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2023 D50: Prospect #21

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


Each post will feature these words, so feel free to skip accordingly. I offer the same always-standing apologies for the lackluster quality of my writing, as well as the stream of consciousness nature that I write with. I sincerely wish that I was better at writing than I am but, alas, here we are. Also, I'm very good at this as compared to most, but I am still VERY bad at it. Just think about that for a second, for context purposes.

I want to start off by reminding everyone that these posts are aided and enhanced by the works of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and Prospects Live. Each embedded link will take you to their subscription pages and you should absolutely do that. Shout out to Geoff Pontes and Matt Thompson from Baseball America and Prospects Live, respectfully, because they're awesome. FanGraphs stats are OBVIOUSLY clutch and awesome, and that's why they are used in nearly every "Dirty" post. LOVE that FanGraphs.

Accordingly, @Cardinalsgifs provides his artistic touch to the pictures in each article, and I wouldn't do this at all if he wasn't a part of it. Special shoutout to @KareemSSN who is a must follow for Cardinals prospects stuff. His partner in crime is @Cardinalsreek and they have their own prospect list coming out soon!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.

I also want to remind everyone that my list is different in that I don't include players with rookie eligibility that have made a Major League debut. So, you'll have to look elsewhere for Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Jake Walsh, Andre Pallante, and ZacK Thompson. Some of these guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway. I'm just trying to get ahead of this because I will 100% be asked about each. I did almost add 32-year-old Rule 5 draft selection Wilking Rodriguez to the list, but decided against it because he's 32-years-old, entering his age 33 season, and the coverage of him will surely be overly saturated by the time that Spring Training gets going. Also, I didn't add recently acquired Jose Fermín because I just don't care at all. I'm sure he'll make a Major League debut at some point in 2023 which will be cool but I just can't find it in me to care about it at all.

The last thing that I'd like to do is remind everyone that this is just a snap shot of THIS moment. I'm not 100% sure what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. So, when I'm a little more conservative with a player like, say, Michael McGreevy, it's without the knowledge of what he's worked on this offseason, along with the gains that he's made in the areas that I'm concerned about. You never know when/if things are going to click for a player, and there's more reason now than ever before - with the advancements in modern baseball technologies - for a prospect to catapult themselves from out of nowhere. Vice versa, it's easier than ever for a prospect to fall off into obscurity.

Finally, I'd like to provide links to other sites that rank Cardinals' prospects. The Cardinal Nation, Prospects Live, and Baseball America all have their 2023 lists published, and MLB and FanGraphs will link to their most recent rankings from 2022:

THE CARDINAL NATION (Subscribe to the damn site, dummies) MLB


OF Mike Antico

Turns 25 in February

Drafted in the 8th Round of the 2021 Draft

Listed at 5'10, 200. Bats L/Throws R

Mike Antico is a prospect that I probably don't give the respect that he deserves. I tend to be a little dismissive of his age and experience even though he was as successful as he was during the 2022 season.

It didn't help that Antico start off so poorly. Between April and May at High-A Peoria, the then 24-year-old Antico hit 217/333/313 over his first two months of the season with a strikeout rate of 26.3% and produced runs to the tune of a wRC+ of 88. The standout tools were his ability to get on base - walking 14.1% of the time over this time period of 198 plate appearances - and his speed on the base paths, stealing 23 bases in 26 attempts. Even though Antico was struggling, he was still valuable because of the on-base/speed combo.

At that point, Antico just felt like great organizational depth with some really solid leadership abilities. He seemed like the kind of player that helps a lot of other, younger, players reach their potential and become professionals. Sometimes Antico's defensive can be ELITE, and it seemed like there'd be a chance for him to eventually make a Kramer Robertson or Scott Hurst-esque debut if he continued to do just enough to put himself in a position to be one injury and positional depth away from a Major League debut.

Then, Antico TURNED. IT. ON.

Between June 1st and August 31st, between High-A Peoria and AA Springfield, Antico spent his next 333 plate appearances hitting 279/369/469 with 10 homers, 25 doubles, and 35 stolen bases in 39 attempts. Antico also walked 10.8% of the time and struck out 22.2% of the time, and his wRC+ was 123 over this period.

Now, here is the thing about Antico that won't show up on a stat sheet: He's chaotic. He's tough on pitchers from the minute that he steps in the box, especially the lower levels of the minors because of how scared pitchers are of putting him on base. Much like with a power hitter in a weak lineup, Antico is sometimes treated differently by less advanced pitchers because of his ability to steal any base off of any pitcher. He didn't lead the minors in stolen bases, but he was an absolutely devastating force on the base paths.

Because of this, Antico does something else that doesn't show up on the stat sheet: he has the potential to change the dynamic of at-bats for hitters that hit behind him with the chaos that he's able to create on the bases. His skills in this discipline force most minor league pitchers to speed up their motion which oftentimes causes command issues. The chaos that Antico brings and his understanding and feel for running the bases and stealing bags makes everyone in the lineup more potent somehow, and it's a skill that we haven't seen a lot in the organization on this level.

You gotta love a kid that makes everyone better by just getting on base. And, luckily, getting on base is Antico's best skill at the plate. As the gif below demonstrates, Antico is even pretty good at laying down a bunt. Dude just wants to get on base.

Now, there is some budding power in Antico's weird-ass swing that I just don't quite understand at all. His swing looks oddly slow and long and weird, but we started to see Antico run into some REAL power with his swing in 2022 that carried over to the Arizona Fall League. It did seem like he was at least swinging harder during the end of the season, and intent is something that I love to see at the plate. The major issue is that his swing is meant for loft and contact more than anything else, so there some natural lazy flyball tendencies in his swing. This also usually means that he's in danger of nubbing a pitch a little too often, too. He does have exit velocities beyond the 110 MPH mark with an above average contact rate and smart swinging decisions, even if he doesn't hit the ball super hard all that often. When he does barrel it up, it jumps. Obviously, that's very important.

I do have a little different thought about his defense as compared to some smarter and better evaluators. For instance, the fine and accomplished folks at Baseball America ranked Antico the best defensive outfielder in the organization. Now, I don't know if that's correct or not, but it's my personal belief through observation that Antico gets skittish in the gaps and near the wall, and that hurts my overall grade for him in center. Over the last couple of years I've watched Scott Hurst and Justin Toerner and Conner Capel and Ben DeLuzio and Dylan Carlson and others run around like a maniac in the outfield as they tracked down any and everything that they could. This isn't Antico right now. His speed plays best when he comes in on the baseball currently, but that fear of the gaps and the wall that he's demonstrated slows him down. Because of this, he sometimes has to rely on his advanced instincts and athleticism to bail him out.

The good news here is, this is also part of why some of us were surprised to see the actual speed of Harrison Bader at the Major Leagues. Bader used to do this stuff, too. It's legitimately VERY hard to commit to running through the wall or one of your teammates to catch a ball in the gaps. IF Antico does this like Bader adapted to doing then he could be every bit as good in center as the All-World defensive wizard that Harrison Bader is. Easier said than done, of course. I wouldn't put it by him, however.

Another thing about Mike Antico is that he is a world class human being and teammate. As we've talked about already with other players on The DIrty50, Antico is one of those players that has a following. Antico is incredibly likeable and easy to root for, and anyone that's come across him is quick to share that sentiment. Coincidentally (or maybe not. Who am I to say? I'm just an asshole typing bullshit. Isn't THAT ironic?... am I doing brackets right????), one of my favorite gifs on the season came courtesy of Mike Antico. I think that it'll show two things in particular. First, I think it shows how much awareness he has for the part of his job as a baseball player that is MORE than just a baseball player. Second, I think it shows you how big his heart is and how much he loves the sport and being able to play it. I'll say nothing else except that I fucking LOVE moments like this. Make up your own mind about the moment and Antico:

Antico was also thrown out of a game by the field ump while playing center during a game. I don't think that you'll be too surprised to find out that I LOVE that, too. The tweet below explains what got it to that point, and I think it'll give you an idea of why his teammates love him.

At this point, at the very least, Antico seems destined for a Major League debut. His plate discipline, speed, and defensive alone could get him to the Majors the way that Ben DeLuzio found his way to the Majors. If Antico can continue to grow into his power potential via that intent that we started seeing, and if he can do it without increasing his strikeout rate, then the Cardinals will have 8th round gold in the form of a potentially long-term centerfield option. There's a real chance that he's the 2023 big league club's Adron Chambers by the end of the season.

Love that scouting staff. Love this organization.

Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis


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