Each February brings us prospect lists, lists and more lists. If you are like me, sometimes you can feel like you are swimming in them. What I will be doing in this annual three-part series is to offer some clarity and context by putting the elements of selected lists relevant to the St. Louis Cardinals side-by-side.
In future installments, we will look at the top ten prospects in the Cardinals system according to a handful of national raters. Then we will look into their respective views of the Cardinals’ system-wide ranking.
Here, I am starting with a system-wide comparison from an individual player perspective. Specifically, we will look at the Cardinals players appearing on a group of six national top 100 lists.
The included six
The sources I chose to list are nationally-known, with past histories and track records that one can look back upon.
ESPN, written by Keith Law (subscription article)
BaseballHQ, from Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney
MLB.com, compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis
and finally, our rankings: Scout.com.
The columns in the table below are ordered by the site names as listed in the previous paragraph. The Cardinals players’ individual rankings within site’s top 100 are at the left of each name.
Though it may seem elementary, I will still point out that any organization’s “fair share” on a top 100 list would be 3 1/3 names (100 divided by 30 MLB organizations). The Cardinals are clearly underrepresented on five of the six lists with just one prospect on half the lists. This is the organization’s worst top 100 showing in a number of years.
The consensus group is one
From the big picture perspective, there is complete and total agreement as to the identity of the Cardinals top prospect. In fact, the only disagreement is whether pitcher Alex Reyes is a top five prospect nationally or a top 10 player or just missed. All six agree the suspended right-hander is in the top 13.
Reyes came in at number five on BaseballHQs rankings, with the number 13 vote coming from MLB.com. The other four see Reyes in the number seven to ten range nationally.
Reyes’ overall position is the strongest by a Cardinal since the late outfielder Oscar Taveras was a consensus top five prospect nationally prior to the 2014 season.
Jack Flaherty did not make any national top 100 lists in 2015, but has vaulted onto three of the six rankings in the 64-83 range for 2016.
Law continues to be a strong supporter of Marco Gonzales despite the latter’s injury-ruined 2015. After being placed on five of the 2015 lists, all except MLB.com, the left-hander exited from four of them for 2016. The only exception is ESPN, which held Gonzales at his same number 64 spot from year to year, and ahead of Flaherty.
Based on individual Cardinals players’ placements within their organizational rankings, the most likely Cardinal to have been next to be considered on national lists is Magneuris Sierra. The outfielder recovered in the Appalachian League after having been overmatched in the Midwest League to begin 2015.
Sorting the rankings
Following is a re-sorting of the same lists using a horizontal orientation by player name. That way, you can see how the top 100 placement for each player varied by the source. (Sites remain in their same respective columns as shown in the first table.)
Also note the color coding. That reflects the ranking change from 2015 to 2016, where green is positive.
Of the lists in which he was listed in 2015 (all except MLB.com), Reyes was ranked anywhere for number 45 to 77, so his improvement year to year was considerable. No more so than MLB.com, though, as Reyes jumped from unranked to number 13.
As noted above, Flaherty is joining three national top 100s for the first time while still needing to crack the three others. His best national showing is on Scout’s rankings, where he is 64th.
Overall year to year trend continues downward
Considering the Major League graduation of Stephen Piscotty and the trade of Rob Kaminsky (Randal Grichuk was shut out of the 2015 national lists), it is not surprising that the Cardinals top 100 showing is weaker in comparison to last spring.
As in the prior table, color indicates year to year trend, this case, the change in the number of Cardinals in the various top 100’s.
Number of Cardinals in top 100s by Year
The overall decline in the number of top national prospects in the Cardinals system continues on its three-year skid. Not only did just one name appear on half the lists, but the number of unique Cardinals mentioned on any list, three, is also a new low – at least in recent years.
The quantity of unique prospects named on any list is in its fourth straight year of decline, starting with nine in 2012. In 2015, the Cardinals had four different players mentioned, though as noted, none were unanimous. Other than being snubbed by MLB.com, Gonzales placed all 2015 top 100s.
I will at least end on a positive by noting 2016 is the fourth year in the last five in which the Cardinals have had a top five prospect on at least one of these lists.
Different sites may use slightly different criteria, but they all end up with an ordered national prospect list, which enables these types of comparisons. Always remember that your mileage may vary, however.
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