OK, so this is the second roster rundown that I’ve begun and I’m already tired or writing.
Anyway, thanks for coming back for the nonsense!
Today, we’ll go over the newly minted High-A affiliated Peoria Chiefs 2021 roster.
Before we get into it, here’s the roster in all of its glory:
Now, let me tell you why this is my favorite of the four rosters, and why I decided to write about Peoria before Springfield and Palm Beach.
The Peoria roster is the roster that we’ll be watching to finally get to see a lot of the 2019 draft picks that we were left most curious about entering the now lost 2020 MiLB season (holy "wordy", Batman). It’ll also be the home of some of the more intriguing International prospects, as well as a couple of the fun prospects from the 2020 draft class.
Let’s start with the 2020 draft picks and move backwards.
Mizzou righty Ian Bedell was the Cardinals’ 4th round pick in 2020, and it took well above-slot value to lock him in. Bedell is as known for embracing modern analytics and methods as he is for his above-average college pitching. Bedell has shown the ability to pitch to contact and to pitch for strike outs, and he’s had varying level of velocities throughout the years. He has a feel for his breaking pitch and offspeed offering that you can only beg for out of most 4th round picks. If you were to read all of the scouting reports available online about Bedell and combine them into one report, it would say that Bedell throws every imaginable and all of the time. Sounds fun, to me.
The Cardinals selected Alec Burleson with their 2nd round pick (4th pick in their draft) in the 2020 draft. Burleson is going to play the outfield for the Chiefs, but he also has the ability to play 1st. Burleson also pitched in college, but that’s going to be the fallback for him if his hitting career doesn’t take off. Burleson is contact/eye first, but there’s more power to be had in there. Burleson is a highly-decorated college baseball player, and I love that the Cardinals continue to go in that direction.
Because of the nature of the shortened five-round draft in 2020, a lot of good players that otherwise would have been drafted went undrafted. One of these players is outfielder Matt Chamberlain, a 22-year-old left-handed swinging outfielder out of the University of New Haven. This is an aggressive assignment for the true centerfielder. His power is still developing, but he’s a speedy kid that’s very intelligent on the diamond. He is also the type of high-character leader that all teams covet. Another positive, Chamberlain is the type that has always struck out less than he’s walked. He actually reminds me a lot of Scott Hurst. Or Scott Hurst as a collegiate outfielder, that is. His success is going to be fun to watch. LHP Mac Lardner out of Gonzaga is another undrafted free agent with great command and a consistently sub-90s' fastball that’ll be interesting to watch. Love that change, though.
Even with my love for Bedell and Burleson, the big draw for the Chiefs, to me, are the combo of third baseman Malcom Nunez and right fielder Jhon Torres. Two of the most promising young bats in the organization, both of these young men are making a huge jump from the Appy League in 2019 to High-A in 2021 (although both spent about a week to ten games with then Low-A Peoria around the 2019 all-star break). Both of these young men have big bats with noisy potential. Unfortunately, they both have some questions in their game. While they both dealt with nagging injuries in 2019, Nunez’s big question is if he’ll be able to keep himself in good enough shape to stick at third while rediscovering his power. He's dealt with both neck and back problems in the past, and I'm hopeful that he's beyond those issues now.Torres just needs to keep refining and growing. If I had to pick one prospect outside of the top five in the organization that could potentially be the #1 prospect in the organization by the end of the season, I’d pick Torres. He has power, speed, defense, and approach in his arsenal, but rarely at the same time. He’s a high motor and a high energy outfielder, and you have to love that.
The next draw for Peoria is the large group of draft picks from the 2019 draft. RHP’s Logan Gragg, Connor Lunn, Jack Ralston, and Michael YaSenka are the arms from that draft. YaSenka made easy work of the overmatched Appy League in 2019, and I can’t wait to see him go up against better competition. Connor Lunn is a swing-type righty with a very good slider that should be able to help eat innings. Ralston has a big time curve and better fastball than he is given credit for. The Cardinals have reportedly already committed the right-hander out of UCLA to the bullpen, but I have no doubt that he could be a starter. Gragg, my favorite of the group, pitched impressively for then Low-A Peoria during the 2019 season after being drafted. His stuff can be really good and he can get his fastball into the mid 90’s. If I had to pick the next version of Tommy Parsons in the organization, Gragg would be my kneejerk reactive answer.
The other two players from the 2019 draft that are on the Peoria roster are utility fielder Chandler Redmond and catcher Pedro Pages. Both of these guys are on the current iteration of the Dirty Thirty-Five, and both possess a hit tool that could potentially carry them. At last glance, Pages still needed a good deal of work behind the plate, albeit with a damn strong arm. When he’s dialed in, Pages lives in the opposite field gap, and works gap-to-gap. Pages always looks comfortable at the plate, too. It’s a hard thing to explain, but you know it when you see it. Redmond is a hogmolly of a human being, and his raw, country-type power is something to see. Don’t be mistaken, though, Redmond isn’t the type to sellout for power. He possesses a good contact tool and he takes a little off of his swing when he’s working from behind. That is not to say that he doesn't need to cut down on the strikeouts, because he absolute does. Also, Redmond has the potential to be one of those left-handed swingers that isn’t overmatched by left-handed pitching. The former 32nd rounder is one helluva sleeper, and he can play all over the diamond. He's a big boy at 240 lb-ish, but he had the athleticism to handle second. Most will typecast him into first base long term, but I am not there yet.
Outside of these grouping of prospects, a couple of my other personal favorite prospects are on this roster. Second baseman Brendan Donovan is a sleeper prospect, too. He’s flirted with the top twenty-five of The Dirty Thirty-Five, but few know him outside of our little prospect community here at Birds On The Black and Prospects after Dark. He’s a deceptive athlete with good speed, a good eye, and a good contact tool. After getting off to a slow start in 2019, Donovan ended up being one of the more complete bats in the organization. Cardinals fans will love him because he’s capable of beating the shift. I was a bit surprised that the Cardinals weren’t more aggressive with Donovan, but I also have no doubt that he’ll work to earn a promotion (as long as he trusts himself and doesn’t press) in the near future.
First baseman Brady Whalen has long been one of those prospects with a ton of potential but without the ability to put it all together all at once. Sometimes he's walking a lot. Sometimes he's striking out a lot. Sometimes he's hitting for power a lot. Just never all at once. He’s a flashy defensive first baseman, as well. I’m anxious to see if he’ll be playing some outfield here and there.
Infielder Imeldo Diaz is one of those players that I’ve never been able to figure out. He’s over-performed advanced promotions and under-performed under-promotions. He was very inconsistent in both 2018 and 2019, but he’s also a lot of fun to watch. He's never going to walk a lot or hit for power that will carry, but he makes hard contact, and often. A lot of these same characteristics can be said for infielder Moises Castillo, as well. Castillo is more of a polished hitter from an approach standpoint, but with less noise.
Outfielder Leandro Cedeno was one of the worst defensive outfielders that I had ever seen in 2019, and he definitely took that to the plate with him. I LOVE Leandro still, and I’m hopeful that he took some of the time off to really work on his athleticism and defense. There are few prospects in the organization that have the true raw power that he has.
Not to beat up on catchers Cristhian Longa and Zade Richardson, but I don’t have much to say about either. There are a lot of moving parts ahead of them in the organization, and I’m anxious to see where they are both playing in a month. Richardson was also from the 2019 draft class, and I feel guilty for not lumping him in with the other 2019 draft picks. I wish them both a ton of luck.
Wrapping this up, the other pitchers that I am going to be keeping a close eye on are RHP’s Leonardo Taveras, Freddy Pacheco, and Wilfredo Pereira, as well as LHP Ian Oxnevad. Taveras and Pacheco both have the ability to strike everyone out (right around 30% of hitters for both in 2019), but they both have serious command issues. They do it a little differently, as Taveras is 6’5” and Pacheco is 5’11”. Pereira is built like Pacheco, but success is the other way around for him; he’s more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher.
Ian Oxnevad is a fun story, as it’s been basically seventy years since he last pitched! I KID, DAMMIT. No, the last time that Oxnevad pitched was on September 2nd of freaking 2018. So, if you think it’s been a long layoff for all of the minor leaguers because of the lost 2020 season, imagine how Oxnevad is feeling! Circumstances aside, Oxnevad always possessed one of the best pickoff moves in minor league baseball, and he also always seemed to profile more as a LOOGY. However, if I know anything about Oxnevad it’s that he’s a smart kid and a hard worker. Being a LOOGY in a day and age where LOOGY’s are extinct just won’t be good enough for Ian. I’m really rooting for him!
I feel like a complete jackass for not dedicating more time to right-handed pitchers Cole Aker (who I’ve liked a lot when I’ve watched him) and Michael Brettell, and left-handed pitchers Fabian Blanco (who has always been effective), Nathanael Heredia (who I’ve been told is a big time sleeper), Evan Sisk (I'm putting something inside of parenthesis so he's not the only one without parenthesis), and Jacob Schlesener (who could be an absolute stud if he could just stop walking everyone). Shout out to all of you. You are all amazing and I love you. Please marry me.
Anyway, go watch minor league baseball. I’ll be in Peoria for the game on Saturday the 15th in row 108. Stop by and say “hello.”
Thanks again to the incomparable @Cardinalsgifs for the Peoria logo over Dozer Park! Go out and see a minor league game.
Mr. Flores, let me interview you.
Thanks For Reading!!