BaseballHQ Pegs Cardinals System at #17

In the conclusion of a two-part series, we review the rankings of the National League Central Division organizations according to the Minor League Baseball Analyst. We also look at the details behind the Cardinals changes from past years.

The sixth edition of BaseballHQ's "Minor League Baseball Analyst" is now shipping. As always, the guide integrates sabermetrics and scouting for over 1000 minor leaguers. In-depth scouting reports and stats include batter skills ratings, runner speed, pitch repertoires, Major League equivalents, ultimate potential and much more.

In Part one of this two-part series, we reviewed the top 15 Cardinals prospects with the details as to why they're ranked where they are.

Here in Part two, we'll look into the Minor League Baseball Analysts' Cardinals organizational rankings in comparison to their National League Central Division competitors. Past club rankings from 2006-10 are used to compare progress and we will close with individual Cardinals player movement on and off the top 15.

St. Louis vs. NL Central

The cyclical nature of the prospect game is clear when observing that the Reds and Cardinals were tied for last in the NL Central Division rankings six years ago, were closely bunched at the top in 2009, headed down in 2010 but once back on top this year.

St. Louis ended a four-year improvement run one year ago with a drop from 10th to 28th, before gaining most of it back this time. Only thanks to Baltimore are NL Central competitors Milwaukee and Houston not dead last. After two major trades of prospects for major league pitching, the Brew Crew experienced a dive not unlike the Cardinals one year ago and with a good 2011 draft, can likely rebound as well.

Org. 2011 MLB rank and trend 2010 MLB rank 2009 MLB rank 2011 overall and  YTY trend 10  09 08  07 06
Reds 5 16 11 A- B- B B+ B C-
Pirates 16 18 20 B- B- C+ C+ C C
Cardinals 17 28 10 C+ C- B B- C C-
Cubs 18 14 27 C+ B- C- C+ C+ B-
Brewers 28 13 13 D+ B B- C B B+
Astros 29 30 29 D+ D+ D+ C- B- C

(Colors denote year-to-year change with green=up, yellow=flat and red=down.)

Now let's dip down into the detailed analysis of the 2011 NL Central by category. Here we see the Cardinals in the upper to middle of the pack in the four criteria that are combined to make up the overall score.

In a generally positive story within the division, St. Louis is second in pitching (to Pittsburgh) and depth (to Cincinnati). Their B in pitching is their best individual score. They are third in top talent (B-) and among a pack with average hitting (C).

Org. Overall   Hitting Pitching Top talent  Depth
Reds A- A- B- B+ A-
Pirates B- C- A- B+ C
Cardinals C+ C B B- B-
Cubs C+ C B C+ C+
Brewers D+ C- C D+ C
Astros D+ C C C D

Cardinals now vs. in the past

Now we'll look into Cardinals year-to-year trends. Note that only three years of the "depth" category is included here as it was first incorporated into the 2009 Analyst. Therefore, only two yearly comparisons are possible.

Cardinals Hitting Pitching Top-end talent  Depth Overall
2011 C B B- B- C+
10-11 trend up up up up up
2010 D C+ C C C-
09-10 trend down flat down down down
2009 A- C+ B- B B
08-09 trend up down flat   up
2008 C+ B- B-   B-
07-08 trend up up up   up
2007 C C- C+   C

Starting at the bottom, the Cardinals organization earned marked improvement in all three categories from 2007 to 2008. The next year, the Cardinals moved up in their overall score due to a huge jump in hitting, from C+ to A-. Last year, hitting took a huge nosedive from A- to D.

This time, all categories showed improvement over 2010. The B score for pitching is its highest in these five years while hitting bounced back a bit to a C mark. The overall C+ still falls short of the B- and B scores in 2008 and 2009, however.

Let's go back to the Cardinals top 15 prospects to dig into this a bit. Interestingly, in terms of raw numbers, quantity not quality, the number of hitters in the top 15 continued to decline, reaching its lowest level since at least 2008.

Cards top 15 Hitters Pitchers
2011 6 9
2010 8 7
2009 8 7
2008 9 6

When you look at the top half, prospects one through eight, you can see the magnitude of the shift much more clearly. Two years ago, the hitters led the pitchers, 6-2, where now the top eight completely reversed in favor of the hurlers.

Cards top 8 Hitters Pitchers
2011 2 6
2010 4 4
2009 6 2
2008 4 4

Getting specific, eight of the top 11 players on last year's rankings are gone and ten of the 15 have left. Jaime Garcia, David Freese, Jon Jay and Allen Craig graduated. Blake Hawksworth also moved up and then out via trade. The raters' confidence in Scott Bittle, Robert Stock, Bryan Anderson, Richard Castillo and Daniel Descalso eroded, in some cases substantially.

Cards top 15 Hitters on (rank) rating Hitters off (2010 #s)
2011 Cox (2) 9D Stock (6) 8D
  Pham (13) 8B Freese (7) 8D
  Carpenter (14) 7C Anderson (8) 8B
  Hamilton (15) 8D Jay (9) 7B
    Craig (11) 8D
    Descalso (14) 8D
     
Cards top 15 Pitchers on (rank) rating Pitchers off (2010 #s)
2011 Blair (3) 9D Garcia (2) 8C
  Jenkins (4) 9E Bittle (5) 8D
  Swagerty (5) 8B Hawksworth (10) 8D
  Sanchez (6) 8C Castillo (13) 8D
  Reifer (11) 8C  
  Samuel (12) 9E  

In what could either be viewed as positive or scary, four members of the 2010 draft class debuted, all in the top five – Zack Cox, Seth Blair, Tyrell Jenkins and Jordan Swagerty. This is the case despite the fact that none of them have more than a few games of professional experience.

The final table is a quick-and-dirty quality measure. Remember the Potential Rating for each member of the top 15, where the higher the number, the more elite the player is expected to be. In terms of Probability Rating, the lower the letter, the more likely the player should reach that potential. Therefore, the upper left is the best place to be. Lower left is arguably next best.

In the cells of the table, the first number is the quantity of players in the top 15 at that level. The number that follows in parens is the change in the number of that level of players since last year. For example, there are three 9D players in 2011 after having two in 2010.

Cards top 15 2011 (vs 10) 9 Elite player  8 Solid regular  7 Average regular 
A 90% chance      
B 70% chance 0 (flat) 1 (flat) 2 (up 1)
C 50% chance 0 (flat) 2 (up 1) 1 (up 1)
D 30% chance 3 (up 1) 4 (down 6)  
E 10% chance 2 (up 2)    

As you can see, in the top 15, there was general movement in the number of players with at least a 50 percent chance of realizing their potential. There is also a nice increase in elite players, though because they are young, odds remain low. Roughly comparable to last year, 60 percent of the Cardinals top 15 (nine players) have just a 30 percent or lower chance of becoming a solid regular.

In closing, thank you again to Rob Gordon and BaseballHQ for giving us this special peek at their data. Please respect them and copyright laws by not duplicating this material.



Link to Part one of this report: "BaseballHQ on Cardinals Prospects: 2011".



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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