Three internal options for the St. Louis Cardinals at third base
The St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to decline Kolten Wong’s option has created a hole at third base for 2021. Here are three internal options.
On October 28, John Mozeliak, President of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Baseball Operations, announced the organization would not be picking up second baseman Kolten Wong’s $12.5 million option for 2021. With this announcement, Wong will join teammates Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Brad Miller, and Matt Wieters as free agents.
The Cardinals’ decision not to exercise Wong’s option seems to have a bigger impact on third base than second. Mozeliak also announced that Tommy Edman would become the team’s starting second baseman. With Edman moving to second, the question becomes who will be the Cardinals starting third baseman in 2021?
With the uncertain revenue situation going into 2021, I don’t expect a major trade or free-agent signing. I believe the Cardinals will use 2021 as an opportunity to see what they have internally at third. That means taking a close look at two prospects in their minor league.
But first, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Okay, let’s get this over with. Of course, the much-maligned Matt Carpenter will definitely be in the mix for the third base in 2021, and certainly could be the opening day starter. This is not news to most of you, and I can predict what the comments below or on social media.
However, due to his contract, Carpenter will be an option at third base and see playing time there. Might as well accept it and move on. I won’t rehash Carpenter’s career stats and what he was. I also don’t need to rehash his last two seasons at the plate which were disappointing, to say the least.
Nevertheless, defensively, third base has been his strongest position, and his defense is solid, if not outstanding. Relying on Baseball Reference metrics, Carpenter has a RF/9 of 2.44 and a RF/G of 2.17 in 665 games at third. Both reflect an adequate defensive player.
Now let’s look at the two minor league prospects.
The last time we saw Elehuris Montero in action was in 2019, when he played 15 games in the Arizona Fall League. Recovering from a broken hand he suffered at AA Springfield, he only hit a slash line of .200/.333/.300.
But prior to injury-filled 2019, Montero had hit 15 homers and 69 RBI with a slash line of .322/.381/.529 in 103 games at A Peoria in the Midwest League. Montero is considered a legitimate hitting prospect with solid hand-eye coordination. His 6’3′ frame generates bat speed and raw power from the right side of the plate.
The 22-year old is also considered a reliable defensive prospect with a strong arm. Using the defensive metrics at Baseball Reference of RF/9 and RF/G, Montero has a RF/9 of 2.64 and a RF/G of 2.50 during his minor league tenure. With 0 considered average for RF/9 and RF/G, Montero is considered well above average defensively.
Montero was added to the 60-man player pool in 2020 and played at the satellite camp, but due to a positive COVID-19 test, was delayed. Per MLB.com and Prospects 1500, the Dominican Republic native has been projected to arrive in the majors by 2021. Consequently, if he is healthy, I don’t see any reason why he won’t be in the third base mix.
Yepez has been under the radar a bit, with prospects such as Nolan Gorman and Elehuris Montero ahead of him in the organizational rankings. Nevertheless, this prospect could be ready to be in the third base mix in 2021.
Yepez came to the Cardinal organization from Atlanta in the Matt Adams trade in 2017. After signing the largest bonus the Braves gave to any player in their 2014-2015 international class, Yepez moved up quickly in the Atlanta minor league system.
He continued to show a promising blend of hitting ability and power potential after arriving to the Cardinals. In 2019, he moved up rapidly from A to A+ and finally arriving at AA at Springfield. In total at the three levels in 2019, he hit 10 HR and 43 RBI in 72 games. The Cardinals’ batting gurus have managed to get Yepez to cut down on his swing and miss tendencies without giving up much of his power.
Defensively, the 22-year-old seems to be destined to play a corner infield position because of his size. During his minor league career, he has played 179 games at first and 105 games at third. His strongest defensive position has been at first, but his defensive metrics at third are solid. Per Baseball Reference, Yepez has an RF/9 of 2.32 and a RF/G of 2.10.
MLB.com and Prospects 1500 both have Yepez estimated to arrive in the majors in 2021.
What about Nolan Gorman and Malcom Nunez?
Depending on which prospect rating site you follow, Nolan Gorman is the first or second-rated prospect in the Cardinals system. He has raw power and has demonstrated it during his first two minor league seasons, hitting 32 homers in 188 games.
However, the last time we saw Gorman was in 2019 at Class A+ Palm Beach in the Florida State League. While he played at the satellite camp all summer, it is a stretch to believe he’ll be ready at any point during 2021.
Knowing the St. Louis Cardinals’ conservative approach to handling top prospects, at least another full year in the minors would seem likely for the 20-year old. Realistically, I look to 2022 as Gorman’s estimated time of arrival in St Louis.
Malcom Nunez is another highly rated third base prospect in the Cardinals system who has a ton of power. However, like Gorman, Nunez hasn’t played since 2019, and that was at Johnson City in the Rookie Advanced League. Again, in spite of his potential, at least another year in the minors is called for this talented 19-year old.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
All you have to do is listen to the words and the actions of John Mozeliak to understand what the Cardinals are going to do during this offseason. It’s going to impact the whole organization at least for the next year, maybe two. Third base will be a perfect example of this impact.
Therefore, Matt Carpenter, Elehuris Montero, and Juan Yepez seem to be the best internal options for the Cardinals going into 2021. As I stated earlier, I don’t expect the Cardinals to make a major trade or free agent signing due to the revenue situation.
Of course, they could bring back Brad Miller for another year, and I believe he could be affordable. Defensively, Miller is weaker than Carpenter at third, but he is a better bat. Additionally, it would give the Cardinals some needed insurance.
Nevertheless, I believe the Cardinals will use 2021 primarily, as an opportunity to take a close look at prospects like Elehuris Montero and Juan Yepez.