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TRACK RECORD: Reyes has flashed elite stuff since signing with the Cardinals for $950,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, but staying on the mound has been a persistent problem. He missed a month in 2015 with shoulder soreness, served a 50-game suspension in 2016 after testing positive for marijuana and missed the entire 2017 season after having Tommy John surgery. His return in 2018 was cut short too. After a yearlong recovery from TJ and four minor league rehab starts, Reyes returned the majors with a start in Milwaukee on May 30 but was removed after just four innings as his velocity cratered. Tests revealed a torn tendon in his lat muscle in the right side of his back, and on June 6 he had his second straight season-ending surgery.
SCOUTING REPORT: Even with an alarming health record, Reyes remains one of baseball’s top pitching prospects. His top-of-the-scale fastball sits 95-97 mph in starts, touches 100 and has been clocked as high as 102 in relief. He elevates his heater for swings and misses and blows it by hitters even when he misses his spot. While Reyes’ fastball command is imperfect, he improved his body and delivery during his Tommy John rehab to stay more compact and on line to the plate. The result was improved control and a fastball that was a more consistently competitive pitch. Reyes’ most notable secondary is a plus-plus hammer curveball in the 78-80 mph range with hard 12-to-6 bite, but he struggles to consistently locate it, especially to his arm side. To give him a more consistent breaking ball, Reyes added a short slider when he reached the majors in 2016 and has progressively upped its velocity to 86-88 mph. While his curveball draws higher grades from evaluators because of its break and movement, he commands his above-average slider better. Reyes boasts a fourth above-average pitch with his plus changeup, a sinking 88-90 mph offering that generates swings and misses. He has struggled to control his high-octane arsenal most of his career, but his improved fitness and tighter delivery led to vastly improved strike-throwing.
THE FUTURE: Reyes still has all the attributes of a potential front-of-the-rotation starter. His health record, however, remains a huge red flag. Reyes is expected to be fully recovered in time for spring training.
TRACK RECORD: O’Neill established himself with 75 home runs in two-and-a-half seasons before the Mariners traded him to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales at the 2017 deadline. O’Neill kept crushing with 38 home runs in 101 games at Triple-A Memphis in 2017-2018. He added nine more in 61 games during his big league debut.
SCOUTING REPORT: A walking ball of muscle, O’Neill swings hard and often. With lightning bat speed and tremendous strength, he sends jaw-dropping home runs out to all fields, and he has leveled out his swing a bit to make more contact. O’Neill does serious damage when he connects, but his uphill swing results in an alarming amount of swings and misses in the strike zone, particularly against spin. Though he improved his strikeout and walk rates in Triple-A, his strikeout rate spiked to 40 percent in the majors. O’Neill showed himself to be a nearly plus-plus runner despite his bulk as well as a plus defender in both corners with an above-average arm.
THE FUTURE: O’Neill has the power to lead the league in home runs but needs to get his strikeouts under control. He’ll return to the majors in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Hudson won a Southeastern Conference championship as Mississippi State’s ace and was drafted 34th overall in 2016. In 2017 he won Texas League pitcher of the year and in 2018 he won Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year, earning his first big league callup in July and emerging as Cardinals’ seventh-inning man.
SCOUTING REPORT: Hudson is a groundball pitcher extraordinaire with a power arsenal both starting and in relief. With his biting 94-97 mph sinker and sharp, 89-92 mph slider, Hudson allowed only one home run in 129 innings in 2018 and averaged more than two groundball outs for every air out. Both his sinker and slider are plus pitches and he has an average mid-80s changeup for lefties. Hudson draws weak contact but doesn’t consistently attack the zone, resulting in a high walk rate and low strikeout rate for his career. The Cardinals chalk it up to confidence and think it can be fixed, but outside evaluators question Hudson’s “pie-thrower” arm action and see fringy command.
THE FUTURE: Hudson has the durability, pedigree and stuff to start if he can tweak his command. If not, he profiles well in late relief.
TRACK RECORD: Gorman emerged early as the top power prospect in the 2018 draft. He won the high school home run derby during all-star weekend at Marlins Park in 2017 and the Under Armour All-America home run derby at Wrigley Field a few weeks later. He continued to crush his senior year, headlined by a 400-plus foot shot in the Arizona 6A state playoffs. The Cardinals made him the 19th overall pick and he immediately delivered on his power promise, hitting 17 homers in his first 63 games.
SCOUTING REPORT: Gorman is as strong as any player his age. He displays easy plus-plus power against mid-90s velocity, making balls disappear to right field. Gorman doesn’t see lefthanders well and breaking balls give him trouble, but he adjusts quickly, shows power to all fields and makes enough contact to project a .250-.260 average with 30 or more home runs a season. Gorman is a touch stiff at third base, leaving evaluators split whether he will stick there. His range plays up with quick reactions, but he’ll have to maintain his body and agility. His arm strength is above-average.
THE FUTURE: Gorman has the bat to be future middle-of-the-order mainstay regardless of position. He finished his debut at low Class A Peoria and will start back there.
TRACK RECORD: The Cardinals signed Montero for $300,000 out of the Dominican Republic and pushed him quickly. After playing in the Dominican Summer League at 16 and making his U.S. debut at 18, Montero made his full-season debut in 2018 and won low Class A Midwest League MVP honors. He led the MWL in average (.322) and slugging (.504) at Peoria before a late promotion.
SCOUTING REPORT: Montero is a physical, strong-bodied hitter whose bat has a chance to be “special” in one evaluator’s words. He possesses supreme hand-eye coordination, drives the ball to all fields with plus raw power and has enough bat speed to overcome his holes. He makes quick in-game adjustments and got better at understanding pitcher’s plans as the year went on. Montero is still learning to pull the ball, and once he does evaluators project him for 25-30 home runs while maintaining a steady average. Montero has average hands and a plus arm at third base, but his big frame limits his mobility and he is fringe-average overall. He particularly needs to improve his accuracy on his throws.
THE FUTURE: Whether Montero stays at third base or moves to first or the outfield, he has the bat to make an impact. He’ll begin 2019 at high Class A Palm Beach.
TRACK RECORD: Cabrera signed with the Rays for $34,000 in 2013 and quickly surpassed his peers, skipping over the Gulf Coast League at 18 and reaching Double-A by 20 while touching 97 mph. The Cardinals, facing an organizational need for lefthanders with velocity, acquired Cabrera with Justin Williams and Roel Ramirez for Tommy Pham at the 2018 trade deadline.
SCOUTING REPORT: Cabrera is an athletic lefty with power stuff but below-average control due to a violent delivery. He sits 94-96 and touches 98 mph and holds his velocity deep into starts. His upper-80s short slider has above-average potential, and his third pitch is a firm upper-80s changeup with solid depth and late fade. He also has a curveball he shows feel to spin, though it’s inconsistent because he cuts it off. Because of his delivery, Cabrera struggles to repeat his arm slot and locate consistently, especially with his secondary pitches. He also gets too cocky at times, resulting in poor pitch selection and overthrowing.
THE FUTURE: Cabrera reminds many of Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez with his power stuff from the left side but questionable control. He’ll continue to start at Triple-A and should debut out of the Cardinals bullpen in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Thomas signed with the Blue Jays as a fifth-round pick in 2014 but stalled in Toronto’s system. Needing money for an international class headlined by Eric Pardinho, the Blue Jays sent Thomas to the Cardinals for $500,000 in bonus pool space during the 2017 international signing period. Thomas suffered a broken wrist in 2016 and a broken foot in 2017, but full health in 2018 led to a breakout. He led the Cardinals’ system with 27 home runs as he advanced to Triple-A, adding 17 steals and an .823 OPS.
SCOUTING REPORT: Thomas combines solid tools with a natural feel for the game. Strong and athletic, he takes consistent competitive at-bats and drives home runs out on a line with a sound swing. Thomas has some plate coverage issues and will swing and miss, but he works counts and makes hard contact when he connects. Defensively he’s an above-average center fielder with plus instincts. He positions himself well, gets good jumps and is a plus runner underway, nabbing anything in his zone. His above-average arm is another weapon.
THE FUTURE: The Cardinals envision Thomas as a sort of Harrison Bader-lite, albeit with more power. He is in line to make his major league debut in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Knizner played third base at North Carolina State before moving to catcher as a sophomore. His offense scuffled with the position change, causing him to slip to the seventh round of the 2016 draft. Knizner rebounded quickly in pro ball, batting .302 while reaching Double-A in his first full season and .313 in 2018, reaching Triple-A and being selected to the Futures Game.
SCOUTING REPORT: Knizner is an offensive catcher with all the tools to hit. He turns around good velocity with a quick bat, recognizes offspeed pitches and uses the whole field. His swing is more geared for line drives to the gaps, but he can turn on inside fastballs for home runs. Knizner is aggressive and doesn’t walk much, but he doesn’t strike out either with good hand-eye coordination and natural timing. Knizner’s defensive reviews are more mixed. His arm ranges from fringy to average, and his blocking, hands and footwork are a bit rough. He’s a smart leader who calls a good game and works hard behind the plate, showing the intangibles to catch.
THE FUTURE: Knizner has improved defensively but still has work to do. He’ll try to take the next step at Triple-A Memphis in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: A standout slugger in Cuba’s youth national leagues, Nunez hit a tournament-best .667 (18-for-27) at the 2016 15U World Cup in Japan to lead Cuba to the gold medal and solidify himself as a top international prospect. The Cardinals signed him for $300,000 in 2018 and he promptly went out and won the Dominican Summer League triple crown, batting .415 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 44 games as an age-appropriate 17-year-old.
SCOUTING REPORT: Nunez is a strong, thick-bodied teenager who is more masher than pure hitter. His physically mature tool set contains plus power, plus arm strength and plenty of bat speed, and he has a sound idea of the strike zone. He especially punishes anything on the outer half of the plate where he can get his arms extended. Nunez is deceptively athletic in his heavy 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame, but he’s still a below-average runner and fringy defender at third base, with the possibility for worse if he doesn’t maintain is physique.
THE FUTURE: Nunez will move to the U.S. in 2019, and his bat is prodigious enough he could see low Class A Peoria. His ceiling is high, but he’s many years away and will have to watch his fitness.
TRACK RECORD: Jeff Carlson built a prep baseball powerhouse in 29 years as the coach of Elk Grove High, producing alumni including big leaguers David Hernandez, J.D. Davis and Rowdy Tellez. Carlson’s son Dylan became the program’s highest player drafted when the Cardinals picked him 33rd overall in 2016, and he signed for $1.35 million.
SCOUTING REPORT: Carlson has yet to post big numbers, but he’s been steady as one of the youngest players at every level he’s played. At age 19 in 2018, Carlson posted a .731 OPS in the Florida State League that was 40 points higher than the average. The switch-hitter has a better swing from the right side and is loopier from the left, but he manages the strike zone from both sides and shows bat speed, hand-eye coordination and hints of average power. Carlson is an above-average right fielder who flashes a plus arm, and he can handle center field in a pinch. He’s a smart, steady player who stays on an even keel.
THE FUTURE: Carlson’s on-base skills and growing power fit in an outfield corner, especially if he can refine his lefthanded swing. He’ll head to Double-A Springfield as a 20-year-old in 2019.
-- Reports written by Kyle Glaser
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