Welcome back to The Cardinal Nation’s in-season St. Louis Cardinals Monthly Top 40 Prospect List. Each month during the season, I present my then-current view of the top prospects in the Cardinals system.
This year, I may prepare these reports around mid-month, as I am doing here. There are just so many other topics that also require attention at the start of each month and these should not take a back seat.
Being completely honest, another reason for the delay was the reality that the first month of the 2015 season across the Cardinals system was not very good. That was the case offensively across the board and the pitching above Class-A was not where it was expected or needed to be, either.
As a result, when I sat down to make adjustments to the base rankings, The Cardinal Nation top 40 for 2015 set last November, there was not a single player in the top 20 that I was excited about moving up in these new rankings. Overall, the number of top 40 players I wanted to drop down outnumbered the risers by about four to one.
The November top 40 is the basis of the “Prior” column in the table below. I moved few top 20 names around and only altered the sequence of prospects when I felt April results warranted it.
I moved five players off the top 40 and of course, five others came on. Not surprisingly, four of the five to join are pitchers. That does not mean those who left the top 40 will not be back. I also easily came up with seven other names, who joined the honorable mention or “HM” list.
New and repeated reminders
While any rankings with numbers attached appear very absolute, I suggest you look at players in groupings. For example, there is little difference in prospects number 21 through 25, for example, or 23 through 27.
It should be remembered that we always have separate awards for the top Players of the Month. What I am trying to do here is take a longer-term, prospect-oriented view, instead. Current performances do matter, but not as much until they are demonstrated over a greater period of time. A good month can reinforce an earlier opinion, while a bad month does not usually materially affect a prospect’s ultimate future.
As always, this report reflects my opinions and not that of the entire The Cardinal Nation staff, so feel to address any comments or questions either through the premium message board or via email or private message if you prefer.
Note: Players remain eligible for the list as long as they maintain their prospect status (less than 50 innings pitched or less than 130 plate appearances in the major leagues.)
Again, following each player’s name under “Prior” is where he was ranked by this site during the off-season. Next are the levels at which the player competed during the month, followed by his primary position.
The top 10
I left the top five alone at this point. Marco Gonzales had a fine spring, Alex Reyes is racking up strikeouts and Rob Kaminsky continues to be a consistent force. Like Gonzales, Randal Grichuk was good when healthy and Stephen Piscotty is still finding his way with his hitting adjustments.
|Impressed in spring training. Would be in StL rotation now if not for injury.|
|Strikeouts getting all the attention, but cutting walks is catching my eye.|
|Nice start to Florida State League overshadowed by Reyes' Ks.|
|4||Randal Grichuk||4||StL DL||OF|
|Should play a significant role at MLB level as soon as proven healthy.|
|Good, but not eye-catching start to second year at Triple-A.|
|Needs to keep working on secondary offerings, but should be back soon.|
|7||Jack Flaherty||6||Peo DL||RHS|
|Made big step to Class-A, but injury caused everyone to step back.|
|1st shot at MLB start and stumbled, but will get another chance later.|
|Doing a nice job reaching base, but needs more help getting home.|
|10||Luke Weaver||9||PB DL||RHS|
|Did he try to do too much too fast this spring? Still in EST camp.|
The second 10
I was not enthused about the Aprils of much of anyone in the numbers 11 through 17 group. Perhaps most surprising to me is Breyvic Valera’s slow start at Springfield.
Reigning system-wide Player of the Year Magneuris Sierra may have about another month to better figure out left-handed pitching and breaking stuff. The outfielder has already been dropped out of the Peoria leadoff spot.
I know Xavier Scruggs is 27 years old and is not a natural outfielder. Then again, he has been the most producitve hitter in the system in both the final month last season and the first month of 2015 as well and stands one call away from St. Louis.
|Doing well behind plate and producing runs, but average still low.|
|Started slowly, but has time to make up for lost 2014.|
|13||Tommy Pham||13||StL DL||OF|
|Pushed himself too hard too fast in spring. Won't be back until June.|
|Led underachieving Springfield team in HR/RBI, but batted just .229.|
|Career .300 hitter repeating Double-A, but hit surprising .203 in April.|
|Big step from GCL to Midwest League remains open question.|
|Another league repeater off to very quiet start for Palm Beach.|
|Won MWL spot to open season and leading league in steals. BA low.|
|Could be next EST pitcher to move up to Peoria once Flaherty returns.|
|Clearly the best hitter in the system in April. LF experiment underway.|
The third 10 includes many of the usual subjects. A couple of noteworthy names moving up into this group include our Pitcher of the Month for April, Daniel Poncedeleon and 2014 second-rounder Andrew Morales, quickly progressing to Double-A Springfield.
Two additional Double-A rotation members - Nick Petree and Mike Mayers - will be looking to improve in May. Three others besides Sosa – Malik Collymore, Bryan Dobzanski and Ronnie Williams – will need to wait until short-season play begins to show their stuff. Collymore is also working on a position change.
|Slow start in April, but picking up play considerably in 1H May.|
|Based on views of his readiness, could have been a bit overrated.|
|Too many baserunners meant first full month in AA was spotty.|
|Made MLB debut one month into AAA. More growth ahead.|
|Big 2014 with bat in GCL, but now learning outfield in EST.|
|Still working on mechanical adjustments and repetition in Florida.|
|Very disappointing April in return to AA. 2.04 WHIP worst in system.|
|Our system-wide Pitcher of the Month for April over Reyes.|
|Despite aggressive promotion to AA, holding his own.|
|Throwing 92-93 with curve and changeup in EST. Short-season ahead.|
|8 steals in 1st month at Palm Beach, but switch-hitter batted .230|
|Consistent run producer, but catching experiment appears to be over.|
|Another surprising promotion and high strikeouts have followed.|
|Has all the ingredients for success - if he can get walks under control.|
|Was actually hitting better just before being returned to Florida.|
|Big jump from SC going well except April K's and BB's same at 11 each.|
|Continues to have success closing. Could be promotion candidate.|
|One of most consistent April hitters in entire system in pitchers league.|
|Was first of talented Peoria rotation to earn promotion to Palm Beach.|
|Off to a great start with Peoria and just turned 22 this week.|
All could easily rejoin this list at a later date, but currently lack the momentum to hold off the new top 40 members noted above.
|Worst April of any starter in system (8.66 ERA). Future looks cloudy.|
|Before it was health issues, but .161 FSL debut concerning.|
|off||Dixon Llorens||37||PB DL||RHR|
|Can't impress if you can't play.|
|Nothing really bad, nor good in 1st month in MWL. Could be back in T40.|
|Matt Pearce is the SP who made the leap from JC to Peoria.|
My honorable mentions list for this month is quite long, including five pitchers and three corner infielders. Three of the pitchers joined for what they have done while the others are being watched for what they could do.
Mitch Harris accomplished what many thought he couldn’t and reached the Majors. The right-hander has performed well in relief, but I worry some about his below-average strikeouts, above-average walk rate and fly ball tendencies. He will likely graduate from eligibility for this report before fully answering those questions.
Starter Matt Pearce and reliever Kyle Barraclough each had a strong April. The latter, an invitee to STEP Camp (as was his Palm Beach teammate Nielsen), did not allow a run all month. Pearce made what appears to be a seamless leap from Johnson City to Peoria.
At the end, I called out a couple of hard throwers from extended spring training camp, Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez. They will have to earn their way onto the top 40 by their pitching in short-season ball.
Jonathan Rodriguez, back at Springfield, was tops in the system in April batting average (.354) and ranked second in slugging and OPS to Scruggs, who is ahead of him in the system depth chart at first base.
Palm Beach’s Bruce Caldwell led the system in April runs scored with 16, was second in OBP and fourth in OPS. Last season, the third baseman ranked in the top 10 in triples and home runs. Danny Diekroeger had a 21-game hitting streak with State College last season and in his first month at Peoria, scored a dozen runs and was 5-for-5 in stolen bases.
|Navy grad beat the odds at 29, but similar BBs, Ks concern me a bit.|
|Back for second shot at AA and hitting well. Played 1 game at 3B so far.|
|Very impressive transition from Appy League. Not a strikeout pitcher.|
|No runs allowed and throwing 96-97 means promo may be coming.|
|Not flashy, but very underrated and consistent run producer.|
|Ex-Stanford star could replace Wisdom as system's top 3B prospect.|
|102 on the radar gun says it all. Will sit on HM list until GCL play.|
|2014 DSL results rough, but 97-99 heat warrants watching.|
That is it for this month. Thank you for reading these monthly rankings.
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