A warning. If you are looking for reinforcement that external talent assessors have been inappropriately hard on the Cardinals system by their low rankings, you may as well move on right now. Further, a popular theory espoused by some that the organization compensates for fewer high-ceiling prospects by having more future MLB middle-tier players is not supported by what you will see below.
Today's featured evaluator is Diamond Futures. Their stated mission is "to develop the most accurate methods of determining the likelihood and level of future success of young ballplayers - both at the professional and amateur level.
"We have but one objective - determining how to find the best way to determine the probability that Player X will perform at various levels of success at some predetermined point in the future… We have to determine/measure the current state, determine the factors that may impact performance, assign probabilities to the potential outcomes, and we have to be able to sum the individual outcomes to determine the future value," say Diamond Futures' materials.
The Diamond Futures staff have been developing and posting Top Prospect lists for nearly a decade. Their rankings begin with an analytical rating system rooted in past player performance. Next, information is added from scouting reports and industry contacts. Finally, input on the most recent draft class and international signings is factored in.
Work is begun on a staggering number of players - over 5,000. That is narrowed down to just under 2,000 players that are considered actual prospects. Each is assigned a letter grade related to two factors – the chance of playing in the majors at all and the chance of having a significant career. The latter is defined as performing in the top ten percent of all Major League players that play at least two seasons.
|Grade||Player %||Chance MLB||Chance Significant MLB|
The previous few paragraphs were my attempt to summarize an eight-page essay on their processes. For details on all 2,000 prospects, Diamond Futures offers a 2010 Prospect eGuide, almost 300 pages in .pdf format available for $9.95. For more details, click here.
Other features in the eGuide
• Additional Player profiles - nearly 600 in all
• Rankings of the Top 50 prospects in each organization
• The Diamond Futures Minor League Top 500 Ranking
• Prospect Rankings by Position
• Winter Wonders - our recap of notable performances from the Winter Leagues
• Diamond Futures' Preseason 2010 Amateur Draft Top 100
• Up-to-date Team rankings reflecting the most current player moves
Here are the 51 Cardinals prospects they ranked ‘C' or better. Note the 19 players at the ‘C' level at the end are simply listed in alphabetical order. Also noted is where the top Cardinals prospects rank in the still-to-be released Diamond Futures top 500. Only ten from the organization will make that list.
Diamond Futures St. Louis Cardinals Prospects - 2010
|Rank||St. Louis Cardinals||Grade||Top 500|
|17||Roberto De la Cruz||C+|
To read the detailed profiles on their top 14 Cardinals prospects, through ‘B-‘ level, click here to be taken to Diamond Prospects' site. While there, you can also read specifics about the top prospects in all 30 organizations.
In conjunction with ranking individual players, Diamond Futures rolls up system-wide aggregate views of their top prospects. Organizational strength is measured by the cumulative expected career Wins Above Replacement (WAR)* values of all ‘C' level or higher prospects within each current Minor League system.
As the following indicates, the Cardinals rank 30th of the 30 MLB organizations when using this metric. This is impacted directly by the fact the Cardinals have just 51 players ranked ‘C' or better, a lesser total than most other organizations. Only ten players placing in the top 500 as noted above is another negative indicator, given the Cardinals' "fair share" would be about 17 prospects.
Diamond Futures Organizational Rankings - 2010
|3||Boston Red Sox||139.6|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays||127.3|
|7||San Diego Padres||122.3|
|10||Los Angeles Dodgers||118.5|
|11||Kansas City Royals||118.3|
|12||San Francisco Giants||117.8|
|13||New York Yankees||117.3|
|15||New York Mets||116.3|
|16||Los Angeles Angels||115.7|
|24||Toronto Blue Jays||104.2|
|28||Chicago White Sox||100.4|
|30||St. Louis Cardinals||97.8|
Following is Diamond Futures' summary of the Cardinals system overall.
"We wrote at the time of the trade for Matt Holliday, that it was an extreme gamble to deal to deal your top prospect (Brett Wallace), plus two of your other Top 10 prospects (Clay Mortensen and Shane Peterson) unless it was going to get you to the World Series. With the advantage of hindsight, the Cardinals would have likely finished the season just the same, whether or not they added Holliday. One wonders how many Cardinal fans would like to have that deal back now? The difference - post the Holliday trade, the Cardinals have gone from a mid-tier team, in terms of Minor League strength, to one of the League's bottom teams. The good news if you are a Cardinal fan, is that most of the system's top prospects are near Major League ready. The bad news…after the first two prospects, the majority of the rest of the system is made up of ‘low-ceiling' players. Don't expect the weakness of the system to show up at the Major League level until a couple of seasons from now - but it is coming."
To comment on this work, join the discussion at our message board.
* WAR (Wins Above Replacement) - the theoretical total number of wins that a given player adds to his team over the course of a season by comparing the player's statistical ‘runs' produced (or saved when referring to a pitcher) with that of a the ‘average replacement player'. A ‘replacement player' is assumed to be an average Triple-A callup who might appear in the majors only as replacement for an injured player.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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