St. Louis Cardinals 2024 Top 30 Prospects List: #30-21

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27. OF Joshua Baez (2023 level: Single-A)

Joshua Baez is one of the most polarizing prospects in the Cardinals' farm system. He flashes 70-grade raw power (114.4 mph max EV) and 60-grade speed but needs to refine the rest of his game. The Cardinals selected him in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft for an over-slot $2.25 million signing bonus.

Since joining the Cardinals organization, we've seen flashes of why he was so highly touted coming out of high school, but the inconsistencies, particularly when evaluating his contact ability, are apparent. In 575 plate appearances in his pro career, Baez is hitting merely .219 while striking out a whopping 33.7% of the time. Plain and simple, he must improve his hit tool to be a big-league player.

Despite having 70-grade raw power, Baez finished with just 7 home runs in 358 plate appearances for Palm Beach in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. His ISO finished as the 12th-best out of 58 qualified (min. 300 PA) Florida State League hitters. In Statcast-tracked games, Baez recorded an outstanding 12.3% barrel rate. The lack of maximizing game power can be somewhat credited to playing in a pitcher-friendly environment.

Most of Baez's hardest-hit balls are aerial contact, and he also has a great feel for pulling his best-batted ball events (13 of Baez's 18 barrels were pulled flyballs). I'm optimistic that Baez's game power will manifest more outside Palm Beach, and I confidently give it a 60 grade. Baez's other calling card is his speed. In 2023, he recorded a top sprint speed of 30.4 ft/sec (30 is considered elite) and had 18 occurrences of 29 ft/sec or higher.

Even with his speed, Baez is best-suited long-term in a corner outfield spot, and he played most games at RF in 2023. While he has speed that works well on the basepaths he is a little wonky in the outfield and projects as a below-average defender currently. Baez has one of the strongest outfield arms in the system, as he recorded a top velocity of 95.1 mph in 2023 while recording several throws over 90 mph. Joshua Baez has some of the loudest tools in the Cardinals farm, and I'm eager to see the steps he takes in his development in 2024.