Greetings. For the opening of St. Louis Cardinals spring training, I’ve put together a Watch List.

These are the most compelling players on the fields of Jupiter. This is a subjective exercise. My The Watch List doesn’t necessarily include big-name Cardinals. This isn’t about concocting a predictable narrative about roster-spot competitions.

There’s plenty of time for that stuff. After five of six exhibition games, perhaps we’ll be treated to breathless speculation about the shortstop competition if Masyn Winn gets off to a cold start. Things like: Can Buddy Kennedy Take Masyn Winn’s Job at shortstop?”

My Watch List is more about curiosity, potential surprises and wondering if there’s hope for the same old, same old.

1. Dylan Carlson: He’s an important presence in the outfield. The fourth outfielder. He may have to play center – more than anticipated – if Tommy Edman has a setback in his return from wrist surgery. At age 25, Carlson still has time to show us that the long-ago hype was justified. If Carlson can get on track, the Cardinals will be better because of him.

2. Masyn Winn: I remain flabbergasted by the premature criticism of the Cardinals’ young starting shortstop. A percentage of Cardinal fans completely overreacted to Winn’s first test in the big leagues and the unimpressive small-sample numbers. He had 122 late-season at-bats for the Cardinals and wasn’t Barry Larkin. That made him OVERRATED! This stuff is crazy.

I understand the anger that still rages after a gross 91-loss season. But at least try to channel it properly, OK? Winn has game. Lots of game. Let’s give it some time before we accuse him of being the next Tyler Greene or something.

Keith Law (The Athletic) ranked 16th in his recent roll call of the Top 100 prospects in the majors for 2024. Here’s a sample from Law’s analysis of Winn:

“He’s an elite defender at short. Has outstanding plate discipline for his age, across all dimensions of that term – his pitch selection, his pitch type recognition, and his ball/strike recognition are all above-average or better for someone who’s been young for every level he’s played at in pro ball. He’s also a 70 runner with an 88.4 percent success rate on 104 stolen base attempts in the minors. And he has outstanding bat speed on top of that, rarely missing even plus fastballs … that adds up to a pretty high floor: plus defense, high contact rates, solid to plus on-base percentages, added value on the bases, and you hope a little power. Unless his approach completely collapses in the majors, which I have a hard time imagining, he’ll be at least an average regular at short for a long time. The Cards appear to have cleared the way for him to win the job out of spring training, and I don’t think there’s any real benefit to sending him back to Triple A at this point anyway. Just let his defense carry him while he adjusts to big-league pitching and enjoy the show.”

3. Victor Scott II: A fast-fast-fast center fielder who can fly to reach fly balls and line drives. A lightning flash on the bases who swiped 94 bags last season in a year split between Class A and Double A. What’s next? He’s developing power and had scouts fired up at the Arizona Fall League.

4. Gordon Graceffo: Why is he on the list? In 2022, he was portrayed as the next good homegrown starting pitcher to be on the way to the big club. But the Cardinals correctly played it safe in 2023 when Graceffo was sidelined by right shoulder inflammation. He was given plenty of time to cool it down, and his season stats were poor. And probably misleading. I wouldn’t say he’s the forgotten man. That isn’t true. But the hype has subsided, and there isn’t as much buzz. No need to downgrade Graceffo. He does have plus talent, and he can blaze fastballs by hitters. Sleeper candidate for a bullpen role?

5. Tink Hence: the Cardinals’ best pitching prospect. He won’t make the big club coming out of camp, but we can’t rule out seeing him pitch for the Cardinals in 2024. Here’s what they need to see from Hence: momentum. The righthander made his minor-league debut as an 18-year-old in 2021 and immediately turned heads with his electric stuff. But the Cardinals have been cautious with Hence to reduce injury risk, and he’s never pitched more than 96 innings in a season. After doing well at Class A Peoria, Hence graduated to Double A last season and got popped for a 5.47 ERA in 54.1 innings. There’s nothing alarming about a high ERA in the first exposure to Double A hitters. But Hence had a disappointingly low 22 percent strikeout rate for Springfield. Still only 21, Hence has a chance to show us what he is now. Stalled prospect? Or an electric talent that could help transform the shape of St. Louis starting pitching? Intriguing guy.

6. Tekoah Roby and (No. 7) Thomas Saggese: A two-for-one special. Roby (pitcher) and Saggese (infielder) came over from Texas in the deadline deal that sent starter Jordan Montgomery and reliever Chris Stratton to the Rangers. Both were invited to camp by the Cardinals and are a source of hope and excitement. Roby has the best curveball in the STL minor-league system, can fire up a nasty fastball and struck out 14.3 batters per nine innings in a brief debut at Double A Springfield. And he maintained the high-strikeout punch in the Arizona Fall League.

“Roby features a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a plus curveball, a slider and a changeup. He has the makings of a mid-rotation starter with four average or better pitches,” Baseball America wrote.

All Saggese does is hit, hit, hit. Last season – combining his Double A and Triple A numbers – he batted .306 with a .903 OPS, 34 doubles, 26 homers and 111 RBI.

Wrote Baseball America: “The Jordan Montgomery trade may prove to be one of the smartest moves the Cardinals have made in some time.”

8. The large flock of relievers: OK, I’m being general here. But during the offseason the Cardinals acquired seven relievers through various maneuvers and all seem to have potential. Two are established MLB righthanders – Andrew Kittredge and Keynan Middleton. Others are looming as potential reinforcements for 2023. Along with Wilking Rodriguez, they’ll have an opportunity to increase their standing in spring training. The list includes Ryan Fernandez, Nick Robertson and Riley O’Brien. The Cardinals will use many relievers in 2024, so this is the time to see what they can bring to the competition to separate themselves from other candidates.

9. Alec Burleson: With Matt Carpenter (age 38) signed as a free agent for a farewell season, what does it mean for Burly? Now 25 years old, Burleson improved his hitting after the 2023 All-Star break and has drilled pitches with high-contact skill at every level. But he isn’t much of an outfielder. Is there room on a short bench for two left-handed hitters who don’t provide value defensively? Well, maybe. But there won’t be enough at-bats to keep them very busy. Carpenter has a job. Burleson will have to put on a show this spring to convince the Cardinals he deserves to stay in the majors. This is something of a competition – but not if the Cardinals front office already has made a decision.

10. Michael McGreevy: The former first-round draft choice doesn’t have the power-ball pitching style, but that doesn’t mean he should be excluded from consideration. The depth behind the five planned starters is sketchy, and an impressive spring could move McGreevy into a more prominent position for an in-season promotion. The righty has good command, throws strikes, limits walks, and suppresses home runs. He has a plus slider that gets a lot of ground balls. The Cardinals want strikeouts, yes … but what about a guy who just gets a lots and lots of outs without suffering much damage?

Later in the spring, I’ll be back with an updated Watch List that might contain a few new names depending on how it’s going in Jupiter.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.