Diamond Futures Rank Cardinals System #20

A process of building up from individual analytical player projections ranks the Cardinals system at number 20, a major improvement from their cellar-dwelling spot in 2010.

While we take pride in our annual ranking of the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects here at The Cardinal Nation, we also know there are no right answers.

Today, we share some work by an evaluator viewing the organization from the outside. The stated mission of Diamond Futures is "to develop the most accurate methods of determining the likelihood and level of future success of young ballplayers - both at the professional and amateur level.

"We have but one objective - determining how to find the best way to determine the probability that Player X will perform at various levels of success at some predetermined point in the future… We have to determine/measure the current state, determine the factors that may impact performance, assign probabilities to the potential outcomes, and we have to be able to sum the individual outcomes to determine the future value," say Diamond Futures' materials.

The Diamond Futures staff have been developing and posting Top Prospect lists for nearly a decade. Their rankings begin with an analytical rating system rooted in past player performance. Next, information is added from scouting reports and industry contacts. Finally, input on the most recent draft class and international signings is factored in.

Work is begun on a staggering number of players - over 5,000. That is narrowed down to just under 2,000 players that are considered actual prospects. Each is assigned a letter grade related to two factors – the chance of playing in the majors at all and the chance of having a significant career. The latter is defined as performing in the top ten percent of all Major League players that play at least two seasons.

Grade Player % Chance MLB Chance Significant MLB
A top 1% 94% 60%
A- 2nd 1% 87% 35%
B+ 3rd 1% 81% 25%
B 4th-6th% 78% 20%
B- 7th-10th% 75% 15%
C+ 11th-20th% 56% 12%
C  21st-30th% 33% <10%

The previous few paragraphs were my attempt to summarize an eight-page essay on their processes. For details on all 2000 prospects, Diamond Futures offers a 2011 Prospect eGuide, almost 300 pages in .pdf format available for $9.95. For more details, click here.

Here are the 41 Cardinals prospects they ranked ‘C+' or better. Also noted is where the top Cardinals prospects rank in the still-to-be released Diamond Futures top 500. Only ten from the organization will make that list, same as the year before.

Diamond Futures St. Louis Cardinals Prospects - 2011

Rank St. Louis Cardinals Grade Top 500
1 Shelby Miller A 16
2 Zack Cox A- 85
3 Carlos Martinez A- 102
4 Tyrell Jenkins B  204
5 Oscar Taveras B  242
6 Eduardo Sanchez B  283
7 Seth Blair B  323
8 Lance Lynn B  366
9 Allen Craig B  407
10 Daniel Descalso B- 456
11 Matt Adams B-
12 Jordan Swagerty  B-
13 Deryk Hooker B-
14 Anthony Garcia B-
15 Matt Carpenter B-
16 Pete Kozma B-
17 Tommy Pham C+ 30 John Gast C+
18 Aaron Luna C+ 31 Adron Chambers C+
19 Joe Kelly C+ 32 Adam Reifer C+
20 Nick Longmire C+ 33 Adam Ottavino C+
21 Frederick Parejo C+ 34 P.J. Walters C+
22 Bryan Anderson C+ 35 Fernando Salas C+
23 Casey Mulligan C+ 36 Phil Cerreto C+
24 Cody Stanley C+ 37 Jonathan Rodriguez C+
25 Breyvic Valera C+ 38 Javier Avendano C+
26 Niko Vazquez C+ 39 Arquimedes Nieto C+
27 Daryl Jones C+ 40 Tyler Henley C+
28 Robert Stock C+ 41 Tony Cruz C+
29 Deimer Bier C+

To read the detailed profiles on their top 12 Cardinals prospects, click here to be taken to Diamond Prospects' site. While there, you can also read specifics about the top prospects in other organizations as well.

As a bonus exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers, following are the capsules for prospects #13-16, provided courtesy of Diamond Futures.

13. Deryk Hooker, RHP (2010– Dominance 67; Control 55; HRrate 74; Stamina 65)

Despite the lack of a dominant out pitch, Hooker continues to have success with a low-90s fastball, a solid change, and two developing secondary offerings. The key to that success appears to be his ability to induce groundballs—something he has consistently done as a professional with a GO/AO ratio around 1.30. This bodes well for his continued success. While his raw stuff doesn't portend a significant ceiling, Hooker has the make-up that would allow him to become a quality #4/#5 starter. In a resurgent 2010, Hooker posted the #13 Performance Score in the MWL, before experiencing even greater success in a late season promotion to the FSL. Look for Hooker to try to build upon that when he returns to the FSL to begin 2011,

14. Anthony Garcia, OF (2010– Power 76; Discipline 71; First Base Rate 77; Speed 41)

Garcia was an 18th round pick by the Cardinals, out of Puerto Rico, in the 2009 draft. A converted catcher, the Cardinals believe his best long-term opportunity lies in right field. 2010 was a bit of a breakout season for Garcia, as he came from totally off the radar to post the #2 Performance Score in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) –second to only the Yankees' Gary Sanchez. Only 6'0", 180lbs, Garcia shows plus power potential, extremely advanced strike zone management skills and solid contact skills. Only his speed is potentially an average or below skill. 170 ABs is not nearly enough to draw significant long-term conclusions, but in a system lacking high-ceiling players, Garcia is certainly one to watch. Look for him to begin 2011 in extended Spring Training, before the barely 19yo, joins the APY later this summer.

15. Matt Carpenter, 3B (2010– Power 61; Discipline 54; First Base Rate 78; Speed 68)

There exist extremely mixed opinions on Carpenter, after he posted a .309/.418/.471 in the TXL this past season. The positives center around Carpenter possesses some of the best contact skills in the system—due to a fundamentally flawless left-handed swing. Most of the rest of his offensive skills rate no better than average. Defensively, he is likely a tick below average for third base and is probably better suited for either first base or a corner outfield position. Consider him very Allen Craig-ish in that regard. Further on the downside, Carpenter was a 5th-year senior when the Cardinals selected him in the 2009 draft—making him already 25yo. The track record of players making more than limited contributions if they begin their Major League career after their 25th birthday is extremely limited. There isn't likely to be much additional development, and his 2010 numbers were somewhat inflated by the environment in Springfield. That combination of factors didn't even produce a Top 25 Performance Score—despite the gaudy numbers. Expect Carpenter to move up to AAA to begin 2011, with an appearance, at some point, in St. Louis not out of the question. Just don't expect too much, because the profile doesn't suggest it.

16. Pete Kozma, SS (2010– Power 58; Discipline 45; First Base Rate 43; Speed 79)

It would be easy to say that time is running out on the Cardinals' 2007 first round pick, but at 22yo, the reality is that his development curve will still likely lead to a Major League opportunity at some point—possibly as early as this year. Kozma has no real plus skills, but even his limited power looks to play nearly average for the shortstop position. Defensively, he is sure-handed, but not spectacular. What it all means, as that Kozma still looks to possess the ceiling of a slightly offensively challenged, everyday Major League shortstop. His unfortunate curse is that expectations have always been for more than that. Look for Kozma to build upon a solid AZFL showing with a move to AAA in 2011.

The 52 Grade C prospects follow:
42) Colin Walsh, 3B; 43) Bryan Martinez, RHP; 44) Raniel Rosario, LF; 45) Trevor Rosenthal, RHP; 46) Richard Castillo, RHP; 47) Mark Hamilton, 1B; 48) Donovan Solano, SS; 49) Zack Russell, RHP; 50) Jose Garcia, SS; 51) Steven Hill, C; 52) Boone Whiting, RHP; 53) Maikel Cleto, RHP; 54) Scott Gorgen, RHP; 55) Juan Bautista, RHP; 56) Blake King, RHP; 57) Michael Blazek, RHP; 58) Xavier Scruggs, 1B; 59) Audry Perez, C; 60) Luis Mateo, 2B; 61) Nick Additon, LHP; 62) Daniel Barbuena, SS; 63) David Kopp, RHP; 64) Ben Freeman, LHP; 65) Francisco Samuel, RHP; 66) Jermaine Curtis, 2B; 67) Ryan Jackson, SS; 68) Brandon Dickson, RHP; 69) Luis Perez, C; 70) Romulo Ruiz, 3B; 71) Kyle Conley, OF; 72) Scott Schneider, RHP; 73) D'Marcus Ingram, CF; 74) Roberto De La Cruz, 3B; 75) Kevin Thomas, RHP; 76) Brett Zawacki, RHP; 77) Justin Smith, RHP; 78) Matt Frevert, RHP; 79) Sam Tuivailala, SS; 80) Daniel Bibona, LHP; 81) Ted Obregon, SS; 82) Anthony Ferrara, LHP; 83) Domnit Bolivar, 2B; 84) Amauris Capellan, OF; 85) Ryde Rodriguez, RF; 86) Hector Hernandez, LHP; 87) Keith Butler, RHP; 88) Victor Sanchez, 1B: 89) Michael Swinson, CF; 90) Virgil Hill, CF; 91) Kevin Moscatel, C; 92) Hector Corpas, RHP; 93) Cesar Valera, SS.

In conjunction with ranking individual players, Diamond Futures rolls up system-wide aggregate views of their top prospects. Organizational strength is measured by the cumulative expected career Wins Above Replacement (WAR)* values of all ‘C' level or higher prospects within each current Minor League system.

According to Diamond Futures, the Cardinals will rank 20th of the 30 MLB organizations when using this metric.

Following is a subset of Diamond Futures' assessment of the Cardinals system overall.

"If we only looked at the Top 10 of an organization, the Cardinals might not have moved much from last year's dismal rankings. But here at Diamond Futures we look at the strength of the entire Minor League system and few systems in the League possess the depth as that possessed by the Cardinals.

"Led by tremendous improvements in a Latin American scouting program that had been barren for most of the past decade, the Cardinals have among the three deepest systems in baseball. Jeff Luhnow deserves much of the credit, as his ascension and the doubling of the international scouting department appear to coincide. The turnaround began in 2007, reached a new level in 2009, and is starting to bear fruit in this year's list, as half of the top six players hail from the region.

"The main impact has been a system that had traditionally been replete with low-ceiling college players, is now beginning to shows signs of producing players with much greater upsides. Small signs are visible in the fact that between 2006 and 2008, the first seven rounds of Cardinal drafts had produced 21 college selections vs. 2 prep selections. The last two years have witnessed that ratio fall to approximately 2:1. The benefits of the strategy shift should become more visible over the next couple of years.

… "While Cardinal fans could take solace in the half dozen or so Minor League players that are knocking on the Big League door, only Eduardo Sanchez looks to offer a potential upgrade to the existing roster, as the Cardinals premium talent remains a couple of seasons away. Further bad news exists in the middle of the Cardinals' prospect list, as the #4 thru #25 range is among the weakest in baseball. This can partially be attributed to a player development philosophy that has seen tool-challenged college draft picks conservatively assigned, clogging up the system for higher upside players. Further changes to their drafting strategy remain a ‘must'.

"On balance, we see the Cardinals as an under-appreciated system. There are already significant signs of future improvement. Their tremendous depth at the system's lower levels bodes well for continued advancement toward the top half of this list. We feel the system would be further served by dealing away the glut of low-ceiling, older, near-ready prospects for additional pieces to help this year's Major League team - any takers?"

* WAR (Wins Above Replacement) - the theoretical total number of wins that a given player adds to his team over the course of a season by comparing the player's statistical ‘runs' produced (or saved when referring to a pitcher) with that of a the ‘average replacement player'. A ‘replacement player' is assumed to be an average Triple-A callup who might appear in the majors only as replacement for an injured player.

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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