Where are the Cardinals Minors Power Hitters?

The St. Louis Cardinals minor league system home run and RBI leaders’ totals are trending downward.

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
2005 21 Ankiel/Herr T8th 97 Travis Hanson 3rd
    Duncan/Dryer        
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
95-14 avg 29     96    

Home runs

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.

RBI

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.

Slugging percentage

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.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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