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Minor-league report: Cardinals prospects wrap up Arizona Fall League

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Springfield Cardinals

Springfield's Jordan Walker celebrates a home run during a Double-A game on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.

Saturday marked the end of the Arizona Fall League and the end of the minor-league season for Cardinals prospects playing in it.

Along with players from the Tigers, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, and Rockies farm systems, the eight Cardinals prospects sent to the AFL made up the roster for the Salt River Rafters. Four of those eight sent to Arizona represented the organization in the league’s annual Fall Stars Game and some finished near the top of the statistical leaderboards in the prospects league.

Here is how each of the Cardinals’ minor-leaguers did in the AFL:

Outfielder Jordan Walker: The successful season that Walker had with Class AA Springfield transferred over at the plate for him in the AFL. Walker batted .286 with a .925 OPS, five home runs, six doubles, and 16 RBIs. His five home runs were the most by a Salt River player and tied for third-most in the league. As he continues to make his transition from third base to being a full-time outfielder, Walker, 20, played 21 games in the outfield with 12 of those coming in right field and eight in center. He committed one error in 43 chances giving him a .977 fielding percentage. Walker’s production earned him a starting spot in right field for the National League Fall Stars.

Shortstop Masyn Winn: Winn — a shortstop by trade — got playing time at his natural position and at second base as a way for him and other Salt River infielders from different to get playing time in the field. Winn didn't commit an error in eight games at short and seven at second. With his bat, the 20-year-old produced a .294/.407/.353 slash line. He received a nod in the Fall Stars game where he flashed his highly touted throwing arm from shortstop. Winn doubled and homered once, stole a team-high eight bases, and walked 13 times. He led Cardinals prospects in the AFL in on-base percentage and walks.

Right-handed pitcher Tink Hence: After pitching 52 1/3 innings and striking out 81 batters at the Class Low-A level, much of Hence’s competition in the AFL came against hitters with experience in the upper minors. Hence, 20, logged 8 1/3 innings and pitched to a 2.16 ERA. He allowed two runs — one of which came on a home run — and struck out nine batters while walking four. Like Walker and Winn, Hence — a fellow 2020 draft pick — was also an NL Fall Star.

Left-handed pitcher Connor Thomas: With the use of a new cutter and a change of scenery, Thomas wend from posting a 5.47 in 135 Class AAA innings this past season to becoming the Arizona Fall League’s Pitcher of the Year. Thomas finished the AFL with league highs in strikeouts (34) and innings (25 2/3). His 1.75 ERA was the second-best among all starters, while his 1.75 walks per nine innings and 3.30 ground-outs to air-outs ratio both paced the league. Thomas, 24, earned the nod as the starting pitcher for the NL in the league’s Fall Stars Game.

Thomas is Rule 5 draft eligible this December. In order for him to be protected, the Cardinals must add him to their 40-man roster by MLB’s Nov. 15 deadline.

Outfielder Mike Antico: The speedy outfielder who swiped a Cardinals minor-league high 67 bases appeared in 23 games — the most amongst his organization mates — but most of those came as a pinch runner or defensive substitution. He was eight-for-10 on stolen base attempts and batted .200 with a .797 OPS in 40 at-bats. Antico, 24, belted three homers which were tied for the second most for Salt River hitters behind Walker’s five, and doubled once. He finished the AFL with a 37% strikeout rate.

Right-handed pitcher Ryan Loutos: The Washington University product ended the fall league with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. Loutos, 23, struck out 13 and walked four while maintaining a 1.00 WHIP, which was seventh best for qualified pitchers. The .200 batting average allowed to hitters was the second-lowest for qualified Salt River pitchers. Loutos began the 2022 MiLB season with Class High-A Peoria and rose up the ranks to Class AAA Memphis, where he ended the year.

Catcher Pedro Pages: After he got off to a slow start at the plate, Pages ended the AFL with a .279 average, one home run, and four doubles. In his last three games, Pages, 24, went five-for-nine with three walks. After he hit .230 and slugged .364 against righties in 217 regular season at-bats during his time in Class AAA and AA, Pages hit .281 with a .469 slugging percentage in 32 at-bats vs. righties while in the AFL.

Right-handed pitcher Kyle Leahy: Although he had a 10.67 ERA in 14 1/3 innings from the bullpen, Leahy’s 21 strikeouts were second to only Thomas while his 13.19 strikeouts per nine innings was a league-best. During 141 regular season innings that mostly came at the Class AA level, Leahy posted 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. His struggles included allowing 10 walks and a .311 average to hitters.

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanGuerrero on Twitter

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