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Some General Thoughts on the Cardinals' Farm System

A working list of prospects to consider for ranking, and some generalities about the system in toto.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It's nearly Thanksgiving, and the Cardinals not only have not finished their offseason shopping the way they have the past two years, but they have yet to even begin. I have to say, there was something very nice about the club having pretty much all their moves finished up by the time the turkey came out of the oven.

Sadly, this year it looks like we're going to have to wait for the Winter Meetings, like a bunch of shnooks, like a bunch of assholes, like every other fanbase in the world, standing in line and hoping for free agent news with the rest of the nobodies. Henry Hill is most definitely a Cardinal fan.

But, seeing as how there's nothing going on, I need to find something to talk about, without any actual news or even really new speculation of any sort. I'm not ready to roll out the 2016 draft coverage just yet -- a few more weeks and I'll get started -- and I think I've said about all I have to say on the needs the Cards have in terms of upgrades for the 2016 season. Until things actually start moving and grooving, I don't have a whole lot to say about what needs to happen this winter.

However, I am going to be handling the official VEB Top Prospects list this year, and I've fairly recently started at least my preliminary research; I'll probably be putting up the actual list itself, the final version, right around the first of the year. Maybe a little sooner; depends on how quiet the offseason remains, to be honest. But right now I'm just looking at players, giving some thought to where I might rank them, and trying to come up with my own scouting reports whenever possible.

And so, I thought I would share part of the process with you all. John Sickels over at Minor League Ball does his lists for each organisation in stages; first he posts a thread for discussion of the organisation in question, then the preliminary list with all the names he's considering, invites discussion/suggestions/debate, and then whittles it down to the final version, taking into account anything that may have been brought up by the community. Now, I know there are plenty of people here who aren't as interested in the minor league side of things as those who specifically frequent a site with "Minor League" right in the name, so I'm not as concerned with getting suggestions on players and the like, though I certainly would welcome anything anyone wants to bring up.

Rather, I thought I would just share my working big list so far, as well as some general thoughts on the farm system and where it is at this point in time. Feel free to make suggestions or discuss things if you have any interest.

First, my list of pitchers (in the order I thought of them, and then in the order I came across them looking at the MiLB rosters to make sure I got all the names):

  • Alex Reyes, RHP -- Big stuff, questionable command
  • Luke Weaver, RHP -- Excellent one-two punch of FB/CH, but iffy breaking ball and I worry about the arm action
  • Tim Cooney, LHP -- everybody know Cooney
  • Marco Gonzales, LHP (I almost forgot he was still eligible, honestly)
  • Corey Littrell, LHP -- Control/groundball artist; came over in the John Lackey/Joe Kelly deal
  • Sam Tuivailala, RHP -- known quantity; still developing command as a relatively newbie to pitching
  • Junior Fernandez, RHP -- Two plus or better pitches in FB and CH; stop me if you've heard this before
  • Sandy Alcantara, RHP -- big body, throws hard, intriguing ability to throw strikes
  • Jack Flaherty, RHP -- wide base of pitches; no out pitch yet, but four average or better offerings
  • Ronnie Williams, RHP -- outstanding athlete, great arm action, fast arm, 55 FB and potential 60 CH
  • Jake Woodford, RHP -- works hard, downhill, makings of a solid overall repertoire
  • Dean Kiekhefer, LHP -- ready for MLB LOOGY spot
  • Arturo Reyes, RHP -- low ceiling, but overachieves, and has a splitter that could play up in relief
  • Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP -- velocity and movement are both there; checkered past and results
  • Nick Petree, RHP -- knocked around in first AA taste; still feels like possible future Seth Maness type to me
  • Luis Perdomo, RHP -- nasty power FB/SL combo; a reliever for me
  • Austin Gomber, LHP -- delivery worries me, but the performance and stuff are premium; could be a top flight bullpen arm
  • Ian McKinney, LHP -- soft-tossing lefty with big curve, small frame
  • Sasha Kuebel, LHP -- strikes out everyone
  • David Oca, LHP -- another soft tosser, works the edges with precision command of average stuff
  • Jacob Evans, LHP -- possible 70 grade on the slider; limited otherwise but one pitch good enough to set up
  • Bryan Dobzanski, RHP -- still early, but big athleticism, powerful frame, and power sinker are all promising
  • Ryan Helsley, RHP -- hits triple digits
  • Frederis Parra, RHP -- plus stuff, iffy command and results
  • Jacob Schlesener, LHP -- huge curve, good delivery, overslot sign this year; too early to rank, but I'm intrigued
  • Ian Oxnevad, LHP -- lefty with solid-average stuff, but just starting out
  • Paul Salazar, RHP -- fast arm, later round pick this year; pure projection at this point
Wow. That's a lot of names. And not even close to all of them deserve to be on a list. I just wanted to illustrate there is a ton of pitching depth in the system, even now. I still don't like giving up Rob Kaminsky, but looking at this list I understand some of why he was considered expendable.

And the hitter list:

  • Edmundo Sosa, SS -- best overall combination of O and D tools
  • Paul DeJong, INF -- will look like a steal this time next year, plus hit tool and versatile athlete
  • Anthony Garcia, OF -- recent 40 man roster add; little bit of Matt Holliday in approach and gap to gap power stroke
  • Magneuris Sierra, OF -- outstanding feel to hit, plus-plus speed, but smallish frame may limit power ceiling; overmatched at Peoria early in the year but rebounded big time in short season
  • Charlie Tilson, OF -- also added to 40 man, 55 defender in center, plus speed, and enough bat to be carryable on the roster
  • Harrison Bader, OF -- big-time power, but needs better balance in his swing to tap in consistently
  • Nick Plummer, OF -- ridiculous plate discipline for HS kid; may be able to play center
  • Bryce Denton, 3B -- huge ceiling, elite bat speed and underrated athleticism
  • Carson Kelly, C -- clock is ticking, but he's developing fast as a receiver, and the bat showed signs of life late this season
  • Patrick Wisdom, 3B -- not a believer in Wisdom, personally, but he deserves to be included here at least
  • Aledmys Diaz, INF -- close to MLB ready as utility guy; feels a little like Josh Harrison to me
  • Oscar Mercado, SS -- too many errors, but still possess elite range and arm at short, and his plus contact skills keep him interesting
  • Chris Rivera, C -- former SS transitioning to catcher; 65-70 grade arm but has never hit
  • Darren Seferina, 2B -- not all that different from Kolten Wong, with a touch less pop and better speed; needs to learn efficiency on the bases
  • Danny Diekroeger, 3B/1B -- very good bat to ball skills, but doesn't drive the ball consistently
  • Andrew Sohn, SS -- hasn't hit as expected yet, but moving up as sum of parts type MI
  • David Washington, 1B -- light tower power, but bad plate approach and contact skills
  • Alex Mejia, SS -- won't wow you, but keeps plugging away; winner of "Most Pete Kozma Prospect" two years in a row
  • Jacob Wilson, 2B/UTIL -- above-average power and patience, but had terrible BABIPs this season; will have to see if persistent issue going forward
  • Chris Chinea, C -- can hit the shit out of the ball; intriguing as a backup catcher option or utility guy

And that's about it there. Still lots of names, but the overall quality of the players is much lower than on the pitching side, outside of very recent draftees.

Some general thoughts on the system:

  • The farm system right now feels to me much like it did in, say, 2010 or '11, a couple years before the Cards had the #1 ranked system in the game. There's plenty of depth bubbling up, in the form of guys like Stephen Piscotty and Anthony Garcia and Aledmys Diaz, but a real lack of star power, particularly on the positional side, keeps this farm system in the middle third. Still, that 2010-11 timeframe, when the Jon Jays and Matt Carpenters and Allen Craigs were just starting to really reach the majors, isn't a bad reference point for how I feel about the system right now, and that crop served the Cardinals quite well.
  • The pitching is still crazy deep; there's one bona fide star-level arm in Reyes, and several others with very high ceilings, including Flaherty and Junior Fernandez. As deep as the pitching crop is, expect the Cards to bargain from that position going forward, attempting to trade pitching for whatever else they need.
  • If I had to pick one player who will make a huge jump in notoriety by this time next year, I would go Edmundo Sosa. Two picks and I add DeJong. Three and I'm adding either Plummer or Bader.
  • Anthony Garcia's ceiling is being much underrated.
  • The Cardinals, even with this year's draft, are still woefully thin on the positional side of things, particularly at the upper levels. Polished, promising bats seems to be the hardest thing for the Redbirds to find in the draft; it's largely a function of drafting at the bottom of the order every year, but there's also room for improvement in the philosophy, I believe.
  • For all the good he did on the pitching side, and early in the draft in general, Dan Kantrovitz didn't seem great at finding mid-round hitting talent. I'm not asking him to be Jeff Luhnow and nab Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams both after the fifth round in one year, but his track record was really not very inspiring.

So that's my working lists, and some thoughts in the early going of the process; feel free to suggest or discuss any names I overlooked. I think I got everyone I meant to, but I'm also certain there are at least a few players who slipped through the cracks.

Everyone enjoy your Wednesday; I'll be back tomorrow morning with a Thanksgiving Day thread in case anyone feels like popping in between baleful family activities and various food comas. Until then.