Cardinals farm system averages eighth-best

The St. Louis Cardinals placed as high as third in one national 2012 organizational ranking and average eighth across five major lists.

Those who seem to take delight in the St. Louis Cardinals low ranking compared to other minor league organizations will need to find a new whipping boy. The Cardinals are now among baseball's best.

With former Cardinals Vice President Jeff Luhnow bringing his new club, the Houston Astros, to Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday, it seems an ideal time to visit organizational rankings one last time before minor league play gets underway for 2012. Luhnow had been responsible for Cardinals drafts, the international program as well as player development.

The new news? Monday's announcement by Baseball Prospectus of their ranking of the 30 farm systems placed St. Louis third.

Third is the Cardinals' best showing from any national major prospect rater since at least 2008 and likely much longer than that. Earlier this winter, Keith Law of ESPN came close, ranking the Cardinals fourth. In his first-ever system rankings, John Sickels of Minor League Ball also has the Cardinals in his top five.

Almost all of the Cardinals top prospects finished the 2011 season at Double-A or below. Unless there is a major dropoff in player performance or an unlikely exodus of prospects due to trades, the Cardinals should maintain their lofty status at least one more year.

Further, with five selections among the first 58 picks in this June's draft, the Cardinals and new director of amateur scouting Dan Kantrovitz are well positioned to add more top prospects into the pipeline.

Still, Baseball America and BaseballHQ are both considerably less enamored with the Cardinals, with number 12 and 15 rankings, respectively. BA's placement seems oddest. Apparently, their concern is depth-related, but they are very bullish on the system's top prospects. BA put six Cardinals on their national top 100 list, double any organization's mathematical "fair share."

Even so, St. Louis' average placement of eighth across the five national voters is decimal points better than their 2009 aggregate score.

St. Louis' improvement over the last two years has been nothing short of phenomenal. 2012's average score is 11 places better than 2011. That was another 10 spots better than 2010, when the Cardinals were cellar-dwellers according to pretty much everyone in the industry. (Colors indicate year-to-year change.)

Cardinals rank of 30 2012 2011 2010 2009
Baseball America 12 24 29 8
Baseball Prospectus 3 21 30 9
ESPN 4 14 29 6
BaseballHQ 15 17 28 10
Minor League Ball 5
Average  7.8 19.0 29.0 8.3

This year, only San Diego and Toronto have better systems than St. Louis, says Kevin Goldstein. Law placed Tampa Bay second, in between the Padres and Blue Jays, just in front of the Cardinals. In addition to the same top two organizations common to the other lists, Sickels also ranks Texas and Seattle ahead of St. Louis.

Top 5 BP ESPN Minor League Ball
1 San Diego San Diego Toronto
2 Toronto  Tampa Bay San Diego
3 St. Louis Toronto Texas 
4 Oakland St. Louis Seattle
5 Kansas City Kansas City St. Louis 

Key comments about the Cardinals from the top raters:

Goldstein: "They've suddenly become a drafting and development beast, with plenty of help coming beginning in 2013."

Law: "…St. Louis also has done an excellent job of developing the players it's drafted. I really like how the Cards are set up to contend continuously during the next five years."

Sickels: "They don't get talked about as much as other teams, but they have a Grade A prospect in Shelby Miller and a lot of pitching depth behind him. I think this system is underrated."

Earlier related articles
"Final 2012 Cardinals prospect list comparison"
"Cards placement in national top 100s: updated"
"How did Cardinals place on national top 100s?"
"2012 Cardinals prospects: What the others say"



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 content during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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