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.
#39: 1B Thomas Francisco
22 years old
Drafted in the 19th round of the 2021 draft
Palm Beach and Peoria
The easiest way to start a write-up about a player from East Carolina University is to simply say “In ECU we trust.”
You see, what I've come to learn most from the 2020 and the 2021 drafts is that ECU produces Baseball Players. Much like my love for NC State, ECU just produces young men that are ready to face the challenges and rigors of Minor League Baseball.
In 2020, the Cardinals drafted outfielder Alec Burleson with the 70th selection overall. Burleson is way up on the list, so you are going to have to wait a little for that (Editor's Note: This is a lie. You'll get it later today). Right now, we are going to focus on his former teammate Thomas Francisco. It will be hard to not draw parallels between the two because the two have so much in common, and I believe at the ECU rearing has a lot to do with it.
In getting to know the Cardinals 19th round selection from the 2021 draft, I have come to find that he is an outstanding human being. I have also come to find that his former teammates will point towards a few characteristics that they believe set him apart. First, Francisco seems to always be the guy who comes through with the big hit. He is the type of player that goes to work when it is time to get the job done. The other characteristic that is brought up is leadership by example. I have heard him talk a couple of times, and you can tell that he is a charming young man. All these things check out.
I also really like his swing. Much like with Alec Burleson, his M.O. seems to be quick hands and quiet motions. This allows him to adjust quickly on the fly, and to use the entire field when necessary. The way that he loads with his hands after setup is more exaggerated than Burleson's is, but it's still quick and relatively quiet. That is part of the reason why he was promoted so quickly after being drafted; when you have that as your primary swing mechanic, it’s easy to do work on pitchers that are not as polished as you are. That’s Thomas Francisco; he is the type of hitter that won't ever be embarrassed even if he isn't getting hits, if that makes sense?
I have also been impressed by what I have seen from him in the field. I have heard some mixed reports about the way that he handled the position in college, but I was more than impressed with what I saw from him during his time at Peoria. He is not lightning quick with crazy reflexes or anything like that. Rather, he is just mechanically solid and sure handed. It is his feel for the position that stands out, to me. Actually, now that I think about it, there are a lot of similarities between Francisco and former Cardinals’ prospect Stefan Trosclair. The “real ones” know, or whatnot.
Since power isn't his game, it's fair to wonder if would be a long term first baseman if he continued to develop himself into a potential Major League-caliber prospect. Ideally, I think that he could handle a corner outfield spot, but he does remind me a lot of John Nogowski in that I'm not sure that I'd want that out of him. Francisco has played other infield position in college, and he was "college-fine" there. I don't think it matters at all and it didn't really impact him at all in any aspect of his game, but Francisco put on a little bit of bulk between the beginning of the COVID shutdown and the time that he entered the organization. It allowed Francisco to add more strength to his profile, but I do worry about too much bulk. He's not close to that point right now, so it's not worth spending any additional time on.
As you would suspect, the only real reason why I have Francisco this far away from the top of the list is because I just haven't seen enough of him. He was easily the most immediately successful hitter that the Cardinals drafted in 2021, but I think that was to be expected when you look at the position players that they drafted. Mike Antico had a great season (and we'll get to him after we get through the entirety of The Dirty), but the only thing that makes some of Antico's stats more impressive is that he was held back at Palm Beach all year while Francisco was promoted to Peoria. I've mentioned this before, but I think that there is an argument that the largest jump in talent at the minor league level during the 2021 season was between Low and High "A".
This is to say, in a very long way around, that I am excited to see more of Francisco. As he ended the year in Peoria, I would suspect that is where he starts 2022. However, hitter's with patience in their approach, along with college tenure, seem to be the type of hitters that the Cardinals get a little more aggressive with. I don't know what to expect for 2022, but I'd be anxious to see how well Francisco could handle a tough assignment like AA Springfield.
Like with his former teammate Burleson, he doesn't possess the smooth athleticism that will get him noticed by most outside of the local scouting community. Both gentlemen are deceptive in that way. But make no mistake; Both gentlemen have that unique combo of athleticism and feel for the game that bodes well for long term sustainability, even if only at the Minor League level.
What an incredible 19th round selection by the Cardinals.
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 thanks to BASEBALL REFERENCE for the college stats. I love that they added that to their player profiles, and I'm thankful for it.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!