Here in Part three, we will look into individual player movement and changes in their projections from year to year.
There has been considerable churn in the top 15. Eight on last year's rankings are gone, up from six in each of the last two years. Four of the 2013 top seven left, all of whom graduated to the majors – Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Michael Wacha.
The other four left the list as others passed them by. The Cardinals gave up on shortstop Ryan Jackson. Catcher Steve Bean has yet to hit in rookie ball. Second baseman Colin Walsh did not progress offensively in the Texas League. Pitcher Jordan Swagerty essentially lost a second year due to injury.
|Cards top 15||Hitters on (rank) rating||Hitters off (2013 #s)|
|2014||Piscotty (4) 8C||Adams (6) 8B|
|Grichuk (11) 7B||Jackson (10) 7C|
|Tilson (12) 7C||Bean (12) 8D|
|Walsh (13) 7C|
|Cards top 15||Pitchers on (rank) rating||Pitchers off (2013 #s)|
|2014||Reyes (5) 9D||Miller (2) 9B|
|Gonzales (6) 7B||Rosenthal (4) 9C|
|Kaminsky (7) 7C||Wacha (7) 9D|
|Cooney (9) 7B||Swagerty (15) 8C|
|Gast (15) 7C|
This year's top three were all in the rankings in 2013. Overall, eight players join the top 15 for the first time. The highest debut is Stephen Piscotty at number four, making up for what I felt was an omission the year before. Three new members of the Cardinals system make their debuts at five through seven – pitchers Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky.
Outfielders Randal Grichuk joined the system via trade after placing fifth in the Angels system last year. He is joined by Class-A flychaser Charlie Tilson. New pitchers include lefty Tim Cooney and in a bit of surprise, lefty John Gast.
Next we have the seven players remaining on the list from last year. Here, you again see the player's numeric rank in the top 15, followed by his potential/probability rating, both this year and last. A red box means the player fell in one of both of the scores from last year. Green means improvement while yellow means no significant change on a year-to-year basis.
|Cards top 15||Incumbent hitters 2014||In 2013|
|Taveras (1) 9B||Taveras (1) 9B|
|Wong (3) 8B||Wong (5) 8B|
|Ramsey (10) 7C||Ramsey (11) 8D|
|Kelly (13) 8D||Kelly (14) 8D|
|Wisdom (14) 8D||Wisdom (9) 8D|
|Cards top 15||Incumbent pitchers 2014||In 2013|
|Martinez (2) 9C||Martinez (3) 9C|
|Jenkins (8) 8D||Jenkins (8) 8D|
Looking at the names that go with the colors, a very interesting trend shows itself. Three of the five hitters improved their relative ranking within the system from year to year. Top prospect Oscar Taveras held steady, but since he was already top ranked and forecast as a 70 percent chance of being an elite player, there really was not much room to improve.
Patrick Wisdom's ultimate potential did not change, but after a so-so season in 2013, others passed him in the top 15. James Ramsey is the only one of the repeaters receiving an adjustment in his probability and potential. The outfielder dropped from a solid regular to an average regular, but his odds of reaching that potential increased from 30 percent to 50 percent.
Of note is that Piscotty stepped in as a 50 percent solid regular. I have noticed that it takes some time for a player's body of work to affect his ranking. Prior to then, draft sequence and bonus received seem to play a significant role. Both Ramsey and Piscotty played their first full season in 2013.
The only two returning pitchers didn't move much. In what will surely be his prospect list swan song, Carlos Martinez progressed from third to second in the system behind Taveras. Tyrell Jenkins' injury-disrupted 2013 did not move his position one bit from year to year.
|Cardinals top 15 2014||9 Elite player||8 Solid regular||7 Average regular|
|A 90% chance|
|B 70% chance||Taveras||Wong||Gonzales, Cooney|
|C 50% chance||Martinez||Piscotty||Kaminsky, Ramsey|
|D 30% chance||Reyes||Jenkins, Kelly|
|E 10% chance|
Looking at the above table by columns, joining Taveras and Martinez among the elite-potential players is Reyes. As noted previously, Piscotty is the major addition to the "solid regulars" column, where Wong, Jenkins, Kelly and Wisdom remain. Gonzales, Cooney and Grichuk are viewed to have the best chance of becoming average MLB regulars.
Remember the Potential Rating for each member of the top 15, in which the higher the number, the more elite the player is expected to be. In terms of Probability Rating, the lower the letter, the more likely the player should reach that potential. Therefore, the upper left is the best place to be. Lower left is arguably next best. (To review the specific value definitions, refer to Part one of this series.)
The final table is a quick-and-dirty quality measure, yet the busy graph holds a lot of information. In the cells, the first number is the quantity of players in the top 15 at that level. The number that follows in parentheses is the change in the number of that level of players since last year. For example, there is one 9B player in 2014 after having two in 2013.
The colors of the cells indicate either fewer players in that group (red), more players (green) or no change from last year (yellow).
|Cards top 15 2014 (vs 2013)||9 Elite player||8 Solid regular||7 Average regular||Total|
|A 90% chance||0 (flat)||0 (flat)||0 (flat)||0 (flat)|
|B 70% chance||1 (down 1)||1 (down 1)||3 (up 3)||5 (up 1)|
|C 50% chance||1 (down 1)||1 (flat)||4 (up 2)||6 (up 1)|
|D 30% chance||1 (flat)||3 (down 2)||0 (flat)||4 (down 2)|
|E 10% chance||0 (flat)||0 (flat)||0 (flat)||0 (flat)|
|Total||3 (down 2)||5 (down 3)||7 (up 5)||15|
When looking at this heat map, the Cardinals' slip in the overall rankings makes sense. The total number of elite (9) and solid (8) players are down by a whopping five since last year. There has also been general movement in the top 15 players having a higher percentage of a chance of reaching their potential, though that potential for most is as an average regular (7).
Though there is no 90 percent odds player, the quantity of 50-70 percent odds players grew from nine last year to 11 of the 15. So what the Cards seem to lack in flash, they make up for in the quantity of very good players.
In the final installment of this annual series, we will compare several of the top Cardinals prospects to the best in the game overall, by position in terms of long-range potential in the Major Leagues as well as in top skills. Closing the article will be a review of the Cardinals' 2013 draft.
In closing, thank you again to BaseballHQ for giving us this special look into their findings. 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".
Link to Part two of this report: "BaseballHQ pegs Cardinals system #6 in MLB".
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BaseballHQ has provided a copy of the brand-new 2014 Minor League Baseball Analyst, which will be mailed to the winner. One copy will be awarded following each segment of this four-part series, so if you don't win this time, keep trying.
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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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