THIS IS THE PROSPECT PREAMBLE.
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:
KAREEM AND CARDINALS REEKS TOP 12
THIS HAS GONE ON TOO LONG. LET'S. GO.
OF Matt Koperniak
Age 25 Basically
Undrafted Free Agent in 2020
Listed at 6'0, 200. Bats L/Throws R
Minor League Baseball is a world of uncertainty. In such a chaotic and uncertain world, it's the prospects that bring some type of normalcy to evaluation that I've come to really appreciate.
Matt Koperniak is one of those players.
The thing about Matt Koperniak is that he is just SO DAMN solid. Is he a great outfielder? Nope, but he is SOLID. Is he a great hitter? Nope, he's just solid (and predictable and we'll get into that once I'm finished bloviating). Is he a great prospect? Nope, he's just solid.
For real, the only chink in Koperniak's prospect armor is that he can be unsure of himself out in the outfield at times, and that the left-handed swing of his is severely lacking against left-handed pitching. He doesn't slug. He doesn't make good contact. Simply put, Koperniak just isn't good against left-handed pitching. This seems like as good of a spot as any to put a gif of Koperniak getting a hit against a lefty just because I can.
But you know what I've learned in this wild world of the DH in the NL? I don't think that Koperniak has to be good against left-handed pitching to be a real prospect.
All that Koperniak has to do is continue being "solid" while manhandling right-handed pitching and there will be a real shot at some Major League at-bats in his future. I believe that this is especially true in this particular organization and in this day and age of baseball. I find the cycle to be a completely arbitrary achievement even in it's infrequency so I don't invest much into it as an achievement, but it's something that Koperniak did during the season so hooray!!! Shoutout to motherfucken Domnit Bolivar, Cardinals Legend.
The contact that Koperniak makes against righties is perfect. He uses the entire field with a smooth swing capable of doing a lot against a lot. He also strikes the ball substantially harder against righties than lefties, strikes out less against righties while walking more against righties, and all at levels and rates that show us the ability to have sustained success against them. It's probably not realistic to think that Koperniak could match his 2022 hitting line of 308/376/484 in 354 plate appearances against righties as he moves us the ladder, but it's probably not as far off as you'd expect from this member of the WBC qualifying Great Britain's team, either. The gif below is the perfect example of what makes Koperniak a real threat against right-handed pitching. Koperniak puts a strong barrel on a really great pitch low and outside and it produces a line drive into the gap. This one went for a homer. They don't always do that for Koperniak, but this one did and it helps to show what he's capable of when he's clicking. In a very rudimentary way, and only against right-handed pitching, there's a lot of early stage Matt Carpenter in how Koperniak approaches an at-bat and strikes the ball.
For the rest of the evaluation, we won't waste much time. This solid outfielder has some sneaky wheels and an arm that's probably best suited for left-field unless he's really ready to uncork a throw. This is something that Koperniak does a lot, but that he doesn't do nearly enough. There is a timidness to how Koperniak plays a corner that I'd LOVE to see wash away from him, especially when he throws the ball. I think that this is going to be the largest area in need of growth in the field for Matt as he tries to reach his potential as an above-average outfielder.
Koperniak is a highly instinctual base-runner with some natural baseball I.Q. that shines every time that he takes the diamond. Koperniak doesn't have the wheels to steal a ton of bases, but he does have the instincts to steal one on a pitcher every now and again.
Matt Koperniak and his advanced age for AA might not be the most shiny diamond under the glass, and hitting lefties is a huge obstacle to success, but I'm not sure that matters in this day and age when you are this good at hitting righties in the NL/DH era. Still, the timidness at the fringes of his games needs to wash away.
Matt Koperniak is another one of those kids that is just too easy to root for, as well. If he were able to hit lefties the way that he hits righties then he'd be a top fifteen prospect in the organization. This ranking comes down to, simply, how valuable I view consistent and productive left-handed hitting to be in this day and age.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis