Here enter-ith the top 10.
There are two prospects on this list that are, more than likely, top 5 players in the organization. However, one of these players is an 18-year-old at Johnson City and the other hasn't even pitched in the organization yet. Both were drafted during the 2018 draft.
One of these players is Randy Arozarena. We love Randy.
The two remaining players are fast-rising third base prospects. One of these gents has an advanced contact tool with tremendous plate coverage and the other is a mountain of a teenager that wasn't even on the preseason Dirty 30 (although he would have been if we would have pushed the list to 35).
As always, these are quick little write ups. We will have a more in-depth write up of each, individual prospect after we complete the list. There, you will find what they do well, what the might not do as well, and some ridiculous comp that will sure prove to be inaccurate with time.
LET'S DO IT
Prospect #10: 3B, Nolan Gorman
Johnson City Cardinals
Drafted 19th overall in the 2018 draft
TO CLARIFY, Nolan Gorman is one of the three best prospects in the organization. Plain and simple. However, one thing that I've been trying to do and trying to teach people is that the expectations of teen-aged players needs to be handled with caution. Don't forget that just two years ago we were all losing our minds after Delvin Perez was drafted. He was a super athletic and potential short stop that hit for contact. He was considered a steal in the draft for the Cardinals, as well. Now, these two are not really anything alike, but, after one season of struggle, many were ready to give up on the teen aged Perez. I don't want to go through this same fan base roller coaster of mangled expectations.
So, instead, we give Gorman the 10th spot on the list as a chance to breathe before the real hype-storm strikes. It's coming, too. Gorman has real power from the left side of the plate. He plays a steady third base and he has a really wonderful arm. Sometimes that arm will force the first baseman to adjust on the bag, as he has a tendency to let his throw draw a little bit. His footwork can get a bit sloppy at third and he doesn't seem super rangy yet, but you can also see that he has the potential to get way better. So far, Gorman has made the plays that he's need to make at third and that's what we want to see.
Gorman has been incredible as a newly-turned 18-year-old in the Appalachian League. That's an advanced assignment for a newly drafted player that is closer to his high school graduation than he is to his first day as a collegiate freshman. What's most impressive about Gorman is that he is hitting for power, both slugging home runs and driving doubles. The ball absolutely fires off of his bat and his quick hands and placement of those hands allow him to wait back and get to off-speed offerings. Gorman appears to have all of the tools to be a top 100 prospect in baseball. He'll be on many of those lists at the end of the season. With a little seasoning he'd probably be the #1 prospect on this list.
Gorman has missed the last weeks worth of contest for an undisclosed reason. I've been told that it isn't anything to be too worried about but that the Cardinals are going to be as cautious with Gorman as they can be. For good reason, too. He has the chance to be a truly unique talent. The type that hasn't come through the system in a very long time.
Prospect #9: RHP, Griffin Roberts
Drafted 43rd overall in the 2018 draft
NO STATS. ROBERTS HASN'T PITCHED YET
"Griffin Roberts" sounds like the name of the lead character of a bounty hunter in a sci-fi movie.
Roberts goes a spot above Gorman simply because he's older and I always go with the college draftee with an advanced secondary offering over any high school draftee. Again, if we are doing this list like the national pundits would, both Gorman and Roberts would be in the top six. I wanna see a little bit more than an inning or so out of Roberts before I'm ready to move him up the list. It took me 32 years to do it, but I'm trying to be responsible for the first time in my life.
So, what makes Roberts such a highly-touted draft pick? That slider, bro! For reals, it's one of the best that I've ever seen from a draft pick. When the Cardinals drafted Dakota Hudson in 2016 we were told that Hudson cutter/slider was one of the best in that draft and that it might be one of the best pitches in the organization upon it's entrance into the organization. Well, Hudson's cutter and his slider have nothing on Roberts' slider when it's on.
I'm not done gushing about that pitch. For my money, Adam Ottavino has the best slider in baseball. Well, I believe that Roberts' slider is just one kick below that pitch when Roberts' is pitching out of the bullpen. Remember that with Roberts, this past season was his first in the Wake Forrest rotation. He had previously been their closer. As you might suspect, his stuff played a lot more violently/hatefully/mean-like towards hitters out of the pen.
That's not to deminish the fastball that he throws. It's sneaky-good and it stays on the same plane, thus tunneling extremely well, with the slider. His other offerings need a bit of work, but I definitely believe that the Cardinals' instructors are going to help him max out those pitches.
At the very worst, Roberts will make it to the major leagues as a reliever so long as he stays healthy. I, however, believe that he has Michael Wacha-like production on his horizon. Every time I watch that slider I can't help but think "this kid might be the early-rounds steal of the draft."
Prospect #8: 3B, Evan Mendoza
Previously Ranked 23rd
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 draft
NC State produces some pretty damn good athletes these days. The 2016 draft brought the Cardinals Andrew Knizner and the 2017 draft gave the Cardinals Mendoza.
After making an incredible impression on the Cardinals at the end of the 2017 that earned him a promotion to Peoria, Mendoza was given the tough task of starting the season off at Palm Beach. Mendoza hit well from the on-set, but he struggled to hit for any type of slug. Then, before that part of his game could come to the forefront, Mendoza was given a deserve promotion as a 21-year-old to Double-A.
Right now, Mendoza is struggling a bit at the plate for Springfield Cardinals, but that's to be expected from a kid that is as young as Mendoza and has yet to develop his slugging potential. His hitting tools his plate coverage, disciple, and contact abilities, and just like Tommy Edman before him, the advanced promotion without sufficient power development time really hurts how the general public perceives his stats. The only thing that I'm worried about with Mendoza is where his AA strike out rate is at. Right now, it's at 18% and that's right in line with where it's been at every level, so far. Being selfish, he'll need to drop that number as he progresses.
Mendoza's defense has the potential to be one of the stronger parts of his game because of his above average arm and range. When I talked with him earlier in the year he expressed his disappointment in regards to that aspect of his game at that point in the season. Since that talk, Mendoza has really cleaned it up and he's been steady and impressive for the Springfield Cardinals. The Cardinals have even give Mendoza a few starts at short stop. We'll have to wait to see how that experiment goes.
Don't let his AA struggles fool you, Mendoza's professionalism, approach, and defensive give him a chance to make a major league impact with the next two season. He's already starting to turn it around for Springfield. Over his last eleven games entering Sunday, Mendoza has slashed 383/420/447/867 in 50 plate appearances. Now, you just sit back and hope that the power comes.
Prospect #7: 3B, Elehuris Montero
International Signing in 2014
The concern with Montero is his defense at third, which has been sub-par for two state-side seasons in a row. More than likely, Montero is a 1B. However, his still only 19-years-old and there's no reason to pull the plug on him as a 3B until you absolutely have to. He's progressively gotten better defensive with the season, so maybe Elehuris has turned the corner. Only time will tell. His K rate and BB rate don't look too impressive on the stat sheet, but he's slowly taken those numbers in their proper-progressive direction.
This 19-year-old has been exceptional this season at Peoria. In the past, and even this season, the Cardinals have been aggressive with some of their younger hitting prospects with good contact tools. Magneuris Sierra, Edmundo Sosa, Dylan Carlson, and Jonathan Machado all come to mind. While most of those players struggled to the point that they needed a break or a demotion, Elehuris Montero just raked and raked and raked until everyone took notice. This time last year, the advanced hitting Carlson's stock rose because he wasn't being embarrassed in the advanced Midwest League. Montero, on the other hand, is embarrassing the Midwest League as we speak. This isn't a fluke. It's not some flash in the pan that will go away. This is "The Montero Movement."
Elehuris does a fantastic job of "staying nside of the ball" as Albert Pujols used to say. What I like most about Montero is how his approach has changed throughout the season. At the beginning of 2018, he was a bit of a free swinger that would gladly sacrifice a K for a big hit. Now, you see that the big swings come in hitters counts. At the same time, you see a more controlled approach in pitchers counts with an emphasis on still driving the ball. Montero does a tremendous job of opening up and turning on inside pitches. He does an OK job of jabbing at the outside stuff, but it always seems a little more defensive than anything.
The concern with Montero is his defense at third, which has been subpar for two state-side seasons in a row. More than likely, Montero is a 1B. However, his still only 19-years-old and there's no reason to pull the plug on him as a 3B until you absolutely have to. He's progressively gotten better defensive with the season, so maybe Elehuris has turned the corner. Only time will tell. His K rate and BB rate don't look too impressive on the stat sheet, but he's slowly taken those numbers in their proper-progressive direction.
Montero is a monster of a man and he is absolutely the next big international prospect in the organization.
Prospect #6: OF, Randy Arozarena
Previously Ranked 11th
Signed as a Free Agent in 2016
While it hasn't been the most flattering season for Arozarena, and while his stats don't match up with the expectations that we all had for him, I am just as high on him as I have ever been.
We would also be lying to ourselves if we said that we didn't see this struggle coming from Arozarena. Remember, during the preseason write up that we took note of how much baseball he had played over the last two years without anything that resembled a vacation from the sport. Remember, we knew that the struggle was coming. He's a player that needs a little bit of rest, especially when he's slumping. This season proves that true, as he's always rebounded well offensively with just a little bit of rest.
What I see out of Arozarena is a change in approach from the beginning of the season to this very moment. He was a little hack-heavy in his early season time at Memphis. I'm guessing that the success that he had in spring training following the success that he had in the Mexican Winter League had him believing that he could hit anything. But that aggressiveness hurt him. After a demotion to Springfield (in which he just made a laughing stock of the league) he found his way back to Memphis and he's been a different hitter ever since. The walks are coming. The strikeouts are down. At one point, the power was virtually gone at AAA, but we've really seen the true version of Randy since the beginning of July.
Even while struggling at the plate, Arozarena's speed on the base paths and in the field have been never fallen off. Randy is a good outfielder. With him in a corner of the outfield and Oscar Mercado in center, I can't for the life of me figure out how a ball drops in the gap. Arozarena has also stolen a fair amount of bases. He's aware on the bases, too. He's first to third and second to home all day, every day.
It might appear to be a disappointing season for Randy from a stats perspective, but I see nothing to diminish his stock as prospect. With so many graduating off of the list in front of him, Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaandy has a future that is every bit as promising as it has ever been.
Fangraphs provides the stats. Thanks to Fangraphs.
Thanks For Reading!