Keith Law, the Senior Baseball Writer for ‘The Athletic,’ just released his farm system rankings. Almost surprisingly, the St. Louis Cardinals rank well.
Keith Law is not known to be the biggest St. Louis Cardinals fan in the world, but still manages to stay relatively detached from that when he puts out his yearly rankings. Law is a prospect guy, and now that he’s with The Athletic, you need a subscription to read what he writes.
As he does yearly, Law just put out his farm system rankings for the year. In the past couple of years, the Cardinals really haven’t ranked very highly in these lists due to a few years of missed draft picks.
In 2015, the Cardinals took Nick Plummer in the first round, in 2016, they picked Delvin Perez first, and then in 2017, the Cardinals didn’t have a first or second-round pick due to their cheating punishment. These three years of misses (ignoring the successful picks in Dylan Carlson and Dakota Hudson) created a bit of a bubble in the system that popped when the top prospects of 2017 and 2018 made it to the Majors.
At the beginning of 2019, the Cardinals were a consensus middle of the pack farm system. Carlson and Nolan Gorman were top 100 prospects, but after that, there didn’t seem to be many stars in the making.
After all the shuffling of the 2019 season and offseason, the Cardinals now sit at #9 on Law’s list of top farm systems. This is a huge compliment to the Cardinals as they once again prove that they can keep a steady flow of young players coming up even while picking in the bottom third of the first round.
With their last losing season coming in 2007, the Cardinals have proven that they can keep adding to their system even when the talent doesn’t come from the draft.
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This winter, they did that when they traded Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez for Matthew Liberatore, another top-end left-handed pitcher. That puts three top-100 prospects in the Cardinals system and likely propelled them into the top 10 of Law’s list.
The compliment that Law gave the Cardinals cannot be said for the rest of the NL Central.
Looking further on his list, the Pirates are the next closest team at #14, then the Reds are 23rd, the Cubs are 28th, and the Brewers are 30th. For the Cubs and the Brewers, a mix of first-round misses of their own along with decimating their farm system via trades have left them without any strong foundation beneath their 25-man roster. The same can be said about the Reds.
Longterm, this is why fans should be so bullish on the Cardinals and (barring any re-tooling trades) not as bullish on the Cubs and Brewers. There are obviously more ways to build a team than just through the farm, but it’s certainly the most cost-efficient way.
The Cardinals’ placement on Law’s list is a testament to not only the Cardinals’ player development staff but also the front office staff for ensuring that if there is a bubble, it can be filled by trades from areas of depth to bring in more prospects for the pipeline. The future will be fun.