Updated: Mar 18
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Today, we present “An Argument.” An argument being, of course, how I would have rated the Top 50 prospects in the system if I was just doing it by how much I personally liked each kid. The bias heavy Dirty Fifty if you will. As part of “An Argument”, for the hell of it, I’m also going to try and give you a list of the top 21 highest-ceiling prospects and highest-floor prospects. The prospects that I will list will have not made a Major League debut.
I'm also going to throw in some additional thoughts about The Dirty as it's currently constructed, as well as offer some general thoughts about the organization as a whole.
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 either way. 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.
AND FOR REAL, did @CARDINALSGIFS outdo himself on this picture. Aside from that time that he put my face on a condom wrapper and we used that as a picture for a post, this is my favorite of all of the 366 articles that we've done together. The only reason that I am still doing any of this is because of Gifs. If not for him, I'd be gone forever...
You know, I don't really have many "hot taeks" like I normally have as we polish off The Dirty. In a lot of ways, this list feels like the most "me" of any of the lists that I've done. I'm proud of that.
Naturally, if I'm going to start anywhere it needs to be with an apology for keeping Zane Mills off of the list. There's a real argument to be made that he's a top 30 prospect, so to keep him off of the Top 50 list is both a disrespect and a miss on my part. It deserves a correction, one that I am too lazy and stupid to make. There are, of course, others that deserved love that they didn't get and to them I apologize.
I also think it's fair to say that I probably should have ranked Michael McGreevy higher that I did. He probably should have gone where Austin Love is at (12th), which would then push everyone back a spot. Then again, I'm also hedging a little bit because of some of the rhetoric and reporting coming out of Jupiter. Oh well. Who cares. That's because...
... As we talk about The Dirty as an entire piece, I think we would do well to break them up into groupings. Sometimes we get lost in the number connected to each player in regards to any of the prospect rankings, when the reality is that they are more appropriately placed in groups. This is how I mentally group them. I hope this gives you a better idea of how I view their talent level, as well as I how I think they should be viewed instead of just as a listed number:
Group B (prospects 2-5):
Markevian "Tink" Hence
Group C (Prospects 6-10):
Jimmy Crooks ii
Group D (Prospects 11-21):
Group E (Prospects 22-25):
Victor Scott ii
Group F (Prospects 26-38):
Gustavo J. Rodriguez
L.J. Jones IV
Group G (Prospects 39-50-ish):
If I were to rank my top 10 favorite players to watch on a nightly basis when I got to watch them on a nightly basis during the 2022 season, it would be in this order:
Alec Burleson (I'm breaking my rules for this one)
Jimmy Crooks ii
The 21 highest upside prospects, you ask (aside from Burly, I'm not including the guys that have made a debut)?
Leonel Sequera (who I didn't mention or write about and I was stupid for doing that)
Now, I want to make it as clear as possible that I think that Jordan Walker is going to be special. I have no doubt that he's going to be one of the 25 best offensive performers in baseball within two or three years, if not sooner. My trepidation with touting him as what he's capable of being is that I've seen this fan base absolute turn on every prospect that hasn't met their often unrealistic and sky-high expectations. We've talked about this, but that breaks my heart for those players and their families. I've been pretty clear that I think that Walker is going to have a run of prime Derrek Lee-type years, but for potentially longer than Lee did. Even then, I'm probably underselling how good he's going to be. I had a conversation on Twitter with some dummy that said that he'd be disappointed if Walker had a career similar to that of Jermaine Dye's career. I 100% believe that Walker will have a better career than Dye had, but the likelihood of it isn't as likely as you'd hope. If his career does mirror Dye's then that is still a GREAT Major League career. Be as pumped for this beast as you'd like to be because you should be. I just ask that you do it respectfully and responsibly.
We talked about it here and there within The Dirty, but the Cardinals have done some interesting things in the last couple of drafts with their relief pitcher selections. While some of the starters that they've selected are questionable choices early in the draft recently (except for Hjerpe), what they've done later in the draft to select highly measurable and oftentimes funky relief pitchers really feels like an incredibly smart move. We've heard the front office talk about finding the "market efficiency" a lot, and that's what this feels like.
When I wrote this post one year ago, I was somewhat critical of the lack of impact from the international market within the organization, specifically in the Majors and at the upper-levels. I really feel like this is changing drastically, and it only took a year or two to get there. The Cardinals have done some great things with their international bonus pool in the last two years and they should be commended for it. A lot of those kids still have a very long way to go, but the promise and talent is undeniable and substantial.
Last year, I felt like I had a lot of things to say when I began to write this. This year, I don't feel like I have as much to say. It should definitely be restated that the Cardinals' are doing amazing work with their bats, both identifying potential impact and developing (poor Ryan Holgate). We talked about it a lot during in the write-ups, but some of the older bats in the organization have a real chance to make a Major League debut. These seems to go double for left-handed swinging bats.
NOW, in a lot of ways the Cardinals get beat up nationally for their early choices of pitchers in the draft, Cooper Hjerpe aside. As most of you remember, I was as critical as anyone during the draft episode of Prospects after Dark when they drafted Michael McGreevy. One year ago, I was quick to point out that there were some big questions with the pitchers that they've tried to develop. Well, that question is only going to become more of a talking point after the 2022 draft picks. There is a lot on the shoulders of 2nd round pick Brycen Mautz and 3rd round pick Pete Hansen. There is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of 2021 draft picks Michael McGreevy and Austin Love, still, too. The shortened 2020 draft gave Cardinals' fans Markevian Hence and a group of really promising undrafted free agents, but Ian Bedell has struggled to stay healthy and Levi Prater's lack of command has put him near Griffin Roberts territory. During the 2022 season, we began to see the arms from the college pitching heavy 2019 draft start to pay off as Zack Thompson and Andre Pallante both played important roles for the Major League team. Also, Connor Thomas will certainly impact the 2023 pitching staff in some capacity. All of this rambling is to say that it is still fair to criticize some of the decisions that the Cardinals have made in the draft with the pitchers that they've selected over the last few years. EVEN THEN, they still get as much out of what they draft as any organization in baseball. STILL, THEY NEED ONE OF THESE FIRST OR SECOND ROUND PITCHERS TO HIT IN A BIG WAY, not in a middling way. And by "bigger", I mean bigger than someone like Zack Thomspon has hit so far or in the future out of the bullpen, regardless of how dominant he ends up being in that role.
We'll say it again and again, but there isn't an organization in baseball that drafts after round three better than the Cardinals. It's part of the reason why they've been able to get away with being somewhat bad at selecting pitchers early in the draft. It's just incredible the work that they do to identify talent and draft it outside of the top 100 picks.
Now, the sleepers. I'll give one hitter and one pitcher for each individual sleeper rank. These are from the national perspective, not from my perspective.
The easiest sleepers to point to as we enter the 2023 season are RHP Austin Love and catcher Jimmy Crooks ii. There's a real chance that Crooks could be getting at-bats for Memphis and that Austin Love could be pitching out of the Cardinals' bullpen by the end of the 2023 season. Crooks has a gaggle of catchers ahead of him and that'll make it tough for him to get to Memphis, but he's talented enough to get there. Obviously, my aggressive ranking of Austin Love on my list tells you that I think that there's a ML debut in his future. I'm probably one year too early.
If you're looking for somewhat deeper sleepers, let's talk about RHP Alec Willis and OF Victor Scott II. What a terrific development it would be if Willis could continue the success that he showed in very limited action during the 2022 season in the Complex League. Again, I don't think he's destined to be on the same path that Tink Hence is on, but I also don't believe it's too hard to envision a time during the 2023 season where he's having a great deal of success pitching on a limited basis for Palm Beach on his way to a spot in the Cardinals' Top 10 prospects. If Victor Scott II can find consistency at the plate during the 2023 season then he'll be right where Mike Antico is organizationally but also higher on my prospect lists entering 2024.
Looking for deeper sleepers than that, you say?! Well, hows abouts MOTHERFUCKING RHRP Nick Trogrlic-Iverson and outfielder Chase Pinder. Honestly, both of these fellas could be the traditional Devil's Magic nominees. As we talked about in both of their write-ups, Trogrlic-Iverson is a quick-working innings eater that has better stuff than you'd expect and Chase Pinder's bat and defense have a real chance to carry him to a Major League debut. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Pinder does make a debut during the 2023 season and if Trogrlic-Iverson is at least at AAA eating some very valuable innings for Memphis.
If you are looking for additional sleepers, I want to point you in the direction of every relief pitching prospect that the Cardinals have on the farm. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. While I had righties Freddy Pacheco, Andrew Marrero, and Andre Granillo relatively high on the list, I wouldn't rule out the Major League prospects of the other relief pitching prospects that we've talked about between The Dirty50-proper and The Shrine: Pt 1. There are a lot of both lefties and righties that could come out of basically nowhere and contribute to the Cardinals' bullpen. I know that we've already talked about the bullpen arms in this dumb little post, but I just wanted to emphasize it once again.
Also, while I'm thinking about it, I fucking love Wilfredo Pereira and I just want to see the Cardinals get a little aggressive with him because fuck it who cares that's why how bouts dat fo spellin and punctuation.
As I begin to exit from this tool of ignorance, I want to remind everyone to follow @KareemSSN, @CardinalsReeks, @bt_newberry, @B_Walton, @ProspectsLive, @SamDykstraMiLB, @longenhagen, and @GeoffPontesBA. This is your best chance at real, worthy prospect coverage in the coming years. Being able to get to a point where there are this many options worth following before I peace the fuck out takes such a huge burden off of my shoulders. I hoped that Blake and Kareem and Reeks would have started their own site by now for the prospect-following audience, but not everything can be perfect. In the meantime, pay for The Cardinal Nation. Also, huge shoutout to Daniel Guerrero who is doing absolutely terrific stuff for The Post Dispatch.
This isn't Cardinals prospects related, but, wowowowow, did Dan McLaughlin play that incredibly well. Go dark until sentencing. Get off easy as compared to any other person who isn't wealthy and in a societal position of prominence. Write a heartfelt, tearjerking note full of reasonable reasons for fucking up, then go back to business as usual at Scoops and 101 ESPN and offering his public services for emceeing events without doing anything like using his influence to set up any programs for the people that have gone through what he's gone through but aren't as well off as he is (at least, as of yet. Hopefully this is something that he does). Good for him, and for real. What a huge public relations victory. I can't wait to hear him calling Cardinals' games or some other local games again at some point down the road..
Speaking of redemption, try not to forget that everyone fucks up and almost always. I might think that Danny Mac's apology is somewhat bullshit even if the reasoning behind it was true because I understand his motives behind doing what he did, but I don't begrudge him for doing it or for getting another chance. I also have deep sympathy for what he has gone through, as most of the things that he pointed to in that note of his are relevant to things that I deal with. The only unredeemable person in this world is me. It's OK to be conflicted by the actions of a person that you like, and it's even OK to think and be outspoken when someone that you like or admire fucks up. It's also OK when a person that you hate and despise gets another chance. This existence is futile. It's truly pointless. Even the people in the history books have their history and reality re-written by other generations of assholes. Yours will be, too. Legacy is a fallacy. Just be cool. And remember, social media is complete bullshit. We are starting to see social media-like behaviour creep into the real world and we are worse off for it. So, really, just calm the fuck down about everything, ya know?
The truth is, we'll all spend the rest of our lives hoping that the mistakes of our past stay there, and that all that comes from those mistakes are the lessons that we take with us. Because, in the end, we are all just skeletons being chased and chasing after other skeletons.
And with that and the hope of finality, thanks for reading!!