The far left column of the table below is the aggregate ranking. To the right of the players' names are our individual votes. (Note that we each ranked 46 players to ensure we had at least two votes for each of the group's top 40.) Next are the 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 rankings of the players in the new 2012 Top 40+.
* (Cm) represents the collaborative effort among a group of very knowledgeable Cardinals fans from our Message Board. While that group ranked 50 players, not 40, I limited their list in this article to 40 for consistency. Click here to see the entire community list and their reasoning behind it.
+ This year's top 40 actually consists of 41 players due to the in-flight addition of Rule 5 selection Erik Komatsu. The outfielder joined the Cardinals' 40-man roster in early December, after this top 40 countdown was underway.
Summarizing the numbers
There was considerable turnover from the 2011 top 40, with 35 percent change from last year to this. Of the 14 players that left the list, three graduated to St. Louis, while 11 dropped off. Three of the 11 are no longer in the organization – P.J. Walters, Tyler Henley and Daryl Jones. The departing individuals are listed below with their rankings over the previous six years.
In a major change of direction from a year ago - when half of the top 10 was made up of players not ranked the previous year - the 2012 top 11 is very stable. Eight of last year's top 11 are still in that group. Two others, Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso, graduated to the majors, leaving Seth Blair as the only member of the 2011 top 11 to have stumbled.
The maturity of the top prospect list as noted by the top 11 stability also presents itself in terms of new players joining the list. Overall, just five players made the list in their first year of eligibility and one of them is a special case in Komatsu. Twice as many draftees, eight, appeared on the top 40 for first time in both 2010 and 2011.
Continuing the high level of turnover on the top 40, another ten players previously in the organization made the list for the first time. This group is led by pitcher Trevor Rosenthal.
|New members||Top ten||#11-40||Total|
|Acquired (Rule 5)||0||1||0|
|Other 1st timers||0||10||10|
The traditional positional split had been in favor of pitching, but this year's rankings indicate stabilizing of a pattern that had been evolving over the last few years. At 23 position players, they remain in their greatest majority since we started these lists. Of the 23 non-pitchers, 11 are infielders, just three are catchers - half of last year - and another nine are outfielders, same as in the last two years.
Given the reputation of the organization having so many high-end pitching prospects, it is probably surprising that only two of the top five-ranked prospects are pitchers, though it goes up to six of the top ten. Last year, three of our top five-ranked prospects were pitchers, down from four of the top six in 2010.
Of the 18 hurlers on the list, six are relievers while 12 are starters. The latter group ties 2011, which had the smallest starting total since we began ranking. In a further illustration of a continuing major problem area, just one starter is left-handed, again tying 2011 as the worst showing by portsiders since we began our top 40. A deeper dive into the numbers will be provided in later articles in this series.
Top debut – 2011 draftee - Kolten Wong - #4
(next – Charlie Tilson - #15)
Not surprisingly, Wong, the Cardinals' first-rounder, debuted in the top four, the fourth consecutive year that happened. In another indication of greater continuing strength in the system, Zack Cox, Shelby Miller and Brett Wallace before him each came in at number two in their respective first years in the system. Outfielder Charlie Tilson at number 15 had the second-best debut by a 2011 draftee.
Rosenthal made the best debut of any player previously in the system, leaping from not-ranked to number 12 on the heels of a strong campaign with Quad Cities. Maikel Cleto's capture of the number 14 spot after being passed over last winter following his acquisition from Seattle via trade rivals Rosenthal's ascension.
Here we have a couple of players that were on our radar a year ago, but were held down by skepticism about their offensive upside. Adams had excelled at Quad Cities in 2010, but no one thought he could skip a level and become the Texas League Player of the Year. Though Jackson was still inconsistent offensively, he hit well both with Springfield and in the Arizona Fall League. Triple-A awaits both in 2012.
There are some in the Cardinals organization not yet down on their 2010 supplemental first-round pick Seth Blair despite the right-hander not impressing in his first professional season with Quad Cities. While Blair remained in the top 40, that won't be the case unless an upward trajectory is charted in 2012.
How much of Deryk Hooker's disappointing season at Double-A Springfield can be directly attributed to injury can be argued, but it was certainly a factor. Yet it is worth noting that he has alternated good years with bad over the last four – going on and the top 40 twice. Longmire did not excel in his first taste of full-season ball at Quad Cities but has plenty of time to rebound.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2012 and read about each individual player, click here. You can learn each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections and much more.
Next up: This article series continues as the voters highlight the players on our personal lists that did not make the 2012 consolidated top 40. We move next to our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, dive into the numbers behind the top 40, take a look at our best and worst selections from 2011 and the top prospects by level of play.
Time is running out! Upgrade by January 20 to our Annual Pass 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.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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