I captured the level of competition for the top 40 players in each of the last seven years. This information is presented in the tables below, broken out between position players and pitchers.
|Gulf Coast League||2||0||0||1||0||0||1|
|Gulf Coast League||1||0||2||2||1||1||2|
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 leadership 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.
|Carlos Martinez is next|
Of course, the flip side of this never-ending argument is that the organization needs to continue to focus on plumbing a better-flowing position player pipeline.
However, the acceleration of MLB graduations has led to a major change in the quantity of top 40 pitchers at the top two minor league levels, Double-A and Triple-A. Compared to 14 last year, there are just six hurlers now. That is the fewest at those levels since I have been tracking this data. While not surprising, it seems fair to note that there is less clear immediate pitching help one phone call away in 2014 than there was in 2013.
On the other hand, the focus on pitching in the early rounds of the 2013 draft has led to five top 40 pitchers coming from short-season and rookie-level clubs. That ties for the most in any year since I have been compiling this data. Several other prominent draftees, such as Steven Farinaro, were also knocking on the door, but fell just sort of the rankings.
Conversely, the current total of seven top 40 position players at Springfield and Memphis remains relatively high. It clearly helps that two of them are among the brightest stars in the system in Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong, neither of whom are expected to spend much more, if any, further time in the minors.
Palm Beach being represented by its highest-ever level of players, seven, is interesting. In the past, the organization had not hesitated to skip the cream of fast-rising prospects over the level entirely. That included Matt Adams and Rosenthal in 2011 plus Wong and Taveras in 2012. We did not see the same in 2013.
Another area that caught my eye is the low quantity of position players from short-season and rookie ball. Never has there been as few as three, as is the case with the 2014 top 40. One explanation is the addition of relatively few proven college hitters in the 2013 draft.
But one would also love to see the players competing to be next Oscar Taveras rising from the Dominican academy and that is unclear at this time. Shortstop Edmundo Sosa is our first DSL top 40 player since Martinez in 2011.
Then again, if I need reinforcement to ensure I remain conservative in ranking early in careers, all I need to do is think about the last academy position player to reach the top 40. After receiving $1.5 million and before playing an official game, since-released third baseman Roberto De La Cruz was ranked 35th here in 2009.
2014 top 40 by 10-round blocks
Of course, not all prospects, even top prospects, are created equal. While we are looking at the position player-pitcher split, here is a high level view of how the 2014 top 40 is broken out by blocks of 10 rounds.
|Top 40 by position||#1-10||#11-20||#21-30||#31-40||Total|
Position players have a slight advantage in the top 10, including holding three of the top four places, before pitchers clearly take over in the #11-20 population. There is a balance in the #21-#30 group with pitching again taking a slight edge in the final 10.
Of the 22 hurlers on the 2014 list, six are relievers while 16 are starters. The latter group is the highest total in at least five years. An area of recent focus continues to show a bit of improvement, as five starters are left-handed. That is up from four last year and just one in both 2011 and 2012.
2014 top 40 by level
We will take one more cut at the full 2014 top 40. This view sorts them by position grouping and level. Including their names and individual rankings help put a face on the data.
Note that eight of our top 40 have yet to play an inning of full-season ball, same as in 2013. Five of the "inexperienced eight" are pitchers, again harkening back to the 2013 draft, and the signing of free agent Alex Reyes.
|2014 Top 40 (rank)||Position Players||Pitchers|
|St. Louis||Wong (3)||Martinez (2)|
|Perez (40)||Freeman (17)|
|Memphis||Taveras (1)||Stoppelman (18)|
|Ramsey (8)||Gast (19)|
|Garcia (20)||Whiting (30)|
|Pham (23)||Fornataro (39)|
|Springfield||Piscotty (4)||Cooney (12)|
|Grichuk (10)||Petrick (16)|
|Palm Beach||Tilson (13)||Gonzales (6)|
|Wisdom (15)||Jenkins (11)|
|Wilson (28)||Gaviglio (26)|
|Peoria||Kelly (9)||Jones (14)|
|Herrera (27)||Mayers (21)|
|B Valera (31)||Tuivailala (36)|
|State College||none||Petree (34)|
|Johnson City||Peoples-Walls (33)||Reyes (7)|
|Gulf Coast League||Mercado (22)||Kaminsky (5)|
|Dominican Summer||Sosa (32)||none|
As always, our top 40 prospect lists from each of the last nine years can be accessed via links permanently displayed at the lower part of The Cardinal Nation homepage.
Our 2014 top 40 series continues: 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. Up next: our final article of the series looks at the top 40 players from 2013 that left the list for 2014.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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