With some franchises in baseball, their ability to find and stock talent is almost unfair. Whether it’s a team with massive payroll that signs big free agents or a team that’s financially forced to develop young talent, the roster rolls on. Some just seem to have more success than others on the ride.
The St. Louis Cardinals are an MLB franchise that has struck a balance with both, adding veteran stars while also cultivating top minor-league prospects. While every team tries to achieve that kind of synergy, it typically ends up falling apart.
The Redbirds boast All-Stars, Gold Glovers, and MVPs on their main roster, yet still have plenty of promising prospects down on the farm. The high-powered offense rookie Jordan Walker is currently displaying is an example of the franchise’s future, but he’s far from an anomaly.
The defending division champions are stacked throughout their system. Because of that, they’ve got a handful of players who could step in and contribute to a postseason push later in the year.
Here are three St. Louis Cardinals prospects who are on the cusp of the Major League level in 2023.
#1 – Masyn Winn, SS
Masyn Winn is the team’s most ready prospect and one of the brightest young stars at the Triple-A level. After turning heads in Spring Training, he started off this season at Memphis a little slow, with an average currently floating around the .230 mark. However, those in the know expect that number to rise dramatically.
A second-round pick in 2020, Winn is only 21 years of age and is really just growing into his frame. He already had good power, cracking 11 home runs in just 86 AA games in 2022. But that could improve as he matures.
Even if he doesn’t develop a whole lot of pop, it doesn’t really matter. He’s got enough defense, speed, and on-base ability. He’s almost a player traditionally in the mold of the St. Louis Cardinals tradition. A quick, clutch player who knows how to make big plays.
Two factors are why the NL Central champs didn’t add Winn to the Opening Day roster: They have a logjam of middle infielders right now, and a trade would likely be necessary to free up the time and at-bats. Also, the team is hesitant to start his MLB service time, as they had to do when they activated Walker to the big club.
#2 – Matthew Liberatore, LHP
This Southpaw starter was supposed to be the crown jewel of a 2023 trade that saw Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena sent to Tampa Bay. Instead, he’s been laboring in the minors, while Arozarena blossomed into a big-league baller.
All is not lost on the 23-year-old. He was named the franchise’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2021, and he’s not considered a lost cause by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, after a couple of cups of coffee in the bigs, he was optioned to Memphis for the start of the 2023 season.
However, as a lefty and a guy who can start or pitch in relief, he will likely take the I-55 shuttle from Tennessee to St. Louis at some point. He’s been in the minors since he was a teenager, so it’s not really a case of him not having the stuff.
However, after marinating in the minors for several years, it’s become time for him to answer all the questions about his prolific potential. The fan base has never forgotten how the team gave up on a potential All-Star to land Liberatore. So, he’s got to start showing some kind of return on that investment.
#3 – Ivan Herrera, C
Panama native Ivan Herrera signed with the Cardinals in July 2016 at the age of 16, and his progress is starting to show some signs of light. For a player that age, it’s typically quite the adjustment on a journey to the majors, especially for foreign-born players.
His coming-of-age moment came in 2021 when Herrera finished with a career-high 17 homers in 98 games while playing for Double-A Springfield.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite follow up on that when he moved up to Memphis in 2022. He managed a .268 average with six homers. However, Herrera didn’t exactly display a cannon behind the dish. He only managed to retire 17.7 percent of potential base stealers. He cannot expect to be considered a legitimate MLB starting catcher with that rate. It might not even qualify to be a backup on a mediocre team.
Herrera has navigated his way now to the Triple-A level, although he did get the opportunity to appear in 11 games for the big club last year.
Herrera was believed to potentially be the St. Louis Cardinals backstop of the future, it’s looking like he might be slotted as more of a bench contributor and role player. Following Yadier Molina’s retirement, the team chose to sign Willson Contreras from the rival Cubs. To make the waiting game even worse for Ivan, it was a five-year deal.
That doesn’t mean that Herrera’s star is falling, either. He will still likely be back on the Busch Stadium grass at some point during the year – likely relieving Contreras during the dog days of summer. It’s just another example of how the Cardinals keep the cupboards crammed… and the collection of championships growing.
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