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.
Short-season play has been underway for almost two months, which in most cases gives us at least a bit of professional data for 2015 draftees. As always, the biggest challenge is to decide where players with such different ages and experience levels should fit.
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. Yet, season-long slumps going into their fifth month cannot be ignored.
The June top 40 is the basis of the “Prior” column in the table below.
Six players moved off the top 40, including two traded away. Of course, six others came on. Only one is a 2015 draftee, Harrison Bader, who signed after the prior rankings were released.
The honorable mention or “HM” list consists of six names, three of whom are members of the 2015 draft class, about whom I would like to see more before moving them into the top 40 ahead of others.
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.
In my general thoughts about the rankings, I feel very good about the top eight, but in the next group after that, I could see few standouts. The 21-30 population includes several emerging players while the final 10 holds a few names on their way down.
The top 10
This month’s shakeup begins at the very top. With Alex Reyes’ promotion to Double-A and the ongoing struggles of Marco Gonzales, I have finally flipped the two. I readily admit that most did that months ago.
Last time, we had the graduation of Randal Grichuk and next time, it could easily be Stephen Piscotty, who remains in the number three position. Following the Rob Kaminsky trade, which opened up number four, Jack Flaherty and Tim Cooney moved ahead based on strong performances. Sam Tuivailala will likely have to wait to 2016 to make another bid for major contributions in St. Louis.
The next three remain in the same sequence as last time – Charlie Tilson, Luke Weaver and Tommy Pham. Needing to fill out the top 10, I reluctantly gave it to Nick Plummer despite his struggles in the Gulf Coast League.
|Bumpy Springfield intro, but has reached Double-A at age 20.|
|Post-shoulder injury results below par, making 2015 MLB impact questionable.|
|Now with StL, this could be his last appearance on this list.|
|Quietly producing as expected when taken in 1st round last June.|
|Showed he belonged in second MLB stint and looks to be defacto #6 starter.|
|Working on his secondary pitches with veteran relievers brought in to help StL.|
|Leadoff man getting on base and stealing them for Double-A Springfield.|
|Main 2015 question remaining is if he gets a taste of Springfield this month.|
|Continues to rake in Memphis, but Grichuk's lock on center buries him.|
|Ranked here based on talent. Only in top 10 due to others leaving the list.|
The second 10
Considering their rankings, I should feel better about this group of prospects than I really do. Most of the names listed between 11 and 20 have some major questions.
Continuing on an earlier theme, there are few pitchers among this block – three to be specific. 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 and in some cases, falling out entirely.
Leading off this group is the Cards’ top pitching selection from this June’s draft, Jake Woodford, who is doing fine in a limited GCL introduction. Other than Carson Kelly moving down to 18, everyone in the second 10 is better-ranked than last time. Yet, to be honest, that is more about others’ struggles than it is exceptional performances.
Jacob Wilson’s results slowed, with Greg Garcia still ahead in the St. Louis pecking order, even though he trails here. Magneuris Sierra has rebounded from his aborted Midwest League stint, but is primarily succeeding on his hit tool and defense. His .407 BABIP seems unsustainable.
Oscar Mercado knows what to do when he gets on base, but isn’t there nearly often enough to be a top of the order presence. His 33 errors are almost twice as many as anyone else in the system.
Though he was injured a few days ago, Michael Ohlman has arguably been the most consistent hitter in the Springfield lineup. Rounding out the top 20 is Futures Game pitcher Luis Perdomo, given the final three weeks of the season to show his stuff at Palm Beach.
|Org's top pitching signee in 2015 doing well in his one shot per week.|
|Had a monster June, but under Mendoza Line since. Greg Garcia still ahead.|
|Third in batting in Appy League at .340, but few walks, little power shown.|
|Solid season at Memphis, but just turned 26 and blocked by Pete Kozma.|
|41/58 in steals, but career-low 4% walk rate, .295 OBP causing caution.|
|Must have hit 100 inning limit as moved to pen despite strong results.|
|Solid but not spectacular 2015 in Appy League. Still just 19 years old.|
|Hitting has suffered in Florida State League while catching gets good marks.|
|19||Michael Ohlman||24||Spr DL||C|
|Offense-first catcher was leading Springfield offense when hurt last week.|
|Fast-rising Futures Game participant received promotion to Palm Beach.|
The third 10 includes some players that I find more intriguing than a number of those above them in the second 10.
That includes three pitchers not on national rankers’ radar. Daniel Poncedeleon has only gotten better at Palm Beach while Ian McKinney showed he is ready for Peoria. Arturo Reyes has to be the best 40th-round pitcher in the game. They are joined by 2014 draftee Ronnie Williams, who has stepped up and into the ace role for Johnson City.
Offensive players in his group include perplexing Patrick Wisdom, who is in another major slump, injured Juan Herrera and 2015 draftees Bryce Denton and Harrison Bader. Denton is just ahead of Bader due to a higher ceiling, though the latter is performing well in the Midwest League.
Then we have Anthony Garcia. Despite being just 23, his struggles at Palm Beach the last two seasons knocked him off this map. However, he is back. Garcia’s recent success at Springfield and in the Pan American Games is not a fluke, either. The organization’s July Player of the Month was also the MVP of the Puerto Rico winter league.
Finally, we have the debut of Johnson City second baseman Eliezer Alvarez, with a .324 average, nine steals, 22 RBI and 24 runs scored in 36 games. His hot hitting this season was signaled when the 20-year-old switch-hitter batted .353 in 21 games in the GCL last summer.
|Even better at Palm Beach (1.17 ERA) than Peoria (2.47).|
|20-year-old earned shot at full-season and made good 1st impression.|
|Back into skid at plate after a big June. .120 BA in August to date.|
|19-year-old leading Johnson City rotation after bumpy start to season.|
|25||Juan Herrera||28||PB DL||SS|
|Moving up despite being on DL since June says more about others than him.|
|Talent is clearly there, but like Plummer, a rough early go in the GCL.|
|21-year-old has shown good eye and legs in Midwest League in 1st pro month.|
|Clearly the Comeback Player of 2015 in system has OPS to almost .900.|
|5th in Appy Lg in BA, 6th in steals, but walks even less than Sierra (3.8%).|
|Improved velocity leading to big results at AA and jump into our top 30.|
The two new names here are both pitchers. At number 34 is Sandy Alcantara. His 102 mph velocity initially garnered attention, but his pitching has been very good, as well. Two bad outings in nine skewed the 20-year-old’s ERA from 1.57 to 3.80.
Austin Gomber comes in at number 36. The lefty, taken in the fourth-round in 2014, had pitched well last summer at State College, but his walks worried me. No such problems at Peoria this season.
|In a 2H hitting funk - 0 HR, .211 batting average and little hope in St. Louis.|
|Showing some life with bat after being taken off the 40-man roster.|
|33||Bryan Dobzanski||26||JC (DL)||RHS|
|Out for an undisclosed reason and unable to make an impression at JC.|
|Numbers skewed by a couple of bad starts, but pitching well overall.|
|Plated 19 runs in July, but batting just .220 in second half.|
|21-year-old lefty has been one of system's quiet successes in 2015.|
|Has already proven he is an all-star at high-A, but poor AA results.|
|.800 OPS at Peoria tops McElroy's best year there by 160 points.|
|Missed two months, but valuable bat and handles many positions.|
|Batting .184 in second half and .233 for season. Still troubles vs. RHP.|
No one reached the innings pitched or at-bats thresholds this month, though as mentioned above, Stephen Piscotty could be next.
Dropping out of the rankings - at least temporarily - are four pitchers who have all at least reached Double-A before sliding. They are Nick Petree, Mitch Harris, Mike Mayers and Andrew Morales. None of them have good enough stuff to cover for other struggles.
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.
|Sent back down to Palm Beach to try to get his mojo back.|
|They like him in St. Louis, but results don't warrant a top 40 spot.|
|off||Mike Mayers||37||Spr DL||RHS|
|Being back on the DL again adds to lost 2015 season.|
|14 earned runs in last three starts continues surprising downturn.|
To add three MLB veterans in St. Louis, the cost was two top-40 members in Kaminsky and Malik Collymore and a June honorable mention in Kyle Barraclough. Interestingly, despite limited Double-A experience, the latter was quickly called upon to join Miami’s bullpen. Let’s hope this isn’t going to be another Luke Gregerson.
|Dealt to Cleveland for 1B/OF Brandon Moss in deal panned as an overpay.|
|Traded to Milwaukee for reliever Jonathan Broxton.|
|Traded to Miami for reliever Steve Cishek and already made his MLB debut.|
My honorable mentions list for this month includes three draftees and three incumbents. Five are pitchers with the lone hitter being 2015 fourth-rounder Paul DeJong. Though the third baseman was overqualified for the Appalachian League, he is holding his own at Peoria now.
We will all be watching pitching newcomers Jordan Hicks and Ian Oxnevad, but more in 2016. Hicks is being held out this season while Oxnevad throws once a week. Despite a low ERA, the latter has not dominated.
|3rd rounder will have to wait until 2016 to show what he has to offer.|
|8th rounder has shiny 0.69 ERA, shaky peripherals (6 BB/6 K in 13 IP).|
|4th rounder showing good eye, power after promotion from Johnson City.|
|18-year-old with cannon for arm has four good GCL starts in a row.|
|Impressive transition from Appy League. Few strikeouts or walks issued.|
|NYPL All-Star with solid results, but 27 walks in 45 1/3 innings concerning.|
That is it for this month. Thank you for reading these monthly rankings and please stop by the members’ forum to discuss your agreements and disagreements alike!
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