First, we will start with the breakdown of our top 40 prospects by the year in which they became professionals. Five years of data is provided.
The top 40 population is broken out in two ways. The rows indicate how the players were acquired – via the draft, as free agents from the Latin American program or in the US, their contracts having been purchased from other leagues, acquired in the Rule 5 Draft or in trade.
The other dimension, in the columns, is the year the players became professionals, where N equals the most recent year/draft, N-1 being the prior year, etc.
Top 40 Cardinals Prospects – Sourcing - 2008-2012
|2012 Top 41||2011||2010||2009||2008||2007||2006||2005||Tot|
|Latin Am FA||0||2||1||1||0||1||1||6|
|US free agent||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1|
|Rule 5 acquire||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1|
|2011 Top 40||2010||2009||2008||2007||2006||2005||Tot|
|2010 Top 40||2009||2008||2007||2006||2005||2001||Tot|
|2009 Top 40||2008||2007||2006||2005||2004||2003||2001||Tot|
|2008 Top 40||2007||2006||2005||2004||2003||2002||2001||Tot|
Let's start with the rows. In terms of draft years, an obvious is the major drop off in number in players from the most recent draft that made the top 40. The total from the 2011 draft is just four, tied with 2008 as the lowest in the last five years.
Why is that? Is the overall talent in the organization much better, making reaching the top 40 more competitive or is it an indication of a weaker draft class this past June?
The number of top prospects in the N-1 and N-2 years is very strong, returning to the 2009 level of 15. This total, an indicator of the staying power of the more recent classes from which players have logged at least one full season of professional play, had dropped in each of the last two seasons.
After a big jump in the number of top prospects from the Latin American program in 2009, up to six from two the year before, the total is once again flat at six here in 2012. It is a bit concerning that the top prospect pipeline from the academies is apparently not flowing more heavily.
Then again, this is a quantity observation more than a top-tier statement. After all, two of our top three and three of our top seven 2012 prospects hailed from the academies.
For the first time, there are players acquired in several non-traditional manners - as a US free agent, Brandon Dickson, via the Rule 5 Draft, Erik Komatsu, and as the result of a trade, Maikel Cleto.
The next view is the top 40 by their primary defensive position.
Top 40 Cardinals Prospects – By position – 2007-2012
|Top 40 by position||2012||2011||2010||2009||2008||2007|
|LH Starting Pitcher||1||1||3||2||3||4|
|RH Starting Pitcher||11||11||10||13||13||13|
After a one-year spike in the number of catchers, the total has dropped down to a more traditional three. Among them, there seems no clear Yadier Molina replacement yet in the system. The addition of Kolten Wong was just part of a huge spike in second base prospects from one to five. It is good to see the organization trying to address this need. Another good jump is in centerfield, with an increase of two over 2011, fueled by the early draft picks Tilson and McElroy.
In the improvement area, I would like to see more shortstops and third basemen emerging. Top 40 starting pitchers remains at its recent-years low of 12, with only one left-hander, a continuing concern. Of the relievers, the total of six is fairly consistent with past years, but again there is just one lefty among the ranks.
Therefore, possible focus areas in the 2012 draft – same as seemingly every year – include left-handed pitching and catchers, along with those who can play the left side of the infield.
Runners-Up (name/overall ranking)
I will close with this year's "Runners-Up" - those players that made the Top 40, but not the 2012 All-Prospect Team. This also provides a quick visual snapshot of system-wide depth by name and position.
First base (1): Mark Hamilton (20)
Shortstop (1): Pete Kozma (35)
Third base (1): Matt Carpenter (11)
Left-handed starting pitcher (0): none
Right-handed starting pitcher (10): Carlos Martinez (2), Lance Lynn (6), Tyrell Jenkins (8), Trevor Rosenthal (12), Maikel Cleto (14), Joe Kelly (18), Boone Whiting (28), Adam Ottavino (29), Brandon Dickson (32), Seth Blair (33)
Left-handed reliever (0): none
Reminder: For more information about these players, click on their highlighted names to be taken to their free The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com player profile pages with bios, photos, news and more!
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2012 and read about each individual player, click here. You can learn about each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections and much more.
Next up: This article series nears its conclusion as we take a look at the best and worst picks from the 2011 top 40 and the top prospects by level.
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, glossy 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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