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Reyes grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., but after his junior year of high school, he moved to the Dominican Republic to live with his grandmother in the hope he could draw more attention as an international amateur. The move worked and the Cardinals signed him for $950,000. Reyes continually flashed power stuff after signing and asserted himself as one of the game's top prospects. He reached 100 mph as a 19-year-old at low Class A, was selected to two Futures Games and made his major league debut in August 2016. He flashed 101 mph heat and was expected to compete for a rotation spot in 2017, but he felt elbow soreness prior to spring training. An MRI revealed a complete rupture of his ulnar collateral ligament. He had Tommy John surgery on Feb. 16 and missed the season. When Reyes is healthy, few pitchers can match his pure stuff. Strongly built with wide shoulders and thick, sturdy legs, he averages 97 mph with his fastball and touches triple digits with ease. He holds his velocity deep into his starts, blowing hitters away even when they know his fastball is coming. Reyes' command is imperfect, but he excels at elevating his fastball to get swings and misses. He backs up his top-of-the-scale fastball with knee-buckling hammer curveball at 78-81 mph, and his previously raw 88-91 mph changeup began increasingly playing as plus. He also began experimenting with an 83-86 mph short slider. Reyes struggles at times finding a rhythm for his delivery and the result has been below-average control his entire career. Reyes' track record of staying on the mound is also becoming increasingly spotty. He missed a month in 2015 with a sore shoulder, was suspended 50 games in 2016 after testing positive for marijuana in the Arizona Fall League and now has Tommy John surgery on his ledger. In response, he got noticeably stronger during his rehab, replacing fat with muscle and improving his eating habits to enhance his general fitness. Reyes will spend the offseason continuing his rehab, and team officials expect him to be ready for spring training. If his stuff comes all the way back, he remains a front-of-the-rotation caliber pitcher.
Flaherty was the definition of a projectable high school righthander when the Cardinals drafted him 34th overall in 2014. He possessed an alluring frame, polish and a feel for four pitches, but his velocity was yet to come. The velocity finally arrived in 2017 He filled out and began sitting 93-94 mph and touching 96 after previously working 90-92. The result was he missed more bats than ever, soared through the upper minors and made his big league debut on Sept. 1., joining former Harvard-Westlake High teammates Lucas Giolito and Max Fried as big leaguers. Flaherty is extremely aggressive with his heavy fastball and uses it liberally. His pinpoint command and ability to add and subtract from it, combined with his velocity increase, make it a true plus pitch. His 83-86 mph slider leapt forward as well to become his primary secondary as an above-average pitch that generates swings and misses, and he has a 77-80 mph curveball to give batters a different look as well. Flaherty was projected to develop a plus changeup, but it is still an inconsistent pitch at 86-89 mph. A rotation spot will be Flaherty's for the taking in 2018. As long as he maintains his velocity increase and fine-tunes his secondaries, he should settle into the middle of the rotation.
Kelly became the highest-drafted Oregon prep player since 1996 when the Cardinals selected him 86th overall in 2012 Drafted as a third baseman, Kelly converted to catcher after his first full season. He took to it with vigor, soaking up instruction from Mike Matheny and Yadier Molina and evolving into a premium defender. Kelly received a callup for the second straight season in 2017, and started seven of the Cardinals' final eight games. Kelly remains a defense-first catcher, but the gap between his glove and his bat has shrunk. Behind the plate he shows soft hands, pristine footwork, good flexibility and a plus arm. He excels at game-calling and managing his staff, giving him the total package of a top-tier defensive backstop. Kelly's biggest development has come on offense. Early in his career he was overaggressive early in counts, but he has become more patient and better at hunting fastballs he can drive. The result was a career high for home runs and OPS and walk-to-strikeout ratio at Triple-A Memphis in 2017. He is still working on finding consistency in his load and timing but has a chance to be an average hitter with average power. Molina is signed through 2020, but Kelly remains his heir. He will have a chance to make his first Opening Day roster in 2018 and serve as Molina's backup before taking over.
O'Neill has has made a mockery of minor league pitchers with his titanic home runs the last three seasons. The son of a former Mr. Canada bodybuilder launched 56 homers in 2015-16 and, after a slow start that facilitated a July trade from the Mariners for Marco Gonzales, finished with 31 homers at Triple-A in 2017. He hit four more homers in the playoffs to lift Memphis to the Pacific Coast League title. O'Neill is short in stature but jacked like a bodybuilder with bulging muscles in his arms, legs and backside. He leverages that massive strength with lightning-quick bat speed, producing massive home runs observers recount with disbelief. He packs double-plus power and knows it, which sometimes gets him in trouble when he gets too steep uphill in his swing plane. O'Neill swings and misses enough to not project as more than a fringe-average average hitter, but when right he identifies pitches and draws a reasonable amount of walks. He tends to chase sliders and changeups out front in the dirt as opposed to ones too far inside or outside. Despite his bulk, O'Neill is a solid athlete who posts average run times, adequately plays all three outfield positions and packs an above-average arm. He is best in right field. O'Neill's swing and approach are geared for power, so his strikeout totals will likely always be high and his average low, but he gets to his power enough to projects as en everyday, middle-of-the-order hitter. He should be big league ready at some point in 2018.
Shoulder inflammation delayed Hicks' debut after the Cardinals drafted him in 2015, but he's done nothing but impress since he's gotten on the mound. With an arsenal as electric as any in the system, Hicks excelled in short-season ball in 2016, was a Midwest League all-star in 2017 and finished with eight dominant appearances at high Class A Palm Beach. Athletic, physical and aggressive, Hicks works 93-98 mph with his fastball, sits 95 and touches 101 in short bursts. He holds his velocity deep into his starts, and his fastball plays up further with armside life that handcuffs same-side batters. Hicks pairs his heater with a tight power curveball at 79-82 mph that draws plus-plus grades from evaluators and is his go-to swing-and-miss pitch. Hicks relies heavily on those two pitches, but he also has a firm changeup with depth that flashes average and an 83-85 mph slider he'll mix in. While Hicks' arsenal is nasty, his delivery has a lot of moving parts and causes below-average command and control. That hampered him the Arizona Fall League, where he got lit up for a 6.32 ERA and allowed 20 hits in 15.2 innings. Hicks has the athleticism to streamline and repeat his delivery but has yet to show he can. Hicks has a chance to jump to Double-A Springfield in 2018, depending on his camp performance. How much he improves his command and control will determine if reaches his mid-rotation potential. In all likelihood he ends up a reliever, possibly as the Cardinals' closer of the future.
A decorated three-year starter at Florida, Bader hit his way up the minors and made his major league debut on July 25, barely two years after he was drafted. He returned for good in September and drew considerable playing time starting in center field. Bader is, first and foremost, an eager and aggressive hitter who takes big hacks no no matter the count. His power output has progressively risen at each level with an ambush approach, and he has shown enough hitting ability to project for average power. Bader's overall hit tool is in question, however, because the gap between his strikeouts and walks widens at every level. He has yet to develop a two-strike approach and is particularly susceptible to curveballs. Bader is an above-average runner who shows solid range in center field with an average arm, and can slide over to left seamlessly.. His speed plays down on the bases and makes him an inefficient basestealer, with a low 58 percent success rate the last two seasons. Bader's size, aggressiveness and power is similar to Cardinals teammate Randal Grichuk, with the same risks if he loses his strike-zone discipline or fails to develop a two-strike approach. He will get a shot to cement his spot in the Cardinals outfield in 2018.
Hudson surprisingly fell to the Cardinals at 34th overall in 2016 after a dominant junior season at Mississippi State. He signed for an above-slot $2 million and showed his draft-day slide was not representative of his ability, excelling at Double-A and reaching Triple-A in his first full season. Hudson relies primarily on a fastball that sits at 94-95 mph and touches 97 and a plus short slider in the upper 80s. He previously worked mostly in and out with them but has made strides in 2017 at pitching vertically more effectively and changing eye levels at Double-A Springfield, where he was Texas League pitcher of the year. Hudson's curveball got progressively stronger throughout the season and began registering as an above-average to plus offering at 79-83 mph. He also mixes in an occasional changeup. While Hudson's stuff is quality, his fastball command is below-average, often elevating it too much, and as a result he doesn't miss many bats. His control is also inconsistent, especially on his secondary offerings. Hudson has the stuff of a mid-rotation starter, but his limited fastball command may spell a future in the bullpen, where he won't have to be too fine. He is slated to begin 2018 at Triple-A Memphis and is in position to make his big league debut during the year.
Helsley grew up in the Cherokee Nation capital of Tahlequah, Okla., and often made the six-hour drive with his family to Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals play as a child. His dream of playing for his favorite team was realized when the Cardinals drafted him in the fifth round in 2015 out of Division II Northeastern State. Helsley led the organization in wins in 2016 and shot from high Class A Palm Beach to Triple-A Memphis in 2017. Helsley is a power pitcher through and through, with a 93-96 mph fastball that touches 98, a power curveball at 80-81 mph with hard, late drop, and an aggressive strike-throwing mentality. He also has a cutter at 87-89 mph and shows feel for an 84-86 mph changeup that flashes average. Helsley is strong and athletic in his 6-foot-1 frame with thick legs built to last. Like many power pitchers, his fastball command can get erratic at times, and his walk rate has increased every level he has climbed. Helsley has the arsenal to start, but late-inning relief would be an easy transition if his fastball command stalls. Helsley reminds many of Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. He will continue to develop as a starter at Triple-A in 2018.
Garcia, the younger brother of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, long starred for Ciego de Avila in Cuba's major league and won MVP of the league in 2015-16. After a stint in Japan with the Yomiuri farm team that went poorly, he left Cuba and signed with the Cardinals for $2.5 million in February 2017. The Cardinals signed Garcia for his explosive tools, but he showed better plate discipline and more polish than expected in his first season and blitzed through Double-A and Triple-A. Garcia's tools are widely evident. He is a plus runner and his arm is a borderline 80 tool from right field, with some managers calling it the strongest arm they've seen in years. His routes and reads need work, but could shore up with experience and make him an average defender. At the plate Garcia is an aggressive free swinger but shows solid pitch recognition, allowing him to drive hittable pitches with authority. He is more of a line-drive hitter into the gaps but shows above-average power potential as he learns to elevate. Garcia's strong showing puts him in the Cardinals outfield mix for 2018. He has all the tools to start as long as he controls his aggressiveness.
Knizner started at third base as a freshman at North Carolina State and moved behind the plate as a sophomore, where his offense regressed as he focused on trying to learn the new position. The Cardinals saw enough to make Knizner a 2016 seventh-round pick and sign him for $185,300. His offense ticked back up in pro ball and has led to a quick rise. Knizner reached Double-A Springfield in his first full season and hit .324 with an .833 OPS at that level. He followed up by hitting .358/.403/.537 in the Arizona Fall League. Knizner's bat is his carrying asset. He has solid bat speed and natural timing, recognizes pitches well and uses the whole field. Knizner's swing is geared mostly for line-drive contact, but he has the strength and approach to elevate for home runs to his pull side. He remains raw defensively, with his receiving, hands and blocking all works in progress, but he progressed and drew some average grades in the AFL. His arm strength is average. Knizner works hard behind the plate for his pitchers and has a solid work ethic, giving evaluators faith he will eventually be a suitable defender back there. He is ticketed for Triple-A Memphis in 2018.
Arozarena starred in Cuba's junior leagues and on its 2013 18U national team, where he finished second behind only teammate Yoan Moncada in on-base percentage during tournament play in Taiwan. The Cardinals invested heavily in Cuban talent during the 2016-17 international signing period and signed Arozarena for $1.25 million. Arozarena delivered a positive early return on that investment, finishing among the organization leaders in doubles (32), triples (four), and stolen bases (18) in 2017 while climbing to Double-A in his first season. He is wired for contact with a quick, simple righthanded stroke that stays in the hitting zone for a long time. He has a strong eye at the plate, doesn't chase, and uses the whole field. He has wiry strength and more juice in his bat than expected from his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, although his developing power is presently all pull-side. He enhances his offensive game as an above-average-to-plus runner who uses his speed efficiently to steal bases. Arozaena primarily played left field in his debut season, but is average to above in center field as well. He plays hard and with some flair on the field. Arozarena's total package, with his line-drive ability and speed, fits atop a lineup.
Teams considered Perez a potential top-10 pick in the 2016 draft, but he tested positive for an undisclosed performance-enhancing drug and fell to the Cardinals at No. 23 overall. He signed for $2,222,500. Nothing went right for Perez in 2017. He hit .194 at Rookie-level Johnson City and was demoted to the Gulf Coast League after 23 games. He struggled badly again in the GCL, and on Aug. 7 a hit-by-pitch broke a bone in his left hand and ended his season. Perez's strength and ability to impact the ball have disappeared post-PED test. He has good bat speed and can work a count, but he is alarmingly slight physically and shows zero power, even in batting practice. He is fooled badly by breaking pitches away and lacks the strength to drive the ball when he does make contact. He will bunt for hits and beat out infield grounders with his double-plus speed. Defensively Perez is a promising shortstop with exhilarating athleticism, above-average range, plus arm strength and smooth actions. He struggles playing under control at times but has improved. Perez's shortstop defense, youth and athleticism work in his favor, but he has enormous strides to make as a hitter.
Mercado moved from Colombia with his family when he was 8 years old and became one of the top prep shortstops in the 2013 draft at Tampa's Gaither High. The Cardinals drafted Mercado in the second round and signed him for $1.5 million signing despite a poor senior season, but he struggled badly his first four pro seasons and fell off the prospect radar. A move to the center field changed that. Mercado made the transition to center field at the end of 2016 and blossomed playing center everyday at Double-A Springfield in 2017, opening up confidence and an improved bat. He blew past his career-highs in nearly every offensive category and led the organization with 38 steals. Mercado is an above-average runner with excellent agility and body control, which translated to plus defense in center field. He has plus arm strength but is still learning how to access it from the outfield. Mercado shows good bat speed and wiry strength, but has work to do identifying pitches and using the whole field. Overall fringy hitting ability has many evaluators projecting Mercado as an extra outfielder, but his bounceback season gives him momentum going up to Triple-A in 2018.
Gomber came out of Florida Atlantic a big-bodied lefthander with a fastball and changeup. The Cardinals implored him to develop a breaking ball early in his career, and the development of a curveball has elevated Gomber. After leading the system in ERA in 2016, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound southpaw finished second in the organization in strikeouts with a strong season at Double-A in 2017. Gomber is an aggressive, confident pitcher who comes after hitters with three pitches and controls the tempo. He sits 89-92 mph with his fastball and complements it with an average changeup. His real bread and butter is his curve, a downward-diving pitch in the upper 70s that is consistently solid-average and draws plus grades at its best. Gomber controls that arsenal and complements it with a workhorse mentality. He pitched 143 innings in 2017 and saved his best for last, going 6-0, 0.96 over his final seven starts. Gomber is a flyball pitcher prone to giving up home runs when he doesn't spot his fastball precisely, and his lack of a second pitch better than average limits him. Gomber will begin 2018 at Triple-A Memphis and projects as a possible lefthanded spot starter or swingman.
The Cardinals made a large incursion into the international market in 2016-17, spending more than $20 million between their signing bonuses and overage tax payments. Machado was a marquee signing, reeling in $2.35 million in what was the largest international bonus the Cardinals had ever given out at the time. Machado struggled to assimilate early in his first year in the U.S. in 2017 but eventually came into his own on the field. He increasingly recognized changeups--which he rarely saw in Cuba--and before long was barreling everything en route to a .323 average in the Gulf Cast League. Machado is a gifted natural hitter on par with any in the system. He is aggressive with his contact-oriented stroke but has excellent strike-zone awareness and rarely swings and misses. He recognizes all types of pitches and drives them gap-to-gap, and he enhances his offensive game with plus-plus speed. He projects as primarily a line-drive hitter, but has the natural ability to run into a few home runs as he gets stronger. Machado is a bat-first player, but he plays a solid-average center field and moves into the gaps well. He is ticketed for Rookie-level Johnson City in 2018, and will move as quickly as his bat takes him.
Voit had a major league debut few could top in 2017. The St. Louis-area native and Missouri State product received a standing ovation at Busch Stadium when he entered as a pinch-hitter for his first big league at-bat on June 25. He was promptly hit by a pitch in the back and sustained a bruise, but beamed with a wide smile the entire length of his jog to first base. As the season went on, the 22nd-rounder in 2013 proved he was more than just a hometown novelty act. Voit remained on the Cardinals' roster the rest of the season, drawing starts at first base and contributing as a righthanded power bat off the bench. He is a big, strong Midwestern thumper with an aggressive approach that yields big power and considerable swing-and-miss. He pounds anything with velocity--fastballs, sinkers and sliders--but is prone to slower offerings like changeups and curveballs. Voit is a converted catcher limited to first base, where he is above-average despite his size. Voit, who will be 27 in 2018, doesn't offer versatility, but he makes enough contact for his power to play at the big league level and can serve as a valuable righthanded bench bat.
Munoz spent most of his first five seasons as a shortstop, but the Athletics seemed to be grooming him for a super-utility role in 2017 at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. The Cardinals acquired him and second baseman Max Schrock when they traded Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in December. Munoz played all three outfield positions and every infield spot except first base in 2017. He needs some polish at the newer positions, but one thing is undeniable: He shows plus-plus arm strength. He put together a solid offensive season in 2017, hitting .300 with 13 homers at two levels. He also stole 22 bases in 27 attempts. Munoz doesn't have great speed, but has good instincts on the basepaths. He's an aggressive, early-in-the-count hitter (21 walks in 477 plate appearances in 2017). He needs to temper that approach just a bit without sacrificing the skills that helped him amass 43 extra-base hits in 2017. Munoz will probably begin 2018 at Triple-A Memphis, but his bat and versatility could get him to the big leagues at some point in the season.
Scouts flocked to Tampa's Plant High in 2015 to see outfielder Kyle Tucker, and Woodford took advantage of the eyes on his teammate. Tucker went fifth overall to the Astros, and the Cardinals drafted Woodford shortly after with the 39th overall pick and signed him for $1.8 million. Woodford has slowly grown into his projectable frame and been increasingly durable at every level. His 3.10 ERA led the high Class A Florida State League in 2017, and he finished in the top 10 in innings and WHIP as well. Woodford's success is derived from his intelligence and pitchability as much as his stuff. He adds and subtracts from his fastball, sitting 91-92 mph but reaching for 94-96 when he needs it, and he manipulates the pitch to give it added sink or cut as needed. Woodford's changeup progressed to average and his slider is still a work in progress, although it will flash average. He ties it all together with excellent control. Woodford's frame leaves room for a velocity bump, but even if it doesn't come evaluators still see enough for him to be a pitchability righthander in the vein of Jeff Suppan. A move to Double-A awaits in 2018.
Schrock has been traded twice in three pro seasons, first from the Nationals to the Athletics for Marc Rzepczynski in August 2016, then from Oakland to the Cardinals (along with shortstop Yairo Munoz) for Stephen Piscotty in December 2017. Schrock enjoyed another excellent offensive season at Double-A Midland in 2017. The lefthanded-batting Schrock hit .321, just shy of his minor league career average of .324, while showing no platoon split in 2017. In 2016, he amassed a minor league-high 177 hits. He knows how to make contact consistently; he struck out a mere 42 times in 457 plate appearances in 2017. He's a solid-average runner, but after stealing a combined 22 bases for four teams in 2016, his stolen base production dwindled to four in 2017. The knock on Schrock had been his fringe-average defense at second base. He worked diligently on improving his glove at Midland, and definitely made strides in terms of fielding percentage. Still, if he's going to reach the majors, it'll be because of his offense. Having spent a season-plus at Double-A, Schrock figures to begin 2018 at Triple-A Memphis.
Fernandez played high school ball in the U.S. at Miami's Varela High before moving with his family to the Dominican Republic in 2013. He signed with the Cardinals for $400,000 as an international free agent one year later. After a quick initial rise, Fernandez hit a speed bump in his development at high Class A. He had a middling performance in his third stint at the level in 2017, and was pulled from a July 26 start with arm soreness and did not return the rest of the season. Fernandez is yet another Latin American flamethrower in the Cardinals system. He comfortably sits 94-95 mph as a starter and can reach back for 99. However, Fernandez is more thrower than pitcher, with a violent delivery that yields poor control, and he doesn't have consistent secondaries to complement his fastball. Evaluators see his slider as a well below-average pitch, while his changeup flashes plus but he doesn't use it effectively. Fernandez's future is in the bullpen, but the Cardinals will continue starting him to give him more innings to work on all the things he needs to. A move to Double-A Springfield is likely in 2018 if Fernandez is healthy.
The Cardinals signed Seijas for $762,500 as the headliner of the 2015 international class and watched with glee as he moved quickly, making his U.S. debut in his first season and holding his own at Rookie-level Johnson City in 2017. Seijas sprouted from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-1 and pitches with considerable stuff for an 18-year-old. His sinking fastball sits 92-94 mph with late life early in outings and he complements it with a curveball that flashes plus. Seijas' changeup is still raw and a focal point of his development, but it is usable off his fastball. Seijas doesn't hold his velocity well, dropping to 89-92 mph by the middle innings. His curveball is also inconsistent. Seijas throws strikes but is still learning how to get into pitchers counts quickly and set hitters up. Seijas has starter traits, but has a ways to go in terms of durability, secondary development and pitch sequencing. He is in line for an assignment to low Class A Peoria in 2018.
Jones led Virginia to the 2015 national championship as the anchor of the Cavaliers rotation as a sophomore and was their Friday night starter as a junior. He finished his decorated college career 22-5, 2.86 and was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals in 2016, signing for $1.1 million. Expected to be a quick riser, Jones instead hit a speed bump in his first full season at high Class A Palm Beach. Jones sits 92-93 mph and reaches 96 with his fastball and complements it with an above-average to plus breaking ball. However, his stuff plays down because he gets into his own head, nibbling too much and trying to do things he physically can't in terms of pitches he's trying to throw and spot. Jones has a mid-80s changeup with depth but doesn't have the confidence to use it, further complicating matters. The total result was a high walk rate, low strikeout rate, and .274 opponent average in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Jones' two-pitch arsenal and tendency to overthink make him a future reliever for many evaluators, but he'll get the chance to self-correct as a starter at Double-A Springfield in 2018.
Oviedo joined Jonathan Machado, Randy Arozarena and Jose Adolis Garcia as big Cuban signings for the Cardinals in the 2016-17 international signing period. A late riser in the class who left the island and showed up in the Dominican Republic throwing five miles per hour harder than he did in Cuba, Oviedo signed with the Cardinals for $1.9 million. Oviedo is huge physically at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds. That size and his mid-90s fastball helped him coast through Rookie-ball and reach short-season State College as a 19-year-old in his first full season. Oviedo sits 90-94 mph with his fastball, and it plays up with extension out of his large frame and slight cutting action. He is still learning to command the pitch, but generally keeps it in the strike zone and uses it effectively. Oviedo's secondaries are further behind. He'll flash an average curveball, but his slider and changeup project below-average and limit his ability to get through the order multiple times. Oviedo's size is a blessing and a curse, in that he is well-built but lacks physical projection, leaving evaluators skeptical he can grow into more than a No. 5 starter. He'll try to show otherwise at low Class A Peoria in 2018.
Carlson's father Jeff built a national prep baseball powerhouse as the coach at Elk Grove (Calif.) High just outside Sacramento, producing more than a dozen future draft picks including D-backs reliever David Hernandez and Astros third baseman J.D. Davis. Carlson became the programs' highest player ever drafted when the Cardinals took him 33rd overall in 2016 and signed him for $1.35 million. One of the youngest players in the low Class A Midwest League on Opening Day, Carlson got off to a slow start in his first full season but performed better as the year went on, posting an .804 OPS in June and hitting .266 with a .358 on-base percentage his final 35 games. Carlson is a heady switch-hitter who is selective at the plate, shows above-average power potential from both sides and is a decent athlete with near-average run times and an average arm. Those attributes help him survive, but evaluators question his overall hitting ability and don't see a plus tool, which is especially problematic given Carlson will be limited to a corner outfield spot. Some think a move to warmer weather will help, and Carlson will get that at high Class A Palm Beach in 2018.
The Cardinals were stripped of their first- and second-round picks in 2017 as the penalty for former scouting director Chris Correa's hacking of the Astros' internal database. Their first selection came in the third round and they used it on Hurst, who signed for $450,000. Hurst struggled with a back injury his first two years at Cal State Fullerton but blossomed as a junior, hitting .328 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and a .994 OPS to lead the Titans to the College World Series. Hurst stands just 5-foot-10, 175 pounds but is an excellent athlete. He's a solid defender in center field who tracks back well, shows excellent closing speed in the gaps, and flashes an above-average arm. He's an average runner but covers more ground than his speed might indiciate because of excellent instincts. Hurst has a good understanding of the strike zone and uses a short, compact swing to drive the ball from line-to-line. He'll flash average raw power but is more suited for doubles. Hurst doesn't have the power for a corner and will have to prove he can stick in center despite just average speed. He'll get that shot at low Class A Peoria in 2018.
The Cardinals signed Ynfante for $125,000 late in the 2013-14 international signing period. Signed as a shortstop, he has played the outfield exclusively since 2015 and settled into center field. Ynfante played his first full season in the U.S. in 2017 and flourished at Rookie-level Johnson City, finishing seventh in the Appalachian League in slugging percentage (.491) and ninth in OPS (.865). Ynfante's bat has increasingly come around every year as he's grown into his body. He has solid bat speed, drives the ball to all fields and shows home run power both to his pullside and the opposite way. He enhances his offensive profile as a plus runner who stole 11 bases in 14 tries. Ynfante has a tendency to swing and miss due to a deep load, and his strikeout rate bears watching moving forward. He shows the raw tools to be an average center fielder, but his below-average arm could push him to left. Ynfante intrigues with his skill set, but is also a 20-year-old who has never played above Rookie ball. He will try to show he can handle full-season competition at low Class A Peoria in 2018.
Gonzalez at one time had the helium to join Alex Reyes and Sandy Alcantara as Latin American flamethrowers rising quickly through the system, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. Various injuries have limited him every year, and the 79 innings he threw at high Class A Palm Beach in 2017 were a career high. Gonzalez can bring the heat with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 mph as a starter, and he has a swing-and-miss, above-average curveball he deploys as his main secondary. He has a good pitcher's body and is athletic, but he has struggled with below-average control at every stop. Gonzalez began relieving for the first time at the end of the 2017 season with Palm Beach and struck out eight in 3.1 innings. Gonzalez's below-average control and lack of durability make the bullpen his likely future home. He will head to Double-A Springfield in 2018.
Garcia put on power shows as a teenager in Venezuela that scouts talked about for weeks, and the Cardinals scouted him heavily before signing him for $1.5 million. A pair of hamstring injuries ruined his first pro season in 2017. He pulled one hamstring during extended spring training, then pulled the other in a Dominican Summer League game. He played just 28 games as a result. Garcia is massive at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and packs huge raw power he can tap into to all fields. He complements that pop with enough plate discipline and natural hitting ability to get to it, enough evaluators dream on him as a middle-of-the-order masher. Garcia hit only one homer in his pro debut because he was cautious with his lower half due to his hamstring injuries, which bear watching. Garcia is deceptively athletic but will have to work hard to keep his body in check. He has a feel for playing corner outfield but may head to first base if he gets bigger. Garcia will get a do-over in Rookie ball in 2018 and try to show what he can do when healthy.
Edman started three years at Stanford and finished his junior year batting third for the Cardinal despite his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame. An academic All-American who majored in math and computational science, Edman attracted the Cardinals with his smarts, makeup and performance track record and was drafted in the sixth round in 2016, signing for $236,400. Edman's best asset is his defense at shortstop, and he rode that three levels to finish his first full season at Double-A Springfield. He is instinctive at shortstop and has solid tools as well, with soft hands, good actions, solid-average range and average arm strength. He is an average runner with the athleticism and mobility for the position. The switch-hitting Edman doesn't strike out much and makes contact at a solid rate from both sides of the plate, He shows the propensity to drive balls into the gaps and leg out doubles and triples, especially batting righthanded. Lacking a plus tool, Edman profiles as a utility infielder but has a long track record of playing above expectations. He will either return to Double-A Springfield or open at Triple-A Memphis depending on his camp performance.
Sosa was a celebrated signing in the Cardinals' 2012 international class with Alex Reyes and Magneuris Sierra. While the other two have reached the majors, Sosa's climb has been slowed by injuries. Left wrist tendinitis injury ended his 2016 season a month early, and he played just 58 games in 2017, mostly at high Class A Palm Beach, after having hamate bone surgery. When healthy, Sosa is a solid-average defensive shortstop with range, hands and an arm that are all above-average. However, he often plays too casually and often gives up on plays he should be able to make. Offensively Sosa shows solid bat-to-ball skills and he reined in his approach in 2017, staying within the strike zone and seeing his average and on-base percentage rise as a result. He has little power potential and doesn't steal bases despite above-average speed. Evaluators generally see Sosa as future utility infielder, but his potential at shortstop and bat-to-ball skills give him a chance to be an everyday player at his peak. That will depend on Sosa's ability to stay healthy, which he hasn't for some time.
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