10. Randy Arozarena – LF, Age: 23, Level: Springfield, Previous Rank: 11
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Randy Arozarena is way too good for Double-A but keeps getting sent there because the Cardinals have had an outfield log-jam at Double and Triple-A for over a year now and refused to address it. The situation has victimized Arozarena who, even though he hasn’t put up sterling numbers in the PCL, absolutely deserves to be there. It’s pretty obvious a player is too advanced for the level if they are hitting over .400.
The weird thing about Randy is that the numbers don’t suggest he’s been overmatched with Memphis. His strikeout rate is lower than it is in Springfield and he’s drawing more walks. He just hasn’t been able to make as much hard contact. He needs time to adjust to Triple-A pitching, but he’s gotten sent down twice. Even when he’s been in Memphis, he shares an outfield with Mercado, O’Neill, and JAG and someone has to sit.
Randy’s elite speed and defense, which were on display in Spring Training, are the constants in his game. Even when he’s struggling he can impact a game. That’s why I wish the organization would have kept him in Memphis. He doesn’t have anything to prove in Springfield; he rakes every time he gets sent down. At least he reminds us of how good he could be while he’s in Springfield, I just want to see it in Memphis.
9. Nolan Gorman – 3B, Age: 18, Level: Johnson City, Previous Rank: Not Ranked (2018 Draft)
Nolan Gorman is an incredibly valuable commodity to the Cardinals. He is one of their only prospects that has the potential to be a franchise player, and that’s because of his power. I don’t get too excited about teenagers at low-levels, which is why he’s not higher on this list. Give him time to succeed, fail, and develop, and check back this time next year.
Here’s some video from his first month of pro ball.
8. Evan Mendoza – 3B, Age: 22, Level: Springfield, Previous Rank: 23
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|All Levels (2 Seasons)||160||694||634||87||198||37||6||10||73||5||3||47||122||.312||.363||.437||.800||277||14||5||5||3||2|
Evan Mendoza has done nothing besides have success in his minor league career. He won the New York-Penn League batting title last season with a .370 average. He didn’t hit for much power in the way of homers (3), but 14 doubles and three triple made up for it. He started this season in Palm Beach, and it was more of the same.
He was promoted to Springfield on May 18, and there he hit his first roadblock. The pitchers are more advanced and the Texas League only consists of eight teams, so the book gets out incredibly quickly. Mendoza had so much success sacrificing power for base hits at the lower levels, but pitchers started taking advantage of him. For the first time since he was drafted, he struggled.
This is a perfect example of why Evan Mendoza has been so successful in his short minor league career. He uses the whole field and has a tremendous two-strike approach. #STLMinors pic.twitter.com/jgILuh3H65
— Colin Garner (@colingarner22) July 19, 2018
You’re starting to see signs of him improving, though. He’s always had to ability to take a professional two-strike at-bat, and he uses the right side as well as anybody in the organization. He’s starting to drive the ball to the pull side now, though. You’re starting to see him crush balls for doubles or homers instead of slapping something to the right side. He’s still trying to incorporate the two-strike approach that made him successful in the past and ultimately defines him as a hitter, too. If he can do that, he’s as good a hitter as the Cardinals have in their system.
7. Oscar Mercado – OF, Age: 23, Level: Memphis, Previous Rank: 13
Even though Mercado is ranked ahead of Arozarena, I think the latter has the higher ceiling.
What excites me about Mercado is that he’s shown that last year’s first half was no fluke. If you remember, he was one the best hitters in the entire system from April through June of 2017. Then he hurt his shoulder. His OPS dropped from .854 in the first half to .660 in the second. For someone who had never really had success in his minor league career, questioning the validity of his first half was obvious, and it’s why I thought he’d be traded at last years deadline.
He’s hit for less power than he did last year, but he’s offset that by drawing more walks. That’s no accident. He went to the Arizona Fall League will a clear focus on being more patient: he walked 32 times in 120 during the 2017 season and 14 in 22 Fall League games. Mercado deserves a shot in the majors, probably next year. I still doubt that it comes with the Cardinals, though.
6. Ryan Helsley – RHP, Age: 24, Level: Memphis (DL), Previous Rank: 10
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Ryan Helsley has been on the DL since June 10th. Even if he was healthy, he wouldn’t be in the majors because he isn’t on the 40-man, and the club has shown an unwillingness to make decisions in that area.
You would be hard pressed to find a pitcher I am more excited about than Ryan Helsley. He’s a bulldog on the mound. He comes after hitters with a fastball that reaches the mid to upper 90’s. It’s also a high-spin fastball which means it plays up in the zone with two strikes. He doesn’t do a great job locating it at the letters, though. Most of the time it’s because he leaves it belt high, and its the reason he struggled early on in Springfield.
His curveball plays beautifully off his fastball. As you can see in the video below, Helsley goes right after the hitter with fastballs to get to a 0-2 count. He tries to go up in the zone but is ultimately unable to make a good enough pitch. The first, which wasn’t high enough, was fouled off. The second wasn’t a competitive pitch and the hitter easily takes it for a ball. Now that the hitter has seen four consecutive fastballs, he drops a curveball in for strike three. The at-bat perfectly encapsulates who Ryan Helsley is when he’s at his best.
In the end, I think Helsley will wind up in the bullpen, but it’s no sure thing. His changeup, which has always been a work in progress, was developing before he got hurt. He was going deeper into games. An injury that was initially described as “shoulder fatigue” by John Mozeliak has no sidelined him for over a month. I have my doubts that he will be back on the mound this season, but after Austin Gomber‘s debut and the impending call-up of Dakota Hudson, Helsley is the next-best pitching prospect who hasn’t made his debut.