The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to improve following an NLCS sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but the National League Central is going to be tough sledding in the coming years.
St. Louis has not won the World Series since 2011 and hasn’t made an appearance since 2013. Once a perennial playoff participant, the Cardinals are looking to begin another long postseason stay. With that in mind, the top prospects in St. Louis’s farm system need to step up in order to provide an infusion of youth that will keep the team competitive for years to come.
The top prospect in the St. Louis farm system is outfielder Dylan Carlson. Following Marcell Ozuna’s exit, Carlson is expected to slide into a starting spot. Carlson, 2016’s 33rd overall pick, is in Triple-A Memphis.
In 126 games with two different teams last season in the minors, his batting average was .292 with 26 home runs, 68 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was also .372. Carlson is viewed as major-league ready, and whenever the season does get underway, expect Carlson to be manning an outfield position.
The second-best prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system is a third-base prospect, Nolan Gorman. Gorman is in High-A with the Palm Beach Cardinals and was the 19th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. He is projected to reach the majors in 2022.
Gorman and Paul Goldschmidt could form a scary corner infield tandem of the future. The Cardinals love to interchange players at second, third, and short, but Gorman could provide some solid stability at the hot corner.
Gorman’s batting average with two different teams last season in the minors for 125 games last season was .248 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI, along with two stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .326. Gorman is still a work in progress, but that’s why he’s only at High-A ball. There is still room for improvement.
Coming in third is left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore. He is in High-A with Gorman and the Palm Beach Cardinals. Liberatore pitched for the Bowling Green Hot Rods last season. In 16 games pitched and in 15 started, his record last season was 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA. He pitched 78.1 innings and gave up 70 hits and 33 runs, while also walking 31 batters and striking out 76.
Liberatore was the 16th overall pick in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He was traded to St. Louis for outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena.
He has four quality pitches in his arsenal. His curveball reaches the mid-70s, his fastball reaches the mid-90s, and his changeup is also effective. His slider is still a work in progress. He will most likely be a mid-rotation starter at the next level, but he could be an immediate short-term option in the bullpen.
The No. 4 prospect in the Cardinals pipeline is catcher Ivan Herrera. He is the heir apparent to franchise mainstay Yadier Molina. Herrera is in High-A and was signed as an international free agent in July of 2016. Herrera still has a long way to go defensively, and the Cardinals might need a bridge backstop between their cornerstone and their highly-touted prospect.
Rounding out the top eight is southpaw Zack Thompson, catcher Andrew Knizner, third baseman Elehuris Montero, and outfielder Jhon Torres.
Note: Prospect rankings from MLB.com.