The St. Louis Cardinals picked two high schoolers with their first two picks of 2020. To start the MiLB season, they are anchoring the Palm Beach lineup.
On Tuesday, the return of Minor League Baseball brought joy back to many baseball fans around the world in what was another step back towards normalcy. For the St Louis Cardinals, it was also the first time that their 2020 draft picks were able to take part in true professional baseball.
2020 changed a lot of things and the impact of a season of alternate sites for minor league players has yet to be seen. For me personally, a spring and early summer without any baseball and a shortened season helped form a greater appreciation for the sport. When the short season didn’t scratch my baseball itch, I jumped at the opportunity to watch the Dominican Winter League, even with 30 game schedules, for just $15.
Now, with the return of MiLB, the $40 purchase of MiLB.tv was an easy choice. This package offers every affiliate and every game in HD video. For years I had seen people loving watching minor leagues, and this year I am going to try and dip my toes in and watch as much as I can, even if I won’t be able to provide a ton of insight. It’s a whole new world of baseball, and it is all fun to me. If nothing else, I can try to provide a look from a fresh set of eyes.
Back to the action, I want to go through each affiliate and look at who is there and mainly, who I am most excited to follow and watch. If you’ll remember, the Cardinals lost all of their short-season affiliates and flipped Palm Beach and Peoria, making the former Low-A, and the latter High-A.
Today, I want to begin this series at the bottom with Palm Beach.
The Palm Beach Cardinals play at Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the big club. This park (and the league as a whole) is viewed as an extremely tough place for hitters. Look at any player who came up through the Cardinals’ system, and there will probably be a dip of at least some sort when they play at Palm Beach.
A tough hitter’s league presents an opportunity to struggle and a chance to face adversity; something everyone needs. The intrigue of this roster revolves a lot around the Cardinals’ first two picks of the 2020 draft, Jordan Walker (21st pick) and Masyn Winn (54th pick).
Walker is still 18 and Winn just turned 19, both playing in their first games but nonetheless were thrust right into the middle of the Palm Beach lineup on Opening Day. On Tuesday, Walker started off his pro career with a bang, hitting the first pitch he saw over the fence.
The Palm Beach games (to this point) haven’t been streamed on video and to be honest, I have no idea if they will be. Either way, Walker got off to a hot start in the first game and has kept it up, going 3-8 in his first 2 games. Winn got his first and only hit in the second game, but has walked twice.
Outside of these top two prospects (MLB.com has Winn 5th and Walker 6th in the team’s top 30), there are still plenty of fun names to watch. Outfielder Patrick Romeri is also in the team’s top 30 prospects at the age of 19. The 6’3″ righty was a 2019 draft pick out of high school and could be carried by his power.
There is also the big lefty Terry Fuller. Fuller is not in the team’s top 30 prospects, but the 22-year-old forwent offers to play college football to instead sign with the Cardinals in 2017 after being drafted in the 15th round. Prior to the 2017 draft, Baseball America had Fuller as their 142nd ranked draft prospect, mocking him somewhere between the third and fifth round. His pro career has not gone great so far with just a .207 average and a .670 OPS in 391 at-bats.
However, I will never not root for the guy because I will forever be haunted by the video of him hitting a ball out of Marlins Park during a power showcase.
On the pitching side, Edwin Nunez and Levi Prater are the only two top 30 prospects at Palm Beach, but both are intriguing players to watch. Nunez is a fresh signee out of the 2020 international free agent class, signing for $525,000 last summer. MLB.com doesn’t have a ton to say about him, but he’s ranked 12th already in the Cardinals’ system and is a 6’3″ 19-year-old who can hit triple digits on his fastball. What more could you want?
More from St Louis Cardinals Prospects
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Prater, ranked 26th, was picked 93rd overall in 2020 out of Oklahoma. He’s already 21 and could be a fast-rising pitcher given his age and experience pitching in college. MLB.com has the lefty ultimately ending up in the bullpen, but he threw 3.1 innings in his first start without allowing an earned run, striking out six.
The other fun pitcher to watch is going to be someone we have already talked about, Masyn Winn. Winn hasn’t pitched yet, but he can hit mid-90’s on his fastball and was drafted as a two-way player. Whether or not he sticks pitching and hitting is all going to be part of the fun of Winn’s path through the minor leagues.
Better prospect analysts could probably tell you some of the other fun players to watch, but at this low-level environment where you’re unable to follow with anything more than radio and box scores, I’m not too proud to admit that I will mostly be watching the top 30 prospects.
Palm Beach has started 1-1 but the record is hardly what matters for a lot of these affiliates. Seeing how these players do in their first professional environments will be the meat and potatoes of what to see with Palm Beach, at least in my eyes.