Monthly Cards Prospect Rankings: September

Our monthly subscriber-only, in-depth report on rising and falling St. Louis Cardinals prospects. The new rankings reflect a full season of results and a new number one.

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

More so than any other time since last winter, I have moved names around. Part of the reason this installment is so late in the month is that I wanted to fully analyze the full season of stats compiled across the organization.

In doing that, five players moved into the new top 40. Four slipped off and one, former number one prospect Oscar Taveras, has graduated for good.

New and repeated reminders

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.

While full season results weigh into these September rankings, we still have instructional league, the Arizona Fall League and winter ball ahead. In addition, before I finalize my rankings heading into the 2015 season, I will be having discussions with coaches and scouts this fall.

As always, 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.

Also, make sure you join in the fan voting for The Cardinal Nation message board community’s top prospect list for 2015. The balloting, open to all, is currently underway and is open to all. These rankings will carry a one-third weighting in the overall site rankings for 2015.

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

The major shakeup I hinted about earlier begins at the very top and continues through the top 10. In fact, only two of the ten are in the same spots as a month ago.

As noted above, the graduation of Taveras created opportunity for a new number one. Marco Gonzales, my prior number two, not only pitched well in Memphis, he has looked much better in his second shot at the majors. The lefty’s 2.51 ERA was third-lowest among full-season pitchers in the minor league system this summer.

More than any pitcher in the system, Rob Kaminsky’s full year numbers really stood out. To post a sub-2.00 ERA in full-season ball at the age of 19 is very impressive. As such, he leapt into my number two spot.

Stephen Piscotty surprised me by not only hitting .300 during the final month, but coming in second in the system in doubles and fourth in RBI. The outfielder remained third.

Some could make a good argument that Kaminsky was not the best pitching prospect on his own Peoria team. Alex Reyes had a very strong August and what impressed me most was getting his walks under control. If that continues, the strikeout master will quickly advance beyond fourth on this list.

First-rounder Luke Weaver fell two spots, passed by the finally-healthy Tyrell Jenkins. The other top pick in 2014, Jack Flaherty, is also a new member of the top 10. I will be seeing the latter two this fall, Jenkins in Arizona and Flaherty at instructs.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
1 Marco Gonzales 2 Mem LHS    
  Much better in MLB the 2nd time, buoyed by limited Triple-A exposure first.
             
2 Rob Kaminsky 4 Peo LHS    
  The best season by any starting pitcher in the system - 1.88 ERA.  
             
3 Stephen Piscotty 3 Mem OF    
  Batted .300 in August. Finished at 287 with 32 doubles (2nd in org) and 69 RBI (4th). 
             
4 Alex Reyes 6 Peo RHS    
  Top K master among starters, but 2nd in system in walks per nine. Huge August. 
             
5 Randal Grichuk 5 Mem OF    
  Led org in home runs, T3rd in doubles, tied for 2nd in RBI.
             
6 Tim Cooney 8 Mem LHS    
  1st in organization with 158 IP and wins with 14.
             
7 Charlie Tilson 9 Spr OF    
  Tied for 1st in system with 9 triples and 3rd in runs scored. AFL-bound.
             
8 Tyrell Jenkins 12 PB RHS    
  Working way back from injury with strong August. Heading to AFL. 
             
9 Luke Weaver 7 GCL RHS    
  Dominated GCL as he should, but did not shine with Palm Beach. 
             
10 Jack Flaherty 14 GCL RHS    
  Very impressive GCL debut by 18-year-old - 1.59 ERA, 11.1 K/9 IP.
             

The second 10

More wholesale movement in this group is topped by Sam Tuivailala. I admit that I have been slower to move the hard-thrower up in my rankings than his system promotions due to concerns about his control and secondary offerings. I am really looking forward to seeing him compete in Arizona.

Infielders are fairly prevalent in this group, with Juan Herrera, Breyvic Valera and a player to really keep an eye on, Jacob Wilson, all moving up multiple positions. Herrera had an especially sneaky-good season. On the other hand, I see Aledmys Diaz and Greg Garcia somewhat stalled for now.

Tommy Pham is one of the best stories across the entire system in 2014. The outfielder earned his spot in the bigs, but his future looks more to me like Adron Chambers than Jon Jay.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
11 Sam Tuivailala 26 Spr-Mem RHR    
  I am officially on the bandwagon. Ks still high, BBs getting under control. 
             
12 Carson Kelly 10 Peo C    
  Did not have a bad 1st year behind plate, but did not stand out, either. 
             
13 Aledmys Diaz 13 PB DL SS    
  Multiple DL stints due to shoulder problem made 1st year a washout. 
             
14 Juan Herrera 17 Peo-PB SS    
  Very nice combo of 56 RBI (9th in org) and 28 steals (2nd) from a shortstop.
             
15 Nick Petree 15 PB-Spr RHS    
  3rd-best ERA among full-season starters. Rewarded with 1st AA start after opening at Peoria. 
             
16 Breyvic Valera 18 Spr 2B    
  Seems to hit .300 each year and 2014 was more of same (.311). 
             
17 Greg Garcia 16 Mem 2B    
  Good season, but not among system leaders in any category except 8th in runs.
             
18 Tommy Pham 19 Mem OF    
  Earned his MLB debut with strong season but cannot ignore fact he is 26 with cloudy future. 
             
19 Mike Mayers 20 Spr-Mem RHS    
  Pitched well for Springfield, though had rough Triple-A debut to end season.
             
20 Jacob Wilson 23 Spr DL 2B    
  Was really having a nice season (.302) before knee injury. Will play in AFL.
             

21-30

The third 10 includes a lot of fresh blood, starting with Gulf Coast League batting champion and Most Valuable Player Magneuris Sierra. The GCL is a long way from St. Louis, but one has to give notice to a .386 batting average and a .939 OPS.

Righty Bryan Dobzanski signed late and as a 29th-rounder, may be overlooked by many. However, the teenager received early third-round money and looked very good in the GCL. His teammate, Ronnie Williams, had a great August after a rough July and may be too low at no. 30.

Speaking of the GCL, Sierra’s fabulous season overshadowed a bit the accomplishments of second baseman Malik Collymore, who batted .333 and had a very strong summer across the board. All four are now at instructs.

Disappointing Patrick Wisdom fell all the way from 11 to 27. I kept waiting for the third baseman to get going in the hitter-friendly Texas League, but it never happened.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
21 Ian McKinney 21 SC DL LHS    
  Pitched very well at Johnson City, but hurt after rough State College return. 
             
22 Magneuris Sierra 32 GCL OF    
  MVP and batting champ of rookie-level GCL in 1st US season. Can he keep it up?
             
23 Edmundo Sosa 25 GCL-SC SS    
  Batted respectable .274 in 1st US season. 
             
24 Oscar Mercado 27 JC SS    
  Low BA, but led Appy League in steals and came on strong in the post-season.
             
25 Bryan Dobzanski 36 GCL RHP    
  Continued to impress in GCL after receiving early 3rd round bonus money.
             
26 Malik Collymore HM GCL 2B    
  19 y/o GCL all-star ranks in system: BA #2, OBP #7, SLG #7, OPS #4.
             
27 Patrick Wisdom 11 Spr 3B    
  35 more Ks than anyone else in org. Batted .215 in a hitters league. 
             
28 Sam Gaviglio 28 Spr RHS    
  TCN's July Pitcher of the Month had 3.29 ERA in August after rough 2014 start.
             
29 C.J. McElroy 29 Peo OF    
  In 2nd MWL season, led org with 41 steals, 2nd in runs scored.
             
30 Ronnie Williams 40 GCL RHS    
  2nd-rounder had strong finish with 2.37 August ERA. 
             

31-40

The final 10 includes many new faces to go with power-hitting Mason Katz, who kept doing his thing after moving up to Palm Beach. One step behind in terms of level is Rowan Wick, who upped his Midwest League production in August, but not his average.

Other new additions to the top 40 include power-hitting Xavier Scruggs, Peoria outfielder Vaughn Bryan, and Johnson City starter Juan Perez.

Dropping down the rankings from August are the Memphis trio of Zach Petrick, Boone Whiting and Eric Fornataro.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
31 Mason Katz 35 PB 2B    
  Tied for third in system with 20 HRs and T2nd with 71 RBI.
             
32 Zach Petrick 24 Mem RHS    
  Last year's Pitcher of Year finished so-so 2014 with 5.29 ERA in final month. 
             
33 Ronald Castillo 34 Peo OF    
  T4th in system with 25 doubles, despite just 353 ABs. Needs consistent health.
             
34 Xavier Scruggs NR Mem 1B    
  26 y/o was 1st in system in RBI, 2nd in doubles, HRs. Hard to see MLB role, though.
             
35 Vaughn Bryan NR Peo OF    
  Batted .295 in August, co-system leader with 9 triples for season.
             
36 Fernando Baez 30 SC RHS    
  Struggled in final month of 1st year in rotation. Ks, BBs both high. 
             
37 Rowan Wick HM Peo OF    
  5 HR, 17 RBI, but just .215 BA in 2nd month in full-season ball.
             
38 Juan Perez HM JC RHS    
  Just turned 19, Venezuelan finished with 3.24 ERA, 9.1 K/9 IP.
             
39 Eric Fornataro 31 Mem RHR    
  Didn't P badly for Memphis, but passed over for September return to the majors. 
             
40 Boone Whiting 33 Mem RHS    
  Disappointing final month (5.19 ERA) in disappointing season.
             

Graduated

As noted above, St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras exceeded the at-bats threshold during August.

Dropped out

One outfielder and three pitchers left the top 40 from last month.

In hindsight, like I did with Wisdom, I held on to hopes for Mike O’Neill for too long. Off the 40-man roster, O’Neill was not among the 2014 system leaders in his major strength area, on-base percentage.

Hurlers Kurt Heyer, Lee Stoppelman and Dixon Llorens could easily rejoin this list at a later date, but currently lack the momentum to hold off the new top 40 members noted above.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
off Mike O'Neill 22 Mem OF    
  Did not finish among system OBP leaders. Hard to be optimistic about MLB chances.
             
off Lee Stoppelman 37 Spr LHR    
  Inconsistent relievers fall out of the top 40.
             
off Kurt Heyer 38 Spr RHS    
  4th in system with 152.1 IP, but 4.90 ERA for season.
             
off Dixon Llorens 39 PB RHR    
  Sidearmer had rough August (5.65 ERA). Lotsa Ks and BBs.
             

Honorable mentions

Infielder Casey Turgeon had a under-the-radar good debut with Johnson City, ranking in the top 10 in the system in most slash categories. The State College rotation trio of Will Anderson, Daniel Poncedeleon and Trey Nielsen all bear watching next season after logging ERAs at 2.50 or less, WHIPs under 1.20 and good strikeout to walk counts.

Late additions/omissions: Two other players from the 2014 draft also made strong top 40 cases and probably belong. Second-rounder Andrew Morales only threw 12 innings, but unlike Weaver, briefly held his own in the Florida State League. Second baseman Darren Seferina, fifth-rounder, had an all-around all-star debut with State College.

Rk Prospect Prior Team Pos    
HM Casey Turgeon NR JC 2B    
  8th in system in BA (.308), 2nd in OBP (,428), 6th in OPS (.876).
             
HM Will Anderson NR SC RHS    
  NYPL all-star had 2.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6:1 K:BB ratio.
             
HM Daniel Poncedeleon NR SC RHS    
  9th-rounder came on strongly. 2.44 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, greater than 1 K/ inning.
             
HM Trey Nielsen NR SC RHS    
  Missed 2013 due to injury but impressed with SC. 2.50 ERA, 1 K/ inning.
             
HM Andrew Morales NR PB RHS    
  2nd-rounder only threw 12 innings between GCL and PB, but they were good ones.
             
HM Darren Seferina NR SC 2B    
  5th-rounder batted .283, swiped 19 bags and played all-star defense in debut.
             

That is it for this month and season. Thank you for reading these monthly rankings. Our official tenth-annual top 40 prospect countdown will begin shortly after Thanksgiving.

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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