As we continue our series breaking down the top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system, this time we will review the rising prospects who have entered the top 40 for 2015. Of course, a variety of routes were taken by the 15 first-timers and especially, the three returnees, to get there.
First, some history. One year ago, six newly-drafted players made The Cardinal Nation top prospect list in their first year of eligibility with seven draftees having joined our 2013 list.
The 2014 Cardinals draft had two first-rounders, same as the year before, following an unprecedented five from the 2012 draft (debuting on the 2013 top 40). This year’s big two were also pitchers – Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver following Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky 12 months ago – with all debuting in the top 10.
Flaherty and Weaver, at sixth and ninth respectively in the new top 40, are joined by five other members of the Cards’ 2014 draft class, each making their debuts between numbers 24 and 39. As they were selected in the second through fifth rounds, with one exception, they cannot be considered surprises.
Only one, ninth-rounder Daniel Poncedeleon, ranked 34th, might truly be labeled an early sleeper. I wonder what it is about that round? Our early sleeper this time last year was also a right-handed starting pitcher selected in the ninth, Nick Petree.
With all six of the organizations’ top six 2014 draft picks being pitchers, five of whom signed, it is not surprising that the top four of them joined the top 40. Overall, the total of seven draftees ranked, six right-handed pitchers and a second baseman, is one higher than from the 2013 draft last winter.
Of the Cardinals' top six signed picks in the 2014 draft, all made by number 165, only pitcher Austin Gomber missed the top 40. The Florida Atlantic lefty, taken 135th overall, had a solid ERA of 2.20 in short-season ball in the New York-Penn League but allowed far too many baserunners and fanned too few. His FIP was 4.08.
The following table indicates each 2014 draftee’s top 40 ranking along with the round in which he was selected.
|2014 Draft (7)||Pos||T40||Rd|
The continued development of prospects having already been in the system made a significant impact on the list of new additions, with seven new top 40 members. The Cardinals also added a new top 40 player as an international signee in shortstop Aledmys Diaz, ranked 12th.
Just the opposite of the draftees primarily being pitchers, this group is made up almost entirely of position players. The only exception is the 40th-ranked player, right-handed pitcher Juan Perez. In fact, the top three of this group in terms of ranking are all potentially more valuable up-the-middle players in Diaz, Magneuris Sierra and Malik Collymore. All three are ranked 22nd or better.
First baseman Xavier Scruggs and outfielder Ronald Castillo worked the longest to achieve this recognition. The two finally debut in the top 40 in their fifth opportunities; with the former having reached the Major Leagues at age 27.
Including the draftees, four of the first-time additions rank in the top 16 and six in the top 24. The previous years of eligibility of the non-2014 drafted players are indicated in the table below.
While several of the newly-added prospects ranked higher, it is still encouraging to see three graduates of the Cardinals international program join the top 40 in Sierra, Castillo and Perez.
|1st time in top 40||#1-10||#11-20||#21-30||#31-40||Total|
|US free agent|
|International free agent||2||2||4|
|Rule 5 selection|
|Acquired in trade|
The above table indicates an interesting split in the 2015 additions. The only new top 10 members are from the 2014 draft, while the only two in the 11th through 20th-ranked group were international signees. The four who joined the organization in earlier drafts were all ranked in the second-20.
Just two of the new draftees rank highly early, but the rest do not. The returning organizational players work their way up from lower initial rankings, but even more so are the international players, about whom less is typically known.
Last but not least, three players rejoined this year’s top 40 after having been ranked previously, then dropping off. In fact, one of them did it after two years away - Springfield catcher Cody Stanley, the second-oldest player in the rankings after Scruggs. While Stanley has worked his way onto the 40-man roster, the excitement has to be tempered by his age, 26.
The other returnees, back after one year away, are Peoria switch-hitting centerfielder C.J. McElroy and Palm Beach submariner Dixon Llorens, ranked 32nd and 37th, respectively. These two have more runway as McElroy is still just 21 while Llorens recently turned 22 years of age.
In terms of levels of play, all seven US minor league clubs are represented in this group of 18, with the largest concentration in the Gulf Coast League with six, primarily five of the 2014-drafted pitchers. More on that in an upcoming article in this series.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2015 and read about each individual player, click here. You can learn the voters’ philosophies in making their selections and much more.
Next up: This article series continues as the voters highlight the players on our personal lists that did not make the 2015 consolidated top 40. We move next to our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, dive into the numbers behind the top 40, take a look at our best and worst selections from 2014, the top prospects by level of play and finally those players that left the top 40 from last year to this.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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