Mid-Season Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospects 35-29

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

THE PREFACE


This is a completely half-assed list!!!!


OK, so hear me out: I'm breaking the Dirty Thirty-Five into five subsets of seven players for our mid-season report. Why am I doing this? Because that's literally all of the free time that I have. I TRULY, TRULY apologize for not having more time. I swear, I'll do everything that I can to make up for this moving forward.


Anyway, before we get started, remember to check out the article that highlights the Five Players From The 2019 Draft that I'm keeping the closest eye on. That'll come after we wrap-up this countdown. Again, the depth of info, or lack-thereof, is because of the lack of free time I have. I promise that I've peered over countless hours of video and reports to give you my humble and honest opinions, albeit quick, on each and every player that I comment on. Besides, in this world of "TL;DR", my long and drawn out nonsense is probably best consumed in three or four paragraph form.


So, the system isn't in great shape right now. I'm just being honest. I hope that I have more time in the future to write about that. As of right now, I believe this to be the most concise list of top prospects in the organization. TRUTH BE TOLD, outside of the top 20 prospects, things aren't particularly rosy right now within the organization. Only time will tell, of course.


Over the next five days, I hope to give you more context in regards to that topic.


This also comes with one final warning: while I have watched hundreds of hours of video, and read countless reports on these players, this is the least amount of research that I have ever done for a countdown. While I have people I trust at nearly every affiliate in the organization, I usually use MiLB. TV as my primary method of investigation and cross-checking. However, MiLB updated their service and it's terrible, and that has really ruined the experience for me. On top of that, the system has been terribly boring, for the most part. And with the pitching in the organization taking such a large step backwards as compared to past seasons, it's less and less interesting to watch any given start.


The stats in this particular article are current as of 7/7/2019.


I've rambled on long enough. It's countdown time!!! So, without Freddy Adu, Birds On The Black and Prospects after Dark presents....



THE DIRTY THIRTY-FIVE: PROSPECTS 35-29






Prospect #35: 1B/OF-ish John Nogowski


Memphis Redbirds

Signed as a minor league free agent in June of 2017

Age 26




Much like with the 35th spot on the preseason list, a spot that was occupied by Rangel Ravelo, Nogowski finds his way on to the D35 as a sign of solidarity for years of hard work. That, and an advanced feel for the strike zone and how he operates within-and-around it.


Over the last couple of seasons, "Nogo" has undergone a bit of a swing adjustment with an emphasis on introducing a little more power into his game. Last season, when he wasn't out with a broken hand/wrist issue, he really seemed to take well to the power adjustment. While that hasn't translate as well this season, Nogowski still has the quick swing and barrel-ability to put the ball in the air and between the outfielders.


Where Nogowski cashes his check is in his advanced feel for the strike zone. His strikeout rate is great at 10.3%, but it's made even stronger and more impressive when coupled with a walk rate that's right around 13.4%. His at-bats are often long and boring, but equally as productive.


Here's a small sample of a prototypical Nogo at-bat. It's only two pitches, but it demonstrates what he does very well. He lays off of the first pitch, which is clearly designed to get the double play via chase. Then, on a hanger, Nogowski takes the pitch to the opposite field for a double. By the way, Andrew Knizner scores from first on this play.


The other spot that Nogowski really excels is on the defensive side. Nogo is a very solid defensive first baseman. He's how my dad use to describe me as a point guard; "heady". That's to say, he's never out of position, and he's a huge asset at first base. Sure, my dad was just looking for some random nice thing to say about me so that my mom didn't lose her mind, but I mean it in total sincerity with Nogowski.


Like with Ravelo, the issue with Nogowski is opportunity. He's already 26, and he's at least a couple of spots down on the depth chart at first base. He can play left field, but you'd prefer that he doesn't.


There's no telling if the opportunity will ever present itself for Nogowski. I really hope that it does. His contact-oriented approach with grinding at-bats would be an interesting addition, and experiment, in the current Cardinals' lineup. Either way, I hope that Nogowski eventually gets his shot with a major league team. He'll never be anything more than standard James Loney, but he's deserving of a shot.


(Quick shout out to SS Mateo Gil, who originally occupied the 35th spot on the countdown)





Prospect #34: RHP Tommy Parsons


Springfield Cardinals

Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2018

Age 23




Over the last couple of years, I don't think an organization has drafted or signed more players that go by the name of "Tommy" than the Cardinals. If I thought that the Baseball Reference Play Index provided that info, I'd buy it right now. That's the kind of pathetic life that I live.


I really don't know what the future holds for Parsons. He's struggled so far at Springfield, but his stuff seems better than the person that occupies the 29th spot on this version of the D35, even though that pitcher has had more success than Parsons. Both are very early into their tenure with Springfield, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's eventual balance between those two. You'll get to know prospect #29 soon enough. TAKE A BREATH.


I really like Parsons breaking pitch. He gets in trouble because he often slows down his mechanics and his arm to throw it, but it's a big breaking pitch. It pairs very well with his fastball when he's locating his fastball in the upper-half of the strike zone. His fastball, by the way, can reach the mid-90's and stay that way for a great deal of his start. I will say that I feel like he's over-throwing it since getting the promotion to AA. Maybe he's trying too hard to blow it by hitters. Maybe that's causing some of the command and success issues that he's had. I'll dig more into that over his coming starts.


In the past, the best part of Parsons has been his command of three pitches. Again, that command seems to be somewhat fringe-y so far for Springfield. What hasn't been on the fringes is his change-up. It's a plus offering, and you couldn't even debate that fact. Here's two of them to Pirates stud prospect Travis Swaggerty:


While he's been beat around at Springfield so far, he's still fun to watch pitch. Here's a five pitch-mix that gives you an idea of his repertoire:



Parsons is a smart pitcher with a strong understand of the craft. He's the prototypical "coaches favorite player", and I'm asked about him as often as I'm asked about any of the pitchers in the organization that haven't made a major league debut. As an undrafted player from a Division III baseball program, he's the Jason Simontacchi-type pitcher that you just have to root for.





Prospect #33: 1B/OF Leandro Cedeno


Peoria Chiefs

Signed as an International Free Agent in August of 2014

Age 20




Entering the 2019 season, I had Cedeno as the 21st prospect in the organization. This was because of the tape measure-type power that he possesses and has displayed. I thought that he'd struggle to hit for average, and that he'd strikeout a little too much, but there wasn't a world in which I could imagine Cedeno's power evaporating. It was raw and loud and boisterous, and it was in the top-tier of the organization.



SO, of course, here we are four months later, and Cedeno has struggled to hit for power. The Midwest League assignment with Peoria is always a tough one for this type of player, but Cedeno's four home runs over 228 plate appearances is a huge let down. Even more of a let down, his walk rate has been cut in half as compared to 2018, from 8.5% to 4.8%. His strikeout rate in 2019 is 28.5%, which isn't too far off from what we expected. And, truthfully, it'd be a "fine" total if it was coming with matching power production.


During the preseason rankings, we also expressed our hope that Cedeno would play first base as often as possible. Because of his lack of range, speed, and reads, he's not ever going to stick in the outfield. Of course, Cedeno has primarily played in the outfield for Peoria in 2019. Personally, while he isn't a great first baseman either, I think that his offense would come a long way if he stayed at first, primarily. What I know for sure is, he's not going to stick in the outfield long term, and every rep out there is a virtual waste.


You'll also notice in the gif above that Cedeno uses a lot of his forearms to sort of "flick" the ball. He has somewhat of an unconventional bat-path because of this mechanic. Moving forward, I 'd love to see Cedeno incorporate more of his arms and upper-body into his swing.


With a big second half, Cedeno could easily creep back into the top 25. However, on his current track, even with the tough and aggressive promotion to Peoria to start the season, and with his power profile, 2019 is definitely a setback in the progression of Leandro Cedeno. Even with the offensive struggles, he's still a slightly above average run producer for Peoria. That should give you some indication of how good Cedeno can be when he's on.




Prospect #32: OF Scott Hurst


Springfield Cardinals

Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft

Age 23




Another prospect, another down 2019 season.


Hurst started the 2019 with an aggressive, but deserved and earned in spring training, promotion to Springfield. It didn't go well for Hurst, and he was often over-matched in the box. He was doing well to get on base via walk, but he was also striking out 26+% of the time. Two of the things that make Hurst such an intriguing prospect have always been his ability to make contact, and his ability to hit to all fields. So, when Hurst began striking out more, while getting a little more pull-happy, things didn't seem to work out well for him.


While 2019 has been a disappointing year at the plate for Hurst, he's still doing very well in the outfield. Between his ability to draw a walk and his capabilities in center field, Hurst still profiles as a very good 4th outfielder-type if a little course-correcting happens in 2019.


Other than that, there isn't much to say in regards to Hurst. It's been a disappointing season, and I'm sure that no one is taking it harder than he is. There's still plenty of time for him to turn it around. At least his ability to draw a walk hasn't tanked. He's still the most like Jon Jay in the organization, and I fully expect him to figure it out moving forward. He's a smart kid with a natural ability to play the sport. I believe that he just needs to get back to playing "his" game instead of trying to out-think "the" game. He's too natural of a hitter to continue to struggle like he has in 2019.


Ultimately, I had a decision to make on this countdown. I could either add the hot-hitting Justin Toerner to it, or continue to ride with Hurst. While Toerner has become a prospect of the moment, or a player that everyone wants to know more about, I decided to stick with Hurst because I view his skill-set as more translate-able as he continues to climb the ladder.



Prospect #31: Catcher Julio Rodriguez


Palm Beach Cardinals

Signed as an International Free Agent in January of 2016

Age 22