2011 Top Cardinals Prospects: Picks and Pans

Looking back one year later at some of our best and worst predictions for the St. Louis Cardinals' top minor league prospects from 2011.

With the benefit of a year of hindsight since last-year's St. Louis Cardinals top 40 rankings first appeared, it comes the time once again to take some bows and be humbled in equal measure. Following are my views of some of our most notable individual picks and pans from our 2011 rankings.

Best 2011 pick – Dustin Mattison – John Gast - #16

Dustin was the one who had the most confidence in Gast one year ago, predicting a fast rise. Remember that this was before the left-hander pitched extremely well in major league spring training camp. Gast jumped from Batavia at the end of 2010 to making 13 starts for Springfield by the close of the 2011 season.

The rest of us had Gast down in the 30s last year, dropping him down to number 28 overall. After his strong 2011, he is now up to number 21 in the consolidated 2012 rankings.

Best 2011 pick – Message Board Community – Eduardo Sanchez - #3

We were all somewhat bullish on the man who would become the most-talked about new arrival in St. Louis in 2011, but the community showed the most optimism about Sanchez. They were also the only one of the three rankers that had Sanchez ahead of Lance Lynn, a pick that I think would have been justified on the mound had Sanchez not injured his shoulder.

Best 2011 pick – Brian Walton – Oscar Taveras - #5

I had seen and heard enough about the young Dominican outfielder from his time in Johnson City one year ago to believe he would be someone special. Others are concerned about any short-season player, and I can understand that, though Dustin's #23 ranking really diluted my fifth-place vote. Now, everyone is on the bandwagon. That is ok. There is room.

Top 2011 pan – Mattison – P.J. Walters – not ranked

Dustin took perhaps a more realistic stance on the veteran Triple-A pitcher, putting younger, more promising hurlers ahead of Walters. The rest of us had the right-hander in our respective top 20s.

Despite Walters barely getting a look in spring training, he once again pitched credibly with Memphis. However, he couldn't establish traction after his trade to the Toronto organization and was released. Walters will try to return to the majors in a Minnesota uniform this coming season.

Top 2011 pan – Community – Seth Blair - #13

While none of us predicted the middling 2011 the 2010 supplemental first-rounder would experience at Class A Quad Cities, at least the community did not have Blair in their top ten like Dustin (#8). In Blair's defense, he still has strong supporters in the system who believe he can make it. This year's ranking barely has Blair in the top 40 at #33 after he was left off one ballot entirely (CariocaCardinal).

Top 2011 pan – Walton – Steven Hill - #46

No one can take away Hill's brief Major League debut in 2010. However, with each passing year, the catcher/first baseman seems further away from a return. Removed from the 40-man roster and coming off an injury-plagued 2011, Hill now clearly has both Bryan Anderson and Tony Cruz ahead of him. Then there is that Molina guy and newly-signed Koyie Hill.

Past misses

No one's predictions will ever be 100 percent accurate. Here are some of our highest-profile misses from last year's rankings.

Most overrated 2011 pick – Mattison – Deryk Hooker - #10

There is no doubt that Hooker had a strong 2010 campaign, upon which Dustin had built his optimism. Injuries hurt Hooker in 2011 and his effectiveness waned to the point he missed this year's top 40 entirely.

Most overrated 2011 pick – Community – Matt Carpenter - #5

It wasn't as if the system's Player of the Year in 2010 didn't handle the step up to Triple-A. Carpenter also had a strong major league spring training camp, almost making the team. On the downside, Carpenter did not show the power hoped-for form a third baseman and did not receive a September call-up to St. Louis. Zack Cox is coming up fast behind him.

Most overrated 2011 pick – Walton – Pete Kozma - #14

We may have stayed on the Kozma bandwagon too long based on his relative youth, premium position and first-round draft selection. At least I think I did. His results have not yet justified such an aggressive ranking. Kozma had already begun his slide on Dustin's rankings at #24 last year and the shortstop is down at #35 overall for 2012.

Worst 2011 miss – Mattison – Matt Adams – not ranked

OK, the first baseman has a big build and maybe he wouldn't have been able to replicate his 2010 Quad Cities showing in Palm Beach this season. Turns out we will never know. The organization turned Adams loose in the Texas League and an award-winning campaign followed.

Worst 2011 miss – Community – Jordan Swagerty - #32

None of us were particularly bullish about the 2010 second-rounder, but the community missed by the largest margin, having Swagerty as their 32nd-ranked hurler. This year, the right-hander made one top 10, mine.

Worst 2011 miss – Walton – Ryan Jackson – not ranked

I admit that I had pigeon-holed the former Miami Hurricanes shortstop as all-glove and no-hit. In just a month in Springfield, bookended by a decent stint against stiff competition in the Arizona Fall League, Jackson showed me why I missed the boat. Now, he has passed Kozma and could be just one injury away from the majors.

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: Looking at our 2012 top 40 prospect list by level of play and comparing it to past years.

Last day today! Upgrade or subscribe 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 brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. 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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