St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals acquire prospects from Red Sox, Blue Jays

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: General manager John Mozeliak on the field before Game One of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: General manager John Mozeliak on the field before Game One of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals made deals with both Boston and Toronto this morning, acquiring prospects Stanley Espinal, Imeldo Diaz, and Lane Thomas in exchange for international signing bonus cap space. This move is very much oriented towards the future, and is now reflective of the fact the Cardinals have no groundbreaking international targets this season.

As first reported by reporter Derek Shore, this trade brings in three extremely young guys — the oldest being Thomas, who turns twenty-two in August. Luckily for the St. Louis Cardinals, Thomas is also the most advanced in his development, and could serve as an asset for the major league team in the next couple of seasons.

Here is a quick look at these prospects individually.

Imeldo Diaz

DOB: November 2, 1997 (Age 19)

Measurements: 6’0″, 175 pounds

Listed Position: Shortstop

Bats/Throws: R/R

Highest Level: A (Short Season) – 2017

2016 Stats (GCL): .234/.263/.269 with 0 HR and fourteen RBI in forty-six games and 171 at-bats

2017 Stats: .208/.269/.333 with 0 HR and four RBI in seven games and twenty-four at-bats

Scouting Report (via “Right-handed hitter with an average build. Starts square, utilizing a high leg kick. Bat wiggle right before swing disrupts timing. Fringy bat speed. Lacks athleticism, runs stiff. Well below-average speed. Slow feet, minimal range in the field. Soft hands and fluid actions. Average arm strength.”

Summary: Imeldo Diaz is probably the least athletic of the three, not packing a tremendous amount of power or speed in his frame. He has a decent eye, averaging a strikeout rate of about 14 percent over 176 plate appearances with the Red Sox GCL affiliate, but also only drew 5 walks.

It’s clear Diaz has focused on his power and discipline, already registering about 20 percent of his previous season’s RBI production. He has also drawn almost half the amount of walks in just 14% of the at-bats. However, with all the athletic limitations hindering both his current production and his ceiling overall, it will be a long time before he is ready for the show, if he ever is at all.

More likely than not, this move will serve more to fill the minor league roster than for a payoff from the player himself. However, Diaz has at least 4-5 years to put some weight on and distinguish himself, so only time will tell.

Stanley Espinal

DOB: November 15, 1996 (Age 20)

Measurements: 6’1″, 180 pounds

Listed Position: Third Base

Bats/Throws: R/R

Highest Level: A (Short Season) – 2017

2016 Stats (GCL): .217/.288/.305 with two HR and twenty RBI in fifty-three games and 203 at-bats 

2017 Stats.185/.241/.259 with 0 HR and three RBI in seven games and twenty-seven at-bats

Scouting Report (via “Right-handed hitter with a medium build. Fringe-average athleticism. Slightly open stance with a leg lift. Fringe bat speed. Jumpy in the box with a hitch in his swing. Tracks the ball well. Fringe-average arm strength. Stiff in the field, lacks range.”

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Summary: Another young kid with average athletic ability, Stanley Espinal is another raw prospect who’s potential to get to the Show are still rather unclear.

His struggles at this level, based on his age, are somewhat concerning in that respect.

However, based on the scouting report, many of his issues can be corrected by coaching and an increased level of comfort and confidence.

The ability to correct things, like being jumpy in the box or stiff in the field, comes in cultivating the use of an already proficient eye for the ball. It will be interesting to see how that progresses over the next few seasons, especially his hitting. Time is abundant for Espinal, as it is for Diaz, but his progress over the next year or so is important in determining his worth in the organization.

Lane Thomas

DOB: August 23, 1995 (Age: 21)

Measurements: 6’1″, 210 pounds

Listed Position: Center Field

Bats/Throws: R/R

Highest Level: A (Advanced) – 2017

2017 Stats: .252/.319/.383 with four HR and thirty-eight RBI in seventy-eight games and 274 at-bats

Scouting Report (via Bleacher Report): “Above-average runner who isn’t going to win any sprinting contests, but knows how to use his legs on the bases and in the field. Contact-oriented hitter with some gap power in his swing. Doesn’t have the kind of bat speed to really put a charge into the ball and hip rotation is minimal, but base is sturdy and has solid hand-eye coordination.”

“Projects well in center field thanks to above-average instincts and feel for the position; always putting himself where he needs to be, instead of having to make up ground. Thomas has also done some pitching in his high school career, being clocked in the low 90s, giving him more than enough arm strength for center field; could also handle right field on a part-time basis, but his bat doesn’t profile well in a corner.”

Summary: Lane Thomas is definitely the most valuable player in the haul. The Blue Jays’ 2014 5th-round pick could prove a solid asset for the Cardinals in the coming years. While his struggles throughout the single-A levels in 2015 and 2016 could have been what prompted this trade, Thomas has made significant improvements despite being moved up to Class-A Advanced.

While he hasn’t taken as many walks or stole as many bases as in the lower levels, he has been able to bump his average up thirty-six points from his time in full season Class-A in 2016. Unlike the previous two prospects, there’s no questioning that Thomas has the athletic tools to cement himself as an everyday player in the league.

If Thomas continues this steady development, he won’t be the immediate impact, 5th-round pick level player that the Blue Jays were hoping for when they drafted him. But a solid frame, paired with a natural feel for the game both offensively and defensively, give Thomas the potential to be a worthwhile asset for the St. Louis Cardinals a few years down the road.

Next: Diaz to AAA, Mejia purchased, Reyes to 60-day DL

While this move can be viewed as a small minor league filler, each of these players has the potential to become an asset in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Only time will tell whether these guys can be the pieces to help the Cardinals reclaim the NL Central throne.