2015 Cardinals Prospects: What the Others Say

Our seventh annual analysis and consolidation of national top ten lists of St. Louis Cardinals prospects - from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, MLB.com and BaseballHQ – comparing them to our own list, of course!

As the annual prospect rankings season winds down and with real baseball soon to be played, Baseball America released its national top 100 list last week. All that remains from the major prospect raters is BA’s system-wide rankings. With most national comparative information finally in hand, it is time to continue our annual three-part feature.

In the first installment, we looked at how St. Louis Cardinals prospects fared in national top 100 rankings.

Here, we bring together the views of the Cardinals top prospects from a group of well-known national experts, compare them to each other and finally to our 2015 rankings published earlier this winter here at The Cardinal Nation.

The raters cited here are five well-known concerns that annually rate and rank prospects from all 30 organizations, not just the Cardinals. They may use slightly different methods and qualifying criteria, but the bottom line is that they all end up with an ordered list of names. While we remain biased here that our rankings are best since we focus on just this one system from top to bottom, other opinions are always interesting to compare and contrast.

Following is the Cardinals top ten prospect lists from Baseball America (BA), ESPN’s Keith Law (ESPN), BaseballHQ (HQ), Baseball Prospectus (BP) and MLB.com (MLB) placed side-by-side. At the end, we will meld the five into one “consensus” list.

1 Stephen Piscotty Piscotty Piscotty Gonzales Reyes 1
2 Marco Gonzales Kaminsky Gonzales Reyes Gonzales 2
3 Alex Reyes Gonzales Reyes Piscotty Piscotty 3
4 Rob Kaminsky Reyes Flaherty Grichuk Kaminsky 4
5 Carson Kelly Flaherty Kaminsky Kaminsky Flaherty 5
6 Jacob Wilson Luke Weaver Tilson Flaherty Grichuk 6
7 Magneuris Sierra Tilson Cooney Cooney Weaver 7
8 Jack Flaherty Randal Grichuk Sam Tuivailala Tuivailala Cooney 8
9 Edmundo Sosa Juan Herrera Weaver Tilson Tilson 9
10 Charlie Tilson Tim Cooney Kelly Sierra Tuivailala 10

With the graduations of Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Carlos Martinez, every Cardinals top 10 experienced a major shake-up for 2015.

However, there is also considerable common ground from last year to this. 12 months ago, outfielder Stephen Piscotty plus pitchers Marco Gonzales, Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky appeared in every top 10, though in slightly different sequence. The fifth returning prospect to also appear on every list in 2014 is Tim Cooney, however, in 2015, the lefty fell out of ESPN’s top 10.

This year, Piscotty is the Cardinals number one prospect on three of the five lists. The three top pitchers are also in the same order on three of the five rankings – Gonzales-Reyes-Kaminsky – though not the same three lists that have Piscotty on top.

In their initial year eligible, first-round pitchers Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver made strong showings. Flaherty made a clean 5-for-5 sweep while Weaver landed on three top 10s.

The sixth Cardinals prospect to appear on every list is centerfielder Charlie Tilson.

For the second consecutive year, 15 players are named on at least one of the top ten lists. Every level of the US-based system is represented by at least one prospect – from St. Louis to the Gulf Coast League.

A quick look back

The 15 selections this year and last compare to 14 in 2013 and 13 the year before.

Dropped off from 2014 lists reason
Oscar Taveras all grad
Carlos Martinez all grad
Kolten Wong all grad
James Ramsey 4 trade
Tyrell Jenkins 1 trade
Patrick Wisdom 1 perform
Chris Rivera 1 perform
Vaughn Bryan 1 perform

Of the 15 names to appear in 2014, just over half, eight, dropped off the Cardinals top 10s for 2015. As mentioned above, three graduated to the Majors. Two more were traded away, James Ramsey and Tyrell Jenkins, while the other three slipped off due to performance, in my assessment.

It is very telling to note that the ones to fall off the list this year are last year’s outliers, having been named on just one top 10 12 months ago (Patrick Wisdom, Vaughn Bryan and Chris Rivera).

Even at the time, it was easy to see where some raters were reaching. Last year, I called the Bryan and Rivera selections “novelty picks.” Nothing against the players, but they were still in short-season ball. It was far too early to label them top 10 material, as their results last season on the field confirmed.

Now, let’s get back to the present.

The names that appear on all five top ten lists for 2015 are listed as “Unanimous Picks”. You can also see which of the lists ranked these six prospects the best and closest to the bottom (worst). Of course, the latter is a relative term, as these players are the best in entire Cardinals system.

Unanimous picks (6) best who worst who
Stephen Piscotty 1 ESPN/MLB/BP 3 BA/HQ
Marco Gonzales 1 BA 3 MLB
Alex Reyes 1 HQ 4 MLB
Rob Kaminsky 2 MLB 5 BA
Jack Flaherty 4 BP 8 ESPN
Charlie Tilson 6 BP 10 ESPN

As noted above, Piscotty is the clear leader by virtue of having been ranked first on three lists. Interestingly, he was third on the other two lists. In those cases, Baseball America named Gonzales number one while BaseballHQ tabbed Reyes as their number one Cardinals prospect for 2015. Gonzales also snagged three number two votes.

Like the others, Kaminsky’s votes were in a relatively narrow bandwidth on the various lists, in this case between second and fifth. Flaherty was generally in the middle of the top 10 with Tilson always in the second five. It is interesting to note that the same sites were both most bullish on the latter two (Baseball Prospectus) and least optimistic (ESPN).

As touched on above, the only player missing on just one of the five external lists for 2015 is Tim Cooney. The Cardinals’ left-hander fell short of ESPN’s top ten, which I find surprising since ESPN’s number five ranking of Cooney last year was his best showing on any list.

In the second 10 of the four lists in 2015, Cooney improved his showing slightly year-to-year on BP’s and HQ’s lists, remained flat according to MLB and dropped one spot per BA. His best placement was number seven on BA’s and BP’s rankings.

Four of five (1) off best who
Tim Cooney ESPN 7 BP/BA

On just two of the five lists a year ago following his trade from the Angels, Randal Grichuk is on three lists for 2015. Of all the 15 Cardinals prospects called out this year, the outfielder seems to cause the most disagreement. Grichuk is as high as fourth on BA’s list, yet missed ESPN’s and BP’s top 10s entirely.

Along with 2014 draft pick Weaver, the other Cardinal to make three of the five lists is hard-throwing reliever Sam Tuivailala. Both were always in the second five, but that is still a strong showing.

Three-peats (3) off best who
Randal Grichuk ESPN/BP 4 BA
Luke Weaver ESPN/BA 6 MLB
Sam Tuivailala ESPN/MLB 8 BP/BA

Former third baseman-now catcher Carson Kelly appears on two of the five lists, down from three top 10 showings one year ago. After being ranked eighth by MLB last year, he dropped off their 2015 list and fell from sixth to 10th according to BP. Yet ESPN sees Kelly differently. On Law’s list, he moved up from seventh last year to fifth now, his best 2015 showing.

Two raters were not concerned that Magneuris Sierra’s magnificent 2014 performance was in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The centerfielder scored two placements in his top 10 debuts, with ESPN and BP.

Two-timers (2) off best who
Carson Kelly MLB/BA/HQ 5 ESPN
Magneuris Sierra MLB/BP/HQ 7 ESPN

Three top ten prospects received one placement each. They are each making their national top 10 debuts, but unlike last year, I see all of them as legitimate selections.

Continuing to not follow the pack, ESPN likes second baseman Jacob Wilson enough to rocket him into their top 10 all the way up at number six. As a point of comparison, that is ahead of unanimous picks Flaherty and Tilson. In major league camp this spring, Wilson needs a strong showing to stand out against a lot of infield competition.

The next two are both shortstops. Between Peoria and Palm Beach last season, Juan Herrera translated his promise into production, ranking in the top 10 of the Cardinals system in doubles, RBI and stolen bases. That potent combination likely caught MLB’s attention.

Edmundo Sosa is a highly thought of, but his lone top 10 placement is based on potential, since his 2014 season at State College was cut short by injury. I expect to see the just-turned 19-year-old strut his stuff in the Midwest League this summer and if he performs up to expectations, the right-handed hitter will make more top 10s next winter.

As you will see below, one top 10 vote was not enough to place any one of these three into the consolidated top 10.

Lone star picks (3) rank who
Jacob Wilson 6 ESPN
Juan Herrera 9 MLB
Edmundo Sosa 9 ESPN

Bringing it all together

Here are the blended rankings of the five national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of “11”. The five rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on.

This time, there was a tie score for 10th in the consolidated rankings between Carson Kelly and Sam Tuivailala. The former had the best single vote, a fifth-place ranking, but the latter was named on more lists, three to two.

The overall table is compared to The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com rankings, listed next to it. (For reference, here is the link to our full top 40 list for 2015.)

Consolidated top ten rank The Cardinal Nation rank
Stephen Piscotty 1 Marco Gonzales 1
Marco Gonzales 2 Alex Reyes 2
Alex Reyes 3 Rob Kaminsky 3
Rob Kaminsky 4 Randal Grichuk 4
Jack Flaherty 5 Stephen Piscotty 5
Randal Grichuk 6 Jack Flaherty 6
Charlie Tilson 7 Tim Cooney 7
Tim Cooney 8 Sam Tuivailala 8
Luke Weaver 9 Luke Weaver 9
Carson Kelly T10 Charlie Tilson 10
Sam Tuivailala T10    
The trailers      
Jacob Wilson T12 Carson Kelly 11
Magneuris Sierra T12 Aledmys Diaz 12
Juan Herrera T14 Tommy Pham 13
Edmundo Sosa T14 Jacob Wilson 14
    Breyvic Valera 15

Though our list came out far ahead of the others in terms of timing, I do not think that is the reason why the consensus of the other five looks quite different at first impression.

First, let’s consider the similarities, though. The same ten players appear on both lists - with ordering differences, of course. The unique player making the others’ consolidated top 10 is Kelly, tied for 10th. In the big picture, we clearly agree on the names.

In terms or order, the major difference is Piscotty. The outfielder is the clear consensus top prospect, while his TCN placement is just fifth. Putting that aside, however, we agree exactly on the sequence of the top pitchers - Gonzales, Reyes and Kaminsky.

Comparing the rest of the two lists, every player is within two spots of his placement on the other list with one exception. Tilson is seventh on the consolidated list and 10th on TCN’s list – hardly a major disagreement. Other than that, one list or the other likes a player a tad better or less than the other.

I included those who missed the consolidated top 10 with TCN’s 11th through 15th ranked prospects. Here, there are some significant differences. Kelly, Wilson are common, but the three on the consolidated list, Sierra, Herrera and Sosa, are replaced by Aledmys Diaz, Tommy Pham and Breyvic Valera on TCN’s list.

Here is where you get another benefit by being a TCN member, as I think the national guys are missing out in Diaz big time. Of course, we will all know for sure once the players take the field again for a new season.

Related article

Earlier, we looked at as Cardinals prospects’ placements on a series of national top 100 lists: Cardinals Prospects in 2015 National Top 100s

Coming soon

The final article in this annual series will analyze include various views of the comparative national rankings of the Cardinals’ system as well as their key rivals.

Links to prior years’ editions of this article: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Join the discussion with other Cardinals fans here

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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