20) Austin Gomber – LHP
Date of Birth: November 23, 1993
Height/Weight: 6′ 5″, 205 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round in 2014
With good size at 6′ 2″ Gomber uses his large frame to deliver his pitches on a downward plane and with tricky arm speed to create deception on a fastball that only sits in the low 90s. A potential back-end starter, the big lefty also uses a good changeup, his best pitch, and a respectable slider to get outs, relying more on the defense behind him. Gomber won’t be an ace but as long as the defense helps him he can be reliable as the 22-year-old doesn’t beat himself by giving up homers or free passes.
19) Trey Nielsen – RHP
Date of Birth: September 1, 1991
Height/Weight: 6′ 1″/190 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted in the 30th round in 2013
Despite having undergone Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, Nielsen has returned healthy and can still hit 95 on the radar. However, more often than not, Nielsen will keep his fastball in the lower 90s, utilizing the pitch’s sink to induce groundouts. His lean frame at 6′ 1″ and 190 lbs. is a bit worrisome for durability reasons, but the righty throws strikes and his mechanics are smooth.
Nielsen has a changeup and slider that have potential, but still need more work. Despite his size and questionable secondary pitches, Nielsen has had very good showings in his two years as a pro, albeit at Low- and High-A. If his secondary pitches improve we could see the righty become a strong three in the rotation, but with a lot of pitching talent already at the big league level as well as the likes of Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver around, a future in the bullpen seems more likely for Nielsen.
18) Juan Herrera – SS
Date of Birth: June 28, 1993
Height/Weight: 5′ 11″/165 lbs.
Acquired: from Indians in 2011
Herrera profiles as a number-two hitter. His good contact skills and decent speed will allow Herrera to be on the bases more times than not for the middle of the order. His walk rate isn’t great and he can get overly agressive when at the plate, but Herrera will be respectable at the plate. The 22-year-old’s real value comes on the defensive side, as Herrera possesses soft hands, excellent range, and the necessary arm strength to stick at shortstop in the long term. Herrera needs to improve with the bat, and hopefully that will come as he gains muscle from weight room work, otherwise he won’t be the first option the Cardinals look to when Jhonny Peralta‘s contract is up. He’ll start the year at High-A and likely finish in AA.
17) Carson Kelly – C
Date of Birth: July 14, 1994
Height/Weight: 6′ 2″/200 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round in 2012
Now with two years under his belt as a catcher, Carson Kelly continues to improve behind the plate. Although he isn’t mechanically smooth when throwing from behind the plate, Kelly’s strong arm makes up for that. The former third baseman has shown a good handle on calling pitches as well as blocking balls. Kelly only stands to improve defensively as he grasps the rigors of catching.
Kelly’s bat is the big question however, as his big body and power is what got him drafted. As you can see however, Kelly hit a mere eight home runs last year, and while the power is there at times, Kelly profiles as more of a line-drive hitter. However, at just 20 years old, Kelly has time to improve, and with contact skills that are better than the stats show, the hits will come, as the catcher hardly swings and misses. Kelly finished 2015 at High-A, and there is a good chance he starts the year at AA in 2016, where we will be able to get a better feel for him.
16) Jacob Wilson -3B/2B
Date of Birth: July 29, 1990
Height/Weight: 5′ 11″/180 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted in the 10th round in 2012
Wilson doesn’t profile like a typical middle infielder at the plate, as he has more strength and bat speed than your average middle infielder. Wilson’s decent power should translate to the big league’s, as he hit 18 homers between Double- and Triple-A last season, with 11 coming at Triple-A. Wilson also makes solid contact and while he can expand his strike zone at times, he doesn’t whiff too much. Wilson also provides versatility as he possesses the range and hands for second base as well as the arm and instincts for the hot corner. Wilson also possesses the skills to play both corner outfield spots should the need arise.
Wilson’s bat can seem to be a problem, but notice that after down seasons in the past, Wilson has been able to rebound, and if he can there may be utility role available for him at the big-league level should someone suffer an injury.