2023 St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects Chat
Geoff Pontes answered questions regarding the Cardinals system. You can read the transcript here.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Of the top 30 Cardinal prospects in the 2022 Handbook, which player has most surpassed your expectations? Which has most under performed your expectations?
Geoff Pontes: Hi Karl, thanks for joining. For me it's Masyn Winn. I think you really have to take a step back and appreciate how far he's come as a hitter. He's matured on and off the field and has from a talented but risky prep two-way guy to a legitimate everyday shortstop prospect. On the other side for me is Ivan Herrera, the defense has never caught up to the bat and a few catchers passed him defensively within the system. For that type of profile you would hope for more pop.
- Did Moises Gomez show enough this past year to now project as an everyday power hitting OF? If not, what should we expect from him?
Geoff Pontes: Possibly, the organization likes Gomez a lot and believes in the profile. It's a split camp among outside scouts however. It's legitimate juice and he hit more than he had in the past, he sort of toes this line of aggression and elite contact. I don't think he's an everyday guy for a playoff team, but he could carve out an everyday role for a second division team and produce a couple of good power seasons.
- Who do you see as the Cardinals' most attractive trade pieces, among players they'd actually consider dealing? Anyone outside the top 10 whose name comes up in trade rumors?
Geoff Pontes: I'd think dealing from the outfield is probably a logic place to look. I could see Burleson being an attractive option, as well as O'Neill depending on where they want to go. Herrera, McGreevy and Gorman are likely options as well.
- Does Burleson get a real shot at playing time, or does he just hang around in AAA until someone gets hurt?
Geoff Pontes: He fits that Cardinals M.O. of trying to get value from internal options, and he's already been up. I anticipate he's in the outfield mix entering the season, any coming moves notwithstanding.
Brycen Mautz (St. Louis):
- How far from Top 10 consideration was I? Where do you think I start the season next year?
Geoff Pontes: Hey Brycen! Thanks for jumping in. Haha, you were really close to ten, you'll be within the top 15 in the coming Top 30. The organization had very nice things to say.
Ben (St Louis, MO):
- How far off the top 10 was Gomez? Besides his obvious power, what else does he bring to the table?
Geoff Pontes: He's more mid-to-back end of the teens. It's power over everything, arm is good, can certainly hold down a corner.
- How close was Connor Thomas to the top ten? He learned the cutter and had a great AFL. Is the jury still out?
Geoff Pontes: I view him more as mid-tier player within the system, we had him on the Top 30 during the season and I've long liked the pitchability, command and ability to execute from pitch to pitch. Lacks high end upside unless he adds power.
Luke (Belleville, IL):
- What can you tell us about Won-Bin Cho and his ceiling? Thanks for this chat.
Geoff Pontes: I'd like to see Cho again this spring to get an update. He was down in Jupiter working out for a good chunk of the year. He debuted on complex and struggled with contact but showed on-base ability. He's got power and showed that during the spring. He's a strong kid and it's more of a power and on-base driven corner profile.
Bill B (Glen Allen, va):
- Does Jordan walker start to take at bats for Dylan Carlson this year? Or does Carlson, Wynn and a few others get packages for Otani at the deadline? Thanks
Geoff Pontes: I think it's more likely he's in RF or LF and that pushes Nootbaar, or more likely, O'Neill. Not sure about Ohtani...
David S (St. Louis):
- Any other 17 year olds cracking the top 10 in other farm systems? Especially in our great system. Optimistic on Mejia, wow! Are we seeing a future Cardinals #1?
Geoff Pontes: Part of it is certainly excitement around Mejia's bat, the other part of it is there's a noticeable drop off after nine or so. This is a very top heavy system, that said the Cardinals can develop.
- If we are chatting this time next year and looking back on the 2023 season, what does a step forward for Tink Hence's development look like?
Geoff Pontes: He throws 100 innings or so and shows he can turn a lineup over twice. Part of that will be holding his stuff and departing from his fastball heavy sequencing.
David S (St. Louis):
- Flores is pretty good at picking his guys over what is needed. But, if you were picking strictly on need, what do you think the Cardinals should focus on in the next couple of cycles?
Geoff Pontes: With so many of their top positional talents on the cusp, I personally would look for more high end hitting talents with pop.
Jonathan Mejia (Ceiling?):
- Hi Geoff, thanks for chatting with us today. I impressed offensively as a 17 year old in the DSL. Already being 6' and 185, what remaining projection do scouts think my body still has? Am I seen as a faster moving J2 with what I showed during my debut? Is a plus hitter with above-average to plus power possible?
Geoff Pontes: Very advanced bat to ball skills, good pat path that will likely project for power. He balances approach and contact well, and he's not overly aggressive. It's a hitter who should hit the ground running stateside.
Alex (Bay Area):
- Jonathan Mejia flashed some exciting tools in the batterw box. With a lot of the Cardibals top guys either already making their MLB debuts and others on the cusp of graduating, where do you think Mejia could be in the top 10 list come 2024? If he shows out at the FCL could you see him in the top 3 and a top 100 prospect in all of baseball a year from now?
Geoff Pontes: If he shows the approach and contact and takes a step forward with game power he could move to the top five of the system particularly with graduates.
Jonas (CZECH REPUBLIC):
- Who has higher potential, and who has the higher floor between Cooper Hjerpe and Gordon Graceffo? What can the Cardinals expect from the two of them?
Geoff Pontes: It's the higher ranked player in Hjerpe. I really believe he's going to be a legitimate mid-rotation arm.
- What are your thoughts about Joshua Baez? What are his chances to jump into the top 10 (or even top 5) next year?
Geoff Pontes: He was ten at points and will be right outside. Had some injury stuff early and had to get back into game shape. I think we could see a big 2023 from Baez. It's double-plus raw and he'll put in the needed work.
- Moises Gomez...is it the Ks or the live looks that are keeping him out of the top 10? I can definitely see that he is not at the very top of the system but its hard to believe that the performance, especially continuing to do it at AAA, doesn't warrant taking the possibility at least a little seriously that he can be an impact bat at the Major League level.
Geoff Pontes: If he walked more, yes, the issue is the approach. You can be a 70 power guy with 30 contact if you get on base at a really high rate. He's likely to be a mid-30% k-rate guy with limited on-base skills. Many evaluators just don't trust this approach.
- What are the chances Inohan Paniagua gets taken in the Rule 5? Curious about protecting someone like James Naile over Paniagua. I suppose there's a better chance of keeping Paniagua if he's exposed to the Rule 5 rather than adding him then possibly needing to drop someone when you sign a FA.
Geoff Pontes: Pretty low, if not zero. I think you need to expect most picthers that haven't hit Double-A are unlikely to be taken, or stick if taken. He falls into that group. He struggled once he was in the Midwest League as well. A good arm, just one who's likely a year away from being a guy teams would take the chance on.
Evan (New York):
- Putting aside all defensive value and considering hitting/power alone, are there many (any?) prospects across major league baseball that surpass Jordan Walker? Does he have superstar potential?
Geoff Pontes: I personally think we're only talking the top 3-4 guys. The power and contact and general attitude and personality screams superstar. He's only getting better too.
Bob (St. Louis):
- How concerned should we be about Masyn Winn's performance in the AFL? I read mixed reviews about his showing. Did this ranking factor in questions about his strength and ability to hit?
Geoff Pontes: I wouldn't worry about Winn's AFL. He was fine and I think we read too much into it for guys that played full seasons. As long as he's staying out of bad habits you're good. I think Masyn can hit, his contact and chase numbers are actually better than Jordan's, and as someone whose 6-feet 210 lbs myself Masyn isn't small or weak. I wouldn't be shocked if he has 20 homer seasons at peak. He's going to rope a lot of doubles. You have to come out of 2022 happy with Winn's development.
Jennifer (New Mexico):
- Hard not to get excited about Tink Hence and the line that he could rank as the top pitching prospect in the game one day. Cardinals so far have kept a tight pitch/innings cap on him. Do you expect that to significantly loosen this year? What level do you see him ending up at if things go well?
Geoff Pontes: I think you're looking at maybe an early few starts in the FSL before it warms up in the MWL, then he likely hits Springfield in August or so. I think we see them take the training wheels off a little this year. The biggest thing for Tink is to get through the lineup twice.
Toy (New York):
- Seems like Jack Flaherty was the last STL prospect to breakthrough and become a mainstay of the rotation. Do you really think Hence, Liberatore, Hjerpe, Graceffo AND McGreevy can all do that? Do you think Liberatore's struggles in the MLB are merely growing pains/adjustment or something deeper?
Geoff Pontes: I think a few of those likely will. Liberatore is funny, I think we need to look at him more in the context of age. He's the same age as recent college picks from the 2021 class. He never got that 2020 in the mid-minors to dominate and I think it's led to some fatigue. I don't love the profile but think he's a major league rotation arm for many years.
Kareem (Syracuse, NY):
- Hello Geoff. Wanted to get your thoughts on catcher prospects Leonardo Bernal and Jimmy Crooks. How close were they to cracking the top 10?
Geoff Pontes: Both in the 30, a little farther down but I think Bernal you'll see I'm very high on. He stuck out from the moment I saw him in spring training and was my second favorite part of watching Tink pitch (Tink pitching is one haha).
Malcolm Nunez (Pittsburgh PA):
- Where is the Cardinals system weakest? Where is it strongest?
Geoff Pontes: Strength is at the top and within the pitching ranks. I think the position depth isn't great at present.