The St. Louis Cardinals’ top 30 prospects from a decade ago show some sobering realities.
Prospects in baseball are unique, even for the St. Louis Cardinals. Unlike in other sports, where most draftees are immediately thrust into the limelight and left to sink or swim, young players in baseball are put on a developmental track to determine when and if they should be exposed to the major leagues. Because of this waiting period and the ability for fans to observe the progression of players as they ascend the minor league ladder, “prospect hype” can come into effect when a player starts dominating at all levels. Fans can become smitten with a player’s talents and deem him off-limits for other teams to take in speculative trades.
But something funny often happens amid this prospect hype: The hopes and dreams fans place on the unknown quantity of a player who hasn’t reached the major leagues can quickly dissipate if that player reaches the bigs and doesn’t immediately produce. Fans only need to look at Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore last year to see two highly touted prospects who struggled and lost a lot of their prospect sheen as a result, perhaps unjustly.
This is all to say that top prospect lists for baseball teams are little more than educated guesses on who will produce in the future, and fans are often too high on prospects before they debut and too low on them after they debut and struggle a bit.
The Cardinals’ top 30 prospects list on Baseball America a decade ago comprises some players who had or are still having decent careers, others who only tasted the major leagues for a bit, and several who never made it at all. With the 2023 top 30 around the corner, this is a good time to look back on the 2013 list and set your expectations to a more reasonable level.