Welcome to the third part of our countdown!
Of all of the groupings, this is the biggest group of wild cards. Three of these players have been in the organization for less than a year. One is a 2017 draft pick that struggled early and has since found his footing. The other is a catcher that is young, hurt, but was doing well in an advanced league.
As always, these are the condensed and quick versions of the player write-ups. We will have a more comprehensive run down of each of these prospects after we complete our list. You'll be able to access those at the Dirty 35 page. There you'll find what they do well, what they need to work on, and what they might look like as they progress through the system if they manage to max out all of their skills.
LET'S DO IT!
Prospect #25: Catcher, Dennis Ortega
International Signing in 2013
It's a damn shame that Ortega hurt his hamstring because his 2018 season was really starting to gain steam. It's a good thing that he seems to have picked up where he left off before going on the DL. The big question with Ortega has always been how his bat was going to develop, or if it was ever actually going to develop. Well, Ortega got off to a cold start on the season. However, about a month into the season Ortega started to make consistent hard contact and that's helped him put up a season long slash line before the hamstring injury of 284/344/390/734 in 144 at-bats.
That stat line isn't the most impressive that you'll find in the system, but if Ortega can continue to hit like that as he moves up the organization then he'll be a major leaguer. His defense is that good. He has an arm that has the Midwest League on alert. He leads that league in runners gunned out. He calls a good game behind the plate, too. While he isn't the best at blocking balls in the dirt, he's better than most at that level and he's made progress. Ortega is also a good pitch framer and he usually doesn't stab at the ball, although it does happen every little bit.
Ortega is a fun backstop to watch when he is healthy. He has a bit of a long swing but not too long that you'd worry about it. After two weeks on the Midwest League DL, Ortega has gone 5-13 with a double and two strike outs entering play on Thursday night. If he continues to progress behind the plate, while continuing to show gains in the batters box, he'd be right in line to replace Yadier Molina as the Cardinals backstop when Yadi's contract is up.
Prospect #24: OF, Chase Pinder
Palm Beach Cardinals
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft
I've always been higher on Pinder than most other evaluators. Entering the season, I like Pinder more than I like any of the lower-level outfield prospects that weren't named Dylan Carlson.
A common theme among the hitters in the Cardinals system at the onset of the season was struggle. There weren't a lot of hitters that were hitting the cover off of the ball to start the 2018 season. The exact same thing could be said about Pinder.
Pinder started the season with an aggressive assignment at Palm Beach and the league really got the better of him. Pinder went on the Florida State League DL on May 2nd. He was hitting 169/261/260/521 in 89 Plate Appearances at the time. Like with many of the other hitting prospect in the organization, it seemed like Pinder was being wayyyy to aggressive for his own good early in counts. Pinder was falling down my rankings and he wasn't even a member of the Dirty 30 to begin with. It wasn't looking good.
Since coming off of the DL, Pinder has turned his season around. In 130 PA since coming off of the DL he's hit above .300 with an OBP above .370 and a OPS above .800. He is striking out more than 25% of the time during that period but he's also walking more than 10% of the time over that period
Like with the other outfielders that I've talked about already on the countdown, there isn't much in the way of power for Pinder yet. I don't know if I see a swing that has 15 home run potential, either. He's an average center fielder in every aspect. I'm really looking forward to following Pinder during the second half of the season.
Prospect #23: RHP, Casey Meisner
Palm Beach Cardinals
Acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Josh Lucas
When Meisner first entered the A's organization he was a highly-touted prospect. He was 6'6" with a good fastball/slider/curve combo and it looked like he'd progress quickly. At one point he was even considered a top 10 prospect in their above average organization.
But like with so many other tall and lanky pitchers, repeatability of his mechanics has become the bane to success for Meisner. I'm 6'0" tall and I can hardly control my body. I can't imagine what it is like to have an addition 7 inches and still be in any kind of control of myself.
The Cardinals acquired Meisner right before the minor league season started and they were smart to keep Meisner at extended spring training instead of assigning him to an affiliate at the start. It gave them a chance to work with him and clean up some of the mechanical errors that he had displayed in the past.
Meisner made his season debut on April 25th and he seems to have gotten better with each start. The walks are still kind of high but they've improved as his season has progressed, aside from one four-walk start. he's shown the ability to go deep into games about 50% of the time and it's been better of late.
One thing that I like about him is that his big frame and arm action really helps to add to the movement and motion of his breaking pitch. I'd imagine that this get's on right handed hitters pretty quickly:
Meisner is close to being ready for the next test. There's a very good chance he'll be at Springfield by the end of the season. If he continues to control his mechanics and work deep into games then he'll work his way up this list quickly.
Prospect #22: 2B/3B/SS, Ramon Urias
Signed as a Free Agent in 2018
Ramon Urias is a weird one. When the Cardinals signed him out of the Mexican League this offseason he was coming off of a season in that league that would Mike Trout blush. It's very tough to understand how the Mexican game will translate to major league/minor league success, but Urias had advanced pop and a good approach and most thought that he'd move quickly through the organization just like former Mexican Leaguer Randy Arozarena has.
Urias was supposed to start the season at AA but injuries at the major league level that were back filled by AAA players allowed Urias to start the season at Memphis. He was over-matched there, and he was reassigned to Springfield where he absolutely demolished that league.
Shortly there after, he was sent back to Memphis where he struggled again. Now back in Springfield, Urias is starting to level off. He's still hitting the for power and contact and he is still driving the ball, but the helium that he displayed to start the season has calmed and we are starting to get a better definition of the hitter that he is. As a nice little bonus, we are also starting to understand that the Mexican League is about the equivalent of a league between A+ and AA.
Urias is a poor defensive short stop that profiles best as a 2B or a 3B. He's very athletic and he's super-quick and agile, and I expect that to be the next part of his game to pop off of the pages. Urias is old for the level and he's going to need to show that he can hit Triple-A pitching sooner rather than later, but all of the tools are there for him to make a major league debut in the next two season. I know this: Urias owns the Texas League.
Prospect #21: OF, Lane Thomas
Acquired in 2016 from Toronto for International Bonus Funds
Man, am I torn on Lane Thomas. Maybe that's because I feel like there are two versions of Thomas.
The first version is a potential major league starting center fielder with a bat and an approach at the plate that would look good at the top of the order. We saw this version of him at the start of the season. That version of Lane Thomas is a stud and he's a lot of fun to watch. He hits for power and drives the ball to all parts of the field. He beats out infield singles and he can get to any ball in the outfield.
With that version of Lane Thomas comes another version of Lane Thomas. That version of Thomas is a player that looks as uncomfortable as you'll see in the batters box. He'll often take pitches right down the middle in hitters counts and check swing at everything else thrown to him. His position with his hands is usually inconsistent during this time. This version of Thomas is also shaky in the outfield. The best way to describe this version of Lane Thomas is "shaky and indecisive." We've seen this version of Lane Thomas more often than not since the first month of the season.
Thomas would be a top 15 prospect in the organization if he was more the first version that I mentioned than the second version. I love this swing and, for a smaller player especially, it's has the ability to truly be a driving tool. Yes, this ball is put on a tee for him, but he hits the damn thing over the scoreboard:
Thomas is still only 22-years-old and he's coming off of a 2017 in which he missed a large part of the season. It's probably been a whirlwind for the young man, as well, coming for Toronto to St. Louis and not getting much of a chance to play last year because of injury. He's going to need to bury the indecisive version of himself and let the sure version of himself take the lead if he is going to move up this list.
Fangraphs supplies the stats. The individual write ups will have more diverse stats, also to be supplies by the fine Fangraphs folks.
Thanks For Reading!