2021-22 Dirty Flirty: The Shrine pt2

The countdown is complete!! YOU ARE WELCOME!!


Today, we will be trying our hardest to quickly go over some additional hitters in the organization that you should be paying attention to.


Each profile is a quick little rundown of each player. If you click on their name, you will be taken 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 really. 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.


A quick shout out to Leandro Cedeno and Dennis Ortega. I was planning on writing about each of these fellas but they have elected MiLB free agency and are technically no longer a part of the organization. I wish all these players A TON of success. Cedeno has already signed a Minor League contract with the Diamondbacks.


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.

I have surely left off some that are very deserving, and for that I apologize.




THE SHRINE pt2



THE HITTERS



I guess that the best place to start is with the newest member of the Cardinals organization, right-handed hitting outfielder Moisés Gómez. I’m still learning about Gómez myself, but you can see why the Cardinals would be interested in this thicc-bodied young man. There is some real power potential in that swing and that body, but a huge leg-kick for timing that Gómez really needs to work on. I like his swing and his hands, but I don’t like that he consistently strikes out more than 30% of the time. If the Cardinals can get him to use more of the field and use his hands more then they might be able to unlock more out of him than the Rays did. We’ll see…


Infielder Moises Castillo has been in the Cardinals organization since 2015, and he is MiLB free agent eligible I believe, even though he hasn’t declared yet. Early in the Peoria season, Castillo played hero at the plate on a couple of different occasions. In a weird way, Castillo became one of my favorite prospects to watch in 2021 because of how steady he was. Castillo doesn’t have big-time power or any plus tools, but he does do a lot of things really well. In the field, Castillo played a lot of short and second, and I’d grade him out as above average at both positions. I was pleased to see Castillo receive a much-deserved promotion to Springfield towards the end of the 2021 season.


One of the players that shared the middle infield with Castillo at Peoria in 2021 was Francisco Hernandez. Hernandez looks the part of a middle infield prospect, too. He’s not as smooth or as natural as Castillo is, but his body-type and his hitting mechanics scream of more potential than his stats have exhibited. I LOVE Francisco’s swing and the raw potential within it, but he strikes out way too much and with a very defensive swing. Personally, I say that he should swing like a maniac if he’s going to swing and miss 40% of the time, but what do I know.


Another infielder that spent time in Peoria, Jacob Buchberger was an undrafted free agent from the 2020 draft who had a great debut season for the organization. While his time in Peoria was rocky because he was being somewhat over-aggressive at the plate, Buchberger was great for Palm Beach during his entire stay there. Buchberger is an uneven defender that is still trying to get used to playing multiple positions on a regular basis, but he’s pretty solid wherever he plays. He’s thick-bodies and a little older for a prospect that is only through one year within organized ball, but his contact-first swing and approach is a great type of depth to have on the farm.


It was a shame to see switch-hitting first baseman Brady Whalen get hurt at the beginning of July. Aside from a rough first week or so of the season, Whalen was having a terrific season. A pretty smooth defensive first baseman, Whalen’s three homer game on June 4th was the highlight of his season. Whalen anchored the Peoria lineup oftentimes, and he was one of the few early season consistent contributors in that lineup. Whalen does most of his slugging damage from the right side, and he needs to get more productive against righties as a left-handed hitter. I could be wrong, but I believe that Whalen went right-handed against righties a couple of times in the Complex League and for Palm Beach once he returned from his injury. I’ve been a big fan of Whalen since the Cardinals drafted him, and I’m anxious to see how he might produce if given a chance at AA.


One of Whalen’s teammates at Peoria was outfielder Matt Chamberlain. Chamberlain was another one of the undrafted free agents from the shortened 2020 draft, and the A+ level was just a little too much for Chamberlain so quickly after the draft. Chamberlain’s ugly strikeout percentage of 34.5% is complimented with a 14% walk rate, but his season was really hurt by a rough start and rough finish. Even with the nasty strikeout numbers, Chamberlain never felt too overmatched in the box for Peoria, somehow. As more of a slap-hitter than anything else, Chamberlain can slap the ball all over the diamond when he is making contact, if he’s making contact. Chamberlain has great speed and baseball instincts, and he grades out as an above average defensive outfielder.


Staying in the Peoria outfield, we’ll transition to right-handed swinging Tommy Jew. Jew was drafted in the 13th round of the 2019 draft, and the Cardinals had to go a little over slot to sign the now 24-year-old. Jew has the chance to be a really good defensive center fielder with some surprising pop for his frame because of a simple and quick swing. Jew has missed a lot of time, and I’ve incorporated that lost time heavily into my appraisal of him. When he was drafted in 2019, he was coming off of an injury that caused him to miss a great deal of that season. Then, 2020 was lost to COVID. That’s a long time to go without competitive baseball. 2022 should give us a much better idea of what type of player Jew is capable of being. His performance and skills were too up and down in 2021 to fairly evaluate. I did love seeing him get ejected, and this is one of my favorite gifs from the 2021 MiLB season.


It was an interesting season for Cardinals catching prospect Aaron Antonini. Antonini started the year at Springfield as the primary backup for Ivan Herrera, but Herrera started nearly every day. I say “primary” backup to Herrera because he was in a timeshare for Herrera’s backup with fellow catching prospect Nick Raposo. In limited action early in the season, Antonini was often impressive. He would drop an easy strike here or there and he’d have trouble corralling a tough breaking pitch now and again, but you could tell that he called a solid game and that his arm behind the plate was well above average. It took him a while to hit his first homer of the season, but it created a little power surge for him when he finally did. When you watch his swing, it’s clear that the majority of the damage that he is going to do is on pitches low and into this left-handed swinger. By all accounts on an everyday basis, Antonini is better than his stat line and strikeout rate would lead you to believe, but I’m not exactly sure to what degree. I know that he has a great approach and understanding of the strike zone, and that he’s a better hitter and player than what he exhibited during the 2021 MiLB season split between AA and a late season demotion to A+.


One of the more fun organizational soldiers is 26-year-old utility fielder Irving Lopez. It was such a shame to see so much of the wind that Lopez had built in his sails pre-COVID die down in 2021. By all accounts, Lopez was a fraction of the player that he was during the 2019 season, and he often seemed tentative and slow in every aspect of the game. Still, Lopez does everything that he asked to do, including playing steady defense at multiple defensive positions in both the infield and the outfield. On a personal note, Irving is extremely easy to root for and I’d love to see him regain some of the trajectory that he had in 2019. Maybe as the next version of Kramer Robertson. His swing looked wayyyyyyyyyy longer this season, and I think that shortening that thing up would be a big step in the correct direction.


Another player that spent a lot of time in the Springfield infield was second baseman Nick Dunn. Dunn is a very pedestrian prospect. He isn’t big. He doesn’t do anything in a loud way. If anything, he’s the ultimate definition of “Minor League-steady.” If there is one thing that Dunn does do at a “plus” level, it’s slap the ball to right field as a right-handed hitter. He’s better at it than any prospect in the organization. He got off to an incredibly slow start to the 2021 season, but he ended up being one of Springfields most consistent contributors down the stretch while hitting 258/384/383 with a 13.7% strikeout rate and a 19.2% walk rate from August 1st-on. I find myself annoyed by watching Nick Dunn, so I can’t imagine how annoying he is for opposing teams.


Staying in the infield but working toward the 2021 draft, third baseman Osvaldo Tovalin did some good things in his draft season. The Cardinals’ 10th round selection in the draft, Tovalin was largely drafted because the Cardinals could sign him for $50K and redistribute his bonus pool elsewhere. Naturally, that last statement undersells some of the fun things about Tovalin. First, he’s a left-handed hitting third baseman from a DII school. Next, he’s big-bodied but also highly athletic, and he’s a decorated defender at 3rd. Also, Tovalin has put up some impressive power numbers in a hitter’s league, but his swing and his approach is designed more for contact. Even then, I believe that you could easily see Osvaldo growing into more power. Or, rather, growing into the power that he’s displayed so far but at leagues that aren’t easy to crush in. Other than being a free-ish swinger, I don’t have a vast knowledge or understanding of Tovalin just yet, and I’m hopeful to get to know more about this young man at either Palm Beach or Peoria in 2022.


One round after Tovalin, the Cardinals drafted shortstop/infielder Mack Chambers. When you watch Chambers, the first thing that really sticks out is the amount of present athleticism. As you’ll notice in the gif, there is also a lot to like about his swing. Chambers had a rough go of it in the field in his debut season, but I’m confident in talking with people that Chambers has the goods to stick at short if he continues to dedicate himself to the craft. There’s also a situation in which Chambers could end up being a well-above average defensive second baseman if that’s where he ends up. Chambers’ 2021 stats weren’t pretty and it’s clear that he is still trying to figure out some things, but an offseason of organization-steered work could make all the difference. He hasn’t displayed it yet, but there is more power in that swing of his, too. Chambers cost the Cardinals about $75K over slot for this switch-hitter, and he’s one of the prospects drafted outside of the top 10 rounds of the 2021 draft that I am most bullish about.


Infielder Noah Mendlinger went undrafted in 2021, and that allowed the Cardinals to scoop him up as an undrafted free agent. A really fun thing about this left-handed hitting infielder is that I really don’t know shit about him!! I’m learning, of course, but I’m certainly not a scholar. What the stats tell me is that this 21-year-old hit the ball pretty damn hard, hit 275/420/363, and put up a wRC+ of 128 while walking 4% more than he struck out over 100 Palm Beach plate appearances after receiving his affiliated assignment. The Cardinals might have found themselves another gem in the undrafted free agency ranks, and an argument could be made that Mendlinger was the most productive hitter that the 2021 draft produces for the Cardinals in 2021. Mendlinger is clearly going to do most of his damage with is bat speed, and it doesn't seem like there will be much big power in that swing, as of right now.


The argument could also be made that outfielder Mike Antico was the most productive hitter for the Cardinals in his 2021 draft season. Antico was drafted in the 8th round and signed for $20K, and he put up a wRC+ of 122 after spending basically five seasons in college (COVID makes this so tough). Entering his age 24 season, which is obviously old for a prospect and draft pick, Antico and his Jared “Skip” Schumaker-esque physique dominated younger and less experience talent for Palm Beach in 2021. You’ve gotta love the fact that he put up 17 extra base hits – six of which were homers – in 159 Palm Beach plate appearances after being drafted, while only striking out 20.8% of the time. Antico has some loud tools, lead mostly by his high-flying speed and base-stealing potential, along with a short swing that can generate surprise power. Again, there is so much that reminds me of Schumaker with Antico. Antico is clearly an organization sleeper prospect, and he would have gotten more serious Dirty consideration if he was just a little younger and if his strikeout rate in September didn’t spike to nearly 30%.


It was a tough year for Palm Beach outfielder/first baseman and 2020 5th round selection L.J Jones. Much like with Antico and Tovalin, part of the reason why Jones was drafted was to help sign other people from their respective drafts. Like with Tovalin and Antico, there are some things to get excited about with Jones, even if his 2021 season was kind of trash. While he didn’t display either of these things consistently, Jones does have some incredible raw power, and he does have the ability to let his right-handed swing hit to all fields. At least, he’s displayed both traits in college when healthy. Jones is a big kid and clunky in nearly every imaginable aspect, but he’s a monster against left-handed pitching. I doubt that this version of Jones will be able to stick in the outfield, and I’m curious to see what kind of first baseman he’s capable of being daily. To me, Jones feels a lot like the new version of Leandro Cedeno, but with more potential. You'll be able to see how powerful and short his swing can be in the gif below.


A fun wild card of a bat is kinda catcher kinda outfielder kinda first baseman-ish but mostly DH Clint Coulter. At the beginning of the 2021 MiLB season, when the Cardinals organization had a winning percentage that felt like it was right around the Mendoza line, the Cardinals brought this former Brewers' first round pick in to help give the Memphis offense a boost off of the bench. Coulter had shown the ability to hit in the Minors and in the Indy League, and his pedigree made him a fun guy to watch. The name of Coulter's game is power. I'm not going to ramble on and on about anything else other than to say that he has a really good arm, as well. The Cardinals have signed Coulter for another MiLB season in 2022, and there's this really weird outside shot that he could make a Major League debut as a DH if things get really weird for the Cardinals parent club in 2022. I'd also like to point out that he's capable of rocking a beautiful mustache.


Finally, in an organization filled with catching depth, it feels appropriate to end this little mind-numbing journey with another catcher. Of all of the random prospects that I have a tendency to unfairly disregard, catcher Carlos Soto has to be the highest on that list. I’m not sure what it is about Soto that I just can’t get behind. For awhile in 2019, I was very high on Soto. You could see the molding of a solid offensive catcher with some hidden raw power and solid approach at the plate. You could also see that he was very raw behind the plate, but that he did some things well enough to catch your attention. I’m not exactly sure what changed (I’m sure it was the catching depth ahead of him), but I’ve soured a bit on Soto. That’s a shame, too, because the 22-year-old Soto had a pretty good season for Palm Beach, putting up a wRC+ of 109, hitting 25 extra base hits in 322 plate appearances, and catching 450+ innings while also playing a little first base. Early in the season, it looked like he had taken a step backwards defensively as a catcher, but so had so many others after the COVID break. Soto has played a little first base, but I don’t think that’s realistic for him moving forward without selling out for power that he probably doesn’t have. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch this left-handed hitting catcher at Peoria in 2022.



AND THAT’S IT!!! I’m sooooooooo sorry to all of the players that I didn’t mention or profile here.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who took a minute or two or one hundred during this trip through the organization over the last hands full of weeks. It’s been a pleasure to… service…. You….



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.


Another "THANK YOU" to the PALM BEACH CARDINALS TWITTER ACCOUNT. I am so damn grateful when they post the videos with data. It isn't easy to get ahold of and it's such a huge help.


For this post, a special thank you to SARAH LANGS and AZUSA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY BASEBALL for tweeting out the tweets/videos that I've added to this post.


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. I'm not even kidding a little bit. It wouldn't be a #BlackFriday without Gifs and Birds On The Black. I'm forever grateful to him for everything that he has done for me. He's truly the best.


Thank For Reading!!

Kyle Reis