2014 top Cardinals prospects: The newbies

Digging into the new names on the St. Louis Cardinals' top minor league prospect list for 2014.

As we continue our series breaking down the top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system, this time we will review the rising prospects that have entered the top 40 for 2014. Of course, a variety of routes were taken by the 18 first-timers and especially the one returnee, to get there.

First, some history. One year ago, seven newly-drafted players made The Cardinal Nation top prospect list in their first year of eligibility. That was primarily fueled by the Cardinals having an unprecedented five selections in the first round of the 2012 draft.

A year later, despite the Cardinals having just two first-rounders – pitchers Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky - six members of this past June's draft made the new top 40. That includes the aforementioned pair, ranked in the top six.

The two first-round left-handers, at five and six respectively in the new top 40, are joined by three more members of the Cards' 2013 draft class, each making their debuts between 21 and 25. As they were selected in the second through fifth rounds, they cannot be considered surprises. Only the final one, ninth-rounder Nick Petree, might truly be labeled an early sleeper.

With five of the organization's top seven 2013 draft picks being pitchers, it is not surprising that four of them joined the top 25.

Of the Cardinals top six picks in the 2013 draft, all made before number 156, only second baseman Mason Katz (just) missed the top 40. The LSU infielder, taken 125th overall, initially got off to a slow start in short-season ball with State College before coming on strong as the summer ended.

The following table indicates each 2013 draftee's top 40 ranking along with the round in which he was selected.

2013 Draft (6) T40   Rd
Rob Kaminsky 5   1
Marco Gonzales 6   1
Mike Mayers 21   3
Oscar Mercado 22   2
Ian McKinney 25   5
Nick Petree 34   9

While the continued development of prospects having already been in the system made a significant impact on the list of new additions, the Cardinals also added two new top 40 players as international signees and two others via trade. One in each of the categories - pitcher Alex Reyes in the former and outfielder Randal Grichuk in the latter - rank in the top 10.

Three pitchers, Cory Jones, Zach Petrick and Lee Stoppelman, made their initial placements on the top 40 list in their second seasons eligible. In fact, all did even better, cracking the top 20.

Pitchers Sam Tuivailala and Fernando Baez have worked the longest to reach this recognition. The two finally debut in the top 40 in their fourth opportunities; however, both are converted position players finding promise in their second careers on the mound.

All told, seven of the new additions rank in the top 20 and 13 in the top 28. The previous years of eligibility of the non-2013 drafted players are indicated in the table below.

First-timers (12) 14 13 12 11 10 09
Alex Reyes (free agent) 7          
Randal Grichuk (trade) 10 NA NA NA NA NA
Cory Jones 14 NR        
Zach Petrick 16 NR        
Lee Stoppelman 18 NR        
Sam Gaviglio 26 NR NR      
Juan Herrera (trade) 27 NA NA      
Jacob Wilson 28 NR        
Edmundo Sosa (FA) 32          
Kenny Peoples-Walls 33 NR NR      
Sam Tuivailala 36 NR NR NR    
Fernando Baez 38 NR NR NR    
NR=not ranked            
NA=not in Cards org            

While several of the newly-acquired prospects ranked higher, it is still impressive that eight players that were already in the organization prior to 2013 have made the 2014 top 40 for the first time. All were draftees that worked their way up, with the exception of two - free agent Petrick and Baez, a product of the Cardinals international program.

All seven Cardinals minor league affiliates are represented by the 18. They range from Stoppelman, who finished his season in Memphis (and the Arizona Fall League), down to Edmundo Sosa, who competed this past summer in the Dominican Summer League. There will be more on this subject in a later report.

1st time in top 40 #1-10 #11-20 #21-30 #31-40 Total
2013 draft 2 0 3 1 6
Prior drafts 0 2 2 2 6
US free agent 0 1 0 0 1
International FA 1 0 0 2 3
Acquired trade 1 0 1 0 2
Total 4 3 6 5 18

The above table indicates an interesting symmetry in the 2014 additions. Six new members are from the 2013 draft, six joined the organization in earlier drafts and the other six came via a variety of different routes.

A few of the new draftees rank highly early, but the rest do not. The returning organizational players work their way up from lower initial rankings, but even more so are the international players, about whom less is typically known. Those acquired in trade tend to have a bit more experience and are more highly-ranked.

Returned (1) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Tommy Pham 23 NR 23 19 40 NR NR 39

Last but not least, one player rejoined this year's top 40 after having been ranked previously, then dropping off. In fact, this is the second time he accomplished it. He has a familiar name - Memphis outfielder Tommy Pham. 2014's number 23 prospect made his first appearance on this list seven long years ago. Note the annual color change, a reminder of the roller-coaster nature of his career to date.

To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2014 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 2014 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 2013, the top prospects by level of play and finally those players that left the top 40 from last year to this.

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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