This year, the St. Louis Cardinals' participation is more good than bad. While the organization is represented at less than its mathematical fair share of ten, the count of eight prospects in the top 300 is up from just five in 2010 and is the system's best showing in recent years.
Following is the eight top 300 players and their rankings with our The Cardinal Nation top 40 ranking for 2011 alongside. Anderson's full Cardinals list was disclosed and explained in the earlier article entitled "Mark Anderson's Top 20 Cardinals Prospects".
|Prospect||Top 300||Top 40|
While there are some similarities, there are also major differences. My view of prospect rankings is that there is no wrong or right, only an opportunity to learn from others. After viewing the top 300, I was anxious to learn what went into Anderson's thinking in comparing some of these young men.
Mark was kind enough to sit down to answer a series of questions behind how he ranks prospects and specifically how and why he placed the various Cardinals prospects where he did. Anderson further explains why some other prominent names I expected to see are missing.
To view the entire top 300, purchase the 2011 FOX Sports Fantasy Baseball Guide/Scout.com Prospect Guide, available for $4.95 at newsstands across the USA.
Brian Walton: Mark, please share a bit about your philosophy in ranking prospects, especially in the area of current level of play versus ultimate potential and probability of reaching that potential.
Mark Anderson: As everybody knows, there are a lot of ways one can approach ranking prospects. Frankly, there's no right or wrong way.
My process has evolved over the years and I tend to take a bit more of a scouting approach to the process now, rather than really factoring in minor league performance. Generally speaking, I tend to favor athleticism in my position players and velocity in my pitchers, but there are of course exceptions to that rule.
That said, I don't allow ultimate ceiling to rule the process. A player in the VSL with a crazy high pure ceiling still may not rank highly because there is an extremely small chance he even approaches that ceiling. I try to walk that fine line of balancing tools with a likelihood of reaching their given ceiling, and often times when I struggle with a player, I will fall back on the tools and give them the benefit of the doubt.
BW: Speaking of which… As you know, the Cardinals drafted Seth Blair before Tyrell Jenkins in the 2010 draft, yet you placed the younger, less experienced pitcher in Jenkins substantially ahead of the more polished college star Blair. What went into your comparative thinking? Did the Cardinals reach taking Blair, drafting the wrong guy first?
MA: I don't think they reached in taking Blair at all. In fact, I really like Blair and think he could be a quality MLB arm.
That said, Tyrell Jenkins is the epitome of a projectable talent. There's plenty of now stuff and some easy projection in his arsenal and body. Jenkins' package is actually one of those that can make scouts drool, and I just give his raw tools and potential to be a frontline starter a little edge over someone like Blair.
This is a case of allowing the tools to rule over the surety of the college product, and to be honest, there was never a hesitation to placing Jenkins ahead of Blair.
BW: Shelby Miller just scraped into your top 20, an aggressive ranking. What do you consider his ceiling and when do you think he will reach the majors?
MA: I always hesitate to throw an ace projection on a young pitcher, reserving that for the elite of the elite, but Miller approaches the level where he could earn that projection. It's easy to dream on him and see a number two starter down the line, and if the command comes around he could take that step into the realm of the few true aces in baseball.
Wainwright's injury obviously gives the potential for Miller to move a little quicker if he performs in 2011, but I really wouldn't expect to see him in a big league role until the second half of 2012.
MA: I've heard the rumblings of Cox moving to the keystone, but I haven't heard those from anywhere within the game. It has largely been fan and analyst conjecture that has brought that possibility to the fore. I don't see the athleticism needed for him to play up the middle, and I think he'll be fine at third.
Given the polish in his approach and his bat, I think it makes sense to start Cox at High-A with a willingness to push him to Double-A if he hits.
BW: Bryan Martinez appearing ahead of Carlos Martinez (formerly Matias) is a surprise. Bryan has fewer than 40 US innings and Carlos is right behind with better DSL numbers. Carlos is in most everyone's Cardinals top three or four, yet he barely cracked your top 10. Why do you like Bryan better and what do you consider the chances of the two switching places this season?
MA: When I finished my Cardinals list, I knew this would be a bit of a shocker, but I wanted to stand by what I believed. For all the buzz about Carlos' velocity this year in the DSL, I spoke to several scouts that wondered what was there outside of just pure arm strength.
I tend to take a bit of a different approach with teenage Latin American pitchers. I am typically cautious with pure velo guys and expect them to demonstrate increased control and pitchability before I start pushing them up my lists.
In the case of Bryan, he is exactly the type of Latin arm that I love to see. He has projection in his stuff and body. He shows feel for both a change-up and spinning a breaking ball, and he throws strikes with simpler mechanics. When you combine that level of pitchability in a teenager that also has present stuff and remaining projection, there's something to get excited about in my mind.
To the last part of your question, they could absolutely switch spots this year. Carlos offers so much ceiling that if starts to put things together a bit more, he could really take off and shoot up both the Cardinals list and the national lists.
BW: After the Cards took Daniel Bilbona, a lefty from Cal-Irvine, in the 2010 draft, they dropped him right into full-season ball. His numbers looked good there, albeit in just 33 innings. What do you see in Bilbona, an eighth-rounder, to have placed him #214 overall among all MLB prospects? Did the Cardinals get a steal?
MA: Bibona is a personal favorite for me, and I've probably been far more aggressive with him in my rankings than just about anyone else in the industry. Though he lacks ceiling, he also has a very high likelihood of polishing himself up and reaching that ceiling. He commands his entire arsenal well and though I may be in the minority, I think the routine of a pro rotation may help him add a tick to his fastball. He doesn't have star potential, but there's a #3 ceiling in there that he could reach in a hurry with his makeup, approach, and command of solid stuff.
BW: Speaking of lefties who pitched for Quad Cities in 2010, most if not all others have ranked Joe Kelly ahead of Bilbona. What is Kelly missing in terms of what you look for in a top pitching prospect that Bibona has?
MA: I absolutely love Kelly's arm. It's hard not to like a guy with plus-plus velo and potential for an 80-grade fastball in the bullpen. I have serious questions about his ability to throw strikes routinely and about his ability to refine any of his secondary pitches to anything more than fringe-average. For all of his velocity, I also don't see him missing as many bats as one would expect when he gets to higher levels. He's a reliever for me and that hurts him in my eyes.
BW: At the age of 18, outfielder Oscar Taveras posted an .889 OPS in the Appalachian League in his first year playing in the USA, while a more polished college outfielder in Nick Longmire OPSed .855 one level higher. While different kinds of players, what does Taveras lack in comparison to Longmire?
MA: It feels odd to think that Taveras' hit tool might be too good for his own development. He can make contact on anything, whether in the strike zone or not, and I have serious questions about whether that will cause him problems against more refined pitchers. He is so aggressive at the plate that he might actually swing himself into problems.
If he can figure out how to reign that in, then he could allow his above-average power potential to shine through and become an intriguing outfield bat. With Longmire, I talked to a few scouts that were really impressed – surprised in fact – with the quality of tools he showed across the board. He showed a better ability to hit in his pro debut than scouts expected and if that sticks, he could be a really intriguing player.
BW: Matt Carpenter was the system's Player of the Year in 2010. Do you think that was attributable to the Texas League or some other external factor? You cite concerns about his defense. Do you see him being able to stay at third base?
MA: Carpenter's a tough guy to rank because as you mentioned, his defense isn't a standout tool, and his offensive gifts aren't really the ones you typically look for in a third base profile. He has an excellent approach at the plate and can hit for average, but he lacks power and athleticism. He doesn't have the instincts or footwork for third base, and given the lack of athleticism, I'm not sure I see where he fits in on the diamond. He had a heck of a year in 2010 and definitely deserved the accolades he received, but that doesn't help him profile better as a big leaguer.
BW: The Cardinals have a number of promising relievers in their system. You ranked Eduardo Sanchez at #12 and Mikael Cleto at #14, despite some reservations. Yet you do not mention Adam Reifer. Why did Reifer fall short of your top 20?
MA: I like Reifer as far as relievers go, but I do think he's a notch behind the other two. The scouts I talked to pegged him as more of a seventh inning type, while they gave Cleto and Sanchez at least eighth inning ceilings. It seems like a subtle difference, but a seventh inning profile is far more common than a setup profile, and really knocks a relief prospect down a notch for me.
"Mark Anderson's Top 20 Cardinals Prospects"
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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