Each D50 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.
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. 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 that's linked to below!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Mr. Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.
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 of what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. 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.
LET'S GET TO IT
I have decided to spend a little time going over the five hitting prospects that I had the most trouble keeping off of The Dirty50. They were all considered, and kept off, for various reasons. I'll get into it in each individual capsule.
They are not listed in a particular order.
OF TODD LOTT
AGE 25 (August Birthday)
Drafted in the 9th Round of the 2019 Draft
Listed at 6'4, 235. Bats R/Throws R
Of all of the players that I left off/took off of The Dirty50-proper, Todd Lott was the player that I had the toughest time taking off of the list.
As we entered the 2022 season, Todd Lott was the odds-on favorite to be the breakout prospect in the organization. An incredibly tooled-up and strong outfielder with both raw and practical power, Lott had begun to use the entire field more with his short and direct swing. It seemed like he would be able to let his swing do the work more often, and that would equal great results for him.
Unfortunately, Lott just never got it going long enough and consistently enough to really salvage his 2022 season. He started the year at AA and was demoted to High-A in late May. After the demotion, Lott had a couple of tame weeks before struggling again.
Luckily, all was not lost for Lott, and he started to rediscover some of what made him a prospect with breakout potential during the months of mid-June through August. From June 9th through August 31st, Lott hit 287/346/468 with nine homers, fourteen doubles, and one triple. He also "only" struck out 27.7% of the time, while making hard contact more frequently.
Lott did get to spend the last week or so of the 2022 MiLB season back at Springfield. There, he did hit a homer and a double in 21 plate appearances, but he also struck out seven times. Neither a failure nor a success, it was a fresh start for Lott, even at the end the season. He'll need to build off of that to regain some of his prospect shine during the 2023 season. Candidly, I am betting on Lott because I know the type of high-character that he has. He's loved by his teammates and coaches think the world of him.
Catcher Luis Rodriguez
2022 International Free Agent
Listed at 6'1, 210. Bats R/Throws R
The truth is, the only reason that I kept Luis Rodriguez off of The Dirty50-proper is because I just don't know enough about him. I know that he can rake, and I know that he raked during the 2022 season in limited at-bats, but I don't know enough about what he does behind the plate to really feel comfortable putting him on the list. The reason that I don't have any video of him in this post is because I can only find video of him when he was 16 or younger and that was too long ago based on the physical growth that he's made to feel comfortable adding to his write-up.
I talked to a lot of people at the end of the season about who I should be keeping an eye on or who stood out and his name rarely came up. This doesn't mean anything, but it's something that I took mental note of.
When the Cardinals signed this highly-touted catcher during the 2022 International signing period, there seemed to be little doubt about his bat and a lot of doubt about if he'd be able to stick behind the plate. There was speculation that he'd have to move to first or a corner outfield spot, and these evaluations of other evaluators are what is driving my decision to keep him off of the list. By keeping him off of the list, what I have decide to do is wait until I see him with my own eyes before I decide exactly what to do with him. His ability to play somewhere else might be the most important thing to evaluate. Since I have no real feel for his athleticism, I'm going to hold off on making up my mind or having a thought on the matter.
Regardless of his fielding prowess and his athleticism, they really weren't joking when they said that his hit tool would be his "carry" tool. We've talked about it a ton, but the DSL really isn't a great league to evaluate success or failure via stat lines. However, it's usually a good sign when a hitter slugs the ball in their first taste of that level. I'm extra encouraged by the matching four homers and four doubles that he put up in 101 plate appearances, and I'm happy to see that he only struck out about 25% of the time. The sub 6% walk rate goes out of it's way to tell you how aggressive he is at the plate, but that really isn't a bad thing at that level if a player isn't striking out excessively.
Here is to hoping that we can get a stateside debut or even a taste of Palm Beach during the 2023 season. I can't wait so to get a real chance to properly evaluate the immensely talented Rodriguez.
OF Patrick Romeri
Age 21 (June Birthday)
Drafted in the 12th Round of the 2019 Draft
Listed at 6'3, 195. Bats R/Throws R
You guys, I love Patrick Romeri.
The two things that seem to stand in Patrick Romeri's way are the ability to stay on the field and opportunity for reps. It shouldn't come as a surprise that one feeds directly into the other.
Romeri is a tooled-up outfielder that can absolutely crush a baseball when he's healthy and when he gets ahold of it. You can tell that he's made some pretty substantial mechanical changes to his swing over the years, and he's had great success when he's getting a chance and when he's healthy. He's probably a little too pull happy for his own good, but I really don't care if he's hitting the ball hard and on a line or in the air.
Romeri has always taken a decent amount of walks, but there have also always been some real strikeout concerns in his approach. We saw that in full display when he got promoted to Peoria towards the end of the year and played relatively sparingly, as the stat line above illustrates.
When it comes to Romeri in the field, there have been times where he is incredibly impressive with a big arm, and there have been times where he has been clunky while short-arming the ball. The truth is that he just hasn't been on the field enough in the last two years for me to feel all that comfortable evaluating him. Because of the flashes of brilliance I have seen out there, it makes me believe that he could be an above-average or better corner outfielder. Neither he nor I am there yet, though.
The version of Romeri that hit in Palm Beach last year is a top 20 prospect in the organization. The version that hit in Peoria is well outside the Top 50. The fielder and base-runner is probably a top 40 prospect. I'm being conservative with one of my personal favorite prospects in the organization in hope that he puts it all together during the 2023 season.
Infielder Samil De La Rosa
Age 19 (September Birthday)
2021 International Free Agent
Listed at 5'8, 175. Bats R/Throws R
While Todd Lott is the player that I had the toughest time keeping off of the list, Samil De La Rosa is the hitter that is probably most deserving of a spot on the list that they did not get. It was a season of achievements for Samil, and an extra "hat tip" to him for hitting for the cycle during the 2022 season!
The truth is, I'm taking the cowards way out again with De La Rosa. I just don't feel like I know enough to really feel comfortable making an honest evaluation that is my own, and the batted ball data isn't good enough for me to make a leap like we did with Jose Suarez or Jonathan Mejia. As a matter of fact, it's probably the batted ball data that kept him off of the back of the list. He doesn't hit the ball hard all that often, and all of his top-end hitting velocities are really pedestrian. This is even more concerning for a player that pulls the ball as much as Samil does. You'll be able to tell in the videos within this post that he has some raw power in there, he just hasn't really gotten to it yet and it doesn't seem like he's close to getting to it.
There's also the issue of his defensive prowess which appears to be shaky at best, and at a couple of different defensive positions. Again, I haven't seen any of it myself so I'll hold off on pretending like I have a personal idea of how he is around the diamond. His fielding percentage was terrible in 2022, but we all know that fielding percentage is kinda bullshit. Anyway, we are going to wait and see with Samil.
Samil De La Rosa is so young and so unproven, yet reportedly so immensely talented that my concerns are only matched by the amount of success, talent, and intrigue that he possesses as a prospect. Since he was at the complex during the 2022 season, we'll certainly get to see him in Palm Beach at some point during the 2023 season.
OF Luis Piño
Age 19 (In February)
2021 International Free Agent
Listed at 5'11, 175. Bats R/ Throws R
Luis Mario Piño's nickname is "Super Mario" and we really don't need any other reason to root for him or to honor him with a spot on the list.
Piño got off to a good start at the Complex in his first taste of baseball stateside, but then he really fizzled out with more exposure in a limited sample. This doesn't really mean much, and the same goes for Samil De La Rosa. A Caribbean kid's first taste of stateside affiliated baseball is a tough culture shock. They are being asked to assimilate into a new culture while playing the toughest baseball that they've ever played.
The struggles that Piño had during the 2022 season do not extinguish his potential in the slightest. Rather, it serves as a reminder of just how hard baseball is, and even at its lowest levels.
What is encouraging is that Piño did see an increase in an already pleasant walk rate, even though it came with an increase in an already less than pleasant strikeout rate. We also saw him hit for similar slug to what he put up during the 2021 season, from a rate perspective, while using more of the entire field.
My guess would be that Piño will get a chance to get some at-bats with Palm Beach at some point during the early parts of the 2023 season, but that he'll spend most of his time back at the Complex. Unless he's taken some huge steps this offseason, that's exactly what the Cardinals should do with him. If he did take some huge steps then we will be in for a treat. Piño could be an electric bat if/when he adjusts to the stateside game and begins to put it all together. He's an extremely exciting talent with big tools at the plate, and he could be a power/slugging force to be reckoned with.
To end this post, 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)
KAREEM AND CARDINALS REEKS TOP 12
Thanks For Reading!!