The Cardinals make waves on the big viewing front, and we’re here to cover it.
Five big hype prospects
Nolan Gorman, 22, 2B/3B, STL (AAA)
147 PA, 15HR, 3SB, .308/.367/.677
Once the move is official, the Cardinals will be the first team to field two Nolans at once (I’m assuming). Baseball has come a long way since its beginnings. From 1878 to 1885 there was a player in this sport by the name of The only Nolan.
Trivia aside, Gorman will be the latest top prospect to make his debut. Power has always been his calling card, although this is the first season he’s achieved it in games at such a blistering pace. It comes at a price. He had a 34 percent strike rate and did not walk often (8.2 percent walking rate). In my experience, prospects with questionable discipline tend to have fleeting debuts. Opponents are sometimes quick to pick up on the player’s weaknesses, requiring the batsman to adapt immediately. Other times, opponents accidentally wander into the batsman’s nitrozone, leading to an explosive debut. The burglary comes later. Players with these plate discipline markers will always sag at some point. We’ll soon see if Gorman comes into the league with a killing spree, a whimper, or anything in between.
Matthew Liberatore, 22, SP, STL (AAA)
40IP, 10.35K/9, 2.70BB/9, 3.83ERA
I was wondering which of Liberatore and Zack Thompson would make their debut first. We now have our answer. Originally acquired in the Randy Arozarena Trading Liberatore was considered by many to be the best player in trading at the time. Arozarena’s early career exploits caused us to reconsider our opinion on a rare Rays misstep, but Liberatore is now ready to help complete the analysis.
As an audience, we’ve learned a lot about pitching since that trade, and new insights help put the deal into context. While the southpaw performs well from pitch to pitch—his fastball is mid-90s, his curve is a nice shape, and his slider is a borderline wipeout offering—the repertoire as a whole doesn’t quite add up. His fastball is designed to work deep in the zone so he doesn’t tunnel with his turn. It’s downplayed for other reasons too — in short, some hitters can spot it off-hand. Still enough for a solid big league pitcher here, the profile just isn’t as exciting as it used to be.
Alek Thomas, 22, OF, ARI (MLB)
39PA, 2HR, .316/.333/.553
Thomas got off to a brilliant start. As expected, he’s an average batter and even has a few home runs. Beneath the surface, there are some modest reasons for concern. He’s known for his plate discipline, but his 2.6 percent walk and 20.5 percent strikeout rates are both worse than many would have hoped. His in-zone and out-of-zone swing rates are about league average. As an industry, we expected it to be more sophisticated. Thomas is a ground ball oriented hitter who uses all fields. The profile remains that of a leadoff hitter who can go 15/15 while posting a top batting average and on-base percentage.
Royce Lewis, 23, SS, MIN (AAA)
(MLB) 40 PA, 2 Hours, .308/.325/.564
Lewis had a nice debut for the Twins. He was neither overwhelmed nor out of his element. The top prospect showed that he belonged with his flashing power, a high contact rate and an appropriate plate discipline. His aggressiveness as a hitter often worked against him in the lower undertones, but Lewis has worked to improve. He recorded a 15.3 percent walk rate in triple-A. While his 2.5 percent walk rate in the majors implies he was swinging freely, his swing rates on courts in and out of the zone were about league average. His two home runs were backed up with gaudy starting speeds. It reached a top speed of 114 mph, on par with Mike Trout (114.4), Julio Rodriguez (114) and Bryce Harper (113.8) among others.
For now, he’s returning to Triple-A out of respect Carlo Correa. The move raised some eyebrows (including mine) due to the struggles of Jose Miranda (.094/.143/.189) and Gio Urschel (.229/.293/.330). After showing his racquet belongs, Lewis will likely spend the next few weeks preparing to return to a new position. In his first game at Triple-A, he went 3-on-3 with a home run and a stolen base.
Grayson Rodriguez, 22, SP, BAL (AAA)
37.1IP, 13.74K/9, 3.13BB/9, 2.65ERA
While we looked elsewhere, Rodriguez may have completed the final step in his rise to the majors. On Tuesday, he hit 23 batsmen while pitching 5.1 innings. In his last four starts he had dealt with 19 racquets. He kept the Charlotte Knights scoreless with three hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts. If there’s one bit of concern for the right-handed alternate, it’s that he’s allowed 4.74BB/9 in his last four starts. We’re nearing a point in the season where teams may be tempted to delay a debut beyond the nebulous Super Two deadline. That would likely mean at least another full month into the minors.
Adley Schiebemann (24): Therutschman clock continues unabated. He cleared the rehabilitation hurdles set for him. In the last week he hit .261/.370/.522 with two homers, three walks and a strikeout. His debut could come within the next week, possibly even this weekend.
CJ Abrams (21): After skipping Triple-A by earning a spot on the Opening Day list, Abrams looked overwhelmed in 65 big league appearances. As an option for the Minors, he hits .216/.293/.459 with three homers and three steals in 41 triple-A plate appearances. The results are modestly encouraging despite the low average and OBP.
Markus Luciano (20): Last season, Luciano’s plate approach deteriorated after a promotion to High-A. He repeats the level and returns to his usual ways, hitting .300/.366/.530 with six homers in 112 plate appearances. He has done particularly well in his last 60 record appearances. He tends towards a promotion to Double-A.
Chase Silseth (22): Silseth, who also performed here last week, made a strong debut. He recorded an 11.1 percent swinging strike rate, thanks largely to his frequently used splitter. His fastball and slider also looked like plus offerings.
Corbin Caroll (21): Over the past week, Carroll has been hitting .435/.552/1.043 with three homers, two triples, a double and two stolen bases. He’s overdue for a promotion to Triple-A. If that goes just as well, we could see him in the majors later this season.