2014 Cardinals prospects: What the others say

Our sixth annual analysis and consolidation of national top ten lists of St. Louis Cardinals prospects - from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, MLB.com and BaseballHQ – comparing them to our own list, of course!

As the annual prospect rankings season winds down, MLB.com released its St. Louis Cardinals top 20 list earlier this week. With that information finally in hand, it is time to present our annual comparison feature.

We bring together the views of the Cardinals top prospects from a group of well-known national experts compare them to our 2014 rankings here at The Cardinal Nation.

The raters cited here are five 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 end up 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), Baseball Prospectus (BP) and MLB.com (MLB) placed side-by-side. At the end, we will meld the five into one "consensus" list. Normally we would also include minorleagueball.com (MiLBall), but proprietor John Sickels is behind this spring due to health problems that we hope he can put behind him very soon.

1 Oscar Taveras Taveras Taveras Taveras Taveras 1
2 Stephen Piscotty Wong Wong  Martinez Martinez 2
3 Kolten Wong Piscotty Piscotty Wong Wong  3
4 Rob Kaminsky Kaminsky Reyes Piscotty Piscotty 4
5 Tim Cooney Gonzales Gonzales Gonzales Reyes 5
6 Marco Gonzales Reyes Kelly Cooney Gonzales 6
7 Carson Kelly Ramsey Kaminsky Reyes Kaminsky 7
8 Alex Reyes Kelly Randal Grichuk Ramsey Tyrell Jenkins 8
9 James Ramsey Patrick Wisdom Cooney Kaminsky Cooney 9
10 Chris Rivera Tim Cooney Vaughn Bryan Grichuk Ramsey 10

We start with a challenge – the status of Carlos Martinez. The talented right-handed pitcher, currently dueling for a rotation spot with St. Louis, was viewed to be ineligible for three of the five external lists. He appears on Baseball America's and BaseballHQ's lists as well as ours here at The Cardinal Nation. In this unique case, because we know Martinez would be ranked by the others if they considered him eligible, we will average Martinez' scores from only the sites that included him.

Putting Martinez aside, there is considerable common ground among the various rankers. The next two on every list are Kolten Wong and Stephen Piscotty. Four of the five raters had the second baseman ahead of the outfielder.

In their first year eligible, pitchers Rob Kaminsky, Marco Gonzales and Alex Reyes are in all top 10's, generally bunched together, though in slightly different sequence. Kaminsky and Reyes lead in two lists each, with Gonzales ahead in the other.

The only other prospect to appear on every list is emerging lefty Tim Cooney.

15 players are named on any of the top ten lists. That compares to 14 last year and 13 the year before.

I call the names that appear on all five top ten lists "no brainers". You can also see which of the lists ranked these seven players the best and closest to the bottom (worst). Of course, the latter is a relative term, as these players are the best in one the top farm systems in the game.

Unanimous picks (7+1) best who worst who
Oscar Taveras 1 all 1 all
Carlos Martinez* 2 BA/HQ 2 same
Kolten Wong 2 MLB/BP 3 ESPN/BA/HQ
Stephen Piscotty 2 ESPN 4 BA/HQ
Marco Gonzales 5 MLB/BP/BA 6 ESPN/HQ
Alex Reyes 4 BP 7 BA
Rob Kaminsky 4 ESPN/MLB 9 BA 
Tim Cooney 5 ESPN 10 MLB
* eligible on two lists only        

While Oscar Taveras is the unanimous leader for the second consecutive year, three different players received number two votes. Yet as noted above, Wong and Piscotty would likely have been behind Martinez had the latter been considered eligible.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the pitcher of the "grouped three" about whom the most is known – Gonzales - had the most consistent rankings. He was fifth or sixth on all five lists. In comparison to Gonzales, Reyes and Kaminsky had both a higher individual rank and a lower rank, as well. In other words, the jury remains divided.

Of the eight names on all lists in 2013, four graduated to the majors (Miller, Rosenthal, Wacha and Adams), three remain (Taveras, Martinez* and Wong). The only one to almost completely drop off the 2014 rankings are understood. Last year's #5 in the blended rankings, Tyrell Jenkins, missed a major part of the 2013 season due to injury.

The only player missing on just one of the five external lists for 2014 is James Ramsey. The Cardinals' former first-round outfielder fell short of BP's top ten but is ranked as high as number seven according to MLB.com.

Four of five (1) off best who
James Ramsey BP 7 MLB

Former third baseman-now catcher Carson Kelly appears on three of the five lists. His support ranges from a best of sixth from BP to not registering among the top 10s from BA and HQ. The latter remains consistent in their view as they also left Kelly off one year ago. In 2013, BA had him ranked ninth.

Three-peats (1) off best who
Carson Kelly BA/HQ 6 BP

One player making his Cardinals top 10 debut in 2014 appears on two of the five lists. Newly-acquired power-hitting outfielder Randal Grichuk came in at eighth and tenth, respectively, on the lists from BP and BA. That wasn't quite enough for Grichuk to slip into the consolidated top 10.

Two-timers (1) off best who
Randal Grichuk ESPN/MLB/HQ 8 BP

Four top ten prospects received one placement each. Three are making their national top 10 debuts, with the other being the aforementioned Jenkins. I consider two of the new three to be novelty picks, not to be taken literally.

Johnson City outfielder Vaughn Bryan was the final pick by Baseball Prospectus. While the 35th-rounder is an interesting sleeper, there is no way he should be ranked ahead of all of these outfielders: Ramsey, Charlie Tilson, Tommy Pham, Mike O'Neill, Kenny Peoples-Walls, C.J. McElroy, Anthony Garcia, etc…

Infielder Chris Rivera was a surprise addition to the ESPN list at number 10. After signing, the 2014 seventh-rounder was moved from shortstop to second base in part to make room for second-rounder Oscar Mercado. Among middle infielders I see ahead of Rivera include Greg Garcia, Mercado, Juan Herrera, Jacob Wilson, Breyvic Valera and Edmundo Sosa.

The fourth member of this group is power-hitting third baseman Patrick Wisdom, who came in at number nine on the MLB.com list. None of these four made the consolidated top 10.

Lone star picks (4) rank who
Tyrell Jenkins 8 HQ
Patrick Wisdom 9 MLB
Chris Rivera 10 ESPN
Vaughn Bryan 10 BP

Bringing it all together

Here are the blended rankings of the five national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of "11". The five rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on. As noted above, Martinez' scores were only used from those sites that considered him eligible.

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 2014.)

Consolidated top ten rank The Cardinal Nation
Oscar Taveras 1 Oscar Taveras
Carlos Martinez 2 Carlos Martinez
Kolten Wong  3 Kolten Wong
Stephen Piscotty 4 Stephen Piscotty
Marco Gonzales 5 Rob Kaminsky
Alex Reyes 6 Marco Gonzales
Rob Kaminsky 7 Alex Reyes
Tim Cooney 8 James Ramsey
Carson Kelly 9 Carson Kelly
James Ramsey 10 Randal Grichuk
The trailing five    
Randal Grichuk 11  
Tyrell Jenkins 12  
Patrick Wisdom 13  
Chris Rivera T14  
Vaughn Bryan T14  

Though our list came out far ahead of the others, the consensus of the other five line up with it very well. 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 Cooney, while the unique prospect on The Cardinal Nation list is Grichuk. Hard to argue that, either way.

In terms or order, the top four are identical. The next three pitchers – Kaminsky, Reyes and Gonzales are ordered differently. We both agree that Kelly is number nine, with TCN liking Ramsey a hair better and the others a tad less.

All in all, given that nine of the top 10 are the same names in close to the same groupings, there is very little to quibble about this year. Perhaps that is one by-product of again being among the top-ranked systems in the game – the national guys know your best prospects better – except for maybe a couple of stray number 10 rankings, that is.

Related article

Earlier, we looked at as Cardinals prospects' placements on a series of national top 100 lists: Cardinals prospects in 2014 national top 100s.

Coming soon

The final article in this annual series will analyze include various views of the comparative national rankings of the Cardinals' system as well as key rivals.

To read this feature from previous years, click here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012 and here for 2013.

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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