Jack Flaherty (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Monthly members-only, in-depth report on rising and falling St. Louis Cardinals prospects.

Explaining changes to The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect list over the last month. Jack Flaherty and Magneuris Sierra are among those making a statement in 2017.

Welcome to the second 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 top 50 for April, which rolled out this time last month, to today.

As always, the challenge is to balance short-term spikes in performance with long-term potential. After all, we are barely six 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, I made three moves on (with others coming off) the top 50. One debuts (returns) as high as 37. I also spent considerable focus on tweaking the order within the remaining 47.

As a continued reminder, 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.

The ranking in the “Apr” column below reflects the player’s rank from last month.

Repeated reminders

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.)

Key changes for May

There are many individual ranking changes this time; however, many are up or down just a few spots. Those are more due to general shifting of others raising or lowering the water level for all, rather than anything significant.

When preparing the rankings, there were a number of explicit moves I did make. I am summarizing them here.

Off On Risers Fallers Watch
V Garcia Mercado Flaherty Hicks O'Reilly
Chinea Ar Reyes Sierra Williams  
Nielsen Wisdom Gonzales Je Martinez  
    Tuivailala Mayers  
    Pearce Wick  
    Knizner D Gonzalez  
    Voit Kilichowski  

With three players going off, three came on.

After six weeks of sustained success with his new swing and approach at the plate, Oscar Mercado is winning me over. Arturo Reyes is dependable, but not flashy, so is often overlooked. Not now. And Patrick Wisdom is showing good power and production, but the strikeouts and subpar batting average remain.

Pushed off the tail end of the top 50 are last month’s 48, 49 and 50th-ranked prospects – Chris Chinea, Victor Garcia and Trey Nielsen. Nielsen has the best chance of returning soon. Garcia appears to need a lot of work, but will probably be given the longest runway.

Key risers

I went out of my way to move several up in the rankings. It begins in the top 10.

http://www.scout.com/player/179302-jack-flaherty?s=321

Based on his stellar start on top of a good pedigree, I moved everyone’s April Pitcher of the Month Jack Flaherty from seventh to sixth. Magneuris Sierra’s impressive MLB debut also vaulted him from ninth to seventh. When Junior Fernandez is hot, he is really hot. That is enough for him to slip into the top 10 despite inconsistency as well.

http://www.scout.com/player/171618-magneuris-sierra?s=321

I really feel that Paul DeJong deserves a top 10 spot for handing a new position, improving his batting average while still delivering his trademark power. As it is, the infielder has to settle for 11th this time.

A healthy, productive Marco Gonzales should not have been 27th, but it has been two years since that was the case. He has vaulted back to 16th, but still far from his earlier peak in the top three.

Just maybe, this refined curveball will be Sam Tuivailala’s ticket to remain in the majors. Then again, his option availability makes him the easy mark to move down to Memphis (as soon as when Tyler Lyons is ready, perhaps).

Matt Pearce, Andrew Knizner and Luke Voit are other top performers who received a positive bump in their rankings based on their 2017 showings.

Key fallers

At least three members of the opening Peoria starting five are falling short of expectations. Jordan Hicks has hit a rough patch after a strong start, while Ronnie Williams was sent to the bullpen to try to work out of his problems. Lefty John Kilichowski has also delivered subpar results.

At Palm Beach, catcher Jeremy Martinez may be suffering the ill effects of being jumped over Peoria into the offensively-challenged Florida State League. Pitcher Derian Gonzalez has the velocity, but the results haven’t been there.

Though the Memphis Redbirds have been playing very well, there are exceptions – even among the top prospect ranks. Starter Mike Mayers can’t seem to shake the doldrums that seemed to begin with he was prematurely called up to St. Louis last summer. Hard-throwing reliever Rowan Wick was hit hard before hitting the disabled list himself.

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 with little change from last month on a macro scale. The biggest moves were Sierra and Tuivailala to St. Louis.

Seven of the top 50 are in extended spring training so they will not have actual results for over a month 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. I am resisting any temptation to shift any of them other than as the result of movement of others.

Four are injured, down from seven last month, with the most severe and concerning the head injury suffered by Memphis pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon. Here is hoping he can soon start moving up the ranks again.

  Rank            
By level 1-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 Total April
St. Louis 2   1     3 1
Memphis 3 2 1 3 4 13 12
Springfield 3 3   2   8 8
Palm Beach 1 4 2 2 1 10 12
Peoria     4 3 2 9 9
EST 1 1 2   3 7 8
total 10 10 10 10 10 50 50

Prospect Rankings

Again, following each player’s name under “Apr” is where he was ranked last month. “NA” means “not applicable” and “NR” means “not ranked”. Next are the players’ current level, followed by primary defensive position.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
1 Alex Reyes 1 StL DL RHS    
  You already know the story. Nothing much to say until 2018.
             
2 Luke Weaver 2 Mem RHS    
  Early returns from DL extremely positive to point he may be #6 starter.
             
3 Delvin Perez 3 EST SS    
  Was not deemed ready for full-season club - yet. Still just 18 years old.
             
4 Carson Kelly 4 Mem C    
  Quietly hitting very well, with a .329 average, 11 RBI over the last 30 days.
             
5 Harrison Bader 5 Mem OF    
  Respectable .284 avg, 4 HR, but just 9 RBI, 25% K rate last month. 
             
6 Jack Flaherty 7 Spr RHS    
  21-year old does everything well, continues to dominate in Double-A.
             
7 Magneuris Sierra 9 StL CF    
  Made surprising jump from high-A to MLB and hit in all seven games.
             
8 Sandy Alcantara 6 Spr RHS    
  Fanned 26, but 40 hits, 11 BB in 28.1 IP means 7.81 ERA in last 30 days.
             
9 Dakota Hudson 8 Spr RHS    
  In first extended duty, 25/7 K/BB  in 28.2 IP last month with 3.77 ERA. 
             
10 Junior Fernandez 11 PB RHS    
  2 FSL Pitcher of Week awards. Still up/down, but 2.96 ERA last month.
             

The top 10

The top five remained the same as last month, though Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly deserve mention for strong performance. As mentioned above, Flaherty and Sierra received bumps up.

Fernandez slipped into the top 10, as Edmundo Sosa dropped down several places. In fact, I made a cognizant decision to rank DeJong ahead of Sosa.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
11 Paul DeJong 13 Mem SS    
  Quietly raking. 7 HR, 20 RBI last month leads entire system. 
             
12 Edmundo Sosa 10 PB SS    
  21 y/o batted .282 last month, but 17 Ks, just 4 BB means OBP low.
             
13 Jake Woodford 12 PB RHS    
  Too many baserunners (1.6 WHIP) led to 3.86 ERA last month.
             
14 Austin Gomber 15 Spr LHS    
  22 y/o lefty returning toward prior consistency after so-so start.
             
15 Zac Gallen 16 PB RHS    
  Quietly off to one of best starts in system. Polish + results  
             
16 Marco Gonzales 27 Mem LHS    
  Like Weaver, strong comeback from injury. Can help StL.  
             
17 Eliezer Alvarez 14 Spr DL 2B    
  Before high ankle sprain, hit .212 with 37.5% K rate last month.
             
18 Connor Jones 17 PB RHS    
  Great start to season turned into 5.71 ERA last 30 days.  
             
19 Johan Oviedo 18 EST RHS    
  Lower velo from 18 y/o Cuban who received $1.9 MM.  
             
20 Adolis Garcia 20 Spr OF    
  Respectable .264 average, plated 15, stole 5 of 7 last month.
             

The second 10

I mentioned Marco Gonzales’ rise above and was tempted to improve Zac Gallen’s ranking further, but will continue to watch before moving him ahead of Jake Woodford and Austin Gomber.

Eliezer Alvarez takes a hit both due to a tough start at Springfield and a significant injury. Connor Jones’ recent difficulties are also troubling, but those right behind him are not excelling.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
21 Nick Plummer 22 Peo OF    
  Back from injury again. .429 OBP, .545 SLG promising, but it is early.
             
22 John Gant 25 Mem RHS    
  Finally made 2017 debut on Wed 5/17. 1 R in 3.1 IP.  
             
23 Jordan Hicks 19 Peo RHS    
  20 y/o had promising start, but last 30 days has 5.96 ERA.  
             
24 Ryan Helsley 21 PB RHS    
  22-year old has ugly 8.31 ERA over last 30 days.    
             
25 Dylan Carlson 23 Peo OF    
  .254 average last month better, but only two RBI.    
             
26 Alvaro Seijas 28 EST RHS    
  StL's big international signing in 2015 heading for JC or SC?  
             
27 Bryce Denton 24 Peo OF    
  Really struggling with .169 avg., .210 OBP, 1 RBI last month.
             
28 Randy Arozarena 26 PB CF    
  3 HR, 9 RBI, .253 average last month ok, but not eye-popping.
             
29 Sam Tuivailala 37 StL RHR    
  Newly-mastered breaking ball changing MLB perceptions.  
             
30 Jonatan Machado 31 EST CF    
  18-year old Cuban with $2.35MM bonus headed for short-season.
             

21-30

I imagine everyone wants to see Nick Plummer shed the injury-prone label and succeed. The very early returns, just 14 games in, are encouraging.

Like Gonzales, John Gant should either move up (or possibly down) with a few more starts under his belt.

Several players in this group are scuffling, including Hicks, Ryan Helsley and Bryce Denton.

As noted above, Tuivailala has parachuted into this grouping.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
31 Daniel Poncedeleon 32 Mem DL RHS    
  Best AAA starter before serious head injury. Hoping for best. 
             
32 Tommy Edman 33 Peo SS    
  Settling into MWL. .292 average and 11 RBI over last month.
             
33 Ian Oxnevad 35 Peo LHS    
  20 y/o with good peripherals last month, but just 4.66 ERA.  
             
34 Jeremy Martinez 29 PB C    
  Really struggling with .174 avg, all singles, 0 RBI last month.
             
35 Darren Seferina 36 PB 2B    
  Thriving as Palm Beach leadoff man since Sierra left.  
             
36 Matt Pearce 40 Spr RHS    
  Control artist went from rough patch to dominating stretch.   
             
37 Oscar Mercado HM Spr CF    
  Prospect rebirth continues. 20 G hitting streak, 12 SB last month.
             
38 Mike Mayers 34 Mem RHS    
  Line similar to Hicks last month. Too many walks, ERA at 6.
             
39 Andrew Knizner 43 Peo C    
  Leading Peo - 6 home runs, 17 RBI in last 30 days alone.   
             
40 Luke Voit 44 Mem 1B    
  26 y/o showing no signs of slowing down in big AAA debut.  
             

31-40

As mentioned up top, Jeremy Martinez and Mayers are among those who dropped, while I see positive momentum from Pearce, Mercado, Knizner and Voit.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
41 Arturo Reyes NR Mem RHS    
  Very consistent 3.06 ERA, 24/9 K/BB in 32.1 IP at AAA.  
             
42 Ronnie Williams 30 Peo RHS    
  21-year old's struggles bad enough to cause move to pen.  
             
43 Rowan Wick 38 Mem DL RHR    
  Decent AAA start deteriorated (8.31 ERA) before injury and DL. 
             
44 Derian Gonzalez 39 PB RHS    
  Too many baserunners (1.7 WHIP) leads to 6.64 ERA last month.
             
45 John Kilichowski 41 Peo LHS    
  22 y/o lefty with poor 5.49 ERA in last month of MWL return. 
             
46 Dennis Ortega 42 EST C    
  Lowest level catcher to get major time in StL spring camp.   
             
47 Breyvic Valera 45 Mem 2B    
  Ice cold start, then red hot since. .330 average last 30 days.  
             
48 Carlos Soto 46 EST C    
  17-year old was a .300 hitter in 2016 DSL now in the US.   
             
49 Wadye Ynfante 47 EST CF    
  .331 BA and .429 OBP in DSL last summer before brief GCL intro.
             
50 Patrick Wisdom HM Mem 3B    
  6 HR, 19 RBI, but .253 average, 28% K rate in last 30 days.  
             

41-50

Three pitchers in this grouping skidded from the 31-40 grouping last month – Williams, Wick and Derian Gonzalez. Arturo Reyes is the key newcomer here.

Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
off Chris Chinea 48 PB 1B    
  Palm Beach cleanup man scuffling with .209 average last month. 
             
off Victor Garcia 49 DSL OF    
  Venezuelan 16-year old sent down to DSL from spring trainng.
             
off Trey Nielsen 50 Mem RHR    
  Earned promotion to Memphis. Too early to assess impact.  
             
Rk Prospect Apr Team Pos    
HM Mike O'Reilly NR Peo RHS    
  22 y/o moved into rotation and logged 2.55 ERA last month.  
             

Dropped out and honorable mentions

The drops were all covered above. The only honorable mention who caught my eye is new Peoria starter Mike O’Reilly. Of course, we are not far away from major changes as the 2017 Draft is conducted and short-season ball gets underway.

In conclusion

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?

Join the discussion at The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum to offer your comments and questions about these rankings – and any other Cardinals topics on your mind.

Thank you for your continued support!

 

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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