BaseballHQ pegs Cardinals system #6 in MLB

In the second installment of a four-part series, we review the in-depth rankings of the National League Central Division organizations according to the Minor League Baseball Analyst. We also look at the details behind the Cardinals changes from prior years in four key areas.

The ninth edition of BaseballHQ's "Minor League Baseball Analyst" is now shipping. As always, the guide integrates sabermetrics and scouting for over 1000 minor leaguers. In-depth scouting reports and stats include batter skills ratings, runner speed, pitch repertoires, Major League equivalents, ultimate potential and much more.

In Part one of this four-part series, we reviewed the top 15 Cardinals prospects with the details as to why they are ranked where they are.

Here in Part two, we'll look into the Minor League Baseball Analysts' Cardinals organizational rankings in comparison to their National League Central Division competitors. Past club rankings from 2006-2013 are used to compare progress. In Part three, we will evaluate individual Cardinals player movement on and off the top 15.

St. Louis vs. NL Central

In 2006, the Cardinals were dead last in the National League Central Division comparative rankings with a "C minus" score. They improved to a "B" showing in 2009 before backsliding for next two years. A "B" grade in 2012 led to an "A" score last spring, a new peak for the Cards.

It is not surprising that the system dropped off a bit in 2014, though the "A-" score still places the organization in the top 20 percent of MLB.

NL Central Orgs. 2014 overall and YTY trend 13 12 11 10  09 08 07 06
Pirates A A B+ B- B- C+ C+ C C
Cubs A- B+ C C+ B- C- C+ C+ B-
Cardinals A- A B C+ C- B B- C C-
Brewers B- C C D+ B B- C B B+
Reds C+ B- B- A- B- B B+ B C-

(Colors denote year-to-year change with green=up, yellow=flat and red=down.)

The Cubs and Brewers improved their overall score year to year, with Chicago is especially showing promise in year two of a significant rebuilding effort. The Pirates are holding with their same overall score as in 2013 – one of the best in the game. The Reds are continuing to head in the wrong direction.

After ranking 28th of 30 MLB organizations four years ago, St. Louis remains near the top, though they went from second overall to sixth. Still, the Cardinals have fallen to third in the division, as the Cubs join the Bucs in the upper echelon.

NL Central Orgs. 2014 MLB rank and trend 2013 MLB rank  2012 MLB rank  2011 MLB rank 2010 MLB rank
Pirates 2 1 9 16 18
Cubs 4 12 24 18 14
Cardinals 6 2 15 17 28
Brewers 20 25 29 28 13
Reds 22 17 16 5 16

Showing the Pirates as red hardly seems fair as moving from number one to number two is not an embarrassment. The new top dog is recently-departed from the NL Central – the Houston Astros. The Brewers are making slow progress, but still have a long way to go, while the Reds are on a three-year downhill skid.

Now let's dive down into the detailed analysis of the 2014 NL Central by category. Here we see the Cardinals scoring consistently strongly in the four criteria that are combined to make up the overall score. All St. Louis' scores are "B-" or better.

NLC Org. Hitting Pitching Top end talent  Depth Overall
Pirates A B+ A A A
Cubs A B- A B+ A-
Cardinals A B- A B A-
Brewers B- B- B- C+ B-
Reds C B- C+ C+

Across the division, the Cards tie with Pittsburgh and the Cubs at the top in both hitting and top end talent. The Cards are in the middle of the pack in depth with a "B" ranking.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the pitching grade of "B-" which is the Cards' lowest score, and in a four-way tie for last in the NLC. Yet when considering the quality of pitching talent that graduated to the majors in the last 12 months, perhaps it is understandable. More on this when we get into the names.

Cardinals now versus in the past

Now we'll look into Cardinals year-to-year trends. Note that only six years of the "depth" category is included here as it was first incorporated into the 2009 Analyst. Therefore, only five yearly comparisons are possible.

Cardinals Hitting Pitching Top-end talent  Depth Overall
2014 A B- A B A-
13-'14 trend up down flat down down
2013 B A A A
12-13 trend flat up up up up
2012 B A- B+ B B
11-12 trend up up up up up
2011 C B B- B- C+
10-11 trend up up up up up
2010 D C+ C C C-
09-10 trend down flat down down down
2009 A- C+ B- B B
08-09 trend up down flat   up
2008 C+ B- B-   B-
07-08 trend up up up   up
2007 C C- C+   C

After three years of consistent improvement almost completely across the board, the Cardinals organization lost ground from 2013 to 2014 in two of four categories that make up the overall score.

As I noted in this space last year, "There seems almost nowhere to go in the future but down." I really did not go out on a limb as the cyclical nature of the prospect business almost assures this.

The "B-" score for pitching is the largest drop and is understandable. While some exciting new hurlers joined the rankings, they are not proven to the level of the ones that graduated. This had to affect the depth rating as well.

Hitting has achieved its best score since at least 2007, an "A." Apparently that is enough to keep overall top-end talent ranking flat. Yet with Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong almost assured of leaving this list for next year, unless other offensive players step up big-time, a drop should be expected for 2015.

Let's go back to the Cardinals top 15 prospects to dig into this a bit. Interestingly, in terms of raw numbers, quantity not quality, the number of hitters in the top 15 actually declined by one since last year, though they are still in the slightest majority.

Having only six pitchers last year seemed counter intuitive given the strength of the system is with the arms. For 2014, five new arms have joined the list, but none of the top three have reached Double-A.

Cards top 15 Hitters Pitchers
2014 8 7
2013 9 6
2012 7 8
2011 6 9
2010 8 7
2009 8 7
2008 9 6

Only looking at the top half, prospects one through eight, we get a much different view. In the best of the best, we can clearly see that pitching is still king, in an identical showing as each of the last two years.

Cards top 8 Hitters Pitchers
2014 3 5
2013 3 5
2012 3 5
2011 2 6
2010 4 4
2009 6 2
2008 4 4

In Part three of this series, we will look into individual player movement and changes in their projections from year to year.

Thank you to Rob Gordon, Jeremy Deloney and BaseballHQ for giving us this special peek at their data. Please respect them and copyright laws by not duplicating this material.



Link to Part one of this report: "BaseballHQ's top 15 Cardinals Prospects: 2014".



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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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