MLB Pipeline shows little love for the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system

MESA, AZ - OCTOBER 14: Ivan Herrera #9 of the Glendale Desert Dogs (St. Louis Cardinals) looks on during an Arizona Fall League game against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park on October 14, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. Glendale defeated Mesa 9-5. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - OCTOBER 14: Ivan Herrera #9 of the Glendale Desert Dogs (St. Louis Cardinals) looks on during an Arizona Fall League game against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park on October 14, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. Glendale defeated Mesa 9-5. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

MLB Pipeline rates the St. Louis Cardinals Farm System 18th out of 30. Is it too high? Too low? Or just right.

MLB Pipeline contributors Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Mike Rosenbaum just published their rankings of all MLB 2020 farm systems for 2020. Their top-rated farm system is the Tampa Bay Rays, which has six prospects in the top 100, while the Milwaukee Brewers farm system finished at the bottom with no prospects in the top 100. In their piece, the St. Louis Cardinals farm system came in at 18, sandwiched between the Kansas City Royals (17) and the Philadelphia Phillies (19).

However, Callis, Mayo, and Rosenbaum’s rating seems to based on what they don’t know about the Cardinal farm system instead of what they know.

Callis, Mayo, and Rosenbaum had three Cardinal prospects in their top 100. Outfield wunderkind Dylan Carlson came in at 17, while third base prospect Nolan Gorman was rated at 47, and the newly acquired LHP Matthew Liberatore made the top 100 at number 58.

The article stated their evaluations were based on a variety of factors, including “potential impact talent, depth, proximity to the big leagues and balance between position players and pitchers as well as ceilings and floors.”

The only statement in the MLB Pipeline piece offered on the Cardinals Farm System, was “Carlson is one of many prospects poised to contribute in 2020, though the real gems of the system are still several years away from making an impact.”

A couple of contrasting takes

This rather negative take on the Cardinals farm system is certainly different from Keith Law of the Athletic who had the Cardinal system rated as the 9th best in MLB. In case you don’t have a subscription, Redbird Rants Site Expert Matt Graves did a piece on Law’s farm system ratings.

Apparently, Law puts more value in the addition of Matthew Liberatore to the Cardinals farm system than the writers at MLB Pipeline. The 20-year old former first-round pick may only start at A-ball in 2020, but he adds significant pitching depth to the Cardinals system.

One of my other fellow Redbird Rants bloggers, Taylor Streiff, took issue with the MLB Pipeline rating of the Cardinals farm system. “The fact the Cards keep drafting, obtaining, and developing young talent speaks volumes,” Taylor told me during our direct message chat. He also added, “Just because [the Cardinals] don’t have any obvious superstars doesn’t mean they should drop to 18.”

With Liberatore being the 58th best prospect in MLB, Taylor adds to Law’s point by saying, “Liberatore honestly reminds me a bit of Kershaw. The hitch in his delivery, the build, the nasty breaking ball.”

Looking closer the MLB Pipeline ranking

One take from the MLB Pipeline ranking is where the NL Central Clubs all stand in the piece. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the only farm system that is rated above the Cardinals, who come in at 15. Like the Cardinals, they have three prospects in the top 100, the highest at 39. However, as the MLB Pipeline points out, none are impact talent now.

More from Redbird Rants

After the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs come in at 23, with four players in the top 100 but none in the top 50. Next comes the Cincinnati Reds at 24. They have two prospects in the top 100, and then, as mentioned earlier, the Milwaukee Brewers come in at 30.

In fact, the Cardinals may have the only prospect who could be an impact talent in 2020. According to the prospect listing by MLB Pipeline, Dylan Carlson is the highest-rated prospect in the NL Central at 17. The next is the Pirates’ right-handed pitching prospect Mitch Keller, who comes in at


Too high, too low, or just right?

As we can see by MLB Pipeline and Keith Law, prospect rankings are somewhat a subjective process, often based on personal opinions or outlooks. For example, the Cardinals are considered to have the 9th best farm system in one, while in another they come in at 18. The Cubs, on the other hand, have the 23rd best farm system in the Pipeline rankings, while in Law’s, they come in at 28th.

Trying to judge whether the MLB Pipeline farm system rankings have the Cardinals too high, too low, or are just about right, could be a matter of just looking at the young talent on the current roster. Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Junior Fernandez, Ryan Helsley, and Tommy Edman were all drafted or signed by the Cardinals. Lane Thomas, Tyler O’Neill, and Giovanny Gallegos were all picked up in trades and initially placed in the Cardinals minor league system.

In other words, whether by drafting or trading for young talent in their farm system, the St. Louis Cardinals have demonstrated the ability to accurately judge and develop young prospects. Very recent success should count when ranking a farm system. Like predicting the stock market, recent success is not a guarantee of future results, it certainly should be taken into consideration.

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So does the MLB Pipeline have the St. Louis Cardinal Farm System too high, too low, or just about right? To answer, I come closer to Keith Law’s take than I do with the writers at MLB Pipeline.