As the annual prospect rankings season winds down and with real baseball soon to be played, it is time to continue our annual three-part feature looking at how St. Louis Cardinals prospects and the organization compare to their peers this year and in the recent past.
In the first installment, we looked at how St. Louis Cardinals prospects fared in six different national top 100 rankings for 2016.
Here, we bring together the views of the Cardinals top prospects from a group of well-known national experts, compare them to each other and finally to our 2016 rankings published earlier this winter here at The Cardinal Nation.
The raters cited here are five well-known concerns that annually rate and rank prospects from all 30 organizations, not just the Cardinals. They may use slightly different methods and qualifying criteria, but the bottom line is that they all end up with an ordered list of names. While we remain biased here that our rankings are best since we focus on just this one system from top to bottom, other opinions are always interesting to compare and contrast.
Following is the Cardinals top ten prospect lists from Baseball America (BA), ESPN, BaseballHQ (HQ), Baseball Prospectus (BP) and MLB.com (MLB) placed side-by-side. At the end, we will meld the five into one “consensus” list.
|7||Carson Kelly||Charlie Tilson||Weaver||Sosa||Sosa||7|
|8||Jake Woodford||Weaver||Sosa||Plummer||Harrison Bader||8|
|9||Luke Weaver||Tim Cooney||Tilson||Seung-hwan Oh||Tilson||9|
|10||Nick Plummer||Sam Tuivailala||Fernandez||Fernandez||Fernandez||10|
However, there is also considerable common ground from last year to this. 12 months ago, pitchers Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Luke Weaver appeared in most top 10s, with the latter two moving up for 2016. Returning hitting prospects Magneuris Sierra and Edmundo Sosa moved from the 11-15 range into all top 10s while Charlie Tilson and Sam Tuivailala were passed by several others from year to year.
Last year, there was disagreement over the Cardinals’ number one prospect. Piscotty led on three of the five lists, with Gonzales and Alex Reyes having one top mention each. This year, all five sources agree with BaseballHQ’s 2015 ranking of Reyes first.
After that, there is a wide difference of opinion as to the system’s number two prospect. Jack Flaherty had two mentions, along with Gonzales, Cooney and Sierra getting one nod each.
Junior Fernandez powered his way onto the top 10 after being named on four of the lists. In his initial year eligible, first-rounder Nick Plummer also made the overall top 10 with four of five mentions.
For the third consecutive year, exactly 15 players are named on at least one of the top ten lists. Every level of the US-based minor league system is represented by at least one prospect – from Memphis to the Gulf Coast League. Several have MLB experience, as well.
A quick look back
The 15 selections the last three years compares to 14 in 2013 and 13 the year before.
Of the 15 names to appear in 2015, just under half, seven, dropped out of the Cardinals top 10 for 2015. As mentioned above, two graduated to the Majors and one was traded away. Tuivailala and Carson Kelly, tied for 10th on last year’s consolidated list, received fewer votes in 2016, sliding out of the top 10.
Two others who received top 10 votes last year in Jacob Wilson and Juan Herrera, did not repeat for 2016. Wilson had an uneven season and Herrera did not stand out before suffering a season-ending injury.
|Dropped off from 2015||lists||reason|
|Stephen Piscotty||all 5||grad|
|Rob Kaminsky||all 5||trade|
Now, let’s get back to the present.
The names that appear on all five top ten lists for 2016 are listed as “Unanimous Picks”. You can also see which of the lists ranked these six prospects the best and closest to the bottom (worst). Of course, the latter is a relative term, as these players are the best in entire Cardinals system.
|Unanimous picks (6)||best||who||worst||who|
As noted above, Reyes is the undisputed leader by virtue of having been ranked first on all five lists. ESPN remains the highest on Gonzales after his injury-wrecked 2015.
The two consensus top 10 players about whom there seems to be the biggest difference of opinion are Sierra and Weaver. The outfielder placed as high as second (HQ) and as low as sixth (BA). The pitcher ranged from his best of fourth on two lists to barely making ESPN’s top 10.
For the second year in a row, Tim Cooney missed on just one of the five external lists and again it is ESPN who is not buying in any more. I find it surprising since ESPN’s number five ranking of Cooney in 2014 was his best showing on any list.
The other two players left off of just one top 10 are hard-throwing Junior Fernandez, who particularly impressed MLB.com – and Plummer, who did not make anyone’s top five – yet.
|Four of five (3)||off||best||who|
On all five lists a year ago, ranked between sixth and 10th in the system, Tilson is on just three lists for 2016. While Tilson had a good season at Double-A, this seems to be a case of others passing him by in the eyes of the raters.
No Cardinals prospects were ranked on just two top 10 lists for 2016.
Five top ten prospects received one placement each. Three are each making their national top 10 debuts, along with the aforementioned Kelly and Tuivailala.
2015 draft picks Bader and Woodford received a single top 10 vote each, both at number eight. An outside-the-box pick is veteran Korean reliever Seung-hwan Oh, placed at number nine by BA. One can argue whether Oh should be included for consideration, but he is MLB Rookie of the Year eligible. Personally, I would rather see a true prospect recognized.
As you will see below, one top 10 vote was not enough to place any one of these five into the consolidated top 10 – which is probably a good thing.
|Lone star picks (5)||rank||who|
Bringing it all together
Here are the blended rankings of the five national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of “11”. The five rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on.
This time, the top two were clear – Reyes and Flaherty. They were also the ones making most national top 100 lists. After that, Gonzales and Sierra were tightly-bunched at 3-4. There was a gap to the next three at 5 through 7 in Weaver, Sosa and Cooney, with the latter two actually tying for sixth. Sosa gets the nod at sixth since he was named on all five lists, while Cooney was left off one.
The overall table is compared to The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com rankings, listed next to it. (For reference, here is the link to our full top 40 list for 2016.)
|Consolidated top ten||rank||The Cardinal Nation||rank|
|Alex Reyes||1||Alex Reyes||1|
|Jack Flaherty||2||Jack Flaherty||2|
|Marco Gonzales||3||Marco Gonzales||3|
|Magneuris Sierra||4||Luke Weaver||4|
|Luke Weaver||5||Tim Cooney||5|
|Edmundo Sosa||6||Charlie Tilson||6|
|Tim Cooney||7||Aldemys Diaz||7|
|Nick Plummer||8||Nick Plummer||8|
|Junior Fernandez||9||Edmundo Sosa||9|
|Charlie Tilson||10||Magneuris Sierra||10|
|Carson Kelly||11||Sam Tuivailala||11|
|Harrison Bader||T12||Carson Kelly||12|
|Jake Woodford||T12||Harrison Bader||13|
|Seung-hwan Oh||14||Austin Gomber||14|
|Sam Tuivailala||15||Jake Woodford||15|
Though our list came out far ahead of the others in terms of timing, the consensus of the other five looks quite similar at first impression.
Nine of the same ten players appear on both lists - with ordering differences, of course. In the big picture, we clearly agree on the most of the names, with the top three the same.
The unique player making the others’ consolidated top 10 is Fernandez, despite the right-hander having had just a cup of coffee above the Gulf Coast League. The different player on The Cardinal Nation’s list is shortstop Aledmys Diaz, completely ignored at the national level. We were clearly more optimistic about the Cuban’s late-season revival than were the other player raters.
In terms or order within the top 10, two players the nationals are more aggressive about are short-season players Magneuris Sierra and Edmundo Sosa. On the other hand, TCN is more excited about Luke Weaver, Tim Cooney and Charlie Tilson, more experienced players closer to St. Louis.
I included those who missed the consolidated top 10 with TCN’s 11th through 15th ranked prospects. Here, there is only one difference. Kelly, Bader, Woodford and Tuivailala are common, but on the consolidated list, Oh replaces Austin Gomber from TCN’s list.
Here is where you get another benefit by being a TCN member, as I think the national guys are missing out in Diaz. On the other hand, we may be slow to fully appreciate Fernandez. Of course, we will all know a lot better once the players take the field again for the new season.
Bonus section - sleepers
Though we stopped at top 10s for comparison purposes, three of the five national lists went to 20 and one had an unordered group of five who just missed the top 10. Of the earlier-mentioned names, Bader is recognized on all of the others.
Three new, additional names stood out as ones that appeared here multiple times.
Right-hander Sandy Alcantara made three of the four “just missed the top 10” lists. Oddly, ESPN’s Keith Law wrote that Alcantara has to be moved quickly this season because he will become Rule 5-eligible this winter. That is not the case. In fact, it is not even close. The Cardinals have three more seasons before having to make a 40-man roster decision on the hard-thrower.
Johnson City right-hander Ronnie Williams appears on two of the four “best of the rest” lists as does 2015 draftee, third baseman Bryce Denton, who struggled in his professional introduction in the Gulf Coast League.
Earlier, we looked at as Cardinals prospects’ placements on a series of national top 100 lists: Cardinals Prospects in 2016 National Top 100s
The final article in this annual series will analyze include various views of the comparative national rankings of the Cardinals’ system as well as their key rivals.
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