Delvin Perez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Digging into the 21 new names on our St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league top prospect list for 2017 plus three returnees.

Digging into the 21 new names on our St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league top prospect list for 2017 plus three returnees.

As we continue our series breaking down the top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system, this time we will review the rising prospects who have entered the top 50 for 2017. Of course, a variety of routes were taken by the 21 first-timers and especially, the three returnees, to get there.

That’s right. Almost exactly half of the top 50 is new from last year, when the list was just 40 prospects long.

Let’s look at the logical groupings of these 21 newbies and three returnees.



First, some historical perspective. Over the last four years, either six or seven newly-drafted players made The Cardinal Nation top prospect list in their first year of eligibility each time. That includes six one year ago.

The 2016 Cardinals draft had three first-rounders, one more than each of the prior two years. The trio are the top three drafted players on the new top 50, but the last one picked, Dakota Hudson, passed second-chosen high school outfielder Dylan Carlson in our new top 50.

Both Hudson and the Cards’ top overall pick, shortstop Delvin Perez, debuted in the top 10 after only one new draftee, outfielder Nick Plummer, placed in the top 10 the year before. Carlson at #22 is unique, being the only first rounder in at least the last three years to not open in the top 10.

Perez, Hudson and Carlson are joined on the top 50 by six other members of the Cards’ 2016 draft class, each making their debuts between numbers 24 and 45. They were selected in the second through seventh rounds, along with an 11th-rounder bonused as a seventh-rounder, so cannot be considered surprises. The only exclusion is fifth-rounder Walker Robbins, another former prep star, who struggled in the Gulf Coast League. I would not characterize any of the six as early sleepers.

Overall, of the nine draftees ranked, four are pitchers to go with two shortstops, two catchers and an outfielder. The total of nine ranked draftees include eight in the first 40 this year, in direct comparison to six in the 2016 top 40.

The following table indicates each 2016 draftee’s top 50 ranking along with the round in which he was selected.

2016 Draft (9) Pos T50   Rd
Delvin Perez SS 3   1
Dakota Hudson RHS 6   1
Dylan Carlson OF 22   1
Connor Jones RHS 24   2
Jeremy Martinez C 29   4
Zac Gallen RHS 31   3
Tommy Edman SS 35   6
John Kilichowski LHS 38   11
Andrew Knizner C 45   7

International signings

With St. Louis’ unprecedented international spending this July 2nd period, 2017 seemed the ideal time to increase our top prospect list from 40 to 50 players. Yet, as the votes were counted, three of the four new international signees would have placed in either list, whether 40 or 50.

In terms of signing bonuses, three, all Cubans, received over $1 million each. The only exception is the #48 prospect, catcher Carlos Soto. The Mexican native picked up $400,000.

All except for 17th-ranked outfielder Randy Arozarena - an older, more experienced player at 21 years of age - began play in 2016, giving us something to go on performance-wise.

The Cardinals’ other major international signee, outfielder Victor Garcia at $1.5 million, was only 16 years of age and because of that, has not yet officially taken the field as a Cardinal. I will be surprised if the Venezuelan native does not make a splash in our rankings next year at this time, perhaps to be joined by several others from among the Cardinals’ international class of 25 and counting.

The 2017 count of four new international signees on the top prospect list compares to just one, pitcher Alvaro Seijas, last year.

New int'l sign (4) Pos T50 $MM
Randy Arozarena OF 17 1.25
Johan Oviedo RHS 18 1.9
Jonatan Machado OF 27 2.35
Carlos Soto C 48 0.4

Other first-timers

The continued development of prospects having already been in the system also made an impact on the list of new additions, with eight new top 50 members from the group. However, the difference here is that five of the eight make up half of the new final 10, from #41 through #50.

The top-ranked four of the eight are right-handed pitchers, followed by four position players. The two best-ranked, Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks, are both 2015 draftees who stepped forward in their first full year as professionals.

Three other players have been working a long time to crack the list. Right-hander Derian Gonzalez ranked in his fifth try, while catcher Dennis Ortega and first baseman Luke Voit made the top prospect list in their fourth year eligible.

New Cardinals right-hander Kendry Flores, having joined the organization as a minor league free agent in November, already has eight professional seasons under his belt and eight appearances in the Majors.

Other 1st-timers (8) Pos 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10
Ryan Helsley RHS 15 NR            
Jordan Hicks RHS 25 NR            
Derian Gonzalez RHS 33 NR NR NR NR      
Kendry Flores RHS 42 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Dennis Ortega C 43 NR NR NR        
Luke Voit 1B 46 NR NR NR        
Wadye Ynfante OF 49 NR            
Chris Chinea 1B/C 50 NR            
NR=not ranked                  
NA=not in Cards org                  

Where do they fit?

The following table indicates how the 21 newbies became Cardinals and roughly where they place in the top 50. One fourth of the top 20 is new, with almost half of the second 20 also being new to the rankings. A large contingent of the final 10, seven to be exact, are also first-time top prospect list members.

Though the international free agent signees are fewer than draftees, the former group is continuing to become more important to the Cardinals top prospect pipeline.

1st time in top 50 #1-10 #11-20 #21-30 #31-40 #41-50 Total
2016 draft 2   3 3 1 9
Prior drafts   1 1   2 4
US free agent         1 1
International free agent   2 1   1 4
Prior int'l free agent       1 2 3
Rule 5 selection           0
Acquired in trade           0
Total 2 3 5 4 7 21


Last but not least, three players rejoined this year’s top 50 after having been ranked previously, then dropping off. Mike Mayers was injured in 2015, before his rebound last summer. Breyvic Valera rediscovered his hitting mojo and has his first chance to make an MLB roster. Rowan Wick’s re-invention as a hard-throwing reliever has put him on the 40-man roster with Mayers and Valera.

A year ago, Memphis’ Anthony Garcia was the only player to rejoin the list, in his case after two years away. However, after his tepid first season on the 40-man roster, the outfielder has fallen off the prospect rankings once again. 2017 may be his last chance to prove he belongs in St. Louis.

Returned (3) Pos 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10
Mike Mayers RHS 30 NR 25 21        
Breyvic Valera 2B 38 NR 15 31 19 39 NR  
Rowan Wick RHR 39 NR 28 NR        

In terms of levels of play, all eight minor league clubs are represented in this group of 24. More on this in an upcoming article in this series.

For more

To reference our entire list of top 50 Cardinals prospects for 2017 and read about each individual player, click here. You can learn the voters’ philosophies in making their selections and much more.


Next up

This article series continues as the voters highlight the players on our personal lists that did not make the 2017 consolidated top 50. We move next to our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, dive into the numbers behind the top 50, take a look at our best and worst selections from 2016, the top prospects by level of play and finally those players that left the rankings from last year to this.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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