#2 - Cooper Hjerpe
Ranking on Cardinals' top prospect lists:
Baseball America: #5
Birds on the Black: #2 (2.a)
Data Driven: #5
You can't help but watch Cooper Hjerpe and see Chris Sale the whole time. He's go that iconic left-handed, deceptive sidearm motion that Sale has used to dominate baseball.
While the production of Sale is quite lofty and would be insane if he reached that, I see the Cardinals' 2022 1st-round selection as someone who could be as good as a low-end number one starter, or as "low" as a really good number three starter in this league. Just watch the way he dices through six no-hit innings for the Peoria Chiefs.
At just 22 years old and with only 39.1 professional innings under his belt, there is still a lot of room for development with Hjerpe, and yet, he's already looking like a special arm for St. Louis. In 8 games at High-A Peoria, he is 2-3 with a 3.66 ERA and 49 SO in 39.1 innings pitched. His first professional action has been at the third highest level of minor league baseball, and he's already proven he belongs.
His delivery gives him deadly deception on all his pitches, making each of them play up even more. His fastball sits in the low 90s but hits 94 occasionally, and I would imagine he could up that a bit more as he develops. All three of his offspeed pitches produce swings and misses, making Hjerpe someone who is very difficult to predict on the mound.
Kyle Reis of Birds on the Black is especially high on Hjerpe, writing this about him in his preseason rankings.
""It's rare for the Cardinals to have a prospect as unique and intriguing from the college ranks as Cooper Hjerpe is. That's mostly because Cooper Hjerpe is a unique pitcher that baseball rarely sees. There is All-Star and top of the rotation potential here, and it might not even be that far away if Hjerpe can stay healthy.""- Kyle Reis
If you don't know Reis' work, he watches more Cardinals' Minor League Baseball than probably anyone on earth. I couldn't agree more with his assessment of Hjerpe, and I was even tempted to rank him as number one on my list due to the floor I see with him.
His command and ability to "pitch" rather than just be a "thrower" of the baseball should allow him to move quickly through the Cardinals' system, potentially even reaching St. Louis in 2024.