In case you (somehow) missed it, pitchers and catchers officially reported today. Of course, many pitchers, catchers, and position players (most notably Dexter Fowler) have already arrived to Jupiter, but it is an exciting day nonetheless. Frankly, the first ten days of spring are probably the most crucial for pitchers — especially those returning from injury. Though they all have seemingly resumed their respective throwing programs prior to their arrival in Jupiter, these programs pale in comparison to near full-go bullpen sessions and simulated games.
It was within the first ten or so days last spring training that we learned Tim Cooney was being “slowed down” due to “shoulder soreness.” Despite reports of a “strong” shoulder in January at the Winter Warm-up, we all know how 2016 ended up going for Marco Gonzales, health-wise. The term “dead arm” always tends to pop up a few weeks before the start of the regular season. Yet, instead of being gloomy on this 30 degree, blue-sky-laced February day, let’s take a look at how the St. Louis Cardinals fared in the freshly-released top 101 prospect list by Baseball Prospectus.
Sure, Keith Law already released his list. As did Baseball America, but Baseball Prospectus — especially in their Jason Parks days — has long been considered one of the most-respected lists. Well, the Cardinals managed to place four in BP’s 2017 top 101 — two starting pitchers, one shortstop, and one catcher. The defending World Series champion Cubs also placed four — topping out at number nine with 20-year-old outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Pirates, Brewers, and Reds placed five, seven (!), and two, respectively. This is a Cardinals blog, though, so let’s see who made the list and where they stacked up against their peers.
#1: Alex Reyes, 22, right-handed starting pitcher
Reyes surprisingly dropped in Law’s 2017 rankings (to #10 from #8), but improved from #7 to #4 in Baseball America’s. Well, there can be no complaints associated with his BP ranking as he is leading the way at #1 (all the way up from #10 in 2016). He should probably be in the starting rotation to open 2017, but some people don’t like fun and consider the possibility of beginning with a bullpen role.
And now, to tease out a little something @cardinalsgifs created for my #BattleofthePitches Twitter competition between Reyes and Carlos Martinez. Round two begins tonight at 9:30 PM CST, by the way.
#40: Sandy Alcantara, 21, right-handed starting pitcher
Junior Fernandez, who doesn’t turn 20 until next month, was the talk of early 2016 when he found his name at #9 on John Manuel’s Cardinals prospect list for Baseball America. Both Fernandez and Alcantara were given similar assignments in 2016 (starting in Peoria before being promoted to Palm Beach), but Alcantara clearly outshined Fernandez — displaying both a better ability to miss bats as well as slightly sharper control. Of the Cardinals boatload of pitching prospects, Alcantara’s raw repertoire is the most similar to that of Reyes, with the ability to touch 100 and a still developing, but potentially devastating breaking ball. With Reyes graduating to the big leagues, the next prospect repertoire to drool over is clearly Alcantara’s.
#79: Delvin Perez, 18, shortstop
The 2016 first round pick is only 180 Gulf Coast League plate appearances into his professional career, and yet, he is already the 13th ranked shortstop prospect in all of baseball according to BP’s list. This doesn’t even take into account that many of the “shortstops” on BP’s list will eventually move off the position, something I don’t expect to see with Perez.
#81: Carson Kelly, 22, catcher
Kelly has been a hot topic here at VEB pretty much all offseason. Ben Markham thinks he should start the year in Triple-A, while I’ve made a case for him opening the season with the big league club. John Fleming compared Kelly to other catching prospects with similar statuses in the past. Heck, MLB Pipeline rated Kelly the #1 catching prospect in all of baseball. The Cardinals could still extend Molina beyond his final two years of team control, but if not, Kelly’s meteoric rise as a catching prospect brings promise that a true Yadi heir exists within the organization.
For those keeping score at home, Reyes, Alcantara, Perez, and Kelly came in at #1 (duh), #9, #6, and #4, respectively, on the red baron’s organizational list. Baseball is oh so near. Very soon, we will be able to discuss the real life performances of these prospects and see which rankings were accurate and which ones missed the mark. I simply cannot wait.