Right-handed starters Tekoah Roby and Sem Robberse headline the haul that the Cardinals got from the Rangers and Blue Jays on Sunday after unloading three players who will be free agents after this season. Here is a closer look at the four prospects that the Cardinals added:
RHP Tekoah Roby, Cardinals Complex in Jupiter, Fla.
Pipeline scouting report: After taking Evan Carter in the second round of the 2020 Draft, the Rangers used their third-round pick on another high schooler whom they valued more than the rest of the industry. They signed Roby away from a commitment to Troy for a slightly over-slot $775,000 and have been pleased by his development since. After getting shut down with a sprained elbow in 2021, he was fully healthy last year and held his own as one of the youngest starters (age 20) in the High-A South Atlantic League. Roby moved up to Double-A Frisco and was better than his traditional numbers in 2023, when he was moved to St. Louis in the Jordan Montgomery deal while he nursed a shoulder injury.
Roby can attack in any direction with his four-pitch repertoire. He can work north and south by pairing a fastball that plays better than its 92-96 mph velocity thanks to its outstanding induced vertical break and the extension in his delivery with a high-spin upper-70s curveball with downer break. He can also operate east and west with a fading low-80s changeup moving in the opposite direction from a low-80s slider that he added last summer.
Though Roby may not have a true plus pitch, he could have four solid offerings once he’s fully developed. He has a loose arm and repeats his delivery well enough to provide strikes, though his command is a work in progress. He misses in the middle of the zone more than he should, leaving him vulnerable to homers, but he could become a mid-rotation starter if he locates his pitches more consistently as he gains experience.
Organizational fit: To fully illustrate how barren the Cardinals’ farm system is of elite pitching talent, consider this: Whereas Roby was the No. 11-ranked prospect in the Rangers’ system, he was immediately slotted in at No. 4 in the Cardinals’ system following the trade, per MLB Pipeline. Roby, who has been out since June 6 with a shoulder injury, will report to the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., where he will be fully evaluated. After viewing his medical evaluations, the Cardinals are confident that the 21-year-old from Pensacola, Fla., will pitch again this season — and their hopes are that he will do so at Triple-A Memphis to potentially ready him for the big leagues in 2024
INF Thomas Saggese, Triple-A Memphis
Pipeline scouting report: The Rangers used their last four selections in the shortened five-round 2020 Draft on prepsters whom they rated higher than the industry consensus, and the early returns are good on Evan Carter (second round), Tekoah Roby (third) and Saggese (fifth). They used an over-slot $800,000 bonus to divert Saggese from his Pepperdine commitment because they liked his bat, which has lived up to their expectations. He batted .308 in High-A last season, missing out on the South Atlantic League batting crown title by one hit, then went 13-for-36 (.361) in Double-A to help Frisco win the Texas League championship. Saggese returned to the Texas League with a strong showing before getting moved to St. Louis at the Trade Deadline in a deal for Jordan Montgomery.
A right-handed hitter with a handsy stroke and aggressive approach, Saggese looks to drive the ball in the air to his pull side. He should have 20-homer power once he adds more strength, and he could become a solid hitter if he can develop more discipline. He flashes some aptitude for recognizing pitches and working counts but likes to turn his swing loose.
Saggese saw time at all four infield positions in 2022, getting most of his action at second and third base. As a decent athlete with fringy speed and average arm strength, he’s best suited for second, where he’s a sure-handed defender. He draws praise for his makeup and won Texas’ True Ranger Award last year for representing its core values on and off the field.
Organizational fit: The Cardinals already have two defensive aces in Gold Glovers Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan, but they pushed for the inclusion of Saggese because, as team president John Mozeliak said, “he’s just a baseball player.” Saggese’s production in Double-A as a 21-year-old prospect (slashing .314/.380/.514 with a 133 wRC+) is very similar to what prized rookie Jordan Walker did at Double-A as a 20-year-old prospect (slashing .306/.388/.510 with a 128 wRC+).
RHP Sem Robberse, Triple-A Memphis
Pipeline scouting report: Robberse is a unique development story, originally signed out of Zeist, Netherlands, in 2019. He was able to make his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League that season, allowing just one run over 10 1/3 innings. When the pandemic stopped baseball, Robberse was unable to return to the Netherlands and stayed at a hotel near the Blue Jays’ complex with a group of prospects, including many of the Venezuelan players. This added yet another interesting wrinkle to his growth as he was often forced to work out by himself.
Coming out of that, Robberse posted a 4.36 ERA over 88 2/3 innings in 2021, split between Single-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver. Each number moved in the right direction in 2022, as Robberse climbed another level to Double-A and finished with a cumulative ERA of 3.23 over 111 1/3 innings, striking out 97. Much of Robberse’s game is self-taught, which gives him a unique ability to adjust on the fly, and the Blue Jays were encouraged with some of his physical growth, too.
After trying to keep on weight for years, Robberse finally packed it on in ’22 and is now up above 200 pounds, which was the goal. There’s hope this can bump his fastball up closer to the 93-94 mph range eventually. An increased strikeout ability would serve Robberse well, as at this point he relies on finesse with a promising package of secondaries. Now with the Cardinals after a Jordan Hicks trade at the 2023 Deadline, the Futures Game participant can carry his momentum forward in hopes of joining a future St. Louis rotation.
Organizational fit: The Cardinals are excited about getting Robberse to Triple-A at 21 years old, but he is still very much an unfinished product and will need to make major strides to be big league ready by next season for a club that has plans on contending in 2023. The St. Louis brass is excited that Robberse has a nice mix of swing-and-miss and a high ground ball rate — two assets that will be welcome on a staff that has largely pitched to contact and depended on the defense in recent years.
RHP Adam Kloffenstein, Triple-A Memphis
Pipeline scouting report: The Blue Jays made headlines when they selected good friends and Texas high school teammates Jordan Groshans and Kloffenstein in the first and third rounds of the 2018 Draft, respectively. For Kloffenstein, it’s been an up-and-down time in pro ball over the five years since that day. He’s been on the upswing now, however, with a repeat of Double-A New Hampshire, where he dropped his ERA nearly three runs from his 6.07 mark last season. The Cardinals acquired him in a deal for Jordan Hicks at the 2023 Trade Deadline.
Standing tall on the mound at 6-foot-5, Kloffenstein runs a low-90s sinker in on righties that helps him limit damage against same-side bats and generate groundball rates around 50 percent, and he can run a four-seamer up to 96. He can work with both a mid-80s sweeper and an upper-80s cutter — the latter of which came as a result of constant tinkering that led him to utilize a pitch with shorter action. It plays well off the two-seam and has helped fuel Kloffenstein’s rise in K’s. He’ll show the makings of a curveball and changeup too, but the righty is often at his best when he’s working east-west.
Kloffenstein’s walk rate has similarly improved as he’s grown more confident in his stuff. Even during the dips in his rollercoaster career, the former TCU commit previously impressed Toronto brass by staying healthy and regularly taking his spots in the rotation. Now with sharper stuff and still young in his age-22 season, his chances at being a backend Major League starter are his best in years.
Organizational fit: The Cardinals love their tall, hard-throwing right-handers (see: Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Drew VerHagen and Chris Stratton to name a few), and the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Kloffenstein should fit right in. The Cardinals were especially impressed with the progress he made this past season while lowering his ERA to 3.24 (sixth-best in Double-A) over 17 starts. He’ll get an immediate shot to test out that growth at the Triple-A level in Memphis.