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.
RHP Trent Baker
Drafted in the 9th Round of the 2021 Draft.
Listed at 6'3, 240
I've never cared so little about a pitcher that was as good as Baker was during the 2022 season. I'm not sure if it's because of his age at the Low-A level, clearly going up against inferior talent without a sign of a promotion or not, but I think the very nature of the specificity of that criticism tells me that is exactly what it is.
Thanks for working that through with me.
Baker's matching 2300 RPM fastball and sinker are decent pitchers that were probably helped a great deal by being thrown in the spacious parks in the Florida State League. The data tells us that the heater is better than the sinker, but, for real, we'll see how it goes as he progresses up the ladder. Inarguably, his best pitch is his changeup that helps limit the damage to his sinker and heater. As I'm sure you can put together on your own, that's a slippery slope to toe. It profiles/shadows extremely well with his sinker, which is fine but also might end up being an issue because of how middling the sinker is. Either way, the changeup is a good and powerful pitch for Baker and that's fun.
Baker's slider seems to be another issue that he is going to have to work through and refine, and it makes me wonder if he'd be better off working with a cutter. I can't help but think that a late breaking piece with a little extra heat would go a long way to help both the four-seam and sinker, similarly to how the changeup does. But, you know, different. There's a chance that the incorporation of a cutter would also help his slider, too. Anyway, I apparently didn't gif the slider during the season so here's his heater (my guess is that I didn't gif the slider because I didn't have a reason to because the pitch is just "fine").
What we know for sure is that Baker has work to do to his arsenal in order to be better against righties, oddly enough. In 2022, Baker was a "reverse splits" pitcher, as righties hit 264/342/415 against him in 336 plate appearances. This is another reason why I'm not as bullish on Baker as others might be. I keep bringing it up, but there's some real work that he's going to need with his arsenal to cut those numbers down. Personally, I find that alarming for a pitcher of that age and that skill in that league.
Other than that, Baker is a pretty normal and average pitcher with a body built for a big workload but that will eventually probably have his best chance at making the Majors in a bullpen role. That's what the percentages tell us, at least. At his age and with the success that he had at Low-A, I would hate to see the Cardinals continue to be conservative with his assignments.
Now that I've had some time to reflect, I'm certainly not giving Baker the attention or respect that he deserves. In all actuality, his fastball/sinker/change combo is good enough to get him to the upper levels of the minors, at the very least. He's the type of build and talent that I wouldn't fault anyone for having close to the top 25 prospects in the organization. Obviously, I'm not there yet, and it'll only take some toying with the slider and continued use of the changeup for Trent Baker to move up The Dirty. At the very least, I appreciate his ability to command his size and frame, and repeat his delivery.
Just like in 2022, I wouldn't be surprised if Trent Baker found his way to the big league side of camp and saw some in-game action during spring training.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis