In Part 1 of this annual four-part series, we looked into the individual rankings, scouting reports and future potential of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top 15 prospects according to BaseballHQ’s “Minor League Baseball Analyst” for 2017.
Next, we dug into the Minor League Analyst’s organizational ratings for the National League Central Division clubs with scoring of each in the areas of hitting, pitching, top-end talent, depth and overall and compared them to a number of recent past seasons.
Part 3 looks into individual player movement and changes in their projections from year to year.
There has only been moderate churn in the top 15. Five from last year’s rankings are gone, same as last year, but down from seven and eight, respectively, the two years prior. Despite improvements in pitching, hitting and depth, a decline in top end talent led to only a slight change in the overall system rankings.
In terms of names, Tim Cooney and Charlie Tilson, ranked sixth and ninth last year, left the organization. 2016 fifth-ranked prospect Marco Gonzales’ career slowed due to injury. Pitchers Ronnie Williams (12th) and Sam Tuivailala (15th) seemed to have been pushed off the list by others.
Notice the net shift of four top 15 prospects from pitchers to hitters from 2016 to 2017.
|Cards top 15||Hitters on (rank) rating||Hitters off (2016 #s)|
|2017||Perez (2) 8C||Tilson (9) 7A|
|Kelly (11) 7C|
|Carlson (14) 7C|
|Arozarena (15) 8D|
|Cards top 15||Pitchers on (rank) rating||Pitchers off (2016 #s)|
|2017||Hudson (8) 8D||Gonzales (5) 8C|
|Cooney (6) 7A|
|Williams (12) 8E|
|Tuivailala (15) 7C|
(Scan down to the final tables of this article for a refresher on the meaning of the two-digit codes for each player, Part 1 of this series.)
Other than Delvin Perez at number two overall, all of this year’s top eight have returned from the 2016 rankings.
As noted above, five players left, so of course five others join the top 15 for the first time. The debuts include the other two first-rounders from June’s draft (along with Perez) – Dakota Hudson (8) and Dylan Carlson (14). The other new member to the Cardinals system to make his debut is Cuban outfielder Randy Arozarena at 15. The lone incumbent in the system to join the top 15 for 2016 is catcher Carson Kelly, at 11th.
Next we have the 10 players remaining on the list from last year, six of whom are pitchers. Here, you again see a player’s numeric rank in the top 15, followed by his potential/probability rating, both this year and last. A red box means the player fell in one of both of the scores from last year. Green means improvement while yellow means no significant change on a year-to-year basis.
|Cards top 15||Incumbent pitchers 2017||In 2016|
|Reyes (1) 10D||Reyes (1) 10D|
|Weaver (3) 8C||Weaver (4) 8C|
|Flaherty (4) 8C||Flaherty (3) 8C|
|Alcantara (9) 9D||Alcantara (13) 9D|
|Fernandez (10) 9D||Fernandez (10) 9D|
|Woodford (13) 8D||Woodford (14) 8D|
|Cards top 15||Incumbent hitters 2017||In 2016|
|Sierra (5) 8C||Sierra (2) 8C|
|Bader (6) 8D||Bader (8) 8D|
|Sosa (7) 7C||Sosa (7) 8D|
|Plummer (12) 8D||Plummer (11) 8D|
Looking at the names that go with the colors, a very consistent trend shows itself. Five of the six pitchers held or improved their relative ranking within the system from year to year, but just one of the four hitters did.
Among the hurlers, Luke Weaver, Sandy Alcantara and Jake Woodford are considered to have the same ceiling and change of reaching it, but all three moved up in the top 15. Alcantara made the biggest jump, four places.
Both top prospect Alex Reyes and Junior Fernandez kept the exact same top 15 ranking and potential. Even Jack Flaherty, the lone red-colored pitcher, had just a tiny decline from third to fourth in the system.
Among the returning hitters, outfielders Magneuris Sierra and Nick Plummer slipped in the top 15. Edmundo Sosa held his number seven spot despite getting a career ceiling downgrade. No other repeater saw his ultimate potential fall and none received an uptick, either.
That leaves Harrison Bader, who jumped up two spots in the rankings following his number eight debut 12 months ago.
Most notable and a bit surprising to me was the fact the Cardinals have all “C” and “D” players, in the range 30% to 50% chance of achieving their ultimate potential. This is likely a factor in the drop in the high-end talent score illustrated earlier.
|Cardinals top 15 2017||10 Hall of Fame-type||9 Elite player||8 Solid regular||7 Average regular|
|A 90% chance|
|B 70% chance|
|C 50% chance||Perez, Weaver, Flaherty,||Sosa, Kelly, Carlson|
|D 30% chance||Reyes||Alcantara,||Bader, Hudson, Plummer,|
|E 10% chance|
Looking at the above table by columns, the Cardinals continue have a prospect considered to have future Hall of Fame-type talent in Reyes.
The elite-potential player group continues to feature two exciting pitchers in Fernandez and Alcantara. All three reside in the same 30% cell they inhabited last year.
The core of the Cardinals rankings are in the “solid regulars” column, where none of the nine players are believed to have a better than 50 percent odds of reaching that potential. Seven of the nine are the same as in 2016, with the only changes being Sosa moving to the right and Williams dropping off.
In the “average regular” column, joining Sosa are debuting top 15 prospects Kelly and Carlson.
Remember the Potential Rating for each member of the top 15, in which the higher the number, the more elite the player is expected to be. In terms of Probability Rating, the lower the letter, the more likely the player should reach that potential. Therefore, the upper left is the best place to be. Lower left is arguably next best. (To review the specific value definitions, refer to Part 1 of this series.)
The final table is a quick-and-dirty quality measure, yet the busy graph holds a lot of information. In the cells, the first number is the quantity of players in the top 15 at that level. The number that follows in parentheses is the change in the number of that level of players since last year. For example, there are no 7A players in 2017 after having two in 2016.
The colors of the cells indicate either fewer players in that group (red), more players (green) or no change from last year (yellow).
|Cards top 15 2017 (vs 2016)||10 Hall of Fame-type||9 Elite player||8 Solid regular||7 Average regular||Total|
|A 90% chance||0 (down 2)||0 (down 2)|
|B 70% chance||0 (flat)|
|C 50% chance||4 (flat)||3 (up 2)||7 (up 2)|
|D 30% chance||1 (flat)||2 (flat)||5 (up 1)||8 (up 1)|
|E 10% chance||0 (down 1)||0 (down 1)|
|Total||1 (flat)||2 (flat)||9 (flat)||3 (flat)||15|
When looking at this heat map, the reason for Cardinals’ slip in the top end talent is clearer. Essentially, the Cardinals have the same number of Hall of Fame-type (10) and elite (9) players than last year but taking the horizontal view, none of the 15 have better than 50 percent odds of achieving that potential.
As noted above, the number of solid regulars (8) remains flat, with the only change, the lower success odds for Gonzales. The number of average regulars (7) remains the same at three, but their overall odds are down.
In the final installment of this annual series, we will compare several of the top Cardinals prospects to the best in the game overall, by position in terms of long-range potential in the Major Leagues as well as in top skills. Concluding the article will be a review of the Cardinals’ 2016 draft.
In closing, thank you again to BaseballHQ for giving us this special look into their data. Please respect them and copyright laws by not duplicating this material.
Link to Part 1 of this report: ”BaseballHQ’s Top 15 Cardinals Prospects: 2017”
Link to Part 2 of this report: ”BaseballHQ: Cardinals System Still in MLB Middle”
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