2015 Cardinals Top Prospects - The Graduates

Members of our top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospects in 2014 no longer on the list for 2015.

As we reach the conclusion, the 49th article in this year’s top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospect countdown, we will delve into why a group of players dropped off our top 40 Cardinals prospect list from last year to this.

Wong won’t be down again

Turnover is at a near-record high, as 18 players left our top 40. That compares to 19 the year prior and 18 also two years ago. While there was only a small difference in the year-to-year total, not surprisingly, there was a major change in where the departed prospects went.

Of the 18, only four graduated to St. Louis, half the number from the year before. Not every year will feature the impressive group that included Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Pete Kozma and Tyler Lyons. After 2014, Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, and Sam Freeman were the only St. Louis Cardinals that left the top 40 for the last time.

The other 14 who dropped off the 2014 top 40 did so in several ways, including being lost via free agency and waivers, as well as traded. None were released or retired. The second-most, nine, simply fell off the list due to performance. To be fair, it may not be a decline in their individual results as much as others doing even better. In other cases, the injury bug bit.

The departing individuals are listed below with the reason for them leaving along with their top 40 rankings over the previous years, as applicable. As always, the color indicates year-to-year change.

Graduated (4) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Oscar Taveras 1 1 3 11 NR      
Carlos Martinez 2 5 2 5        
Kolten Wong 3 6 4          
Sam Freeman 17 24 34 NR NR NR    
Dropped off (9) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Cory Jones 14 NR            
Lee Stoppelman 18 NR            
John Gast 19 20 21 28        
Mike O'Neill 24 32 NR NR NR      
Jordan Swagerty 29 11 10 24        
Boone Whiting 30 25 28 NR        
Kenny Peoples-Walls 33 NR NR          
Keith Butler 35 40 38 NR NR      
Seth Blair 37 30 33 10        
Lost via waivers (1) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Eric Fornataro 39 27 NR NR NR NR    
Free agent (1) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Audry Perez 40 38 NR NR NR NR NR  
Traded (3) 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
James Ramsey 8 13            
Tyrell Jenkins 11 8 8 9        
Sam Gaviglio 26 NR NR          

Let’s drill down a bit deeper into the 18 players who dropped off the top 40 to see if there is anything to learn.

Fornataro: Claimed by WAS

Given the reputation of the organization having so many high-end prospects close to the Majors, it is not surprising that the top three ranked players from the 2014 top 40 are among this year’s graduates.

After the four promotions to the majors, 14 names follow. The positional distribution is interesting, because there isn’t much of one: 10 are pitchers, with one catcher, no infielders and three outfielders leaving the list from the position player ranks.

Dropped off          
Gone Peak Lost momentum Peak Injuries Peak
Eric Fornataro StL Lee Stoppelman Mem Cory Jones PB
Audry Perez StL Mike O'Neill Mem John Gast StL
James Ramsey Mem Boone Whiting Mem Jordan Swagerty Spr
Sam Gaviglio Spr Kenny Peoples-Walls Peo Keith Butler StL
Tyrell Jenkins PB Seth Blair Mem    

Starting at the left of the table, Note that just two of the five players having left the top 40 and the organization had trials in St. Louis first. At this point, neither Eric Fornataro nor Audry Perez seem to have a clear major league future ahead elsewhere.

The other three were dealt away, a relatively new phenomena for more than one top 40 player per year. What we are seeing is the Cardinals plugging immediate gaps using players at positions where a surplus exists.

Rebound candidate Whiting

The center group, labeled “Lost momentum,” had been on the top 40 for an average of two years. These players may have reached a career stall and it is unclear if they will be able to pull out of it. Boone Whiting may have the best chance, while Kenny Peoples-Walls has youth, but has yet to translate raw talent into consistent results. Seth Blair debuted as a top 10 player, but has walked his way out of contention in the four years since.

The far right group of players, called “Injuries” in the table, all were unable to protect their top 40 position due to major 2014 injuries. All are young enough that they could work their way back on. I like the chances for Cory Jones most, perhaps followed by Keith Butler most.

Jordan Swagerty was ranked in the top 11 twice, but like John Gast, the aggregate weight of injuries increases the comeback challenge. Butler joins Gast as the ones among this group to have reached St. Louis, but both were removed from the 40-man roster while injured.

In closing

Thank you to those of you who followed along during the entire TCN top 40 prospect journey for 2015. The last decade has flown by! As always, our top 40 prospect lists from each of the last ten years can be accessed via links permanently displayed at the lower part of The Cardinal Nation homepage.

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.

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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