SP Cooper Hjerpe
The Cardinals' problems developing starting pitching over the last several years are well documented. But now, they've got a group of promising young starters making their way through the system. In addition to Cooper Hjerpe, evaluators are excited about Gordon Graceffo, Tink Hence, and Tekoah Roby. It's possible the Cardinals will have to trade at least one of these pitchers to acquire a proven major league starter. If they do that, they should avoid trading Hjerpe.
Hjerpe is a funky lefty with strong control. He pitches from a unique arm slot that's been described by evaluators as deceptive. This also allows him to hide the ball longer, preventing hitters from squaring him up. Hjerpe has a relatively high floor and could someday pitch at or near the front of the rotation. He's worth keeping on his own merit. But, the reason they should avoid trading him is because of how he compares to the other pitchers.
Tink Hence has the highest ceiling of the four but also has the lowest floor. He's struggled when his workload exceeds 60 innings. Some are now suggesting that he could profile as a reliever long-term. 2024 will be a critical season for Hence. Gordon Graceffo has the lowest ceiling of the four. He just doesn't have ace "stuff," and he struggled with Memphis in 2023. While he's likely to start in the big leagues, he may be closer to the back end of the rotation than the front. Tekoah Roby's biggest problem is his concerning injury history. He's already had shoulder problems, which is especially scary for a young pitcher. Generally, shoulder issues are much more difficult to deal with than elbow issues, although it must be noted that every injury must be assessed individually. Additionally, Roby has struggled in the minors. He had a tough season with Texas' AA affiliate before the trade deadline, and though he bounced back in Springfield, he struggled again in the Arizona Fall League.
That leaves Hjerpe as the last man standing in some ways. He's in the group with the higher floors, and he's in the group with the higher ceilings. He's performed well in the minors, and he has a less concerning injury history. Plus, he's handled large workloads in the past. For these reasons, he's the pitching prospect the Cardinals should be least interested in trading.