The curious case of Luken Baker and Cardinals' prospects who never got a fair shake

The Cardinals have a track record of not giving much runway for high performing prospects
St. Louis Cardinals v Texas Rangers
St. Louis Cardinals v Texas Rangers / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
1 of 2

Prospects who have earned the right to have a call-up by performing to the best of their ability by their respected Major League club should get playing time. 

That should never be asked as a question but should be finished with an exclamation point.

Jordan Walker is the exception to the rule as Walker has been the top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization for two years now so with the hype comes the opportunity.

But for some reason, other St. Louis Cardinal prospects who indeed get called up are treated differently. The latest Cardinal prospect to get this treatment was first baseman Luken Baker, who saw 14 big-league at-bats in four games played. Here is a short list of prospects (both past and present) who never received ample playing time by the Cardinals and was traded, released, or moved on to other organizations and turned themselves into good, major-league players.

Present Day St. Louis Cardinal Players

Luken Baker

I started this topic with Baker because he is the most recent minor league player that had a really good season at AAA Memphis and got the call up…but didn't get much playing time.

Baker was crushing the ball down in Memphis to start the season, sporting a stat line of a .313 average while hitting 17 bombs, 50 RBI, and amassing a .434 OBP and .641 slugging percentage.

Then, the Cardinals came calling and Baker earned his first major league start at DH on June 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his first game, the 6’4”, 280-pound behemoth of a man went 2-for-4. The very next day, Baker went 1-for-4 at the plate. 

After that the second-round selection from TCU in the 2018 MLB draft earned just six more at-bats, going 1-for-5 against the Cincinnati Reds five days later on June 10, and was used as a pinch-hitter three days later against the Giants.

Baker did not accumulate another AB until being dispatched back down to Memphis on June 21.

Since being sent back down to AAA, Baker is back crushing the ball for the Redbirds and has hit two home runs in two straight games.

Why didn't St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol stick with Baker, who was hitting the ball at an impressive clip, at DH? He could’ve even spelled Paul Goldschmidt at first base and given Goldy some much-needed time off defensively to keep his legs fresh.

Ivan Herrera

Another present-day player in the Cardinal’s organization that has been rarely seen playing time while being called up is catcher Ivan Herrera. Currently the sixth-ranked prospect in the organization, Herrera has impressed both offensively and defensively with many in the organization saying he would likely be the heir-apparent to take over catching duties when Yadier Molina retired.

That time has come and gone with very little playing time nor success at the major league level for Herrera. The organization decided acquiring Willson Contreras in the off-season rather than promoting Herrera was the better choice but where does that leave Herrera?

Herrera, now 23 years old, has been at times very streaky with the bat but has improved defensively by leaps and bounds. Herrera has hit well this season at Memphis spawning a .291 average while hitting seven long balls and driving in 37 runs in 172 ABs.

There has been some chatter about possibly moving Herrera for some pitching but I would sure hate to see this young phenom prosper on another team, aka Randy Arozarena, and Herrera blow up just because the organization didn't take a good, hard look at him and give him the chance to perform.

Speaking of Randy Arozarena…