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Dispatch Dozen recap: Derrick Goold ranked the top Cardinals prospects. Here’s how they did

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Walker and Winn

Springfield’s Jordan Walker, left, and Masyn Winn chat before a game on Thursday, June 2, 2022 at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.

Following a 2021 season that was filled with disappointing records from the Cardinals’ minor-league affiliates, the teams around the Cardinals farm system, aside from Class High-A Peoria who finished 56-76, saw some improvements in their respective standings.

Class AAA Memphis finished the year 73-77 while Class AA Springfield ended its season 69-70. Class Low-A Palm Beach was the only Cardinals affiliate to reach the playoffs as it ended the year 67-61. Palm Beach’s postseason quest for the Florida State League title ended in a two-game sweep against St. Lucie in the Florida State League East Division Semifinals.

And on the prospect level, the Cardinals had 13 make their MLB debuts this year, including seven who landed on Post-Dispatch lead Cardinals writer Derrick Goold’s Dispatch Dozen prospect rankings.

Now that both the 2022 minor-league and major-league regular seasons have ended, let’s take a look at what each prospect did listed in order of Goold’s original ranking:

No. 12: Brendan Donovan, INF

Bats/Throws: L/R

Height/Weight: 6-1, 195

Age: 25

Acquired: Drafted 2018 (seventh round), South Alabama

In 2022: .298/.385/.404, .789 OPS, three doubles, one home run, six RBIs (Class AAA), .281/.394/.379, 21 doubles, five home runs, 45 RBIs, .773 OPS (MLB)

How 2022 went: After missing out on making the Cardinals’ opening day roster out of spring training, Donovan made starts at first, second, and third base, along with one start in left field, for Memphis. He provided consistency by batting .288 in 13 games from the leadoff spot. He received his call-up to the majors on April 25 and made his debut at Busch Stadium against the Mets. He hasn’t been returned since. Donovan batted .281 with 21 doubles and drew 60 walks as an everyday player for the Cardinals. Serving in a utility role that has given him playing time at everything position except catcher and pitcher, Donovan has put together a rookie season that will ensure him a starting role in the playoffs and will likely get him consideration for the National League Rookie of the Year award behind leading candidates in a pair of Braves rookies in Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider. 

No. 11: Malcom Nunez, 1B (Traded to Pirates)

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5-11, 205

Age: 21

Acquired: International signing July 2018 (Cuba)

In 2022: .262/.367/.466, .833 OPS, 16 doubles, 23 home runs, 88 RBIs (Class AA, AAA)

How 2022 went: Nunez came into the 2022 season playing a new position. He ended it by finding himself in a new organization. Nunez was included alongside Cardinals right-hander Johan Oviedo in a deal with the Pirates that netted left-handed starter Jose Quintana and right-handed reliever Chris Stratton. Before he was moved to the Pirates organization, Nunez had shown improvements on defense in moving from third base to first base and overcame a slow start to the year with his bat. Over his last 45 games in the Cardinals’ system, Nunez batted .304 with 14 home runs, 47 RBIs, and had a .949 OPS after he hit .189 in his first 40 games of 2022. Following 29 games in with the Pirates’ Class AA affiliate, Nunez was promoted to Class AAA.

No. 10: Alec Burleson, OF

Bats/Throws: L/L

Height/Weight: 6-2, 212

Age: 23

Acquired: Drafted 2020 (second round), East Carolina

In 2022: .331/.372/.532, .904 OPS, 25 doubles, 20 home runs, 87 RBIs (Class AAA), .188/.264/.271, .535 OPS, one double, one home run, three RBIs (MLB)

How 2022 went: Back in May, Burleson described his 2021 season in which he couldn’t get comfortable being in place as he raced from Class High-A Peoria to Class AAA Memphis by the end of the year. But with Burleson beginning the 2022 season in Memphis, the left-handed-hitting outfielder found comfort — most notably at the plate. Burleson led all International League hitters in average (.331), finished fourth in hits (143), and sixth in RBIs (87) — all of which came before a promotion to the big leagues on Sept. 7. Described by some in the Cardinals including manager Oliver Marmol as someone who can give a “pro at-bat,” Burleson batted .333 in 306 at-bats against righties and .325 in 126 at-bats against left-handers while with Memphis. The 23-year-old appeared in 16 games for the Cardinals during which he went nine-for-48 with a double and a home run. There was also much focus on improving his outfield skills. In 623 2/3 innings as Memphis’ left fielder, Burleson made two errors and left the minor leagues with a .985 fielding percentage to go along with four assists. Burleson will be among the rookies on the Cardinals postseason roster and could be used in the mix as a corner outfielder.

No. 9: Joshua Baez, OF

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6-4, 220

Age: 19

Acquired: Drafted 2021 (second round), Dexter Southfield HS (Brookline, Mass.)

In 2022: .267/.385/.485, .870 OPS, eight doubles, four home runs, 21 RBIs (Rookie, Low-A)

How 2022 went: During the final days of spring training, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque noted that hope for Baez was “just to get at-bats” to give the teenager experience and exposure to help him understand his strike zone. That was limited to Baez began the year in extended spring training playing on backfield games and was added to Palm Beach’s roster on May 16 and made his Class Low-A debut the next day. Then an injury struck. Baez exited his Palm Beach debut with a wrist injury after taking one at-bat. The 19-year-old required surgery and was sidelined until he began a rehab assignment in Florida Complex League on July 29 and returned to Palm Beach’s lineup on Aug. 16. The strikeout problem Baez had when he made his pro debut in 2021 returned as he struck out 30 times in 66 at-bats in his return. But more notably, his powerful bat connected on opposing pitches much more consistently. Baez slashed .303/.434/.561 with six doubles, three home runs, and 16 RBIs over the last 21 Class Low-A games he played in — all of which topped what he put up in 23 complex league games as an 18-year-old following last year’s MLB draft.

No. 8: Zack Thompson, LHP

Bats/Throws: L/L

Height/Weight: 6-2, 215

Age: 24

Acquired: Drafted 2019 (19th overall), Kentucky

In 2022: 2-3, 5.96 ERA, 19 games (10 starts), 53 1/3 innings, 67 strikeouts (AAA), 1-1, 2.08 ERA, 22 games (one start), one save, 34 2/3 innings, 27 strikeouts (MLB)

How 2022 went: A need for innings during a five-game, four-day road trip to face the Cubs at Wrigley Field in early June led to Thompson’s arrival to the majors after he had a mixed bag of results to begin the minor-league season with Memphis. What Thompson brought was innings and effectiveness in the form of a 2.45 ERA and a .180 OPS allowed to batters in 22 innings across his first 12 games as a big-leaguer. What the lefty and former first-round pick found was a new role as a reliever and an eventual spot in the postseason. Thompson returned to the minors for most of the month of August and continued to work out of a relief he rarely worked from in 2021 and for the first two months of 2022 prior to his major-league debut. The lefty rejoined the Cardinals on Aug. 27 and will factor into manager Oliver Marmol’s postseason bullpen. 

No. 7: Juan Yepez, 1B, OF, DH

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6-1, 200

Age: 24

Acquired: Trade May 2017 (Atlanta)

In 2022: .277/.341/.580, .921 OPS, 9 doubles, 16 home runs, 53 RBIs (AAA), .253/.296/.447, .743 OPS, 13 doubles, 12 home runs, 30 RBIs (MLB)

How 2022 went: Yepez came into spring training in Jupiter, Florida as a candidate to fill the right-handed half of the Cardinals' designated hitter job on their opening day roster. But struggles at the plate and the late arrival of Albert Pujols resulted in Yepez getting optioned and on Memphis’ opening day lineup for the Class AAA season. Yepez got off to a strong start by hitting nine homers and driving in 26 runs in his first 22 games for the Redbirds. He received his big-league call-up on May 3 and debuted on the road against the Royals. The 24-year-olds’s production continued in the majors as he batted .284 with an .840 OPS, nine homers, and 24 RBIs in his first 49 games. While he got adjusted to the big leagues, he received mentorship from Pujols, and, even when he returned to the minors following a right forearm injury and offensive struggles, the rookie received encouraging texts from the future Hall of Fame slugger in the lead-up to his return on Sept. 19. In his return to end the season, Yepez batted .269. He ended the season in the big leagues and could provide play a role in the Cardinals’ postseason run.

No. 6: Michael McGreevy, RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6-4, 215

Age: 22

Acquired: Drafted 2021 (18th overall), UC-Santa Barbara

In 2022: 9-5, 3.99 ERA, 144 1/3 innings, 28 games, 117 strikeouts (High-A, AA)

How 2022 went: Not much fazed McGreevy during his first three starts of the 2022 minor-league season. The SoCal native allowed just two hits and one run across his first 23 2/3 innings to earn him Midwest League Pitcher of the Month honors at the end of April as he and fellow rising prospect Gordon Graceffo stymied opposing hitters. McGreevy was promoted from Peoria to Springfield after he pitched to a 2.58 ERA in 45 1/3 innings. Then he was met with a challenge. On just the third pitch he threw in his Class AA debut, McGreevy gave up a 442-foot home run. And thus began his ups and down to end the year. McGreevy provided steady innings for Springfield as the season went on as he threw 99 frames in 20 starts. He saw a dip in his groundball rate by 3.6% and an uptick in his line drive rate (a 13% increase) and his flyball rate (a 9.2% increase) as he navigated pitching at a higher level of baseball. As the season went on, McGreevy also had a dip in his fastball velocity, which dipped to around 93 mph due to innings mileage during the season. But a workload limit benefitted him and helped him to reach rev his fastball back up 96-97 mph in his last start of the year. The next time McGreevy, who finished the year with a 6.3% walk rate, according to FanGraphs, will take the mound is expected to be next spring in Jupiter, Florida.

No. 5: Ivan Herrera, C

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5-11, 220

Age: 22

Acquired: International signing July 2016 (Panama)

In 2021: .268/.374/.396, .770 OPS, 10 doubles, six home runs, 34 RBIs (AAA), .111/.190/.111, .301 OPS one RBI (MLB)

How 2022 went: Viewed by many as a part of the Cardinals’ post-Yadier Molina plans at the catcher position, Herrera got his first sample of the big leagues when the future Hall of Fame catcher was sidelined in June with knee issues. Herrera played in 11 games with the Cardinals in a backup role to Andrew Knizner before he was returned to Memphis. Down in the minors, Herrera showed improved bat skills with a .268 average and a .770 OPS — both of which were his highest marks since 2019. He caught in 57 games as he shared duties with other minor-league catchers including the likes of Pedro Pages and Austin Allen, who was acquired by the Cardinals at the trade deadline. The 559 2/3 innings caught by Herrera in the majors and minors combined were fewer than his 2021 total (626 1/3) and his workload in 2019 (699). Herrera’s caught stealing percentage (18%) was also his lowest total of any of his five season in the minors.

No. 4: Masyn Winn, SS

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5-11, 180

Age: 20

Acquired: Drafted 2020 (second round), Kingwood (Texas) HS

In 2022: .283/.364/.468, .832 OPS, 36 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs, 63 RBIs, 43 stolen bases (High-A, AA)

How 2022 went: From reaching the Class AA level to playing shortstop in the All-Star Futures game, Winn had a lot of movement while also showing some improved offensive numbers in 2022. At the plate, Winn began his year by batting .349 in his first 33 games in Class High-A. The strong start earned him a call-up to Class AA where he reunited with fellow 2020 Cardinals draft pick and close friend Jordan Walker. As his average lowered to a .258 mark over his next 86 games, Winn found some unexpected power in the form of 11 home runs as he regularly hit atop Springfield’s lineup. Winn, who made headlines with his strong throwing arm, finished the Class AA season with a .951 fielding percentage and 58 double plays turned in 948 1/3 innings. The next step for Winn: the Arizona Fall League, where he will play against some of baseball’s top prospects — some of which are older than and have more minor-league experience than the 20-year-old shortstop. 

No. 3 Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Bats/Throws: L/L

Height/Weight: 6-4, 200

Age: 22

Acquired: Trade January 2020 (Tampa Bay)

In 2022: 7-9, 5.17 ERA, 22 games (22 starts), 115 innings, 116 strikeouts (AAA), 2-2, 5.97 ERA, nine games (seven starts), 34 2/3 innings, 28 strikeouts

How 2022 went: Liberatore’s first five starts of the minor-league season can offer a bit of a synopsis of the ups and downs the lefty faced in 2022. In his first three starts, Liberatore allowed six earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. In his following two, he threw seven scoreless innings in each. Much of Liberatore’s 2022 was spent traveling as he was called up and sent back down on multiple occasions and even made one final MLB start during the Cardinals season finale in Pittsburgh. Falling behind in counts and being able to finish off hitters when he is ahead were topics that the lefty pointed to as parts of his game that he understood he needed to correct to pitch in the majors. With his potential and age, Liberatore, who was five years younger than the average Class AAA player, will still have time to try and develop into the front-line starter the Cardinals hope they traded for from the Rays in a deal that included outfielder Randy Arozarena.

No. 2: Jordan Walker, OF

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6-5, 220

Age: 20

Acquired: Drafted 2020 (21st overall), Decatur (Ga.) HS

In 2022: .306/.388/.510, .898 OPS, 31 doubles, 19 home runs, 68 RBIs, 22 stolen bases (AA)

How 2022 went: Coming off a year where he hit .317 with 25 doubles and a .936 OPS in 82 games between Classes Low-A and High-A, it’s easy to understand why, at 19 years old, Walker began the year at Class AA. The former first-round pick was presented with the challenge, and the teenager stepped up to it. Walker, who turned 20 in May, never had a hitting slump longer than three games as he finished tied for third in the Texas League in doubles (31), second in hits (141), and sixth in average (.306). But perhaps Walker’s biggest challenge came after the trade deadline. Hours after the deadline passed and any trade speculation between the Cardinals and Nationals for now-Padres outfielder Juan Soto became outdated, Walker played in his first game in the outfield. No longer viewed as a third baseman, Walker made the switch to the outfield as the Cardinals hope his bat can arrive at Busch Stadium sooner rather than later. Walker played in right field for 25 games, in center field for four, and in left field for two. The 2022 season and Walker’s process of getting us to the outfield will continue this fall as he played in the Arizona Fall League.

No. 1: Nolan Gorman, 2B

Bats/Throws: L/R

Height/Weight: 6-1, 210

Age: 22

Acquired: Drafted 2018 (19th overall), O’Connor HS (Phoenix)

In 2022: .275/.330/.585, .915 OPS, five doubles, 16 home runs, 26 RBIs (AAA), .226/.300/.420, .720 OPS, 13 doubles, 14 home runs, 35 RBIs (MLB)

How 2022 went: A quiet spring training during which he went two-for-16 and struck out seven times didn’t carry over into the minor-league season for the power-hitting second baseman. Gorman produced a 1.044 OPS, a .308 average, and 15 home runs in his first 34 games for the Redbirds prior to making his MLB. And once he arrived in the majors, so did the production as the 22-year-old batted .361 and drove in 10 runs in his first 11 big-league games. But as he became more of an everyday player, Gorman’s inability to catch up to high fastballs caught up to him. With just over two weeks left in the regular season and the Cardinals looking to find the formula they believe is best for the playoffs, Gorman was optioned to the minors on Sept. 19 — his first time heading back since his call-up. Gorman, who had a 32.9% strikeout rate in 313 MLB plate appearances, finished the minor-league season going six-for-38 with a home run, a double, and 19 strikeouts. If the Cardinals play deep enough into the fall an opportunity could present itself for Gorman to join the playoff roster.

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanielGuerrero on Twitter

dguerrerro@post-dispatch.com

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