Editor’s note: Our Top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospect countdown for 2015 would not have been as successful except for two individuals. A leader from our message board community, Jeremy Byrd, moderated the fan voting over a several month period and then wrote 40 player capsules, summarizing the opinions of scores of individual voters. Jeremy did a tremendous job and I greatly appreciate his contributions.
The Cardinal Nation’s Springfield reporter, Derek Shore, also penned 40 player capsules, providing his unique scouting orientation that goes more into depth than most reporting you will read. He continues his contributions here, with write ups on seven Cardinals prospects whom the community liked, but fell just short of the weighted overall vote.
Following is the overall 2015 TCN top 40, with the community’s list through #46 next to it. (Remember that we each ranked 46 names to develop a consolidated list of 40.) Highlighted are the unique names from the community’s list to be discussed here.
|TCN Top 40||Community|
|1||Marco Gonzales||1||Alex Reyes|
|2||Alex Reyes||2||Marco Gonzales|
|3||Rob Kaminsky||3||Randall Grichuk|
|4||Randal Grichuk||4||Rob Kaminsky|
|5||Stephen Piscotty||5||Stephen Piscotty|
|6||Jack Flaherty||6||Jack Flaherty|
|7||Tim Cooney||7||Sam Tuivailala|
|8||Sam Tuivailala||8||Tim Cooney|
|9||Luke Weaver||9||Luke Weaver|
|10||Charlie Tilson||10||Tommy Pham|
|11||Carson Kelly||11||Magneuris Sierra|
|12||Aledmys Diaz||12||Aledmys Diaz|
|13||Tommy Pham||13||Carson Kelly|
|14||Jacob Wilson||14||Charlie Tilson|
|15||Breyvic Valera||15||Edmundo Sosa|
|16||Magneuris Sierra||16||Breyvic Valera|
|17||Juan Herrera||17||Malik Collymore|
|18||Ian McKinney||18||Ian McKinney|
|19||Edmundo Sosa||19||Rowan Wick|
|20||Nick Petree||20||Jacob Wilson|
|21||Greg Garcia||21||Greg Garcia|
|22||Malik Collymore||22||Juan Herrera|
|23||Oscar Mercado||23||Nick Petree|
|24||Bryan Dobzanski||24||Oscar Mercado|
|25||Mike Mayers||25||Brian Dobzanski|
|26||Cody Stanley||26||Jose Godoy|
|27||Patrick Wisdom||27||Cody Stanley|
|28||Rowan Wick||28||Dixon Llorens|
|29||Zach Petrick||29||Xavier Scruggs|
|30||Xavier Scruggs||30||Mike Mayers|
|31||Ronnie Williams||31||Patrick Wisdom|
|32||C.J. McElroy||32||Andrew Morales|
|33||Mason Katz||33||Ronnie Williams|
|34||Daniel Poncedeleon||34||Daniel Poncedeleon|
|35||Andrew Morales||35||Zach Petrick|
|36||Ronald Castillo||36||Mason Katz|
|37||Dixon Llorens||37||Alex Mejia|
|38||Fernando Baez||38||C.J. McElroy|
|39||Darren Seferina||39||Darren Seferina|
|40||Juan Perez||40||Dean Kiekhefer|
Nine players who made the community top 46 fell short of recognition on the overall site top 40. Two of them, Boone Whiting and Chris Perry, will be covered in Brian Walton’s “Best of the Rest” article coming tomorrow. The other seven are pitchers Dean Kiekhefer, Joe Donofrio and Kyle Grana, catcher Jose Godoy, infielders Alex Mejia and Ty Kelly and outfielder Nick Thompson.
Only one of the seven is a 2014 draftee in Thompson, taken in the eighth round. All were contenders for their first top 40 nod. In other words, none appear to be on their way down. In terms of sourcing, Godoy came from the international program, Mejia, Kiekhefer and Donofrio were Cardinals draft picks, Grana was a free agent signee while Kelly was acquired via trade.
Individual player commentary from Derek Shore follows.
Jose Godoy (Community #26)
Home: San Francisco, Zulia, Venezuela
Godoy spent his second season out of the Dominican academy with short-season Johnson City after playing in the Gulf Coast League in 2013. In the Appalachian League, he slashed .331/.423/.390 in 36 games and played two more contests filling in behind the plate for the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals.
The Venezuelan catcher is a right-handed thrower but stands at the left-side of the plate. Godoy just turned 20 years old in October, so he was able to post those career-best numbers while being fairly young for his league. He also drew more walks than strikeouts, a major improvement from 2013.
Godoy is said to have advanced defensive skills for his age. While there are few specifics regarding his ability as a catcher, his 2013 skipper Steve Turco said Godoy “is as solid a defensive catcher as we’ve had at this level”. “Godoy controls the game as a field general behind the plate and is above-average in all facets of the position,” Turco said. "Defensively, I really like his skill set behind the plate."
At the dish, it is obvious that Godoy makes consistent contact and has a better approach than most of the catchers his age. That gives you an idea that some thump could develop as he physically gets stronger. I hope he can skip State College next season and go straight to Peoria to see what he can do in a full-season slate of games.
Alex Mejia (Community #37)
School: University of Arizona
This is Mejia’s second appearance in our “Best of the Rest” series since he joined the organization as the fourth rounder out of Arizona in 2012. The intelligent, slick-fielding middle infielder earned his way up to Double-A after hitting .284 with one homer and 29 RBI in 71 games for Palm Beach.
Mejia finished the season at Springfield after playing the last 49 games. Despite batting a marginal .270 with three home runs and 21 RBI as the regular shortstop covering for Aledmys Diaz, he found ways to hold his own at the plate. Even though Mejia doesn’t really fit the mold of a true shortstop physically as he is more broad shouldered, tall with some lankiness. He is not one of those flashy types of shortstops, but is able to hold down the position down despite unspectacular tools.
Springfield manager Mike Shildt said Mejia was his first shortstop since Greg Garcia who can think with the position and it makes the manager’s job much easier. Offensively, Mejia can handle the bat and do little things such as hit-and-run, drop down a bunt, or move runners over, capabilities that can be overlooked, but are often crucial in winning tight ballgames.
Going forward, some questions remain. Specifically, can Mejia continue to swing the bat well at higher levels against pitchers with better stuff and command? Also, can he handle shortstop despite not being the best athlete at a position where athletic ability is really put to the test? 2015 will be the year to determine if Mejia can stick around as a future utility-player or will become just another guy.
Dean Kiekhefer (Community #40)
School: University of Louisville
Kiekhefer did not perform well to start the season at Springfield with a 4.30 ERA in his first 15 games, but those stats can be de-emphasized given his impressive stint with Memphis. Over 40 Triple-A relief appearances, the lefty had a 2.54 ERA and struck out 52 batters in 56 plus innings.
The true left-handed specialist throws a ton of strikes with an ability to keep the ball on the ground consistently due to a sinking fastball which is generated from a low, three-quarter delivery ala Randy Choate.
What potentially holds Kiekhefer back is his small margin for error, as he cannot leave any pitch over the plate. Unlike the last left-handed relievers the Cardinals brought through Memphis in Kevin Siegrist and Sam Freeman, he does not possess overwhelming stuff. Also, the competition for a left-handed relief role with St. Louis has a number of candidates, but the opportunity is always there and Kiekhefer has proven at every level to date that he can get lefties out.
Expect to see Kiekhefer as Memphis’s most reliable lefty specialist in 2015 and perhaps he could get an opportunity at the highest level in the foreseeable future.
Ty Kelly (Community #41)
School: Cal Davis
Kelly was acquired in a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners for former Cardinals farmhand Sam Gaviglio earlier this off-season. Kelly has been up-and-down between the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Mariners’ system the last three years. In 2014, he broke out with his best power hitting season of his career. That and his plate discipline likely caught the eye of the Cardinals in potentially replacing Daniel Descalso.
The 26-year-old batted .263 with 15 home runs and a team-high 80 RBI (12th in Pacific Coast League) in 134 games played with Tacoma this past season. He also drew 85 walks (2nd in the PCL) and posted a .381 on-base pct. (10th in the PCL). The switch-hitting infielder hit 14 of his 15 home runs from the left side and he batted .378 with seven home runs when batting with runners in scoring position.
Kelly is said to lack the agility to be a standout second baseman but he has enough power to potentially profile for the corner infield as well. His major-league future is uncertain despite his consistently high on-base percentage.
I like his chances of obtaining the 25th man roster spot over Pete Kozma, Dean Anna, and Greg Garcia next spring. Kelly could complement Kolten Wong as a switch-hitting second baseman with power that can intrigue.
Joe Donofrio (Community #42)
School: Cal Berkeley
Donofrio skipped over High-A Palm Beach to open 2014 with Springfield and eventually settled himself into the back-end of the Double-A bullpen. As the Cardinals handed him more stressful late-inning situations, he continued to make quality pitches and excelled in any role in which he was placed.
The right-handed reliever was named TCN’s Springfield Cardinals Reliever of the Year for 2014. Donofrio spent about a month with the Triple-A Redbirds, as well, but pitched the majority of the season with Springfield, throwing 51 ? innings, a miniscule 0.89 ERA, with only 17 free passes, and 65 strikeouts.
Known for his devastating big-league ready slider, Donofrio sharpened up his fastball command and learned to throw it on the inside part of the plate. That made his slider even better with the downward action he is able to get. Although he can get a little carried away with using the slider, Donofrio will have to also be consistent with his fastball command if he wants continual success. Donofrio should be with Memphis this coming season with a chance at making his major-league debut.
Nick Thompson (Community #44)
School: College of William & Mary
Thompson was one of the most consistent run producers for the State College Spikes in 2014. Batting in the three-hole for manager Oliver Marmol, the right-handed hitter knocked in 42 runners during the regular season while batting .282 and slugged five home runs. He also led the New York-Penn League in triples with four.
The outfielder out of William & Mary has excelled not only at baseball but as a student as he plans to become an orthopedic surgeon once his playing days are over. Thompson was taken by the Cardinals in the eighth round following one of the most impressive college offensive seasons of any player. Thompson controls the strike zone well and has game power to all fields due to a very strong right-handed swing and the ball just jumps off his bat when he makes solid contact. He was a two-way player in college.
Kyle Grana (Community #46)
School: Bellarmine University
A St. Louis native, Grana signed on with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent from a small college in Louisville. The right-hander successfully opened his professional career with the GCL Cardinals in 2013. The 23-year old then moved up to Johnson City, where he continued to dominate rookie-level hitters.
In 2014, Grana spent the entire season with the State College Spikes where he would become a valuable late-inning bulldog in a coming out party-type of season. In just 40 ? innings, Grana struck out 62 batters to 14 walks while holding an impressive 0.89 ERA.
Grana’s success starts with his mid-90s fastball, but the development of his splitter and his breaking ball also produced results last season. With three effective pitches, Grana’s biggest asset is said to be his tenaciousness and possesses a closer's’ mentality on the mound.
It will be interesting to see where the Cardinals place Grana in 2015 because he has yet to face an appropriate level of competition for his age (24 in April). But you cannot argue with his results, so I hope the Cardinals accelerate his climb up the ladder to give him a challenge.
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 with Brian Walton’s Best of the Rest. 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 those who left the top 40 from last year to this.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.
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