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Meet the Dispatch Dozen: Derrick Goold's ranking of the top prospects in the Cardinals system

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Cardinals minor-league spring training day three in Jupiter

Cardinal minor-league infielder Nolan Gorman takes batting practice on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, as outfielder Conner Capel looks on at minor-league spring training at the practice facility in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Christian Gooden,

Editor's note: Before the season started, Derrick Goold gave his ranking of the top prospects in the Cardinals system. Two of the players Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez, already have joined the big league team.

Other prospects are making huge noises already. Nolan Gorman and Michael McGreevy each earned player of the month honors in their leagues. So did a prospect who didn't even make the top 12, outfielder Moises Gomez who leads all of the minors with 13 home runs.

Here's the original ranking:

The Cardinals opened their minor league camp in early March at the team’s Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.  Present for those workouts was a trio of highly touted talents: infielders Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker and lefthanded starter Matthew Liberatore.

In the standings, the Cardinals’ minor-league affiliates had one of the most disappointing seasons in several decades with losing teams galore. Yet a handful of individual players had breakout years, including two recent draft picks playing at three different levels. Such is the dichotomy of the Cardinals’ farm system. They haven’t had a hitter like Gorman or Walker powering his way to the majors in almost a decade, and now they have two potential middle-order presences. But they also don’t have the depth to nourish a pitching staff like the ones that carried the Cardinals to four consecutive National League Championship Series from 2011-2014.

Baseball America ranked the Cardinals’ system 18th overall, writing how “the depth of the system falls off quickly.”

Almost 20 years ago, the Cardinals waded into the rising tide of advanced analytics and shifted their business model to lean more on the farm system to buoy contenders. They wanted to become a model for player development, and they did so when it came to pitching. They feel that success has helped sustain 14 consecutive seasons by providing contributors like Allen Craig to Harrison Bader or providing prospects to trade for players from Matt Holliday to Nolan Arenado.

As the Cardinals’ reliance on drafting and development talent grew so too did the coverage of the farm system. Through the years, the Post-Dispatch has added to its reporting on the farm system so that includes a Minor League Insider, online updates from around the affiliates, and the annual Bird Land 7, a ranking of the top seven prospects in the system.

Well, it’s time to expand again.

For the 2022 season, the Post-Dispatch has launched “STL Pinch Hits,” an app and web site dedicated to increasing the wingspan of our Cardinals coverage. Exclusive minor-league coverage will a featured element – with Daniel Guerrero, our dedicated minor-league beat writer, weekly features, and an annual ranking of the top prospects in the system. But why stop at seven?

Introducing … the Dispatch Dozen.

This ranking of the top 12 prospects in the Cardinals’ system considers all players who have not yet appeared in a major-league game. (Other rankings consider players who have been in the majors but remain eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.) To determine the order, we consider the Four Ps of prospects: Position, Proximity, Performance, and Potential. A player at a premium position, such as shortstop, who is on the verge of the majors with a high ceiling and robust stats is going to top the rankings. The player’s proximity to the majors proved a tiebreaker atop these rankings. The potential and position of another prospect yet to have the production or proximity has him ranked aggressively high. And one player’s proximity to the majors and positional versatility gets him on the list ahead of others who have hint at higher potential.

Enough prelude. Here is the ranking:

No. 12: Brendan Donovan, INF

No. 11: Malcom Nunez, 3B

No. 10: Alec Burleson, OF

No. 9: Joshua Baez, OF

No. 8: Zack Thompson, P

No. 7: Juan Yepez, 1B/DH

No. 6: Michael McGreevy, SP

No. 5: Ivan Herrera, C

No. 4: Masyn Winn, SS/RHP 

No. 3: Matthew Liberatore, LHP

No. 2: Jordan Walker, 3B

No. 1: Nolan Gorman, 2B/3B

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter


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