In what turned out to be largely a week to forget, by far the most impressive stat was that each of the four minor league clubs participated and completed all six scheduled contests. Yes, the results count and can be scrutinized but if that is what you are looking for – this slice of the St. Louis blogosphere won’t be your thing. Over the last decade or so, the Cardinals have experienced more good than bad and had some serious helium in the organization. It is fair to say the days of having a top 5 prospect ranking are largely over and for good reason. You can’t make trades for some of the best players in baseball and not deplete your farm system in some way.
Some of the impact from those deals (more Arenado than Goldschmidt) were apparent early as the Cards bumped up a number of arms and growing pains are expected. None of the affiliates has a winning record or honestly even close to .500 but again, health and improvement should be the two biggest factors in 2021. A number of players took advantage of the year away and either focused on improving individual weaknesses or flashed enough potential at the alternate site last summer to be rewarded. Matthew Liberatore checks every box on any list you want to use and has positioned himself for a call-up sooner rather than later.
As he continues moving up the prospect lists, Libby may take the Waino approach and start out in the bullpen for the Birds on the Bat or even a spot start as needed. Because he isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, that move will have to be made first but purely academic at this point. The tall southpaw will help St. Louis this summer enough that many might be saying Randy who? His childhood friend and fellow top prospect, Nolan Gorman, knocked the rust off and will carry a multi-game RBI streak into the new week for Springfield. Norman as he is known flashed plenty to dream on over his first Double-A action, notching walks in his last four games as well as a pair of stolen bases yesterday.
The well-rounded play hasn’t included any reps at second base yet, although that is certainly something to expect as the calendar turns for the SCards. One player destined to maintain his current position has also found a home in the order following Gorman. Ivan Herrera, the catcher of the future, continues to impress without the pressure normally associated with the lofty ranking. Such is life when playing in the shadow of a future Hall of Famer (see Molina, Yadier). Herrera doesn’t start off his Springfield tenure with a well-established pitching staff, just one more interesting tweak to the new way of life in the minors. He should have some help scoring runs in the very near future, however, especially if a certain slugger in Peoria keeps crushing the ball.
Lost in the shuffle of 2020, most draft picks were not given much attention or a proper introduction. Alec Burleson might have taken that to heart and wants everyone to know he doesn’t belong in Class A. The 22-year old from East Carolina no longer has to worry about the game from the mound and instead has dominated the first week in the field and at the plate. Burleson’s compact lefty swing would look awfully nice behind Herrera, but the Chiefs are fortunate to have him robbing people in the outfield right now. Whether or not he gets any game action at first base for Peoria, expect the North Carolina native to keep doing damage while noticing that Memphis now plays much closer to home. It would not be a shock to see Burleson expedited to AAA as rosters are extremely fluid at this point.
No one in the entire system had a better first week than Burleson, but Jordan Walker will gladly claim second place. The most recent first round selection deposited the first pitch he saw over the fence and kept going from there for Palm Beach. Walker carries a .500 OBP into his second week as a professional and hopes for some early birthday presents against Jupiter. The slugger will celebrate his 19th birthday on May 22nd and continues the strong 3B pipeline for St. Louis. He won’t catch Gorman in the Top 5 but with a strong summer look for Walker to entrench himself squarely in discussion as the second best bat in the organization.
With so many other changes in the game, a nice break in the schedule every Monday won’t be as hard to get used to as previously thought. Travel days will be consistent across the board and at least for this scribe, every Tuesday will now be spent checking rosters to see who has been moved around. Pitching as a currency has never been more valuable, and the Draft won’t help nearly as much as in previous campaigns. Managers and executives for the Cards will earn their salaries and then some as the calendar takes a toll on staffs all over baseball. Here’s hoping you enjoy the ride every week as much as Jose Oquendo does teaching the finer points of turning a double play!