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.
With all that goes on during June, especially the activities centered on the draft, I decided to wait for this month’s ranking. It is now time, with the first wave of signings done and short-season play underway.
By now, we not only have almost three months of full-season results this season to consider, there are 29 eligible members of the Cards’ 2015 draft class signed and in uniform who now can figure into the top 40 mix.
In reality, of course, only a handful of the newest Cardinals have a place in the top 40 prospects in the entire system even before playing more than a few games.
The challenge is to decide how many of the draftees belong and where they fit. While my initial thoughts are reflected below, I have independently asked three of the TCN’s staffers to provide their views, which will be presented here on Tuesday.
Another ongoing challenge is to balance short-term spikes in performance with long-term potential. The focus here is to use the former to help adjust the latter, not to pick the Players of the Month. We have a separate process for that.
The May top 40 is the basis of the “Prior” column in the table below. I moved many more names around than before, especially altering the sequence of full-season prospects. Given about half the 2015 season is already done, there is a lot more to go on.
Six players moved off the top 40, including one graduation. Of course, six others came on. Perhaps surprisingly, the mix is three incumbents who improved their showing and three 2015 draftees.
The honorable mention or “HM” list is longer than ever, with eight names. Three are new draftees, one is a player moving up with the other four carryover honorable mentions from May.
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 reiterated 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 last month. Next are the player’s current levels, followed by their primary position.
The top 10
The considerable shakeup does not begin at the very, very top. I had considered moving Alex Reyes ahead of Marco Gonzales despite the latter being on the cusp of joining the big-league rotation. Now that both are on the disabled list with shoulder issues supposedly not serious but still questionable, I am stepping back from changes right now.
With the graduation of Randal Grichuk and a quietly solid season at Memphis, Stephen Piscotty has pulled into the number three position. His 22 doubles seven more than any other player in the system and his 10 homers are fourth, putting just after Xavier Scruggs. After steady Rob Kaminsky at four, the second five from May all just moved up one spot.
At number 10 with a bullet is Tommy Pham, who has 18 RBI in 20 games since coming off the DL and has posted a strong 1.008 OPS for Memphis.
|1||Marco Gonzales||1||Mem DL||LHS|
|Almost certainly would be in StL rotation now and may be before too long.|
|2||Alex Reyes||2||PB DL||RHS|
|Strikeouts getting attention, but shoulder injury causes some concern.|
|Hitting well in 2nd year at Triple-A. 50% more doubles than anyone else in system.|
|Nice introduction to Florida State League with 2.34 ERA.|
|Needs to keep working on secondary offerings, but should be back up soon.|
|Made big step to Class-A stick after shaking off long opening-day injury.|
|1st shot at MLB failed, but building case at Triple-A for another chance.|
|Quietly putting together a strong season at Springfield. .294 with 23 steals.|
|Followed worst start with best. Late start to 1st full season but 2.73 ERA in 7 starts.|
|Returned strongly from serious spring quad injury but needs a new window.|
The second 10
I feel a there is a considerable gap between the first 10 and the second 10. Most of the prospects between 11 and 20 have some major questions.
Another post-ranking observation is that there are just two pitchers among this entire group. In my big picture view, the next tier of starters after the big names in the top 10 have not yet stepped up this season. Many of the pitchers I had expected to do well are instead slipping in the rankings.
Of course, leading off this group are the Cards’ top two selections from this month’s draft. It felt right to not place Nick Plummer and Jake Woodford in the top 10, yet it seemed fair to slip them ahead of disappointments below such as Carson Kelly and Aledmys Diaz.
Among outfielders, I liked Plummer after Tilson and Pham but ahead of Magneuris Sierra. I did not feel comfortable placing Woodford ahead of Cooney or Weaver, and after him, there is really no pitcher close. The supplemental first rounder could have been as low as 18th and still been the next hurler after Weaver in these rankings.
One player who has a legitimate case to argue he should be ahead of the draftees is Jacob Wilson. Between Springfield and Memphis, the infielder leads the entire system in both home runs and RBI.
Reigning Player of the Year Sierra was clearly over his head in the Midwest League, but is off to a nice start at Johnson City. I did not ding him in the rankings, though as noted above, I jumped Pham over him and placed Plummer ahead, too. Midwest League All-Star shortstop Oscar Mercado has both strengths and weaknesses.
Having earned their way to St. Louis, both Xavier Scruggs and Greg Garcia move into the top 20. One of the biggest pleasant surprises of the season, Palm Beach righty Trey Nielsen, rockets past 17 others based on a performance that to date has been better than any of his three top 10 rotation mates – Reyes, Kaminsky and Weaver.
|Ranked here based on talent. Will have to earn his keep with production.|
|Ditto for the Cardinals top pitching signee. May not be pushed in 2015, though.|
|Leads the system in HR/RBI with 15/47. Yeah, I was surprised, too.|
|At what point does sub-Mendoza line BA and OPS under .500 cause worry?|
|As many RBI in 4 Appy League games (7) as in 2 months with Peoria.|
|Leading MWL and Cards system in steals, but .286 OBP concerning.|
|27 year-old showing he can get hot and contribute at any level.|
|Earned his way to St. Louis but needs to seize on few opportunities to stick.|
|Huge jump in rankings as PB ERA better than Reyes, Kaminsky, Weaver.|
|Unless he learns to handle breaking pitches at the plate, his future looks cloudy.|
|BA key asset but career .300 hitter having rough 2nd season at Springfield.|
|Needs time to work out rough edges offensively and defensively.|
|Additional velocity this season and strong All-Star campaign at Peoria.|
|Could St. Louis handle an offensive-focused backup catcher?|
|Don't look now, but .852 OPS and 27 RBI since May 18 return to Springfield.|
|Opportunity to lead Johnson City staff in his 1st full season.|
|Injury led to DL time at Springfield and reset back down at Palm Beach.|
|28||Juan Herrera||17||PB DL||SS|
|League repeater off to very quiet start for Palm Beach before DL move.|
|Couldn't push way onto Peoria roster so needs to step up at State College.|
|Made MLB debut one month into AAA but hitting has been disappointment.|
The final 10 is a mixed bag, though there was a lot of competition for these spots.
Leading off the group is Bryce Denton, the high school third baseman taken in the second round, 66th overall. Should he be higher? Perhaps, but let’s see how he performs.
Next are a couple of GCL standouts from last season moving up to the Appy League in Malik Collymore and Ronnie Williams. Injured players C.J. McElroy, Mike Mayers and Mason Katz are holding on – for now, at least.
They really like Mitch Harris in St. Louis, but his numbers just don’t jump off the page. Still, a recent extended stint in the bigs cannot be ignored.
|Talent and bonus earned the former Vanderbilt commit an initial spot here.|
|Big 2014 with bat, but now playing left field with Sierra on same JC team.|
|Like Dobzanski, being put at head end of JC rotation. Let's see how he does.|
|34||C.J. McElroy||31||PB DL||OF|
|Decent .345 OBP and 21/30 in steals (3rd-best in system) but injured again.|
|Navy grad beat the odds at 29, but similar BBs, Ks and .300+ BAA concern me.|
|One of most quiet success stories. 2 rough June starts or would be higher.|
|37||Mike Mayers||27||Spr DL||RHS|
|Very disappointing April before long stay on Double-A DL continues.|
|Great April (2.53 ERA), but terrible May and June (7.00+ ERA). What is wrong?|
|39||Mason Katz||32||PB DL||2B|
|Consistent run producer, but can't help weak Palm Beach offense from DL.|
|One of just a few .300 hitters in the system this season. Batting .405 in June.|
As mentioned above, Randal Grichuk seems to be settling into on ongoing role with St. Louis and has enough at-bats now that he is forever off this report.
|Should play a significant role at MLB level from here on out.|
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.
|Wick the pitcher will need time to approach results of Wick the hitter.|
|off||Fernando Baez||34||Peo DL||RHS|
|Can't harness his control challenges from the DL.|
|Continues to have success but bumped out of top 40 by new draftees.|
|Nice start to season in April but up and down since.|
|off||Will Anderson||39||PB DL||RHS|
|Hit the wall shortly after early season promotion from Peoria and now hurt.|
My honorable mentions list for this month is quite long, including three draftees and five incumbents. Four are pitchers and the other four are corner infielders.
We will all be watching pitching newcomers Jordan Hicks and Ian Oxnevad, but it is unclear how much workload they will see this season. Paul DeJong, on the other hand, may be misplaced in Johnson City. Perhaps Denton’s arrival will allow him to move up, both in level and onto the top 40.
|3rd rounder may not get a lot of chances to show stuff early on.|
|8th rounder received big bonus. Will see how he is eased into action.|
|4th rounder dominating Appy League pitching, batting .500 in early going.|
|40th rounder having Double-A success expected of Morales.|
|Earned AA promo but less dominant there than at PB. Walks are up.|
|Consistent run producer is tied for 4th in system with 35 RBI.|
|Ex-Stanford star could soon see DeJong and Denton coming from behind.|
|Steady but not flashy run producer could be next Scruggs.|
That is it for this month. Thank you for reading these monthly rankings and make sure you come back for our next feature, which will highlight the views of other TCN staffers on where they think the Cardinals draftees fit on the top 40.
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