Keith Law concluded his prospect organizational rankings on Friday. What does he think about the St. Louis Cardinals system?
When Derrick Goold released Baseball America’s Top Ten prospects for the St. Louis Cardinals, most in Cardinals nation believed the team likely had a top ten system. Viva El Birdos prospect evaluator “the red baron” saw the system ranking between fifth and eighth in the MLB.
As I’ve read through various rankings of the St. Louis Cardinals system, a few things have jumped out. Firstly, the team currently has four players near-MLB or MLB-ready. Those players are Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Harrison Bader. However, given the state of the MLB roster, three of those four are likely to begin the season in AAA, giving them a chance to further refine and develop their craft.
Additionally, the system is loaded with high-ceiling prospects who are further away from the MLB. Delvin Perez, a shortstop prospect, was likely a top five pick before he dropped to the St. Louis Cardinals at pick 23. Pitching prospects Jake Woodford, Sandy Alcantara, Dakota Hudson, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, and Austin Gomber all spent time in the low ranks of the Cardinals minor leagues last year, but all have the look of future major leaguers.
Further, MLB.com is currently releasing their top positional prospect rankings. Already, they have ranked Carson Kelly and Alex Reyes as the top catcher and right-handed pitcher prospects, respectively. Delvin Perez and Harrison Bader have the chance to crack these lists at their respective positions.
So, mark me as surprised when Keith Law of ESPN ranked the St. Louis Cardinals only 13th in his organizational rankings.
Law states almost everything I expected. He notes while the, “St. Louis Cardinals might only have one likely star – Alex Reyes,” the lower stops in the farm system might provide another star pitcher or two down the line. Additionally, he notes the Cardinals depth of positional prospects up the middle, likely a reference to Kelly, Perez, Bader, Magneuris Sierra, Paul DeJong, and Edmundo Sosa.
Law also lauds the Cardinals pitching prospect depth. Since pitching prospects are higher developmental risks, this depth is extremely important. While many pitchers look like future MLB contributors, the reality is that most never make it, or at least never develop to their potential. However, given the stockpile of high ceiling arms, this depth includes multiple prospects who may become top-of-the-rotation starters.
Despite this commentary, Law still ranks the Cardinals system behind twelve other teams. I know next to nothing about other teams’ systems, and will not pretend to. Still, it is surprising that he would say everything that other prospect evaluators have said about St. Louis Cardinals prospects and yet rank them much lower than those others would have expected.
This is not the first time Law has been low on the St. Louis Cardinals prospects. He ranked Alex Reyes only 11th in his midseason rankings, while he included only Marco Gonzalez and Jack Flaherty in his 2016 Top 100.
Based on Baseball America’s 2016 Midseason ranking, which included four Cardinals, and Derrick Goold’s 2017 top ten, I would the Baseball America 2017 list to include up to seven Cardinals prospects (five is more likely). Harrison Bader ranks seventh in BA’s 2017 ten for St. Louis after ranking 89th in the midseason list.
I am admittedly more excited about the Cardinals pitching prospects than most. While I know well that most pitching prospects will not reach their potential (I’m even “low” on Alex Reyes), the reality is that the St. Louis Cardinals feature several high ceiling arms that are excelling in the minor leagues. Arguably the worst minor league performer of the bunch? Alex Reyes, and no one disputes that he is a top prospect.
Given that Law was already low on the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 2016, the Cardinals prospects have more ground to make up in his mind. However, this year, many of the Cardinals top pitching prospects will jump to AA or AAA. If they continue to perform at a high level against stiffer competition, it will be hard to argue against the system ranking outside of the top ten.