BaseballHQ’s Top 15 Cardinals Prospects: 2015

In the first of a four-part series, we highlight the top 15 St. Louis Cardinals prospects from the new Minor League Baseball Analyst with the details as to why they’re ranked where they are.

The 10th edition of BaseballHQ’s “Minor League Baseball Analyst” just became available. As always, the guide integrates sabermetrics and scouting for over 1000 minor leaguers across all 30 organizations. In-depth scouting reports and stats include batter skills ratings, runner speed, pitch repertoires, Major League equivalents, ultimate potential and much more.

Once again, authors Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney have included their Organizational Ratings for all 30 major league systems, ranking each organization’s top 15 prospects, with details why, as well as a scoring of the organization in the areas of hitting, pitching, top-end talent and overall. We’ll cover a subset of that in the second article of this series, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

The comprehensive information in the Analyst is more in-depth than comparable guides from well-known sources of minor league information and is used by front office personnel, scouts, fantasy players and fans from coast to coast.

It has become almost as eagerly-awaited each hot stove season as HQ’s famous “Baseball Forecaster” has been for over a quarter of a century. If readers order the Minor League Baseball Analyst from HQ directly, online updates will be included in March along with a PDF copy at no additional charge.

Following is a subset of their findings, covering their top 15 Cardinals prospects. Interestingly, every one of the seven US levels of play are represented - from St. Louis to the Gulf Coast League. As always, click on each highlighted player's name to be taken to his in-depth Player Profile page here at The Cardinal Nation.

Please respect the rights of the authors and the associated copyrights by not reproducing this information elsewhere. You are receiving this exclusive view through the courtesy and generosity of BaseballHQ.

Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects - 2015

Rank, player, (position), height/weight, (bat/throw), age, year drafted (round), school level (state) or country

1. Alex Reyes (RHP) … 6-3, 185 … 20 … 2012 FA, Dominican Republic

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Peoria (MWL) 109.1 3.62 1.31 5.0 11.3 2.2 0.207

Comments: Dynamic Dominican hurler has the most upside of any player in the system. 20-year-old right-hander has a good three-pitch mix that is highlighted by a plus mid-90s fastball that tops out at 98 mph and has good late arm-side run. He also has a good hard, 12-6 curveball and a changeup that has plus potential. Has good size and is physically strong, so he should hold up well once he fills out his 6-3 frame. His mechanics and release point, especially on his breaking ball, can inconsistent and he falls off sharply to the first base side of the rubber. He does throw with a bit of effort, but it is toned from a year ago without a loss in velocity. Because of the violent delivery and inconsistent release point, Reyes struggles with control and command and walked five batters per nine, but he can also be unhittable, striking out 137 in 109.1 innings with a stingy .207 oppBA. In August Reyes walked just 6 with a 1.80 ERA while striking out 38 in 25 innings.

Development Path: Reyes was arguably the most dynamic player in the MWL in 2014 and he will likely move up to High-A in the Florida State League with a late jump to Double-A possible.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Reyes certainly has some risk, but if he can continue to refine his change-up and mechanics, he has the raw stuff to be a true staff ace.

Upside Rating: 9D

2. Marco Gonzales (LHP) … 6-1, 195 … 23 … 2013 (1) Gonzaga

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Palm Beach (FSL) 37.2 1.43 1.12 1.9 7.7 4.0 0.239
Springfield (TL) 38.2 2.33 1.11 2.3 10.7 4.6 0.220
Memphis (PCL) 45.2 3.35 1.14 1.8 7.7 4.3 0.251
St. Louis (MLB) 34.2 4.15 1.53 5.5 8.1 1.5 0.241

Comments: Short, compact lefty pitched at four different levels and logged important post-season innings. Gonzales has a fluid, clean arm action that leads to plus command and control of his four-pitch repertoire. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and isn’t overpowering, but he locates it well, inducing weak contact. His best offering is a plus change-up that he will throw in any count. It keeps hitters off his below average fastball. He also mixes in a good, but inconsistent curveball and a seldom used slider. Gonzales is competitive and has good composure on the mound.

Development Path: Gonzales will battle for a spot at back-end of the Cardinals rotation in 2015, but might have to wait to see how the Carlos Martinez experiment plays out. If Martinez proves unreliable as a starter or Adam Wainwright isn’t ready to go, Gonzales would likely be next in line.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Gonzales isn’t going to lead the league in strikeouts anytime soon, but he should be a solid mid-rotation starter with a good ERA and WHIP. Similar in profile to Kyle Lohse.

Upside Rating: 8A

3. Stephen Piscotty (OF) … 6-3, 210 … 24 … R/R … 2012 (1) Stanford

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Memphis (PCL) 500 .288/.355/.406 8 89 0.70 9/11
Comments: Strong-bodied OF wasn’t as dynamic in 2014, though he did hold his own at Triple-A. Has average across the board tools, but the Cardinals tend to get the most from this type of player. Does everything above average, but doesn’t have a plus tool besides the ability to hit. Makes consistent contact and uses the whole field. Runs well and has a plus arm and range. Does have good bat speed and a discerning eye, so he could develop a bit more power as he matures.

Development Path: Given the recent trade for RF Jason Heyward, Piscotty will head back to Triple-A Memphis where he will have to bide his time. He doesn’t have the range or speed to handle CF, but could see some time as an injury replacement or 4th OF if Randall Grichuk struggles to hit for average.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Piscotty has shown the ability to hit for average. Power development will be key to his future fantasy potential. His output in 2014 was disappointing, but he still projects as a .280/.290 hitter with 20 HR power.

Upside Rating: 8C

4. Rob Kaminsky (LHP) … 5-11, 191 … 20 … 2013 (1) HS, NJ

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Peoria (MWL) 100.2 1.88 1.01 2.8 7.1 2.6 0.194
Comments: Short, athletic lefty had a huge breakout in his full-season debut, leading the MWL with a 1.88 ERA and a .194 oppBAA. Kaminsky isn’t overpowering and his fastball sits at 88-92 mph, occasionally topping out at 94 mph with good late life. He backs it up with a plus 76-78 mph curveball that generates plenty of swings and misses and an improved change-up. Kaminsky thrives by keeping hitters off balance with his breaking ball and locating his fastball to both sides of the plate, but he can be overly reliant on his curve. Kaminsky lacks the size typical of most starters, but has very good stuff.

Development Path: Kaminsky will join teammate Alex Reyes at High-A Palm Beach in 2015, giving the team one of the best 1-2 punches in the FSL.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Kaminsky profiles as a command and control lefty once he reaches the majors. Not likely to rack up a tons of Ks, but should be able to help with WHIP and ERA.

Upside Rating: 8C

5. Jack Flaherty (RHP) … 6-4, 205 … 19 … 2014 (1) HS, CA

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Cardinals (GCL) 22.2 1.59 0.97 1.6 11.1 7.0 0.209
Comments: Was a two-way player at Harvard Westlake, but the Cardinals preferred him as a pitcher. The 19-year-old was impressive in his pro debut, posting a 1.59 ERA and striking out 28 while walking only 4 in 22.2 IP. Flaherty is that rare high school hurler that already features a good four-pitch mix. His fastball tops out at 93 mph, but at 6-4, 205 he does have a bit of projection left. He also throws a slider, curve, and change-up, all of which have the potential to be average or better with the change-up being the best of the bunch. Flaherty has good athleticism and easy, repeatable mechanics, though his arm slot on breaking balls needs to be more consistent. He showed good control in high school and is his debut.

Development Path: The Cardinals could challenge Flaherty with an assignment to full-season ball in the MWL in 2015. He succeeds more because of his advanced pitchability than by overpowering hitters.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: If Flaherty can add a couple of miles an hour to his fastball, he has the stuff and pitching sense to be a good mid-rotation starter and is worth targeting in dynasty and other long-term keeper leagues.

Upside Rating: 8D

6. Randal Grichuk (OF) … 6-1, 195 … 23 … R/R … 2009 (1) HS, TX

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Memphis (PCL) 436 .259/.311/.493 6 77 0.2 25/8
St. Louis (MLB) 110 .245/.278/.400 4 73 0.2 3/0
Comments: Athletic OF saw significant playing time in the majors as the Cardinals made a push for the post-season. Grichuk has plus raw power and swatted a career-high 28 home runs. Unfortunately he has yet to make the necessary adjustments and continues to be overly aggressive at the plate, striking out 141 times. Does have plus bat speed and the power to hit 20+ home runs in the majors, but it seems likely to come with a sub-.250 average. Grichuk has good speed plays solid defense at all three OF positions.

Development Path: Grichuk should break camp as the Cardinals 4th or 5th OF, though he could steal some time away from Jon Jay if he gets off to a hot start.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Grichuk is still only 23 years old, so there is time for him to rewrite his profile. If he can figure out how to be more selective at the plate and make more consistent contact, he has the power to become an interesting fantasy commodity, but until that happens he is only an end-game option in deep NL-only formats.

Upside Rating: 8C

7. Luke Weaver (RHP) … 6-2, 170 … 21 … 2014 (1) Florida State

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Cardinals (GCL) 3.1 21.60 4.50 10.8 8.1 0.8 0.550
Palm Beach (FSL) 6 0.00 0.67 0.0 13.5 9.0 0.190
Comments: Saw limited action in his pro debut. Weaver comes after hitters with a good 88-93 mph fastball, but has been clocked as high as 96 mph in shorter stints. He keeps the ball down in the zone and gets some nice late action from a high 3/4 arm slot. Weaver throws with some effort that results in below-average command, though he does have a quick arm. Mixes in a 79-81 mph slider and a 78-81 mph change-up that gives him a second plus offering.

Development Path: As a polished collegiate starter, Weaver could skip the MWL and head straight back to the FSL in 2015.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Profiles as a mid-rotation starter with good dominance, but will need to show that he can throw strikes consistently to reach his potential.

Upside Rating: 8D

8. Tim Cooney (LHP) … 6-3, 195 … 24 … 2012 (3) Wake Forest

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Memphis (PCL) 158 3.47 1.3 2.7 6.8 2.5 0.263
Comments: Finesse left-hander from has a good feel for pitching. Keeps hitters off-balance with four quality offerings. His fastball sits at 89-93 with some good late life. He mixes in a decent mid-70s curve, cutter, and change-up. He locates all four offerings well and does a good job of changing speed on his fastball. Drop in dominance after he moved up to Triple-A and 21 HR allowed are red flags and makes his performance in 2013 look like an outlier. He does have good size and proven durability.

Development Path: Cooney will have to bide his time until there is an opening in the Cardinals rotation. Given the Cardinals pitching depth, both in the majors and the minors, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. A trade to another organization would make him an excellent sleeper candidate.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Profiles as a solid back-end starter, but not much more and so doesn’t have broad-based fantasy appeal. Those in deep NL-only league should keep him in mind as an end-game candidate and at some point he should have some value.

Upside Rating: 7B

9. Charlie Tilson (OF) … 5-11, 175 … 22 … L/L … 2011 (2) HS, IL

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Palm Beach (FSL) 370 .308/.357/.414 6 81 0.3 5/10
Springfield (TL) 139 .237/.269/.324 4 81 0.2 2/2
Comments: Short, athletic OF impressed in his stint in the FSL, but struggled to adjust to more advanced pitching at Double-A. Tilson is a high-energy CF with a smooth compact left-handed stroke and is willing to drive the ball the opposite way. Ideal top-of-the-order hitter who puts the ball into play and uses his above-average speed. Can be overly aggressive at the plate as shown in his low walk rate. Not likely to hit for much power, but has good speed and is a good defender in CF.

Development Path: Tilson will head back to Double-A Springfield in 2015 where he will work on being more selective at the plate and getting consistent reps.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Tilson projects as a second division OF whose primary fantasy value will be his above-average speed. If he can get on base consistently in the majors, he could steal 20-25 bases a year.

Upside Rating: 7C

10. Sam Tuivailala (RHP) … 6-3, 195 … 22 … 2010 (3) HS, CA

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Palm Beach (FSL) 37.2 3.58 1.25 4.3 15.3 3.5 0.207
Springfield (TL) 21 2.57 1.29 3.9 12.9 3.3 0.234
Memphis (PCL) 1.1 0.00 0.75 0.0 20.3 NA 0.200
St. Louis (MLB) 1 36.00 7.00 18.0 9.0 0.5 0.625
Comments: Converted infielder has established himself as one of the best relief prospects in the organization. Dominates with a blazing upper-90s fastball that has good late life and tops out at 100 mph. Much improved power curveball fueled the breakout and he struck out 64 in 37.2 innings in the FSL. Change-up remains inconsistent, but has some potential. Strong, stocky body with thick legs gives him an ideal pitching frame so durability shouldn’t be an issue. Struggles with fastball command is the only red flag, but if can master than he has the tools to dominate in the majors.

Development Path: Tuivailala will be given a chance to win a spot in the Cardinals pen in 2015. He could use some additional time in the minors to refine his approach and learn how to throw strikes consistently.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Project future closers is a tricky proposition since so much depends on opportunity, but Tuivailala has the raw stuff to pitch meaningful innings at the end of big league games.

Upside Rating: 7B

11. Magneuris Sierra (OF) … 5-11, 160 … 18 … L/L … 2012 FA, Dominican Republic

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Cardinals (GCL) 202 .386/.434/.505 7 87 0.5 2/13
Comments: Toolsy, athletic OF from the Dominican Republic had an eye-opening stateside debut, leading the GCL in batting average and OB%. The left-handed Sierra has excellent eye-hand coordination and barrels the as well as any player in the system. Showed a good understanding of the strike zone and above-average speed on the bases. Doesn’t project to have much power, but has the speed and arm-strength to stick in CF and was one of the better defenders in the league.

Development Path: Sierra is still fairly raw and inexperienced, but he showed well enough in his debut that the Cardinals will likely send him out to fullseason ball in the MWL in 2015. If they do, Sierra will be tested against older competition and we will get a better idea of how he holds up in a longer season and how he makes adjustments.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Sierra is a raw, but toolsy player with a high upside. If everything comes together he profiles as an excellent top-of-the order hitter with the ability to hit for average, make consistent contact, steal bases and play stellar defense.

Upside Rating: 8D

12. Edmundo Sosa (SS) … 5-11, 170 … 18 … R/R … 2012 FA, Panama

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Cardinals (GCL) 207 .275/.341/.377 8 88 0.6 1/8
Comments: Panamanian OF signed with the Cardinals in 2012 for $425,000 and looks to be a steal. Had excellent debut in the DSL in 2013 and followed that up with a solid performance in the GCL. Sosa has good all-around baseball skills and understands how to play the game. Has an advanced feel for hitting, showing good patience and an ability to barrel up the ball. Not likely to hit for a ton of power, but he did show good gap ability and has the swing for more pop as he matures. Defensively he is quick, has good hands and range, but a below-average arm. The Cardinals have a number of quality SS projects in the low minors, but Sosa has the best combination of offense and defense and should stick at the position for now.

Development Path: Sosa will likely replace Juan Herrera as the Peoria shortstop in 2015. He will be very young for the league, so don’t be surprised to see him get off to a slow start, but his overall tools should allow him to shine by mid-season.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: If Sosa can continue to hit and develop a bit more power, he has the ability to develop into a first division major league shortstop who hits for average, gets on base, and has a bit of pop, but he is years away from reaching that potential.

Upside Rating: 8D

13. Carson Kelly (C) … 6-2, 200 … 20 … R/R … 2012 (2) HS, OR

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Peoria (MWL) 363 .248/.326/.366 9 87 0.7 6/1
Comments: Strong, agile player has yet to hit his stride and hit just .248 in a repeat of the MWL. Does have good raw power, but it hasn’t shown up in game action. Makes consistent contact, but lacks an advanced feel for hitting and can be stiff at the plate. Could be more selective in his approach, which would enable him to drive his pitches more effectively. Defensively he has good hands a plus arm and made great strides defensively. Moves well behind the plate and showed a plus throwing arm. Signal calling and blocking and receiving skills need refinement, but he should be able to stick at the position.

Development Path: Despite not dominating at the plate, Kelly showed enough development to earn a jump to the Florida State League in 2015.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Kelly has good power potential and decent plate discipline. Once he gets comfortable behind the plate, his offense should be able to catch up and he has modest fantasy value in deep NL only formats.

Upside Rating: 7D

14. Juan Herrera (SS) … 5-11, 165 … 21 … R/R … 2010 FA, Dominican Republic

Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
Peoria (MWL) 379 .274/.320/.364 6 86 0.4 2/27
Palm Beach (FSL) 31 .194/.219/.194 3 84 0.2 0/1
Comments: Herrera came over to the Cardinals as part of the Mark Rzepczynski deal in 2011 and has developed into one of the better prospects in the system. Defensively Herrera has the tools to make all of the plays. He has good range, quick feet, soft hands, and a strong arm. He has a good approach at the plate and makes consistent contact, but is not likely to ever hit for much power. He does have good speed and stole 28 bases.

Development Path: Herrera struggled against more advanced pitching when he moved up to the FSL and will likely head back to Palm Beach in 2015. While he does a good job of controlling the strike zone, Herrera needs to draw more walks to effectively utilize his plus speed.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: Herrera isn’t a great fantasy play as much of his value is tied up in his plus defense. He doesn’t project to have much power, but he does have good speed and his defense could get him playing time in the majors

Upside Rating: 7D

15. Ronnie Williams (RHP) … 6-0, 170 … 18 … 2014 (2) HS, FL

Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
Cardinals (GCL) 36.1 4.71 1.32 2.2 7.4 3.3 0.279
Comments: Athletic right-hander was the 68th pick in the 2014 draft. Despite his small stature, Williams pounds the strike zone with a plus mid-90s fastball that tops out at 98 mph. In high school he tinkered with both a slider and a curve, but showed a good curve in his limited debut and surprising feel for a change-up. Showed good poise and decent control, walking just 9 while striking out 30 in 36.1 IP. There is some effort to his high 3/4 delivery, but he has good front-side mechanics and a nice compact motion.

Development Path: Look for the Cardinals to give Williams some much needed time in instructional ball and then a mid-season posting to rookie ball in the Appalachian League. He was a two-way player in high school so is still a bit raw on the mound, but has good athleticism and is a sleeper in the system.

Fantasy Impact at Maturity: While Williams doesn’t have the prototypical frame of a major league starter, he does have a live arm and a plus mid-90s heater. At this point he is very much a lottery ticket and not ready for fantasy consideration, but athletic pitchers that can hit 98mph have to at least be on your radar.

Upside Rating: 8E

2015 contributors: Mike O’Neill (OF), Tommy Pham (OF), Zach Petrick (RHP), Boone Whiting (RHP), Heath Wyatt (RHP), John Gast (LHP), Dean Kiekhefer (LHP), Keith Butler (RHP), Jacob Wilson (2B), Breyvic Valera (2B), Jonathan Rodriguez (1B), Patrick Wisdom (3B), and Joey Donofrio (RHP).

Terms
Ctrl – control rate – walks per nine innings. The best pitchers will have three of less.

Dom – dominance rate – strikeouts allowed per nine innings. The best pitchers will have six or higher.

Cmd – command ratio – strikeouts/walks. Upper echelon of command pitchers will be at 3.0. Lower than 1.0 (more walks than strikeouts) indicates little chance of success.

ct% - contact rate – (AB-K)/AB – Ability to get the ball into play. The best have 90 percent or better while hackers are at 75 percent or less.

Eye – batting eye – BB/K- measures a hitter’s strike zone judgment. Over 1.00 correlates to .300 hitters. Less than .50 signals a low batting average.

Player Potential Rating - a player’s upside potential on a scale of 1-10

10 – Hall of Fame-type player
9 – Elite player
8 – Solid regular
7 – Average regular
6 – Platoon player
5 – Major League reserve player
4 - Top minor league player
3 - Average minor league player
2 - Minor league reserve player
1 - Minor league roster filler

Probability Rating - a player’s realistic chance of achieving his potential on a scale of A-E

A - 90% probability of reaching potential
B - 70% probability of reaching potential
C - 50% probability of reaching potential
D - 30% probability of reaching potential
E - 10% probability of reaching potential



In Part two, for members of The Cardinal Nation, we will analyze the Minor League Analyst’s organizational ratings for the National League Central Division clubs with scoring of each in the areas of hitting, pitching, top-end talent, depth and overall and compare them to recent past seasons.



Special bonus for The Cardinal Nation readers: The first reader who posts interest on the special thread discussing this article series located on our Cardinals message forum will receive a special prize.

BaseballHQ has provided copies of the brand-new 2015 Minor League Baseball Analyst, which will be mailed to the winners. One copy will be awarded following each segment of this four-part series, so if you don’t win this time, join The Cardinal Nation today and keep trying.

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