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"The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in PRINT - that MAKES people!" - Navin R. Johnson, The Jerk
Welcome to the 1st Annual VEB Community Top 20 Cardinals Prospects!
A week ago, we asked all of our readers to rank the 2014 Cardinals Farm system for us -- and we received 80 responses. Some had 20 names, others had 5 or 10, still others threw in a bunch of former Cardinals prospects in an attempt to keep the Future Redbird editors honest. (You know who you are and we're on to your game, bub).
All in all, the submissions we received ran the gamut of the Cardinal Farm system, as you'll see, but your glasses are no more rose colored than any other prospect hound on the web. The community isn't enamored with upside nor are we a bunch of ninny's picking the safe players close to the majors with lots of professional experience.
"Minor League Guy" was the unanimous #1 choice, ranking first on every one of the 80 lists submitted to us. So much for that whole "nobody gets ALL the votes" thing that the BBWAA clings to -- we just simply don't play that around these parts.
Everything that needs to be said about Taveras has been said and nobody here seems at all concerned about his ankle injury -- not enough to rank someone else on the farm ahead of him anyway. Let's all simultaneously knock on wood and hope that Mr. Taveras isn't anywhere near this list next season, but rather holding down right field in St. Louis while sporting Rookie of the Year honors.
A bit of a surprise to see Piscotty this high with no AAA PA's to his credit, especially since he's jumping ahead of a guy who's starting the year on the active roster as the big club's everyday second baseman. VEB members clearly think a lot of Piscotty's bat to rank him this high, and he was the only other player to make all 80 submitted lists (which might actually be why he beat out Wong, who got left off 5 ballots -- possibly due to eligibility concerns).
Five VEBer's left Wong off their ballot, likely due to the fact that they thought he wasn't eligible. In a tight race with Piscotty for the #2 spot, that was enough to get him demoted to the #3. Not that he minds, though, since he's the starting second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and Piscotty is fighting for PA's at Memphis with career minor leaguers like Joey Butler and Mike O'Neill. Quite a few ballots had him second behind Taveras and I hope each of them can live up to their top prospect billing along with Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. If they do, it's possible that group of guys is going to need some sort of nickname as we'll likely be watching them carry the club for the next half decade or more.
The next three prospects alternated quite a bit on most submissions, bunched together on many lists just one spot away from each other -- not shocking that they ended up together in the final list either. Gonzales doesn't have his swap-mates upside, but he's certainly got a future in a big league rotation and the best changeup in the farm system.
5. Robert Kaminsky
I'm really looking forward to see where this guy ends up on The Red Baron's list on Wednesday, what with all his pronouncements about the New Jersey kid prior to the draft last spring. Kaminsky certainly didn't disappoint in his first taste of pro ball, however, and a good year in A ball would certainly move him up the list heading into 2015.
6. Alex Reyes
That's two Jersey kids in a row, VEB -- have we been watching too many MTV re-runs lately? Reyes comes via the Dominican Republic and is going to be the most watched prospect in the Cardinals farm system in 2014, provided Taveras makes a late spring entrance to the big leagues. With a big fastball, hammer curve, and developing changeup, Reyes is the current favorite to take the torch passed from Miller down to Wacha and on to Martinez. He's only 19 too. If these three pitchers ALL work out, it's going to be a bummer that we only have 5 spots in the rotation. Seriously.
Transitioning from the hot corner to behind the dish hasn't cooled VEB at all on Kelly, thanks mostly to his low strikeout rate and 60/70 grade raw power. Still just 19 and open-minded about the position change, Kelly will make a malleable student of catching defense -- but this ranking is probably all about his bat, and it needs to emerge some this season.
This was a bit of a surprise to me: I wasn't aware that many VEBer's were this high on Ramsey, with a number of top 5 ranks to his credit on this list. With all the offseason talk centered around the newly acquired Grichuk and Ortega, it was nice to see that the community hasn't totally given up on a guy who had a bit of a breakout last year (if you ignore his peripherals, at least).
Ol' Randal's right on James' tail though, and likely a step ahead of him in the minors this year after being anointed the starting CF for Memphis by the man in charge back in January. Acquired from the Angels after Scott Servais took over as their player development guru and promptly fired everyone who didn't walk at least 8% of the time, Grichuk could be a real sleeper for the Cardinals this season if he can play CF and both Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos forget how to hit. The power is real, but it remains to be seen whether he can make enough contact against MLB pitching to be a valuable outfield regular.
Easily the player making the biggest leap on Cardinal prospect lists from a year ago, Cooney continued to excel at AA Springfield last season with his fairly unique ability to strike out an above average amount of hitters, walking nobody, while giving up a copious amount of base hits, but few home runs. Read that sentence again. Ceiling? Cliff Lee. (Yes, you heard that right, and remember, he was a late bloomer) Floor? Hard to say, but it probably looks something like Bob Tewksbury for at least a little while. Either way, good company to be in.
Everyone in the top 10 was on 80% of the ballots submitted, but this is where we start to see a significant drop off in agreement among the community. That might have to do with depth or it might have to do with differing opinions on prospect value once you get below a certain number of players.
Tilson had a bit of breakout last year at Palm Beach and would like to continue moving up in the organization, only the front office keeps tossing outfielders in the way of doing so. Traded for Grichuk, claimed Ortega off of waivers, not to mention all the guys drafted by the organization that play the same position as Tilson (McElroy, Ramsey, Vaughn Bryan) and all the guys who've transitioned to the outfield with an eye on CF innings (Collymore, Peoples-Walls, Valera). It's going to be tough sledding for Tilson unless he shows that 60 hit tools that got him drafted in the top 100 selections a few years ago.
Losing a year to injury will drop you down prospect rankings, most of the time. Losing a year to shoulder surgery as a pitcher? People start to ask a lot of questions about you while falling off the bandwagon in a hurry. Jenkins has a lot to prove this year, and a lot of VEB members left him off of their lists when they likely wouldn't have a year ago. Godspeed to a good recovery, Tyrell, we hope to see you back in the top 10 after a solid 2014 season.
13. Mike O'Neill
If he wasn't such a nice guy, you'd easily get O'Neill confused with Tyrion Lannister: Small in stature, but with plenty of cunning to make the most out of the few tools he has at his disposal. It remains to be seen whether his sort of goofy batting line can play at the big league level, but he sure seems like he's solved AAA pitching.
The bullpen breakout candidate late in 2013, Stoppelmen just keeps on keepin' on, retiring batters all the way through the Arizona Fall League and doing so at an above average rate. The first ready-made reliever on the community list, I will say I was surprised to see him ranked in the top 10 on so many lists considering all the starting pitching talent in the minors thus far.
Hard to find a player with as much disagreement as Greg Garcia among all the prospects this year. A few people had him in the top 5, a few had him in the bottom 5, and nearly half didn't even have him ranked on their lists. We might be selling Garcia just a bit short by that rationale. It's hard to find a hitter of his caliber who can handle the SS position and he's demonstrated his ability to hit AA and AAA pitching the last couple of years. He might only be a role player on big league club, but he'll likely be a better one than Daniel Descalso is and certain better than Ty Wigginton was. Garcia isn't going to set the world on fire, but he's a solid prospect in the high minors who plays a premium position -- that's got value folks.
A high riser last year who promoted quickly, Petrick is just another in a stable full of above average arms that the Cardinals continue to collect, rivaling even their collection of minor league outfielders. A bit of a surprise a year ago, taking the promotions to Palm Beach and Springfield that a lot of us thought would be going to Cory Jones, Petrick flashed the velocity that could make him a big help out of the bullpen. He'll remain a starter for now, but its hard to see how his immediate future isn't in the bullpen with all the great pitching talent ahead of him just on this prospect list, much less the loaded big league rotation.
Missing two years due to injury will take the bloom off of any prospect rose. Swagerty was a lights out closer in college, moved to a starting role his first year in a Cardinal uniform and was in the midst of a transition back to the pen when he got hurt in 2011. If you follow him on Twitter (and you should) you know that Swagerty himself feels like he's ready to come back strong, provided, of course, that his arm is ready as well. Solid ranking by the VEB community here -- Swagerty could help out soon if he's back to 100%.
18. Oscar Mercado
The only prospect in the top 20 not to receive a top 10 spot on any ballot, Mercado is the VEB project du jour for the 2014 season, based solely on the amount of spots given to him at the back end of the rankings, more than twice as many as draftmate and position twin Chris Rivera.
Wisdom is the only one of the trio of third baseman selected in 2012 that's still at the position, but it's certainly not because of his batting performance thus far in his career. VEB has taken notice too: Wisdom was a sure top 10 selection a year ago, and that's when the farm system was the best in baseball. Now he's nearly dropped out of the top 20.
20. Tommy Pham
Can Tommy Pham stay healthy? That's really the question when you put him up in your top 20: Can he make it through even a half season without missing half the games due to some sort of malady. Pham was the upside pick for lots of VEBer's, and it's easy to see why that would be: When the dude is healthy, the dude hits the cover off the ball. Period.
The Next 5:
John Gast: Holding down a spot in the AAA rotation, waiting for a call that likely won't come.
Vaughn Bryan: Either @ProfessorParks has lots his persuasive touch or mine is just better -- who knows. But this seems low for Bryan,
Seth Blair: See Swagerty, Jordan. Injuries, injuries -- but Blair's never been much good when he was healthy either.
Sam Tuivalala: Turns out if you strike out 30% of the hitters you face and throw ridiculous gas (98-99 consistently) VEB will pay attention to you. Right Trevor Rosenthal?
Anthony Garcia: Well, that answers that question: I'm certainly not more persuasive than Parks because my guy comes in a few spots behind his and isn't on near as many ballots.
Kurt Heyer, Rowan Wick, Audrey Perez, Zach Russell, David Washington, Brett Wiley, Sam Gaviglio, Casey Rasmus, Steven Farinaro, Ricardo Bautista, Eiler Rodriguez, Zach Loraine, Adam Erlich, Mason Katz.
This just shows you how deep this farm system is. In any farm system there will be some disagreement as to who belongs on a top prospect list, but to have this many guys show up on at least one list indicates excellent depth and plenty of talent that could develop into regulars at the major league level. Staggering, to say the least.
That's the list. Not too many surprises, honestly, but lots of disagreement over those last ten led to lots of players getting votes who didn't make the final cut. The F-R crew will be back on Tuesday with our Top 20 Cardinal prospects, with RB's own post publishing on Wednesday so you can see how your rankings compare with the rest of us.
Raw Data and Calculations for this post can be found here.
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