Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.
Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future..
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the St. Louis Cardinals.
1. Jordan Walker, 3B/OF, No. 6 on top 20 (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Walker has immense strength, resulting in the kind of raw power that could make him a prototypical middle-of-the-order slugger. In order to fully access that pop, scouts expect that he'll need to continue to learn how to lift the ball more frequently -- last season, more than 45 percent of his batted balls were grounders. (A point in his favor is that most evaluators believe it's easier to train launch angle than exit velocity.) There was always a chance Walker would outgrow the hot corner, and the Cardinals have already taken to cross-training him in the outfield. Whatever position he ends up playing, his bat will be the main draw. It's conceivable that he could become the latest young Cardinals hitter to take regular at-bats sometime in 2023.
2. Masyn Winn, SS (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Back in Winn's draft year, before he was selected 54th overall, we wrote that "if a position player selected outside of the first round is going to turn into a star, it might be [him]" based on his high-grade athleticism and bat speed. Sure enough, last season was a step in the right direction. He split the year between High- and Double-A, batting .283/.364/.468 with 12 home runs and 43 stolen bases. Factor in Winn's good defense, complete with a strong arm that's an artifact from his days as a two-way player, and it's fair to write that he's well on his way to making good on our bold prediction.
3. Tink Hence, RHP (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Hence is a small right-hander with just 68 professional innings (including his stint in the Arizona Fall League) to his credit since being drafted in 2020. His youth and inexperience doesn't overshadow that he has an immense upside. Hence has a mid-90s fastball, as well as a pair of promising secondaries in a curveball and changeup. He's several years of development away, and anything can happen in that time, but there's a fair chance he tops this list someday.