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 and looking at year-to-year trends.
In future installments, we will look at the top 10 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 compared to the other 29 MLB organizations.
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, a sneak peek into our Scout.com rankings, to be announced on 2/13
The columns in the table below are ordered by the site names as listed in the previous paragraph. The Cardinals players’ individual rankings within a site’s top 100 are shown to the left of each name.
|50||Luke Weaver||51||Kelly||40||Sandy Alcantara|
|86||Delvin Perez||89||Jack Flaherty||81||Kelly|
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 made a strong showing with four prospects placing on at least four of the six lists and three other players being named on at least one.
This is the organization’s best overall top 100 showing since 2013.
The consensus group is again just one
Despite the good results for the organization from the big picture perspective, only one name appears on all six lists. In fact, there is complete and total agreement as to the identity of the Cardinals top prospect for the second consecutive year.
The only disagreement (if you want to call it that) is whether pitcher Alex Reyes is the very best prospect nationally (per Baseball America) or “just” a top 10 player. Three of the six raters agree the talented right-hander is exactly the fourth-ranked prospect in the game.
Reyes comes in at number six on MLB.com’s rankings, with the number 10 vote placed by ESPN. The number one vote was registered by Baseball America.
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.
Three are majority selections
The real year-to-year change is most evident in the trio of players who showed well on most of the national lists. Last year, just one Cardinals prospect fared this well.
The catcher’s best placement is number 39 on MLB.com’s list, while Weaver’s top ranking is number 50 from BA. At the other end of the support spectrum, Baseball HQ left Kelly off its list entirely and Baseball Prospectus feels the same way about Weaver.
2016 first-rounder Delvin Perez is the fourth Cardinals prospect to appear on a majority of the lists. The shortstop ranked in the second 50 on four of the six compilations.
Three Cardinals prospects made just one national top 100 list each, compared to just one in 2016.
ESPN’s Law continues to be a strong supporter of Jack Flaherty despite the latter’s uneven 2016 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. After placing on three of the 2016 lists, the right-hander exited from all of them for 2017 except ESPN.
Law also mentioned Harrison Bader was in a group that just missed his top 100. The outfielder did place 95th on Baseball HQ’s rankings, however.
The final lone-ranked player was a bit of surprise. It is not that Sandy Alcantara is not a very notable prospect, but his 40th ranking nationally by BP is quite aggressive. The tall,slender right-hander with the big velocity could easily make that optimistic view come true in 2017.
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 – for the second consecutive year. The outfielder used his solid return to Midwest League to place fifth on three different Cardinals top 10s.
Sorting the rankings
Following is a re-sorting of the same lists using a horizontal orientation by player name. That way, you can more easily see how the top 100 placement for each player varies by the source. (Sites remain in their same respective columns as shown in the first table.)
On the six lists in 2016, Reyes was ranked anywhere from the number 5 overall prospect to 13th, so he still showed improvement year to year despite already having been so highly-ranked last year.
As noted above, Kelly and Weaver have joined five national top 100s for the first time while failing to crack one other list each. Perez’ debut is also very strong and perhaps most impressive. Despite being just 18 and starting his career at the lowest level of play in the US, the Gulf Coast League, the shortstop placed on four lists.
Overall year-to-year trend positive
A year after the Major League graduation of Stephen Piscotty and the trade of Rob Kaminsky (Randal Grichuk had been shut out of the 2015 national lists) led to a weak national top 100 showing for the Cardinals, the organization’s 2017 showing is considerably stronger in comparison to last spring. In fact, as noted, it is the organization's best showing since 2013. Here are the supporting details.
Number of Cardinals in top 100s by year
The overall increase in the number of top national prospects in the Cardinals system reverses a three-year skid. Not only did just four names appear on a majority of the lists, but the number of unique Cardinals mentioned on any list, seven, is the most in the last four years.
In 2016, the Cardinals had just three different players mentioned, and as noted, only Reyes was a unanimous selection. In addition to Flaherty making three lists last spring, lefty Marco Gonzales made what appears to be one final appearance in ESPN’s top 100.
I will end on another positive. Having an above-average quantity of top prospects is great, but arguably even better is to enjoy the cream of the crop. To that end, it is worth noting that 2017 is the fifth year in the last six 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.
Links to prior years’ editions of this article:
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