Ranking the St. Louis Cardinals' 10 most important young players and prospects

There is so much young talent in the Cardinals organization right now.
Jun 2, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second base Nolan Gorman (16) celebrates his home run with shortstop Masyn Winn (0) against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second base Nolan Gorman (16) celebrates his home run with shortstop Masyn Winn (0) against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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#7 - Alec Burleson

Talk about a riser on this list. Alec Burleson could honestly be higher on this list if you wanted him to be and I'd have a hard time arguing against you. If he continues his recent run of form at the plate, he'll definitively jump some really impressive names that are higher on this list.

Burleson has not just been one of the Cardinals' best hitters in 2024, he has been a borderline All-Star so far, believe it or not. He ranks in the top 10 in most offensive categories among National League outfielders. For a big leaguer in his second full season, his bat is truly one that can make a difference in this Cardinals' lineup for a long time, and he's slugging his way into being an important member of their core for both the present and the future.

The Cardinals got a lot of flack from fans last year for giving Burleson opportunities even when the surface-level stats weren't flashy. Yes, he left some things to be desired at the plate, but everything in his profile screamed a breakout was coming, and it has finally happened.

There is plenty of opportunity for Burleson's bat to impact the Cardinals' offense for years to come. Right now, Burleson continues to slug while filling time in for them as their designated hitter and in the corner outfield. Long-term, the Cardinals can have Burleson filling in all of those places, but he also may be making an even stronger case to be the Cardinals' first baseman after Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldschmidt's struggles in 2024 are making it more and more likely that this is his final season in St. Louis. While that was a scary proposition just a few months ago, Burleson looks like the kind of hitter who can fill in admirably long-term, and at least for the next few years, will be pretty cost-effective as well.

That's without even acknowledging the improved defense Burleson has shown in the outfield. Even if the Cardinals were to bring back Goldschmidt or have another answer for the position, Burleson has gone from someone the Cardinals openly did not trust defensively to someone they can rely on. He's not going to be a plus defender, but he's improved enough to let his bat do the talking.

Keep an eye on Burleson, as he may continue to rise up this list if his bat keeps playing the way it has. You know what's even crazier than his new ranking is the fact that three other members from his same draft class somehow rank above him.