As the annual prospect rankings season is winding down and with real baseball to be played very soon, it is the ideal 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 individual St. Louis Cardinals prospects fared against peers in the other 29 organizations in six different national top 100 rankings for 2017.
Here, we bring together the views of the Cardinals top prospects from a group of well-known national experts, comparing them to each other and finally to our 2017 rankings published earlier this winter here at The Cardinal Nation.
The raters whose work is cited below represent seven 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 at both ends of the spectrum. In fact, there are always similarities as well as eyebrow-raising omissions.
One can argue whether they are less-biased than those of us who focus on one organization or because they are spread more thinly, they may be late to catch emerging prospects or miss them altogether. To each his own, I say.
Following are the newest 2017 Cardinals top 10 prospect lists from ESPN, MLB.com Prospect Pipeline (MLB), Minor League Ball, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus (BP), Baseball America (BA) and BaseballHQ (HQ), placed side-by-side.
At the end, we will meld the seven into one “consensus” list and put it alongside The Cardinal Nation top prospect ranking.
A year after the graduations of Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk shook up the top 10s, most of these lists look fairly similar to 2016. The key reason is that while both Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver made their MLB debuts, the two pitchers pitched less than 50 innings each, retaining their rookie (and prospect) status.
For the second straight year, there was compete agreement about the Cardinals’ number one prospect, with Reyes running the table. Also among the considerable common ground from last year to this include Jack Flaherty and Magneuris Sierra again on a majority, if not all, of the 2017 lists.
After Reyes, there is a wide difference of opinion as to the system’s number two prospect, with four different players named across the seven lists. Weaver, Delvin Perez and Carson Kelly were each picked twice, with Sandy Alcantara receiving one nod at number two in the system.
Along with Perez’ debut, others appearing on more than one list for the first time are fellow 2016 first-rounder Dakota Hudson, Alcantara, second baseman Eliezer Alvarez and outfielder Harrison Bader.
In an odd consistency, for the fourth consecutive year, exactly 15 players are named on at least one of the top ten lists. The US-based minor league system is represented from top to bottom – from Memphis to the Gulf Coast League. As noted above, three of the group already have MLB experience and several others are getting close.
A quick look back
The 15 selections in each the last four years compares to 14 in 2013 and 13 in 2012.
Of the 15 prospects to make one of the 2016 lists, just under half, seven, dropped off this year. There were four general reasons. Marco Gonzales and Nick Plummer missed the entire season due to injury. Tim Cooney and Charlie Tilson left the organization. Seung-hwan Oh “graduated” to MLB, while it appears Jake Woodford and Sam Tuivailala were simply passed by others.
Like Kelly managed to do, Plummer and Woodford seem to have the most runway to return to the top 10 in the future.
|Dropped off from 2016||lists||reason||Top rank|
|Marco Gonzales||all 5||injury||2|
|Tim Cooney||4 of 5||waivers||2|
|Nick Plummer||4 of 5||injury||6|
|Charlie Tilson||3 of 5||trade||7|
Here are the same top 10 rankings as shown above, but re-sorted so that each name is on the same horizontal line.
As you can see, only the first, second, fifth, sixth and ninth prospects on the consolidated list were unanimous selections. The third, fourth, seventh and eighth best Cardinals prospects were each left off one of the seven top 10s – by four different raters.
The other way to look at it is that the top nine on the consensus list appear on at least six of the seven top 10s – making them a pretty consistent group of top prospects.
We will explore this further below.
The names that appear on all seven top ten lists for 2017 are listed as “Unanimous Picks”. You can also see which of the lists ranked these five prospects the best and closest to the bottom (worst). Of course, the latter is a relative term, as these players are considered to be the among the very best in entire Cardinals system.
|Unanimous picks (5)||best||who||worst||who|
|Delvin Perez||2||Fangraphs/HQ||6||MiL Ball|
As noted above, Reyes is the undisputed leader by virtue of having been ranked first on all seven lists. 2016 draftee Perez snagged two second place votes – from Fangraphs and BaseballHQ.
The two consensus top 10 players about whom there seems to be the biggest difference of opinion are Alcantara and Hudson. The former placed as high as second (BP) and as low as ninth (HQ). The pitcher ranged from his best of fifth (Minor League Ball) to barely making ESPN’s top 10.
Just missed the sweep
Despite so many similarities, it seems clear there are some significant pockets of disagreement, as well.
Four top 10 prospects appeared on six of seven lists, including the overall third and fourth-ranked prospects, Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly. The dissenters are ESPN for Weaver and HQ for Kelly, despite the pair each receiving two second-place votes from others. Kelly also took at number nine ranking (by Minor League Ball) and Weaver had a seven tag (from Baseball Prospectus).
The other two prospects left off just one top 10 are Bader and Flaherty. Yet, the outfielder received one third-place vote and the pitcher received a trio of fourth-place berths from others.
|Six of seven (4)||off||best||who|
|Luke Weaver||ESPN||2||MiL Ball/BA|
|Jack Flaherty||BA||4||ESPN/MiL Ball/HQ|
|Harrison Bader||Fangraphs||3||MiL Ball|
No Cardinals prospects were ranked on exactly four of five top 10 lists for 2017.
Two Cardinals prospects appear on three of the six lists. Interestingly, the overall showing by both players represented is down from last year, when Sosa was named on five of five and Fernandez appeared on four of five top 10 lists tracked.
Rather than anything being wrong with the pair, this seems to be a case of others passing them by in the eyes of the raters.
Only Alvarez’ name is listed on two of the seven top 10s. The Peoria standout was The Cardinal Nation’s system-wide Player of the Year for 2016, and like Sosa and Sierra, was added to the 40-man roster in November for Rule 5 protection.
Three prospects received one top 10 mention each. Three are all making their national top 10 debuts - the aforementioned Seijas, Hicks and DeJong.
Seijas, the Cards’ top international signee in 2015, has yet to pitch above the Gulf Coast League, but shows promise. Hicks missed his first season due to injury, but stormed up to State College from Johnson City last summer. DeJong was named by MLB Pipeline as having the top hit tool in the entire system and should be playing shortstop for Memphis this season.
As you will see below, one vote was not enough to place any one of these three into the consolidated top 10 – which seems fair at this point.
|Lone star picks (3)||rank||who|
|Paul DeJong||10||MiL Ball|
“Us vs. Them”
Again, here are the blended rankings of the seven national experts. When combining scores, a non-top ten player was assigned a score of “11”. The seven rankings for each player were added together with the lowest total ranked number one in the consolidated list and so on.
This time, when looking at weighted scoring behind the consolidated top 10, the first two were clear – Reyes and Perez. After that, Kelly and Weaver were tightly-bunched at 3-4, hurt by being left off one list each.
There was a gap to the next four, who were bunched tightly at 5 through 8 in Alcantara, Sierra, Bader and Flaherty. Hudson gets the clear nod at ninth after being named on all seven lists. There was another considerable gap to 10-11, where two prospects appeared on three lists with Sosa edging Fernandez out of the consolidated top 10.
The overall top 10 is compared to The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com rankings, listed next to it. (For reference, here is the link to our full top 50 list for 2016.)
|Consolidated top ten||rank||The Cardinal Nation||rank|
|Alex Reyes||1||Alex Reyes||1|
|Delvin Perez||2||Luke Weaver||2|
|Luke Weaver||3||Delvin Perez||3|
|Carson Kelly||4||Carson Kelly||4|
|Sandy Alcantara||5||Harrison Bader||5|
|Magneuris Sierra||6||Dakota Hudson||6|
|Harrison Bader||7||Jack Flaherty||7|
|Jack Flaherty||8||Sandy Alcantara||8|
|Dakota Hudson||9||Austin Gomber||9|
|Edmundo Sosa||10||Magneuris Sierra||10|
Though our list came out far ahead of the others in terms of timing, the consensus of the other seven looks quite similar at first impression.
Nine of the same 10 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 four the same, only with Kelly and Weaver flipped.
The unique player making the others’ consolidated top 10 is Sosa, despite the shortstop being named on fewer lists this year compared to last. The different player on The Cardinal Nation’s list is pitcher Austin Gomber, completely ignored at the national level. We were clearly more optimistic about the left-hander’s Arizona Fall League success than were the other player raters.
In terms or order within the top 10, two players the nationals are more aggressive about are Alcantara and Sierra. The former is still emerging while the latter had his most dominating season two years ago. On the other hand, TCN is more excited about Bader and Hudson.
Earlier, we looked at as individual Cardinals prospects’ placements on a series of national top 100 lists: Cardinals Make Best Top 100 Showings Since 2013
The final article in this annual series will analyze include various views of the comparative national rankings of the Cardinals’ system in its entirety as well as their key rivals.
Links to prior years’ editions of this article
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