Monthly Cards prospect rankings: April 2014

Our monthly subscriber-only, in-depth report on rising and falling St. Louis Cardinals prospects. The top 10 remains almost entirely intact, but there is considerable movement below.

Welcome back to The Cardinal Nation's in-season St. Louis Cardinals Monthly Top 40 Prospect List. Each month, I present my view of the top prospects in the Cardinals system.

Martinez remains no. 2

While any rankings with numbers attached appear very absolute, I suggest you look at players in groupings. For example, there is little difference in prospects number 21 through 25, for example, or 23 through 27.

This report reflects my opinions and not that of the entire The Cardinal Nation staff, so feel to address any comments or questions either through the premium message board or via email or private message if you prefer.

Note: Players remain eligible for the list as long as they maintain their prospect status (less than 50 innings pitched or less than 130 plate appearances in the major leagues.)

Some necessary background

This month's report incorporates changes from the start of the year through April 30. That includes transactions, spring training, extended spring training and the first month of the regular season. While that is a lot of ground, it should be remembered that we already have separate awards for the top players of the month. This is a longer-term, prospect-oriented view, instead.

Another factor to remember is that many players are adjusting to a higher level of play for the first time in April. Those who get out of the gates quickly may have a short-term lead, but many others will figure it out, too, with a few more at-bats or innings-pitched.

In other words, current performance does matter, but not too much. A good month can reinforce an earlier opinion, while a bad month does not usually materially affect a prospect's ultimate future.

Prospect Rankings

Following each player's name under "Prior" is where he was ranked by the site coming into the season. Next are the levels at which the player competed during the month, followed by his primary position.

The top 10

The only adjustment I made to the top 10 is to bump Marco Gonzales up one spot. Now that Rob Kaminsky is in full-season ball, he can make his case in May.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
1 Oscar Taveras 1 Mem OF    
  On the ropes as April opened, he ended it on top with a 14-game hitting streak. The only question is "when?"
             
2 Carlos Martinez 2 StL RHR    
  Continuing to demonstrate his considerable potential in the majors. About done with this list.
             
3 Kolten Wong 3 StL-Mem 2B    
  Surprisingly short rope following a strong spring training. Needs to play his way back up and should do just that.
             
4 Stephen Piscotty 4 Mem OF    
  Took to Triple-A very quickly, but apparently still behind Oscar. A little Triple-A time is good.
             
5 Marco Gonzales 6 PB LHS    
  Seemingly doing everything that is expected of him at Palm Beach. Double-A candidate.
             
6 Rob Kaminsky 5 EST LHS    
  1.38 ERA in spring training, but under seven K/9. Preparing for call that came on 5/4 to Peoria.
             
7 Alex Reyes 7 Peo RHS    
  Nicely made the big step into full-season ball at 19, but 7.3 BB/9 needs a remedy.
             
8 James Ramsey 8 Spr OF    
  Had to return to Double-A, but is producing across the board. Should be 1st OF to Memphis.
             
9 Carson Kelly 9 Peo C    
  Big transition year. OBP under .300, but SLG over .400 at Peoria.
             
10 Randal Grichuk 10 Mem-StL OF    
  Surprise first promo to StL but may not yet be ready for the bigs after just 21 AAA games.

The second 10

There was a lot of movement here. For his first appearance, I slotted Aledmys Diaz in just behind Tim Cooney. Like Tyrell Jenkins, Diaz can move up with a solid return from the DL. Greg Garcia, Mike Mayers and Mike O'Neill moved into this group.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
11 Tim Cooney 12 Mem LHS    
  Smooth first month in Triple-A. Working his way into MLB consideration.
             
12 Aledmys Diaz NA Spr SS    
  Excitement over first time through the league tempered by ongoing shoulder soreness. On DL. 
             
13 Charlie Tilson 13 PB OF    
  Doing his thing in a pitchers league. Five steals, but very little power. 
             
14 Tyrell Jenkins 11 PB DL RHS    
  Many eyes will be on the talented, but oft-injured right-hander when he returns in late May perhaps.
             
15 Zach Petrick 16 Spr-Mem RHS    
  Received the Memphis promotion for which he was ready this spring. 
             
16 Patrick Wisdom 15 Spr 3B    
  Adjustment time. No home runs and just three RBI in his first month at Double-A. 
             
17 Greg Garcia 20 Mem-StL 2B    
  Earned chance to show if he can replace Descalso, not Wong, in St. Louis. 
             
18 Mike Mayers 21 PB RHS    
  Decent introduction at Palm Beach but not nearly as dominating as Gonzales.
             
19 Mike O'Neill 24 Spr OF    
  Still doing what he does - a .402 on-base mark at Springfield. No room at Memphis, though.
             
20 Sam Freeman 17 Mem LHR    
  Solid 10.5 K/9 rate, but 4.61 ERA high. Hard to see an opening in St. Louis soon.
             

21-30

Among those advancing into the 21-30 grouping are Jacob Wilson, Nick Petree and Kenny Peoples-Walls. Pitchers Lee Stoppelman and Cory Jones are down from the prior top 20.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
21 Lee Stoppelman 18 Mem LHR    
  A bit of a bumpy month with 6.6 BB/9, 3 HBP, 5.11 ERA. Plenty of time.
             
22 Oscar Mercado 22 EST SS    
  Not enough hard data to go on to adjust status until short-season ball.
             
23 Jacob Wilson 28 PB 2B    
  Quietly producing as PB's cleanup hitter. System-best 20 RBI despite no home runs.
             
24 Ian McKinney 25 EST LHS    
  Lefty had a nice GCL intro last summer. Preparing for short-season.
             
25 Cory Jones 14 PB RHS    
  Very uneven first month at A-Advanced, then injured. 
             
26 Juan Herrera 27 Peo SS    
  Defensive standout leading the system in stolen bases (7) but also in caught stealing (5).
             
27 Nick Petree 34 Peo RHS    
  TCN's Pitcher of the Month received an early-May promotion to Palm Beach.
             
28 Sam Gaviglio 26 Spr RHS    
  Bumpy first month at Double-A. Over six walks per nine did not help.
             
29 Kenny Peoples-Walls 33 Peo OF    
  Quietly adjusting to Midwest League well, batting .309, 11 RBI, three steals.
             
30 Breyvic Valera 31 PB 2B    
  Continues to be a versatle and valuable player offensively and defensively.
             

31-40

Improving Eric Fornataro is joined by three new entries into the top 40 – Kurt Heyer, Ronald Castillo and C.J. McElroy. Memphis teammates Tommy Pham and Boone Whiting slid here from the prior top 20.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
31 Edmundo Sosa 32 EST SS    
  Making the big jump from Dominican Summer League to US play in June.
             
32 Tommy Pham 23 Mem OF    
  As expected, the OF talent at Memphis is limiting his playing time. Blocked at every turn.
             
33 Eric Fornataro 39 Mem-StL RHR    
  Closed early for Memphis, then made nice MLB introduction. 
             
34 Kurt Heyer NR Spr RHS    
  Solid first month with Springfield. Should have been among our top 40 last winter.
             
35 Ronald Castillo NR Peo OF    
  Health had been his challenge. Batted .325 with 18 RBI (2nd in system) in 1st month in MWL.
             
36 C.J. McElroy NR Peo OF    
  Doing well in second year in MWL. .325 BA, 17 runs, six steals from top of Peoria order.
             
37 Boone Whiting 30 Mem RHS    
  Already had 21 Memphis starts under his belt, so uneven April is not adjustment.
             
38 Fernando Baez 38 EST RHR    
  Waiting to see what the hard-thrower can do, probably at State College.
             
39 Audry Perez 40 Mem C    
  Quietly had a very good month at the plate. Remains a Tony Cruz insurance policy.
             
40 Sam Tuivailala 36 PB RHR    
  The story continues. Among highest strikeout and walk rates in the system.
             

Honorable mentions

Dixon Llorens is on the same path as his Palm Beach pen mate Sam Tuivailala, but the latter has a bit more runway. Jonathan Rodriguez made a strong Double-A debut as did Joey Butler with Memphis.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
HM Dixon Llorens NR PB RHR    
  Same challenges as pen mate Tuivailala, but over one run lower ERA. 
             
HM Jonathan Rodriguez NR Spr 1B    
  Too bad a hamstring injury put him on the DL. Very strong Double-A intro.
             
HM Joey Butler NR Mem OF    
  At 28, not really a prospect anymore, but his superb first month at Memphis cannot go unrecognized.
             

Dropped out

Pitching injuries and ineffectiveness are the names of the game this month. Until John Gast and Jordan Swagerty can actually get out there and compete, they will remain off the top 40. Keith Butler has some work to do before getting back to St. Louis and Seth Blair must locate that elusive consistency.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
NR John Gast 19 Mem DL LHS    
  Long-term shoulder injury, 40-man removal sends the signal. A lot of lost time.
             
NR Jordan Swagerty 29 Spr DL RHS    
  Repeated setbacks from April 2012 Tommy John surgery is concerning. 
             
NR Keith Butler 35 StL-Mem RHR    
  Struggled in St. Louis' pen to open season. Others now closing for Memphis. 
             
NR Seth Blair 37 Spr RHS    
  Can't seem to get it together consistently. April ERA good, but far too many on base.
             

Graduated

None yet, but with 43 innings pitched with St. Louis, Carlos Martinez is almost certainly done here. So am I - for this month. Thanks for reading!



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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