Last summer, the St. Louis Cardinals made a somewhat surprising selection with the No. 21 overall pick in the MLB Draft, taking Georgia high schooler Jordan Walker, who was ranked 33rd in the draft class by MLB Pipeline and 34th by Baseball America. A year later, the 19-year-old who many believed they reached for is one of the best players in the minor leagues, and it looks like the Cardinals got an absolute steal.

After posting an unbelievable .374/.475/.687 slash line with six homers in 27 games at Low-A Palm Beach, Walker was promoted to High-A Peoria on June 29 and has continued to thrive. In 17 games for the Chiefs, Walker is hitting .314/.360/.514 with six doubles, a triple and two home runs. He got off to a slow start in the power department after his promotion but has turned it on recently, hitting two doubles and both of his High-A homers in his last four games.

As a teenager who is already flashing elite contact-hitting and on-base skills and has the size (6-foot-5 and 220 pounds) to develop more power as he ages, Walker has seen his prospect stock rise rapidly. Earlier this season, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak compared Walker's quick success to that of Albert Pujols, and in an interview earlier this week with Bally Sports Midwest's Jim Hayes, he referred to Walker as one of "three elite prospects," along with Matthew Liberatore and Nolan Gorman, in the Cardinals system.

The one concern for Walker this season — and one that may follow him through the years due to his large frame — has been his health. He's been limited to 44 games, missing time in late May and early June due to a wrist ailment and sitting out six games earlier this month due to an undisclosed injury. When he's been on the field, though, he's been virtually unstoppable. As he gets more professional at-bats and continues to develop more power, his upside looks to be extremely high.

Here are some other players of note around the Cardinals minor league system:


LHP Matthew Liberatore (ranked No. 1 in the Cardinals organization and No. 27 in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline): After a very strong June, it's been a pretty rough July for the Cardinals' top prospect. He's allowed five or more earned runs in three of his four outings and has a 6.85 ERA with a .326 opponent batting average in July. On the plus side, his command has still been good — he has 23 strikeouts and four walks in 22.1 innings — and in his one good start, he was really good, throwing six shutout innings while striking out nine and allowing four hits and no walks.

The Cardinals blocked Liberatore, who pitched for Team USA in the Olympic qualifiers earlier this summer, from attending the Tokyo games, seemingly so they would have him available as rotation depth if needed. But with Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Daniel Ponce de Leon close to returning from the injured list and fill-ins Wade LeBlanc and Jake Woodford pitching well, it doesn't look as though Liberatore will be thrust into St. Louis' rotation this year. That's probably not the worst thing for a pitcher who has already been given a big challenge this season by being elevated from Low-A to Triple-A, where he's about six years younger than the average player.

IF Nolan Gorman (No. 2 Cardinals prospect, No. 28 overall): Gorman started slowly after a June 29 promotion to Triple-A Memphis, but the 21-year-old has hit his stride over the last couple weeks. In his last 14 games, Gorman has a .339 batting average and a .984 OPS with four homers, 16 RBIs, eight strikeouts and five walks. He starred in Memphis' July 18 win over Norfolk, going 3 for 5 with two homers and four RBIs. He's also played solid defense at second base, the position he'll likely take over when he reaches the majors. He's committed just one error through 15 games at second for the Redbirds.

Since Gorman isn't on the 40-man roster and MLB now allows teams to add just two extra players to the active roster in September, it seems unlikely that he'll make his major league debut this season. But he's played well enough all season to put himself in the conversation for a spot on next year's Opening Day roster.

C Iván Herrera (No. 3 Cardinals prospect, No. 80 overall): Herrera continues to have an up-and-down offensive season at Double-A Springfield. Fortunately for the 21-year-old catcher, it's been a bit more up than down recently. He has six hits with 16 total bases and seven RBIs in his last three games, including a three-hit night on Wednesday in which he hit two homers. Herrera's numbers for the season still aren't very good — he has career lows in batting average (.219), on-base percentage (.350) and slugging percentage (.351) and has only 14 extra-base hits in 64 games. But for a player who's considered a rather significant part of the Cardinals' future, it's been nice to see over the last few days that he's still capable of being a game-changer at the plate.

LHP Zack Thompson (No. 4 Cardinals prospect): It's been a trying few months for the 23-year-old Thompson, who jumped to Triple-A to start the season after finishing 2019 in High-A. His most recent start was his best yet, though, as he shut out Louisville for six innings, striking out five while allowing four hits and one walk. While they aren't numbers that necessarily jump off the page, Thompson's ERA (5.19), opponent batting average (.268) and walk rate (0.29 per inning) in July are all monthly bests this season. He has much work to do, but Thompson's recent improvement gives the Cardinals some cause for optimism about their 2019 first-round pick.

SS/RHP Masyn Winn (No. 5 Cardinals prospect): After dominating Low-A pitching in June and July, Winn was promoted to Peoria on July 27. He's off to a hot start through two games with the Chiefs and has already collected three hits, including a triple and a homer in Wednesday night's win over Beloit.

Winn, the Cardinals' second-round pick in 2020, may have the most all-around talent of any player in the system. While it's still very early, it's possible that the Cardinals may end up looking back at Walker and Winn as the best pair of early-round draft picks they've made in a long time.


Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A): For the most part, Memphis' bullpen has struggled this season. However, 27-year-old lefty Austin Warner has been effective all year and has been dominant in July. Warner, who was converted to relief this year after starting in his first three professional seasons, has not allowed an earned run over 10.1 innings this month, yielding just four hits and two walks while striking out 12.

Warner, 27, has a 3.83 ERA for the season with 49 strikeouts, 20 walks and a .210 opponent batting average over 44.2 innings. He's consistently provided length for the Redbirds — a skill that would be welcomed in the Cardinals' major league bullpen right now — throwing more than one inning in 18 of his 23 appearances this year and going as many as 4.1 frames, a feat he's accomplished in two spot starts this year.

The Cardinals are rather deep in terms of left-handed pitching. Génesis Cabrera, T.J. McFarland and Andrew Miller are in the major league bullpen, and LeBlanc may end up there once Flaherty and Mikolas are healthy. Brandon Waddell is still on the 40-man roster, and the Cards might rather give another chance to Tyler Webb than promote Warner. But the career minor leaguer has done virtually everything in his power this year to put himself on the radar of the front office, and if he doesn't get a call-up, he should at the very least be under strong consideration for a major league opportunity in 2022.

Springfield Cardinals (Double-A): Right-handed reliever Jacob Bosiokovic, 27, is one of the most interesting projects in the St. Louis system this year. The Rockies drafted him as a first baseman/outfielder out of Ohio State in 2016, then converted him to the mound after he hit .159 with a .492 OPS at High-A Lancaster in 2018. Bosiokovic had a solid debut as a reliever in 2019, posting a 4.54 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks over 41.2 innings for Low-A Asheville. The Cardinals were intrigued enough to select the 6-foot-5, 240-pound righty in the minor league portion of the December 2019 Rule 5 Draft, but a wrench was thrown in his development when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season, forcing him to work out on his own for the entire year.

Bosiokovic obviously did something right last year, because the Cardinals aggressively placed him in Springfield to start the season, and he's handled that big jump about as well as he could have. He's missed bats with ease, holding hitters to a .184 average while striking out 54 in 38.1 innings, making effective use of a mid-90s fastball and a slider with impressive movement. His command has been shaky at times (as is understandable for a guy with 80 innings of competitive pitching experience), and his 23 walks and three hit batters are a large reason that he has a 4.46 ERA this season. He seems to be gaining a better feel for the strike zone as the season goes on, though, and after walking 11 batters over 12 innings in June, he's cut down to six walks over 12 frames in July. That improved command has resulted in a fantastic month for Bosiokovic, who has a 1.50 ERA with 19 strikeouts and a .156 opponent average over seven appearances.

Whether it's been David Carpenter, Jason Motte, Robert Stock, Sam Tuivailala or Rowan Wick, the Cardinals have shown an aptitude for converting position players into successful relievers at the professional level. It's still early, but Bosiokovic looks like he could be their next success story.

Peoria Chiefs (High-A): Connor Lunn, one of quite a few pitchers who the Cardinals have selected out of the Los Angeles area since Randy Flores took over as scouting director in 2015, has put together a solid showing at Peoria this season, and he's been at his best over his last three starts. The USC product allowed only two earned runs in a combined 16.2 innings over that span, including a July 23 outing in which he threw six scoreless frames. While he was touched up for six runs over 4.2 innings on July 6, he's flashed impressive command all month, striking out 21 and walking five over 21.1 innings.

Lunn's run prevention skills have been inconsistent this year, and he has a 4.61 ERA over 15 appearances (14 starts). He's developed into more of a strikeout artist as the season has gone on, though, and his ability to avoid issuing walks (15 in 70.1 innings) could be his greatest asset as he looks to keep moving up in the system.

Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A): Outfielder Matt Koperniak had an atypical journey to professional baseball. He played three standout seasons at Division III Trinity College, but his senior season was wiped out after just three games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He planned to transfer to Kansas State in 2021 after going undrafted in the abbreviated 2020 MLB Draft, but he decided to sign with the Cardinals instead after they offered him an amateur free agent deal. The left-handed hitter has had no trouble adjusting from the Division III level to the professional game this year and has a .306 batting average with an .876 OPS, 12 doubles, four homers, 22 RBIs and nearly as many walks (29) as strikeouts (31) for Palm Beach. He's put up his best numbers of the season in July, posting a .333/.471/.519 slash line with seven doubles, a homer, 10 walks and only eight strikeouts in 70 plate appearances.

At 23, Koperniak is a little old for the Low-A level, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him rewarded for his success soon and moved up to Peoria.

Florida Complex League Cardinals (Rookie): Catcher Luis Rodriguez, 21, began the season at Palm Beach and struggled in a backup role, hitting .154 with a .472 OPS in 29 plate appearances. He was sent down to rookie ball when the Florida Complex League started in late June, and he's thrived in his new environment. In 10 games, Rodriguez has posted a .409/.552/.500 slash line with two doubles, five RBIs, seven walks and six strikeouts. While it was a setback for him to drop back down to the FCL after beginning the season in Low-A, this stint should provide him with a nice confidence boost heading into his next opportunity with a full-season club.

Dominican Summer League Cardinals (Rookie): Right-hander Benjamin Arias, 19, has flashed stellar command through three Dominican Summer League starts this year. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound righty has 21 strikeouts and has issued just four walks over 12 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .205 average. He allowed two earned runs over three innings in his first start and two over four in his second, then took a big step forward in his third outing, yielding just one unearned run over five frames while striking out nine and walking one. Arias, who struggled in his first DSL season in 2019 before missing all of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be a strong candidate to move stateside next spring if he keeps up this performance the rest of the summer.

Top photo of Jordan Walker courtesy of Peoria Chiefs.