St. Louis Cardinals: Which prospect should the team hold on to?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 23: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on July 23, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 23: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on July 23, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

In any big trade, the St. Louis Cardinals are probably going to have to give up a top-two prospect. Who should the team be more willing to give up?

It’s been a while since the top two prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system have both been hitters instead of pitchers, but that is what the Cardinals have currently in both Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman. Both were former first-round draft picks, with Carlson’s name being called in 2016 and Gorman’s called in 2018.

Gorman is ranked at #1 in the Cardinals system and #31 in all of baseball and Carlson sits at #2 for the team and #52 in the top 100.

While Gorman is the younger of the two (19), he has earned his #1 spot in the organization by hitting .264 with an .843 OPS and 30 homers over his first 160 games in the Minors. He is now at High-A Palm Beach hitting .259 and a .792 OPS with three homers in a terrible hitters league. This stat line in a league that is primarily a pitchers league while Gorman is, on average, 3.4 years younger than his competition is amazing.

As for Carlson, the 20-year-old is just leading the entire Texas League in homers and extra-base hits in AA. In a league that he is (again on average) 3.8 years younger than his peers, Carlson is batting .289 with an OPS of just under .900.

For a couple of years, it was a question whether Carlson would turn his potential into stat sheet numbers, and this year has been a culmination of everything the Cardinals hoped to see from the outfielder. I do mean outfielder too as he has worked hard to be able to play centerfield and not be out of his element.

As the Cardinals look to upgrade this trade season though, these two studs are going to be the names that teams are calling for when the Cardinals come asking for their players. There are certainly ways to go around giving up either of these studs, but if the Cardinals are going to get a game-changing player at the deadline, one or both of them are going to have to go.

Our poll resulted in Carlson, but is this the right answer?

There really isn’t a right answer if I’m being honest, as seeing either of these players go is going to hurt.

The case for Gorman makes a lot of sense, as he is the more valuable piece and he is younger. Gorman is doing great things and has done them, but he is also farther from the Majors. There’s still plenty of chance that a 19-year-old flops, even after being as successful as he has been.

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As a minor leaguer progresses, there’s usually a huge jump to go from A-ball to AA, and there’s no guarantee that he can make that jump. Longterm, there are also a lot of questions about his defense at third base. He could become a Joey Gallo type player, but his defense could hold him back.

There’s also the fact that Carlson has made the jump already to AA and is obviously being successful. Gorman faces a lot more obstacles to get to the Majors than Carlson does and so getting some value out of Gorman while he’s still a hot prospect might be smart.

Looking at Carlson, his stock has never been as high as it is right now. Selling high on him might be the best way to get value out of him as there are still questions about his ability to keep up this type of performance we have seen from him this year.

As a corner outfielder, something the Cardinals have a ton of, he doesn’t hold as much value to the team as a high-value position like third base does.

In the end, I believe the team should hang on to Carlson and trade away Gorman. Both players have plenty of chance to be stars in the MLB, but the questions about Gorman’s defense and the fact that he still has a lot of challenges left as he rises through the minor leagues. Carlson is my pick for the player to replace Ozuna in left field at the start of 2020.

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As much as I would love to think there’s a way to acquire the Marcus Stroman‘s and the Noah Syndergaard‘s of the world without giving up one of these prospects, it’s not going to happen. The team may not go get any big-name players at the deadline, but if they do, at least one of these two are gone. In the end, prospects don’t win championships and many fans (myself included) fetishize prospects and overvalue them. A proven name added at the deadline would be worth it.