This annual feature brings together what national experts think about the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects and compares them to our rankings here at The Cardinal Nation.
There are at least six well-known concerns that annually rate and rank prospects from all 30 organizations, not just the Cardinals. They use different methods, but the bottom line is that they all conclude with an ordered list of names. While we remain biased here that our rankings are best since we focus on just one system from top to bottom, other opinions are always beneficial.
Following is the Cardinals top ten prospect lists from Baseball America (BA), Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (BP), John Sickels of minorleagueball.com (JS), Keith Law (ESPN), BaseballHQ (HQ) and Diamond Futures (DF) placed side-by-side. Later, we will meld the six into one consensus list.
|7||Eduardo Sanchez||Oscar Taveras||Sanchez||Lynn||Lynn||Blair||7|
|8||Seth Blair||Matt Carpenter||Taveras||Matt Adams||Daryl Jones||Lynn||8|
|9||Jordan Swagerty||Blair||D. Hooker||Swagerty||Steven Hill||Craig||9|
|10||Joe Kelly||A. Chambers||Craig||Kelly||A. Ottavino||D. Descalso||10|
We start with the common ground among the various rankers. Of the 19 players that appear on at least one top ten list, four of them are the "no brainers", appearing on all six top ten lists. You can also see which of the lists had the players closest to the bottom (low) and which ranked them the best (high).
|Unanimous picks (4)||low||who||high||who|
As the table indicates, Shelby Miller is at the top with Zack Cox close behind. After having pitched a full season in his first year outside of high school, Miller logged all six of the six number one votes. This is a slight departure from 2010, when only Diamond Futures (and The Cardinal Nation) had Jaime Garcia on top, ahead of Miller.
In his debut, Cox took half of the number two placements from the six raters this year and is as low as four on only one list, that from Baseball Prospectus. Tyrell Jenkins captured four fourth-place votes, and it is definitely worth noting that none of the six placed him lower than that.
The next step is to look at the key differences in the rankings.
The biggest variance in opinion regarding the consensus players is pitcher Seth Blair, who barely made the BP list at #9 but placed as high as third in BaseballHQ's ranking. To date, Blair has yet to make his professional mound debut so impressions are solely based on college games.
The outliers are the seven players named on just one of the six top ten lists. If a person was looking for sleepers, these players might provide a nice place to start, or in several cases perhaps an indication of former top prospects on the decline.
|Lone star picks (7)||rank||who|
For second consecutive year, the biggest "wild duck" was BaseballHQ, with their eight through ten players Daryl Jones, Steven Hill and Adam Ottavino, all lacking top ten agreement from anyone else. No other site had more than one "lone star pick," with Baseball America having none.
Also note that of all seven of these picks were among the final three names on their respective top ten lists. As you might expect, without a second vote, none of the seven will make our consolidated top ten.
One player came close to making the above list, with just two votes from the six rankers. Further, righty Joe Kelly was tenth on both lists in which he appeared. That isn't enough for him to crack the group top ten, either.
The gulf between the consensus ten and the bottom nine is pretty well-defined. There was just one player that made at least three of the six top tens that didn't join the consolidated top ten. That is Allen Craig. Despite a number five ranking by BA, he was ninth and tenth on the other two lists on which he appeared.
In a bit of a surprise, not a single player was named on exactly four lists.
This leaves the three players that appeared on five of the six lists. Only BaseballHQ didn't see pitcher Carlos Martinez as a top ten talent, despite him being listed as high as second on ESPN's rankings. Interestingly, John Sickels no longer sees Lance Lynn as a top ten player despite ranking him third one year ago. ESPN's Law didn't have room for fireballing reliever Eduardo Sanchez in his top ten after tabbing his seventh in 2010.
|Five of six (3)||off||high||who|
Next up is the blended rankings of the six national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of "11". The six rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on.
The overall table follows with our The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com top ten listed next to it as comparison. (For reference, here is the link to our full TCN/Scout top 40 list for 2011.)
|Consolidated top ten||rank||TCN/Scout.com|
|Shelby Miller||1||Shelby Miller|
|Zack Cox||2||Zack Cox|
|Tyrell Jenkins||3||Lance Lynn|
|Carlos Martinez||4||Eduardo Sanchez|
|Seth Blair||5||Carlos Martinez|
|Eduardo Sanchez||6||Matt Carpenter|
|Lance Lynn||7||Allen Craig|
|Oscar Taveras||8||Daniel Descalso|
|Matt Carpenter||9||Tyrell Jenkins|
|Jordan Swagerty||10||Seth Blair|
|The other nine|
Eight of the players are the same on both lists - with minor ordering changes, of course. The major difference is at the third spot. The Cardinal Nation liked a more proven pitcher close to the majors in Lynn at number three, while the other six went with high-upside, higher-risk teenage draftee Jenkins.
The only differences in the names between the two lists is Oscar Taveras and Jordan Swagerty slipping into the consensus top ten over Craig and Daniel Descalso. I especially have no qualms whatsoever about Taveras, whom I personally ranked fifth and just missed as number 11 on our TCN/Scout ranking.
Some of those who are most critical of the Cardinals player development function and those who follow the organization's minor leaguers think we live in a vacuum, oblivious to how the Cardinals stack up against the other 29 systems.
I can say that in my personal case, I readily admit that I am not knowledgeable enough about the other organizations and the thousands of players within to rank them. The good news is that I don't have to, because others do it.
Here are the system-wide rankings of the Cardinals among the 30 MLB systems over the last three years. I do not believe Baseball Prospectus has yet issued their 2011 team results, which usually appear in early March. Colors indicate year-to-year change.
March 2 update: BP ranked the Cardinals #21. The table below has been updated.
|Cardinals rank of 30||2011||2010||2009|
As you can see, 2009 was a record year for the Cardinals. In fact, their top ten placement in the BA rankings was the first for the Cardinals since the 1999 days of Rick Ankiel and J.D. Drew. The pendulum swung wildly in the wrong direction last year as a combination of graduations, trades and washouts killed the Cardinals in the eyes of the talent evaluators.
Here in 2011, at least so far, the bookends are the more optimistic ESPN at 14 and the pessimistic BA at 24. The former, with rankings by Keith Law, was bullish on the high end of the Cardinals' 2011 draft class.
As in everything, time will tell.
To see this feature from previous years, click here for 2009 and here for 2010.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.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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