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Cardinals Farm Inventory: Centerfielders

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A solid group with some real upside potential if things go well.

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St. Louis Cardinals Center Field Prospects

Name

Age

Level

Rating

Magneuris Sierra

19

A

B

Thomas Pham

27

AAA

B

Charlie Tilson

22

AA

B-

Rafael Ortega

24

AAA

C

Blake Drake

21

A

C

Vaughn Bryan

22

A

C

C.J. McElroy

22

A

C

If there's one real issue with the St. Louis Cardinals' group of center-field prospects it's that, other than Pham, every guy here is cut from the same cloth: small stature, underwhelming power, but plus runners and defenders if they can just make their bats usable at the higher levels. You'd be hard pressed to find another group of CF in another organization's farm system that could challenge Tilson, Sierra, Bryan, and McElroy in a 4X100 meter relay race.

The weird thing is how little speed seems to translate into game success for a number of players here. C.J. McElroy has to be one of the faster players in the entire minor leagues, yet hasn't had much success stealing bases at volume in the lower minors. Yes, he had 41 steals last year, but he was caught 18 times by catchers in A-ball in a league where the average success rate in 2014 was near 75 percent.

The same goes for Charlie Tilson's career, at least until the first few months of 2015. Coming into this year, Tilson had never stolen more than 15 bases in a single season in the minors, yet as I type this he is sitting on 15 steals in the first 7 weeks of play. He's also only been caught three times all year. I'm not sure if something clicked for him in Springfield this season or in camp this March, but he's clearly running more, and more effectively, than ever before. If he becomes an elite baserunner to pair with his contact ability and defense, there's certainly potential to become a quasi-regular at the big league level. He would be at least a 4th outfielder for many major league clubs.

Tommy Pham is hurt again, but expected back shortly. Pham will need to pick up where he left off last year in order to maintain his spot within the organization. I still hold out some hope that he can get things figured out and become a late bloomer for either the Cardinals or some lucky team in the American League that the Cardinals never have to play.

Mags Sierra is off to a treacherous start with Peoria this season and likely got pushed a bit too hard after his breakout season in Florida a year ago. I know that this is a broken record around here, but prospects do not progress in a linear fashion, and struggles like Sierra's are to be expected - especially when really young hitters move to a full season league for the first time. A demotion to short season State College might be the best thing for Sierra's sea legs before moving back up to Peoria late in the year. There's still a ton of potential here, but perhaps the push to full season A ball was a bit of a stretch for a player in just his second year stateside.