People, myself included, always seem to overvalue prospects anticipating that nearly all of them are going to reach their ceiling. However, it is often the exact opposite where very few reach their peak with the majority middling out or sitting at their floor. No matter how many young talents flame out though, we always believe the next prospect is always the one. With the Cardinals having multiple top tier prospects in their system, it is important to remember, some will pan out and some simply won’t. As a cautious reminder of how few players actually reach their peak, I am going to be doing a series where we review the Cardinals top 5 prospects from 2015-2020. Down below we are going to review where the Cardinals top 5 prospects from 2015 are right playing and how they have held up.
#1 Stephen Piscotty - OF - Current team - San Francisco Giants
In 2015, Piscotty came in as the 90th best prospect on MLBPipeline.com. He made his MLB debut in 2015, appearing in 63 games. Piscotty certainly looked the part as he posted a triple slash line .305/.359/.494 to go along with an OPS+ of 130. He didn’t enjoy quite the same success in 2016 as his OPS+ slipped to a 113, meaning he was 13 percent better than the league average hitter. The Cardinals did reward him with a contract extension in early April of 2017 for worth $33,500,000 over 6 years. Unfortunately, though the outfielder dealt with multiple injuries in 2017 including a strained groin, hamstring strain, tightness in his forearm and knee soreness. As a result, his OPS+ fell all the way down to 88, a far cry from his 2015 season. The Cardinals then traded him to the Oakland Athletics in the 2017 offseason. This was a move that allowed him to be closer to home in order to spend time with his mother who was previously diagnosed ALS. He stayed in Oakland for 5 seasons playing in 403 games with 55 home runs and an OPS+ of an even 100. Piscotty signed a 1 year deal this offseason with the San Francisco Giants worth $1,000,000.
#2 Marco Gonzales - LHP - Current team - Seattle Mariners
Gonzales only appeared in 11 combined big-league games for the Cardinals from 2014 to 2015. In those appearances, he pitched to a 77 ERA+, meaning he was 23% worse than the average MLB pitcher. He then tore his UCL in April of 2016 which resulted in him getting Tommy John surgery and missing the entire season. Just after he returned from the injury in July of 2017 the Cardinals flipped him to the Seattle Mariners for slugger Tyler O’Neill. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the southpaw has been a reliable middle to back end of the rotation arm. He has appeared in 131 games, all of which were starts, pitching to a 104 ERA+ and a 4.35 FIP. The current Mariner is under team control through 2024 with a club option for the 2025 season worth $15,000,000. The Gonzales for O’Neill swap feels like one of the rare trades where both teams walked away winners.
#3 Alex Reyes - RHP - Current team - Los Angeles Dodgers
Alex Reyes is the perfect example of a what could have been player. From 2016 to 2019 he was a top 33 prospect on MLBPipeline peaking as the 6th best prospect in 2017. He had the dominant stuff required to be an ace and even potential CY Young winner. However, as is the story with so many disappointing careers, he could just never stay healthy. From 2016 to 2022 he only threw 205 ⅓ innings, with the majority of those innings coming as a reliever rather than a starter. Additionally, over that time frame he was placed on the injured list five times. Reyes underwent Tommy John in early 2017, suffered a lat injury that ended his 2018 season and then got a shoulder injury which later required surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2022 season. Reyes did sign with the Dodgers this offseason, but he is expected to miss a significant chunk of the 2023 season due to an injury. When healthy Reyes’ talent was evident and was highlighted in his 2021 All Star season where he had 29 saves for St. Louis. Unfortunately, though for him he just has not been able to stay on the field enough to showcase his abilities.
#4 Rob Kaminsky - LHP - Free agent
The Cardinals drafted Kaminsky with the 28th pick in the 2013 draft, which is the same year he made his pro debut, pitching to a 3.68 ERA over 8 appearances at rookie ball. In 2014 he looked like a future rotation piece posting a 1.88 ERA over 100 ⅔ innings at the Single-A level. Despite the strong first year and a half in the organization, the Cardinals traded him to the then Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline for Brandon Moss. Unfortunately, like Reyes, Kaminsky just couldn’t stay healthy as Cleveland placed him on the injured list 5 separate times between August of 2015 and the end of the 2019 season. He only pitched 5 innings in 2017 and 28 ⅓ innings in 2018. Kaminsky elected free agency at the end of the ‘19 season and signed a minor league pact with the Cards that offseason. He pitched 4 ⅔ innings in the MLB for St. Louis in 2020, appearing in his only five games at the big-league level. Since then, he has pitched in the Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners systems and is set to pitch for team Israel at the upcoming WBC.
#5 Jack Flaherty - RHP - Current team St. Louis Cardinals
Certainly, the most notable player for the Cardinals on this list, Flaherty has been an has been an inconsistent pitcher when healthy. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 as the former top prospect posted a 3.34 ERA to go along with a 3.36 FIP. Then in 2019 he took off and looked like the future ace of the rotation as he had a 152 ERA+ which saw him finish 4th in the CY Young voting. Unfortunately, though he has since struggled to stay healthy and even when he does pitch his numbers have slipped considerably. He has only appeared in 35 games since the start of the 2020 season, 32 of which were starts. Over those 3 years Flaherty only has been an above average pitcher in one season according to ERA+ and he has posted a FIP of 4.11 or higher in each year. As a result, Cards skipper Oliver Marmol has no way of knowing what Flaherty his team is going to get in 2023. It does feel like it is more likely we see some iteration of the 2020-’22 version, but we cannot rule out him returning to the form that saw him finish fourth in the CY Young race a few years ago.