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What to expect from Cardinals top prospects Nolan Gorman, Matthew Liberatore in their MLB debuts

The two childhood friends and highly touted players are coming to the Majors together this weekend.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

If the MLB prospect experts are right, Thursday might go down as a day all St. Louis Cardinals fans will remember. That’s when the team promoted power-hitting second baseman Nolan Gorman and left-handed starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore, who are two of baseball’s top 50 prospects and two of the club’s top three

The two are expected to make their debuts this weekend. Gorman is in tonight’s lineup against the Pirates, batting sixth. Liberatore will get the ball to start Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh.

Here’s what to expect when these two 22-year-olds who were selected three picks apart in the 2018 Draft and whose friendship goes waaaaaay back.

Nolan Gorman, 2B

Gorman was a third baseman prior to 2021 but made the switch to second base this spring in order to speed up his timeline to the Majors since Nolan Arenado has the hot corner locked down for a long while. Gorman’s top tool is his raw power, and that has been on display often this year at Triple-A Memphis. The left-hander hitter has slugged 15 homers in just 34 games with the Redbirds. That’s contributed to a slash line that features career-highs across the board for Gorman: .308/.367/.677. This is no fluke; Gorman’s power has a 60 grade on the 20-to-80 scouting scale according to MLB Pipeline.

The Cardinals have gotten pretty good numbers from their second basemen this year; their 133 wRC+ is second-best in the Majors. But with only four homers in 140 at-bats, St. Louis is bringing Gorman up to give them an infusion of power at that position. Fantasy managers looking for some immediate pop should absolutely be interested in Gorman, who is available in about 85 percent of ESPN leagues.

However, beware of the pitfalls here. Namely, Gorman’s high whiff rate. He has struck out 113 times in 436 at-bats at Triple-A dating back to 2021. That includes 50 K’s in just 133 ABs this year (37.6 percent). He’ll take a walk, but his plate discipline isn’t incredible, and Gorman has below-average speed. There’s definitely a scenario here where he gets taken advantage of by MLB pitchers who know he wants to unleash his power and are able to use that against him. But if he can keep the K’s down, Gorman has a chance to stick for the long term.

Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Liberatore came to St. Louis as part of the 2020 trade that sent Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays. That trade looked terribly lopsided by the end of that year as Arozarena had one of the best postseasons in MLB history while Liberatore and his other Minor Leaguers were shut down by the pandemic.

The 6-foot-4 southpaw was OK last year at Triple-A — 4.04 ERA and 123 K’s to just 33 walks in 124.2 innings. He has taken his game up a notch this year with a 3.83 ERA in 40 innings. He’s added more than one strikeout to his K-per-nine rate, which now sits at 10.3, while keeping his walks-per-nine rate under 3. His strikeout-minus-walk rate of 21.0 this season would rank 12th among qualified MLB starters right now.

He’s not a true fireballer by current Major League standards, but Liberatore can hit 96 mph on the gun. His calling card, however, is his pitchability. Liberatore has four pitches — a fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup — all of which have received above-average grades from MLB Pipeline.

It helps that Liberatore’s first matchup comes against the Pirates, who rank last in the National League in runs scored (77) and OPS (.630). That should make him worth starting in all fantasy formats (he’s available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues). If he gets another turn after Saturday, Liberatore’s second start will come against the Brewers. That’s a tougher test, but with his solid control and diverse repertoire, Liberatore has a chance to be more than just a spot-start guy. He could be a very worthwhile middle-of-the-rotation arm in deeper fantasy leagues.