2022. It doesn't seem fair to grade or evaluate here, and it doesn't seem fair to give you someone else's evaluation as my own.
I am always aggressive to remind people not to invest too much in the statistical output of a player in the year that they are drafted. Specifically with a lot of these college kids, it's the first time since 2019 that they have had a full season of baseball. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to go from a shortened 2020 season, to an unusually formatted 2021 season, to entering organized professional baseball. Sometimes the easiest thing to forget when evaluating is context. Even without all these changes and obstacles, a player's draft year in an organization is always more about getting them up to speed and familiar with the system/The Minors than it is about production. Obviously, I bring this up because I really don’t know how else to stress to you that his sub .200 batting average and sub .300 OBP doesn’t mean shit to me at all. Anyway, here's Holgate basically hitting one to the freeway in the Northwoods League.
There appears to be a theme to these guys in the back quarter-ish of The Dirty: they are all poised to move up with more reps and looks. Like with the 2020 70th overall selection Alec Burleson, the 2021 70th overall selection Holgate is poised for big things with the correct amount of buy-in. If you are looking for a prospect with potential big-time power and a growing understanding of what to do with his swing, I think that I would steer you towards Holgate. I’d assume that he is ticketed for a start in Peoria in 2022, and I can’t wait to see how long he stays there.
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.
A special thank you to BASEBALL REFERENCE to adding the college stats to their player profiles. It's such a handy addition.
As we've talked a bunch already, I am so damn appreciative of THE PALM BEACH CARDINALS' TWITTER FEED for keeping us updated on the babiest of full-season birds. I'm thankful to The La Crosse Loggers for their tweets.
You might as well subscribe to BASEBALL AMERICA while you are at it. Fuck it, ya know.
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!!