October 2, 2022

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Latest updates on Cardinals' top prospects

16 min read

Welcome to the Cardinals prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.

Gorman continues power binge with homer in fourth straight (April 17)
It’s only two weeks into the 2022 season, but Nolan Gorman is finishing his team’s series with a flourish.

Baseball’s No. 32 overall prospect continued his power surge at the dish with a home run in his fourth straight game and the sixth time in as many contests as Triple-A Memphis fell in its series finale at Charlotte, 9-3.

After being hit by a pitch in the second inning and popping out to second base in the third, Gorman came through in the sixth. The Redbirds’ designated hitter connected on an offering from Knights starter John Parke and went the other way, depositing it atop the pavilion roof in left for a solo shot. Full story»

Love strikes out 10 in dominant second start (April 17)
After allowing nine runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings in his season debut on April 12, St. Louis’ No. 21 prospect Austin Love bounced back in a major way. Over five scoreless frames, Love more than tripled his previous career high in strikeouts (three, set last start) with 10 K’s while allowing just two hits and three walks. The right-hander needed just 81 pitches to accomplish the feat, throwing 50 for strikes, as High-A Peoria outlasted Great Lakes, 7-6.

McGreevy extends scoreless streak to 11 2/3 frames with Chiefs (April 15)
After being limited to just 7 2/3 innings during his rookie campaign, Cardinals 2021 first-round Draft pick (No. 18 overall) Michael McGreevy has yet to yield a run through his first two starts with High-A Peoria this season. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed a pair of hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over 11 2/3 frames with the Chiefs.

On Friday, the No. 8 Cardinals prospect worked around two hits and did not issue a walk while fanning four in 6 2/3 shutout innings. The UC Santa Barbara product did not factor into the decision of Peoria’s first game of a doubleheader against Great Lakes at Dozer Park. — Rob Terranova

Gorman blasts his fourth homer in four games (April 14)
He took a couple of games to get going, but Nolan Gorman is officially rolling at the plate in the 2022 season.

After striking out looking in his first at-bat, Gorman blasted an 84-mph changeup off the upper-deck façade in right at Truist Field to score the Redbirds’ first run of the game. It was the first homer the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect has pulled to right this season. Full story »

Gorman, Yepez and Burleson power Memphis in win (April 13)
The third, fourth and fifth spots in a starting lineup are typically reserved for a team’s main run producers. Cardinals’ prospects Nolan GormanJuan Yepez and Alec Burleson proved that to be true in Triple-A Memphis’ wild 18-14 win over Charlotte on Wednesday night.

Batting third, Gorman tallied five hits in six tries, swatting his third home run of the season. Yepez crushed two three-run homers as the cleanup hitter — including a game-tying shot with two outs in the ninth inning — to finish 3-for-5 with six RBIs and a walk. Burleson matched him from the five-hole, swatting two three-run homers of his own and adding a walk in six plate appearances.

Together, the trio combined for 10 hits, five home runs, 14 RBIs and 10 runs scored in the Redbirds’ come-from-behind victory. Full story »

Walker hits his first Double-A home run (April 10)
Jordan Walker, the top-rated prospect in the Cardinals’ farm system per MLB Pipeline, homered on Sunday for the first time this season for Double-A Springfield. Walker, the co-Minor League Player of the Year for the Cardinals last season, homered in the first inning on Sunday against Northwest Arkansas left-hander Angel Zerpa on a line-drive shot to left-center field. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Walker, who was the former Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Georgia, came into Sunday 2-for-7 with three RBIs and three walks in the season’s opening series. In 82 games at Single-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria last season, Walker hit a combined .317 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs. — John Denton

Gorman launches his first two homers of ’22 (April 10)
Nolan Gorman’s first three games of the season were slow at the plate. If his last two are any indication, any sluggish start is a thing of the past.

Baseball’s No. 32 overall prospect hammered his first two homers of the season, giving him four hits in two days, as Triple-A Memphis fell to visiting Gwinnett, 6-3, on Sunday afternoon.

“Guys are a lot better up here,” Gorman said of Triple-A. “They’ve got good stuff and can command it. You’ve got to be able to really pick your zone and not go out of your way to chase pitches. It’s really just accepting that they’re going to hit their corners and just waiting for them to make a mistake. When they do, don’t miss it. That’s a big thing that I’ve been focusing on, just shrinking the zone and only hitting pitches that I know I can drive.” Full story »

Graceffo picks up first victory of 2022 (April 10)
Gordon Graceffo, who raised lots of eyebrows in Spring Training last month by throwing several fastballs in triple digits against Major League hitters, picked up his first win on Sunday for the High-A Peoria Chiefs. Graceffo, a fifth-round pick in 2021, allowed two hits and no runs over five innings for the victory. Graceffo, 21, struck out five batters on Sunday in Peoria’s 2-1 victory. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Graceffo was the first player from Villanova drafted since 2017. — John Denton

Burleson, Yepez and Donovan shine in Memphis’s second straight victory (April 9)
Alec Burleson hit his second home run of the season to key a four-run seventh inning that lifted Triple-A Memphis past Gwinnett on Saturday. Burleson, an East Carolina University product who can play the outfield and first base, is hitting .357 with two home runs and three RBIs thus far for the Redbirds (3-2). Juan Yepez, who pushed for a Major League roster spot until late in the spring, broke out of a four-game slump with a three-run home run on Saturday for his second hit of the season. Brendan Donovan, the Cardinals’ top prospect performer during the spring, had another two hits and two RBI in Saturday’s victory. For the season, Donovan is 6-for-16 (.375). — John Denton

McGreevy tosses five no-hit innings (April 9)
There were no first-game jitters for Michael McGreevy in his season debut. The 21-year-old tossed five no-hit innings, striking out five and allowing one baserunner on a walk in Single-A Peoria’s 7-6 loss to Wisconsin. After turning it over to the bullpen, the Chiefs’ combined no-hitter bid ended on a double with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. McGreevy, the Cardinals’ No. 10 prospect, threw 52 of his 77 pitches for strikes, registering nine swinging strikes. McGreevy was St. Louis’ first-round selection in the 2021 Draft and threw 7 2/3 innings at Rookie ball and Single-A last year, striking out seven and allowing eight runs. — Nick Trujillo

Cardinals promote reliever Pallante (April 4)
Andre Pallante, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Cardinals, learned that he made the Major League Opening Day roster Monday. The right-handed Pallante pitched 21 games at Double-A Springfield and two at Triple-A Memphis in 2021 and then made the Cardinals roster by throwing strikes and inducing ground balls throughout Spring Training. In 3 2/3 innings over three spring appearances, the Cardinals’ No. 15 prospect struck out four batters and didn’t allow a run.

“In baseball, anything is possible, and anyone can beat anyone on a given day,” said the 23-year-old Pallante, who features a mid-90s fastball and a cutter that sinks and tends to induce ground balls. “I just went in with the mindset that I was going to do the best that I can and I was given the opportunities to do my best. That’s all I tried to do, and it got me here.”

Pallante feels that his ability to induce ground balls plays right into a Cardinals defense that featured a record five Gold Glovers last season. That doesn’t include catcher Yadier Molina, a nine-time Gold Glove winner.

“That helps me out, having that best defense in all of baseball behind me,” said Pallante. “As far as what I do, I just throw fastballs and my fastball just has a really good ground-ball rate.” — John Denton

Cardinals re-assign Liberatore to Triple-A Memphis (April 1)
Not long after Matthew Liberatore’s uneven performance Friday vs. the Mets — and a stern meeting with Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol — the franchise’s top pitching prospect was re-assigned to Triple-A Memphis.

Liberatore, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Cardinals’ system per MLB Pipeline, closed his time in big league camp Friday by allowing two hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings against the Mets during a 7-2 victory. When Liberatore’s pitch count climbed to 53, the decision was made to turn to Cory Thompson to close out the game.

“He needs to be able to command the baseball, keep it down and lock in pitch to pitch,” Marmol said. “He does that, he’s plenty good enough to get outs. It’s a focus thing, for me. We actually just walked out of the office and had discussed this. He needs to be able to go pitch to pitch and own it.”

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Liberatore, whom the Cardinals acquired in a swap for Randy Arozarena with the Rays in January 2020, appeared in three games this spring and allowed eight hits, three runs and one home run in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out seven batters, while walking four.

The Cardinals’ top three prospects — third baseman Jordan Walker (No. 1), second baseman Nolan Gorman (No. 2) and Liberatore — all spent time in Major League camp this spring, but all three will begin the 2022 season in the Minor Leagues. Juan Yepez (No. 6) was also re-assigned to Triple-A Memphis where he will join Liberatore and Gorman. Walker is expected to start the season at Double-A Springfield after thriving last season between Single-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria.

Liberatore, 22, is scheduled to be the Opening Night starter for the Memphis Redbirds on Tuesday. He pitched well there over the final three months of last season and finished 9-9 with a 4.04 ERA. — John Denton

Cards option Yepez and Sanchez to Memphis and re-assign reliever Bosiokovic (March 31)
Juan Yepez, who was hoping to land the Opening Day assignment for the DH position, was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday. Yepez’s future was sealed when the Cardinals reached a deal to reunite with Albert Pujols on Sunday night. Now, Pujols will serve as the team’s top right-handed option as a DH or pinch=hitter DH.

As for Yepez, manager Oliver Marmol said he thinks the young slugger will be back in St. Louis soon.

“He took it really well,” said Marmol of Yepez, who went 5-for-20 with two RBIs. “When we signed Albert, he understood that was his spot. But it was still good for him to take advantage of his time here, see what the pitchers look like and be able to ask questions. We were mindful of that.”

Catcher Ali Sanchez, who is on the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Memphis as well, while reliever Jacob Bosiokovic was reassigned to the Minors. — John Denton

Donovan rips another hard-hit ball and adds an RBI (March 23)
Brendan Donovan, who takes four gloves to games because of his ability to play three outfield slots and both corner infield positions, hit a line-drive double that hopped off the wall to plate a run in the Cardinals’ 10-3 loss to the Astros on Wednesday. Donovan now has three hits — the other two a home run and a double — in 10 spring at-bats. Donovan spent time at Single-A Peoria, Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis last season while hitting .304 with 12 home runs and 66 RBIs in 108 games.

The 25-year-old Donovan has already caught the eye of manager Oliver Marmol in camp.

“The way he was described to us is that he’s an absolute gamer, and he’s shown that,” Marmol said. “He loves to play, and he’s taken a good at-bat — both against righties and lefties. Defensively, he’s done a nice job and he’s been impressive — not just because he’s put together a decent week, but because of how he’s carried himself through the drills, morning work and communication with the staff. … And the [defensive] versatility is a definite plus.” — John Denton

Donovan impresses again with his all-around play (March 22)
One night after collecting his first hit of Spring Training, utility infielder/outfielder Brendan Donovan homered on Tuesday in the Cardinals’ 4-3 defeat of the Marlins. Donovan, who has played left field and third base this spring, took Miami’s Zach Pop 329 feet deep in the fifth inning. The run proved to be the difference-maker for a Cardinals team that improved to 4-0 this spring. Already, Donovan has caught the eye of manager Oliver Marmol.

“He’s a gamer and an absolute baseball player,” Marmol said. “There are certain guys who just know the small parts of the game and see the whole field and he’s one of them. He loves the game. He’s a baseball rat and he doesn’t ever want to come out. I like his overall mentality. It’s impressive and he just plays the game right.” — John Denton

Liberatore pitches in the Spring Training opener (March 18)
Matthew Liberatore, the No. 2 prospect in the Cardinals farm system, per MLB Pipeline, made his Spring Training debut on Friday against the Astros. In two innings, the 6-foot-4 left-hander struck out three batters while allowing two hits and a run. Not only did he have the second-fastest pitch of the Cardinals-Astros game at 98.5 miles per hour, but he also induced a game-high eight swings and misses.

Liberatore, who showed great resilience in 2021 by bouncing back from an 0-3 start, has already impressed Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol with his maturity and studious nature when it comes to pitching.

“He’s grown a ton and he’s a guy who is super in tune with his body,” Marmol said of Liberatore, who finished 9-9 last season at Triple-A Memphis. “He understands the modern game, analytics and what he needs to do to maximize his overall ability and pitch arsenal. This is a guy that is advanced when it comes to that.

“What I’ve also seen is this is a guy who has grown up after he got hit around a little bit last year, which was needed,” Marmol continued. “I think it’s always good to experience failure and he responded to it well. He’s on a mission and it will be exciting to see what he will bring to the table.”

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said on Friday that Liberatore is in consideration for the team’s No. 5 starting spot with Jack Flaherty (right shoulder tear) and Alex Reyes (frayed right labrum) out for an indefinite period of time. Both recently received injections in their shoulders, and neither will throw a ball for the next two weeks. — John Denton

Gorman, Walker, Liberatore and Yepez headline Cardinals star-studded farm system (March 16)
Matthew Liberatore has never been one to lack for confidence in anything that he’s done while on the pitching mound, so the 6-foot-4 lefty didn’t need a lofty ranking from MLB Pipeline to remind him that he is on a collision course with greatness at the Major League level with the Cardinals.

“I feel like I’ve been Major-League ready — in my head, at least — since the day I stepped on a high school mound,” said Liberatore, who came in as MLP Pipeline’s No. 3-rated left-handed pitcher in Minor League Baseball. “I think you have to have that kind of confidence to compete at that level when you get there. Obviously, there are things that have to be worked [on], but I like to view it as a continuous evolution and a never-ending process. If I make it to the Major Leagues tomorrow, every day spent there would be a day that I could learn and grow.”

Liberatore heads a stellar class of top Minor League prospects for the Cardinals. Juan Yepez, who received a call-up to the Cardinals for the playoffs in 2021, is MLB Pipeline’s No. 5-rated first-base prospect. Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker, youngsters who received invites to Major League camp this spring, are rated the No. 2 and No. 3 players at second and third base, respectively. Clearly, the future is bright for a Cardinals franchise already loaded with five current Gold Glove winners and several All-Stars at the big league level.

“It’s a very big honor and I was pretty happy to hear about that [ranking],” said Walker, who split time last season at Single-A Palm Beach and High-A at Peoria. “I’m pretty excited about it, but I know there’s more work to be done.” Story >

Gorman working to ignore the hype and keep himself grounded (March 12)
While he’ll gladly travel any route that will help speed up his trek to the Majors, Nolan Gorman bristles at the mention of him being used exclusively as a DH, and he would prefer to get to the big leagues as a power-hitting second baseman. Maybe it’s because he’s put in so much time learning to play second base. Or maybe it just speaks to his intense, competitive nature.

“DH has never really been in my vocabulary,” he said. “I want to be a Gold Glove defender. That’s what the Cardinals pride themselves on — defense, especially. So being able to be that caliber and being able to help the team on the defensive side would be great.”

However, in a different breath, Gorman said: “At-bats in the big leagues are at-bats in the big leagues and you can help a team win by scoring runs and producing as a DH.” Story >

Walker working this spring to become a more refined hitter (March 8)
The Cardinals believed in the enormous potential of Jordan Walker by drafting him 21st overall in the 2020 MLB Draft and rewarding him with $2.9 million in bonus money to sway him from attending Duke University. Walker lived up to that promise last year in his first full season of pro ball — hitting .317 and slugging .548, while hammering 14 home runs and driving in 48 runs in 82 games at Single-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria.

Walker, who doesn’t turn 20 years old until late May, remarkably did all that while saying he had very little of a plan at the plate in his first season. Whereas raw talent and power helped him become the Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia as a high school player, Walker admitted that he’s had to take more of a studious and analytical approach to hitting as he’s risen in the Cardinals farm system.

“As a high school hitter, my approach to hitting wasn’t that advanced. I was sitting on one pitch and not really thinking what the pitcher might throw next or what I did on the previous swing,” he said. “But here, I’m learning from different people — from coaches like Jose Oquendo or players like [Nolan] Gorman or [Luken] Baker, about having a real approach at the plate. Now, I can have an approach on how to hit a certain pitch while still being able to react to the fastball inside. I want to be ready as a hitter and open my mind, which I didn’t do in high school. So, that’s the biggest difference.” Story >

Walker drawing plenty of ooohs and ahhhhhs with his massive power (March 8)
Jordan Walker’s first on-field batting practice session of Minor League Spring Training was such a must-see event that Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak secured a spot around the cage before the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder even stepped into the box. Michael McGreevy, a first-round Draft pick like Walker, had to miss the 19-year-old man-child’s BP session because of a hastily called pitchers meeting. But he still got to experience it via a very different sort of sensation.

“[Walker] was in the next group up on Field 5. [Pitching coach Darwin] Marrero took us away for a pitchers talk, but I could hear it,” McGreevy said with amazement of the echoing sound of the ball coming off Walker’s bat.

Walker, rated as the No. 3 prospect in the Cardinals farm system, per MLB Pipeline, dropped some jaws and elicited plenty of oohs and ahhs with an awesome display of power in his first on-field BP session. Sure, it’s just Spring Training BP, but there was a noticeable difference in the sound of the ball coming off Walker’s bat when compared to the others hitting. Despite a strong wind blowing in, Walker throttled three balls over the left-field fence and into the parking area. Even after hitting one of the longest shots of the day, Walker playfully joked, “I thought I missed,” to others around him looking on in awe.

“Dude’s a monster because he’s so huge,” Cardinals’ 19-year-old shortstop Masyn Winn said of Walker, someone he’s known since their travel ball and high school days. “[The sound of the ball off Walker’s bat] is different, for sure. If he’s swinging and it hits the barrel, the ball’s not coming back. There’s no mistaking that he has one of the highest [exit velocities] on average, ever. The dude’s 19 years old and he’s making grown men look childish. I mean, for him, it’s just different because he’s so big and his approach is so simple. And he finds a lot of barrels.” Story >

Burleson has worked on his defense and his body to avoid late-season fatigue (March 4)
Outfielder Alec Burleson, the 70th-overall pick of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft, is hoping to play his way onto the Cardinals’ 40-man roster with a solid Spring Training. A 6-foot-2, 212-pound outfielder from East Carolina University, Burleson started last season at High-A Peoria before matriculating his way through the farm system to Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.

The left-handed hitter slugged 14 home runs and drove in 44 runs while batting .289 in 63 games at Springfield to earn a promotion to Triple-A. In Memphis, Burleson drilled another four home runs, but his play flattened out as the season progressed. He says he learned a lot from playing 119 games at three levels of baseball and he has come to camp this time around better prepared.

“Last season, it was my first full season [of pro ball], and I didn’t think I took care of my body as well as I should have,” said Burleson, who hit .270 and slugged .454 last season. “That’s something I’m going to focus on. I kind of hit a lull when I got [to] Memphis, and it was just me getting tired and not doing the things that I need to do to perform throughout the year. I want to be able to do that for a full season.

“So, for me, it’s not so much working on baseball stuff, even though I will obviously be doing that,” Burleson added. “But it will be about how I take care of my body, eating right and working out. I think that will allow me to have a good year, being healthy and being prepared to play every day.” Story >

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