The St. Louis Cardinals top 10 prospects list now looks radically different from just one year ago thanks to the promotion of players like Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, and Michael Wacha. As seen in this updated top ten list of St. Louis Cardinals prospects, most of the elite talent now resides in the lower levels of the organization. Below is a report on the team’s top prospects which includes statistics accumulated through games played yesterday, July 13, 2014, from Fangraphs. Links to the top scouting publications for each player are also provided.
Legend: BA = Baseball America, MLB = Major League Baseball Website, BP = Baseball Prospectus, KL = Keith Law of ESPN, JS = John Sickels, VEB = Viva El Birdos (outsider rankings are from the beginning of the season)
#1 - Stephen Piscotty, Corner OF
Age: 23, 6 months (advanced for AAA)
Former #1 Organizational Prospect: Oscar Taveras (graduated)
What Others Think: (Rated #70 prospect by BA, #66 by BP, #57 by KL, #97 by MLB, #4 on Team by JS, #10 by BA, #3 by VEB)
Last Season: 49 G, 207 PA, 6 HR, 17 R, 24 RBI, 7 SB, 9.2% BB Rate, 9.2% K Rate, .299 AVG, .364 OBP, .446 SLUG (AA)
This Season (Current): 91 G, 369 PA, 6 HR, 42 R, 51 RBI, 8 SB, 6.8% BB Rate, 11.7% K Rate, .305 AVG, .363 OBP, .438 SLUG (AAA)
Trending: Slightly up.
Notes: Piscotty was drafted out of Stanford in the first round of the Cardinals 2012 draft. Piscotty was seen as an advanced hitter, but there were questions about the power. Piscotty displayed power in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, and earned a promotion to AA just a year after being drafted. He hit well at AA and then had an excellent Spring Training. Piscotty has hit well so far in AAA, though one would like to see some more pop from a corner outfielder. While he lacks Randal Grichuk's power and the ceiling of Oscar Taveras, Piscotty has a very high floor with a solid approach that should allow him to hit .300 consistently.
#2 – Marco Gonzales, LHP
Age: 22 years, 4 months (very advanced for AAA)
What Others Think: #6 on team by JS, #6 on team by VEB, #5 on team by MLB
Last Season: 0 W, 0 L, 4 G, 4 GS, 16.2 IP, 7.02 K/9 IP, 2.7 BB/9 IP, 1.62 ERA, 3.32 FIP (A+)
This Season (Current): 2 W, 2 L, 6 G, 6 GS, 37.2 IP, 7.65 K/9 IP, 1.91 BB/9 IP, 1.43 ERA, 2.64 FIP (A+)
3 W, 2 L, 6 G, 7 GS, 38.2 IP, 10.71 K/9 IP, 2.33 BB/9 IP, 2.33 ERA, 2.08 FIP (AA)
0 W, 1 L, 1 G, 1 GS, 3.0 IP, 9.00 K/9 IP, 6.00 BB/9 IP, 12.00 ERA, 7.99 FIP (AAA)
0 W, 2 L, 3 G, 3 GS, 14.0 IP, 6.43 K/9 IP, 7.07 BB/9 IP, 7.07 ERA, 5.92 FIP (MLB)
Trending: Up. Despite some struggles at the higher levels Gonzales has had a good year overall zooming through the system just a year after being drafted.
Notes: Gonzales does not have Rob Kaminsky’s (see below) stuff, as his fastball sits in the high 80’s touching 90 or 91 occasionally. Still, Gonzales features the best changeup from the 2013 draft, a pitch that has great arm action and moves like screwball. Some scouting reports give Gonzales changeup a grade of 70/80, with a potential 80 grade for the future. When the Cardinals rotation was struck by injuries Gonzales was promoted to the majors, where he found out that his average fastball and great changeup was not good enough to get out big league hitters, especially when accompanied by sub-par command. Gonzales was subsequently "demoted" to AAA where he will hopefully refine his curve ball to keep hitters guessing more often. Gonzales is another player with a low ceiling, but high floor. Nearly every pitcher not named Michael Wacha will struggle facing big league hitters one year after they were drafted, so Gonzales deserves some slack and his overall numbers this year make him a solid prospect.
#3 – Rob Kaminsky, LHP
Age: 19 years, 10 months (very advanced for A)
What Others Think: #100 by KL, #4 on team by MLB, #7 on team by JS, #7 on team by VEB
Last Season: 0 W, 3 L, 8 G, 5 GS, 22.0 IP, 11.45 K/9 IP, 3.68 BB/9 IP, 3.68 ERA, 2.61 FIP
This Season: 4 W, 1 L, 11 G, 11 GS, 62.1 IP, 7.36 K/9 IP, 2.60 BB/9 IP, 1.44 ERA, 2.98 FIP (A)
Trending: Same. Kaminsky pitched well in his short time in pro ball last year. This year Kaminsky will try to push up the single-A levels. At his age (19) anything above A- is a huge accomplishment for Kaminsky.
Notes: Kaminsky earns a spot on the top 10 thanks to reports on his repertoire, which includes a fastball which sits at around 92 MPH and the most developed breaking ball of all high school left-handers. If Kaminsky were three inches taller (he is 5’11”), he may have been a top 10 draft choice. Instead, the Cardinals drafted him in the first round, number 28 overall. This year Kaminsky has displayed good control and his fastball/curve combination is easily controlling single A hitters for Peoria. The K rate is a bit lower than one would like for an elite prospect, but given his age and the level where he is producing Kaminsky constitutes a great prospect for the future.
#4 – Alexander Reyes – RHP
Age: 19 years, 10 months (very advanced for A)
What Other Think: Rated #97 prospect by BP, #5 prospect on team by JS, #4 prospect on team by VEB
Last Season: 6 W, 4 L, 12 G, 12 GS, 58.1 IP, 10.49 K/9 IP, 4.32 BB/9 IP, 3.39 ERA, 2.74 FIP (R)
This Season (Current): 6 W, 5 L, 14 G, 14 GS, 70.2 IP, 10.95 K/9 IP, 5.99 BB/9 IP, 4.20 ERA, 3.99 FIP (A)
Trending: Same. Reyes has demonstrated his dominant stuff with a high K-rate, but unfortunately it has been accompanied by an unacceptably high BB-rate.
Notes: Reyes could very well be the next “steal” of the Cardinals from the Dominican Republic. The Cardinals signed Reyes for $950,000 in December of 2012. Reyes grew up in the United States, but moved to the Dominican so he could sign at earlier age. The Cardinals took advantage by giving him the equivalent of first round money for a Dominican player. Reyes reportedly features a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s with good movement and a swing and miss hammer curve. Reyes is also well developed relative to other Dominican pitchers. Unfortunately, Reyes impressive strikeout totals have been accompanied by high walk rates in A this year. Reyes has top of the rotation stuff, but until he finds a way to harness he will not be able to advance much further in the system.
#5 – James Ramsey, OF
Age: 24 years, 6 months (at level, perhaps a bit behind)
What Others Think: Rated #7 Team Prospect by MLB, #11 team prospect by JS, #11 team prospect by VEB
Last Season: 93 G, 416 PA, 15 HR, 61 R, 44 RBI, 8 SB, 12.7% BB Rate, 26.0% K Rate, .251 AVG, .356 OBP, .424 SLUG
This Season (Current): 54 G, 229 PA, 12 HR, 41 R, 31 RBI, 2 SB, 10.5% BB Rate, 20.5% K Rate, .303 AVG, .384 OBP, .537 SLUG (AA)
Notes: Ramsey was a controversial pick among some Cardinals analysts when he was drafted in the first round in 2012. Many believed Ramsey, who was drafted as a senior out of college, had limited potential and at best projected as a Skip Schumaker type of player. However, it is time to start viewing Ramsey as a legitimate prospect give his sustained production over many years in the minors. This year Ramsey has put it all together lowering his strikeout rate at AA while showing even more power. Ramsey best tools is likely his ability to hit and play centerfield, but it is believed his other tools (power, speed, arm) are just average to above-average for his position. The bad news for Ramsey is that he is blocked by the trio of Taveras, Grichuk, and Piscotty ahead of him, but if he keeps hitting like he has Ramsey could leapfrog Grichuk and Piscotty.
#6 – Randal Grichuk, OF
Age: 22 years, 11 months (advanced for AAA)
What Others Think: #9 team prospect by JS, #8 team prospect by VEB
This Season (Current): 67 G, 301 PA, 16 HR, 49 R, 49 RBI, 5 SB, 5.3% BB Rate, 23.9% K Rate, .270 AVG, .316 OBP, .505 SLUG (AAA)
19 G, 48 PA, 1 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 6.3% BB Rate, 31.3% K Rate, .136 AVG, .191 OBP, .273 SLUG (MLB)
Notes: Grichuk was part of the compensation in exchange for sending David Freese to the Angels in the offseason. Many were surprised that the Angels were willing to part with Grichuk in addition to giving up Peter Bourjos. Grichuk has great power, but has struggled to make consistent contact through his career with an excessively high K rate. Following form, early this year Grichuk has shown off some power, but also struck out at a high rate which may eventually catch up with him. When he was called up the majors for a short stint Grichuk struggled greatly when exposed to better breaking balls and command from big league pitchers. The power is still intriguing, but eventually Grichuk will have to show better discipline and contact rates to be a MLB regular.
#7 – Aledmys Diaz – SS
Age: 24 years, 6 months (at level, perhaps a bit behind for AA)
What Others Think: (Unrated by an publications as he was just signed this Spring Training)
Last Season: No stats
This Season (Current): 34 G, 125 PA, 3 HR, 15 R, 18 RBI, 6 SB, 1.6% BB Rate, 19.2% K Rate, .291 AVG, .311 OBP, .453 SLUG (AA)
Trending: Same. Diaz has demonstrated some power, but the BB-rate is too low accompanied by a fairly high K-rate to bring down his OBP. He is getting away with it at AA but it is hard to see him sustaining it over the long-term against more advanced pitchers. Diaz a variety of minor injuries in his first professional season.
Notes: Yes, it is very early and the sample size is unbelievable small. Having said that, Diaz has done nothing but impress in his very short time in professional USA baseball. The Cuban defector was signed to a 4-year, $8 million contract in March by the team. Little was known of Diaz at the time of the signing. Some reports had him as a regular Major League player who would provide average to above-average offense at shortstop. Other reports had Diaz as utility player whose range would not play at shortstop and whose offense would be below average at other positions. Reports on his defense in Springfield have been positive, and he is clearly not struggling with AA pitching so far.
#8 - Charlie Tilson , OF
Age: 21 years, 7 months (at level for A+)
What Others Think: Not rated at the beginning of the season
Last Season: 100 G, 411 PA, 4 HR, 49 R, 30 RBI, 15 SB, 6.1% BB Rate, 15.4% K Rate, .303 AVG, .349 OBP, .388 SLUG (A)
This Season: 83 G, 379 PA, 5 HR, 50 R, 32 RBI, 9 SB, 6.3% BB Rate, 19.0% K Rate, .310 AVG, .360 OBP, .405 SLUG (A+)
Notes: Tilson was drafted in the second round in 2011 as an ultra athletic outfielder who could hopefully learn how to hit one day. It has taken some time, but Tilson is beginning to hit the ball, and with some authority. With excellent speed Tilson can play centerfield and if he continues to hit he will be due for a promotion as soon as the team can find a way to promote James Ramsey from Springfield. At age 21 Tilson's potential is exciting and the production is starting to come around.
#9 - Jake Flaherty - RHP
Age: 18 years, 8 months (at level for rookie league)
What Others Think: Not rated.
Last Season: No stats
This Season: No stats.
Notes: Flaherty is the first and only 2014 St. Louis Cardinals selection to make the list, and he does so purely on potential. After drafting Flaherty in the first round the Cardinals spent over $2 million, well above the draft slot, to sign him away from his commitment to North Carolina. In high school Flaherty was a pitcher/third baseman who put up good numbers against quality competition as both a pitcher and hitter. The most detailed scouting report by Adam Wells of Bleacher Report can be found here, though in my opinion Wells underrates Flaherty in some aspects. Flaherty is really all about projection. He had dominant statistics as a high school pitcher at Harvard Westlake in California. He features great command for a high school pitcher and a four pitch arsenal that includes a fastball, curve, changeup, and slider. The fastball sits at 90-92 MPH, but there is hope that will improve now that Flaherty is spending all his time focusing on pitching. Now that Oscar Taveras is out of the system, Flaherty may offer the most upside of any prospect.
#10 - Carson Kelly, C
Age: 20 years, 0 months (advanced for A)
What Others Think: Rated #9 Team Prospect by MLB, #12 by JS, #9 by BA, #13 by FR
Season: 43 G, 168 PA, 2 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI, 7.7% BB Rate, 14.9% K Rate, .219 AVG, .288 OBP, .301 SLUG (A)
This Season (Current): 69 G, 290 PA, 5 HR, 32 R, 41 RBI, 1 SB, 8.3% BB Rate, 11.4% K Rate, .249 AVG, .318 OBP, .385 SLUG (A)
Trending: Down. Kelly was converted to catcher this year and so far has hit well at single-A. If he can stick at catcher and put up those numbers he will move up this list quickly. After a hot start to the season Kelly is struggling to make hard contact, but his low K-rate is very encouraging.
Notes: Kelly was drafted as the player with perhaps the highest ceiling from a 2012 draft that included Michael Wacha. The team was thrilled to lure Kelly away from a commitment to Oregon with a $1.6 million signing bonus. Kelly was two-way player who featured a fastball in the low 90’s and impressive power as a hitter. Early on Kelly’s power has failed to show up, but he is still just 20 years old which is quite young for the single-A level he is playing at. This year the team converted Kelly to catcher and the reports on his receiving and throwing ability in Spring Training were positive. If he can hit at all Kelly has good value, and he has put up decent statistics in A this year especially considering his age and the challenges of a position change. Kelly stays on the list for now, but if he does not start hitting more soon he may drop off by the end of the year.