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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#6 - Brendan Donovan

Brendan Donovan wasn't in the Cardinals' 2020 Draft Class, but he's certainly made his mark on the club as that class has. Donovan was a 7th-round pick out of the University of South Alabama, and he's established himself as the next in a long line of Cardinals who have scrapped and clawed their way from being a little-known prospect to a leader of the Birds on the Bat.

When I was at Winter Warm-Up back in January, the club could not stop talking about how impactful Donovan's leadership was on this team. He is the kind of guy who is a driver, pushing guys to get better and to focus on winning. You need talent to succeed at the MLB level, and Donovan has plenty of that, but his leadership chops are something that you can't just replace with an analytically driven model or player acquisition. Those kinds of players do not grow on trees, and the Cardinals need someone like Donovan to lead this club in whatever it ends up looking like in 2025 and beyond.

Donovan has impressed since his debut in 2022 and was catching fire in a major way during the summer of 2023 before landing on the injured list with season-ending elbow surgery in July. The offense plummeted after he was done, and they've needed his production just as much this year as they did last year. It's been a slow start for Donovan, but he's now back up to league-average production and should get back to being that elite lead-off hitter he turned himself into in the near future.

Donovan's slugging percentage is a bit down again this year, but his 112 wRC+ over his last 52 plate appearances have come as the result of him hitting for a .292 average and getting on-base at a .346 clip. Donovan's bread and butter is getting on base with some of the best in baseball, but once he starts tapping into his power again on a more consistent basis, he becomes a well-above-average hitter who sparks the Cardinals' offense each and every game.

Even though he missed that home run against the Rockies, it's clear that Donovan has been swinging the bat a lot better lately, and seems primed for another summer breakthrough at the plate. Donovan's versatility has once again come in clutch for the Cardinals as they navigate injuries. He's manned left field consistently for them with injured list appearances from Lars Nootbaar and the demotion of Jordan Walker, but has also covered time in right field, second base, and third base, and still has the ability to play first base at a high level and shortstop when needed as well.

You'd be hard pressed to find a player like Donovan on other clubs. He checks all of the boxes. He's a really good hitter who is capable of playing almost every position and will make your club better with his leadership. He lands at number six on this list because of the upside of other guys on this club, but don't get it twisted, it would be hard to convince me to let go of Donovan.