The St. Louis Cardinals top 5 prospects in 2018 was made up of 4 players who had previously been a part of the team's top 5 list. Some might view this as an indication the organization struggled to bring in impact prospects via the draft and international signings. Others might view it as a sign the team’s top end prospects where solid admins as a result didn’t involve much overturn. I’m somewhere in the middle as it was a strong group of players, all of whom have played multiple seasons in the Majors. Although, I do think it is important for teams to consistently bring in talented prospects which is something the Cards struggled to do in this time period.
1. Alex Reyes - RHP - Current team - Los Angeles Dodgers
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.
2. Jack Flaherty - RHP - Current team - St. Louis Cardinals
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.
3. Carson Kelly - C - Current team - Arizona Diamondbacks
Since [he was traded to the Diamondbacks following the 2018 season], Kelly has been a relatively uninspiring player hitting .231 with 43 home runs across 1,057 at bats. He has turned himself into a long-term big-league player which is always going to be valuable. However, he has certainly not reached the expectations that were placed upon him early in his career.
4. Tyler O’Neill - OF - Current team - St. Louis Cardinals
The only debut prospect on this list, O’Neill was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the 85th pick in the 2013 draft. His first two seasons in the minors included a strong .310 batting average in his debut year and an okay sophomore season where he hit .251 across 3 levels. He broke out in 2015 with a triple slash line of .260/.316/.468 to go along with 21 doubles, 32 home runs and 16 stolen bases at the A+ level. The only downside of his season was his 33.6 percent strikeout percentage over his 407 at bats. He followed that up in 2016 by posting an arguably better season at Double-A. His triple slash that year was .293/.374/.508 in addition to 26 doubles, 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases. O’Neill’s strikeout percentage also dropped down to a slightly better 30.4 percent. Due to his success over the past two seasons, MLBPipeline.com ranked him as the 36th best prospect in 2017. He took a rather large step back in 2017 at the AAA level with a triple slash of .246/.321/.499, but he still hit 31 home runs and swiped 14 bags. In July of that season, the Mariners shipped him to the Cardinals in a straight swap for lefty Marco Gonzales. He had the best season of his career in 2019 with the Cards Triple-A affiliate as he had an OPS of 1.078 with 26 home runs in just 238 at bats. That torrid production earned him a call up to the show where he posted an OPS+ of 115 over 130 at bats. Over the next two seasons his production for the big-league club slipped as he had a .218 average, hit 12 home runs and produced an OPS+ of 80 across 280 at bats. He was a solid contributor in the field though as he walked away with a Gold Glove award in 2020. Then 2021 saw his breakout MLB season. The slugger finished in the top 7th percentile or better in average exit velocity, xSLG, xwOBA, xwOBAcon and hard-hit percentage. His production saw him win his second Gold Glove as well as finishing 8th in the MVP voting. In 2022, O’Neill was an above average hitter in multiple analytics, but the season was considered to be a disappointment after his showing in 2021.
5. Harrison Bader - OF - Current team - New York Yankees
The majority of Bader’s impact came from his glove. The former 3rd round pick became one of the best fielders in the MLB in his time with the Red Birds totaling 56 outs above average. Bader was traded at the 2022 trade deadline to the Yankees for starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery.