We have nearly reached the end of January, which means we are almost to the month where pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. It also means we get more and more prospect rankings. On Wednesday, we discussed Alex Reyes, who was named the 10th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus. Today, Baseball Prospectus took a more Cardinals-focused approach and released their top ten prospects for the Cardinals as well as notes on several others and an organizational overview. The entire piece is voluminous, provides a great deal of knowledge on many prospects, and is well worth a read.
That Alex Reyes would be the Cardinals top prospect is no surprise, but three things did jump out at me, some of which were known and reinforced and others which came as a bit of surprise.
1. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth
The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth at the major league level, going six starters deep before wading into the prospect pool with Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Mike Leake, Jaime Garcia, and Tyler Lyons. Organizationally, that does not even count Lance Lynn, who will be back for the 2017 season. On the prospect side, four of the first five players are starting pitchers with seven out of the top ten. While only Reyes is a surefire top 100 prospect at this point, there are players close to the majors in Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney as well as Reyes, a guy like Luke Weaver, who is probably a year behind, and then high upside talent in Jack Flaherty (number two on their list) and Junior Fernandez (10th, just 18 years old) who are further away from the majors.
Based just on the top ten, the Cardinals have six pitchers in the minor league system who profile as mid-rotation starters are better. Corey Littrell and Sandy Alcantara are also written up in the interesting prospects section as arms who could contribute to a rotation down the line.
2. The best Cardinals position players are young and far from the majors
The top three position players for the Cardinals on BP's list are Magneuris Sierra, Nick Plummer, and Edmundo Sosa. Right now, all three are 19 years old, although Sierra and Sosa will turn 20 this spring. While it is a good thing to have well-regarded young prospects, especially at shortstop and center field, there does not appear to be too much in the way of immediate help for the Cardinals. Charlie Tilson cracks the Top Ten, and his spot on the 40-man roster means he could come up this season if someone were hurt, but he is likely a fourth outfielder at this point in his development with speed and defense his calling cards. In his rankings red baron ranked Anthony Garcia as well as Aledmys Diaz in the top ten, so there are some differing opinions on a couple guys closer to the majors. In terms of high-end prospects, help is not on the way soon.
3. The Cardinals international scouting and signing department is doing very well
While the major league team is full of players acquired in the major league draft or outside the organization (Carlos Martinez as the main exception), the minors has much more of an international presence. Two of the top three prospects were signed out of the Dominican Republic and four in the Top Ten are international signings as Sosa is from Panama. The signing bonus for all four players, including Reyes, who is actually from New Jersey, was less than $2 million total.
The BP piece concludes with this high praise:
As good as those folks are, the stars of this system are in the international department. Moises Rodriguez, Luis Morales and several others have made the Cardinals one of the top international scouting teams in all of baseball, possibly even the best. Just look at the names in the top ten who are in this group, and that's not including guys like Breyvic Valera and others. Combine that with their quality drafts (Arturo Reyes in the 40th round, etc.), and you get a pretty good idea why St. Louis is competitive. Every. Damn. Year.
The Cardinals system might not have much in terms of players who are among the top 50 or so prospects in baseball, but they do have a top ten prospect in Alex Reyes, starting pitchers who can contribute this season, and a number of players who could make big jumps in the coming seasons.