The Cardinals don’t have the deepest system in the word but there are some interesting prospects littered throughout the system. And the upper half of the Top 10 has some helium potential.
1. Alex Reyes | RHP | DL —> When healthy, Reyes has the ability to be one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball. He has three better-than-average offerings when his command is on but the control also lets him down — and hasn’t had much of a chance to get better with all the layoff time. Reyes can hit triple-digits with the heater and his curveball is a swing-and-miss offerings. The members of the Cardinals front office (and fans) will hold their collective breathes until Reyes returns healthy to the mound, hopefully for Opening Day 2019.
2. Nolan Gorman | 3B | A —> Gorman has a chance to be a beast. However, he also has a chance to de-evolve into Joey Gallo — a player who swings for the fences every single time and doesn’t have an ounce of strategy at the plate beyond the grip-and-rip. Gorman, 18, had a nice approach in rookie ball but it started to fall away in A-ball when he started to chase the homers more often. He’ll likely return to A-ball in 2019 and I’d like to see him put the homer swing in his back pocket for a while and work on pitch recognition, handling curveballs and just polishing the hit tool. Defensively, he has a chance to be average but he needs some work to get there.
3. Dakota Hudson | RHP | Majors —> At the start of the year, I suggested Hudson might see some real success in the Majors out of the ‘pen and that’s exactly what happened. There is still room to grow and he continues to miss fewer bats than expected as a reliever (currently 14-12 BB-K in 20.1 innings). On the plus side, he has induced even more ground-ball outs as a reliever and has yet to allow a ball to leave the yard. If the command improves there is 3/4 starter potential — especially with his durable frame — but I think he’s in the right role and should become an excellent high-leverage arm.
4. Randy Arozarena | OF | AAA —> This athletic Cuban is just scratching the surface of his potential but he’s already reached triple-A despite turning pro in 2016. He opened the 2018 season with a strong 24-game showing in double-A but scuffled in triple-A He takes some walks but doesn’t always swings at the best hitter’s pitches. Arozarena also drives far too many balls into the ground, which cuts off his raw power potential. With adjustments to the swing, I can see 20-20 potential and the ability to play all three outfield positions.
5. Andrew Knizner | C | AAA —> Knizer doesn’t have the defensive skills that fellow young catcher Carson Kelly possesses but the former has a chance to be a very good hitting catcher — with enough feel behind the plate to carry an everyday load. He might have 12-15 homer potential with maturity to go along with a decent batting average. Knizer has room to become a more patient hitter (but he makes tons of contact). His bat is basically big-league ready but the young catcher will likely ride the AAA/MLB shuttle (with Kelly assuming the back-up role) until Yadier Molina’s contract expires after the 2020 season.
6. Elehuris Montero | 3B | A+ —> A breakout prospect in 2018, Montero has the potential for big-time power, as witnessed by his 37 doubles and 16 homers this year. The 20-year-old hitter also averaged a 25% line-drive rate. He’ll need to improve his pitch recognition and ability to handle breaking balls as he moves up. He’s probably a .250-.260 hitter at best with his current approach, which will also hinder the on-base percentage. Defensively, he has a very strong arm but may lack the overall athleticism for third base. A move to a corner outfield might work but his lack of foot speed is problematic. A switch to first base would more or less negate the value in his arm.
7. Ryan Helsley | RHP | AAA —> Helsley, 24, has the makings of a solid (but relatively unremarkable) fourth starter. He’s undersized and his four-pitch mix really only has two reliable offerings. But that fastball-curveball combo could make him a solid reliever, if the Cardinals choose that direction. A shoulder injury in 2018 could also make the Cards consider the bullpen more seriously. The 2019 season will tell us a lot about Helsley and if he can continue to succeed at higher levels with modest command/control and the limited repertoire.
8. Genesis Cabrera | LHP | AAA —> It’s been a slow climb for Cabrera after signing six years ago with the Rays, but he’s still just 21. He has a high-octane arsenal for a lefty with a 94-97 mph fastball and a wipeout slider. He lacks a reliable third pitch, though, and he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher who needs to do a better job of moving the ball around and using the lower half of the strike zone. He also struggles with his control. After spending most of 2018 in double-A, he’ll challenge for a spot in triple-A but may not be quite ready.
9. Griffin Roberts | RHP | A+ —> Selected 43rd overall in 2018, Roberts’ success comes from a plus-plus slider. He has a solid fastball and average change to round out his repertoire. He has a strong frame and should be capable of providing lots of innings. He may open up the 2019 season in high-A ball and it will be interesting to see how his command/control looks after showing inconsistent results in both those areas in college. If the command/control remain off in pro ball, he could end up in the ‘pen.
10. Justin Williams | OF | AAA —> I’ve been a fan of Williams since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft but he had a bit of a dud year in 2018. He’s athletic and loaded with raw power potential but his current swing drives a lot of balls into the ground. He also needs to tighten up his approach as more experienced pitchers exploited his weaknesses. The 2019 season will basically be a do-over at the triple-A level for the 23-year-old prospect.
Ramon Urias | IF | AAA —> Urias was pulled out of the professional Mexican League ranks where he held his own against much older competition. He’ll likely never be more than a back-up infielder but he makes good contact, has a chance to get some hits and has more pop than you’d expect from his slight frame.
Luken Baker | 1B | A —> I wasn’t a huge fan of Baker’s entering the draft but the Cardinals do an amazing job of identifying strong college talent, then developing them and getting the most out of them. He’s basically a one-tool player (power) who might hit OK if he can learn to trim down the swing.
Evan Mendoza | 3B | AA —> Mendoza is my Cardinals sleeper pick for 2019. He needs to be a little more patient and improve upon his 39-104 BB-K but he has a chance to hit for average and play very good defence at third base. The good news is that he’s slowly starting to hit more productive fly balls so there might be a little more pop to come.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.