While the St. Louis Cardinals major league club continues to win behind pitching but struggling with run scoring, it is difficult to see any immediate offensive help on the way in the upper levels of the minor league system.
In fact, the organization’s best power and production hitters in 2015 collected the lowest totals for system leaders in over two decades.
As a part of our Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings each winter, I always look at the system-wide hitting and pitching leaders from the prior summer. I cannot get out of my mind the meager offensive totals registered by the Cardinals minor league leaders in 2015.
Jacob Wilson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound second baseman by trade, led the way with just 18 home runs between Memphis and Springfield. First baseman Luke Voit of Palm Beach tied Wilson for the most RBI with 77. No other Cardinal had as many as 70 driven in during 2015.
The two were taken in the 10th and 22nd rounds of their respective drafts, 2012 and 2013. Wilson was just named The Cardinal Nation's 20th-ranked prospect for 2016, while Voit is considered to be more of an organizational player at this point.
The table below helps to put this into historical perspective. (I stopped after 20 prior years of research.)
A number of the home run and RBI leaders over the last 10 years went on to contribute at the Major League level – including Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus, Allen Craig, Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk. The prior decade’s top producers are primarily a forgotten lot, however.
St. Louis Cardinals minor league home run and RBI leaders – 1995-2015
|HR||Leader||18 rank||RBI||Leader||77 rank|
|2015||18||Jacob Wilson||1st||77||Jacob Wilson, Luke Voit||1st|
|2014||25||Randal Grichuk||5th||87||Xavier Scruggs||2nd|
|2013||29||Xavier Scruggs||6th||89||Ruben Gotay||5th|
|2012||23||Oscar Taveras||T4th||94||Oscar Taveras||3rd|
|2011||32||Matt Adams||8th||109||Nick Stavinoha||3rd|
|2010||24||Steven Hill||6th||92||Steven Hill||4th|
|2009||26||Allen Craig||3rd||83||Allen Craig||3rd|
|2008||31||Josh Phelps||T6th||97||Josh Phelps||4th|
|2007||32||Rick Ankiel||T9th||91||Amaury Marti||T9th|
|2006||22||Terry Evans||T5th||85||Colby Rasmus||4th|
|2004||36||Kevin Witt||T4th||107||Kevin Witt||T4th|
|2003||31||Bucky Jacobsen||T4th||85||John Gall||4th|
|2002||35||Ivan Cruz||6th||100||Ivan Cruz||6th|
|2001||20||Andy Bevins||T2nd||77||John Gall||T1st|
|2000||35||Ernie Young||7th||113||Troy Farnsworth||T5th|
|1999||30||Chris Richard||7th||98||Chris Richard||8th|
|1998||37||Tyrone Horne||6th||140||Tyrone Horne||7th|
|1997||33||Joe Freitas||6th||106||Nate Dishington||4th|
|1996||31||Jose Oliva||4th||82||Jose Oliva||3rd|
|1995||24||Anthony Lewis||T4th||85||Anthony Lewis||4th|
At no time in at least the last two decades has the system’s home run leader swatted less than 20, let alone register as few as Wilson’s 18. Over those 20 prior years, the top home run hitter in the organization blasted an average of 29 homers per season.
During those 20 years, a hitter with 18 home runs would have ranked third or better just twice. The peak of 37 in 1997 hit by Tyrone Horne more than doubled Wilson’s total in 2015.
The story with runs batted in is similar, though not quite as dismal. Wilson’s 77 only tied for the fewest for the system leader since 1995. The infamous John Gall also plated 77 in 2001. Over the two prior decades, the Cardinals RBI leader collected 96 on average.
The 20-year high water mark is 140 RBI in 1997 from Horne, though Nick Stavinoha drove in 109 as recently as 2011. During the last two decades, a total of 77 RBI would have placed among the top three in the system seven other years.
However, the recent trend is discouraging, with the total for the system RBI leader trending successively downward in each of the last four years.
In terms of slugging percentage in 2015, Wilson did not make the top five in the system. However, two other middle infielders did, but both were still playing in short-season ball, a long way from being able to help St. Louis. They are Edmundo Sosa and Eliezer Alvarez.
Two others will be back in the Memphis outfield this coming season in minor league veteran Jeremy Hazelbaker and new 40-man roster player Anthony Garcia. The fifth, Dan Johnson, did what journeymen do, and left the organization. At least Hazelbaker was convinced to return for a second season with the Cardinals.
In closing, what more can I say? The numbers tell the long term power and production story and the trend is not pretty.
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