2013 Top Cardinals Prospects: The Newbies

Digging into the new names on the St. Louis Cardinals' top minor league prospect list for 2013.

We closed the previous article in this series, 2013 Top Cardinals Prospects: The Final Tally", with a look at the players who dropped off The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2013. This time, we will review the upcoming prospects who took their places.

The year after just five players made The Cardinal Nation top prospect list in their first year of eligibility, the bounty represented by the 2012 draft altered the 2013 rankings considerably. Seven members of this past June's draft made the new top 40, including five who placed in the top 18. Only one, 25th rounder Dixon Llorens, should be considered a sleeper, however.

Of the Cardinals top seven picks in the 2012 draft, all made before number 118, only catcher Steve Bean missed the top 40. The Texas teenager taken 59th overall initially stumbled in rookie ball at Johnson City before rebounding in the Gulf Coast League.

The following table indicates each 2012 draftee's top 40 ranking along with the round in which he was selected.

2012 Draft T40 Rd
Michael Wacha 4 1
Carson Kelly 10 2
Stephen Piscotty 12 1s
James Ramsey 13 1
Patrick Wisdom 18 1s
Dixon Llorens 33 25
Tim Cooney 39 3

The continued development of prospects having already been in the system had an even greater impact on the total. Pitcher Seth Maness and infielder Greg Garcia made the largest steps forward, each joining the top 20 in their third and fourth eligible years, respectively.

Pitcher Kevin Siegrist and catcher Audry Perez have worked the longest. The two finally debut in the top 40 in their sixth opportunity. Six of the new additions rank between number 32 and number 38.

First-timers 13 12 11 10 09 08
Seth Maness 14 NR NR
Greg Garcia 16 NR NR NR
Kevin Siegrist 22 NR NR NR NR NR
Eric Fornataro 27 NR NR NR NR
Mike O'Neill 32 NR NR NR
Adam Ehrlich 34 NR NR
Tyler Lyons 35 NR NR NR
Colin Walsh 36 NR NR NR
Victor DeLeon 37 NR NR NR NR
Audry Perez 38 NR NR NR NR NR
NR=not ranked

While many of the newly-drafted prospects ranked higher, it is still impressive that 10 players who were already in the organization made the 2013 top 40 for the first time. That group includes eight players from pre-2012 drafts who worked their way up and two others from the Cardinals international program, Perez and Victor De Leon.

No players rejoined this year's top 40 after having been ranked previously, then dropping off. Also, none of the new members of the 2013 top 40 had been with another organization before becoming a Cardinal.

New members #1-10 #11-20 #21-30 #31-40 Total
2012 Draft 2 3 0 2 7
Prior drafts 0 2 2 4 8
International signed 0 0 0 2 2
Acquired  0 0 0 0 0
Rejoined top 40 0 0 0 0 0
Total 2 5 2 8 17

Looking at the top 40 overall, the traditional positional split had been in favor of pitching, but not recently. After three years of having more position players on the list, the 2013 total is balanced at 20. Among the 20 non-pitchers, 10 are infielders, just two are catchers and another eight are outfielders, the lowest count at the latter position in the last four years.

Given the reputation of the organization having so many high-end pitching prospects, it is not surprising that four of the top five-ranked prospects this year are pitchers, though in the second five, the balanced theme continues. With the four-to-one ratio reversed in prospects #6-#10, that leaves a top 10 split of five pitchers and five position players.

However, note the prevalence of position players in the #11-#20 grouping, with a seven-to-three imbalance. That spins right back around in the #21-#30 group, with pitchers having that same edge. In perfect synergy, the final ten returns to a five-five split.

Top 40 by position #1-10 #11-20 #21-30 #31-40 Total
Position players 5 7 3 5 20
Pitchers 5 3 7 5 20
Total 10 10 10 10 40

Of the 20 hurlers on the 2013 list, six are relievers while 14 are starters. The latter group is the highest total in four years. An area of recent focus is showing a bit of improvement, as three starters are left-handed. That is up from just one in both 2011 and 2012.

A much deeper dive into the numbers and the players behind them will be provided in later articles in this series. I will finish this segment with a look at some of the most notable player changes in 2013 from the 2012 list.

Movers and shakers

Top debut – 2012 draftee: Michael Wacha - #4
(next: Carson Kelly - #10)

For the second consecutive year, the Cards' top draft pick entered the top 40 at number four. Pitcher Michael Wacha follows last year's selection, second baseman Kolten Wong. In an indication of greater continuing strength in the system, Zack Cox, Shelby Miller and Brett Wallace before them each came in at number two in their respective first years in the system. Third baseman Carson Kelly at number 10 had the second-best debut by a 2012 draftee.

Top debut – returnee: Seth Maness – non-ranked to #14
(next: Greg Garcia – NR to #16)

Last year, it was Trevor Rosenthal who made the best debut of any player previously in the system, leaping from not-ranked to number 12. This time, it is another right-hander, Seth Maness, who makes his entry at 14. It would not be fair to expect Maness to replicate Rosenthal's MLB success this season, but the control artist is clearly a prospect on the rise. Infielder Greg Garcia's capture of the number 16 spot after being passed over for three straight years recognizes his strong offensive year at Springfield.

Fastest riser: Breyvic Valera – #39 to #19
(next: Anthony Garcia - #22 to #9)

Here we have a couple of players that were on our radar a year ago, but were held back a bit by skepticism due to their relative youth and international background. Garcia had excelled at Johnson City in 2011, but he had yet to play full-season ball before cracking 19 home runs in the Midwest League. Valera demonstrated his multiple talents in the New York-Penn League in 2012 after splitting his 2011 between JC and the Gulf Coast League.

Biggest fall: Eduardo Sanchez - #7 to #26
(next: Adam Reifer - #19 to out of the top 40)

Sanchez' career fortunes clearly digressed from one year ago. I thought the right-hander could compete for the major league closer's job. Instead, he could not consistently throw strikes in Triple-A. Once a future closer candidate himself, Adam Reifer was injured and then lost his magic. He was dropped from the 40-man roster and went unclaimed. Unless the right-hander turns it around in 2013, he will almost surely depart next fall as a minor league free agent.

To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2013 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 2013 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 2012 and the top prospects by level of play.

There's more! Monthly and quarterly subscribers who upgrade to our annual pass will receive in the spring the 2013 FOX Sports NEXT Prospects Guide, a $4.95 value, for FREE. The perfect hardcopy companion to "40 Days" includes the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations and much more. 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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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