The Cardinals don’t get a lot of love for their minor league depth but I believe some of their prospects are deserving of more attention than they’ve received so far.
The Graduate: Paul DeJong, IF: No one really saw DeJong coming — although the Cardinals clearly had some hope for him after selecting him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. He entered pro ball as a third baseman but shifted up the middle in 2017 and thrived. After slugging 22 home runs at double-A in 2016, he slugged 38 homers between triple-A and the Majors in ’17. DeJong, 24, has a chance to be a very good player but he’ll need to tighten up his approach approach at the plate after walking less than 5% and striking out at a 28% clip.
First Taste of The Show: Magneuris Sierra, OF: A spate of injuries presented Sierra with an unexpected opportunity to reach the Majors in 2017 and he didn’t look terribly out of place. An uncharacteristically high line-drive rate of 28% helped him hit .317 in 22 games — although his 19 hits were all singles. He’s a four-tool player with his only below-average skill being his power. He has a chance to be an everyday player on his defensive skills alone (including his rocket arm) but he’ll need to polish both his approach at the plate and his base running before he’s handed an everyday job in the Majors.
The Stud: Jack Flaherty, RHP: The Cardinals system is known for its high-octane arms with the likes of Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara, Junior Fernandez, and others, but Flaherty might be their best starting pitcher prospect. The young right-hander works in the low 90s with his heat but he can tickle the mid-90s. His best offering in his four-pitch repertoire is his changeup. He also boasts above-average control and walked just 35 batters in 148.2 innings split between double-A and triple-A in 2017. Flaherty, 22, has the pitcher’s frame to be an innings-eater but he’ll need to keep working down in the zone to avoid long-ball issues in The Show. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.
The Draft Pick: Scott Hurst, OF: The Cardinals didn’t have a selection until the third round in 2017 but they might have found at least a big league fourth outfielder in Hurst — if not more. His biggest need is to trim the swing-and-miss in his game and take full advantage of his speed. Unfortunately, he has just enough power to mess with his head and he needs to focus on getting on base rather than trying to drive in runs. Hurst has a chance to be a better-than-average center-fielder. Given St. Louis’ aggressive nature with college draft picks, expect him to open 2018 in high-A ball.
The Riser: Randy Arozarena, OF: The Cardinals’ outfield depth in the system is down right impressive and this Cuban native has a chance to surprise a lot of people. Arozarena, 22, had a great first full year in pro ball and has a chance to be a five-tool threat. He stings the ball and went deep 11 times but he has untapped power potential. He also has above-average speed and could eventually be a 20-20 (HR-SB) threat. St. Louis will no doubt look for ways to move some of its outfield depth to fill holes in other areas but Arozarena is one prospect that should be held onto.
The Sleeper: Austin Gomber, LHP: Gomber isn’t flashy but he has a chance to be a very good arm for the Cardinals. A 2014 fourth rounder, this southpaw works in the low 90s but he commands it exceptionally well. Gomber, 23, has a chance to have three above-average offerings — including a plus breaking ball. He has a large frame and a good chance to develop into a No. 4 starter capable of hitting 200+ innings pitched. He’ll likely open 2018 in triple-A but could be one of the first arms called up to provide valuable innings.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.