The Arizona Fall League is the top winter league for prospects to improve their skills and a few St. Louis Cardinals prospects will be going. How will they fare?
With the Johnson City Cardinals winning the Appalachian League Championship, the minor league season is officially over for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Though the season is over, a few of the St. Louis Cardinals prospects will be playing in the Arizona Fall League; where they will be getting at-bats against other prospect pitchers.
The Arizona Fall League is truly a great place for the top prospects in baseball to go and fine-tune their skills. Some of the best players around the MLB did work in the AFL, such as reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich and Yankees superstar Aaron Judge.
The Cardinals will send seven prospects out west for the winter league, with a very solid class headlined by breakout outfielder Dylan Carlson, who is the number 17 prospect in all of baseball in Baseball America’s latest rankings.
If you’ve been paying the slightest attention to Cardinals prospects this season, you probably know who Dylan Carlson is. If you don’t, well, to say the least, he’s been one of the best minor leaguers in all of baseball; and has put himself in the conversation for an Opening Day spot next season.
In AA Springfield, Carlson got off to a hot start, mashing home runs on a consistent basis while hitting for average as well. He had a rough season in 2018, hitting for only a .738 OPS; so fans thought Carlson’s success was only temporary. Carlson continued to tear apart AA pitching and got a well-deserved promotion to AAA.
Carlson absolutely murdered AAA pitching and is now knocking on the door for a major league spot, but the Cardinals front office decided it was best for Carlson to go to the Arizona Fall League and get consistent at-bats. If he does well enough in the Arizona Fall League, he could undoubtedly be a major leaguer next season, so Carlson is for sure a prospect to look out for. Plus, he’s only 20 years old.
Another prospect heading to Arizona is a third baseman, Elehuris Montero. Montero was fantastic in 2018 in Single-A ball, hitting .315 with 16 home runs as well. 2019 was a huge disappointment for him though, as he couldn’t get over the Mendoza Line in AA Springfield.
Montero also dealt with injuries and only played in 63 games this season. The Number 4 prospect in the organization is looking to prove that 2018 wasn’t a fluke with a strong Arizona Fall League showing.
The Cardinals are also sending middle infielder Kramer Robertson to the Arizona Fall League as well. Robertson was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 Draft but was an absolute superstar when he played college baseball at Louisiana State, playing on the team that almost won the College World Series. Scouts were worried about his frame and whether he would be able to stick at shortstop, so he fell in the draft.
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Robertson had a rough go of things last season, hovering around the dreaded Mendoza Line for the majority of the season, but Robertson got red hot towards the end of the season and finished with a .253 batting average. Robertson split time in AA and AAA for 2019, but couldn’t seem to get going in either league, combining for a .231 batting average with a .729 OPS.
Robertson will use the AFL to help develop himself as a hitter and take that next step as a prospect.
A catcher will be heading West too in Ivan Herrera. Herrera is currently the No. 6 prospect in the Cardinals organization. Though it seems like Andrew Knizner is the catcher of the future for the Cardinals, Herrera put up a very solid season in both A and High-A ball this year. Combining for a .283/.374/.405 line, the 19-year-old showed that he could potentially be a huge piece in the future
Not only will the Cardinals be sending hitters to Arizona, but a few pitchers will also be going there as well.
The first pitcher is Kodi Whitley, is coming off a stellar season in relief throughout three levels in the Cardinals organization. Whitley is not currently a top-30 prospect in the organization, but he did put together a great season with a 1.60 ERA to go with a 1.10 WHIP.
Whitley is somebody that we could very well see in the Majors next year. The 24-year-old has a high voltage fastball with a disgusting curveball. Also, he did a solid job of limiting walks on the season as well, should be interesting to see how he performs in the AFL.
You might be wondering, what in the world happened to former Cardinal reliever Sam Tuivailala? Well, last Trade Deadline he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Seth Elledge. Elledge is coming off of a rough season, where he compiled an ERA above four, coming out of the bullpen as well as starting.
He will be joining the Cardinals in the Arizona Fall League as well and is looking to show that he isn’t as bad as his stats showed. As a starter though, Elledge did a great job; posting a 1.23 ERA out of the rotation, and was even the starter when the Memphis Redbirds combined for the near no-hitter against the rival Iowa Cubs.
Elledge is currently the No. 25 prospect in the Cardinals organization, per the 2019 MLB Pipeline Midseason Rankings. All of his grades are consistently in the 50-55 range, so there is definitely potential that he can put it together and make a push for next years major league roster.
The last player that will be sent to the Arizona Fall League is Griffin Roberts, a reliever out of Wake Forest. Roberts was one of the best pitchers in the Atlantic Coastal Conference while at Wake Forest, and it earned him a compensatory first-round selection in the 2018 Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Scouts seriously thought that Roberts could burn through the Cardinals farm system and even be up in the major leagues during the upcoming September call-up period, giving the Cardinals fans a reliever to actually be excited for.
Roberts struggled heavily in pro-ball and didn’t make it out of A-ball for the 2018 season.
Over the offseason, Roberts was handed a 50-game suspension for violating the MLB Drug Use Policy. After his rough go of things back in 2018, many people wrote him off as a bust. When he returned to the minor leagues, he started to struggle yet again; posting a 6.44 ERA as a starter in High-A Palm Beach.
During Robert’s Junior Year at Wake Forest, he was used as a reliever and was one of the most dangerous arms in the nation, but whenever he was moved to the starting rotation; he was about average. This could be a sign that Roberts could be more effective as a reliever in professional baseball, so if Roberts could settle as a reliever in the AFL, he could very well be a solid arm.
The Arizona Fall League starts on September 18th and some games will even be streamed live on MLB.com. So, if I were you, I would definitely check in on as many AFL games as possible, because what you will be watching is the future of baseball.