Cards Prospects: Walton's Best of the Rest

The second of three looks at top Cardinals prospects that missed our Top 40 list with Brian Walton.

As those who have followed our St. Louis Cardinals Top 40 Prospects countdown over the last month and a half know, the selection of the master list was a melding of three varied points of view of us from here at The Cardinal Nation.

As a result, a handful of deserving players on each of our individual lists did not make the consolidated Top 40. This is the second of three articles in which each of us highlight those prospects – our "Best of the Rest".

Following is the overall top 40, with my list through #46 next to it. Highlighted are the names from each list to be reviewed separately. These bolded names may still be on the respective lists, but were ranked below where we drew the line for the consolidated list, after number 40.

Group Top 40 Brian Walton
1 Oscar Taveras 1 Oscar Taveras
2 Shelby Miller 2 Trevor Rosenthal
3 Trevor Rosenthal 3 Shelby Miller
4 Michael Wacha 4 Kolten Wong
5 Carlos Martinez 5 Carlos Martinez
6 Kolten Wong 6 Michael Wacha
7 Matt Adams 7 Tyrell Jenkins
8 Tyrell Jenkins 8 Matt Adams
9 Anthony Garcia 9 Carson Kelly
10 Carson Kelly 10 Jordan Swagerty
11 Jordan Swagerty 11 Stephen Piscotty
12 Stephen Piscotty 12 Anthony Garcia
13 James Ramsey 13 James Ramsey
14 Seth Maness 14 Patrick Wisdom
15 Ryan Jackson 15 Sam Freeman 
16 Greg Garcia 16 Seth Blair
17 Starlin Rodriguez 17 Charlie Tilson
18 Patrick Wisdom 18 Kevin Siegrist
19 Breyvic Valera 19 Eric Fornataro
20 John Gast 20 Seth Maness
21 Charlie Tilson 21 Ryan Jackson
22 Kevin Siegrist 22 Pete Kozma
23 Adron Chambers 23 Starlin Rodriguez
24 Sam Freeman  24 Breyvic Valera
25 Boone Whiting 25 John Gast
26 Eduardo Sanchez 26 Greg Garcia
27 Eric Fornataro 27 Adron Chambers
28 Maikel Cleto 28 Maikel Cleto
29 Pete Kozma 29 C.J. McElroy
30 Seth Blair 30 Eduardo Sanchez
31 C.J. McElroy 31 Mike O'Neill
32 Mike O'Neill 32 Audry Perez
33 Dixon Llorens 33 Boone Whiting
34 Adam Ehrlich 34 Cody Stanley
35 Tyler Lyons 35 Jorge Rondon
36 Colin Walsh 36 Michael Blazek
37 Victor DeLeon 37 Adam Ehrlich
38 Audry Perez 38 Colin Walsh
39 Tim Cooney 39 Keith Butler
40 Keith Butler 40 Tommy Pham
41 Tyler Lyons
42 Victor DeLeon
43 Steve Bean
44 Sam Tuivailala
45 Alex Mejia
46 Silfredo Garcia

There is little significant difference between my list and the consolidated view. Only two of the players that appear on the group's top 40 were not among my top 46 and both Dixon Llorens and Tim Cooney could make a good case.

Three of the eight players highlighted on my list above are unique to my top 46 – Michael Blazek, Tommy Pham and Sam Tuivailala - while the other five were also named on others' lists. They are: Cody Stanley (also CariocaCardinal #38), Jorge Rondon (also Community #45), Steve Bean (also Community #38 and CariocaCardinal #39), Alex Mejia (also Community #39), and Silfredo Garcia (also Community #42). But despite the support, all five still fell short of the consolidated top 40.

In this article, I will highlight my three unique selections, as well as the first two group misses – Stanley and Rondon. The others will pick up Bean, Mejia and Garcia in their companion articles to this one.

Of my focus five, three are pitchers – one starter and two relievers – plus a catcher and an outfielder. They are a veteran group. Three are 24 years of age, while one is 23 and one is 20. Two dropped off the 2012 top 40 (too quickly, in my opinion) while two more were recently added to the organization's 40-man roster. The other recently made a very exciting position change.

Cody Stanley (my #34)

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
26 C 12/21/1988 5-10 190 L R 2010 4th

School: University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Selected 2012 stats

GCL 0.300 0.500 10 1 3 2 0 0 0 4 0 0.370 0.300 0.500 0.800
PB 0.280 0.320 157 11 44 8 3 35 6 32 1 0.315 0.300 0.401 0.701
Total 0.281   167 12 47 10 3 35 6 36 1   0.300 0.407 0.707
AFL 0.208 0.219 48 7 10 1 3 5 6 13 1 0.325 0.296 0.417 0.713

To say 2012 was a tough year for Cody Stanley is an understatement, though it started positively enough. In fact, 12 months ago, he was named our top-ranked catcher in the Cardinals system, but was number 26 overall.

Stanley then secured an invitation to St. Louis Cardinals major league camp this spring, where realistically, he was there to help catch the extra pitchers. From there, his season spiraled downward quickly and strongly.

A 50-game suspension due to a failed substance test was announced before March was out. Though he could continue to participate in extended spring training, Stanley could not join Palm Beach as projected.

Multiple injuries continued the black cloud year. In Stanley's seventh post-suspension game, he broke his finger. Just after he won the Florida State League Player of the Week award in August in part due to an eight-RBI double-header, Stanley was sidelined by a concussion.

His assignment to the Arizona Fall League enabled him to make up for some of the lost time, but he did not stand out with the Surprise Saguaros. Stanley did not swing the bat without as much authority as in the past.

So, why is Stanley still on my list? Some have written off his prior success as being a by-product of the use of banned substances. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as the multiple mishaps this season could have derailed the progress of most anyone.

At the age of 24, Stanley's 2013 will either mark a career rebirth or a further move in the wrong direction. I think the former is quite possible.

Jorge Rondon (my #35)

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 9/16/1988 6-1 175 R R 2006 FA

Home: Calabozo, Colombia

Selected 2012 stats

SPR 2 1 3.44 3.41 33 0 4 34.0 29 14 1 16 30 1.44 0.238 0.290
MEM 0 1 3.60 3.00 13 0 1 15.0 12 6 1 8 20 2.00 0.214 0.314
Total 2 2 3.49   46 0 5 49.0 41 20 2 24 50 1.57 0.230

It is not rocket science, but what follows seems to be a necessary reminder. These prospect rankings are about major league potential. Rondon has been pitching one level below the majors, at Triple-A Memphis, and the Cardinals added the reliever to their 40-man roster in October.

Granted, that alone does not ensure success, however, it opens opportunities. The 24-year-old Venezuelan has a reputation as a very hard thrower – upper 90's - with a plus slider. The downside is his questionable control. That is a comparable description to one that could be applied to Maikel Cleto, ranked 28th this year.

Likely with an eye toward the then-upcoming protection decision, the organization pushed Rondon ahead this past summer. The right-hander was briefly installed as Springfield's closer before his final-month promotion to Memphis. Rondon fanned 50 but walked 24 in 49 innings pitched between the two stops.

With a hot spring, Rondon could pass Eduardo Sanchez and join Cleto near the top of the Memphis reliever holding pattern. On the other hand, with a continuation of his past exposures, Rondon's star could fall, just as Sanchez' has. It is anyone's guess as to which way he travels, but at this point, I am leaning in the positive direction.

Michael Blazek (my #36)

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 3/16/1989 6-0 180 R R 2007 35th

School: Arbor View High School, Las Vegas, Nev.

Selected 2012 stats

MEM 0 1 10.80 9.20 2 1 0 3.1 6 4 1 2 1 0.00 0.462 0.455
SPR 5 8 4.16 4.30 40 7 0 80 61 37 11 34 83 0.93 0.213 0.254
Total 5 9 4.43   42 8 0 83.1 67 41 12 36 84 0.87 0.223  

A month after Rondon was placed the 40-man roster, Blazek joined him. Many folks looked at his ordinary stat sheet and wondered why.

Now 24, Blazek was the Cardinals' 35th round selection in the June 2007 draft and has never placed in our top 40 in six chances. He made two starts for Memphis to close 2011 but returned to Springfield in 2012. He was moved into the bullpen in May. After another brief stint with Memphis in late July, Blazek was returned to Springfield again. In other words, he seemed the classic organizational arm.

So, what is behind this ranking, you might ask? Blazek seemed to become a different pitcher when coming out of the bullpen. He generated considerable buzz among opposing organizations' scouts when as a reliever, he threw 94-96 mph consistently, hitting 97, along with having three secondary offerings.

With continued progress and that 40-man roster spot in hand, by the second half of 2013, Blazek could join Rondon in the group of relievers on call for St. Louis.

Tommy Pham (my #40)

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
22 OF 3/8/1988 6-1 175 R R 2006 16th

School: Durango High School, Las Vegas, Nev.

Selected 2012 stats

SPR 0.154 0.263 39 3 6 2 1 3 4 19 0 0.239 0.233 0.282 0.515

Despite having been ranked 23rd in our 2012 top 40, I can understand why Pham slipped off most, if not most all, Cardinals prospect lists for 2013. Still, I could not place him any lower than number 40.

I will spare long-time readers a detailed recap of Pham's long and bumpy career. Instead, I will summarize: he is a tremendous athlete – one of the best defenders in the system – but one who cannot seem to remain healthy long enough to realize his potential.

This year, it was shoulder surgery suffered in spring camp. After he tried to play through it, the injury required surgery following just 12 games with Springfield. That came on top of wrist surgery in 2011 and a fractured ulnae the season prior.

The good news is Pham will be back for at least one more try as a member of the Cardinals system in 2013. Eligible for free agency following the 2012 season as a six-year minor leaguer, Pham chose to return and the organization welcomed him with open arms. I predict Pham will compete in the Memphis centerfield derby.

This will almost certainly be his "up or out" year.

Sam Tuivailala (my #44)

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 10/19/1992 6-3 195 R R 2010 3rd

School: Aragon High School, San Mateo, Cal.

Selected 2012 stats

JC 0 0 4.15 3.66 11 0 0 13.0 12 6 1 13 23 0.07 0.235 0.407

When evaluating prospects, once you get past the top tier of 12-15 players, the ones I think have the best possibility of rising to the top have one or more standout tools. Obviously, there remains doubt as to whether the player will achieve his ceiling, especially one still in rookie ball, but having the right raw materials surely helps.

Sam Tuivailala the shortstop, then third baseman, did not have it. On the other hand, Sam the hot new pitcher is worthy of mention among my top 46 Cardinals prospects.

Even before the right-hander received rave reviews in instructional league camp, he impressed in Johnson City. After just a few bullpens, Tuivailala threw 94-96 mph, touching 97, in his first professional outing as a relief pitcher. That can open eyes.

With his big arm, Tuivailala should progress relatively quickly. He is not behind yet. After all, he was younger at Johnson City this season than was another then-relatively inexperienced, but hard-throwing hurler, Trevor Rosenthal, was in 2010, when he was pitching at the same level.

Of course, it is far too early to know if Tui can approach Trevor's rise, but his arm has the potential.

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 CariocaCardinal highlights the players on his list that did not make the 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.

Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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 Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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