The regular season for all minor league clubs has ended and we are able to get a full season's worth of data out of the players. A common mistake by "experts" and fans is to use a small sample to make judgements and evaluations on players. This simply is not good practice, while a full season of data is a better size to use.
Here is a list of the top offensive performers for the 2015 season. (Note: These are not necessarily the top prospects in the system, just the top performers)
Orlando Olivera - GCL Cardinals. State College Spikes
OIivera, the Cardinals' 38th round pick out of Missouri Baptist, led the organization with a 170 wRC+. He split his time between the Gulf Coast Cardinals and the State College Spikes. Over 2014 plate appearances, Olivera finished with a slash line of .340/.392/.521 while having an impressive 13.2% strikeout rate. The almost 25-year old Olivera was probably too advanced for either level, thus destroying the pitching, however I am not taking anything away from his great season. If the Cardinals believe there is something there, the would likely push him to either the Low-A Peoria Chiefs or High-A Palm Beach Cardinals.
Paul DeJong, Johnson City Cardinals, Peoria Chiefs
DeJong, the club's 4th round pick in this past year's draft, was also quickly promoted after just 10 games with the Rookie Level Johnson City Cardinals. The organization pushed him to a full season club and his numbers still remained strong. Combined, Dejong had a 160 wRC+ and a slash line of .316/.394/.516. There were questions regarding his professional position coming out of college, could he catch? It appears the Cardinals are putting him at the hot corner as that was his only position this season. DeJong, 22, will probably be a top 20 prospect for the 2016 season and would likely start at High-A Palm Beach.
Harrison Bader, State College Spikes, Peoria Chiefs
Bader and DeJong will likely (and probably unfairly) be tied together for multiple reasons. They were both high 2015 draftees (Bader 3rd round) and they were both promoted at the same time. After just 7 games with State College, Bader joined the Peoria Chiefs and continued his strong season, finishing with a .869 OPS with the Chiefs. Combined, Bader had a 159 wRC+ and a slash line of .311/.368/.523 and a strikeout rate of 19%, which was higher than Olivera's and DeJong's. Bader played center field for the Chiefs and there have been questions about whether he could stick there, but I have no reason to say he could not. Like DeJong, Bader will be a top 20 prospect and will play at Palm Beach next season with a finishing destination of Springfield very likely.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, Springfield Cardinals, Memphis Redbirds
Hazelbaker had the highest wRC+ of any full season player within the Cardinals organization at 148. The Cardinals may have struck gold with this minor league free agent who was released early this season from the Dodgers organization. At 28-years old, Hazelbaker is probably beyond prospect status and had a couple of really hot months through the season. He had OPS's of .936, .877, 1.197 from May-July, then cooled to .736 in August. He will be a minor league free agent this off season and it is unclear if the organization will bring him back. With the likes of Charlie Tilson, Anthony Garcia, and others coming up, there may not be room for him.
Anthony Garcia, Springfield Cardinals, Memphis Redbirds
Garcia has been up and down on the prospect radar for a couple of years. After a strong 2013 season with the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits, I had Garcia as the 10th best prospect in the Cardinals system. He then went on to have two mediocre seasons with the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals. Last winter things started to change as he was named the Puerto Rican Winter League MVP. This season, Garcia finished with a 144 wRC+ between the two stops. After a rough April (.437 OPS), Garcia was at .948, 1.182, .888, and .801 from May-August, showing that it was more than a hot streak. Garcia will be a top 20 prospect for 2016 and could sneak into the top 10 in some publications. Look for Garcia to play with the Memphis Redbirds next season and a late season major league promotion is a possibility.
This season, the Cardinals have made an effort to try to develop more offensive minded prospects - the 2015 draft is a great example of this - and these five minor league players show that offensive upside is starting to show again in the system.