When did we ID future Cards major leaguers?

When 10 future major leaguers developed by the St. Louis Cardinals first appeared on top 40 prospect lists – ours and theirs.

Welcome to part two of this series, in which the challenge is to look back at how well we did in identifying early-on those longer-shot players who either became successful major leaguers or are currently very close.

In part one, we singled out those who missed The Cardinal Nation consolidated top 40 prospect lists, but were named early on our individual voters' ballots.

Here in part two, I have identified 10 players recently developed by the Cardinals in the year in which they first made our top 40. Eight of them are established major leaguers. The ninth, Matt Adams, has made his debut, while number 10, Oscar Taveras, is on the cusp.

The 10 are split into two groups of five. The Cardinal Nation more aggressively identified four of the first group a year earlier than another major prospect rater. We called out the other five prospects at the same time as the other prospect watcher, but at least some of our voters were initially stronger in their support of the player.

Excluded from this exercise were those expected to rank among the top prospects from the very start. Specifically left out were first- and second-round draft picks - players such as Shelby Miller, Jon Jay, Lance Lynn and Kolten Wong. I also did not include international signees who received seven-figure contracts, like Carlos Martinez. No one should try to take a bow for "discovering" them.

One of the strengths of our annual rankings here at TCN is the diversity of opinions. Multiple sources are listed in the tables below – myself (BW), CariocaCardinal (CC), Dustin Mattison (DM), Ray Mileur (RM) and the message board community (Cm).

Once I got into this effort, I came to the conclusion that having an external point of comparison made this work far more relevant. The most logical choice as a yardstick is Baseball America, with their annual Prospect Handbook a well-known and consistent benchmark. I do not mean this report to be a knock on them in any way and in fact, I left this article subscriber-only in part to minimize the chance of any discord. Yet, the data in the tables below are documented fact.

"We were on him early"

Of the five players in the "On him early" table, The Cardinal Nation ranked four in their first possible opportunity after they had been drafted. The other is Oscar Taveras, whose case I will explain below.

I list the year in which the player was drafted and the round he was selected, the first year we (TCN) ranked him and at what place he initially appeared in our top 40. Next is where BA ranked the player during that same off-season and the highest level of play at which the prospect had competed up to that time. The last four columns denote how our individual raters placed the player, with those scores helping to make up the site ranking.

"On him early" Draft Rd 1st rk TCN BA Level DM Cm BW RM
Oscar Taveras 2008 FA 2011 11 24 Rk 23 8 5
Matt Adams 2009 23 2010 38 NR SS-A NR 38 32
Daniel Descalso 2007 3 2008 NR NR A+ NR 29 NR
Jaime Garcia 2005 22 2006 37 NR A+ NR 29
Mitchell Boggs 2005 5 2006 34 NR SS-A 33 34
(NR=not ranked)

While I included Baseball America as a comparison point, it is not always an apples-to-apples comparison. Here is a big reason why. While we rank 40 Cardinals prospects each year, BA only formally ranks 30.

However, we have a viable work-around. BA lists positional depth charts by organization which include many more names than 40. By reviewing those positional lists, we can make a very educated guess if a particular non-ranked prospect might have fallen between number 31 and 40 on BA's overall Cardinals rankings that year.

This is only relevant for the "early" group, when TCN ranked the prospect, but in four of the five cases, BA did not.

The first name on the list is most well-known. Oscar Taveras. When Taveras debuted on our list, he was at number 11. A top 10 showing was scuttled by Dustin Mattison's #23 torpedo to the bow of my early #5 ranking of Oscar. BA had Taveras at number 24 that year.

Adams at JC in 2009
In early 2010, I saw Matt Adams as the number 32-ranked prospect in the system and that led to a #38 overall placement for the big first baseman. That was before Adams' 2010 Midwest League breakout season. In the 2010 BA Handbook, Adams was listed second among the unranked first basemen on their depth chart, after Andrew Brown, and the fourth first baseman in the system overall. Therefore, I can assume it is very unlikely that Adams would have placed in BA's mythical 31-40 Cardinals population (nor would Brown, for that matter).

In a perfectly pure comparison, Daniel Descalso might not be listed here. The infielder was my number 29 prospect before the 2008 season, when he was still at Palm Beach. No one else had Descalso on their radar and he missed our top 40. In BA's 2008 Handbook, Descalso was listed as the third unranked third baseman and fifth overall at the position. It seems certain Descalso would not have ranked in the 31-40 range for BA in 2008.

A number 29 vote by Ray Mileur before the 2006 season helped Jaime Garcia make the TCN top 40 at number 37. In 2006, BA had Garcia as the second unranked left-handed pitcher, listed after Zach Zuercher, and third LHS. Garcia being ranked between 31 and 40 by BA at that point seems extremely doubtful.

That same year, 2006, both Ray and I had Mitchell Boggs in the low 30's, driving him to a TCN placement at #33. For BA, Boggs was the top unranked right-handed starting pitcher on their depth chart. It is quite possible that Boggs could have landed between 31 and 40 for BA that year.

"We were all a year late"

Now, let's move on to the "All a year late" chart. Neither TCN nor BA hopped onto the bandwagons of four of these five prospects until the players had experienced success in Double-A. However, in all four cases, TCN's initial rankings were more aggressive for these future major leaguers.

"All a year late" Draft Rd 1st rk TCN BA Level DM Cm BW RM
Trevor Rosenthal 2009 21 2012 12 11 A 13* 9 14
Matt Carpenter 2009 13 2011 6 11 AA 7 5 10
Luke Gregerson 2006 28 2008 24 28 AA 28 36 21
Allen Craig  2006 8 2008 11 15 AA 10 8 18 9
Jason Motte  2006 # 2008 22 24 AA 20 31 22
# became pitcher

The fifth is Trevor Rosenthal. We had very good reports about the hard-throwing right-hander coming off his 2010 at Johnson City. In fact, I searched him out for an interview in 2011 spring training camp despite his rookie ball standing. Yet the fact that he had pitched just 58 innings in two years as a professional led me to rank him below the line at #51 that year. We all figured it out by last winter.

Carpenter began at QC in 2009
Coming into 2011, all the TCN voters saw Matt Carpenter as a top 10 prospect in the system, with an overall placement at number six. BA liked him too, but less so, with the third baseman just outside the top 10 at number 11.

Before Luke Gregerson was dealt to San Diego, he made his first appearance on our top 40 at number 24 in 2008. BA placed the right-hander at number 28 in the Cardinals system that year.

Allen Craig did not make anyone's list in his first year eligible. After his Springfield success in 2007, three of our four voters made him a top 10 player with our combined ranking at number 8. BA had Craig at number 15 at the time.

Though drafted in 2003, Jason Motte's second life as a pitcher began during the 2006 season. By the off-season prior to the 2008 campaign, we ranked Motte 22nd, while BA had him 24th.

Thanks again to subscriber IndianaCardinal for providing the idea for these two looks back at prospect rankings of St. Louis Cardinals' then-future major leaguers. At The Cardinal Nation, we remain proud of our knowledge of this organization and its prospects and greatly appreciate your ongoing support.

Link to part one: "Finding future Cards major leaguers off radar"

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2013 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories