40 Days, 40 Nights, 40 Cards Prospects: 2009

Our new series started Monday, December 1! Over a forty-day period, we once again disclose our top minor league prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system.

We're officially announcing our fourth annual stlcardinals.scout.com Top 40 Prospect List. During the period we've labeled "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Cardinals Prospects", we will unveil a new top St. Louis Cardinals prospect each day, Monday through Friday, which will carry us well beyond the New Year. We continue until our #1 pick is disclosed – our consensus top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system coming into the 2009 season.

This time around, we've planned a new twist. In addition to holdovers Dustin Mattison, Ray Mileur and Brian Walton, we have a new fourth voice – you, our readers.

Since early September, the members of our free message board community have been conducting voting for their own annual prospect list. This is a process that has often been imitated but never duplicated, since our readers are the most knowledgeable folks around when it comes to the Cardinals minor league system.

The community list will be given equal weighting to the other three lists and combined will yield the countdown unveiled here. A leader of the community, "CariocaCardinal", who has played a key role in managing the voting, will speak for the readers in the individual player capsules posted daily.

To follow the countdown, Scout.com subscribers can either read each new story when posted on our home page or click on the individual players' names which will be listed below. All readers, subscribers or not, are welcome to come back here each day to check the current status of our Top 40 countdown.

In addition, all readers can join in the debate at our message board, where there will be a new discussion thread each day devoted to that day's entry onto the prospect list.

To reference the lists from each of the past three seasons, either click on the highlighted years here: 2006, 2007 or 2008 or use the permanent links on the lower left side of our home page.

Before we get into the new list itself, here is a bit about the process. Independently in early November, Dustin, Ray and Brian documented their top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. To that we added the Community Ranking.

A consensus score was then tabulated, which is what you'll see here. The four individual scores will also be shown on each player page as they are unveiled each day, along with a wealth of additional information on all forty players. Players must have been named on at least two ballots to be considered and ties were broken with the highest individual score receiving the nod.

In terms of qualification, any player in the Cardinals minor league system is eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation. As a reminder, to lose rookie status, a player needs 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched or more than 45 days on the active roster from April through August, excluding time on the disabled list.

As a result, these three players do not qualify for the 2009 countdown:
- Joe Mather (133 AB)
- Brian Barton (153 AB, # days active)
- Chris Perez (only 41 2/3 IP, but on the roster for more than 45 days during the qualifying period)

Because each voter used slightly different criteria in defining what a "top prospect" means, all briefly explain how they made their selections.

Dustin Mattison:
After going through Baseball University's scouting course last winter, I feel I bring a different perspective than in my previous rankings. I think in the past, I let tools sometimes get in the way of actual production. In looking at my rankings for this year's list, I seem to have ranked players on the verge of contributing to the big league squad over those "toolsy" players who are performing at the lower levels.

In compiling my list, I based my decisions on seeing players in person and various scouting reports as well as scouting video. Plus, during my series of interviews of many of the minor league players in the Cardinals system, I have gotten feedback from those who play with the prospects on the list on a day in and day out basis.

I would like to add as the organization as refocused attention on player development, my list has grown and grown. As I was making my Top 40 list, I realized my list had grown to some 60+ players. This is a much better problem to have than say not having 40 players deserving of a ranking!

Ray Mileur:
Performance generally takes precedence over potential in my rankings. I strive to balance the performance of a player and weigh that against the expectations and his potential. While potential cannot be ignored, I also believe it can be worst thing you can say about some players.

Top draft picks and highly touted prospects may rank ahead of others with their potential being given preference over the performance of others. But, I do expect those with great potential to live up to it, sooner than later.

I'm a card-carrying member of the TINSTAPP (There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect) club, as such, pitching prospects may not be rank as high on my list as on other Top Prospect lists like at Baseball America or BaseballHQ.

Brian Walton:
Despite greater numbers to choose from, the challenge for me remains the same. How does one fairly assess the ceiling of a younger player with less experience but a potentially-longer runway in comparison with an older player with a lower ceiling that is closer to the majors, or even one that had a cup of coffee in the bigs, but spilled it in his lap?

And how long does a player need to demonstrate success before it can be fully weighted? Was that solid 2008 season a true breakout or a one-time occurrence? I fully admit that I am less swayed by "one-year wonders" than some.

Fortunately for the organization (not we voters!), this ranking process has become more challenging each year due to the increasing number of better quality players having joined the Cardinals system. As Dustin noted above, in the past, I had trouble coming up with 40 players about whom I felt strongly enough to consider ranking.

Last year, my list of serious contenders had 50 names and has now grown to over 60! Yet, I have a nagging concern. Other than a couple of "can't miss" players, the Cardinals have an increasing quantity of middle-of-the-road prospects. At least the fact there are more of them increases the chances that a few will make it to the top, but it would be nice to see a few more Rasmuses and Wallaces. Bottom line, I see more quantity than sure quality.

My picks are my own, based on personal observation as much as possible but also influenced by scouts and people in and out of the organization with whom I have communicated. Periodically during my daily write-ups, I will include relevant comments from several of the scouts with whom I have consulted.

Message Board Community:
This is a very straight-forward process. On our free message board, all comers are welcome to cast their vote for any eligible player. The voting began with the number one prospect and continues today, as that list will eventually go to 50.

Voting is closed on a particular player when enough time has elapsed to exhaust responses or when a candidate has established a large lead. The winner is recorded and the voting begins anew on the next number in the list.

Discussion and debate is welcomed and anyone can participate. As the result of some convincing arguments presented, votes have been affected and in some cases, changed. All is fair in love and voting!

stlcardinals.scout.com Top 40 Prospects – 2009

40. Ryde Rodriguez (free!)
39. Curt Smith Premium Article
38. Arquimedes Nieto (free!)
37. Luke Gregerson Premium Article
36. Jose Martinez (free!)
35. Roberto De La Cruz Premium Article
34. David Kopp (free!)
33. Shane Robinson Premium Article
32. Jon Edwards (free!)
31. Mark Worrell (traded - no article)
30. Nick Stavinoha Premium Article
29. Steven Hill (free!)
28. Shaun Garceau Premium Article
27. Deryk Hooker (free!)
26. Scott Gorgen Premium Article
25. Tyler Herron (free!)
24. Fernando Salas Premium Article
23. P.J. Walters (free!)
22. Adam Reifer Premium Article
21. Nick Additon (free!)
20. Josh Kinney Premium Article
19. Francisco Samuel (free!)
18. Lance Lynn Premium Article
17. Tyler Greene (free!)
16. Niko Vasquez Premium Article
15. Richard Castillo (free!)
14. Allen Craig Premium Article
13. Adam Ottavino (free!)
12. Pete Kozma Premium Article
11. Clayton Mortensen (free!)
10. Jon Jay Premium Article
9. Jaime Garcia (free!)
8. Mitchell Boggs Premium Article
7. Jason Motte (free!)
6. David Freese Premium Article
5. Daryl Jones (free!)
4. Jess Todd Premium Article
3. Bryan Anderson (free!)
2. Brett Wallace Premium Article
1. Colby Rasmus (free!)

At the conclusion of the countdown, we will follow with a free six-part series where we analyze each voter's individual top 40 lists and year-to-year changes. Then, each of the four highlight the players on their personal lists that did not make the combined top 40 and we wrap it up with our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position.

2009 Top Cards Prospects – The Final Tally
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Mattison
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Mileur
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Walton
Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest – Community
2009 Scout.com All-Cards Prospect Team

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