40 Days, 40 Nights, 40 Cards Prospects: 2012

Annual series started Monday, December 5. Over a 40-day period, we unveil our top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system for 2012.

Once again, it is time for the unveiling of our annual The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospect List, now in its seventh year. During the period we call "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Cardinals Prospects", a new top St. Louis Cardinals prospect is disclosed each day, starting with number 40 and carrying us well into the New Year.

Will our 2011 #1 repeat?
We continue until the #1 pick is identified – our consensus top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system coming into the 2012 season. Is there another worthy contender to unseat 2011 top prospect Shelby Miller?

As always, following the top 40 countdown will be our annual eight-pack of "best-of", "just-missed" and in-depth analysis articles to conclude this series.

As has been the process in recent years, the final ranking representing the site is actually a melding of three independent lists. This year, the voters are "CariocaCardinal," author of our popular monthly top prospect rankings in-season, site publisher and editor Brian Walton, and you, our readers.

Since mid- September, the members of our free message board community have been conducting voting for their own Cardinals prospect list. This detailed annual ranking involves considerable debate and discussion. The fan voting process has been imitated but never duplicated, as our readers are the most knowledgeable folks around when it comes to the players in the Cardinals minor league system.

The Cardinal Nation community ranking is given equal weighting to the other two lists and the three combined will yield the countdown order unveiled here. Two community leaders, "BobReed" and "Gagliano", will speak for the community in the individual player capsules posted daily.

To follow the countdown, TCN/Scout.com subscribers can either read each new story when posted on our home page every morning or click on the individual players' names which will be listed below. All readers, subscribers or not, are encouraged to return to this page daily to check the current status of our Top 40 countdown and read those articles which will be made free to all.

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As always, all readers can join in the debate at our free message board, where there will be a new discussion thread each day devoted to that day's entry onto the top prospect list.

To refer to the corresponding rankings from each of the past six winters, either click on the highlighted years here: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, or you can always use the permanent links on the lower left side of our home page.

The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospects – 2012

40. Chuckie Fick (free article)
39. Breyvic Valera Premium Article
38. Keith Butler Premium Article
37. Tyler Rahmatulla (free article)
36. C.J. McElroy Premium Article
35. Pete Kozma Premium Article
34. Sam Freeman (free article)
33. Seth Blair Premium Article
32. Brandon Dickson Premium Article
31. Jermaine Curtis (free article)
30. Rainel Rosario Premium Article
29. Adam Ottavino Premium Article
28a. Erik Komatsu Premium Article
28. Boone Whiting (free article)
27. Starlin Rodriguez Premium Article
26. Cody Stanley Premium Article
25. Bryan Anderson (free article)
24. Aaron Luna Premium Article
23. Tommy Pham Premium Article
22. Anthony Garcia (free article)
21. John Gast Premium Article
20. Mark Hamilton Premium Article
19. Adam Reifer (free article)
18. Joe Kelly Premium Article
17. Adron Chambers Premium Article
16. Tony Cruz (free article)
15. Charlie Tilson Premium Article
14. Maikel Cleto Premium Article
13. Ryan Jackson (free article)
12. Trevor Rosenthal Premium Article
11. Matt Carpenter Premium Article
10. Jordan Swagerty (free article)
9. Matt Adams Premium Article
8. Tyrell Jenkins Premium Article
7. Eduardo Sanchez (free article)
6. Lance Lynn Premium Article
5. Zack Cox Premium Article
4. Kolten Wong (free article)
3. Oscar Taveras Premium Article
2. Carlos Martinez Premium Article
1. Shelby Miller (free article)

At the conclusion of the countdown, we will follow with an eight-part series in which we analyze each voter's individual top 40 lists and year-to-year changes. The three voters highlight their ranked players that did not make the combined top 40 and we unveil our All-Prospect Team - the highest-ranked players at each position. We will take a view behind the numbers, a look back at our best and worst picks from the previous year and wrap it up with the top prospect list cut by level of play.

2012 Top Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally Premium Article
Cardinals Prospects: CariocaCardinal's Best of the Rest Premium Article
Cardinals Prospects: Brian Walton's Best of the Rest Premium Article
Cardinals Prospects: Community's Best of the Rest (free article)
2012 TCN/Scout.com All-Cardinals Prospect Team (free article)
2012 Top Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers Premium Article
2011 Top Cardinals Prospects – Picks and Pans Premium Article
2012 Top Cardinals Prospects by Level Premium Article

The voting process
Here is a bit of insight into the process. Independently during November, CariocaCardinal and Brian Walton documented their top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The Community ranking was then folded in.

A consensus score was tabulated, which drove the ranking you will see here. The three individual scores will also be shown on the player pages as they are unveiled each day, along with a wealth of additional information on all 40 prospects. Players must have been named on at least two ballots to be considered and to ensure we could agree on 40 names, each of us submitted lists of 46 players. This year, 43 prospects were named on at least two ballots. Ties were broken by the most individual votes, then highest individual score.

In terms of qualification, any player in the Cardinals minor league system was eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation.

Because each voter used slightly different criteria in defining what a "top prospect" means, all briefly explain how they made their selections.

My top 40 ranking is based on a balance of results and potential gleaned from statistics and on-line scouting reports. Strong weighting is given to first-hand accounts.

I feel I had a built-in advantage in the process as I had been preparing a monthly top 40 Cardinals prospect list throughout the season. That included sharing my thought process on each pick and in some cases, debating them with readers.

For this effort, I began with my end of season top 40 as the base. The primary difference between my November ranking and the end of season top 40 list is injury impact. I gave injuries lesser significance here. For example, Scott Gorgen made my personal top 40 now, when he did not during the season since he was out while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Brian Walton
This year, the top 10 or 12 Cardinals prospects are pretty consistent, both across our votes as well as from some of the other non-TCN prospect raters. The real work is in identifying the next tier, solid contributors and quality players today on the cusp of breaking out. At the same time, we should not give up too soon on talented prospects whose careers may have hit a bit of unexpected turbulence. Targeting emerging players is my most anticipated and ongoing challenge.

In the process of ranking, we sometimes put too much weight on current results while missing out on signals of greater potential ahead. Before a strong statistical base as a professional is established, some credence is given to draft position, but clinging to that hope too long can lead to disappointment.

This is never an exact process, as we all have hits and misses. Still, I take pleasure in reading others heralding the 2011 "emergence" of Oscar Taveras. He was number five right here on my personal list one year ago. On the other side of the coin, consensus system-wide 2011 Player of the Year Matt Adams was just 27th in my rankings at this point last year.

This time around, my contenders included 75 names. They were ordered based on personal observation as much as possible. I was out to see almost all the affiliates in person this spring, summer and/or fall, and in many cases, multiple times. I also received valuable input from coaches, scouts and others in and out of the organization.

Message board community
This is a very straight-forward process. On our free message board, all comers were welcome to cast their vote for any eligible player, with all votes equal. The process began with the number one prospect and continued through 50.

Voting closed on a particular spot in the rankings when enough time had elapsed to exhaust responses or a candidate established a large lead. The winner was recorded and the voting began anew on the next number in the list.

Discussion and debate is welcomed and anyone could participate. As the result of some convincing arguments presented, personal votes were affected and in some cases changed, indicating a healthy give-and-take among the readers.

Premium Article Not yet a subscriber to The Cardinal Nation? Join today for as little as $7.95 after our seven-day free trial and be able to read all our Top 40 articles and much more exclusive content.

Want access to all the details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

Upgrade or subscribe to our Annual Pass by January 20 and receive the 2012 FOX Fantasy Guide / Scout Prospect Guide, a $4.95 value, for free. The perfect printed companion to "Forty Days", includes the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations will appear on newsstands all over the country in the spring. Of course, we author the Cardinals section of the guide as always.

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