Monthly Cards prospect rankings: June 2014

Our monthly subscriber-only, in-depth report on rising and falling St. Louis Cardinals prospects. The new rankings reflect considerable movement from last period, including a big jump by lefty Marco Gonzales.

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.

After the prior month in which the top 10 remained constant from last winter, two graduates have created room for others to move up. During May, both Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong passed the innings pitched and at-bats thresholds to no longer be considered prospects. Sam Freeman is not far behind.

With the draft just around the corner, there will be considerable churn next month as new draftees come on, most likely pushing some others off the list. But let's first celebrate the now!

Some necessary reminders first

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.

It should be remembered that we always have separate awards for the top players of the month. This is a longer-term, prospect-oriented view, instead. 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.

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.)

Prospect Rankings

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

The top 10

As noted above, Martinez and Wong vacated spots numbers two and three. I feel that since the season began, Marco Gonzales has done the most to show progress toward the majors; hence he vaults over Stephen Piscotty, though both moved up.

Three other now-top 10 players made more than the "automatic" two step improvement. Randal Grichuk not only was the best position player in the system in May, he is seeing semi-regular time in the majors. Lefty Tim Cooney clearly has momentum, but it is only two starts in duration.

After the top eight, I really wanted to stop. Charlie Tilson moved into the top 10 more because someone had to. The Palm Beach outfielder has played well, but not spectacularly.

Carson Kelly is the only top 10 member to fall in the rankings. As he gets more comfortable defensively as a catcher, I would have expected to see more with the bat in his second shot at Class-A.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
1 Oscar Taveras 1 Mem-StL OF    
  What a difference two months makes. From criticized in spring to June savior.
             
2 Marco Gonzales 5 PB-Spr LHS    
  Mastered A-Advanced level and having nice start at Double-A. Earned his jump. 
             
3 Stephen Piscotty 4 Mem OF    
  Acclimating to Triple-A but not ready for St. Louis nor is there any need yet. 
             
4 Rob Kaminsky 6 Peo LHS    
  Very nice full-season debut at Peoria with ERA under 2.00 in 1st 20 IP.
             
5 Randal Grichuk 10 Mem-StL OF    
  Wielding the power, but still needs to harness the strikeouts. 
             
6 Alex Reyes 7 Peo RHS    
  Rough month. Led system starters in Ks and BBs as ERA approached six.
             
7 James Ramsey 8 Spr OF    
  Untimely injury derailed sure chance to return to Triple-A.
             
8 Tim Cooney 11 Mem LHS    
  Two terrible starts followed by two magnificent ones. Better than other way around.
             
9 Charlie Tilson 13 PB OF    
  FSL all-star coming off best month yet at Palm Beach. 
             
10 Carson Kelly 9 Peo C    
  Has a lot on his plate, but batted under the Mendoza Line in May
             

The second 10

As a policy, I had real trouble moving up any prospect that did not play during the month, though in the same breath, no one was moving up so fast to push those players down. Hence, Tyrell Jenkins and Aledmys Diaz did not change from last month.

Players with good Mays who advanced include Patrick Wisdom, Sam Freeman, Mike O'Neill, Jacob Wilson, Juan Herrera and Nick Petree. The latter three moved into the top 20 for the first time.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
11 Patrick Wisdom 16 Spr 3B    
  Best power/production month in a long time, but still batted just .230.
             
12 Aledmys Diaz 12 Spr DL SS    
  Started playing in extended in mid-May but still not activated. 
             
13 Sam Freeman 20 Mem LHR    
  Could be his last month on this list - if St. Louis success continues.
             
14 Tyrell Jenkins 14 PB DL RHS    
  Still waiting for his return from the disabled list. 
             
15 Zach Petrick 15 Mem RHS    
  Still handling the adjustment to Triple-A but on the right path.
             
16 Mike O'Neill 19 Spr-Mem OF    
  Trending upward in second consecutive month with move back to Memphis.
             
17 Greg Garcia 17 Mem 2B    
  Has opportunity, but hit like Pete Kozma (.175) since return to Memphis.
             
18 Jacob Wilson 23 PB-Spr 2B    
  Earned promotion to Springfield and doing quite well in the early going. 
             
19 Juan Herrera 26 Peo SS    
  Nice offensive contributions across the board for MWL all-star. 
             
20 Nick Petree 27 PB RHS    
  Master pitchmaker did not miss a beat in first month at Palm Beach. 
             

21-30

I should note that as a policy, I also did not advance or drop any players still in extended spring training and therefore, without real game results. This will no longer be relevant in 30 days.

Among those advancing into the 21-30 grouping include position players Breyvic Valera, Tommy Pham, Ronald Castillo and C.J. McElroy. Those who lost ground in May include pitchers Mike Mayers, Lee Stoppelman, Cory Jones and Sam Gaviglio.

Stepping back, I find those groupings interesting. Is it easier for hitters to shine in short bursts or are more pitchers below the first tier just struggling this season?

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
21 Breyvic Valera 30 PB 2B    
  May be the most underrated player in the entire system.
             
22 Oscar Mercado 22 EST SS    
  Not enough hard data to go on to adjust status until short-season ball.
             
23 Mike Mayers 18 PB RHS    
  Too many baserunners and still adjusting to Florida State League. 
             
24 Ian McKinney 24 EST LHS    
  Lefty had a nice GCL intro last summer. Preparing for short-season.
             
25 Tommy Pham 32 Mem OF    
  Proving that my bumping him down last month from 23 to 32 was a mistake. 
             
26 Ronald Castillo 35 Peo OF    
  Power bat named to Western Division starting lineup in MWL All-Star Game. 
             
27 Lee Stoppelman 21 Mem LHR    
  Major setback in being returned to Double-A, but still ample time to recover.
             
28 Cory Jones 25 PB DL RHS    
  Very uneven first month at A-Advanced, then injured. 
             
29 C.J. McElroy 36 Peo OF    
  Also an all-star in 2nd year in MWL. Doing a nice job leading off for Peoria.
             
30 Sam Gaviglio 28 Spr RHS    
  Second month at Double-A not much better than first with ERA at six.
             

31-40

There is not a lot going on in the final 10, to be honest. The exceptions are new arrivals Cody Stanley and Chris Perry. They will likely need to continue to improve to hold onto their spots next month, though.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
31 Edmundo Sosa 31 EST SS    
  Making the big jump from Dominican Summer League to US play in June.
             
32 Kenny Peoples-Walls 29 Peo OF    
  Very rough May, batting .219 and striking out one-third of his at-bats. 
             
33 Eric Fornataro 33 StL-Mem RHR    
  Struggled since return from St. Louis so closing gig seems far away.
             
34 Kurt Heyer 34 Mem RHS    
  Pushed quickly to Memphis but was removed from rotation there. 
             
35 Sam Tuivailala 40 PB RHR    
  14 strikeouts, only 2 walks in 11 IP, but May ERA over four.
             
36 Audry Perez 39 Mem C    
  Continues to have a quietly productive 2014. 
             
37 Boone Whiting 37 Mem DL RHS    
  An uninspiring first month led to a stint on the disabled list in the second. 
             
38 Fernando Baez 38 EST RHR    
  Waiting to see what the hard-thrower can do, probably at State College.
             
39 Cody Stanley NR Spr C    
  Like Perez, enjoying a renaissance in 2014. Batted .364 in May.
             
40 Chris Perry NR Peo  RHR    
  From unheralded starter to reliever with top May performance among all P in system.
             

Honorable mentions

Dixon Llorens and Jonathan Rodriguez remain from last month, but in reality, did nothing during May to help their respective cases. Palm Beach's Luke Voit had an impressive Florida State League introduction in a system that badly lacks power hitters, but 43 at-bats is not a lot to go on yet.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
HM Dixon Llorens NR PB DL RHR    
  Can't challenge from the disabled list. 
             
HM Jonathan Rodriguez NR Spr 1B    
  Really struggling since coming off the DL. 
             
HM Luke Voit NR PB 1B    
  1.100 OPS at PB directly from EST worth noting even if only 43 at-bats.
             

Dropped out

No players left the top 40 for reasons of ineffectiveness or because others pushed them off. While some stumbled during May, I did not see ready candidates who had a better long-term track record or projection poised to replace them. Expect this to change with 2014 draftees signed over the next 30 days.

Graduated

As noted above, Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong have left the top 40 forever.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
Grad Carlos Martinez 2 StL RHR    
  Struggling as a short man. Could a return to starting at AAA be ahead?
             
Grad Kolten Wong 3 Mem-StL 2B    
  Outhouse (sent down) to penthouse (NL Rookie of Month) in final month here.

That is all for this month. Thank you 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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