Well, here we are. We actually did it.
Four minor league rosters and four write-ups on those rosters.
I’m so sorry for all of the poor writing. Thanks for hanging in there.
As you probably already know, Palm Beach is no longer the High-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s now the Low-A affiliate. It’s a nice little thing for the organization to have their Low-A affiliate playing at Roger Dean where the rest of the minor leaguers from minor league spring training are working out. It should make it easy to get the youngest players in the system as much training and mentoring as possible. Roger Dean Stadium is a tough hitting environment, and the league is a tough ask for a teenage player. This is as good of a setup as you could hope for in this iteration of minor league baseball.
Before we get too far, here is the 2021 Palm Beach Cardinals Opening Day Roster in all of its glory:
There are a lot of really fun names on this list. Before we get too far, I just wanted to apologize to RHP Jose Moreno, Luis Ortiz, Inohan Paniagua, Emnanuel Solano, and Luis Tena. I’m not going to say anything about these guys because I know relatively nothing about them. I only know them as stat lines and outdated clips online. All of these pitchers have either never played stateside or have had such little time that I don’t really have much to say about any of them. Specifically because, I mean, MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HASN’T BEEN PLAYED IN FOREVER. It’s hard enough to have thoughts or feeling about any of these guys, but it’s DUMB to try to tell you what a teenager/early 20’s-something is, exactly, after going so long without playing MLB-affiliated baseball. Same goes with infielders Franklin Soto and Francisco Hernandez. The lesson to take from this paragraph is that part of the fun of watching and following the 2021 Palm Beach Cardinals will be in learn about these players.
It’s pretty damn cool to see the Cardinals two highest draft picks from 2020, two prep kids, making their organizational debut at a full season affiliate. Good for first baseman/Third baseman Jordan Walker and short stop/RHP Masyn Winn. I’ve talked with a couple of friends in the scouting community who think that there’s an argument to be made that Winn is the best prospect in the organization right now. I won’t speak to that until I see more of him, but what I will say is that he is absolutely in the upper echelon of athletes in the organization, but with natural talent and baseball I.Q. To the fan base, Winn is best known as a two-way player. Every indication is that Winn is going to be the everyday short stop for Palm Beach while staying on some type of throwing program. A potentially dynamic defensive short stop with a well-above average arm and a promising bat with surprise pop for his size, the main story line to follow with Winn will be how many in-game reps he gets off of the mound. Also, I can't wait to see the pop in that bat.
Jordan Walker was the Cardinals first pick in the 2021 draft, and there are a couple of things to really keep an eye on with him. First, he was drafted as a third baseman but with a lot of questions about his ability to stick there. It’ll be fun to find out what kind of strides he’s made over there. If he hasn’t made strides, it’ll be fun to see how much time he is getting at first base. When he was drafted 21st overall, some people thought that it was a bit of a reach because they saw a hole in his swing, but with big power potential. I’ve seen some of the swing change and adjustment that Walker has made, and I can’t wait to see how those changes play out in 2021. I think that he’s going to surprise a lot of people with the type of hitter that he is. He’s a terribly high-character teenager with a second-to-none work ethic. The questions are there and obvious, and Palm Beach is a tough assignment, but I’ll bank that he’s up for the challenge.
Second baseman Donivan Williams is a great athlete that the Cardinals spent a little extra money to keep from college in 2017. There have been times in which he looks like a true prospect, but his baseball skills just haven’t matched his athleticism thus far. For whatever reason, I really root for this kid.
My favorite of the hitting prospects that won’t get the publicity that he deserves is 1B/OF Todd Lott. Lott possess every tool that you’d want from a hitter, specifically a quick and short swing and athleticism for days. The Former Ragin’ Cajun got off to a great start for Johnson City after being drafted in 2019, but fell off like so many draft picks that have had a long college season tend to do. Lott could be a quick riser, and he’s one of those sleepers that I’ll be keeping a close eye.
These two will be sharing an infield with another undrafted free agent from the 2020 draft class, Jacob Buchberger. Buchberger wass highly decorated in both high school and in D2, and he’s another really intriguing athlete. There are a lot of tools here, and I’m anxious to see how they translate from D2 to the minor leagues. There’s a non-zero chance that Buchberger has some Andy Young in his play-style.
My favorite arm on this roster is RHP Francisco Justo, but the main draw for most that follow prospects and the minor leagues is going to be RHP Edwin Nunez. Two completely different pitchers, Justo is command-first with a good feel for a secondary offering and Nunez is all heat. Nunez was signed during the most recent J2 International signing period and I’m kind of surprised by this advanced promotion. I’ve heard some conflicting reports from what the Cardinals are saying about Nunez’s secondary offerings and mechanics, so I will only say that I can’t wait to see if he’s refined any of those pitches. Either way, that 100 MPH fastball is going to turn a lot of heads. While Justo is low-mid 90’s with his fastball, he commands it very well with a potentially above average breaking pitch and a change that still needs work. Justo is as close to a highly-underrated prospect as you’ll find in the Cardinals organization.
The other pitchers that I am going to be keeping an eye on are LHP Levi Prater and RHP Ludwin Jimenez. Prater is a high-character fighter and the 3rd round pick in the 2020 draft. Jimenez is an International free agent. Both of these pitches are polished pitchers, specifically in the command department. Prater’s low 90’s fastball is faster than Jimenez’s 90-ish fastball, but with less life. They both possess interesting breaking pitches, with Jimenez rocking the curve/change with feel and Prater rocking the slider/change combo. I get more and more bullish on Prater with additional viewings.
Shout out to RHP Will Guay who was DAMN good for Johnson City after being drafted in 2019. Guay has a lively arm that’s topped out in the high-90s’ (with some reports of 100+), and he just outmatched those poor Appy League hitters. Also, shout out to RHP Ramon Santos who has seemingly been in the organization forever. I’m also very anxious to see what kind of role RHP undrafted free agent Nick Trogrlic-Iverson has. The righty out of Gonzaga is all pitch-to-contact, but I think that there’s more to be unlocked in there.
The two catchers on the roster are fun. Edgardo Rodriguez is the catcher that the Cardinals acquired in the Randy Arozarena/Matthew Liberatore trade. The last that I heard/saw of him, he was built like a bowling ball and he ran similar to how a bowling ball rolls down a lane. His bat is his carry tool, with an emphasis on hard and consistent contact, and I’m anxious to see that play out in Palm Beach. Carlos Soto has been a prospect with polarizing play; showing some high-promise at times but mostly disappointing. He can really hammer the ball and he can be a good catcher, but he isn’t any type of consistent in any aspect of his game.
I’ll gladly wrap up this write-up and all of these write-ups by talking about one helluva fun outfield grouping. Dominican outfielder Adanson Cruz is probably the least exciting of the group, and he plays the game with nothing but excitement. He’s not much of a power type, and that will go double for his time hitting in Roger Dean. He and Matt Koperniak, another undrafted free agent from the 2020 draft class, probably won’t put fans in seats to start the year. Koperniak, however, could be doing it by the mid-season mark. There are some questions about Koperniak’s defensive capabilities, but his bat can be a lot of fun.
The main outfield trio for Palm Beach should absolutely be Terry Fuller, L.J Jones, and Patrick Romeri.
Terry Fuller is up there with the prospects that I am asked about the most. So, I’ll address those three questions that I’m constantly asked right here and now: Yes, he could still be a major leaguer. No, I have no idea what his ceiling is and I can’t imagine how I’d even go about trying to figure that out. No, I have no idea how he spent his time off. My hope is that he’s spent it becoming more of a baseball player while working out some of the kinks that come with splitting time between being a linebacker and an outfielder at the same time in high school. Fuller has power in barrels, but his swing gets long and pully, and that works against him a lot. There’s been an obviously large amount of time that has passed since he last took the field for an affiliate. I trust this kid’s work ethic, and I’m anxious to see the strides that he’s made. He was still very raw at last viewing, but with a better understanding of the strike zone than you'd anticipate from this type of hitter.
L.J Jones was the Cardinals 5th round selection in the 2020 draft. From what I understand, they really fell in love with him while scouting some of Long Beach State pitchers that were (or will soon be) draft eligible. The right-handed hitting Jones is a big boy with tons of power to all-fields, and he can go gap-to-gap with ease. Jones has dealt with his share of injuries at Long Beach State, and I can’t wait to see what a healthy season at Palm Beach looks like for him.
The last outfielder and rostered player that we are going to talk about is Patrick Romeri. Another one of my personal favorite prospects that I’ve been higher on than most, Romeri is a high baseball I.Q, true baseball player out of the acclaimed I.M.G Academy. He has a tremendous combo of “feel” for the game and natural talent. He strikes out a lot, but he does enough with the rest of his approach to make up for that high K total. Romeri was really damn good for the GCL club in his 2019 draft season, and I can’t help but think and hope that Romeri is going to be a carbon copy-type prospect at every level, from a stat line standpoint. Not many have Romeri as high on their prospect list as I do, and I could easily envision a time in the relatively near future that others end up being more bullish on him than I am. He's a really good defensive corner outfielder, as well.
I was going to write about how RHP Markevian Hence and outfielder Tre Fletcher aren’t on the roster, but this is really all that I’m going to say about it. They both need work, and Fletcher needs more work than Hence does. They’ll be with Palm Beach soon enough, one way or the other, so don’t fret too much over it, dawg. They are both still high-potential prospects with potential major league ceilings.
That’ll do it for our minor league tour! Please do everything that you can to go and visit these parks and these town and these teams! They need our help! Minor League Baseball is THE BEST, and we should treat it accordingly. LONG LIVE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL!!
Thanks to the sex-god @Cardinalsgifs for the picture of the gorgeous Cardinals logo over Roger Dean Stadium. I guess we’ll do this stupid stuff for at least another year, huh bud? Lol
Mr. Flores, let me interview you.
Thanks For Reading!!