Editor’s note: No, we are not clueless. As with our 2016 #19 prospect Luis Perdomo, a top 20 St. Louis Cardinals prospect was lost in last week’s Rule 5 Draft, occurring between the time we prepared our rankings and when we have reached the player in our countdown.
Because of the very real possibility of Allen Cordoba being returned to St. Louis from the San Diego Padres, we made the decision to keep the shortstop in our Cardinals prospect rankings for 2017. As you might expect, however, some of the commentary that follows has changed considerably from what it would have been in October.
We hope you enjoy this free look into our top 50 Cardinals prospect countdown, now into the top 20.
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Selected 2016 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (17): During the community vote, Allen Cordoba finished as the 17th highest rated player. Interestingly, a couple of posters, bccran and ibruce, picked him as high as the seventh-best prospect in the system. Bccran supported his choice by saying that Cordoba has been nothing but outstanding over the past two seasons, giving first-rounder Delvin Perez competition.
Scadder21 also would not put Perez in his top five, believing Cordoba to be the better prospect. SoonerinNC said that Cordoba might have been the best player in the entire Appalachian League, where Johnson City plays. Wileycard mentioned that Cordoba is a potential future leadoff man, with outstanding speed, the ability to walk and the gift of not striking out.
However, BobReed believes that at Cordoba’s age and without showing much of an improvement curve, he will have to move off shortstop due to the high quantity of errors accumulated. He noted that Cordoba stole 18 bases in the final six weeks of the year as opposed to just four in the first three weeks. He also hit an even .400 over that timeframe, a fantastic six-week stanza for anyone, as BobReed noted. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (20): After winning the Gulf Coast League MVP award in the summer of 2015, Cordoba proved himself outside of the complex leagues, compiling another MVP season in the Appalachian League, where he led the league in hitting at .362, 15 points higher than his closest competition for the Johnson City Cardinals.
"He showed me he's a gamer," Johnson City manager Chris Swauger said of Cordoba. "He is a very focused and quiet player. He's not a raw, raw guy. He lets his plays speak for himself - he can run, he can get to a lot of balls defensively. He's got good hands. He's got enough arm to play shortstop, and he doesn't strike out.
"He doesn't walk a ton, but he's a guy that his strikeout and walk numbers are relatively close. He battles at the plate, and I think he will end up hitting with some power based on his swing, swing path, and hand-eye coordination. He showed me he is projectable as a player at a premium position.
"He has a knack for creating runs. I feel like Allen Cordoba can beat you in a lot of different areas. He can beat you with his glove, he can beat you with his bat, or he can beat you on the bases. That's why I speak very highly of him."
With Cordoba having a chance to stick at a premium position in shortstop and have average tools across the board, the San Diego Padres pounced on the 21-year old in the Rule 5 draft, taking him third overall in the major-league portion - despite him not playing a game of full-season baseball - and rightfully so.
Why? As an organization that does not expect to contend in 2017, the Padres can afford to stash Cordoba on their 25-man roster, limiting him to strictly late-inning defense or pinch-running duties, as he was arguably the best talent available in the Rule 5 draft.
“I think he’s a nice player, but it’s pretty much impossible for him to stick,” one pro scout told Baseball America. However, his 2016 skipper Swauger once said Cordoba is one of the best prospects he's coached despite having Magneuris Sierra, Edmundo Sosa, and Eliezer Alvarez on the same team in 2015. He elaborated on that sentiment.
"Number one, he plays a premium position, and he'll be able to stay there," Swauger added. "This kid is still developing as a man and growing into his body frame. You're talking about a guy that has tools and is starting to put it together. I said he may be one of the best guys I've ever coached, maybe the best because of how projectable he is and what he's able to do right now.
"You see him do things - the way he works, the way his body works, and what he does on the field. Then, looking forward based on his frame as far as filling out and his baseball IQ. He's right up there as the top guy. I think him and Alvarez are very comparable.
"He has a lot of those attributes as those other three guys. Really good prospects and good players. He's kind of the total package, but he also plays a premium position and can help at other positions as well.
"I think Alvarez is limited to just second base. Sosa may be a shortstop or may not be. He can do a lot of things; may have more power and faster. Maggy's definitely faster at the center field position. When you're looking at the total package plus the desire he has: I think it'll work out to be something pretty special."
While Cordoba has a unique swing and stance, he makes consistently hard contact via his superb pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination skills. The right-handed hitter has an elite feel for the strike zone, and he is a pure hitter with an ability to hit for a high-average with hard line drives to all fields. He has an aggressively controlled approach, looking for his pitch early in counts, but has a willingness to stay patient.
As far as power, he sacrifices his natural power at times in favor of high-contact. He is able to beat balls out to get infield hits, but his average could dip as he matures and realizes himself as a hitter.
Swauger said of his power, "I think there's more power in there. He shows it in batting practice; occasionally in games. He's a guy that doesn't have to hit the ball to the wall to get a double because if he hits the ball to the wall, it's a triple. I think as he fills out and grows more into a man, I think his natural strength will take over and the ball will start to carry more.
"When he wants to, he can juice the ball. I think he's kind of player he is, who puts the ball in play and uses his speed. As he gets older, the power will come around."
Defensively, Cordoba doesn't have quick-twitch athleticism typical for a flashy shortstop, but projects to have an average arm and range with the potential to be a burner. Simply, he will get every chance to remain up-the-middle until he proves otherwise. Worst-case scenario, he is an above-average utility player. Best-case, he is a regular at shortstop with a well-rounded offensive profile.
"I know as he (Cordoba) moves up, the game is going to get faster," Swauger said. "Guys are going to get faster. Things are going to speed up, but I also feel he'll be able to speed up as well."
Brian Walton (23): Rather than include more quotes with superlatives about Cordoba, which I do have, I will instead focus on the circumstances that led him to being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. This is a matter that has caused some observers considerable consternation, but I am not among them.
Each fall, I spend a long time looking at the Cardinals’ Rule 5 situation from all angles and I did not forecast Cordoba being taken this year. Therefore, I did not expect the Cardinals to protect him. For me, it is as simple as that.
In fact, the only reason Cordoba was Rule 5-eligible in the first place is an exception in the rules caused by his initial contract having been voided back in 2012. Based on challenging roster tradeoffs and Cordoba’s rookie-ball standing, it seemed a reasonable gamble by the Cardinals to leave him unprotected. And even though he has been lost, his return is still quite possible.
Taking a player in the Rule 5 who has never played above the Appalachian League is such an unusual situation, no one expected it would happen. Of course, it also means the odds of the selected player performing at the level necessary to remain in the major leagues are lessened considerably.
Interestingly, a member of The Cardinal Nation’s community, CariocaCardinal, studied the last 15 Rule 5 Drafts and based on history, offered a view that three prominent position players several levels ahead of Cordoba, who are also better prospects and yet to appear in this top 50, may not have needed to be protected, either. They are second baseman Eliezer Alvarez, shortstop Edmundo Sosa and center fielder Magneuris Sierra. Fortunately for the Cardinals, all three were added to the 40-man before the draft. Clearly, given Cordoba was taken, this trio would have been even more vulnerable.
Though I saw
no very limited complaints at the time when Cordoba was left unprotected, a number of Monday morning general managers popped up after the draft, condemning the Cardinals for not anticipating that Cordoba would be selected. They point to marginal 40-man players such as Anthony Garcia and Jose Martinez, who in hindsight they would have dropped from the roster to protect Cordoba.
I have a problem with that logic.
In my pre-draft analysis, I identified three at-risk pitchers as higher priority to protect than Cordoba. They are all close to MLB-ready, the type of player usually most appealing in Rule 5 drafts – lefties Corey Littrell and Ryan Sherriff plus right-hander Trey Nielsen. As it turned out, the Cards’ gamble paid off, as none of the three were taken in the Rule 5.
However, if the team’s analysis was anywhere close to being like mine, Cordoba would have been so far down the line of protection candidates that he would not have made the cut even if Garcia, Martinez and even one more player had been removed from the 40-man roster.
If/when San Diego eventually decides to not keep Cordoba and if he is unclaimed by the other MLB teams, St. Louis would almost certainly welcome him back. He would not be required to be placed on the 40-man – this year. However, if not added by next fall, Cordoba would become Rule 5-eligible again, potentially starting the same loop all over, a highly unlikely occurrence.
If Cordoba is returned to the Cardinals in 2017, I see him opening as the every-day shortstop at Class-A Peoria, with a decent chance to move up quickly to Palm Beach.
TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: High (click here to review scales)
In a way, this scouting grade is absurd, since at least technically Cordoba is already a major leaguer, but we all understand that has not yet been earned. In reality, the odds of him remaining in the bigs seem low. So I stand behind my pre-Rule 5 draft high-risk rating. Cordoba needs a lot of work before being truly MLB-ready, but he has the ingredients to get there based on merit one day.
Our 2017 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation, so join today and don’t miss out!
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Lose Cordoba in 2016 Rule 5 Draft
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