Re-ranking Cardinals top prospects – Masyn Winn moves into top spot, seven players new to organization in last year make the list

By Rob Rains

With all of the changes that have happened for the Cardinals at the major-league level this season, it’s not surprising that the annual re-ranking of the top prospects in the organization has experienced a lot of change as well.

The list has a new number one player. Four players who were on the list in 2022 have graduated to the major leagues. Five of the players who were ranked last year have dropped off the list this year.

Seven players on this year’s list were not in the organization when this season began, including five acquired in trades at this year’s Aug. 1 deadline. One newcomer was selected in this year’s draft and one was signed as an international free agent. Three players who made the list were in the organization a year ago but were unranked.

This is the eighth consecutive year that STLSportsPage has re-ranked the top prospects in the Cardinals’ organization following the amateur draft and the trading deadline.

Before revealing the complete list of the top 23 prospects for 2023, a reminder about the standard disclaimers for those who might be new to this list – players 25 or older are not eligible. Also, these rankings are based on potential for major-league success, not how close a player is to reaching the majors, which is part of the reason four teenagers are included.

The list of players who graduated from the 2022 rankings to the majors this year include the top-ranked player, Jordan Walker, as well as the players ranked fifth (Matthew Liberatore), sixth (Alec Burleson) and seventh (Zack Thompson).

Dropping off the list from a year ago – primarily because of injuries or the arrival of all of the new players in the organization – were Inohan Paniagua, ranked 13th last year, Jose Davila (16th), Luis Pino (19th), Alec Willis (21st) and Ryan Loutos (22nd).

As is always the case, the rankings include one additional player to watch from each of the Cardinals five U.S. based affiliates – Memphis, Springfield, Peoria, Palm Beach and the rookie Complex League.

All statistics are through games of Aug. 7.

Here is the STLSportsPage re-ranking of the top 23 players in the Cardinals organization for 2023:

  1. Masyn Winn

Last year’s ranking: 2

The Cardinals have never had a doubt about Winn’s ability to play shortstop, and play it well, at the major-league level. The question that they wanted answered at Triple A this season was how well he could hit. Winn, the 54th overall pick in the 2020 draft, had no trouble answering that question. Since July 1, Winn has posted a .345 average with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 27 games. He is prepared for a promotion to the majors before this season is over and at the age of 21 has established himself as the early favorite to be the Cardinals starting shortstop in 2024. As well as he has succeeded on the field, Winn also earns high marks for his leadership abilities from all of those who have spent time around him.

Major-league ETA: September

  1. Tink Hence

Last year’s ranking: 4

Hence has been brought along slowly by the Cardinals but the steady progress he has made has established him not only as the best pitching prospect in the organization but as one of the top prospects in baseball. The righthander celebrated his 21st birthday on Sunday but still has not been allowed to go more than five innings in any of his 16 starts this season, split between Peoria and Springfield. As the Cardinals search for pitchers with swing and miss stuff, Hence stands out with his 72 strikeouts in 66 innings this season, holding opponents to a .207 average in his five starts in Double A. A good season at Triple A next year should have Hence on the cusp of his major-league debut a year from now.

Major-league ETA: September 2024

  1. Ivan Herrera

Last year’s ranking: 8

When Herrera was in the majors briefly this summer, the Cardinals saw a big difference in his performance from a year ago, both offensively and defensively, and that has them encouraged about his future. Herrera has been regarded as the top catching prospect in the organization for years but is still only 23, which prompted the signing of free agent Willson Contreras last winter to succeed Yadier Molina. After a much-improved season at Memphis as well, where he has raised his average from .268 to .301, Herrera should be able to challenge for more playing time at the major-league level next season.

Major-league ETA: September  

  1. Chase Davis

Last year’s ranking: not in the organization last year

The first newcomer to the rankings, Davis was the Cardinals’ first-round selection in the June draft out of the University of Arizona where he hit both for average (.362) and power (17 homers). A lefthanded hitting outfielder, Davis, 21, was assigned to Class A Palm Beach to begin his pro career where he has gotten off to a slow start, (8-of-39 in his first 12 games) not surprising as he adjusts to using a wooden bat. This season will all be about making the adjustments to playing pro ball, getting Davis prepared for his first full professional season in 2024.

Major-league ETA: 2026

  1. Gordon Graceffo

Last year’s ranking: 3

Shoulder inflammation has limited Graceffo to 12 starts and 55 innings this season at Memphis, stalling the progress the 23-year-old righthander should have made this season. That’s the biggest reason for his dropping two spots in the rankings from a year ago. It would not be surprising to see the Cardinals place Graceffo in the Arizona Fall League, trying to make up for some of the lost innings during the regular season. If he gets that chance, pitching well in Arizona could put him back on track to compete for a spot at the major-league level, either as starter or in the bullpen, next spring.

Major-league ETA: 2024

  1. Won-Bin Cho

    Last year’s ranking: 14

One of the fastest risers in this year’s rankings, the 19-year-old outfielder from South Korea has spent the season at Palm Beach, moving up from the rookie Complex League where he played in his first pro season in 2022. All of his offensive statistics are much improved, including a .262 average, five homers and 25 stolen bases, from his performance a year ago when he was slowed by injuries. Scouts believe Cho has the defensive talent to stick in center field and that he just needs to play to continue to gain the experience to let his skills develop.

Major-league ETA: 2027

  1. Tekoah Roby

    Last year’s ranking: not in the organization

The highest-ranked of the five players acquired by the Cardinals at this year’s trade deadline included in this list, Roby is recovering from a shoulder injury which has kept him from pitching since early June. The Cardinals believe the 21-year-old righthander will pitch competitively again this season and like with Graceffo they might try to make up some of his lost innings in the Fall League. A third-round pick in 2020 out of high school by the Rangers, Roby profiles as a mid-rotation starter as long as he is healthy. He has 211 strikeouts in 173 innings so far in his minor-league career.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Victor Scott II

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Scott was the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick out of West Virginia in the 2022 draft so he had barely played when last year’s rankings came out. He has quickly made his presence felt in 2023, however, earning a trip to the Futures Game, a promotion to Double A Springfield and establishing himself as one of the top basestealers in the minors with 73 so far combined between his stay in Peoria and Springfield, where he has posted a .341 average in his first 30 games. Scott, 22, also is regarded as an elite defender, with the only question about his future being how well he will continue to hit as he moves up through the organization.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Leo Bernal

Last year’s ranking: 17

Even though Bernal, a 19-year-old switch-hitting catcher was back at Palm Beach for a second consecutive year, the improvement in his game in 2023 is reflected by his significant jump up in these rankings. Like Herrera, Bernal is a native of Panama who scouts project will have the necessary skills offensively and defensively to remain behind the plate as he progresses through the organization.

Major-league ETA: 2027

  1. Thomas Saggese

Last year’s ranking: Not in the organization

Acquired with Roby in the deadline deal that sent Jordan Montgomery to Texas, Saggese was immediately labeled a “Brendan Donovan type” player by the Cardinals because of his ability to play multiple positions. That wasn’t all that was attractive about Saggese, 21,who has posted a collective .299 average in his three-year minor-league career after being selected by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft out of high school in California. At Double A this season, first in Frisco and now in Springfield, Saggese has hit for a .312 average with 16 homers and 79 RBIs in 99 games.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Sem Robberse

Last year’s ranking: Not in the organization

Also new to the Cardinals’ organization is Robberse, a 21-year-old righthanded pitcher who came from the Blue Jays in the Jordan Hicks trade. A native of the Netherlands, Robberse pitched in the Futures Game this year. He made 18 starts at Double A before the trade, then joined Memphis, where he was roughed up in his first start. He is more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher than one generates a lot of swings and misses, but still has averaged almost a strikeout per inning in his four years in the minors.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Cooper Hjerpe

Last year’s ranking: 10

The Cardinals’ first round pick in the 2022 draft, Hjerpe saw his first pro season interrupted this year by an elbow injury that required season-ending surgery while pitching at Peoria. The lefthander, 22, made only eight starts before he went on the injured list at the end of May. In his last start on May 23 Hjerpe worked six no-hit innings. Without the injury Hjerpe likely would have been pitching at Double A Springfield by the end of this season, but now might have to repeat part of 2024 at Peoria.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Michael McGreevy

    Last year’s ranking: 11

The righthanded McGreevy earned a quick promotion from Springfield to Memphis this season and has made 17 starts for the Redbirds with generally positive results, including a 4.32 ERA. The Cardinals’ first-round pick in the 2021 draft, the 23-year-old McGreevy is more of a pitch to contact pitcher, who does get some strikeouts, but who has allowed more hits than innings pitched this season. The 2024 season will be an important one for him to see where he will fit best at the major-league level as either a starter or potential reliever.

Major-league ETA: 2024 

  1. Edwin Nunez

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Nunez, a hard-throwing righthanded reliever, has appeared in these rankings in past years – coming in as high as seventh on the 2021 list – but dropped off the list last year because of his inconsistency with throwing strikes. That problem has improved this season, which Nunez, 21, has split between Palm Beach and Peoria while continuing to average more than a strikeout per inning. Before this season he had averaged almost a walk per inning, but has cut that total about in half this season.

Major-league ETA: 2026

  1. Jonathan Mejia

    Last year’s ranking: 12

For the second year in a row Mejia, now 18, is the youngest prospect on this list. A switch-hitting shortstop signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2022, Mejia has spent most of this season in the rookie Complex League. Even though he has posted only a .162 average between that team and Palm Beach, the Cardinals believe Mejia will hit for a higher average and show more power as he gets older. They also expect him to be able to play well enough defensively to stick at shortstop as he moves up the organization.

Major-league ETA: 2028

  1. Joshua Baez

Last year’s ranking: 15

It’s been a slow start to his pro career for Baez, the Cardinals’ second round pick in 2021 out of a Boston area high school, but the Cardinals still believe the 20-year-old outfielder has the size, strength and tools to develop into a power hitter. He has seven home runs this year for Palm Beach, a tough spot for hitters, but still has struck out too much – 88 times in 220 at-bats, which has been a problem all three years of his career. One positive for Baez is that he has been healthier this year after missing most of 2022 because of injuries, playing in only 32 games.

Major-league ETA: 2028

  1. Brycen Mautz

Last year’s ranking: 20

The lefthanded Mautz has spent his first pro season at Palm Beach, making 19 starts and striking out more than a hitter per inning. The second-round pick in the 2022 draft out of the University of San Diego, Mautz has posted a 3.39 ERA while holding opponents to a .216 average. The 22-year-old likely is on a pace to reach Double A in 2024, which will put him on the doorstep of competing for a spot on the major-league staff.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Chen-Wie Lin

       Last year’s ranking: Not in the organization

The first player signed by the Cardinals as an international free agent out of Taiwan in July, Lin is a 21-year-old, 6-foot-7 righthander who pitched in college in his native country and also played in the summer Northwoods League in 2022 and in the MLB Draft league this year, displaying an explosive fastball. He is beginning his pro career at the rookie Complex League, where he had four strikeouts in his first two games covering 4 2/3 innings.

Major-league ETA: 2027

  1. Moises Gomez

       Last year’s ranking: 9

The 2023 season was always going to be a tough one for Gomez after he led all the minor leagues with 39 home runs a year ago. Playing at Memphis, Gomez has still hit for power with 23 homers, but has only managed a .232 average, down from the combined .294 he hit at Springfield and Memphis last year. Gomez also is a year older, now 24, and could be limited to mostly DH duties if he does get a chance at the major-league level.

Major-league ETA: 2024

  1. Adam Kloffenstein

Last year’s ranking: Not in the organization

A 22-year-old righthander, the 6-foot-5 Kloffenstein was acquired in the deadline deal with Toronto for Jordan Hicks. Immediately promoted from Double A, where he had a 3.24 ERA in 17 starts, Kloffenstein had an impressive debut with Memphis, allowing just one run over five innings. Drafted by the Blue Jays in the third round in 2018 out of a Texas high school, Kloffenstein has averaged more than a strikeout per inning throughout his minor-league career.

Major-league ETA: 2025 

  1. Ian Bedell

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

The Cardinals’ 2020 draft has received a great deal of attention because of the success of Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Tink Hence and Alec Burleson, but now here comes Bedell, the fourth-round pick that year out of the University of Missouri. Bedell, 23, is a righthander who has posted a big season at Peoria after recovering from two elbow surgeries that limited him to just 8 1/3 innings total in 2021 and 2022. This year he has started 14 games and made 22 appearances for the Chiefs, averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a 2.32 ERA.

Major-league ETA: 2025

  1. Jeremy Rivas

Last year’s ranking: 18

Rivas was the youngest player in the Cardinals’ major-league spring training camp and the 20-year-old has spent the season as the regular shortstop at Peoria, where has hasn’t quite matched the offensive production he had last year at Palm Beach. Rivas earns praise for his defensive skills and his high baseball IQ but likely is going to have to cut down on his strikeout total (80 in 326 at-bats) as he moves up through the organization since he probably is not going to hit for much power.

Major-league ETA: 2027

  1. Zack Showalter

Last year’s ranking: Not in the organization

A 19-year-old righthander, Showalter was one of three players acquired by the Cardinals from the Orioles in the Jack Flaherty trade. He was Baltimore’s 11th-round pick out of a Florida high school in the 2022 draft. He didn’t pitch last summer and this season made nine starts combined in rookie ball and Class A before the trade, recording 41 strikeouts in 30 innings. He was assigned to Palm Beach but has yet to pitch for that team.

Major-league ETA: 2027

Here is the list of additional players to watch from each of the Cardinals’ five U.S.-based affiliates:

Memphis – Another player in the Flaherty trade was Cesar Prieto, a 24-year-old lefthanded hitting infielder. A native of Cuba, Prieto was in his second season in the Orioles system and was hitting .364 in Double A before the trade.

Springfield – One position where the Cardinals have built up quality depth in the farm system is behind the plate. The presence of Herrera in Memphis has kept Pedro Pages at Double A this season, where the 24-year-old has earned rave reviews from scouts for his defense and also has hit 13 homers.

Peoria – The pipeline of catchers continues at Peoria with Jimmy Crooks, the Cardinals’ fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft out of Oklahoma. The 22-year-old lefthanded hitter has eight homers and 48 RBIs in 87 games.

Palm Beach – Drafted one round in front of Crooks last year was Pete Hansen, a 23-year-old lefthander from Texas. He has spent his first pro season in the Palm Beach rotation, going 8-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts and recording 98 strikeouts in 88 innings.

Complex League – Acquired by the Cardinals from Toronto for Genesis Cabrera, Sammy Hernandez is a 19-year-old catcher. In his first five games after the trade, Hernandez went 4-of-12 with a triple and two home runs. He was a 14th round pick out of a Florida high school in 2022.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Photo of Masyn Winn by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports

About stlsportspage 2418 Articles
For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out Rob Rains, Editor.