Hello everybody, and welcome to my first post for the Conclave. I written about baseball in general for the last 11 years at various websites, and specifically about the Cardinals for the Examiner for the last year and a half. I’ve followed the Cardinals since 1985.
I like to use a lot of numbers in my articles; most of the time, I’m pulling spreadsheets from Baseball Reference or Fangraphs to look for trends in the numbers. I also follow the minor leagues closely, so I’ll be looking at some prospects in the system.
For my debut here, I’m looking at my top 7 Cardinal Prospects as part of the UCB September Project (albeit a few days late).
1. Alex Reyes, RHP – It’s not even close on this one. Reyes, who was born in the U.S. and moved to the Dominican to avoid the MLB Draft, is a flamethrower learning to pitch. Along with the gas, he’s got a great curve that really moves and is working on a change; his biggest issue is control. He started the season at Palm Beach (as expected) and was moved up to Springfield after a DL stint. He’ll be in the Arizona Fall League this year, and he could be fast tracked if there is a sudden opening in the rotation next season.
2. Jack Flaherty, RHP – Flaherty took to full season ball without an issue in 2015; the righty pitched well in Peoria in 2015. He’s got a good change to go with a low-90s fastball; that fastball could add a few ticks as his body matures and strengthens. He’s also got potential with a curve and slider. He projects as a 2-3 starter in the long run. He should be in Palm Beach for 2016 and could see a Reyes-like promotion to Springfield later in the year.
3. Marco Gonzales, LHP – 2015 was pretty much a disaster for Gonzales: shoulder problems, ineffectiveness, inconsistency. The team and fans expected Gonzales to be the 6th man in the rotation, but after a forgettable start earlier in the season and another recently, Gonzales is getting a little extra rest rather than seeing a call up this month. He’s still got the potential to be a mid-rotation starter, and the adversity he’s faced this year could help him get there.
4. Charlie Tilson, OF – I’ve been a fan of Tilson’s since they drafted him, and patiently waited for him to be healthy enough to show what he could do. 2015 was that year. He spent the season as Springfield where he was a .295 hitter with good speed (46 of 65 on the base paths) and solid defense in center. He’s the prototypical lead off hitter for many teams. The issue is getting to the Majors with so many good, young outfielders further along than him. He should spend next season in Memphis, but a good year could force a move of the outfield surplus.
5. Tim Cooney, LHP – Gonzales’s problems were Cooney’s good fortune. After a bad initial start, Cooney bounced back to have a nice rookie season. Cooney won’t blow hitters away, but his command is top in the system. The bad side was the untimely appendicitis late in the season that cost him a couple of September starts and a potential post-season roster spot. He should bounce back without an issue though and see some MLB starts again in 2016.
6. Nick Plummer, OF – Plummer was the first pick of the Cardinals 2015 draft. He projects as a power hitting corner outfielder with plenty of potential. Granted, he didn’t show that potential in the Gulf Coast League when he made his pro debut. Maybe it was nerves; maybe it was just a longer season than he was used to. I expect he’ll bounce back in short-season ball next year.
7. Magneuris Sierra, OF – Many people have Sierra higher than this, but his initial struggles in 2015 have me concerned. He started the year in Peoria and was demoted to short-season ball when their season began. He appeared over-matched at the higher level, while dominating short season for the second straight season. Some might criticize me for putting him below Plummer, but I think Plummer’s long term potential is a little bit higher than Sierra’s.