Major League Baseball's owners may have locked out the players, triggering the league's first work stoppage since 1994-95 and bringing the offseason to a halt, but that doesn't mean we're letting it derail our typical offseason plans. Indeed, CBS Sports is in the process of highlighting the top three prospects for all 30 teams, as well as naming the top 50 prospects in the minors, regardless of team affiliation.
That journey finds us today focusing on the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system.
Do note that these lists are formed after conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development folks from around the league. There is personal bias baked in, as one would expect from subjective exercises, so some disagreement is to be expected.
Now, onto the gasbaggery.
1. Jordan Walker, 3B, No. 13 on the top 20
Walker is the first of two Cardinals on this list (both of whom were drafted in the second half of round one). He made his professional debut last season, hitting .317/.388/.548 with 14 home runs and 29 troubles (that's doubles plus triples). Walker has near-elite raw power and, in a promising development as it pertains to maximizing its utility, he started lifting the ball more frequently after being promoted to High-A. His strikeout rate also spiked following his move up the ladder, moving up from 17 to 27 percent, but it's easy to give him a pass on that for now because he won't celebrate his 20th birthday until May. Walker may in time have to move away from the hot corner, likely to another corner; it won't matter if he turns into a marquee slugger.
2. Nolan Gorman, 2B, No. 17 on the top 20
The other Cardinal in the top 20. Gorman made two noteworthy changes last year, moving from third to second base on a nearly full-time basis and dropping his strikeout rate upon reaching Triple-A. Gorman's improved contact rate was accompanied by a change in his swing mechanics, as he lowered his hands to streamline his swing. He has well-above-average power, the kind you seldom see at the keystone; provided his defense is deemed tolerable (and he has improved), he should spend most of the 2022 season as the Cardinals' starting second baseman.
3. Matthew Liberatore, LHP
Liberatore is best known as the key piece in the Randy Arozarena trade for the Cardinals. Arozarena's ascent to stardom has obscured that Liberatore ought to be a quality big-league player himself. He spent last season in Triple-A, where he accumulated a 4.04 ERA and a 3.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio despite having previously not pitched above Single-A. Liberatore, who throws strikes with a four-pitch arsenal chock full of average or better offerings, should debut in the majors early next season. He ought to settle in as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.