40 Days, 40 Nights, 40 Cards Prospects: 2011

Annual series started December 6. Over a 40-day period, we once again disclose our top minor league prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system.

We are pleased to announce the rollout of our sixth annual The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospect List. During the period we call "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Cardinals Prospects", a new top St. Louis Cardinals prospect is unveiled each day starting with number 40 and carrying us well into the New Year.

We will continue until the #1 pick is disclosed – our consensus top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system coming into the 2011 season. Will it be newcomer Zack Cox, holdover Shelby Miller or another worthy contender?

As always, following the top 40 countdown will be our annual six-pack plus one of "best-of", "just-missed" and analysis articles to conclude our annual series.

For the third consecutive year, the final list is a melding of three independent views, those of TCN Senior Minor League Writer Dustin Mattison, Publisher and Editor Brian Walton, and you, our readers.

Since the second week in September, the members of our free message board community have been conducting voting for their own annual prospect list. This is a detailed process that involves considerable debate and discussion. It has often been imitated but never duplicated, since our readers are the most knowledgeable folks around when it comes to the Cardinals minor league system.

The Cardinal Nation community ranking is given equal weighting to the other lists and combined will yield the countdown unveiled here. Two community leaders who managed the voting, "CariocaCardinal" and "Gagliano", will speak for the readers in the individual player capsules posted daily.

To follow the countdown, TCN/Scout.com subscribers can either read each new story when posted on our home page or click on the individual players' names which will be listed below. All readers, subscribers or not, are encouraged to return to this page daily to check the current status of our Top 40 countdown and read those articles which will be made free to all.

As always, all readers can join in the debate at our message board, where there will be a new discussion thread each day devoted to that day's entry onto the prospect list.

To refer to the corresponding lists from each of the past five seasons, either click on the highlighted years here: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, or you can always use the permanent links on the lower left side of our home page.

The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospects – 2011

40. Niko Vasquez (free article)
39. Robert Stock Premium Article
38. Bryan Martinez (free article)
37. Daryl Jones Premium Article
36. Tyler Henley (free article)
35. Francisco Samuel Premium Article
34. Ryan Jackson (free article)
33. Matt Adams Premium Article
32. Adam Ottavino (free article)
31. Steven Hill Premium Article
30. Rainel Rosario (free article)
29. Anthony Garcia Premium Article
28. John Gast (free article)
27. Joe Kelly Premium Article
26. Cody Stanley (free article)
25. P.J. Walters Premium Article
24. Jordan Swagerty (free article)
23. David Kopp Premium Article
22. Aaron Luna (free article)
21. Nick Longmire Premium Article
20. Mark Hamilton (free article)
19. Tommy Pham Premium Article
18. Deryk Hooker (free article)
17. Pete Kozma Premium Article
16. Tony Cruz (free article)
15. Adron Chambers Premium Article
14. Fernando Salas (free article)
13. Adam Reifer Premium Article
12. Bryan Anderson (free article)
11. Oscar Taveras Premium Article
10. Seth Blair (free article)
9. Tyrell Jenkins Premium Article
8. Daniel Descalso (free article)
7. Allen Craig Premium Article
6. Matt Carpenter (free article)
5. Carlos Martinez Premium Article
4. Eduardo Sanchez (free article)
3. Lance Lynn Premium Article
2. Zack Cox (free article)
1. Shelby Miller Premium Article

At the conclusion of the countdown, we will follow with a free eight-part series in which we analyze each voter's individual top 40 lists and year-to-year changes. Then, each highlights the players on their personal lists that did not make the combined top 40, we unveil our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, we take a view behind the numbers and wrap it up with a look back at our best and worst picks from the previous year.

2011 Top Cards Prospects – The Final Tally
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Mattison
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Walton
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Community
2011 Scout.com All-Cardinals Prospect Team
2011 Top Cards Prospects – Behind the Numbers
2011 Top Cardinals Prospects – Picks and Pans
2011 Top Cardinals Prospects by Level

Footnote: The voting process
Here is a bit of insight into our process. Independently during November, Dustin and Brian documented their top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The Community ranking was then folded in.

A consensus score was tabulated, which drove the ranking you will see here. The three individual scores will also be shown on each player page as they are unveiled each day, along with a wealth of additional information on all forty players. Players must have been named on at least two ballots to be considered and to ensure we could agree on 40 names, each of us submitted lists of 46 players. Ties were broken by the most individual votes, then highest individual score.

In terms of qualification, any player in the Cardinals minor league system is eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation.

Because each voter used slightly different criteria in defining what a "top prospect" means, all briefly explain how they made their selections.

Dustin Mattison:
After doing this for several years now, I hope that I am getting better with experience. I now try to keep an ongoing list throughout the season that will change from time-to-time.

After completing Baseball University's scouting course, I feel I bring a different perspective than I had previously. At times in the past, I let tools sometimes get in the way of actual production. In looking at my rankings for this year's list, I seem to have ranked players on the verge of contributing to the big league squad over those "toolsy" players who are performing at the lower levels.

In compiling my list, I based my decisions on seeing players in person and various scouting reports as well as scouting video. Plus, during my series of interviews of many of the minor league players in the Cardinals system, I have received feedback from those who play with the prospects on the list on a day in and day out basis along with coaches, scouts, and those in the front office.

While doing the rankings this season, one thing stood out. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of high-end talent in the organization. There are players that could contribute at the big league level but very few that should be considered as potential stars.

Brian Walton:
The increased focus on the Cardinals minor league system in recent years has its positives and negatives. Some with a louder voice but less familiarity with the players in the ranks can prove to be outliers in terms of their view of the system and prospect rankings. When there are a few big names, there can be an overly-positive reaction. With fewer obvious impact players are on the board, the "I-told-you-so's" start flying. When you are in it for the long haul as we are, you never get too high or too low.

I have seen some suggest that after the top couple of players, there is no clear order of the remainder of the prospects this year, as if that is a unique circumstance. Others complain there are few names worth noting after this top group. I disagree. As Dustin noted above, there are fewer "can't miss" players in the system than a year ago. That doesn't mean there aren't a number of solid contributors, quality players, of which some are bound to break out. Trying to identify those is our challenge, one I relish.

This year, my contenders for this countdown included over twice as many as could be included here - 82 names. As the programs in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela begin to bear fruit, more of those relatively-unknown players appear on my list, though most did not make the consolidated top 40.

My picks are my own, based on personal observation as much as possible as I was out to see the affiliates this spring, summer and fall, but also influenced by scouts and people in and out of the organization with whom I have communicated. As you read others discussing Cardinals prospects, ask yourself how many minor league games these pundits actually saw with their own two eyes. You might be surprised at the answer.

Message Board Community:
This is a very straight-forward process. On our free message board, all comers are welcome to cast their vote for any eligible player. The voting began with the number one prospect and continues until reaching 50.

Voting is closed on a particular player when enough time has elapsed to exhaust responses or when a candidate has established a large lead. The winner is recorded and the voting begins anew on the next number in the list.

Discussion and debate is welcomed and anyone can participate. As the result of some convincing arguments presented, votes have been affected and in some cases, changed. All is fair in love and voting!

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

Subscribe by January 21 to our annual pass and receive in the spring the 2011 FOX Fantasy Guide / Scout Prospect Guide, the perfect hardcopy companion to "Forty Days", including the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations and much more. We author the Cardinals section of the guide as always.

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