We received a reader request not too long ago from someone who wanted to see an all-prospect team put together from the farm system. Thus, endeavouring to give the people what they want, here is said all-prospect team.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to put together a team with the best prospect at each position. For the purposes of this exercise, positional overlap won’t really be considered; i.e. we all understand shortstops can move to basically any other position, but I won’t simply be choosing shortstops and moving them around. To be eligible for a given position, the player must have played the majority of his time at that spot last season, or otherwise be projected to spend the majority of his time there this coming year. There’s really only one occasion where this becomes a little tricky, and I’ll call out that situation when I get there.
Right-Handed Pitcher — Alex Reyes
Yes, that’s right; in spite of Reyes missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, and even with all the questions and doubts I personally have about his future, Alex Reyes still tops the list of organisational right-handers. No one else has the same combination of both proximity to the majors and ceiling Reyes possesses. Luke Weaver’s ceiling is still too much of a question, Jack Flaherty is just a touch too far away, and guys like Sandy Alcantara and Dakota Hudson are even further away than that. So, at least for now, Reyes is still the number one guy at RHP in the system.
Left-Handed Pitcher — Austin Gomber
If we’re going purely by personal bias, I might actually like John Kilichowski a little more than Gomber, but Gomber has shown his stuff at a much higher level, and isn’t that far away from potentially being major-league ready. The ceiling is pretty limited for the big lefty out of Florida Atlantic, but barring injury he should contribute at the big league level sometime in the near future. It is a little surprising to note how barren the Cards’ system remains in terms of left-handed pitching; for whatever reason this organisation just cannot figure out how to draft and develop lefties the way they do right-handers.
Relief Pitcher -- Rowan Wick
This one is actually kind of a weird category to include, as basically the best reliever in the system right now is probably still a starter. Guys like Daniel Poncedeleon, Junior Fernandez, Connor Jones, Alvaro Seijas, or even Hudson or Gomber could all end up moving to relief at some point and potentially taking off. I wanted to highlight Wick, however, as probably the best pure relief prospect in the system right now, not even two full years into his pitching career. He can get his fastball into the 97-98 range and features a big overhand curve, and showed surprising control last season before hitting a wall following a promotion.
Catcher — Carson Kelly
Not much of a surprise here; I love Jeremy Martinez long-term, but Kelly is close to major league ready right now, particularly with the glove. There’s a little bit of a question still as to whether Kelly will hit in the big leagues, but the larger issue is probably the question of whether he has more value to the organisation as the future backup/timeshare catcher with Yadi, or as part of a trade package to a team looking for a long-term catching solution.
First Base — Louis Linwood (Luke) Voit
The Cardinal system, right now, is very, very thin on first base talent. That shouldn’t be construed as a knock on Voit, who has progressed the past couple years and improved himself as a hitter to the point his offensive profile is fairly intriguing, but he’s still 26 years old and not such a slam dunk with the bat he’s forcing Matt Carpenter back over to third base. Of course, in the same way that the best reliever in the system is still a starter right now, the best first base prospect in the system right now is probably to be found in the outfield ranks. Dylan Carlson could be an outstanding defender at first with an offensive profile to match. Walker Robbins is playing outfield right now, but I expect him to move to first down the road. Hell, if Nick Plummer’s arm is a problem in the field, one could see him being tried at first, where he could sort of pretend to be Gregg Jefferies. For now, though, Voit is the top org guy who has ‘1B’ next to his name full-time.
Second Base — Eliezer Alvarez
I could see there being some debate here between Alvarez and Breyvic Valera, who is much closer to the big leagues, but I think the ceiling of Alvarez dwarfs Valera’s to the point it’s a virtual no-contest. It’s possible one of the organisation’s many shortstop prospects could end up moving over and making a splash; Edmundo Sosa might be a monster defensively at second, and if the Cards get Allen Cordoba back he could fall into a similar bucket. But the overall quality of tools, particularly a hit tool that’s a pretty definite 60 for me, puts Alvarez in a class of his own as far as true second basemen go right now.
Third Base — Paul DeJong
This is the one position I mentioned in the intro that’s a little wonky. DeJong, in his first two seasons in the Cards’ system, was almost exclusively a third baseman, and most of the reports on his defense were solid. Not glowing, but it certainly seemed like he could handle the position. Beginning in the Arizona Fall League last year, though, DeJong actually moved up the defensive spectrum, and is now going to play primarily shortstop, it seems. Now, how likely is it he’s really a shortstop? I don’t know. For now, though, I’m keeping him at the top of my third base list, and potentially revisiting the idea later on. If it isn’t DeJong here, it’s probably Patrick Wisdom, and as good as Wisdom’s glove still appears to be, the guy just can’t hit.
Shortstop — Delvin Perez
Yes, he’s a very long way away from the majors; Perez is the furthest from the bigs of any player on this list. His talent dwarfs pretty much any other player I could throw out here at short, though, and so he’s the number one guy.
Left Field — Nick Plummer
The outfield in general is a bit more of a mixed bag, obviously, as the positions are much more fluid and less defined. Basically, though, I’m putting the corner guy with the bad arm here in left, even though there’s a reasonable chance Plummer could stick in center. The former first-rounder gets the nod from me here in spite of his lost 2016 due to him having one true carrying tool in his bat, and the kind of speed that could keep him in center field, but could also make him a plus or even better in left. Dylan Carlson is coming up fast behind Plummer here.
Center Field — Randy Arozarena
Yes, Magneuris Sierra has a real beef with this ranking, and it’s a fair one. The former Cardinal Minor League Player of the Year is a bona fide plus defender in center, and while I have plenty of issues with his offensive profile, Sierra hasn’t been so bad as to start creating real worries. (In fact, he’s still be above-average at every stop offensively besides his initial challenge promotion to Peoria in 2015.) But if I’m being honest, Arozarena is my pick as the guy in the system who could turn himself into a star center fielder long term. He has similar speed to Sierra, but with an offensive profile that includes both power and patience far beyond anything Magneuris has shown.
Right Field — Harrison Bader
Bader could fall into either of the other outfield categories, depending on what you see in him. He’s played mostly center in the minors, and actually looks quite competent out there to me. He also obviously fits in left if you don’t love the arm in right or the position happens to be filled by some Stanford guy with a shiny new contract. But for proximity to the majors and a wide, solid base of tools that may not wow at first glance but translate into a strong overall game, Bader is tough to beat in the Cards’ system right now. Carlson is probably the number two guy here as well as in left.
Looking over this list, it stands out to me that the Cardinals have, in recent years, tried to focus on up the middle athletes, as shortstop is possibly the deepest position in the system (non-pitching, I mean), but have had less success coming up with true cant’-miss offensive profiles. Third base very much appears to be the position most ripe for an outside addition or upgrade in the near future; first base lacks depth in the system, but between Matt Carpenter’s presence and the fact there are outfield options who could potentially end up moving to first it looks like less of an immediate concern.