The St. Louis Cardinals have long been a prospect factory. Once again they find themselves stacked with at least five Top 100 prospects — Alex Reyes, Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill and Jack Flaherty — with two more knocking on the door in Dakota Hudson and Delvin Perez.
As usual, the Cardinals go much deeper than that.
Max Schrock, IF
Schrock was originally part of the Oakland Athletics “3 Prospects to Know” written on October 22, 2017. Two months later he was shipped to St. Louis in the Stephen Piscotty deal. It’s the second time in roughly a year that Schrock has been traded.
Schrock is an interesting prospect. He makes good contact, puts up enough walks compared to an extremely low strikeout rate, yet he continues to get traded. Still, everywhere he lands he becomes on of the organizations top prospects. Here’s what was said prior to the trade. Much is still true.
There is nothing elite or sexy about Schrock as a prospect, but he continues to show an innate ability to work pitchers and get on base. Another former Nationals farm hand — once part of the most exciting lineup in the South Atlantic League — Schrock is proving the A’s to be the winners in the deal for ‘Scrabble’.
Schrock is a hitter. He has some modest pop, but extra base hits aren’t his game. Some people don’t see value in a guy that doesn’t drive the ball over the fence, but a 128 wRC+ shows that Schrock has plenty. He has an awareness of the strike zone that is unheard of in this era of home run ball, striking out just 9.2 percent of the time this season. This is a guy who has struck out just 100 times in over 1100 career plate appearances.
He slashed .321/.379/.422 with 19 doubles and seven home runs. Schrock went from being a 20 stolen base guy to swiping four. Some of that may be a change in style. Some may be the fact that the bulk of his steals came in Hagerstown, when pitchers were worried about Victor Robles and Kelvin Gutierrez as well. Schrock is limited defensively to second base, so he will have to continue to hit to be an every day starter.
Kramer Robertson, SS
Robertson was one of the gritty leaders that returned his senior year to lead the LSU Tigers. Unfortunately, they fell just short of their goal, losing to Florida in the finals of the College World Series. Shortly after, a bulk of the core — like Greg Deichmann, Alex Lange, and Jared Poche’ — became minor leaguers.
The 23-year-old shortstop seems like the kind of prospect that thrives in the Cardinals’ system. Even if he doesn’t pan out as a starter, he plays the game hard enough, that they will find a way to make him a super-utility player.
He’s small, with a modest arm, but his speed plays true. It gives him an edge in the field that should help him stick up the middle. Thanks to the ability to consistently get the bat on the ball and a keen eye at the plate (he struck out 36 times and walked 21 in his first 215 career at bats), his speed will help offensively as well, stealing 10 of 14 bases in his pro debut.
Robertson will likely never be an elite prospect. But in the Cardinals system, that has never meant big league success wasn’t imminent.
Austin Gomber, LHP
Gomber had an impressive start to his career after the Cardinals took him out of Florida Atlantic in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. His first full season at Double-A was less sexy, but Gomber still shows a lot of promise.
The 24-year-old is a big southpaw, listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. Despite not having overpowering stuff, he has shown good command and the ability to go innings at every level, going at least six innings in his last seven starts of 2017. After a good debut in the New York-Penn League, the Cardinals worked with Gomber on his curveball, giving it more dive, and making it arguably his most effective and best pitch.
Gomber exploded in the Midwest League in 2015, leading the Cardinals minor leagues with 15 wins. He followed that with a strong 2016 in the Florida State League, where he posted a 2.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, and earned himself a small sample in Double-A.
Though he dominated in his four starts in 2016, he was a bit less consistent in his full season in 2017. He finished the year with a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Both were career highs, but hardly worrisome. He posted one of his best strikeout rates, but his walk rate (3.21 per nine) was higher than in his two big seasons at A-ball.
Gomber should see time in Memphis this season and should probably see some time in the bigs in 2018. He could be a nice back of the rotation arm in the future Cardinals’ young rotation.