Welcome to the first in-season St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospect List update from The Cardinal Nation for 2017. My plan continues to be to present and explain my then-current view of the top 50 prospects in the Cardinals system around the mid-point of each month during the regular season.
The time window considered this time is from when we published the site top 50 for 2017, which rolled out from November into the first of the year, to today.
As always, the challenge is to balance short-term spikes in performance with long-term potential. After all, we are barely two weeks into the regular season. So, the focus here is to use the former to help adjust the latter, but not to pick the Players of the Month. We have a separate process for that.
This time around, because it is so early, I did not make wholesale moves on and off the top 50. Instead, I primarily focused on tweaking the order within.
There is also a bit of a rub since this is my personal list, not created with input from others. That is different from the overall site top 50, in which my ranking carries a one-third weighting.
To be consistent with the main list, the ranking in the “Prior” column below reflects the blended site ranking from the off-season. Because of that difference, what may look like increases or drops may be more due to my opinion making up these entire rankings, rather than reflecting the view of the larger group.
While any rankings with numbers attached appear very absolute, I suggest you look at players in groupings. For example, there is little difference in prospects number 21 through 25, for example, or 23 through 27.
It should be reiterated that we have separate awards for the top Players of the Month. What I am trying to do here is take a longer-term, prospect-oriented view, instead. Current performances do matter, but not as much until they are demonstrated over a greater period of time. A good month can reinforce an earlier opinion, while a bad month does not usually materially affect a prospect’s ultimate future.
As always, this report reflects my opinions and not that of the entire The Cardinal Nation staff, so feel to address any comments or questions through the premium message board.
Note: Players remain eligible for the list as long as they maintain their prospect status (less than 50 innings pitched or less than 130 plate appearances in the major leagues.)
There are many individual ranking changes. However, most are up or down a few spots. Those are more due to general shifting of others raising or lowering the water for all, rather than anything significant.
When preparing the rankings, there were a number of explicit moves I made. I am listing them here.
With three players going off, three came on. Allen Cordoba is doing well in San Diego, while neither Corey Littrell (suspension) nor Kendry Flores (contract voided) can say the same.
Since last winter, St. Louis added 40-man pitcher John Gant in the Jaime Garcia trade and signed Cuban free agent outfielder Adolis Garcia this spring. Speaking of Garcias, the Cards inked then-16 year old Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia to a $1.5 million deal last July. Victor was on my personal list last off-season and rejoins in April.
I went out of my way to move three pitchers up in the rankings, all into the top 20. Connor Jones and Zac Gallen were so protected last season after signing, it was hard to get a read on them. Now, I am very comfortable with the second and third-rounders from last July being the top 20. They are members of the Palm Beach rotation.
The other big riser is Jordan Hicks. There is more than the multiple 101 mph gun readings I observed in spring training. The 20-year old is off to a very strong start at Peoria.
Perhaps my expectations were too high after his strong stint in the Arizona Fall League, but lefty Austin Gomber did not look particularly sharp in big league camp this spring and started slowly in his return to Springfield. It was Daniel Poncedeleon, not Gomber, who received the call when Memphis needed a starter.
We had little to go on for Cuban outfielder Randy Arozarena. For now, it seems he is behind Adolis Garcia, Oscar Mercado and Magneuris Sierra in the outfield pecking order at Double-A and high-A.
Never a hard thrower, Matt Pearce’s margin for error looks to be exposed at Double-A. Breyvic Valera’s fame is based on batting average and when he doesn’t have that, there is little to say. Trey Nielsen being moved to the bullpen makes his star less shiny.
Top 50 by level
Here is the breakdown of the top 50 by their current assignments. There is a pretty good balance across the various levels.
Eight of them are in extended spring training so will not have actual results for several months into the future. In addition, they are at least five steps and as much as eight promotions away from the majors, so inherently, these players carry a higher risk of not reaching their potential.
Another seven are injured, including the top two prospects and three of the top 10.
Again, following each player’s name under “Prior” is where he was ranked by this site during the annual rankings. “NA” means “not applicable” and “NR” means “not ranked”. Next are the players’ current level, followed by primary defensive position.
|1||Alex Reyes||1||StL DL||RHS|
|You already know the story.|
|2||Luke Weaver||2||Mem DL||RHS|
|Recurring back problems are slowing his progress toward StL rotation.|
|Was not deemed ready for full-season club - yet. Still just 18 years old.|
|Early power shown at Memphis is encouraging. Just needs reps.|
|Great spring with StL, but again a slow start with Memphis.|
|21-year old had good spring. One bad outing at Spr, but sky the limit.|
|21-year old does everything well and is dominating in Double-A debut.|
|Only 2 pro stats so far above GCL, but very promising potential.|
|9||Magneuris Sierra||10||PB DL||CF|
|Impressive spring with StL and good start with PB before concussion.|
|21-year old batting .333 from 5th spot in Palm Beach lineup.|
The top 10
Really, there is not much new to see here. It is not ideal when your top two prospects are on the shelf, but that’s the way it is.
One can debate the sequence of the three Springfield starters among Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, but why? Their performances will eventually sort it out.
It looks like Edmundo Sosa moved up, but I had him 10th over the winter, too.
|20-year old had 2 ok starts before perfect game into 7th in last outing.|
|Very solid Florida State League intro for 20-year old|
|Off to .313 BA, but no walks and K-ing 1/3 of plate appearances.|
|Aggressive promo over Palm Beach means some patience needed.|
|22-year-old lefty has not rediscovered 2016 success - yet.|
|Showing his 3rd round selection in 2016 draft may be a steal.|
|22-year old is right up there with Gallen after 2 FSL starts.|
|Lower spring velo from 18 y/o Cuban who received $1.9 MM.|
|20-year old showed 101 mph and dominating early at Peoria.|
|Cuban signed this spring for $2.5 MM. Knocking off rust.|
The second 10
Eliezer Alvarez gets a small boost with his jump over Palm Beach. Gomber falling and Gallen/Jones/Hicks rising have already been covered. I am comfortable placing Adolis Garcia into the bottom edge of the top 20 and bumping fellow Cuban outfielder Arozarena down, though it could surely change given their short professional histories in the US.
|22-year old continuing 2016 success up a level in FSL|
|22||Nick Plummer||21||Peo DL||OF|
|Multiple years of injury woes continue.|
|Off to slow start after aggressive promo, but still just 18 in MWL.|
|24||Bryce Denton||26||Peo DL||OF|
|Shift to OF enabled move up, but recovering from appendicitis.|
|25||John Gant||NA||Mem DL||RHS|
|Atlanta acquisition looked good in MLB camp before groin injury.|
|22 y/o Cuban leading off for PB. Like Garcia, needs to play daily.|
|27||Marco Gonzales||23||Mem DL||LHS|
|Waiting for progress coming back from Tommy John surgery.|
|StL's big international signing in 2015 heading for JC or SC?|
|Challenged with jump over Peo. Best C in system not named Kelly.|
|21-year old alternating rough and good starts in early going.|
It may appear that I am down on Ryan Helsley, but this is actually one spot better than I had the right-hander during the off-season. I see him a tick below the aforementioned top 20 hurlers, but still 21st is rarefied air among pitchers in this system.
The young outfielders are all in a pack in the 20s, as we wait for them to distinguish themselves in full-season ball. Getting healthy first is key. Gant and Marco Gonzales are both on the Memphis disabled list and could shoot up when healthy. Challenged with a jump over Peoria, catcher Jeremy Martinez bears watching.
|18-year old Cuban with $2.35MM bonus looks headed for short-season.|
|Moved ahead of Gomber as first Spr promo to Mem and looking good.|
|Batting .362 in early going with over half of hits going for extra bases.|
|Still looking for right-hander to overcome 1 rough start for StL in 2016.|
|20-year old with so-so MWL start, but making jump from JC.|
|Picking up in FSL where left off before 2016 injury with .333 BA.|
|Off to a hot start with Memphis, but will he ever stick with StL?|
|Dominated at PB, less at Spr in 2016. Good start at Mem.|
|22-year old had one clunker in two starts to date in PB return.|
|Margin for error small for control artist at back of Spr rotation.|
Poncedeleon, Tommy Edman and Darren Seferina are on the rise. On the other hand, Jonatan Machado is bumped down by others, while Mike Mayers and Matt Pearce are scuffling.
|22-year old lefty off to slow start in return to MWL.|
|Lowest level catcher to get major time in StL spring camp.|
|Initial jump from JC going very well - .375 BA in early going.|
|26-year old has one hot week and one cold in his AAA debut.|
|Having trouble replicating 2016 progress. DeJong passing him by.|
|17-year old was a .300 hitter in 2016 DSL. Now in the US.|
|.331 BA and .429 OBP in DSL last summer before brief GCL intro.|
|Batting cleanup for Palm Beach after move to first base from catcher.|
|Venezuelan 16-year old received $1.5 MM. Will debut in US|
|Dealt with spring injury, then moved to bullpen upon return.|
John Kilichowski, Valera and Nielsen are among the fallers this month. Luke Voit and Andrew Knizner each move up a couple of spots with good starts. Four in this group will likely not play official games until June as they are in EST.
|Looks like Rule 5 pick may stick with San Diego Padres.|
|PED suspension means a later re-boot will be needed.|
|Failed spring physical ended his Cards stint before it began.|
|Surprisingly strong start by former SS definitely bears watching.|
|Started well in MLB camp and with Memphis. Can he sustain?|
|6-6 righty had good MLB camp, but so-so start with Memphis.|
Dropped out and honorable mentions
The drops were all covered above. The honorable mentions (denoted by "HM") could easily join this list at a later date, but I am looking for longer-term momentum before they bump others off the top 50.
That is it for this time. Thank you for reading these somewhat voluminous rankings. I know it may be a lot for some, but how much good is a list of names without explanations?
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