2016 Cards Top Prospects – Behind the Numbers

Sourcing of players, mix by position and ages of the St. Louis Cardinals top 40 prospects compared to prior years.

In this, our 46th installment of the series, we will dive into the numbers behind the The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top 40 Prospect List for 2016 in terms of sourcing of players, distribution by position with comparisons to recent years and their ages.

First, we will start with the breakdown of our top 40 prospects by the year in which they became professionals. Eight prior years of data is provided.

The top 40 population is broken out in two ways. The rows indicate how the players were acquired – via the draft, as free agents from the Latin American program or in the US, their contracts having been purchased from other leagues, acquired in the Rule 5 Draft or in trade.

The other dimension, in the columns, is the year the players became professionals, where N equals the most recent year/draft, N-1 being the prior year, etc.

Top 40 Cardinals prospects – sourcing - 2008-2016

Sourcing   Curr   N-1   N-2   N-3   N-4   N-5 N-6  
2016 Top 40  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 Tot 
Draft  6 8 5 4 1 2 1 27
Latin Am FA  1 2 2 4 1 1   11
US free agent               0
Rule 5 acquire               0
Trade      1       1 2
Total   7 10 8 8 2 3 2 40

We will start with the rows. Continuing a trend over the last seven years, the number of top 40 players acquired from the draft has again declined, to an all-time low of 27. It is now becoming clear that the international program is starting to carry more of the top prospect load, though it takes longer for the teenagers signed in that manner to work their way into ranking consideration.

There is not significant change from year-to-year in the number of top 40 players from the most recent draft. This year’s total is six, down one from a year ago and equal to the total from two years ago.

The number of top prospects in the N-1 and N-2 years at 13 is down two from last year’s high, but one higher than in 2014.

Few players acquired in non-traditional manners made the top 40 – just two first-timers. Corey Littrell came over from Boston in the John Lackey trade and Michael Ohlman was acquired from Baltimore last spring for cash considerations.

To be honest, I see little extraordinary findings from this table.

Let’s look at the totals over time, though. This is where we can see the international gains more clearly.

History 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
Draft  27 29 30 32 32 33 33 31 37
Latin Am FA  11 8 7 7 6 6 5 6 2
US free agent   1 1   1        
Rule 5 acquire         1        
Trade  2 2 2 1 1 1 2 3 3
Total   40 40 40 40 41 40 40 40 42

Fernandez

As I mentioned before, the number of top prospects from the Latin American program is up, by an impressive three from last year’s eight. Even more impressive, perhaps, are the top 20 introductions by hard throwers Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez, coupled with new signee Alvaro Seijas joining the ranks before throwing his first professional pitch.

International prospects are also moving up toward the very top reaches of the rankings. Four top 10 players, including the system’s number one prospect, Alex Reyes, are from this category, as well. (The others are Aledmys Diaz, Edmundo Sosa and Magneuris Sierra.)

The progress shown by Diaz and Reyes (up until his suspension) was encouraging since it has been two plus years since the last high-profile international Cardinals, Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez, left the prospect ranks. The challenge is all the others are multiple years away – mostly still in short-season ball.

The next view is the top 40 by primary defensive position.

Top 40 Cardinals prospects – By position – 2007-2016

Top 40 by position 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07
Catcher 2 2 2 2 3 6 3 2 2 1
First Base 0 1 0 1 2 2 2 1 3 1
Second Base 3 6 2 4 5 1 1 1 2 2
Shortstop 5 4 4 2 2 2 3 3 2 4
Third Base 3 1 1 3 2 3 3 4 2 1
Corner Outfield 1 4 3 4 4 6 6 5 4 3
Centerfield 4 4 6 4 5 3 3 2 4 5
LH Starting Pitcher 7 4 5 4 1 1 3 2 3 4
RH Starting Pitcher 14 12 11 10 11 11 10 13 13 13
LH Reliever 0 0 2 1 1          
RH Reliever 1 2 4 5 5          
Reliever           5 6 7 7 6
Total 40 40 40 40 40 41 40 40 40 42

Looking at the top 40 overall, this year’s positional split is in favor of pitching, 22-18, same as two years ago. That is not surprising considering the Cardinals’ focus on arms in recent drafts.

However, that measure had temporarily flipped in the other direction for 2015, with 18 pitchers against 22 position players. The ascensions of the three rookie outfielders to St. Louis in Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham, with no top 40 pitching graduations was a major swinger.

Among the 18 non-pitchers, 11 are infielders, while two are catchers and the other five are outfielders. That infield total includes an encouraging eight up the middle, two down from last year, but still higher than any other period in the last decade.

Third base depth represents improvement in a recent focus area by the team in the draft. Outfield depth has become the major new concern, particularly at the corners with a dearth of power-type hitters. More athletic center field types are more the norm.

The lack of catching continues to be a bit concerning. While the number of top 40 catchers is flat at two, almost all of the legitimate bets to one day replace Yadier Molina seem to be riding on Carson Kelly. First base is not represented at all. That is not particularly worrisome, other than it is often the home of power hitters, that ongoing scarce commodity.

LHS Austin Gomber

The quantity of top 40 starting pitchers at 21 is a new all-time high and seems to have gobbled up the vacated outfield spots and more. The major increase in left-handers is especially encouraging. Relievers took a big hit, but in my ideal world, there would be none in the top 40, just very promising starters instead.

Possible gap areas to consider in the 2016 draft may include catchers, corner outfielders and power-hitting anything. Keeping the left-handed pitching and middle infield momentum going seems wise, as well, though the international program is stepping up on the latter front.

Top 40 Cardinals prospects – By age – 2016

Top 40 by age 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 Tot
Catcher   1       1         2
First Base                     0
Second Base   1       2         3
Shortstop 1 1       1 1 1     5
Third Base     1     1     1   3
Corner Outfield       1             1
Centerfield       1   1   2     4
LH Starting Pitcher   1   2 1 1 1 1     7
RH Starting Pitcher     1 2 3 2 2 2 1 1 14
LH Reliever                     0
RH Reliever       1             1
Total 1 4 2 7 4 9 4 6 2 1 40

All three of the oldest players from the last year have moved on. Xavier Scruggs (left as free agent) was the gray-beard of last year’s top 40 at 27, followed by two former top 40 players at age 26 in Tommy Pham (graduated to MLB) and Cody Stanley (suspended and non-tendered). The new “oldie” for 2016 is 26-year-old infielder Greg Garcia.

The top 40 has shown a strong turn toward youth. A whopping 22 members (55 percent) of the 2016 prospect list are 21 years of age or younger, up a substantial amount the last two year’s totals of 13 and 15, respectively. Our youngest player is 17-year-old Bryce Denton.

Top 40 by age 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 Total
2016 0 1 4 2 7 4 9 4 6 2 1 40
2015 1 4 2 7 4 9 4 6 2 0 1 40
2014 0 1 4 8 6 6 7 2 5 0 1 40

In the table above, you can see the age shift to the right from recent years to 2016. In 2014 and 2015, just under half of the top 40 were age 23 or older, while that total drops to 14 this year.

If a fair number of these younger players can come through, the Cardinals future may shine even more brightly.




To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2016 and read about each individual player, click here.

Next up: This article series nears its conclusion as we take a look at the best and worst picks from the 2015 top 40, the top prospects by level and finally those players that left the top 40 from last year to this.



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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