BaseballHQ’s Top 15 Cardinals Prospects: 2016

In the first of a four-part series, we highlight the top 15 St. Louis Cardinals prospects from the new Minor League Baseball Analyst with the details as to why they’re ranked where they are.

The 11th edition of BaseballHQ’s “Minor League Baseball Analyst” is now available. As always, the guide integrates sabermetrics and scouting for over 1000 minor leaguers across all 30 organizations. In-depth scouting reports and stats include batter skills ratings, runner speed, pitch repertoires, Major League equivalents, ultimate potential and much more.

Once again, authors Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney have included their Organizational Ratings for all 30 major league systems, ranking each organization’s top 15 prospects, with details why, as well as a scoring of the organization in the areas of hitting, pitching, top-end talent and overall. We will cover a subset of that in the second article of this series, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

The comprehensive information in the Analyst is more in-depth than comparable guides from well-known sources of minor league information and is used by front office personnel, scouts, fantasy players and fans from coast to coast.

It has become almost as eagerly-awaited each hot stove season as HQ’s famous “Baseball Forecaster” has been for over a quarter of a century. If readers order the Minor League Baseball Analyst from HQ directly, online updates will be included in March along with a PDF copy at no additional charge.

Following is a subset of their findings, covering their top 15 Cardinals prospects. Interestingly, every one of the seven US levels of play are represented - from St. Louis to the Gulf Coast League. As always, click on each highlighted player's name to be taken to his in-depth Player Profile page here at The Cardinal Nation.

Please respect the rights of the authors and the associated copyrights by not reproducing this information elsewhere. You are receiving this exclusive view through the courtesy and generosity of BaseballHQ.

Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects - 2016

Rank, player, (position), height/weight, (bat/throw), age, year drafted (round), school level (state) or country

1. Alex Reyes (RHP) … 6-3, 185 … 21 … 2012 FA (DR) ... #5, 2016 HQ100

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2013 Johnson City (App) 58.1 3.39 1.41 4.3 10.5 2.4 0.236
2014 Peoria (Midw) 109.1 3.62 1.31 5.0 11.3 2.3 0.200
2015 GCL Cards  3.0 0.00 0.00 0.0 9.0 0.0 0.000
2015 Palm Beach (FSL) 63.2 2.26 1.26 4.4 13.6 3.1 0.204
2015 Springfield (Tex) 34.2 3.12 1.13 4.7 13.5 2.9 0.168

Comments: Top prospect in the system will miss 50 games due 2nd drug violation. Stuff is highlighted by a plus-plus 96-97 mph FB that tops at 102 mph with good armside run. Also has a hard 12-6 CB and an improved CU. Mechanics have been smoothed out and now draws on the plus velo with ease. One of the best pitching prospects in baseball.

Development Path: Once he returns from the suspension, Reyes will head to Triple-A Memphis, but he should make his MLB debut at some point in 2016.

Fantasy Impact: Raw stuff is as good as any pitching prospect in the minors, led by an 80 grade fastball. If he can harness his stuff and control walks, he has the potential to be a true #1 starter.

Upside Rating: 10D

2. Magneuris Sierra (OF) ... 5-11, 160 ... L/L ... 19 ... 2012 FA (DR)

Year Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
2013 DSL Cards 212 .269/.357/.340 12 84 0.88 1/15
2014 GCL Cards 202 .386/.434/.505 7 85 0.53 2/13
2015 Johnson City (App) 216 .315/.371/.394 8 81 0.45 3/15
2015 Peoria (Midw) 178 .191/.219/.247 4 71 0.13 1/4

Comments: Struggled in the MWL, but rebounded nicely when demoted back to Appy. Quick LH stroke that barrels the ball, but breaking balls down in the zone give him fits. Above average speed led to a career-high 19 SB. Doesn’t project to have more than average power, but has the speed and arm strength to stick in CF.

Development Path: Look for a return to Low-A Peoria in the MWL where he will be one of the youngest players in the league. It could take a while for him to reach his full potential, but the Cardinals can afford to be patient.

Fantasy Impact: Has some of the best speed in the system and profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter with Gold Glove defense in CF. The lack of power cuts into his long-term fantasy value, but he has the tools to hit .280 and steal 30+ bases.

Upside Rating: 8C

3. Jack Flaherty (RHP) ... 6-4, 205 ... 20 ... 2014 (1) HS (CA)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2014 GCL Cards 22.2 1.59 0.97 1.6 11.1 6.9 0.209
2015 Peoria (Midw) 95.0 2.84 1.29 2.9 9.2 3.2 0.244

Comments: Polished hurler has a good four-pitch mix and was lights-out in the MWL, but some scouts wonder about his long-term projection. FB sits a 88-92 and throws a SL, CB, and CU, all of which have the potential to be average. Has easy athleticism and repeatable mechanics. Fills up the strike zone and knows how to pitch.

Development Path: Will start in the warm weather of the FSL where his polished approach should play well. The Cardinals have similar prospects ahead of him, but his athleticism and ability to throw strikes could allow him to move up quickly.

Fantasy Impact: There is a chance he develops into a #2 starter, but a solid #3 is more likely with a league-average strikeout rate and ERA.

Upside Rating: 8C

4. Luke Weaver (RHP) ... 6-1, 154 ... 22 ... 2014 (1) Florida State University

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2013 Florida St. (ACC) 98.1 2.29 0.99 1.7 10.9 6.4 0.209
2014 Florida St. (ACC) 106.1 2.62 1.04 1.9 7.2 3.8 0.216
2014 GCL Cards 6.0 0.00 0.67 0.0 13.5 0.0 0.182
2014 Palm Beach (FSL) 3.1 21.60 4.50 10.8 8.1 0.8 0.524
2015 Palm Beach (FSL) 105.1 1.62 1.11 1.6 7.5 4.7 0.237

Comments: Velocity is down from his college days, but still has a good 90-93 mph FB. Keeps the ball down in the zone and gets late action from a high ¾ arm slot. Improved mechanics results in plus command and he walked just 19 batters. Mixes in a decent SL and a plus CU that has good late fade and sink.

Development Path: Will start the year at Double-A Springfield where he will look to duplicate his results from 2015.

Fantasy Impact: Profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter, but low Dom means he has to keep his ERA and WHIP low to make a significant fantasy impact.

Upside Rating: 8C

5. Marco Gonzales (LHP) ... 6-0, 185 ... 24 ... 2013 (1) Gonzaga University

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2014 Palm Beach (FSL) 37.2 1.43 1.12 1.9 7.6 4.0 0.231
2015 Palm Beach (FSL) 4.2 0.00 1.07 0.0 7.7 0.0 0.263
2015 Springfield (Tex) 6.2 0.00 0.90 0.0 8.1 0.0 0.231
2015 Memphis (PCL) 69.1 5.45 1.66 3.1 6.6 2.1 0.304
2015 St. Louis (NL) 2.2 13.50 3.00 3.4 3.4 1.0 0.467

Comments: Has a fluid delivery that leads to plus command of his four-pitch mix. FB lacks premium velocity and sits at 88-92 mph, but with good location. Best offering is a plus CU that he will throw in any count. Also mixes in an inconsistent CB and a seldom used SL. Got lit up in the PCL and will need to rebound in '16.

Development Path: Had two stints on the DL with shoulder soreness, but avoided surgery. When he was on the mound, he was largely ineffective. Still he should contend for a spot at the back-end of the Cardinals rotation in 2016.

Fantasy Impact: The Cardinals have worked wonders with their prospects, but it's hard to see Gonzales being more than a #4 starter. That certainly has value in the majors, but fantasy owners will want to tread carefully.

Upside Rating: 8C

6. Tim Cooney (LHP) ... 6-2, 196 ... 25 ... 2012 (3) Wake Forest University

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2013 Palm Beach (FSL) 36.0 2.75 1.17 1.0 5.8 5.8 0.260
2013 Springfield (Tex) 118.1 3.80 1.27 1.4 9.5 6.8 0.271
2014 Memphis (PCL) 158.0 3.47 1.30 2.7 6.8 2.5 0.250
2015 Memphis (PCL) 88.2 2.74 0.87 1.6 6.4 4.0 0.187
2015 St. Louis (NL) 31.1 3.16 1.21 2.9 8.3 2.9 0.230

Comments: Finesse LHP from has a good feel for pitching. Keeps hitters off-balance with four average offerings. FB sits at 89-93 with late life. Mixes in a mid-70s CB, and with CT and CU. Locates all four well and does a good job of changing speeds. Held his own in MLB debut before being shut down with appendicitis.

Development Path: Should be the leading contender for a spot at the back-end of the Cardinals rotation in 2016.

Fantasy Impact: Isn't going to rack up tons of Ks but he understands how to pitch and keeps runners off base. In a full season of action, he has the tools to win 10-12 games with a sub-4.00 ERA.

Upside Rating: 7A

7. Edmundo Sosa (SS) ... 5-11, 170 ... R/R ... 20 ... 2012 FA (PN)

Year Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
2013 DSL Cards 169 .314/.393/.450 12 91 1.47 3/7
2014 GCL Cards 207 .275/.341/.377 8 86 0.62 6/8
2014 State College (NYPL) 5 .200/.200/.200 0 0 0.00 0/0
2015 Johnson City (App) 200 .300/.369/.485 7 81 0.42 7/6
Comments: Good all-around skills and understands how to play. Has advanced feel for hitting, showing patience and an knack for barreling the ball. Not likely to hit for power, but has good gap ability and the swing for more pop as he matures. Quick on D with good hands and range, but a below average arm.

Development Path: Impressed last season in rookie ball and will head to Low-A Peoria in 2016. He's still raw, and so will move up one step at a time for now.

Fantasy Impact: Has the tools to be a good, but not elite, SS. He does everything well, but doesn't have a standout tool that will wow fantasy owners.

Upside Rating: 8D

8. Harrison Bader (OF) ... 6-0, 195 ... R/R ... 21 ... 2015 (3) University of Florida

Year Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
2015 Florida (SEC) 256 .297/.393/.379 11 79 0.61 17/8
2015 State College (NYPL) 29 .379/.400/.655 0 0 0.00 2/2
2015 Peoria (Midw) 206 .301/.364/.505 7 79 0.34 9/15

Comments: Has a good approach at the plate with surprising pop for his size. Blasted 17 HR in college and then launched another 11 as a pro. Can be aggressive and sells out for power, resulting in some swing and misses, but the end results were good. Runs well and played all three OF spots in his debut.

Development Path: Nice pro debut in the MWL and will get a chance to show what he can do at High-A Palm Beach in the FSL. Given his collegiate experience, a midseason jump to Double-A would not be out of the question.

Fantasy Impact: Another Cardinals prospect with across-the-board tools. Ultimate upside would be A.J. Pollock, but remember that Pollock has exceeded all expectations.

Upside Rating: 8D

9. Charlie Tilson (OF) … 5-11, 175 … 23 … L/L … 2011 (2) HS, IL

Year Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
2013 Peoria (Midw) 376 .303/.349/.388 6 85 0.43 4/15
2013 Palm Beach (FSL) 34 .265/.359/.353 13 82 0.83 0/0
2014 Palm Beach (FSL) 370 .308/.357/.414 6 79 0.32 5/10
2014 Springfield (Tex) 139 .237/.269/.324 4 80 0.21 2/2
2015 Springfield (Tex) 539 .295/.351/.388 8 87 0.64 4/46

Comments: High-energy player with a smooth compact LH stroke and is willing to drive the ball the other way. Ideal top-of-the-order hitter who puts the ball into play and uses his above average speed. Can be aggressive at the plate as shown by inconsistent walk rates. Not likely to hit for power, but has good speed and is a good defender in CF.

Development Path: Will head to Triple-A Memphis where he will wait for an opening in the majors. The Cardinals have done an excellent job of using their prospects effectively so look for Tilson to make his MLB debut at some point in 2016.

Fantasy Impact: Has the tools to be a top-of-the-order CF in the majors. He made more consistent contact in '15, drew more walks, and has a career-high 46 SB, but the lack of power limits his long-term potential.

Upside Rating: 7A

10. Junior Fernandez (RHP) ... 6-1, 180 ... 19 ... 2014 FA (DR)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2015 GCL Cards 51.0 3.88 1.35 2.6 10.2 3.9 0.261
2015 Palm Beach (FSL) 6.2 1.35 1.50 2.7 6.7 2.5 0.286

Comments: FB now sits at 94-98 mph FB, topping out at 100 mph. Ditched his CB for a potentially plus hard SL and mixes in a plus CU. There were concerns about his control, but filled the zone in '15, walking just 17 in 57.2 IP while striking out 63. Improved velocity upgrades his potential.

Development Path: Finished 2015 in the FSL, but got only 1 start and will likely join what could be one of the best starting rotations in the minors at Low-A Peoria.

Fantasy Impact: Remains a work in progress, but any pitching prospect who can hit 100 mph as an 18-year-old has to be on your radar. Has the potential to rack up plenty of Ks.

Upside Rating: 9D

11. Nick Plummer (OF) ... 5-10, 200 ... L/L ... 19 ... 2015 (1) HS (MI)

Year Team (LG) AB BA/OBP/Slg bb% ct% Eye HR/SB
2015 GCL Cardinals 180 .228/.379/.344 18 69 0.70 1/8

Comments: Showed an advanced feel for hitting with the potential for above average power. Quick LH stroke with a gap-to-gap approach. Average runner who reads the ball well off the bat, but scouts are mixed on his ability to stick in CF. Struggled tremendously in his debut, hitting just .228 with 56 K in 180 AB.

Development Path: Might not be ready for the rigors of full-season ball, but should make his way to Low-A Peoria at some point in 2016. The Cardinals will likely let him develop slowly.

Fantasy Impact: Not an elite athlete and will have to work to stick in CF. His fantasy appeal will come from his ability to hit for BA with above-average power.

Upside Rating: 8D

12. Ronnie Williams (RHP) ... 6-0, 170 ... 20 ... 2014 (2) HS (FL)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2014 GCL Cardinals 36.1 4.71 1.32 2.2 7.4 3.4 0.264
2015 Johnson City (App) 56.0 3.70 1.25 4.0 6.9 1.7 0.211

Comments: Pounds the strike zone with a plus 95-97 mph FB. Backs up the heater with a SL and CB that show potential, but remain below average. Shows some feel for a CU, which will be key to his development. There is some effort to his high 3/4 delivery, but he has good front-side mechanics and a compact motion.

Development Path: Showed enough potential in rookie ball to justify an assignment to full-season action in the MWL. He'll spend the year working on refining his off-speed stuff and learning to fill the strike zone.

Fantasy Impact: Will need to develop a reliable second offering to be effective, even as a reliever, but his FB velocity is plus. Take a wait and see approach for now.

Upside Rating: 8E

13. Sandy Alcantara (RHP) ... 6-4, 170 ... 20 ... 2013 FA (DR)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2015 GCL Cardinals 64.1 3.22 1.23 2.8 7.1 2.5 0.234

Comments: Added size and strength and now owns a plus 94-98 mph FB that tops out at 102 mph. Mixes in a CU that is raw but shows potential and has some feel for a CB. Made his U.S. debut and more than held his own in the GCL. Lots of projection left.

Development Path: Very raw, but fared well enough in the GCL to justify a full-season assignment in the MWL. He'll be up against more experienced competition, but his FB is good enough to dominate.

Fantasy Impact: Has good long-term potential, but needs to refine his approach and develop his secondary offerings. Lots of work to be done, but worth a serious look in deep dynasty formats.

Upside Rating: 9D

14. Jake Woodford (RHP) ... 6-4, 210 ... 19 ... 2015 (1) HS (FL)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2015 GCL Cardinals 26.1 2.39 1.25 2.4 7.2 3.0 0.248

Comments: Advanced prep hurler features a good 90-93 mph sinking FB that hits 95 mph. Also has an improved SL and CU, both of which have upside. Tall and strong, he has the potential to add a bit more velocity once he fills out.

Development Path: Held his own in the GCL and will likely join Alcantara and Ronnie Williams at Peoria or head out to Johnson City for more rookie ball.

Fantasy Impact: Another potential mid-rotation starter. He doesn't have the same upside as Alcantara, but profiles as a younger version of Jack Flaherty.

Upside Rating: 8D

15. Sam Tuivailala (RHP) ... 6-3, 195 ... 23 ... 2010 (3) HS (CA)

Year Team (LG) IP ERA WHIP Ctrl Dom Cmd oppBA
2014 Palm Beach (FSL) 37.2 3.58 1.25 4.3 15.3 3.6 0.204
2014 Springfield (Tex) 21.0 2.57 1.29 3.9 12.9 3.3 0.222
2014 Memphis (PCL) 1.1 0.00 0.75 0.0 20.3 0.0 0.200
2015 Memphis (PCL) 45.0 1.60 1.20 5.2 8.6 1.7 0.172
2015 St. Louis (NL) 14.2 3.07 1.43 4.9 12.3 2.5 0.228

Comments: Dominant reliever comes after hitters with a blazing upper-90s FB that has good late life. Improved power CB gives him a 2nd plus offering. CU remains inconsistent, but has potential. FB command is the only red flag, but if he can master it he has the tools to dominate in the majors.

Development Path: Proved he was able to handle pitching in the majors and posted a 3.07 ERA in 14 outings with the Cardinals. He should land a spot in their pen next spring and could pitch meaningful innings in 2016.

Fantasy Impact: Has the tools to close games at the big league level, but will need to solve control problems before he's trusted in that role. Not likely to be a fantasy factor until he does.

Upside Rating: 7C

Terms
Ctrl – control rate – walks per nine innings. The best pitchers will have three of less.

Dom – dominance rate – strikeouts allowed per nine innings. The best pitchers will have six or higher.

Cmd – command ratio – strikeouts/walks. Upper echelon of command pitchers will be at 3.0. Lower than 1.0 (more walks than strikeouts) indicates little chance of success.

ct% - contact rate – (AB-K)/AB – Ability to get the ball into play. The best have 90 percent or better while hackers are at 75 percent or less.

Eye – batting eye – BB/K- measures a hitter’s strike zone judgment. Over 1.00 correlates to .300 hitters. Less than .50 signals a low batting average.

Player Potential Rating - a player’s upside potential on a scale of 1-10

10 – Hall of Fame-type player
9 – Elite player
8 – Solid regular
7 – Average regular
6 – Platoon player
5 – Major League reserve player
4 - Top minor league player
3 - Average minor league player
2 - Minor league reserve player
1 - Minor league roster filler

Probability Rating - a player’s realistic chance of achieving his potential on a scale of A-E

A - 90% probability of reaching potential
B - 70% probability of reaching potential
C - 50% probability of reaching potential
D - 30% probability of reaching potential
E - 10% probability of reaching potential



In Part 2, for members of The Cardinal Nation, we will analyze the Minor League Analyst’s organizational ratings for the National League Central Division clubs with scoring of each in the areas of hitting, pitching, top-end talent, depth and overall and compare them to recent past seasons.



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