Cardinals Top Prospects and the 40-Man Roster

As past prospects move off the St. Louis Cardinals' 40-man roster, a new wave moves in.

In an earlier article, "…And Then There Was Aaron Miles", I focused on the St. Louis Cardinals' major league free agents, noting how many had to accept minor league contracts for 2011. Though a secondary point, I also touched on the 40-man roster openings their departures created.

This companion piece will look at the 40-man roster changes from a prospect perspective. In an interesting bit of symmetry, the Cardinals removed seven prospects from their 40-man roster while promoting the same number from their internal ranks this off-season.

Five of the seven removed players remain with the Cardinals, anxious to reclaim their roster spots with good performances and some luck in 2011. The four of the five with major league experience have received non-roster invitations to the Cardinals major league spring training camp this month. The exception is Double-A outfielder Daryl Jones.

Two long-time players have left the organization. Joe Mather, originally drafted in 2001, was lost to the Atlanta Braves on a waiver claim and Matt Pagnozzi, signed in 2003, became a free agent, subsequently signing a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies.

Removed Added
Pitchers Pitchers
Adam Ottavino David Kopp
Blake King
Adam Reifer
Eduardo Sanchez
Catchers Catchers
Matt Pagnozzi Tony Cruz
Steven Hill
Infielders Infielders
Pete Kozma
Outfielders Outfielders
Shane Robinson Adron Chambers
Joe Mather
Nick Stavinoha
Daryl Jones

Visually, it is striking that there was a clear shift in balance. Four outfielders were removed while just one was added, with the exact inverse relationship on the pitching side. Of course, the additions were driven by which players had reached the point in their careers when protection from the Rule 5 Draft was required.

If anything, it may be an indication of a shift toward pitching promise among a relatively fewer number of pitchers. Over the last five years, the balance of top prospects in the system has actually shifted from being more pitching-oriented to more position-player oriented.

Here is an indication of the trend, using data from our annual The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospect List.

Cardinals Top 40  2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Position Players 23 21 18 19 17
Pitchers 17 19 22 23 23

Have these roster changes been for the positive?

Of course, time will tell, but there is always churn as the younger players push the older ones out. To that end, I added the current ages of the players to the table from above. Further, I list the peak placement of each player in our top 40 along with the year it was achieved.

Removed T40 T40 Added T40 T40
Pitchers Age Peak Year Pitchers Age Peak Year
Ottavino 25 #5 07,08 Kopp 25 #23 2011
King 23 #34 2008
Reifer 24 #13 2011
Sanchez 21 #4 2011
Catchers Catchers
Pagnozzi 28 NR NA Cruz 24 #16 2011
Hill 25 #26 2010
Infielders Infielders
Kozma 22 #12 2009
Outfielders Outfielders
Robinson 26 #33 2009 Chambers 24 #15 2011
Mather 28 #8 2008
Stavinoha 28 #10 2007
Jones 23 #5 09,10

Looking at the players' respective ages, the added players are an average of three years younger than the ones they replaced on the 40-man, from 26 years of age previously to 23.

From a top prospect rating perspective, it isn't surprising that the dropped players peaked in the past, with one of them, Pagnozzi, having never been ranked. On the other hand, the vast majority of the new 40-man roster additions are still on the way up, with the best ratings for five of the seven being their current ones.

The 2011 season will help sort out which on them will continue on that upward trajectory and which others might be able to re-establish career traction.

Note: To see the entire St. Louis Cardinals roster, including all 20 non-roster invitees as well as 21 early minor league camp invitees, refer to the Cardinals Roster Matrix maintained up to the day at The Cardinal Nation Blog.



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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