Cardinals: Baseball America rankings reason for excitement

Jordan Walker, of the Springfield Cardinals, during opening day at Hammons Field on Friday, April 8, 2022.Openingday0485
Jordan Walker, of the Springfield Cardinals, during opening day at Hammons Field on Friday, April 8, 2022.Openingday0485 /

Baseball America recently updated its prospect rankings. The top four provide reason for Cardinals fans to be excited for the future.

Randy Flores pitched parts of five seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, compiling a 4.35 ERA in 178 innings pitched.  He was often steady, dependable, reliable.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that his most valuable role for the team is as its scouting director, a role he’s held since 2015.

Last week, Baseball America updated its list of the top 30 Cardinals prospects and the top four also happen to be the team’s first four picks from the 2020 draft, Flores’ sixth with the team.

The top four? Third baseman Jordan Walker, shortstop Masyn Winn, pitcher Tink Hence and outfielder Alec Burleson. All four are also in Baseball America’s Top 100 overall prospects (in fact, all four are in the top 75), with Walker checking in as the sixth-rated prospect in all of baseball.

Flores has had plenty of successful draft picks, including Nolan Gorman, Zack Thompson, and Gordon Graceffo.  But the masterpiece of the 2020 draft should be particularly appreciated now.

Walker, selected with the 21st pick that year, has been touted as the organization’s best hitting prospect since Oscar Tavares or even Albert Pujols. He’s currently batting .311 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs at AA Springfield and has fans and the front office dreaming of the team’s next cornerstone franchise player.

Wynn is right behind in the excitement he generates. Selected with the 54th pick as both a shortstop and a pitcher, he flew onto the national radar at the 2022 MLB Futures Game when he cannoned a throw from short to first at 100.5 miles an hour. For a farm system long regarded for its ability to churn out pitching prospects, Wynn and Walker provide long-overdue excitement for position player prospects.

Hence, selected at 63 with a compensatory pick, is putting up absurd numbers for the Cardinals’ Palm Beach affiliate, with 64 strikeouts in 38 innings.

Finally, there’s Burleson, the 72nd pick that year, who probably should be in the majors already. He’s hitting .321 with 20 homers while biding his time at AAA.

The best part? Burleson is the oldest of the bunch at 23. Walker, Wynn, and Hence will have to wait until next year to legally drink the beer most closely associated with their baseball team.

Of course, it’s too early to start focusing entirely on the Cardinals future – there’s plenty of fun to keep fans interested this year. Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols are on their last rides. Paul DeJong is back with a vengeance, Adam Wainwright is pitching like he’s 21, not 41, and Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are putting together MVP seasons. The team is fighting for a division crown, and hopefully more.

But you’ll have to excuse any fan who simultaneously is excited for the future.

The first four picks from a single draft causing this much excitement should be near the top of any scouting director’s resume. But Flores deserves extra credit for pulling this off during a pandemic, when Cardinals scouts were pulled from their locations in March, a full three months before the draft. Imagine nailing those picks when information was that scarce?

This year is far from over and should hopefully provide continued moments and memories. But the future also remains bright as ever, thanks to a sturdy former reliever.

Next. Evaluating the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft classes (1965-1984). dark