This annual feature brings together what a group of well-known national experts think about the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects and compares them to our rankings here at The Cardinal Nation.
The raters cited here are six well-known concerns that annually rate and rank prospects from all 30 organizations, not just the Cardinals. They may use different methods and have different qualifying criteria, but the bottom line is that they all conclude with an ordered list of names. While we remain biased here that our rankings are best since we focus on just this one system from top to bottom, other opinions are always interesting to compare and contrast.
Following is the Cardinals top ten prospect lists from Baseball America (BA), ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN), BaseballHQ (HQ), John Sickels of minorleagueball.com (MiLBall), Baseball Prospectus (BP) and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (MLB) placed side-by-side. At the end, we will meld the six into one "consensus" list.
|9||Carson Kelly||Kelly||Patrick Wisdom||Garcia||Wisdom||Kelly||9|
|10||Stephen Piscotty||Anthony Garcia||Ryan Jackson||Kelly||Kelly||John Gast||10|
We start with the common ground among the various raters. That is considerable territory; in fact it is at an unprecedented level in 2013. Every one of these six prospect rankers has the same top four. In fact, the players are in the same order, headed by outfielder Oscar Taveras and followed by pitchers Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.
Agreement on the next six is more about relative rankings than disagreeing on the names. Only 14 players are named on any of the top ten lists. That compares to 13 last year.
In fact, the same four names also hold down the number five through eight slots in all six lists, with the only difference being their respective order. They are Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha generally ahead, with Matt Adams and Tyrell Jenkins just behind.
I call the names that appear on all six top ten lists "no brainers". You can also see which of the lists ranked these eight players the best and closest to the bottom (worst). Of course, the latter is a relative term, as these players are the best in the consensus top farm system in the game.
In an amazing agreement, no more than two places separate the placement of any of the top eight between any two lists. That is about as close as a consensus as there could ever be from six different sources.
|Unanimous picks (8)||best||who||worst||who|
|Kolten Wong||5||BA/ES/HQ/MLB||6||MiL B/BP|
|Michael Wacha||5||MiL B/BP||7||ES/HQ|
|Tyrell Jenkins||6||ES||8||BA/HQ/MiL B|
In terms of relative ranking in the combined lists, Taveras' Texas League MVP season vaulted him over Miller and Martinez from number three last year to the top spot in 2013. In his second year on the list, Martinez moves up from fifth last year to third.
Kudos to Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, who had Taveras at second one year ago. (Since, Goldstein has gone to work for the Houston Astros as coordinator of professional scouting. Jason Parks has taken over his ranking duties for BP.)
Though no one could fully anticipate the extent of Rosenthal's ascension from ending 2011 in Class-A to sticking in the majors barely a half-season later, three of the prospect raters had him in their top 10 one year ago. They were ESPN, BP and Minor League Ball. Rosenthal did not make the top 10 of BA or HQ.
Despite Wong and Wacha being closely bunched at #5 and #6 by the majority, Adams and Jenkins did receive one vote each at #6.
Of the seven 2012 "no brainers" - names on all lists - the only two to completely drop off the 2013 rankings are understood. Last year's #6, Zack Cox, was traded and Jordan Swagerty (#9) missed the 2012 season due to injury.
The only player missing on just one of the six 2013 lists is Carson Kelly. The Cardinals' teenaged third baseman, taken in the second round, fell short of HQ's top ten but is either number nine or number 10 according to the other voters.
|Five of six (1)||off||best||who|
No players were named on only three or four lists.
Two players making their respective top 10 debuts in 2013 appear on two of the six lists. Anthony Garcia lost out making the consolidated top 10 by just one spot on one list. The good-hitting outfielder received one 9th and one 10th vote (from ESPN and Minor League Ball, respectively), while 2012 third base draftee Patrick Wisdom edged him out with two 9ths (from BaseballHQ and Baseball Prospectus).
|Anthony Garcia||BA/HQ/BP/MLB||9||MiL B|
|Patrick Wisdom||BA/ES/MiL B/MLB||9||HQ/BP|
Three more first-time top ten prospects received one number 10 placement each. They are left-hander John Gast (MLB), shortstop Ryan Jackson (HQ) and outfielder Stephen Piscotty (BA). None of the three made the consolidated top 10.
|Lone star picks (3)||rank||who|
Here are the blended rankings of the six national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of "11". The six rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on.
The overall table is compared to The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com top ten, listed next to it. (For reference, here is the link to our full TCN/Scout top 40 list for 2013.)
|Consolidated top ten||rank||TCN/Scout.com|
|Oscar Taveras||1||Oscar Taveras|
|Shelby Miller||2||Shelby Miller|
|Carlos Martinez||3||Trevor Rosenthal|
|Trevor Rosenthal||4||Michael Wacha|
|Kolten Wong||5||Carlos Martinez|
|Michael Wacha||6||Kolten Wong|
|Matt Adams||7||Matt Adams|
|Tyrell Jenkins||8||Tyrell Jenkins|
|Carson Kelly||9||Anthony Garcia|
|Patrick Wisdom||10||Carson Kelly|
|The trailing four|
Nine of the same ten players appear on both lists - with minor ordering changes, of course. The unique player making the others' consolidated top 10 is Wisdom, while the unique prospect on The Cardinal Nation list is Garcia.
In terms or order, the major differences are that The Cardinal Nation was more aggressive with Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha while the consolidated list is higher on Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong and Carson Kelly.
Personally, I feel Rosenthal is still being underestimated by the national raters, viewed by some as a future reliever. Granted, this opinion is coming from someone who placed Rosenthal not only in front of Martinez on my personal list, but also ahead of Miller. Some of the (limited) national skepticism about Wacha may be driven by how much his curveball really has improved.
Still, remembering that everyone's top eight names are the same, at a high level, there is less to quibble about this year than ever before. Perhaps that is one by-product of being the top-ranked system in the game – the national guys know your best prospects better.
Upcoming articles in this series include various views of the comparative national ranking of the Cardinals' system as well as Cardinals prospects' placement on national top 100 lists.
To see this feature from previous years, click here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011 and here for 2012.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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