McKamey on the Cards and the NL Central: 2009

In the conclusion of a two-part series, Deric McKamey, one of baseball's preeminent minor league experts, shares his rankings of the National League Central Division organizations. We also look at the details behind the Cardinals changes from past years.

Deric McKamey's annual "Minor League Baseball Analyst" is the first prospect guide to fully integrate sabermetrics and scouting. A long-time Bill James disciple and graduate of Major League Baseball's scout school, Deric's unique brand of analysis is provided for over 1000 minor leaguers.

In Part one of this two-part series featuring excerpts from the Analyst, McKamey shared his top 15 Cards prospects with the details as to why they're ranked where they are.

Here in Part two, we'll look into McKamey's Cardinals' organizational rankings in comparison to their National League Central Division competitors. 2006, 2007 and 2008 club rankings are also delved into along with individual player movement.

St. Louis vs. NL Central

The cyclical nature of the prospect business is clear when noting that the Cardinals and Reds were tied for last in the NL Central Divisional rankings four years ago with the two closely bunched at the top now.

However, St. Louis is in the midst of a steady four-year improvement run, while Cincinnati took a step downward after a 2008 in which at least three of their top prospects became MLB contributors.

In addition to the Cardinals now being ranked first of the six NL Central organizations in the overall rankings, they also just made it into the top third of MLB at number ten, another notable milestone.

Org. MLB rank  '08-'09 trend Overall (2009)  Overall (2008)  Overall (2007) Overall (2006)
Cardinals 10 up B B- C C-
Reds 11 down B B+ B C-
Brewers 13 up B- C B B+
Pirates 20 flat C+ C+ C C
Cubs 27 down C- C+ C+ B-
Astros 29 down D+ C- B- C

Now let's dive down into the detailed analysis of the 2009 NL Central by category. Here we see the Cardinals either on top or tied for the best score in three of the four criteria that when combined make up the overall score.

St. Louis leads the division in pitching, though their grade is only a C+. They are tied for tops in hitting (A-) and depth (B). Even their B- score in top talent is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Org. Overall   Hitting Pitching Top talent  Depth
Cardinals B A- C+ B- B
Reds B A- C- B- B
Brewers B- B+ C B+ C
Pirates C+ B+ D+ B+ D
Cubs C- C- C- C D+
Astros D+ C- D+ D D+

Cardinals now vs. in the past

Now we'll look into Cardinals year-to-year trends. (The "depth" category is not included here as it was just added into the 2009 Analyst. Therefore, a yearly comparison is not possible.)

Cardinals Hitting Pitching Top-end talent  Overall
08-09 trend up down flat up
2009 A- C+ B- B
2008 C+ B- B- B-
07-08 trend up up up up
2007 C C- C+ C

Starting at the bottom, the Cardinals organization earned marked improvement in all three categories from 2007 to 2008. Is it purely coincidental that the top six clubs in the system finished an aggregate 60 games over .500 last season?

Looking ahead to 2009, we see why the Cardinals moved up in their overall score. It was entirely driven by a huge jump in hitting, from last year's C+ to this year's A-. Top talent remained flat, while not surprisingly, pitching took a dip.

Let's go back to the Cardinals top 15 prospects to dig into this a bit. Interestingly, in terms of raw numbers, quantity not quality, the number of hitters in the top 15 actually decreased by one from 2008.

Cards top 15 Hitters Pitchers
2009 8 7
2008 9 6

Yet when you look at the top half, prospects one through eight, you can see the magnitude of the change much more clearly. Last year, the top eight were evenly split, while the hitters now lead the pitchers, 6-2.

Cards top 8 Hitters Pitchers
2009 6 2
2008 4 4

Brian Barton and Joe Mather graduated while Mark Hamilton and Jose Martinez dropped off. More importantly, we see the debuts of two highly-ranked hitters, Brett Wallace and Daryl Jones.

Cards top 15 Hitters on (rank) Hitters off (2008 #s)
2009 Wallace (2) 9C Barton (7) 8C
  Jones (4) 9D Hamilton (10) 8D
  Vasquez (15) 7C Martinez (11) 7C
    Mather (15) 7C

On the pitching side, the puts and takes were more balanced. No longer a rookie, Chris Perez is off the list while Jason Motte effectively took his place. Jaime Garcia's injury was a major hit to the overall ranking, with perhaps the biggest new name being that of Jess Todd. Blake Hawksworth's long shelf life seems to have finally expired.

Cards top 15 Pitchers on (rank) Pitchers off (2008 #s)
2009 Motte (5) 8C Perez (4) 8C
  Boggs (7) 7B Ottavino (8) 8C
  Todd (9) 8C Herron (9) 7C
  Lynn (13) 8D Hawksworth (14) 7C
  Castillo (14) 8D  

The final table is a quick-and-dirty quality measure. Remember the Potential Rating for each member of the top 15, where 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.

Cards top 15 08-09  9 Elite player  8 Solid regular  7 Average regular 
B 90% chance flat down 1 up 2
C 70% chance up 1 down 2 down 3
D 50% chance up 1 up 2 na

As you can see, in the top 15, there was general movement to the left from 2008, which is good. This is somewhat reflected in the Cardinals' continued improvement in the overall rankings.

In closing, thank you again to Deric McKamey and BaseballHQ for giving us this advance peek at their data. Please respect them and copyright laws by not duplicating this material.

Link to Part one of this report: "Deric McKamey on Cardinals Prospects: 2009"

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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