IVÁN HERRERA & MAX RAJCIC NAMED 2023 CARDINALS MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER & PITCHER OF THE YEAR
ST. LOUIS, Mo., November 17, 2023 – The St. Louis Cardinals announced today their 2023 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year selections, honoring catcher Ivan Herrera (pronounced ee-VAHN) and right-handed starting pitcher Max Rajcic (pronounced like “magic”) for their accomplishments on the field.
“We are proud to recognize Max Rajcic and Iván Herrera as our organizational minor league Pitcher and Player of the Year,” said John Mozeliak, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations. “Iván was a standout at the plate in 2023, making the majority of his starts at a premium defensive position, while Max quickly made his presence on the mound known in his first professional season. We are pleased with how each player competed and developed this season and congratulate them on their numerous accomplishments.”
Herrera, 23, had a breakout season slashing .297/.451/.500 with 27 doubles, 10 home runs, 60 RBI, 66 runs, 11 stolen bases and a .951 OPS across 83 games at Memphis (AAA). The Panama native ranked among the Cardinals minor league leaders in average (5th), on-base percentage (1st), slugging (4th), OPS (2nd), walks (75, 4th), and doubles (5th) (minimum 135 plate appearances). Herrera was the only MiLB player this season to register a .450 OBP and .500 SLG while making at least 375 plate appearances, and the first Cardinals minor leaguer to accomplish that feat since Triple-A outfielder Gene Roof in 1981. He reached base safely in an astonishing 91.6% (76) of his minor league games played this year.
Herrera becomes only the second catcher to win the organization’s Player of the Year award, joining Carson Kelly in 2017. He was also named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month for May, the first monthly honor of his career. Following the season, Iván was recognized as an International League Post-Season All-Star and selected as a Triple-A All-Star by Baseball America and a Cardinals organizational All-Star by MiLB.com.
Herrea is the seventh Latin-born Cardinals minor leaguer, and third consecutive, to win Player of the Year honors, joining OF Moises Gomez (2022), 1B/OF Juan Yepez (2021), OF Magneuris Sierra (2014), OF Oscar Taveras (2012), 3B Albert Pujols (2000) and SS Pablo Ozuna (1998). He was signed as an international free agent in July 2016 and has appeared in 24 games for St. Louis at the Major League level over the past two seasons. Herrera retains his rookie status heading into 2024 and will enter next season as the team’s sixth ranked prospect by Baseball America.
Rajcic, 22, finished his first professional season with a 9-6 record and a 2.48 ERA with 123 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP across 23 starts (123.1 IP) split between Peoria (High-A) and Palm Beach (Single-A). The 6’0” right-hander ranked among all Cardinals minor league pitchers in wins (4th), strikeouts (T2nd), ERA (2nd), WHIP (2nd), games started (T3rd), innings (7th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.56, 4th) and opponents average (.217, 10th) (minimum 25.0 innings pitched).
After posting a 1.89 ERA with 68 strikeouts to just nine walks in 62.0 innings across 12 starts at Palm Beach to begin the season, Max was promoted to Peoria on June 26. He allowed one-run-or-fewer in eight of those 12 starts, including four scoreless starts of at least 5.0+ innings. At the time of his promotion, Rajcic ranked among all Single-A pitching leaders in wins (6, T1st), WHIP (0.81, 1st), and ERA (2nd) (minimum 50.0 innings pitched).
In his High-A debut with Peoria on June 30, he took a no-hit bid through six innings vs. Cedar Rapids. He built on his strong first half with a 3.08 ERA over 11 starts with the Chiefs, allowing two-runs-or-less in nine of those starts.
Rajcic was named the Cardinals Minor League co-Pitcher of the Month for June, becoming the first Cardinals minor leaguer to take home Pitcher of the Month honors in his first professional season since 2011. He won the award again in August after posting a 1.55 ERA across five starts, becoming only the second Cardinals minor leaguer ever to take home Pitcher of the Month honors twice in his first professional season, joining left-hander Rick Ankiel in 1998.
The Orange, California native was recognized as a Florida State League Post-Season All-Star and as the FSL Pitcher of the Year in September. He was also selected as a Low Class A All-Star by Baseball America and a Cardinals organizational All-Star by MiLB.com.
Selected by the Cardinals in the 6th round (187th overall) of the 2022 MLB Draft out of UCLA, Rajcic ended the season ranked as the organization’s 18th ranked prospect according to Baseball America and becomes the third Cardinals minor leaguer to be named Pitcher of the Year in his first professional season, joining Ankiel (1998) and Anthony Reyes (2004).
— STL —