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The Viva El Birdos Top 21(ish) Cardinals Prospects List for 2016, Part Three

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The final installment of the top prospect list, breaking down the top five future redbirds in the Cardinal system, with overly detailed write-ups for each.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

I know, I know. I promised big guns the last time out, then spent all of my time telling you about the history of Anthony Garcia's plate discipline. But this time, oh, this time, I mean business, ladies and gentlemen. We've got just five names left to go on our exhaustive examination of the Cardinal system as it exists in 2016, and they are the cream of the crop. They are also, perhaps unsurprisingly given how the Redbirds have leaned in drafting for the last half-decade, nearly all pitchers.

Hopefully, that demographic homogeny will be changing in the relatively near future; the 2015 draft in particular featured a number of high-end hitting prospects drafted under the watch of the now-departed Chris Correa. We'll see what sort of draft strategy the organisation employs under new scouting director Randy Flores, but I'm hopeful the willingness to step outside their college pitcher comfort zone in 2015 was more an indication of a changing philosophy within the front office and drafting department as a whole, rather than simply the effect of one individual who just happens to no longer be with the organisation.

For now, though, pitching remains the order of the day at the top of the list. With one notable exception, which we'll get to in just a moment or two.

#5: Luke Weaver, RHP

Opening Day 2016 Age: 22

2015 Level: High A Palm Beach, Arizona Fall League

Relevant Numbers: 1.62 ERA/2.28 FIP (PB), 4.5% BB rate (PB), 5.3% BB (AFL), 20.7 K rate (PB)

So, what's so great about this guy?

The 2014 draft was an interesting one for the Cardinals, as in Dan Kantrovitz's last year running the draft the club chose five right-handed pitchers in a row to begin the draft, six pitchers overall before taking Darren Seferina in the fifth round, and ultimately using seven of the twelve picks they had in the top ten rounds on arms of one stripe or another.

It was not my favourite strategy, certainly, but it's also one that appears to be bearing fruit so far. We've already had one pitcher (Ronnie Williams, taken in the second round), appear in the top ten, with another (Austin Gomber, fourth round), just missing out on a spot in the top 20. Lefty strikeout artist Sasha Kuebel and hard-throwing cutter specialist Daniel Poncedeleon were both considered for the list, ultimately falling just short. And one of my personal favourites, Bryan Dobzanski, the former high school wrestling champ turned sinkerballer extraordinaire, has seen little time in proper games, but what action he has seen has been remarkably productive, and he's my best bet to jump onto this list next year, as it would seem he's ready to move up beyond complex ball and start pitching in earnest. I felt at the time of the draft the Cardinals overinvested in pitching, but the pitching they chose to invest in has, by and large, looked to be worth investing in so far. (Mostly.)

And now, coming into the top five, we have two more pitchers from the very top of the 2014 draft class to go, which speaks very well for the productivity of that year's crop. The first is Luke Weaver, the Cards' first-round pick that year, taken 27th overall out of Florida State. The other we'll get to in just a few moments.

At the time of the Weaver selection, I was very down on the pick. I much preferred Foster Griffin, a high-school lefty taken by the Royals one pick later who made it into full-season ball this year but has had mixed results so far, or Braxton Davidson, a high-school OF/1B type taken by the Braves at pick 32, who has shown iffy contact skills in pro ball, but also remarkable patience and above-average production overall. Weaver, I felt, was a huge injury risk due to an ugly delivery, and lacked the pure ceiling to push the risk/reward equation in favour of taking the player for me.

Since then, I've had little reason to change my mind on the risk aspect, as Weaver missed time early this season with vaguely-reported 'arm soreness', though to his credit he did end up throwing over 100 innings at Palm Beach this year, as well as nearly 20 more in the AFL at the end of a long first professional season.

On the performance side of things, however, Weaver has done his best to justify his draft slot and force me to at least take a second look at him. He was extraordinarily efficient in High A this year, showing the kind of pinpoint command of the zone that one rarely expects even from a college draftee, as well as maintaining his reputation for having one of the best changeups in the minors, full stop. Sub-5% walk rates, even in the minor leagues, tend to get noticed pretty quickly. The fact Weaver's walk rate barely ticked up at all when he headed off to Arizona is further proof of both his tremendous control and absolute fearlessness, even when facing the best the minors have to offer, in a decidedly hitter-friendly environment.

Which, actually, brings us to the negative hidden in Weaver's numbers. In the brutal power-suppressing environs of the FSL, he challenged hitters, attacking them mercilessly with his fastball/change combo and simply daring them to try and hurt him. We saw how hard it can be to actually do that damage in Florida when we looked at Anthony Garcia's Palm Beach numbers in part two of this list, and the results for FSL hitters as a whole when facing Weaver were pretty similar. He allowed only two home runs all season, covering 105.1 innings pitched. Part of that, of course, has to be to his credit, as he got hitters to make weak contact. However, there's also the other, more concerning side.

In the Arizona Fall League, facing nearly the polar opposite conditions in terms of hitting environment, Weaver continued to pound the zone fearlessly. Unfortunately for him, things didn't work out nearly so well, as he allowed three home runs in just 19.1 innings, en route to a 4.67 FIP. We should adjust expectations a bit, considering it was the end of a long season, Weaver's first in professional ball no less, and he was probably a little worn down. Still, seeing such a stark contrast in results, while the approach appeared to have been exactly the same, might make one worry Weaver was at least partially a product of pitching in an extreme run-suppressing environment, and those numbers are going to change dramatically as he moves up to the Texas League unless he alters his approach.

Nonetheless, Weaver's first professional season was a rousing success, as he brushed up against 125 innings and looked damned good doing it most of the way. The outlook is still cloudy for me, as the mechanics and park-related concerns are both significant, I believe, but for now it looks like Weaver is another success story for the Cards' scouting department.

As for the stuff, Weaver pairs a lively, moving fastball in the 92-93 range that will occasionally range up into the mid-90s with a devastating changeup that has both deception and movement. He sells it beautifully with his arm speed, and then the ball just doesn't get there. It's good enough he can lean on it facing either opposite- or same-handed hitters, and rarely get beaten. Both he and Ronnie Williams have well above-average changes to my eye, with Weaver's having an edge right now, due to simply being more consistent.

At the time of the draft, Weaver's real lack of a breaking ball was a concern, as he had tried both a slider and cutter in college, with neither pitch really being all that effective. A year and a half after being drafted, there's still concerns about the breaking ball, although in general Weaver's switch to a curve at the behest of the club has been mostly positive. Even so, the pitch only flashes average occasionally, and half the time still looks more like a loopy slider. For as much aptitude and touch as Weaver possesses for changing speeds and slipping the ball, he has shown a real lack of ability to spin it.

If I'm looking into my crystal ball and predicting the best use of Weaver in the future -- not the most likely, but what I believe is the best -- I think a switch to relief is still the path that will lead to his greatest success. His aggressiveness within the zone, two 55 or better pitches but lack of a third solid offering, and high-risk arm action all say to me he could be a dynamic reliever, with the FB/CH combo perhaps playing up even more in short stints, while covering for his weaknesses. Both of my comps for him reflect this, in fact.

Player Comp: Hmm, let's see...fastball with good movement in the low-90s, occasionally ranging higher, dominant changeup, and a real lack of luck spinning a breaking ball. Optimistically, looking at a guy who managed a very nice career with those strengths and weaknesses, Tyler Clippard comes to mind. On the other hand, a player I feel is maybe even a better comp but shows how things can fail to work out so well, we have Anthony Reyes, whose name I hesitate to invoke, but is really a remarkable comparison to my mind.

via Eric Longenhagen:

#4: Tim Cooney, LHP

Opening Day 2016 Age: 25

2015 Level: Triple A Memphis, MLB

Relevant Numbers: 3.58 FIP (StL), 14.6% K-BB (StL), 4.7% BB rate (Mem)

So, what's so great about this guy?

Tim Cooney is the perfect embodiment at this moment in the Cardinals' system of the value that comes from producing a constant, steady stream of talent, even at the low-end of the spectrum, and raising your organisation's internal replacement level. As such, he's incredibly unexciting, uninspiring, and unexciting (the lack of excitement is such I actually couldn't think of a third word to describe him), and also one of the more useful signs of the remarkable overall health of the organisation.

My first-hand introduction to Tim Cooney actually came sometime in the 2013 season, in what can unequivocally be marked as his breakout year. I made my way down to Springfield to take in a couple S-Cards games, and one was started by Cooney. I knew the name, of course, and had watched a little video, as well as asking around about him a bit following his being drafted in the third round in 2012. My impression of him going into this particular start, which I feel was in late May but wouldn't swear to it, was of a college soft-tossing lefty with very little ceiling, maybe even nothing more than an org pitcher.

And on that particular day, Cooney completely changed my mind. He was scouted previously as having a plus changeup, but nothing else that really even graded as average, aside from his control. What I saw that day was a pitcher spinning a curveball that completely flummoxed hitters (I think it was Frisco), might have graded as a 65, and made me think I was watching the next Barry Zito. The fastball was still nothing to write home about, topping out at 93 on a notoriously hot Springfield gun, but the changeup was as advertised and the curve was a thing of beauty. I came away from that outing thinking the Cardinals had found themselves a diamond in the (relative), rough of the third round, and this was a player to watch. Closely.

Cooney's overall performance at Double A that year seemed to confirm my impressions, that he had taken a step forward in multiple areas of development, and had a much higher ceiling going forward than was believed at the time of being drafted. He struck out better than a batter per inning, kept his walk rate below 4%(!), and just generally dominated the league, posting a 2.43 FIP in close to 120 innings. His ERA was much less impressive, due to an elevated BABIP, but the stuff I saw that day in May, and the elite strikeout-to-walk numbers he posted all season in his first shot at the biggest jump in quality in the minors, was enough to convince me.

Since then, Cooney has pitched two seasons at Triple A, and neither has been anywhere near the quality of his Double A stint. He took a big step back in 2014 and a small step forward in 2015, but in both years he's been a bit prone to giving up the long ball, and hasn't shown anything close to the same swing-and-miss potential he flashed at Double A.

What's interesting, though, is that watching Cooney pitch at the big league level for the first time, his curveball looked just as good to me as it did back at Springfield, and he pushed his strikeout rate higher in the majors than it had been at any point in the Pacific Coast League. I'm thinking particularly of his second to last start of the year, when he struck out seven Mets in 5.2 innings and completely overmatched several of them with his breaking ball. (Weirdly, he also walked four hitters in that game, totally out of character for him, but if I remember correctly it seemed there was some issues with the strike zone that day.)

I realise Cooney isn't a sexy name here; even if he's closer to the guy I saw in Springfield or who briefly showed up toward the end of his St. Louis stint, it's probably a back of the rotation profile. He's a flyball pitcher, and so should actually play better in the power-suppressing environs of Busch Stadium than the hitter havens of the PCL, but he's still probably going to be vulnerable to home runs, and it will be more important than ever he keep his walk rate at an elite level to avoid those homers turning into crooked numbers.

What I like about Cooney is his ability to pitch at three distinct speeds, with a fastball at 89-90, both a cutter/slider and a changeup in the low 80s, and the curve in the low 70s. Given he can throw the change and his slider/cutter/whatever at the same speed, but with movement going in opposing directions, I think that's a combo that could be exploited for more value than he's perhaps gotten in the past. I like the cutter version better than the slider; when he throws the pitch harder and it breaks more laterally than vertically I think it's an effective weapon to attack right-handed hitters inside.

For me, though, the pitch that will likely define what Cooney ultimately becomes in the big leagues is going to be that curveball. It's an easy comparison between Cooney and Marco Gonzales, as both are lower-velocity lefties whose best pitch is a changeup, and in that comparison Gonzales usually comes out better, as his change might be elite, rather than just a plus. If I'm looking at the two, though, I'm betting on Cooney, and it isn't all that close, to be honest. Neither has an advantage in terms of the fastball, and Marco's changeup is definitely a little better, but there's really no contest in terms of their other pitches. Gonzales's curve and cutter are both below-average pitches, while I've seen Cooney throw a 55 cutter and an even better curve at times. The breadth and depth of his repertoire easily beats out the one plus-plus pitch Gonzales offers, and that's before we even consider the truly elite command of the strike zone Cooney possesses.

Tim Cooney's ceiling is still pretty limited, and I'm sure that will make some discount him, or downgrade the Cardinal system due to him ranking so highly. But this is exactly the kind of depth a farm system should be producing, if you want to pull that internal level of talent up to ensure you never have a huge fall off in case of injury or attrition to free agency. He's just the type of pitcher you hope you have on hand to keep you from having to go out and sign, say, Mike Leake to a five-year deal, in fact.

Player Comp: Mark Buehrle isn't a bad comp, in terms of the stuff, except Cooney is much more flyball-oriented.

via MLB.com:

#3: Edmundo Sosa, SS

Opening Day 2016 Age: 20

2015 Level: Short-season Johnson City

Relevant Numbers: 223 PAs, .185 ISO, 137 wRC+, 19 XBHs, .300/.369/.485

So, what's so great about this guy?

Edmundo Sosa first burst onto the scene in 2013, when he lapped the Dominican Summer League as a seventeen year old, posting a 150 wRC+ in just under 200 plate appearances. He showed an incredibly advanced approach at the plate that summer for a player so young, walking over 11% of the time and striking out just 7.6%. At the time, there was very little power in the bat, but he was at least an average defender and probably a little above at shortstop, while showing those on-base skills. Sure, it's the DSL, and we prospect watchers have been burned badly in the past wishcasting on numbers put up at the lowest levels of pro ball (I still think of Niko Vasquez every once in awhile, and shed a tear or two for what might have been), but that's still the kind of profile you don't often see in a player that young, non-Jurickson Profar division.

In 2014, Sosa came to the States, and held his own playing in the Gulf Coast League at eighteen. His performance in the GCL wasn't as remarkable as his 2013 breakout campaign, but he still put up a better than league average line (109 wRC+), while showing outstanding contact skills again, and an ability to control the strike zone, even against better competition.

Interestingly, Sosa was promoted to Low A Peoria at the end of the 2014 season, and actually saw three games there while filling in for another injured player, and while he was definitely not ready for that level, there was some optimism coming in to 2015 that he might return to full-season ball as a challenge, much the same way Magneuris Sierra was placed there.

At the end of spring training, however, Sosa was assigned to the complex, and stayed in Florida until Johnson City kicked off its season following the draft in June. Sierra, who was pushed, tanked badly in the Midwest League and was eventually reassigned, while Sosa went out and put together one of his most intriguing performances to date once the season got underway.

Playing at nineteen in the Appalachian League, Sosa continued to show an advanced approach at the plate, though he was more aggressive in attacking pitches in the zone this season than he had been in the past. The big reason for that was probably the ten pounds of muscle he's added to his frame the last couple years, and the fact his loose, fast swing now has enough oomph behind it to do some real damage when he connects. Howard Johnson Field, where the Cardinals play, is a fairly spacious ballpark, 410' to center and spacious in the alleys, and Sosa put seven over the boards in roughly a third of a full season's trips to the plate. There's always a balance to be struck between attacking and controlling the zone, between aggression and patience, and Sosa will have to make sure he finds that balance going forward for himself. In the meantime, the sudden appearance of over-the-fence power for Sosa is an incredibly exciting development.

In the field, Sosa has the arm to make all the throws, and enough range to make most of the plays. He isn't a marvel of arms and legs flying about the way Oscar Mercado is at shortstop, but he's also not nearly so prone to unforced errors and bad throws. He's smooth and advanced for a player his age, even more remarkable given he's from Panama, not know for quality of competition, rather than the Dominican or Venezuela, which have more established traditions of baseball excellence. Bottom line, I think Sosa stays at shortstop easily, and is probably a slightly above-average defender there. Combine that with his increasingly intriguing offensive profile, and I think he possesses the highest ceiling of any positional talent in the Cardinal system right now, with the possible exception of Bryce Denton, who is so far away as to be almost completely opaque at this point.

Player Comp: The Edgar Renteria comp thrown around quite a bit for Sosa isn't a bad one, as he has the same kind of all-around appeal to his game the former Cardinal offered. For most of his career, though, Renteria was very much a singles hitter, while I think there's a decent chance Sosa ends up with a fair bit more power than that. I won't go so far as to suggest Nomar Garciaparra, but somewhere between those two stalwarts of the early 2000s is where I would expect to find Sosa's profile.

#2: Jack Flaherty, RHP

Opening Day 2016 Age: 20

2015 Level: Low A Peoria

Relevant Numbers: 95 IP, 97 K, 23.7% K rate, 7.6% BB rate, 2.83 FIP

So, what's so great about this guy?

Jack Flaherty was a two-way player in high school, probably better thought of as an athletic third base prospect until his senior season. At that point, his velocity ticked up, he began to show better feel for pitching, and it became clear his future was probably on the mound. The Cardinals popped him in the compensation round in 2014 with the 34th overall pick and went well over slot to keep him away from North Carolina.

If one could choose only one word to describe Flaherty as a pitcher, it might be 'precocious'. Two-way high school players going the pitching route are usually very raw coming out, and it takes them time to find their feel and identity as pitchers. See Ronnie Williams's blurb in part two for details on what that looks like. Flaherty, on the other hand, in his first full season of pro ball, not to mention his first season ever pitching full-time, looks closer to a college junior from a power conference school than the nineteen year old with little pitching experience he actually was. Not only was he not overwhelmed by full season ball, he put up outstanding numbers in the Midwest League, competing against players who were usually two, three, or often even four years older than him.

The raw stuff for Flaherty is good, but not the kind of knock your socks off dominant stuff you see from, say, the number one prospect on our list. It's a low 90s fastball, up to 94 at times, and it has nice sink when Flaherty keeps it down, but at no point will you watch him throw a heater, look up at the scoreboard, and let out a whistle at the radar gun reading. Nor do hitters walk away shaking their heads after facing him, wondering how anyone ever hits what he throws.

Rather, it's depth of his repertoire, as well as his feel for locating all his pitches, that really sets Flaherty apart. He legitimately throws four pitches, and every one of them might grade out at least average on a given day. The changeup and slider are his best offspeed offerings right now, with the change probably the most advanced. While the changeup might grade a 60 already most days, there are times Flaherty's slider outshines it. If he's going to end up with one plus-plus out pitch, my money would be on the slider. He throws a curve, as well, and it has its moments, but it's also too big and slow at times, and he can telegraph it by slowing his arm. It's the pitch that needs the most work, but it's entirely possible the curveball could end up at least an average offering as well.

If things come together for Flaherty, you could be looking at a 55 fastball, 60 change, 55-60 slider, 50 curveball profile, along with plus command of three of those pitches. He won't ever blow you away with pure velocity, but the combination of multiple pitches and feel could still be overwhelming for hitters to try and adjust to. Comping him to a pitcher like Zack Greinke seems absurd, given how unique Greinke's approach is, how experimental he is with his various offerings, but it's that kind of wide variety of pitches that Flaherty could be working with if it all comes together.

Physically, Flaherty is still an exceptional athlete, and his delivery is pretty good. He lifts with his elbow at the back of his arm swing, which I don't like, but still manages to have pretty good timing in terms of where his arm is when he starts his hip rotation. The balance and body control are both big pluses for him, which adds to the profile as a pitcher with too many options, and too much ability to harness those various options, for hitters to have much hope.

Flaherty will move up to High A Palm Beach to begin 2016, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him fast-tracked, particularly if he dominates there. Given the hitting environment in the FSL, which we've talked about here already, I could see him getting off to a fast start and being bumped up rather quickly to Double A, as both a challenge promotion and a shock to the system, forcing him to pitch in a much, much less friendly environment and hopefully driving home points he needs to work on. If that happens, he would be only two steps from the big leagues, barely two full seasons out of high school. Precocious seems apt, no?

Player Comp: Since Greinke is out, as I already stated, being an almost completely unique entity in his approach, I think of Todd Stottlemyre, as a pitcher with plus stuff pretty much across the board and four fully-formed pitches to attack hitters with. Stottlemyre, of course, struggled for a long time early in his career with his command; I see no similar struggles in either the short or long term with Flaherty.

Watch this short little video clip of Flaherty recording a strikeout for Peoria this year; it says a lot about where he already is as a pitcher. It's a simple two-pitch sequence, fastball then slider, but pay attention to the location. The fastball is perfectly placed, low and on the outside corner for a called strike two. The slider, then, is put in exactly the same spot, coming for that same corner, until it breaks away, down and out of the zone, getting the hitter to chase it for strike three. No hitter at any level is going to have much luck when the location is so perfect, with the slider looking identical to the fastball until it disappears. When pitchers talk about sequencing and setting up hitters, this is exactly what they're talking about.

via minorleaguebaseball:

#1: Alex Reyes, RHP

Opening Day 2016 Age: 21

2015 Level: High A Palm Beach, Double A Springfield, Arizona Fall League

Relevant Numbers: 113.1 IP, 34.3% K rate, 12.5% BB rate, 84 H, 1.75 FIP (PB), 2.32 FIP (Spr), 3.72 FIP (AFL)

So, what's so great about this guy?

Let me get one thing out of the way before I go any further: I am an Alex Reyes skeptic. And not because of the marijuana suspension, which I do believe reflects a somewhat troubling lack of maturity, even for a player or person as young as Reyes; it's frustrating he couldn't show better decision-making skills, but I have no long-term concerns about Reyes's viability as a pitcher because he likes to get high.

Rather, my concerns about Reyes are centered around his still-glaring lack of command, the delivery, which I don't like and has gotten worse as he has moved up, in my opinion, and a much more nebulous general lack of athleticism, or perhaps a lack of body command, that I worry will always limit his ability to throw strikes. There's something awkward about watching Alex Reyes move his body on the mound, in spite of the fact he's throwing heat that 99% of the pitchers in the big leagues can't really even hope to approach. There are times watching him I'm forcibly reminded of Daniel Cabrera, the huge, overpowering, hopelessly stiff and mechanical Orioles prodigy from the middle of the last decade. Cabrera had crazy velocity and a dominant breaking ball, and yet never could find a way to properly coordinate his frame and stuff in such a way to achieve the results his stuff would suggest should have been possible.

So, you're probably asking yourself, if Aaron is so skeptical of Reyes that he's pulling out the ghost of one of the great pitching disappointments of the mid-2000s to comp him to, then why is Reyes still sitting atop this list, when there is clearly no lack of at least useful, solid talent throughout the rest of the list?

The answer is simple: if Alex Reyes does put it together, to even a moderate degree, there may not be another pitcher on this list who can even come close to matching him. I can make arguments for why I feel other pitchers covered here may very well end up better than Reyes. I can not, however, make an argument for anyone else in the system having a higher ceiling.

The stuff Reyes brings to the mound is borderline unfair, with a fastball that sat comfortably at 94-97 this year, and touched triple digits nearly every time out. The heater is most effective when it's up, either at the top of the zone or up out of it, where hitters have virtually no shot at catching up. And as good as the fastball is, there are days when Reyes's curve is just as good, with true 12-to-6 break, nose to toes as the old saying goes, giving him two 70 grade pitches with which to attack hitters unfortunate enough to step into the box against him. I prefer the overall package of pitches Carlos Martinez offers, as I think El Gallo's sinker-changeup combo in particular, along with the overall depth of stuff he can throw, has the potential to carry him to multiple Cy Young awards, but if you want a simple, impressively overpowering one-two punch, Reyes's four-seamer and curveball might represent the most dynamic combination in the Cardinal organisation.

Beyond the fastball and curve, Reyes throws a changeup that shows average potential, but isn't there yet. He currently tends to telegraph the pitch by slowing his arm, but there is decent sink and fade to the pitch, making it a potentially very useful offering even if it doesn't improve all that much. If he can learn to sell it better and push it up to an average grade, the sky really could be the limit.

The downside with Reyes, of course, is the simple fact he struggles to throw strikes. He not only walks far too many hitters, he's also tremendously inefficient even when he's getting outs. Deep counts to hitters and high pitch counts in games are the order of the day all too often, forcing him out of games earlier than the boxscore would suggest and leading to long innings that can occasionally blow up in his face. In short, despite Reyes having already reached Double A -- doing so before his 21st birthday, in fact -- there is what feels like a developmental gulf between where he is and where he likely needs to be before he's ready to take on major league hitters.

And yet, it remains undeniable that Reyes has the potential to dominate. Not just survive, not just succeed, not just thrive, but dominate. The fact he has reached Double A at such a young age, with that gulf of development still ahead of him, is a testament to that potential.

That's why, in spite of my skepticism toward him, I cannot in good conscience put any other player in the Cardinal system currently ahead of Reyes. Of all the pitching prospects in the minors right now, I'd say only Lucas Giolito has clearly better stuff, and it's close. Julio Urias of the Dodgers has a wider repertoire and better feel, but I'd take Reyes's one-two punch over anyone but Giolito, I think.

The 50 game suspension puts Reyes in a strange position coming into the 2016 season. Ten games of that 50 was already served as part of the Arizona Fall League season, and so he'll be back sometime around the end of May, most likely, or perhaps early June. The numbers he put up in Springfield would suggest he be fast-tracked, but I suspect the Cardinals will be very wary of pushing him too much. That being said, the club will have decisions to make about their pitching after the 2016 season, and it would be helpful to have more of an idea how close Reyes really is to being a legitimate part of that future sooner than later. Barring injury, I have to believe he'll see St. Louis at some point late in the season, if only as a September bullpen callup.

It's strange, honestly, to have a prospect with such boom or bust potential sitting at the top of this system. One would think the strikeout numbers alone would give Reyes a much higher floor than most other pitching prospects, but the control issues, not to mention the fact he missed time in 2015 with shoulder soreness, keeps his future looking much cloudier than it might otherwise.

Player Comp: if things come together for Reyes, Justin Verlander is a possibility, as a high-octane fireballer with a dominant curve to complement the heat, and enough feel to locate his overpowering stuff. On the bad side, though, that Daniel Cabrera comp keeps popping up in my head, as a pitcher who lacked the body control to repeat his mechanics, throw strikes, and perform to the level the unbelievable talent in his arm would suggest should have been possible.

via MiLB.com:

and via RogerDeanStadiumTV:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end. A lot of prospects, and a whole lot of digital ink spilled over them. In the coming weeks and months, I'll try to write up some more of the prospects a bit further down the line, be they some of the 'just missed' players mentioned way back at the beginning of this list, or other persons of interest slightly more off the beaten path, but still worth knowing about.

I'll also be covering the draft in depth again this season; most Wednesdays from now until June will be occupied with charmingly amateurish write-ups of charmingly amateurish players. I may also revisit this list sometime after the draft, perhaps July-ish, to see what changes may have taken place to the landscape, between possible promotions, breakout performances, not-so-breakout performances, and the influx of talent from the draft itself. With (hopefully), three picks in the top 40 or so this June, there is an opportunity for the Cardinals to substantially augment this already promising farm system, if Randy Flores is half the scouting director I feel Chris Correa could have been, if not for the...unpleasantness.

For now, though, I'm done. I'm tired of writing. And so, until next I see you in the pages of this blog, I shall bid you adieu. I hope you've enjoyed this attempt to look into the future, and order the misty, murky results barely glimpsed there.