Carioca's Cardinals Prospect Rankings: April

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Welcome to the first edition of my monthly St. Louis Cardinals minor league musings and prospect rankings. I hope that this report will be the launching pad for discussion regarding Cardinals prospects.

Each month, I will present The Cardinal Nation subscribers with my top 20 organizational prospects (updated through the end of the month), my next 20 prospects (not ranked but listed in alphabetical order), as well as whatever observations I feel are relevant at the moment.

This report reflects my opinions and not that of the entire The Cardinal Nation staff, so feel to address any comments or criticisms directly to me either through a message board post or via PM if you prefer.

On to the report!

April Prospect Rankings

These rankings are heavily influenced by how players performed in Spring Training and I would expect a lot of changes the first few months as more minor leaguers get a chance to strut their stuff in regular season games. The number in parentheses is how I ranked the player the previous month. In this first edition, it reflects my off-season ranking of the player.

The top 20

#1. Shelby Miller, RHS (1). Miller will start in A-Advanced but I don't think reaching Triple-A this year is out of the question for him. The real test will come for him in the hitter-friendly Texas League (Double-A).

Carlos Martinez
#2. Carlos Martinez, RHS (9). I have yet to hear a negative report on Martinez and some who have seen him in person say he is every bit the prospect that Miller is.

#3. Zack Cox, 3B (2). Don't read anything into his drop from #2 to #3. He showed more this spring than I expected. It's just that Martinez showed even more than Cox did.

#4. Allen Craig, OF (10). Any doubt that he will hit in the major leagues has been removed from my mind. Now it is simply a question of his defense which I've never been that down on.

#5. Matt Carpenter, 3B (5). During Spring Training, he showed everything his supporters touted and little of what his detractors criticize him for.

#6. Tyrell Jenkins, RHS (6). Still hard to get a read on Jenkins. Some rave about him but it looks now like we will have to wait for short-season ball to see if they are right.

#7. Lance Lynn, RHS (4). Showed in Florida that he is all but ready for a big league gig. Probably the team's #6 starter right now (though lack of a 40-man roster spot might be an issue).

#8. Eduardo Sanchez, RHR (3). Fantastic spring but still fell in my rankings! Simply dropped due to system strength, not poor performance on his part.

#9. Daniel Descalso, 2B (7). Another player who had a good spring but fell due to the rise of others. I still see him as St. Louis' starter at second base next year.

#10. Oscar Taveras, OF (8). Started strong in the spring and even got a few appearances with the major league team but seemed to tail off a bit in minor league camp.

#11. Seth Blair, RHS (13). Moved up slightly based solely on several prospect rankings that have come out recently with him in the top five.

Mark Hamilton
#12. Mark Hamilton, 1B (11). Showed his power in big league camp. Will the kind of year he has affect the Albert negotiations?

#13. Bryan Anderson, C (13). I'm among a growing minority that thinks Anderson will still be a productive major league catcher.

#14. Fernando Salas, RHR (17). Another player with a strong spring in major league camp. Should be the first bullpen arm called up.

#15. Trevor Rosenthal, RHS (NR). Probably the player who raised his stock the most this spring. Both pitched well and earned accolades from observers. Can he stay injury-free this year?

#16. Adron Chambers, OF (18). Started strong in major league camp but then faded somewhat there and was quiet in minor league camp. More time in Triple-A should help him.

#17. Matt Adams, 1B (20-40). Another who raised his stock considerably this spring. Skipped A-Advanced and went straight to Double-A. Many think he might be the best hitter in the Cardinals minor league system.

#18. Adam Reifer, RHR (14). Solid spring but not as good as some others.

#19. Ryan Jackson SS (20-40). Yet another player with a strong camp in Florida.

#20. John Gast, LHS (NR). Another player with a huge spring. If Gast is truly pitching in the low 90's as reported and he can hold that deep into games, the Cards may have found themselves a left-handed starter prospect.

Prospects 20-40 (not numerically ranked - in alphabetical order)

Bryan Augenstein
Bryan Augenstein, RHR - Went from "most likely to lose his 40 man roster spot" to "made the team". Can he make himself into Brad Thompson or possibly more? If so, his stock could rise further.

Maikel Cleto, RHS - Showed enough this spring to earn this ranking. Realistically needs to be in Double-A by mid-season since he is already on the 40-man roster.

Hector Corpas, RHR - Not a great spring, but still has future closer written all over him.

Tony Cruz, C - Will he or Anderson get the call if the Cards need a catcher from the minors? Still has both offensive and defensive questions to answer.

Anthony Garcia, C – The Cards are bringing him along slowly. If he goes back to catching this year (as rumored) and hits like last year his stock could soar.

Tyler Henley, OF - Needs an injury-free season. Could just as easily be at Triple-A as Double-A.

Deryk Hooker, RHS - Jump to Springfield will be a big test for 2007 seventh-round pick.

Joe Kelly, RHS - Didn't put up good spring numbers but the Cards kept him in major league camp for a long look. He can keep his stock high if he can pitch all year as a starter without fading at the end like he did last year.

David Kopp, RHS - Was able to stay healthy all last year but then had off-season surgery. Needs to come back strong to justify (and possibly keep) his 40-man roster spot.

Pete Kozma, SS - His decent spring was overshadowed by the strong camp of others (particularly Ryan Jackson). Can he adjust quickly to the Triple-A level?

Nick Longmire, OF - Put himself on the map with a strong first season. If the real deal, we should see him in Palm Beach around mid-season.

Aaron Luna, OF - Not sure why the Cards organization doesn't give him more respect. Sixth in Texas League in OPS last year but being sent back there to start this year. Call me confused.

Luis Mateo, 2B - Invited to early minor league camp and impressed enough to get himself into a couple of big league spring training games. Only 20 years old and with no top prospect blocking him, a hot start could quickly land him in Double-A.

Adam Ottavino, RHS - If he's truly recovered from last year's shoulder problems, he could put himself back on the top prospect map if he pitches well in the Memphis rotation. A slow start could quickly land him in the bullpen.

Tommy Pham, OF - Had a strong second half last year. There is a crowd ahead of him in Memphis, but with a good start, his athleticism probably forces a promotion by mid-year.

Rainel Rosario, OF - With just a half season of Class A ball, Rosario is jumping to A-Advanced. The Cards seem to think he is putting it together. Power potential seems to be growing every year.

Jonathan Rodriguez, 3B - Great spring to match strong second half in 2010 catapults him onto the list. Maybe the best power prospect in the low minors?

Jordan Swagerty, RHS - Should dominate at Class A after pitching well in the Arizona Fall League. Can he remain as a starter?

Michael Swinson, OF - Strong spring indicates he might be poised for a breakout year if he stays healthy.

P.J. Walters, RHS - Not a terrible spring but not as good as some others. I'd say his back is being pushed against the wall as far as his future in the organization. Let's see how he reacts.

I don't know if I will always do honorable mentions but Brandon Dickson, Kevin Thomas, and Blake King all received praise on their performance in major league camp. Strong years by any of them could actually result in them seeing St. Louis this year or next.

Notes:
1) All system players with 134 or fewer at-bats or 50 or less innings pitched in the majors are eligible. Once a player reaches one of these thresholds, he will be removed from the next report.

2) The rankings are based almost entirely from statistics, media reports and first hand reports of others. I have seen very few of these players in person.

Carioca's Musings

#Whoneedscollege? Springfield reflects new Cardinal draft strategy? The 2011 Springfield Cardinals' start the season with (what I believe is a record) nine American players who did not attend a four-year college. They include high school draftees Deryk Hooker, Mike Blazek, Casey Mulligan, Brett Zawacki, Tommy Pham, Niko Vasquez and junior college draftees Nick Additon, Ramon Delgado, and Cory Rauschenberger.

#Timetobitethebullet. Too much depth? - Part 1. The last several years, many people have been talking about the Cardinals' minor league logjam in the outfield. So far, the Cards have been able to somewhat manage it, but in 2011 the real logjam seems to be at catcher where there are still 13 catchers assigned to the four full-season squads and at least one full-season ready catcher in Extended Spring Training (EST).

I like having catching depth, but people in the organization get paid large dollars to decide which of these players are worth keeping and which have the best chance of succeeding. It may be time for them to earn their money. (Note: Two of the catchers, Stavinoha and Hill, were formerly part of the outfield logjam. It appears they have been moved to eliminate one logjam and in the process helped cause another.)

#Isthisanewtrend? Too much depth? - Part 2. I count at least 30 players in EST that I thought had some chance to make a full-season club. This includes at least 24 who were either drafted last year (or earlier) out of a four-year college or have played at the Batavia level or above for most of last season. There are probably four or five players there that have already put up a .780+ OPS season at Batavia. A quick glance back at Batavia's team stats from last year yields only about nine guys in this category.

While I realize some of those 24 will most likely be cut before Batavia starts their season and a few will be promoted directly to full-season clubs, I can't help but wonder if the Cards are plotting a development strategy that would leave a large number of college draftees playing two years of short-season ball. This would not be a one-season cycle as a large number of college players playing their second year in short-season leagues would have a snowball effect, resulting in many more of the 2011 draft class to start at Johnson City.

This seems particularly curious as the Cardinals also claim to be trying to increase their influx of Latin American players into the US. The only scenario in which it makes some sense would be if the Cards plan to drastically increase the ratio and number of high school players that they draft in 2011. #Foreshadowing?



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