St. Louis Cardinals: A treat is cookin’ on the grass of Peoria
Last night was the start of something special in Peoria, as a slew of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top prospects were on display for the Cards’ Low A affiliate.
Fasting is an interesting practice that involves starving oneself until the end of the day, where they gorge themselves in a glorious feast. It’s one that usually is done for outside reasons, but can also be done out of need. A need to wait for a delicious meal to cook that will satiate this burning, intense hunger. The Peoria Chiefs doubleheader last night was a metaphorical feast after the long wait for the development of some of the St. Louis Cardinals most exciting prospects.
The prodigious lineup of last night’s Peoria Chiefs team had three of the top five and four of the top 20 prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system, and for a double header no less. On top of that, they had another former top prospect who has since fallen from grace in that same lineup.
This is a rather unique opportunity for some of the most talented players within the organization to come together and grind, just as they might in the majors a few years down the road. There usually isn’t such a deep collection of prospects in one team, which suddenly makes the Chiefs a hot commodity on the Minor League airwaves.
The main course of the meal is third baseman and number 1 prospect Nolan Gorman. Gorman has been on fire since being drafted with the 19th pick of the 2018 MLB draft. He has slowed down somewhat in Peoria, putting up a .232/.324/.488 line in his first 58 games in low A, but those numbers improve to .256/.358/.538 when only considering the 33 games in 2019.
Gorman’s night was a mixed bag though, as he went 0 for 3 but drew 2 walks. He hit out of the two hole and played third in game one, while hitting third and DHing in game 2.
Jhon Torres, who is the fourth ranked prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, was the DH in game one and bat sixth and patrolled right field for Peoria in game two. The 19 year old has made some good progress in his short time since being traded from the Cleveland Indians for Oscar Mercado.
In particular, coaches have lauded his improvements controlling the strike zone, as seen by his solid 37/19 K/BB. Unfortunately, that was not on display last night for Torres, as he struggled to an 0 for 6 night with 2 K’s, and he left three men on base.
The number five prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals farm was also present in Peoria’s starting lineup last night in third baseman Malcom Nunez, who the Cardinals signed in international free agency in 2018. Nunez absolutely eviscerated the Dominican Winter League, slashing an impressive .415/.497/.774 with 13 homers, 15 RBI’s, and a 29/26 K/BB. Nunez was hitless in his first two games with Peoria, but the sky is still the limit.
While catcher Ivan Herrera, the number 18 prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, didn’t play in the first game, he did make his appearance catching and batting second in the late game of the doubleheader. While Herrera is less well known in part due to the emergence of Andrew Kninzer as the de facto heir to Yadier Molina, he is a solid prospect in his own right.
Herrera continued his solid start to the 2019 season with a 1 for 3 showing with a run and an RBI hitting out of the two spot for the Chiefs.
Saving something savory?
Finally, there is the forgotten man: Delvin Perez. The Puerto Rico native was highly touted coming out of high school when the St. Louis Cardinals selected him with the 23rd pick of the 2016 MLB draft despite testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, ranked as the 86th best prospect in the league by Baseball America and 91st overall by MLB.com.
After a solid but not stellar 2016 that he spent entirely with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, Perez hit a wall in 2017, slashing a paltry .203/.314/.271 in 2018 at Gulf Coast and the Appalachian League and was derailed prematurely by a broken hand in August.
Of course, this resulted in Perez spiraling out of not only the top 100 overall prospects, but all the way down from the third best prospect in the Cardinals roster behind Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver at the start of 2017 to the 28th prospect in the organization by 2018’s end, and fell off of the top 30 entirely to start 2019.
There is a positive side to all this though. By all accounts, people are still very much high on Perez, in part because of how productive his offseason was. His talent on the defensive side of the ball is unquestionable, and he possesses good speed. However, he is still listed at 175 pounds, meaning he hasn’t added much to his skinny frame. Without the power to drive the ball out of the infield, a player simply can’t be successful.
With all of this talent around him, this could be the time that Perez finally turns things around and gets his career on the right track. His frame will be a problem as long as he allows it to be, and his ISO of .009 and singular extra base hit out of 30 is evidence of that.
However, he is finally utilizing improved bat-on-ball skills that had scouts excited, hitting .269 with a .301 OBP over 30 games, and hitting .300 over the past 10 games. He wasn’t able to pick up a hit as the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter in the doubleheader, but the time is still ripe for him to begin to mold himself into the prospect the St. Louis Cardinals envisioned.
It is rare that such a collection of talent is present in a single minor league team, and with so many issues with many of the top prospects over the past several years, it will be a treat to see this group of young studs grow up before our very eyes.