Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Tommy Edman - Utility Infielder, But More
Drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 draft
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
If there was a story about a prospect that was as much of an underestimated prospect as he is an impressive young man, that would be the story of Tommy Edman.
The first thing that you need to know about our main character is that he is a switch-hitter, and he can hold his own from both sides of the plate. In 430 plate appearances as a left-handed batter, Edman hit 291/344/389 with five home runs and 19 additional extra base hits. He did this while walking 7.7% of the time and striking out about 14% of the time.
All of this is average-or-better for the type of role that Edman would/will play with the Cardinals.
Then, as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching, Edman hit 331/385/438 with two home runs and eight doubles in 144 plate appearances. As a right-handed hitter, Edman walked right at 7% of the time and struck out 18.8% of the time.
Once again, all of this would be more-than acceptable for the role that he would/will play with the Cardinals. Keep an eye on this swing and compare it to his left-handed swing. You'll notice how this one is engineered for more power almost immediately:
So, the obvious question is "what is this role that you are eluding to?"
Before we get to that, let's talk about one of the issues that the Cardinals have had over the last couple of years. While they've tried to utilize guys like Greg Garcia or Yairo Muñoz in the super-utility infield role, none of them have ever taken the bull by the horns. Yairo brought a nice little bat, but he lacked what you'd want defensively in that role. Also, he didn't hit left-handed. The Cardinals have needed the left-handed hitting middle-infield option for years, and they haven't had it since Daniel Descalso. Even then, that version of Daniel Descalso wasn't the version of Descalso that we've seen over the last two years, or so.
Thus, the role that Tommy Edman seems destined to fill is that particular role, if he keeps on this developmental trajectory. This is made even better because Edman is a better short stop defensively than Greg Garcia ever was, with the chance to be just as good at second and a "push" at third. His arm is good and his range is good, and he makes plays like this one frequently (great stretch by Stefan Trosclair at first, too):
All of this is made even better because Edman is such a useful hitter against both lefties and righties. That's something that his predecessors were never able to put together. Pair that with how polished of an infielder he is, and you can start to see what is going to keep him in the majors for awhile (once he eventually makes it there(. With only Drew Robinson really standing in his way (and Drew Robinson is a Yairo Muñoz-esque infielder), I'd expect to see Edman with the Cardinals by September.
Needless to say, I am very bullish on Tommy Edman.
There are some things that I'd like to see Edman work on. First, 2018 was the first season that he's spent roaming the diamond in a utility role and it was obvious, at times. I view him as a polished utility infielder at the minor league level, but he's going to need to continue to grow at third and second to be that at the next level. Especially at third base, where he gets a little too fidgety and rushed. As the season progressed and he got better and better at second and third, his defense at short trailed off a little bit. So, one big thing for Edman will be his continued development as a consistent and complete-package infielder all around the diamond.
As I gush on and on about his abilities and the high-likelihood of his eventual major league role, I also need to be clear that Edman probably isn't the type of player that you'd want to be an everyday player at the major league level. My instincts tell me that he'd be fine in that role, but the chances of it actually happening are worth hedging against. I could see him being an average starting short stop or second baseman for a 2nd division team, but his ultimate value will be in his ability to get 350-450 at-bats as a super-utility hitter. There's a good chance that anything more will just be over-exposure.
What I know for a fact is that Edman did a great job of holding his own upon receiving an advanced promotion to Springfield during the 2017 season. He never should have received that promotion, but he did. That's just how it works some times. I only mention that now because, often times, those types of promotions end up really hurting a player's development in the long run. It did not have that effect on Edman, and that goes to show you how smart he is, how athletic he is, how good at adjusting he is, and how calm of a competitor he is.
Now that I've scraped the bottom of the barrel in search of the downside of Tommy Edman as I basically say that "he's all floor with limited ceiling," I'm back on his bandwagon as I tell you that Edman is one of these baseball players that just "GETS" the sport.
He has an extremely high baseball IQ to match his extremely high... IQ (god, I'm terrible at this). The Stanford major of mathematics and computing or computation or something that I'm not nearly smart enough to understand is just on another level of intelligence than your average person or baseball player or dummy who writes about prospects.
Because of his IQ in the realm of baseball, he does things like run the bases - and what MLB's average television demographic of 55-year-old white males call "the fundamentals" - better than most. He's the kind of base-runner that will go first to third on a ball hit to the left fielder near the gap that the left fielder cuts off before it gets to the wall. As a matter of fact, while he isn't nearly the fastest or quickest player in the organization (he does have tremendous speed), Edman is the best base-burglar that the Cardinals' have in their system. Last year he was 30 for 35 in stolen base attempts. Then, he stole five bases on six attempts in the Arizona Fall League. Speaking of the AFL, Edman received a limited 55 plate appearances in the league. In those 55 PA, Edman walked ten times and struck out seven times, while primarily working on his approach. You've gotta love those kind of results!
Edman is the type of player that you can count on to make as few mistakes as possible. He's scrappy and small and fundamentally sound, and Cardinals' Nation is going to love him.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While a betting man might bet against Tommy Edman as an everyday infielder at the major league level, I don't think that I'm one of those people. I believe that his ultimate role will be that of a switch-hitting super-utility infielder, but there is the potential for more than that from this baseball-IQ-rich, Stanford grad. With just an injury or two ahead of him, Edman could easily make his major league debut at some point during the 2019 season, with 2020 as a more likely timeline. Edman might not bring the most home run pop, but his bat will be able to hold it's own. His 106 wRC+ at A+ in 2017 followed by matching 108 wRC+'s at AA and AAA in 2018 is the perfect way of describing Edman as a hitter.
MAY 1st UPDATE
For real? Just read everything that I say above because it's exactly that. Although he has struggled over the last week. So, whatever.
I am always thankful to FanGraphs for the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!