Magneuris Sierra and Bryce Denton (Brian Walton / The Cardinal Nation)

Comparing this year to last, more top St. Louis Cardinals prospects are in big-league camp, a positive indicator for the future.

Comparing this year to last, more top St. Louis Cardinals prospects are in big-league camp, a positive indicator for the future. A view of camp assignments are provided for all members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List.

Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have announced their non-roster invitees to Major League spring training camp as well as the next tier of prospects coming to minor league spring training early camp (or STEP camp), it is time once again to view these assignments in the context of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 Prospect List for 2017.

We will have to make one small assumption up front. The Cardinals will not release the names of the minor leaguers invited to regular spring camp until it opens on March 10. However, for purposes of this exercise, we will assume all who are not in MLB camp or STEP camp will be among that regular minor league camp group, which typically numbers in the 130s each spring. (Some of the very youngest may not arrive in the US until extended spring training or not at all this spring, but it does not impact the analysis that follows.)

The first table provides several views in one. Primarily, it is an ordered list of the 2017 TCN top 50. The columns represent whether the player is on the 40-man roster (which means an automatic big-league camp invitation), a non-roster invitee (NRI) to MLB camp, or a STEP camp selection. The remainder are denoted in the Minors column. Also included are the teams with which the various prospects concluded 2016.

# TCN top 50 40-man NRI STEP Minors
1 Alex Reyes StL      
2 Luke Weaver StL      
3 Delvin Perez     GCL  
4 Carson Kelly StL      
5 Harrison Bader   Spr    
6 Dakota Hudson     Spr  
7 Jack Flaherty   PB    
8 Sandy Alcantara   PB    
9 Austin Gomber   Spr    
10 Magneuris Sierra Peo      
11 Junior Fernandez     PB  
12 Jake Woodford     Peo  
13 Paul DeJong   Spr    
14 Edmundo Sosa PB      
15 Ryan Helsley       Peo
16 Eliezer Alvarez Peo      
17 Randy Arozarena     FA  
18 Johan Oviedo     GCL  
19 Alvaro Seijas       GCL
20 Allen Cordoba R5 SD      
21 Nick Plummer     GCL DL  
22 Dylan Carlson     GCL  
23 Marco Gonzales Mem DL      
24 Connor Jones     SC  
# TCN top 50 40-man NRI STEP Minors
25 Jordan Hicks     SC  
26 Bryce Denton     JC  
27 Jonatan Machado       DSL
28 Ronnie Williams     Peo  
29 Jeremy Martinez   SC    
30 Mike Mayers StL
     
31 Zac Gallen     GCL  
32 Ian Oxnevad       JC
33 Derian Gonzalez     PB  
34 Matt Pearce       Spr
35 Tommy Edman     SC  
36 Daniel Poncedeleon   Spr    
37 Sam Tuivailala StL      
38 John Kilichowski       Peo
39 Breyvic Valera Mem      
40 Rowan Wick Spr      
41 Darren Seferina       PB DL
42 Kendry Flores   Voided    
43 Dennis Ortega   GCL    
44 Trey Nielsen   Spr    
45 Andrew Knizner   JC    
46 Luke Voit     Spr  
47 Corey Littrell   Suspended    
48 Carlos Soto       DSL
49 Wadye Ynfante       GCL
50 Chris Chinea     Peo  
# TCN top 50 40-man NRI STEP Minors

Talent nearing the top

Six of our top 16 prospects are already on the 40-man roster. Another five of the top 13 are non-roster invitees, making a total of 11 of the top 16 prospects participating in big-league camp. The two youngest players in terms of experience are Peoria outfielder Magneuris Sierra, ranked #10 overall, and the 2016 TCN Minor League Player of the Year, second baseman Eliezer Alvarez.

http://www.scout.com/player/158983-eliezer-alvarez?s=321

Six more of the top 18 prospects have been invited to STEP camp, led by 2016 first-round draft pick and overall #3 prospect, shortstop Delvin Perez.

http://www.scout.com/player/206019-delvin-perez?s=321

Those left out

From among our entire top 50, only nine prospects are not either in MLB camp or STEP camp.

Of the nine, five are still short-season players. It seems clear they are not yet candidates for spots on a full-season team to open 2017, so there is no need to bring them in early. Better to use the spots on more advanced players, is the likely thought process of the player development staff. This group does include our #19 prospect, right-hander Alvaro Seijas.

http://www.scout.com/player/201625-alvaro-seijas?s=321

The other four of the nine, from 2016 full-season clubs, include one top 15 player, Midwest League All-Star Ryan Helsley. There are some who believe the right-hander’s age (22), lack of movement on his fastball and still-in-development advanced offerings suggest he may not be able to replicate his 2016 success at higher levels.

http://www.scout.com/player/200626-ryan-helsley?s=321

The other three fall between #34, Springfield’s Matt Pearce, and #41, second baseman Darren Seferina. The latter finished 2016 on Palm Beach’s disabled list.

In between, at #38, is Helsley’s Peoria rotation teammate, John Kilichowski. Along with Helsley, the exclusion of the lefty from STEP camp are the only mild surprises from among this group of top 50 prospects.

http://www.scout.com/player/198853-john-kilichowski?s=321

An important reminder. Even as the organization increased the number of STEP campers from 26 last year to 30 this spring, the strong 2016 draft and improving farm system overall means some good players are not going to be chosen. This should not be considered a slight to Helsley, Seijas, Kilichowski or anyone else. Sometimes, tough decisions have to be made.

By camp, by position

The following table shows the top 50 prospect list breakdown by camp and position grouping.

Top 50     Top 50     Top 50     Top 50  
40man (12/40) Rk   NRIs (12/25) Rk   STEP (17/30) Rk   Minors (9/TBA) Rk
Pitchers (6)     Pitchers (7)     Pitchers (9)     Pitchers (5)  
Alex Reyes 1   Flaherty 7   Hudson 6   Helsley 15
Weaver 2   Alcantara 8   Fernandez 11   Seijas 19
Gonzales 23   Gomber 9   Woodford 12   Oxnevad 32
Mayers 30   Poncedeleon 36   Oviedo 18   Pearce 34
Tuivailala 37   Flores Voided 42   Jones 24   Kilichowski 38
Wick 40   Nielsen 44   Hicks 25      
      Littrell Susp 47   Williams 28      
            Gallen  31      
            Gonzalez 33      
                     
Catchers (1) Rk   Catchers (3) Rk   Catchers (1) Rk   Catchers (1) Rk
Kelly 4   Martinez 29   Chinea 50   Soto 48
      Ortega 43            
      Knizner 45            
                     
Infielders (3) Rk   Infielders (1) Rk   Infielders (3) Rk   Infielders (1) Rk
Sosa 14   DeJong 13   Perez 3   Seferina 41
Alvarez 16         Edman 35      
Valera 39         Voit 46      
                     
                     
                     
Outfielders (1) Rk   Outfielders (1) Rk   Outfielders (4) Rk   Outfielders (2) Rk
Sierra 10   Bader 5   Arozarena 17   Machado 27
            Plummer 21   Ynfante 49
            Carlson 22      
            Denton 26      
                     
Other (1) Rk                  
Cordoba R5 20                  

Year-to-year

I find these final tables most telling. They show how the top 50 prospects are represented as a percentage of all players in the various camps.

One caution. We went from top 40 rankings in prior years to top 50 for 2017, so do not compare the absolute numbers. Instead, look at the percentages.

The third of the three tables is a straight apples-to-apples comparison of 2016 and 2017, in which I removed 2017 prospects #41-50.

2017 40-man NRI STEP 40+NRI+STP Minors total
Top 50 prospects 12 12 17 41 9 50
Camp total 40 25 30 95 TBA TBA
Top 50 percent 30.0% 48.0% 56.7% 43.2%    
             
2016 40-man NRI STEP 40+NRI+STP Minors total
Top 40 prospects 8 8 14 30 10 40
Camp total 39 23 26 88 132 220
Top 40 percent 20.5% 34.8% 53.8% 34.1% 7.6%  
             
2017 top 40 only 40-man NRI STEP 40+NRI+STP Minors total
Top 40 prospects 12 7 15 34 9 50
Camp total 40 25 30 95 TBA TBA
Top 40 percent 30.0% 28.0% 50.0% 35.8%    

Overall, there is a higher percentage of top prospects participating in these top camps this year compared to last, with the primary growth driven by more 40-man roster prospects.

Given that group is traditionally closest to contributing at the major league level, I consider this a positive indicator for the Cardinals organization’s near-term future.

 

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

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