INF César Prieto
César Prieto was acquired by the Cardinals in the Jack Flaherty trade. Prieto is a 23-year-old infielder who primarily plays second and third, though evaluators believe he could play short if necessary. The Orioles signed Prieto out of Cuba during the 2021 international signing period. He had already played four seasons in the Cuban National Series, so he was 23 when he came stateside.
He struggled in AA in 2022, concerning for a player of his age. However, in 2023, he adjusted and improved significantly. He cut his strikeout rate in half, while also drawing more walks. Notably, Prieto's power did not suffer due to these tweaks. Now 24, he's in Memphis. Though he's off to a slow start there, the sample size (three games) is far too small to evaluate.
Prieto is an interesting case, as he may be MLB-ready now. He's a lefty with the ability to play multiple positions. He's showing elite plate discipline and almost never strikes out. Unfortunately, the depth chart is not Prieto's friend. The Cardinals are extremely deep in the infield. Gorman, Donovan, and Edman form a clear top three. The toolsy Masyn Winn is right behind them. But others like Palacios, Motter, and Fermín remain ahead of him for now, considering their status as members of the 40-man roster.
Prieto is more interesting than any of those three and probably has a better shot at establishing himself as a solid everyday player than any of them too. But right now, it is incredibly difficult to break through in St. Louis. I expect Prieto to jump those three over the offseason. His strong performance and defensive versatility help his case.
There are also other players in similar positions. Nick Dunn, though 26, has been phenomenal this season. Will the Cardinals extend him an opportunity? All of this muddies the water and makes it difficult to project when Prieto will reach the majors. He seems likely to take the field at some point in 2024, though it will likely be after the All-Star break.