For the last few years, talk of the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system started with Alex Reyes. After Reyes, the discussion turned to Yadier Molina’s heir apparent, Carson Kelly. The praise is deserved. Reyes features a 100+ MPH fastball and Kelly is regarded as one of the finest defensive catchers in the minors.
In all the talk surrounding Kelly and Reyes, other players have been overlooked. One led the Midwest League in stolen bases last season. Another was named the organizational player of the year, the youngest to ever win the award.
I saw Bader play quite a bit last season while he was at AA-Springfield. He flashed some power, even to the opposite field. In 356 plate appearances, he batted .283/.351/.497, and earned a spot on the Texas League North All-Star team.
While he struggled at AAA in his first pro season, he’s rebounded this Spring. He’s batting .346 with a pair of home runs in 26 at bats. Here’s a little bit of what MLB.com says about him:
While Bader doesn’t have one plus tool, he can do a lot of things well, and better than one might think after a casual glance. With an aggressive approach at the plate, he doesn’t get cheated, and while he’s likely to never lose that attitude, he was open to tweaking his approach when Triple-A proved to be a bit more challenging for him. He has more power than one would think, with the chance to be Major League average in that department at the highest level. He’s a better defender than people gave him credit for, with the chance to stay in center field long term.
Unlike MLB.com, I don’t think he stays in center. Fowler is signed to a long term deal, and there are better defenders in the organization. He should be able to contribute offensively regardless of what position he ends up at.
I hadn’t heard of Alvarez until after this season. Over the last three season, he’s shown the ability to hit for high average, batting over .300 each season. He broke out last year, when he was second in the Midwest League in OPS, second in average, and first in stolen bases with 36. The 22-year old was able to have such a high OPS because of his elite speed, which enabled him to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He only weights 165 pounds, so he’ll have to add some strength for some of those doubles to carry over the wall.
The Cardinals think highly enough of him to add him to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from being taken in the Rule-5 draft. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but needs to refine his footwork to be an above average defender at second base. Here’s what MLB.com has to say:
While it took a little while for Alvarez to reach the Midwest League — he had a summer in the Dominican Sumer League, two in the Gulf Coast League and one in the Appalachian League — he’s shown an ability to hit for average over his last three seasons. He uses a short, level swing from the left side of the plate to make consistent, hard contact. He has the chance to grow into more power, but he might be more of a line-drive, doubles-type hitter because of his approach. He’s an above-average runner with excellent instincts that allow him to be a threat on the bases. He has a very strong arm, but needs to work on his footwork and hands to be a more effective defender at second.
A fourth round pick out of Illinois State in 2015, DeJong fits the mold of Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. He showed more power than expected, hitting 22 homer for Springfield. Unlike Bader, DeJong started slowly, so he didn’t earn a call up to Memphis. He did show an OPS that was 80 points higher in the second half.
So far this Spring, he’s hit a pair of homers. One, an opposite field shot, was pretty impressive.
The Cardinals moved him from third to short, and so far the reviews have been mostly positive. If an infielder goes down with an injury, DeJong has put himself in a position to be the first one called up from Memphis. Long term, I think he projects as a utility guy with pop at the big league level.
Fresh off being named the youngest Minor League Player of the Year in the Cardinals’ organization, fans were excited about Mags at Winter Warm-Up 2015. His autograph was free, but the waiting in the line for a voucher cost me a couple of hours.
Sierra struggled mightily that season. He batted only .191, and struck out in 27% of his at bats. Honestly, I thought he was overhyped, considering he only had one good season, and that at Rookie ball.
Last season, he proved me wrong. In his second season at Peoria, he hit .307 and stole 31 bases. Offensively, he profiles similarly to Eliezer Alvarez, but he shines on defense. He’s considered the best center fielder in the organization, thanks to his blazing speed and strong arm. Here’s what MLB.com has to say:
While Sierra could stand to refine his approach and draw more walks, especially since he profiles as a top-of-the-order type hitter, he does have a knack for making consistent hard contact. He doesn’t have over-the-fence power, but Sierra has enough strength to hit the gaps. From there, his speed allows him to take extra bases and he should become a more efficient basestealer as he progresses. Sierra is an elite-level defender in center field, the kind who regularly makes highlight-reel plays, and he has a plus arm to boot.
He’s impressed so much this spring, an opposing coach asked Matheny if he would crack the Opening Day roster, even though he hasn’t had an at-bat above A-ball.
Mozeliak has clearly prioritized speed and athleticism on the international market, and professional college hitters through the draft. Nationally, the Cards farm system isn’t considered elite. Baseball America ranks them 12th in terms of “organizational talent”. Big years from Bader, Alvarez, DeJong, and Sierra could have the Cardinals moving up those lists.
Thanks for reading!
Colin Garner Follow @colingarner22