On Monday, The Cardinal Nation members were able to read, analyze and disagree in some cases with my St. Louis Cardinals Top 40 Prospect Rankings for June.
On one hand, the job of whittling down over 200 names to 40 was getting easier due to three months of full season game results on the books.
Still, how does one assess a hot month or two or a cold period of play against a player’s career body of work?
Complicating the effort is the influx of 30 signed 2015 draftees to consider, creating some interesting questions.
For example, how does one assess the potential of an 18-year-old yet to play a single professional game compared to a seasoned college star playing in rookie ball versus a minor league veteran currently performing well at Triple-A and on the cusp of reaching St. Louis?
Yet all of that and more is the challenge, to integrate old and new, younger and older, pitchers and position players, etc. into one ordered list.
Inherently, there is no right or wrong here, just opinions.
As noted above, one of the big challenges for June was to integrate the 2015 draftees into the top 40 prospect rankings. Here is the general process I followed.
First, I had to rank the draftees among themselves. Just ordering them by round taken or size of bonus received would not be sufficient as the new world of bonus pools and slotting complicates matters.
Next step was to try to assess how the draftees compare to the other players at their defensive position already in the system. For example, do I think newly-signed Jake Woodford is a better pitching prospect than last year’s first-rounder Luke Weaver?
Then, I had to decide which players came off the bottom of the list. After all, it would be easy to put 50 or 60 players in the top 40, but that is dodging another hard part of the monthly process.
The group challenge
Though I made my decisions in a vacuum, without getting input from others, I decided it would be a fun exercise to ask other staffers from The Cardinal Nation how they would rank the new draftees in their own top 40.
Two accepted my challenge. Derek Shore is in his second season as our local Springfield reporter and has worked on our annual site top 40 for the last two winters. Scott Schook is new to TCN, but a long-time draft and prospect analyst.
I made the job tougher for the two by not sharing my new June rankings ahead of time (though they could refer to the May rankings for context). After all, I did not want my biases to influence their thinking. One of the two followed that approach while the other peeked. You will be able to guess who is who below!
I also did not ask either of them to identify which players would be taken out of their top 40, but in hindsight, I wonder if that would have tempered some of the new player enthusiasm.
The big picture
Of the 29 signed draftees when the June rankings were prepared, five new Cardinals received top 40 mention from all three of us while another was named by two of the three. Five of the six of special note were high schoolers this spring.
Schook also did an extra credit assignment by including the 30th signee, Harrison Bader. Though at the time I prepared the June top 40, the deal with the Florida outfielder was not yet done, and therefore Bader is not top 40-eligible until July.
Here is a summary table of our assessments.
|Top 40||Top 40||Top 40|
* not signed at time of ranking
As you can see, I was the most conservative, initially ranking just three draftees in my top 40. Shore and Schook both named five, with the latter being the most aggressive. In fact, Scott plugged three new draftees into his top 10 prospects in the entire Cardinals system.
What is similar?
We all placed first the Cards’ initial pick this June, Nick Plummer, while my peers agree independently that the outfielder should be ranked sixth overall in the system. We all see supplemental first-rounder Jake Woodford near the end of the top 10 or beginning of the second 10. All three of us place second-rounder Bryce Denton in our top 40s.
What is different?
A lot more.
Schook puts Denton ahead of Woodford, with both joining Plummer in his system’s top 10. Shore and I put Denton in the 30-ish area.
Fourth-rounder Paul DeJong, the only college player in the ranked six, generated the most variation in opinion. The former Illinois State star is a top 20 player on Schook’s list, just scraped onto Shore’s top 40 and is only an honorable mention in my rankings.
Supplemental third-rounder Jordan Hicks made Shore’s top 40, but was not mentioned by Shook. The latter placed lefty Ian Oxnevad at number 30, while the other two of us give the eighth-rounder honorable mention status at this time.
Now, let’s look at how each of us individually view the six.
Shore (6): Plummer comes from a cold-weather state in Michigan which means his raw ability could take longer to translate to professional baseball than most. His talent is undeniable and is way beyond that of a Charlie Tilson, and projects to offer more power than Tommy Pham or Magneuris Sierra.
Schook (6): While Plummer isn’t the flashiest player the Cardinals selected in the draft, he may be the most well-rounded. He has at least average tools across the board with plus bat speed and strong plate discipline. A Shin-soo Choo comparison is perfect for him, and like Choo, he can probably handle center field but would fit better in left.
Walton (11): Among outfielders, I liked Plummer after Tilson and Pham but ahead of Sierra. At this point, I just can’t put any of the new recruits above top 6-10 prospects in the system like Jack Flaherty, Tim Cooney and Luke Weaver. That surely could change down the road, though.
Shore (12): I ranked Woodford based strictly on his draft position and signing bonus. He received $1.8 MM, an increase in the over $1.5 MM value attached to the 39th overall selection. The right-hander comes from the Florida hotbed, armed with a 95 mph sinking-fastball that gets beaten into the ground, and couples that with a fringe-slider and changeup that flashes promise. The Cardinals really like to work with pitchers who have potential durable bodies and arm strength which Woodford possesses.
Schook (9): Woodford’s rating for me rests on his plus fastball combined with his ideal pitching frame which generates good sink on his heater. The slider and changeup both have the ability to be at least average, giving him a very good three-pitch mix. His ceiling to me is a lower-end #2/high-end #3 starter similar to a lesser version of Shelby Miller.
Walton (12): I simply placed Woodford right after Plummer for now. I did not feel comfortable ranking Woodford in the top 10 ahead of fellow pitchers Cooney and Weaver, and after him, there is really no hurler nearby. The next-closest pitcher after Woodford in my top 40 is at number 19. For me, he is a second-10 prospect in this system until he proves otherwise - or others above him stumble.
Shore (27): I would have ranked Denton ahead of Patrick Wisdom as the top overall third base prospect, but a recent tear at the plate by Wisdom led me to alter my view. The Cardinals committed significant dollars to buy Denton out of a Vanderbilt scholarship, a $1.2 MM bonus. Almost $260K over slot speaks volumes to how badly they wanted his electric bat.
Schook (7): This rating actually hinges on where Denton ends up on the field. If Denton plays third, I would actually flip Plummer with him. However, when scouts are split on a player’s defensive position, I tend to shade to the lesser defensive spot. Denton has excellent bat speed and makes enough contact to use it well. If he can stick at third base, he could become a Todd Frazier type of bat in the middle of a lineup. If he has to move to the outfield, he could become a Ryan Braun.
Walton (31): Whoa. Those are some heady comps! I admit that I am conservative and that is ok. I remember the excitement when the Cards drafted three third basemen in the first 86 players taken in the 2012 draft. Three years later, only one, Wisdom, remains at the position and is still a work in progress. Stephen Piscotty has tasted success as an outfielder, while catcher Carson Kelly, like Denton given a seven-figure bonus as a top high school third sacker with a promising bat, is struggling at the plate.
Shore (37): I slot Hicks ahead of current pitchers Mike Mayers who has missed a month and half due to a right arm strain and Andrew Morales because of pure upside. He was signed nearly $50K over slot, for a $600K dollar signing bonus as a supplemental third round pick. From a source - Hicks can sit in the low 90s with the ability to reach back for the mid-90s, also has a good changeup for a second pitch, breaking ball needs significant work, and has a decent delivery that could stand with some tinkering by professional coaches.
Walton (HM): I see where Derek is coming from, but I am waiting to see what Hicks can do against professional hitters before I know where to place him.
Shore (HM): DeJong was a cheap senior signing for $200K under slot at his 131st overall selection. If you’re looking for another Jacob Wilson in the system - DeJong fits that bill of having power potential, a legit bat and can hold down multiple positions in the field. Not only that, but if baseball doesn’t work out he’s got a medical career as an alternative, making him a very bright kid to have around a minor league club.
Schook (30): This ranking might be due in part to the utter lack of third base prospects in the system, but I’m a big fan of DeJong’s bat. He tore up the Missouri Valley Conference, and he’s off to a phenomenal start in Johnson City going 10-for-20 with four doubles and a home run. DeJong has great bat speed and knows how to make contact. He’s defensively versatile which should bode well for his potential to reach the majors.
Walton (HM): I hope this doesn’t happen, but DeJong surely wouldn’t be the first polished college hitter to tear up the Appalachian League in the early going, only to run into trouble with better breaking pitches up the line. If his success at Johnson City continues for very long, I hope he is challenged in the New York-Penn League. Then I would feel like I have more to go on than 20 at-bats against younger pitching. Until then, I just can’t see putting him in front of an improving Wisdom.
Shore (HM): The lefty received a $500K signing bonus to forgo a commitment to pitch at Oregon State. Some scouts describe Oxnevad as one of the best projectable lefties in his area, with a high 80s fastball that can crack the low 90s with room to grow, while mixing in a slurvy breaking pitch, and has shown a feel for a change-up. Scouts say he has middle of the rotation type of stuff if everything comes together.
Schook (30): Oxnevad is quite a ways away from the majors, but he has a strong foundation the Cardinals’ developmental program can build on. His 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame is excellent for pitching. He already tops out at 91 with the ability to sink and cut at will, and he should add a couple miles per hour as he develops. His slider and changeup flash about average right now and do need work, but his mental toughness and unshakable demeanor on the mound are reminiscent of Rob Kaminsky.
Walton (HM): Let’s see results like Kaminsky before ranking him, but I definitely have Oxnevad on my watch list.
So there you have it. Some very different views of where six top Cardinals draftees from 2015 stack up in the system. No answers can be proven right or wrong at this early stage, but we hope you have enjoyed our points of view.
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