Updated MLB farm system rankings indicate more issues for the Cardinals

While the rest of the division has improved their pipelines, the Cardinals show a drastic decline.

Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

MLB Pipeline just released their preseason ranking of every team’s farm system. MLB conducts this twice a year, at the season's start and the halfway point. They look at each player’s ceiling and floor, how close they are to being ready for the big league team, and how those players will improve the major league team when they get there. 

The mid-season ranking for the Cardinals in 2022 placed them at number thirteen. That was the highest they ranked since the MLB started doing this in 2016. The preseason ranking for the Cardinals just last year was even better. They were in the top ten for the first time at number nine. Included in the top 100 prospects were Jordan Walker, OF/3B (No. 4); Masyn Winn, SS (No. 50); Tink Hence, RHP (No. 77); Gordon Graceffo, RHP (No. 79); Alec Burleson, OF (No. 91). That was five players, with one of them ranked fourth. 

The preseason rankings for 2024 have the Cardinals ranked at twenty-three. The only prospects listed in the top 100 are Masyn Winn, SS (No. 43); Tink Hence, RHP (No. 64); Tekoah Roby, RHP (No. 99)

Two players from the prior year are no longer on the list because they are now major league players, Walker and Burleson. Graceffo has fallen off the list and Roby has replaced him, but at number 99 instead of 79. 

Last season at the trade deadline, the Cardinals traded Jack Flaherty, Paul DeJong, Jordan Montgomery, Jordan Hicks, and Genesis Cabera, for ten minor league players. 

After all those moves were made, John Mozeliak expressed the following thoughts. “I feel like we gave ourselves a chance to really add to our (minor-league) bench, if you will, and gave us a lot of options moving forward, in something that we don’t have to wait for four or five years to see a return on.”  

One should not expect with that much movement, the team to fall from nine to twenty-three. Unless you go back and read that statement again. If you look closely, the Athletic added (minor-league) for clarity. This is how you fall 14 points. Mozeliak just told us he was looking for depth in the minor leagues. We now have that depth, but according to the MLB rankings and most other rankings, we have very little in the way of high-upside players that will drastically change the complexion of the major league team. The top player is Masyn Winn, and he came in at No. 43. He will graduate this year and maybe Thomas Saggese can take his spot. 

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be other players that will make the Cardinals roster this year. Victor Scott is not on the list, but could very well make the team and be an outstanding Major League player. 

The question to be asked is has the way baseball players are being evaluated changed? That answer is yes, and it doesn’t appear the Cardinals have made that change. Most teams now are looking for high-upside players who are athletic and have a high baseball IQ. Players who are ready to put in the major league lineup in just a year or two. The Orioles have been doing this for the last few years. They have a Gunner Henderson and a Grayson Rodriguez make the roster and Jackson Holliday and Colton Cowser replaced them on the list. The Cardinals seem to have a model that searches for more solid, useful players like Burleson and fewer high-upside players like Walker.

The Cardinals for the last few years have been telling us they have to concentrate on winning the division and then take their chances on what can happen in the playoffs. The problem with that is the division may soon become one of the strongest instead of being one of the weakest, as it has been in the last few years. MLB’s ranking for just the NL Central is the Cubs at number two, Brewers are number three, the Pirates at number nine, and the Reds at number ten. The Cardinals’ competition is all placed inside the top ten. The Cardinals have fallen from the top ten to twenty-three in one year. This is with ten additions, and only Walker and Burleson graduating.