YOUNG GUYS RUNNING OUT OF TIME:
I almost called this the “lots of fans want to trade me” section. In all honesty, it’s the most important group on this list. These five are all 25 or 26 years old former top prospects, and each one is running out of chances to prove they belong as part of the core of the next great Cardinal teams. The Cardinals need at least one of them to prove this ranking wrong.
22- Andrew Knizner
We just wrote about the tough spot Andrew Knizner is in. I don’t envy being blocked by one of the greatest catchers of all-time or having a top catching prospect hot on your heels. That being said, 2021 looks like it will finally be the year when the Cardinals decide if Knizner fits into the long-term plans. My guess would be he finds a home as a solid if unspectacular starting catcher somewhere else.
21, 20, 19- Lane Thomas, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader
These promising young outfielders have become a connected group of averageness collectively stuck in Randy Arozarena’s shadow. It’s very possible that Bader, O’Neill, and Thomas are destined to be fourth outfielders. On the other hand, I think 2021 is the perfect opportunity to give them some run and see once and for all what they can be. We know all of them play good defense– the key will be if one of these three can stay healthy and get on-base consistently. I still believe that someone in this group will put it all together.
18- Alex Reyes
Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but watching Alex Reyes pitch last season was incredibly exciting. It’s easy to forget that he is only three years removed from Tommy John surgery, and has only pitched 72 innings in his short major league career. Alex Reyes as a weapon out of the bullpen is a quality baseball player, and the St. Louis Cardinals will be happy to have him healthy enough to fill that role. But if this former number two prospect in baseball can become part of the rotation, he immediately becomes an important piece of the future.