I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.
I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).
There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.
Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each post, and I've done some SERIOUS editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please let me know what you think!
2B/3B Brendan Donovan
Peoria and a taste of Memphis
7th Round, 2018
Brendan Donovan can flat out hit. If you had to pick a player from the 2018 draft that profiles as a major league bat in the same vein as Paul DeJong, Andy Young, Tommy Edman, or Andrew Knizner did as prospects, it'd be Donovan and Donovan alone.
Maybe what I mean is, all four were collegiate players that were drafted in the fourth round or later that flew below the radar until they were on the cusp of the majors at the upper-levels of the minors. That's kind of what Donovan feels like, to me. All four showed an advanced feel in the minors for the strike zone. While all four had their flaws at the plate, they were all smart, adaptive, and professional enough to work past what would limit them as "only minor leaguers." Donovan fits this profile. I can't imagine anyone being higher on Donovan than I am, and my assumption is that this is going to be over-aggressive. I've gotta see how he looks at the upper-levels, and my hope is that we aren't having a repeat of the Evan Mendoza situation, but I'm sticking with my over-aggressive ranking anyway.
Donovan is an all-fields hitter, and he can use his modest power to all fields. He hit 8 home runs, and 29 additional extra-base hits in 480 plate appearances during the 2019 season in the Midwest League. The eight home runs might seem like a modest amount, and it is, but there's substantially more raw power in both his frame and his swing. I don't think the gifs do a good enough of a job to show you just how strongly build Donovan is. He's SOLIDLY built. He'll get a little aggressive with the hat-mullet, too, and I know that'll make @Cardinalsgifs happy.
In 482 plate appearances, Donovan hit 268/380/409. This was hurt greatly by a month of May in which he hit 182/270/293 in 111 plate appearances. I know it's very selective, but this only tells part of the story. Donovan suffered an awful three week stretch in which he hit 154/247/231 over an 18 game and 73 plate appearance stretch between May 1st and May 20th. This three week stretch absolutely killed his season averages, and his season averages weren't even bad!
Then, from May 21st until the end of the season, a span of 335 plate appearances, Donovan hit 299/412/460 with six home runs, 21 doubles, and three triples. In the prior three weeks, his strikeout rate was about 34%. From May 21st until the end of the season, it was 17.3%, and that goes along with a walk rate of 14.9%. His wRC+ over this time period? That'd be 155. And this includes the month of August in which the Midwest League really adjusted to him, especially in regards to the shift. He remedied this by beating the shift and staying selective at the plate. It is worth noting that the adjustment that he made cost him some of the slug that was blossoming, but he did what he had to do to get on base. He probably over-adjusted to the shift, and I'm anxious to see how that continues. Obviously, finding a happy medium is going to be important for continued success and intrigue.
You'll notice in every one of the gifs in this article that there is very little in the way of wasted motion in his swing. His power will be limited because that swing is meant for line drives, so i love that he always seems to be shooting for the gaps. Most of his over-the-wall power is going to come when he's sitting on something low in the zone or when someone hangs something on the inner-half of the plate to him. It's definitely worth mentioning that Donovan went homerless over his last 39 games of the season (spanning 165 plate appearances).
I obviously love the sustainability of Donovan's swing. It's quick through the zone, and it stays in the zone for a long time. He tailors his approach to match the count, and he won't be beaten by breaking pitches from like-handed pitchers. Donovan also doesn't back down in an at-bat. You'll get a feel for all of these things in the next gif. It's a home run off of highly thought of Padres prospect Ryan Weathers:
The issue for Donovan is going to be if he can commit to one approach, and how committed he'll stay to the approach that he eventually commits to. It was very encouraging to see him bust out in a big way of the cold stretched he experienced early in the season. However, the further you climb up the MiLB ladder the more difficult it is to rebound from bad stretches like that. Again, finding approach-consistency is key here. He also has a tendency to do that thing that Harrison Bader does with his lower-half in which he, like, squats as he swings. The less he does it the more dangerous he is (just like Bader, which is something that we've been talking about for years). I also wonder if a bit larger of a leg-kick would do wonders for him, but I'd be reluctant to screw with much of his swing.
If Tommy Edman only hit left-handed, he'd be Brendan Donovan. Donovan got two at-bats at AAA to end the season, and the gif was his first AAA hit. It was a double to the LCF gap off of a lefty:
While Donovan played second base almost exclusively during the 2019 season, he's more than capable of playing third. He played there a lot in college, as a matter of fact. I'd really like to see him get a ton of reps there during the 2020 season. I'd anticipate it, considering how much of an emphasis the Cardinals have put on developing utility players in the last couple of years. Hell, I think that he's athletic enough to handle shortstop in spurts if given the chance, and I'm hopeful that we'll get to see it in 2020. The only big knock I have in regards to Donovan is that he seems to have both average speed and an average arm. I haven't seen enough of his arm at third to make a determination yet, but it seems above average on longer throws at second base. We'll chalk it up to being average right now, and we will wait, hopeful, for stronger returns. After watching him motor around the bases for 30 non-homer extra base hits, I can tell you that he is faster/quicker/a better base runner than he is being given credit for.
Donovan is a quick-swinging, all-fields hitting, patient hitter with a knack for finding the gaps. There are questions about his power potential and what kind of position versatility he'll have, but there is proof that he's capable of handling both second and third. It won't be spectacular, but it will be solid.
As successful as his 2019 season was, he battled approach consistency all of the way through the season. He's going to need to find an approach sweet spot if he's going to max out. Also, it's worth mentioning that some of his success might have been inflated because he was an older hitter for the Midwest League. Hopefully we'll see him at Springfield sooner rather than later.
Donovan has quickly become one of my favorite prospects in the organization. As most of you know, I had a love affair with former Cardinals' prospects Andy Young and Randy Arozarena, as well as current Cardinals Ryan Helsley and Andrew Knizner. Brendan Donovan is the leader in the clubhouse for the next wave of my personal favorite prospects with a chance at a major league impact similar to those four players. All that he has to do is keep doing what he did at the end of 2019.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. We are so very lucky.
Thanks For Reading!!