Updated: Feb 14
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 Mr. 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 Joshua Baez
Age 19, Turns 20 in June
Drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2021 Draft
Listed at 6'4, 220. Bats R/Throws R
I didn't realize it until now, but I think there might be something a little subconscious going on with me, ranking Moisés Gómez and Joshua Baez back-to-back.
At the plate, Gómez and Baez are going to do their damage the same way: by crushing the ball. The 19-year-old Baez, who missed most of the 2022 season after a wrist injury, isn't at the point where he is doing it as consistently or even as frequently as the 24-year-old Gomez did in 2022, but he's not really all of that far off.
The other similarity that the two have is that they both have cannon's for arms.
What Baez has that Gómez does not have is a chance to be more than just a power hitter. There's an underlying approach that is present in how Baez takes an at-bat that wasn't present in a Gómez at-bat until this season. It hasn't produced the results yet, but you can see an easy path to how it/he gets there. In addition, Baez is wayyyyyyyyyyy more athletic than Gómez, a more natural baseball player (even with his flaws), and a more natural looking corner outfielder, even as it currently stands.
With Baez, there are few players on the farm that have his pure potential. His size and swing lend itself to long-term power. He obviously swings and misses too much, but he also doesn't have the practical time at the plate in affiliated baseball to feel like there is an honest appraisal to make. I know that from watching him that he has a little Luken Baker in him, meaning that he'll crank a ball about a million feet but foul, and he'll also foul a few more pitches than most straight back.
I think that the important thing to remember with Baez is that we are still in the learning phase with him. We know the things that we've already talked about from limited exposure paired with the prep player that he was before he was drafted. There is definitely more that we don't know yet about Beaz as compared to what we do know about him. There's a version of this post in which I went into great detail about the measurables of Baez's 2022 small sample of a season. I decided to edit most of that out because I just don't think much of it is a reliable indication of what was going on with him at the plate. He's in a spot where I just don't think it's fair to really break down or comment on a lot of the advanced data because of the sample. Whether it's good data or bad data, I just want to give Baez a chance to enter 2023 with as clean of a slate as possible in the collective consciousness.
As we become more comfortable with appraising Beaz as the 2023 season progresses, I think the thing that I'm most anxious to see is how his swing adjusts. It's got that upper-cut jack feel to it, and I'm almost 100% sure that it's going to need some tinkering and toying as he develops. In some ways, his swing reminds me of Jhon Torres's but with much more bat speed and ass behind it. His swing as a prep player looked a lot what a teenager's swing would look like if he were trying to impersonate Cardinals Legend Juan Gonzalez. By the time he came back from the IL at the end of July it looked less like that and more like something that was unique to him. Whatever adjustments Baez made or continues to make, they'll have to be delicate because we certainly don't want to see a decrease in the amount of 107-110+ MPH balls that come off of his bat.
God, I really feel like I'm rambling bad on this one.
I guess the bottom line with Baez is that we still need time to truly appraise his skills, but Baez's skills and potential are enough to rank him this high on the list even with the swing and miss in his game and the uncertainty that comes with his limited reps in the organization. He's not going to be a centerfielder long-term even if it once seemed that way when he was a prep player. Still, Baez certainly has the chance to be a standout corner outfielder with a plus arm and the kind of speed, agility, and grace that you don't usually associate with someone of his size. Baez will certainly have to cut down on his swing and miss, but he doesn't chase the ball out of the zone an extraordinary amount of the time. That's a huge positive and sign that the growth that he needs to make is the easiest type of growth for a hitter: the type within a strike zone.
How about this for simple; I made Baez the 7th ranked prospect on my list because he is a fucking monster who pounds the ball, and he has all of the athleticism and natural ability to grow from here. He's an incredibly dedicated and competitive player that wants to be a legend in this game. The hope is that he just doesn't let those expectations of himself bog him down. It's really just that simple with Baez. There's unicorn potential here, make no mistake about it. It's just that he has a little extra distance to go to get to it.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis