Editors Note: This post was originally scheduled for the day the Cardinals acquired Brandon Moss. We pushed it back due to trade deadline activity. I am still leaving Rob Kaminsky in so you can get my thoughts.
For the past few years, the Cardinals have built their minor league depth on the backs of pitchers. The Cardinals selected a college pitcher first in three straight drafts and then took six pitchers in a row in 2014 before taking Darren Seferina. This depth allows them to make moves when needed. As I type this, the Cardinals have traded Rob Kaminsky to the Indians for Brandon Moss, a trade that has stunned many in Cardinal nation. I am not going to try to understand why Mo made the deal, but when you have an excess of pitching depth, the sting doesn't hurt as bad.
Here are my top 10 prospects in the Cardinals system. I am going to leave Kaminsky in there so you can see where he would have fit in and what I think of him.
10. Jacob Wilson, 25
Jacob Wilson represents another fine scouting/development prospect. Drafted in the 10th round of the 2012, Wilson was a senior sign, like Kyle Barraclough, and took a very small signing bonus to join the organization. All he has done since becoming a pro is hit, at every level. Wilson's final landing spot is likely a utility infielder who would be a decent fill in if an injury occurs. The best comp I have heard for Wilson is Dan Uggla. At 25-years old, Wilson isn't getting younger and should probably see some time this September.
ETA to Majors: September 2015
9. Nick Plummer, 19
As I mentioned in Part 1, Plummer represents a shift in drafting by the Cardinals organization. He is the first high school player taken with the organization's first pick since Shelby Miller in 2009 and the first prep position player since Pete Kozma *ducks* in 2007. Going into the 2015 draft, Plummer was the 11th ranked prospect by BaseballAmerica and they mentioned his compact swing - ala Kolten Wong - as being his strong point. As everyone else has said, he likely moves to left field in the future, which would be a slight hit to his prospect status.
ETA to Majors: 2019
8. Charlie Tilson, 22
Charlie Tilson is a very polarizing prospect as some view him as a potential starting center fielder in the majors and some view him as a fourth outfielder. Tilson's strengths are his speed and his defensive ability as he is a no doubter center fielder. If Tilson can keep his OBP around .360, he could be an option at the top of the lineup, but would probably profile as an 8 hole hitter. Tilson is ready for Triple-A Memphis and should see time there before the season ends.
ETA to Majors: 2016
7. Magneuris Sierra, 19
It's been a "tale of two seasons" for Magneuris Sierra. The club pushed the 19-year old to Low-A Peoria to start the season and his age and inexperience showed. Over 190 plate appearances, Sierra hit just .191 and had a wRC+ of 34. Around mid June, the Cardinals demoted Sierra to Johnson City and you can tell by the above numbers he has figured it out. I think the hype hit way too early last season after a few months in the Gulf Coast League. As others have said, a Carlos Gonzalez comparison may not be too far fetched.
ETA to Majors: Late 2018
6. Jack Flaherty, 19
Like Sierra, Flaherty was pushed to Low-A Peoria to start the season. The big difference is, Flaherty was more prepared for the higher level. After a couple of stints on the disabled list, Flaherty appears to be healthy and has had a strong season at just 19. The Cardinals love drafting athletic pitchers and Flaherty is definitely one of them. According to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Flaherty has the ability to have three above average pitches in a fastball, slider, and change up.
ETA to Majors: 2018
5. Tim Cooney, 24
After a rough first start in the big leagues, Cooney settled in nicely over his last 5. With that said, his 3.16 ERA was probably a little lower than expected as he struck out roughly 8 batters per 9 innings in the majors, which is a couple of strikeouts higher than his minor league career. Cooney represents another fill-in arm in case a rotation piece goes down over the stretch run of the season. The future has to be cloudy for the 24-year old from Wake Forest.
ETA to Majors: 2015
4. Marco Gonzales, 23
It has been a rough year for Gonzales as he has battled injuries and is currently working his way through a rehab assignment and he probably missed out on some major league time in between Jaime Garcia stints. He probably needs one more minor league start to be fully ready for the major leagues, but the problem is there is no spot for him. The Cardinals will have Gonzales, Cooney, and Lyons in the starting rotation of the Memphis Redbirds, unless a trade is made before the deadline.
ETA to Majors (again): 2015
3. Rob Kaminsky, 20
While Alex Reyes has received all the young pitching publicity, Rob Kaminsky is quietly having a strong year. As I write this, Kaminsky is in the middle of trade talks with Cleveland, so his future is uncertain. What is certain is the 20-year old lefty can pitch. He doesn't have the 99 MPH heater that Reyes possesses, but he has a devastating curve ball and an ever improving change up. Kaminsky's ceiling is likely a #2 starter, but his floor isn't too low either. I would really hate to lose him.
ETA to Majors: 2017
2. Stephen Piscotty, 24
After a disappointing 2014 season with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, Piscotty made big adjustments to his swing and has made a nice rebound, which has included his first big league call-up. In a very small sample, Piscotty appears ready for the big league level, amassing a 111 OPS+ over his first 24 plate appearances. He is not going to hit 20 home runs, but he will get on base and hit doubles. With the apparent injury to Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty's importance to the lineup grows. I think eventually he would be a great #2 hitter.
ETA to Majors: Now
1. Alex Reyes, 20
Alex Reyes is starting to garner national attention, soaring to #20 on MLB.com's mid season prospect list, which made him the highest mover after not being ranked in their top 100 pre-season. Since Reyes has been promoted to Double-A Springfield over a week ago, I have had several ask me if his comp is Carlos Martinez and the easy answer is no. Alex Reyes is bigger than C-Mart and has a curve ball over Martinez's slider. Reyes still has to fine tune his command (over 4 BB per 9 innings), but that should come with more age and innings. His ceiling is a #1, with a little more risk than Kaminsky.
ETA to Majors: Either late 2015 or late 2016
While these names don't have the punch of a Taveras or Miller or Wacha or Wong or Martinez, the organization is slowly rebuilding their depth in the minor leagues. Like the previous 10 players, these 10 represent a solid mix of young and old. I believe Derrick Goold has made the analogy that the Cards system is like a doughnut, has a hole in the middle. This is a very true statement, but that hole should be closing in the next year or so.
If the Cardinals deal any of my top 20 prospects, I will have a write up on the new members to the top 20 list.
Thanks for reading!