2013 Cardinals Top Prospects by Level

St. Louis Cardinals top 40 prospects by predominant level of play in 2012 compared to past years.

As we conclude this year's top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospect countdown, this report will study the level of all players year-to-year, not just the top ten as done in an earlier article.

I captured the predominant level of play for the top 40 players in each of the last six years based on at-bats for position players and innings pitched for pitchers. This information is presented in the tables below.

Position Players 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
Total 20 23 23 21 18 19
St. Louis 1 0 0 0 0 0
Memphis 3 7 5 5 4 2
Springfield 5 6 6 6 5 8
Palm Beach 2 2 2 3 2 2
Quad Cities 3 3 5 0 2 3
Batavia 2 0 1 5 1 0
Johnson City 4 3 2 1 2 2
Gulf Coast League 0 2 2 1 1 2
DSL(/VSL) 0 0 0 0 1 0
Pitchers 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
Total 20 18 17 19 22 23
St. Louis 1 1 0 0 0 0
Memphis 6 6 5 5 6 3
Springfield 8 2 3 3 6 5
Palm Beach 1 5 0 6 3 5
Quad Cities 2 3 3 2 2 6
Batavia 1 0 3 2 4 3
Johnson City 1 1 1 1 1 0
Gulf Coast League 0 0 1 0 0 1
DSL(/VSL) 0 0 1 0 0 0

First, note the shift of balance from pitching once having been predominant in the top 40 to hitters taking over that lead to pitching moving back to its current shared 20-20 position. It seems a reasonable inference that the organization's pitching pipeline has expanded more than the hitting in the last couple of years, as this would tend to suggest.

The number of top 40 members at the top two minor league levels, Double-A and Triple-A, has increased substantially over the last three years from 19 to 22.

All of that increase and more comes from pitching. 14 top 40 pitchers being that close to the majors is unprecedented in terms of this list. The total is up from just eight in each of the last two years.

Conversely, the current total of eight top 40 position players at Springfield and Memphis is the lowest total in the last six years. It clearly helps that two of them are among the brightest stars in the system in Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong.

One might contend the Cardinals are in a strong position here with their pitching being the strongest component. However, the lack of a clear shortstop successor to Rafael Furcal is the one glaring hole in the blueprint.

On the pitching side, the trend in recent years of fewer top 40 pitching prospects at Class-A and below continues with just four this year. While that is the same as 2012, it is down from the 2008-2011 levels. Perhaps this is an indication of greater system-wide depth. Thinking back to my ranking process, I felt less need to reach on rookie-level pitchers due to what I perceived to be better bets higher up.

In the position player table, Memphis at just three players has its lowest level since 2008. Given the 2012 Redbirds' struggles on offense, the club's relatively poor prospect showing should not be too surprising, I guess. The Cardinals could easily have shifted this balance to a more expected level had they moved Taveras and Wong up to Memphis last summer. Over the long haul, keeping them in Double-A may prove to have been the best decision.

The Cardinals continue to jump top position player prospects over Palm Beach entirely (including Matt Adams in 2011 and Wong and Taveras in 2012), so perhaps the continued low position player total of two there is not all that concerning. Keeping some young hitters out of the Florida State League, a pitchers' league, seems a planned tactic. It will be interesting to see if they push Anthony Garcia into the same pattern in 2013.

I thought I might come back around to the 18 players that dropped off last year's top 41 to see if there is anything to learn.

After excluding the four promotions to the majors, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Matt Carpenter and Tony Cruz, 14 names remain. The first thing that caught my eye was the distribution: just four are pitchers, with ten position players having left the list.

Dropped off
Gone Peak Lost momentum Peak Short-term Peak
Erik Komatsu (R5) StL Adam Reifer Mem Rainel Rosario Spr
Adam Ottavino StL Tommy Pham Spr Jermaine Curtis Mem
Chuckie Fick StL Cody Stanley PB Tyler Rahmatulla PB
Bryan Anderson StL
Mark Hamilton StL
Brandon Dickson StL
Zack Cox Mem
Aaron Luna Mem

Starting at the left of the table, Note that six of the eight players having left the top 40 and the organization had trials in St. Louis first. At this point, none of them seem to have a clear major league future ahead elsewhere.

The center group, labeled "Lost momentum," had been on the top 40 for an average of three years. These players have reached a career stall and may or may not be able to pull out of it. Adam Reifer hasn't been able to come back from a knee injury, Tommy Pham's injury list is far longer while Cody Stanley has to prove his success was not PED-aided.

The far right group of players, called "Short-term" in the table, were on the top 40 prospect list for either one or two years. Outfielder Rainel Rosario showed bursts, but digressed in 2012. Infielder Jermaine Curtis had a strong 2011 season at Springfield, but couldn't replicate his success last summer. Both were tried at higher levels, but sent back down during 2012. Tyler Rahmatulla had a standout 2011 at Quad Cities, but struggled at Palm Beach in 2012.

We'll close this article with another look at the full 2013 top 40. This view sorts them by position grouping and level. Note that eight of our top 40 have yet to play an inning of full-season ball. Six of the eight are position players.

2013 Top 40 (rank) Position Players Pitchers
St. Louis Kozma (29) Rosenthal (3)
Memphis Adams (7) Miller (2)
  Jackson (15) Gast (20)
  Chambers (23) S Freeman (24)
  Sanchez (26)
  Cleto (28)
    Lyons (35)
Springfield Taveras (1) Wacha (4)
  Wong (6) Martinez (5)
  G Garcia (16) Swagerty (10)
  O'Neill (32) Maness (14)
  Perez (38) Siegrist (22)
  Whiting (25)
  Fornataro (27)
    Butler (40)
Palm Beach Ramsey (13) Blair (30)
  S Rodriguez (17)  
Quad Cities A Garcia (9) Jenkins (8)
  Piscotty (12) Llorens (33)
  Walsh (36)  
Batavia Wisdom (18) Cooney (39)
  B. Valera (19)  
Johnson City C Kelly (10) De Leon (37)
  Tilson (21)  
  McElroy (31)  
  Ehrlich (34)  
Gulf Coast League none none
DSL none none

As always, our top 40 prospect lists from each of the last eight years can be accessed via links permanently displayed at the lower left of The Cardinal Nation homepage.

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.

Our 2013 top 40 series: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects and related articles, 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 brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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