The St. Louis Cardinals are already one of baseball's better baserunning teams. Tommy Edman is a legitimate difference-maker on the basepaths, Lars Nootbaar has taken a major step forward as a runner this year, and Dylan Carlson and Tyler O'Neill both have enough speed to impact the game when they're healthy. With all that said, outfield prospect Victor Scott II is so fast that he could singlehandedly take the Cardinals to another level on the basepaths if he eventually reaches the majors — and with the way he's playing this year, that long-term possibility is certainly increasing.
Scott's biggest asset is unquestionably his speed. The 2022 fifth-round pick out of West Virginia leads all of Minor League Baseball with 29 stolen bases in 31 attempts. But the 22-year-old center fielder, who has spent all of 2023 with the High-A Peoria Chiefs, is so much more than just a baserunning specialist. Scott has an impressive .286/.364/.451 slash line in his first full professional season, and the left-handed hitter has been particularly impressive over the last 15 days, slashing .326/.442/.535. He's not going to be a game-changing power hitter, but he has a little bit of pop and has racked up six doubles, five triples (which is tied for the minor league lead), and two homers with 18 RBIs.
Scott, ranked 27th among Cardinals prospects by MLB Pipeline, is also highly regarded for his defense in center field — not surprising, considering his speed — and has a real chance to stick at the position as he moves up the minor league ladder. There were concerns about his aggressiveness at the plate prior to the draft, but he's largely quashed those worries early in his pro career, as he's struck out a relatively modest 19.5% of the time. He does have room for improvement when it comes to drawing free passes, as he has only a 7.1% walk rate, but that's not a stat the Cardinals seem to value too highly, anyway.
The rate at which Scott progresses through the minors may depend on the performance of an extremely similar player, Mike Antico, who has been solid in his second season playing center field at Double-A Springfield. If Antico, the Cards' 22nd-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, hits his stride enough to move up to Triple-A Memphis later this season, that may create an opening for Scott to reach the upper minors midway through his first full pro campaign.
Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A): The buzz has died down a bit around Iván Herrera, who has seen his prospect status fade after struggling during a brief big league stint last year. The 22-year-old backstop, who at one point was widely expected to be the heir apparent to Yadier Molina, saw the Cardinals make a long-term investment in veteran catcher Willson Contreras over the offseason. Despite Herrera's presence on the 40-man roster, the Cards opted to select the contract of Tres Barrera when they needed extra catching depth due to Contreras' sabbatical from the squat earlier this month. Even as he's faced some adversity, though, Herrera has put together a strong season in Memphis and appears to be doing the things he needs to do to position himself for another big league opportunity, even if there isn't an obvious spot for him on the Cardinals' roster right now.
Herrera, now ranked eighth among Cards prospects by MLB Pipeline, has a .260/.388/.460 slash line in 27 games this season — good for an .848 OPS and a wRC+ that is 19 percent above league average. He's made very strong swing decisions and has a 15.7% walk rate, compared to a 24.0% strikeout rate. He's been stellar over the last 15 days, posting a .905 OPS with seven RBIs. Herrera isn't going to be Molina behind the plate (and neither is anyone else, most likely), but he's done a solid job of improving as a blocker and a receiver this season. His ability to control the running game is a potential issue, as he's thrown out only 14.8% of attempted base stealers this season, but for the most part he looks like he'll be a solid defensive option once he's a big league regular.
Springfield Cardinals (Double-A): The Cardinals have received very strong returns on their 2020 draft class, which included current big leaguer Alec Burleson as well as top prospects Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn and Tink Hence. It's increasingly possible that they'll also receive big league contributions at some point from a member of that draft class who wasn't actually, well, drafted.
Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, an undrafted free agent out of Gonzaga in 2020, has quietly been maybe the most consistent reliever in the system for two seasons now, and he hasn't struggled at all with the adjustment to the upper minors this year. The 25-year-old right-hander's command hasn't been quite as impeccable as it was in 2022, when he walked only 17 batters in 70.1 innings with High-A Peoria, but he's still getting the job done. Trogrlic-Iverson has a 2.95 ERA with a .268 opponent batting average, 19 strikeouts and seven walks over 18.1 frames. He's given up just one earned run over five appearances in the month of May.
As an undrafted free agent without elite velocity, Trogrlic-Iverson has had to work a little bit harder than the average pitching prospect to put himself on the map. He's now succeeding in the upper minors, though, and the Cardinals generally don't hesitate to bump a pitcher who's performing well in Springfield up to Memphis if there's an opening on the Redbirds' staff. Trogrlic-Iverson appears to be doing everything he needs to do this season to give himself a real shot to pitch in the big leagues at some point.
Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A): Right-hander Hancel Rincon has been solid all season, but he's been absolutely dominant in May. The 21-year-old Dominican native has yet to allow an earned run this month while tallying 10 strikeouts and no walks in 14 innings. Rincon held Daytona to three hits and one unearned run over a career-high eight innings on May 5, then held Jupiter to four hits and an unearned run over six frames on May 12. Rincon's numbers for the season are very strong — a 2.83 ERA, a .181 opponent batting average, 25 strikeouts and six walks over 35 innings spanning six starts. It's been a nice step forward for the 6-foot-2, 160-pound righty who was solid but unspectacular last year in his first season stateside, posting a 4.34 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over 15 appearances split between Palm Beach and the Florida Complex League.
Rincon's rotation mate, Max Rajcic, has also been very good, is more of a strikeout artist and is a bit older than Rincon, so he might be first in the pecking order if there's some upward movement among starting pitchers in the Cardinals system. It wouldn't be shocking, however, to see Rincon get a shot in Peoria before the end of the season if he continues to pitch the way he has so far this year.