St. Louis Cardinals Top 20 Prospects for 2011
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
St. Louis Cardinals Top 20 for 2011
1) Shelby Miller, RHP, Grade A-: Grade may seem a notch aggressive, but I totally buy into him as a future ace, with the standard injury caveats of course.
2) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade B: This grade seems even more aggressive, but I'm playing instinct here as much as projectability. I might revise it but we'll see.
3) Zack Cox, 3B, Grade B-: It may seem weird to rank college hitter Cox behind high school arm Jenkins, but I guess I'm in a weird mood today. Plus, there is something about Cox that makes me think he might not quite live up to expectations.
4) Carlos Martinez (Matias), RHP, Grade B-: What? Sickels ranking a DSL guy this high? Yep. Maybe I'm just in a good mood today. This might look stupid in a year, or inspired. I feel like gambling.
5) Seth Blair, RHP, Grade B-: Future number three starter.
6) Matt Carpenter, 3B, Grade B-: Scouts seem to have mixed feelings about him, but the performance is hard to knock.
7) Eduardo Sanchez, RHP, Grade B-: I think he's the best of the large group of future bullpen arms.
8) Oscar Taveras, OF, Grade B-: Good Appy League numbers, some concern about low walk rate.
9) Deryk Hooker, RHP, Grade B-: Another grade that may seem aggressive but I love the guy, big sleeper for 2011.
10) Allen Craig, OF, Grade C+: Under the at-bat limit so I'll still rank him. Hit very well in the second half for the Cardinals, albeit in limited action. He can help if they let him.
11) Lance Lynn, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eating fourth starter type.
12) Joe Kelly, RHP, Grade C+: Love the sinker, but needs to show better results.
13) Jordan Swagerty, RHP, Grade C+: Another future middle reliever with some closer potential.
14) Adam Reifer, RHP, Grade C+: Another bullpen part to watch.
15) Cody Stanley, C, Grade C+: Can he avoid Robert Stockitis and bring his Appy League success forward to the Midwest League? I think so.
16) John Gast, LHP, Grade C+: Looked much better against pro hitters than college ones.
17) Tommy Pham, OF, Grade C+: Always had the tools, and skills are starting to develop.
18) Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Grade C+: Who? Low-level sleeper with breakthrough potential.
19) Nick Longmire, OF, Grade C+: University of the Pacific product with solid tools.
20) Blake King, RHP, Grade C: Check out the K/IP and H/IP numbers. If he can sharpen his command. . .
OTHERS: Matthew Adams, 1B; Bryan Anderson, C; Adron Chambers, OF; Tony Cruz, C; Daniel Descalso, 2B; Anthony Garcia, C-OF; Steven Hill, C; Daryl Jones, OF; David Kopp, RHP; Pete Kozma, SS; Aaron Luna, OF; Casey Mulligan, RHP; Audry Perez, C; Zach Russell, RHP; Francisco Samuel, RHP; Robert Stock, C; Niko Vasquez, 3B.
You have Miller at the top, then a whole bunch of question-marks.
I must be in a strange mood today because normally I wouldn't be so aggressive with guys like Jenkins and Martinez (Matias), but sometimes I don't play it safe. There is something about Cox that I just don't like intuitively, but I can't explain it. I like Blair and Carpenter. After that you have a lot of guys who can be useful reserves or relievers, with a smattering of players with better potential (Hooker, Stanley, and Gast in particular).
All in all, if Cox, Jenkins, and Martinez can pan out, the system will have a more balanced mixture of upside and depth at this time next year.