Prospect Rankings

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #1, Alex Reyes.

1. Alex Reyes – RHP

Signed in 2011 as amateur free-agent
Entering age-23 season
2016 FIP: 2.67

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2016 21 STL-min AAA 2 3 .400 4.96 14 14 0 0 0 0 65.1 63 38 36 6 32 0 93 4 1 7 291 1.454 8.7 0.8 4.4 12.8 2.91 MEM PCL
2016 21 STL NL 4 1 .800 1.57 12 5 3 0 0 1 46.0 33 8 8 1 23 1 52 0 1 3 189 261 2.67 1.217 6.5 0.2 4.5 10.2 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/28/2018.

What I Like

Watch what Alex Reyes can do with a baseball. It’s amazing.

He can ramp the fastball up to 101 miles-per-hour. His changeup, which sits 88-90, has nasty downward tilt. The crazy thing is, he doesn’t slow his arm down at all and it’s nearly impossible for the hitter to pick up.

They didn’t show it in the video above, but his breaking ball is nasty too. In early 2016 it was a big curveball, but it evolved into a slider/cutter. You can see it in the video below.

The curveball? He threw that, too, at 78 mph with a foot of downward movement. (If you’re keeping score at home, thats a 78-101 range of offerings. Good luck.)

Reyes produced 1.4 WAR over just 46 innings pitched in 2016. That’s ludicrous. He struck out 27.5 percent of the hitters he faced. His fastball averaged over 97 miles-per-hour. His changeup sat around 88 and hitters whiffed over 23 percent of the time.

Words don’t do Alex Reyes justice. He’s the type of player who’s dominance can really only be understood by seeing his opponents’ reactions to his pitches.

As a Cardinals fan, how can you not love that? Javier Baez is, in my humble opinion, the most overrated player in all of baseball and Alex Reyes made him look like a complete fool. For that, he deserves a red jacket. (Okay, not really.)

That’s really all there is to it. I could nitpick and say he walked a few too many guys, or his strand rate isn’t sustainable. Someone asked if I considered making Flaherty my number one overall prospect. Answer: yes. Then I watched Alex Reyes pitch and was reminded how beautifully filthy he is on the mound.

What I Don’t Like

Nothing. Except that he had Tommy John surgery and missed all of last season.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #2, Jack Flaherty.

2. Jack Flaherty – RHP

1st Round – 2014 Draft
Entering age-22 season
AA FIP: 2.29; AAA FIP: 4.10

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2017 21 STL-min AAA,AA 14 4 .778 2.18 25 25 0 0 0 0 148.2 120 36 36 12 35 2 147 0 0 5 581 1.043 7.3 0.7 2.1 8.9 4.20 MEM,SPD PCL,TL
2017 21 STL NL 0 2 .000 6.33 6 5 0 0 0 0 21.1 23 15 15 4 10 1 20 1 0 0 94 68 5.27 1.547 9.7 1.7 4.2 8.4 2.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/28/2018.

What I Like

What separates Jack Flaherty from every other pitcher on this list is the depth of his repertoire. Think about some of the better pitchers in the system. Hicks is a fastball-curveball guy. Hudson is best known for his slider and mid to upper 90’s fastball. Flaherty, on the other hand, threw five different pitches while in the majors last year: fastball, sinker, curve, slider, and a changeup.

While his repertoire is deep, his slider is among the games best according to Joe Schwarz of The Athletic and Birds on the Black. Joe isn’t the only one, either. Eno Sarris, formerly of Fangraphs and now of The Athletic, pointed out the similarities between Flaherty’s slider and Clayton Kershaw’s. In terms of whiff rate, they’re absolutely right: hitters swung and missed at 28.7% of the sliders Flaherty threw last year.

While in Springfield, Flaherty was as in control as a pitcher could possibly be. In 63 innings he had a 1.42 ERA and stuck out 25.6 percent of the hitters he faced. At the start of the season, he shared a rotation with Sandy Alcantara, Austin Gomber, and the aforementioned Hudson. Last April, in my opinion, Flaherty was the least exciting of the four. He proved me wrong when, in the first Springfield game I attended, he went 7 2/3 shutout innings while striking out nine.

My scorecard from the night shows how dominant he was and precisely how few baserunners he allowed. (Notice Max Schrock batting seventh and playing second base. He actually hit one of the harder balls off Flaherty when he lined out to left in the 5th.)

His final strikeout, which came against Paz, was classic Flaherty. He used his slider and breaking ball to get ahead, and attacked with his fastball with two strikes until, eventually, he got one by the hitter. His velocity, which at one time was only projected, became reality last season and is why he’s made an enormous jump up lists this year.

What I Don’t Like

There’s little that I don’t like about Flaherty. Most of it has to do with his struggles in five starts covering 21 1/3 innings in the majors last year. To briefly recap, he had a 6.33 ERA and walked over 10 percent of the hitters he faced while his strikeout rate dipped from his minor league norm. Remember, though, that Luke Weaver really struggled in 2016 before being dominant for a stretch last year.

What separates Flaherty from where Weaver is now is fastball command. Go back and watch the video of the at-bat against Paz. Flaherty gets ahead 1-2 and throws a fastball down the middle, but it’s fouled back. In the majors, those pitches aren’t fouled off. They get hit, and hard. After his promotion to St. Louis, opponents hit .333 with a .455 slugging percentage against his four-seam fastball, and .400 with a .700 slugging percentage against the sinker.

Flaherty’s stuff is undeniable, but he has to be more precise with where he puts his fastball. After all, opponents hit .250 or below against his slider or curve. That’s a really good place to start, and if he pairs that with a more effective fastball, especially one that can get easy outs early in counts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds on to a rotation spot all season long.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow is Opening Day and we’re revealing the number one prospect on the list (I bet you can’t guess who it is). Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball for the content they contributed, and don’t forget to check out Kyle’s reports at Birds on the Black.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #3, Carson Kelly.

3. Carson Kelly – C

2nd Round – 2012 Draft
Entering age-23 season
AAA wRC+: 120; MLB wRC+: 25

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2017 22 STL-min AAA 68 280 244 37 69 13 0 10 41 0 2 33 40 .283 .375 .459 .834 112 11 3 0 0 0 MEM · PCL
2017 22 STL NL 34 75 69 5 12 3 0 0 6 0 0 5 11 .174 .240 .217 .457 23 15 3 1 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/27/2018.

What I Like

Despite the prospect fatigue that has undoubtedly set in with regards to Carson Kelly, he’s still an elite defensive catcher. According to MLB Pipeline, he’s still the number 46 overall prospect and the second-best catcher. I have certain disagreements with how Pipeline ranks prospects, but in this case, the 30,000-foot perspective is insightful.

No, Kelly hasn’t hit yet at the major league level. Consider, though, that he got just 75 plate appearances in three months in the big leagues, and 28 of them came in the last week of the season. It’s hard enough to hit major league pitching, but throw in inconsistent playing time and the mental and physical demands of catching, and struggles are at least understandable.

Defensively, Kelly is as advanced as they come behind the plate. He won the minor league Gold Glove Award back in 2015 (when his offensive numbers were swallowed whole by the FSL), and has continued to improve. His receiving is exceptional; I wrote about it extensively in January and compared him to both Andrew Knizner and Yadier Molina.

It’s astonishing, but Carson Kelly threw better than Yadi last year according to Statcast. On average, Molina’s throws to second (28 attempts) were 83.3 miles-per-hour and average pop time to second base was 1.97 seconds. Kelly’s throws (only two attempts) were harder, at 84.1 miles-per-hour and his average pop time was 1.96 seconds. Accuracy is far more important than that hundredth of a second, but being in the same range as one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time is a good place to start.

In the words of John Mozeliak, Kelly had a “robust” offensive year in Memphis. His strikeout and walk rates of 11 and 14 percent respectively were well above average. Mix in ten homers and a .283 average and you have a player 20% above average in a hitter-friendly league.

What I Don’t Like

Carson Kelly would be the starting catcher on a lot of major league teams. I have mixed feelings on Molina’s extension only because I’m so confident Kelly will be a productive player in the big leagues. (On the other hand, I grew up with Molina behind the plate and want him to retire a Cardinal. Why do things have to be complicated?)

At some point, Kelly needs to hit in the majors, in an everyday role or not. With Molina, who prides himself on playing 174 games a year (a seemingly arbitrary number until you consider 162 regular season games, one All-Star Games, and 11 postseason games to win the World Series), the manager won’t sit Molina for the sake of Kelly’s development. He needs to force his way into the lineup with hits.In his week of starts last September, Kelly didn’t do much to instill confidence. He hit .148/.179/.148 in an obviously way-too-small sample size to really matter, but it’s the most consistent data set we have to work with.

Even though the Cardinals demoted Kelly, he’ll be in St. Louis this season. If I had to guess it’d be before the All-Star break. If you watched the exhibition in Montreal last night, you saw that Francisco Pena isn’t half the catcher Carson Kelly is. He dropped several would-be strikes, cost Lyons a strikeout by assuming it’d be a called strike three, and didn’t communicate with Greg Garcia on a foul pop up that dropped.

Molina has caught over 130 games in each of the last three seasons. I don’t know what exactly the probability is that that trend continues, but I can’t imagine it’s very high. Kelly will get his chance, and I hope he makes the most of it.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #4, Tyler O’Neill.

4. Tyler O’Neill – OF

3rd Round – 2013 Draft (Seattle)
Entering age-23 season
wRC+: 110

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 22 -4.4 2 Teams PCL AAA SEA-STL 130 557 495 77 122 26 3 31 95 14 2 54 151 .246 .321 .499 .820 247 8 3 0 5 0
2017 22 -4.4 Tacoma PCL AAA SEA 93 396 349 54 85 21 2 19 56 9 2 44 108 .244 .328 .479 .807 167 7 1 0 2 0
2017 22 -4.4 Memphis PCL AAA STL 37 161 146 23 37 5 1 12 39 5 0 10 43 .253 .304 .548 .852 80 1 2 0 3 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/26/2018.

What I Like

Power. Tyler O’Neill has by far the best power of any player in the Cardinals’ system. He really broke out in 2015 and 2016, when he hit a combined 56 homers with the Mariners Class-A and Double-A affiliates. There, his offensive game was diverse: he walked in 6.5 percent and 10.8 percent of his plate appearances in ’15 and ’16, respectively.

In Memphis last season, his walk rate depreciated but the power remained. He slugged an astronomically-high .548 with 12 homers in just 37 games. Obviously, the PCL is hitter friendly, but the man’s ISO (SLG%-AVG) of .295 was way higher than his batting average of .253.

The power shouldn’t be surprising. After all, he’s the son of a former Mr. Canada bodybuilder. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as O’Neill is probably the strongest player on the 40-man roster (a title he inherited from Randal Grichuk, and Matt Holliday before him).

Defensively, O’Neill is intriguing. He can play center field, but it’s definitely not his strong suit. Logic would suggest, then, that he could be above average in one of the corners, probably right, where both his arm and speed project as slightly above average according to Fangraphs.

What I Don’t Like

Maybe it’s the fact that Randal Grichuk didn’t work out, but I see a lot of risk with O’Neill. For one, he strikes out a ton. His K% has never been below 25% at any stop in his development, ever. That’s concerning.

I don’t like the perception that O’Neill is injury prone simply because he’s a strong guy. He played 120 games last year and 130 in 2016. That’s not iron man territory, but it’s not fragile either.

O’Neill’s path to playing time isn’t clear. Ozuna, Fowler, and Pham are locked up for at least the next two years. Harrison Bader, our number six prospect, outplayed him this Spring (one of the reasons O’Neill was demoted so quickly was a hamstring injury). Jose Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena had tremendous Springs. JAG has had success at Triple-A and Arozarena will certainly be there by the second half.

With that being said, I think O’Neill will be ready for the majors at some point this season. Over a long six-month season, it’s likely that he’ll make his debut. My concern is that he won’t get the amount of playing time necessary to continue his development. It’s the same reason folks are (rightly) concerned about Carson Kelly and I don’t want to see that happen again with O’Neill.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #5, Andrew Knizner.

5. Andrew Knizner – C

7th Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
wRC+ – Peoria: 124, Springfield: 133

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 22 -0.6 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A STL 95 393 361 45 109 23 1 12 51 1 2 23 49 .302 .349 .471 .820 170 13 5 0 4 1
2017 22 -2.0 Springfield TL AA STL 51 202 182 27 59 13 0 4 22 0 1 14 27 .324 .371 .462 .833 84 7 2 0 4 0
2017 22 0.8 Peoria MIDW A STL 44 191 179 18 50 10 1 8 29 1 1 9 22 .279 .325 .480 .805 86 6 3 0 0 1
2017 22 -0.5 Surprise AZFL Fal 17 72 67 8 24 3 0 3 12 0 0 4 11 .358 .403 .537 .940 36 4 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2018.

What I Like

You would be hard-pressed to find two bigger fans of Andrew Knizner than my friend Kyle Reis and me. Last season, he ascended. He hit .319 in his first professional season at Johnson City, so he didn’t exactly struggle. But, the Appy League is a step below the ACC (it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Knizner’s fellow NC State product Evan Mendoza), so it was difficult to put too much stock in his 2016 numbers.

Last year, he hit, and hit, and hit. In 44 games in Peoria, he hit .279 with eight homers and downright earned a promotion to Springfield at midseason.

While in Springfield, I saw him play several times and was consistently impressed. He showed an advanced feel for the strike zone for someone in his first full pro season. Most impressively, he used the whole field. On July 6, he smoked an opposite-field, walk-off homer to beat the RockHounds. It was a beautiful swing, made even better by the fact that it came so early in his time in Springfield.

He did such a good job going the other way, when he went to the Arizona Fall League, I wanted to see him beat elite velocity. He did just that. All three of his homers (which came in a mere 17 games) were to either left or left-center.

Defensively, Knizner is one of the most improved players in Cardinals camp this year. Mike Matheny raved about his improvement behind the dish, telling the Post-Dispatch it was one of the most positive developments of the Spring. Knizner’s arm is strong enough — he’s thrown out 45 percent of would-be base stealers in his minors career. His framing, at times one of the weakest aspects of his game, isn’t as good as Carson Kelly‘s but, as Matheny saw in camp, keeps getting better.

What I Don’t Like

That he’s blocked. Yadier Molina still has three years left on his contract, which is an absolute eternity when we’re talking development. Carson Kelly is also ahead of him, although the Molina situation affects Kelly’s development more than Knizner’s.

I think the club understands the caliber of hitter Knizner is and can be. While Kyle was in Jupiter, he only saw Knizner working at first base. That’s a huge development for a couple reasons. First, it would (theoretically) allow Knizner to be assigned to Memphis to start the season. He hit well enough in Springfield; more time there would be redundant.

Most importantly, though, it raises the bar for Knizner as a hitter. According to wRC+, first basemen are, on average, 18 percent better than the league. That means he’d have to hit significantly better than Jedd Gyorko did in 2017 just to be an average first baseman.

Honestly, as much as I like Knizner as a hitter, I don’t know that he has enough power to be an everyday first baseman. He profiles a lot like David Freese. He’s a line-drive hitter who consistently hits the ball to right field. Let’s put it this way: relative to the position, for Knizner to be as above average a first baseman as he would a catcher, he’d have to hit like 2012 David Freese, who hit 20 homers and had a 132 wRC+.

It’s a stupid high standard to hold a prospect to, but Knizner has earned that privilege by being one of the best and most consistent position players in the organization since the day he was drafted.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #7, Jordan Hicks.

7. Jordan Hicks – RHP

3rd Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-21 season
FIP: 4.38

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 20 -2.2 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-A+ STL 8 3 .727 2.74 3.34 22 19 3 0 0 1 105.0 96 39 32 3 45 0 95 15 2 2 452 1.343 8.2 0.3 3.9 8.1 2.11
2017 20 -3.1 Palm Beach FLOR A+ STL 0 1 .000 1.00 1.00 8 5 3 0 0 1 27.0 21 3 3 0 6 0 32 2 0 1 106 1.000 7.0 0.0 2.0 10.7 5.33
2017 20 -1.9 Peoria MIDW A STL 8 2 .800 3.35 4.15 14 14 0 0 0 0 78.0 75 36 29 3 39 0 63 13 2 1 346 1.462 8.7 0.3 4.5 7.3 1.62
2017 20 -3.5 Surprise AZFL Fal 0 2 .000 6.32 7.47 9 1 1 0 0 0 15.2 20 13 11 2 6 0 16 1 0 1 70 1.660 11.5 1.1 3.4 9.2 2.67
Minors (2 seasons) Minors 14 5 .737 2.82 3.64 34 31 3 0 0 1 165.2 154 67 52 4 74 0 137 22 2 9 717 1.376 8.4 0.2 4.0 7.4 1.85
All Levels (2 Seasons) 14 7 .667 3.13 3.97 43 32 4 0 0 1 181.1 174 80 63 6 80 0 153 23 2 10 787 1.401 8.6 0.3 4.0 7.6 1.91
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/18/2018.

What I Like

Any scouting report about Jordan Hicks is going to start with his fastball. According to Baseball Census, Hicks’ fastball touched 99 miles-per-hour in the Arizona Fall League. Not only that, but they noted that he was “free, easy, and absolutely pumping with little max-effort and a repeatable delivery.”

I wrote in January that Hicks isn’t a one-trick pony, as some have characterized him this offseason. I encourage you to read the article, especially for the video of all his pitches. In addition to his high-octane fastball, Hicks throws a cutter, a changeup, and curveball. Based on what I’ve seen of Hicks, his curveball is his best offspeed pitch and it’s not really close.

Before I really dove into the video for the article in January, I thought of Hicks as a fastball-curveball guy. After all, that’s the book on him. What I saw, however, was the potential for three plus pitches and possibly four average or better pitches. Now, I may be watching Hicks with rose-tinted glasses. Even though the Arizona Fall League is more advanced than anywhere Hicks has been thus far, we haven’t seen his secondary stuff against major league hitters yet.

Anyways, here’s video of his cutter and his changeup.

Speaking of the Arizona Fall League, his performance there went exactly as Kyle an I expected. He struggled early. After all, he has only thrown 27 innings above Low-A. He finished strong, with three one-hit innings with four strikeouts over four appearances. So while that 6.32 ERA in the Fall League doesn’t look great, the fact that Hicks ended on a positive note is huge.

What I Don’t Like

The fact that he was, reportedly, sent to minor league camp for being late to the meetings. Mike Matheny said he needed to “work on some things,” when he was sent out. In a chat on stlToday.com, a reader asked Derrick Goold what exactly those “things” are, to which Goold replied something along the lines of “being on time would be a good start.” That’s the extent of my knowledge of the situation, and I don’t want to trash a player when I don’t know the whole story so I’ll leave it at that.

In Peoria, he didn’t’ strike out very many hitters. He only K’d 18% of the hitters he faced in Peoria, roughly the same rate as Dakota Hudson in Springfield. Rightfully, there’s concern with Hudson. I would be equally as concerned with Hicks, but for the fact that he blew hitters away in Palm Beach. In 27 innings, he struck out 30% of the hitters he faced and his ERA was a minuscule 1.00.

Those 27 innings would be such a huge plus for me if they didn’t come out of the bullpen. When you couple that with the organization viewing him as a “one-trick pony”, you could see how they rush him into a bullpen role instead of allowing him to fully develop. As I mentioned back in January, Hicks’ development could wind up being the biggest casualty of the front office’s inability to adequately address the bullpen.

It feels like everyone expected Hicks to be so utterly dominant this Spring the Cardinals would be forced to put Hicks on the roster. That was never going to be the case. As dominant as those offspeed pitches look in the clips, he doesn’t throw them that well often enough. As bright as the future looks for Hicks, he still has some things to work on.

(P.S. I really, really hope he starts in Springfield.)

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #6, Harrison Bader.

6. Harrison Bader – CF

3rd Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-24 season
wRC+ – AAA: 111, MLB: 70

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2017 23 STL-min AAA 123 479 431 74 122 18 1 20 55 15 9 34 118 .283 .347 .469 .816 202 3 10 1 3 0 MEM · PCL
2017 23 STL NL 32 92 85 10 20 3 0 3 10 2 1 5 24 .235 .283 .376 .659 72 32 1 1 0 1 1 8/79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2018.

What I Like

Think back to Harrison Bader’s MLB debut. He lined a double down the left field line, advanced to third, and scored on a shallow fly ball to right field. That game, in a nutshell, describes the type of player Bader could be if he reaches his peak.

Bader is the type of position player prospect the Cardinals have been extremely successful in developing: a college player, right-handed, with the potential for plus power. Bader’s power began to manifest itself in Double-A in 2016, where he went deep 16 times in 82 games. His plate discipline profile, 7 percent walk rate and 26 percent strikeout rate, have been relatively steady throughout his development. In Springfield, however, he started putting the ball in play hard and had success.

Last season, at Triple-A Memphis, Bader’s numbers mirrored his 2016 numbers in Springfield. He slashed .283/.347/.469 in Memphis and .283/.351/.497 in Springfield two years ago. He struggled after a mid-2016 promotion to Memphis, but after adjustments, he had just as much success in Memphis last year as he did in his breakout 2016 in Springfield.

In some ways, Bader is the perfect fourth outfielder. He plays hard. Like, really hard. Last year, it was a breath of fresh air for a fanbase that had seen a slip in fundamentals over the last two seasons. He has enough power to hit a few homers (I didn’t realize he hit three last year), enough speed to steal a base, and was +3 in defensive runs saved in 188 innings.

What I Don’t Like

Like many Cardinals prospects, Bader strikes out too much. He’s struck out in over 26 percent of his plate appearances in his professional career, and there’s been little to suggest that will change anytime soon. After a hot start in his first stint with the big league club, Bader’s propensity to chase off-speed pitches out of the zone was exposed and the Cardinals were forced to demote him. I highly doubt Bader will be able to cut his strikeout rate into the “above average” category of 16 percent, but “average” (about 20 percent) is certainly possible and should be a goal of his this season. Likewise, his walk rate is also below average but if he cuts his strikeout rate his walk rate would almost certainly rise.

I love Bader’s style of play and think he’s a great fourth outfielder, but I have questions about how it will effect his development. He only made the necessary adjustments to Triple-A pitching after getting plate appearances every day.

There’s a chance Bader could get plenty of at-bats. Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham have extensive injury histories, and Marcell Ozuna can’t play every day. But Jose Martinez, one of the most productive hitters on the Cardinals roster last year, could start in right field in a pinch. Consistent at-bats are the most important thing for a player’s development, especially when they’re at a new level. It’s why we had such a problem with Carson Kelly‘s lack of playing time, and assigning him to Triple-A was the right move.

Bader is almost certainly ready for the majors. We saw it in his spurts of success in 2017. I just hope he plays enough to be a little bit better, but most importantly a little bit more consistent.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #8, Dakota Hudson.

8. Dakota Hudson – RHP

1st Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
AA FIP: 3.64, AAA FIP: 4.57

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 22 -2.7 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA STL 10 5 .667 3.01 3.42 25 25 0 1 0 0 152.2 147 58 51 7 49 1 96 8 0 14 643 1.284 8.7 0.4 2.9 5.7 1.96
2017 22 -4.6 Memphis PCL AAA STL 1 1 .500 4.42 4.66 7 7 0 0 0 0 38.2 36 20 19 2 15 0 19 0 0 4 161 1.319 8.4 0.5 3.5 4.4 1.27
2017 22 -2.1 Springfield TL AA STL 9 4 .692 2.53 3.00 18 18 0 1 0 0 114.0 111 38 32 5 34 1 77 8 0 10 482 1.272 8.8 0.4 2.7 6.1 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/16/2018.

What I Like

The first thing anybody brings up when they talk about Dakota Hudson is his slider. Going into last season, it was one of the best pitches in the organization, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case in 2018. Hudson’s slider doesn’t have a big, sweeping break like Luke Gregerson‘s. It’s more like a cutter because it’s thrown hard and the break is sharp and late.

As you can see, it’d be easy to mistake Hudson’s slider/cutter for a fastball, especially the 2-1 pitch that generated a swing and miss. Fangraph’s even calls the pitch a curveball, but it’s definitely a slider and a nasty one at that.

Hudson’s fastball, which can reach the upper 90’s, complements his slider. He made a concerted effort to create more movement with his fastball last season, and it paid off to the tune of a 57% ground ball rate across Double-A and Triple-A.

Hudson made a concentrated effort to get ground balls and go deep into games last year because he wants to be a starter. Most of the time that would go without saying. In today’s game, where bullpens play a much larger role than in years past, and pitchers with high-velocity fastballs and wipeout sliders usually end up in the bullpen. I wrote specifically about Hudson in the bullpen last year, and I still think that’s where he’ll fit best. But I love that Hudson is fighting back against that perception.

What I Don’t Like

The fact that Hudson struck hitters out at such a low rate last year is both concerning and surprising. In Springfield, punched out 16% of hitters, definitely below average for a prospect of his caliber, and in Memphis, that number dropped to 11.8%. It’s perplexing, especially when you watch the video above and it’s obvious that his slider is a plus pitch with the potential to be a plus-plus pitch.

What separates Hudson from Flaherty is that Hudson’s repertoire isn’t as deep as Flaherty’s. Flaherty can throw everything including the kitchen sink at a hitter: fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. Besides his fastball and slider, none of the other pitches Hudson throws have shown the potential to be above average. It’s why the general consensus is that he’ll end up in the bullpen, no matter how frequently he induces ground balls.

Other than that, there’s way more to like about Hudson than not. He was healthy in his first full pro season and made every start asked of him. His ERA was superb in Springfield, and although he got hit around a little bit in Memphis, even making it to Triple-A the year after being drafted is quite an achievement. He’ll start 2018 in Triple-A, and he needs to show that he’s able to strike out hitters at the highest levels of the minors before I’m comfortable with him on the major league roster, whether that’s in the ‘pen or the rotation.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #9, Austin Gomber.

9. Austin Gomber – LHP

4th Round – 2014 Draft
Entering age-24 season
2017 ERA: 3.34

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 23 -1.1 Springfield TL AA STL 10 7 .588 3.34 4.03 26 26 0 0 0 0 143.0 116 64 53 17 51 0 140 6 0 5 590 1.168 7.3 1.1 3.2 8.8 2.75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/10/2018.

What I Like

Without a doubt, Austin Gomber was the ace of the Springfield staff by season’s end. Over the final month of the season, he managed to bring his ERA down nearly a full run, from 4.27 to 3.34. During that stretch of games, Gomber was firing on all cylinders. He was being aggressive with his fastball, which is no surprise to anyone that has watched him pitch, but he was effectively using his offspeed pitches.

His repertoire is fairly typical: fastball, curveball, and changeup. His curveball can be unhittable at times, in part due to the deception he creates with his delivery.

I highly suggest watching the video above. With it, you can really get a sense of how Gomber has success. He gets ahead with fastballs. He works the hitter into a 1-2 count and throws a really good changeup that’s below the knees, but a little too far off the plate to generate a swing. Then he freezes the hitter with a curveball for the strikeout. When you couple three legitimate pitches with a funky delivery, there’s a chance for success.

Gomber’s also a bulldog on the mound. In his start on August 4th, when he went seven shutout innings, he was stomping around the mound and sniping at umpires. Honestly, it reminded me of John Lackey or Chris Carpenter. It wasn’t like he was pouting or throwing a fit, either. He feeds off that energy, and you could see him getting better, and more intense, as he got deeper and deeper into his start.

What I Don’t Like

I hate the ways Gomber’s first half overshadowed how truly dominant he was in the second half. In his first Double-A start, he didn’t make it out of the first innings and gave up five runs (four earned). His ERA sat at 54.00, and that number seemed to come up anytime Gomber’s name did.

Then, on May 26, Gomber went on the 7-Day DL with a quad strain. He was activated on June 9 but gave up ten earned runs over his next to starts, which covered only 7 2/3 innings combined.

By this point in the season, his rotation mates were getting promoted. Flaherty was the first to go, and deservedly so. On July 1st, it was evident that Dakota Hudson was ready for Triple-A even if the promotion hadn’t come yet. Alcantara was touch and go, but was still lighting up radar guns every five days. Gomber was in the background, working to overcome the adversity he faced early in the season.

I felt Gomber deserved a call-up at the end of Springfield’s season. Whether it should have been Memphis, for the PCL playoffs, or St. Louis is a moot point: Gomber was pitching more than well enough to keep pitching until the end of September. It had to be frustrating, especially for someone who tweeted this…

Fortunately for Gomber, I’d be shocked if he didn’t arrive in 2018.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #10, Ryan Helsley.

10. Ryan Helsley – RHP

5th Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-23 season
A+ ERA: 2.69, AA ERA: 2.67

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 22 -1.5 3 Teams 3 Lgs A+-AA-AAA STL 11 3 .786 2.72 2.99 24 23 0 1 1 0 132.1 104 44 40 7 48 0 137 2 0 9 538 1.149 7.1 0.5 3.3 9.3 2.85
2017 22 -4.6 Memphis PCL AAA STL 0 0 3.60 3.60 1 1 0 0 0 0 5.0 7 2 2 0 3 0 5 0 0 0 23 2.000 12.6 0.0 5.4 9.0 1.67
2017 22 -2.1 Springfield TL AA STL 3 1 .750 2.67 3.21 6 6 0 0 0 0 33.2 25 12 10 4 15 0 41 1 0 3 141 1.188 6.7 1.1 4.0 11.0 2.73
2017 22 -1.1 Palm Beach FLOR A+ STL 8 2 .800 2.69 2.88 17 16 0 1 1 0 93.2 72 30 28 3 30 0 91 1 0 6 374 1.089 6.9 0.3 2.9 8.7 3.03
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2018.

What I Like

What Ryan Helsley did across three levels in 2017 was most impressive and it’s why his meteoric rise up prospect lists is completely deserved. Let’s recap: after a dominant 2016 at Peoria (sub 2.00 ERA in 17 starts), Helsley started the season in Palm Beach. He was great at Palm Beach, as you can see in the stat bar above (thanks, Baseball Reference). What you won’t see, though, is that he struck out 24.3% of hitters in Palm Beach. Strikeout numbers have been concerning for some of our lower ranked prospects, but not Helsley.

His strikeout total is built on a potentially elite repertoire. He throws from an extremely high arm angle, which allows him to tilt his mid-90’s fastball down in the zone for ground balls (think Michael Wacha) or elevate it above the letters to generate swings and misses, like Luke Weaver.

As far as offspeed pitches go, his go-to is the curve. It’s sharp and deceiving, partly because of the aforementioned high arm slot. The biggest thing is that he has a feel for the pitch; he can throw it for a strike or dirt it for swings and misses. His changeup is still developing, but I think it can be at least big league average. The pitch has good downward action, but he doesn’t have advanced command of it just yet.

Helsley was promoted to Springfield on July 31, but he deserved a promotion much sooner. At the time, Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Sandy Alcantara, Matt Pearce, and Chris Ellis were doing just fine in the Springfield rotation. There wasn’t a spot for Helsley, and so he had to wait. Helsley, who is part Cherokee, did more than hold his own in Double-A. His 2.67 ERA and 29.1 K% speak for themselves, and his cameo in Triple-A was earned.

What I Don’t Like

I hate that the Cardinals are in a position where Helsley might be needed in the bullpen on Opening Day. To kneecap his development with just seven starts above High-A would, in my opinion, be a terribly unwise sacrifice of the future for the present. (Especially considering the options that were available to help the bullpen. Addison Reed went to the Twins. THE TWINS!!!)

Where were we?

Oh, yeah. We know that Helsley had a good ERA and K% in Springfield, but digging a little deeper, the picture isn’t as great. He walked over 10% of the hitters he faced which is way, way too many. It’s more walks than Sandy Alcantara handed out in Double-A last year. Did he look ready for the big league bullpen in September? I don’t think so.

When watching Helsley’s starts in Springfield, his command issues were evident. He did a great job of getting out of jams, but over a full season, he won’t strand over 80% of baserunners. Baserunners, especially free baserunners, turn into runs over the long haul. His command issues prevented him from getting past six innings just once. Additionally, an assignment in the bullpen would stunt the development of his third pitch, the changeup, because his high-octane fastball and tumbling curve would be enough if he’s not going through a lineup multiple times.

As you can probably tell, what I don’t like consists mostly of how Helsley’s been handled, not him or his performance. The fact that he needs at least a half-season in Memphis means nothing. Luke Weaver needed another turn in Triple-A after 2016 and was better off because of it.

What Helsley’s ceiling becomes is depends on whether or not the Cardinals will be patient enough to develop him as a starter. If he becomes a casualty of a leaky bullpen, the club’s willingness to enter 2017 with question marks (at best) in the bullpen could have more serious long-term consequences than anybody realizes.

Thanks for reading! As always thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for their statistics databases. Be sure to check out Kyle’s post tomorrow at Birds On The Black, and listen to Prospect To Be Named Later for even more minor league content.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #11, Randy Arozarena.

11. Randy Arozarena – OF

Signed on August 1, 2016
Entering age-23 season
A+ wRC+: 134, AA wRC+: 115

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 22 -1.3 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA STL 121 490 428 72 114 32 4 11 49 18 7 40 87 .266 .346 .437 .783 187 11 15 2 5 0
2017 22 -2.0 Springfield TL AA STL 51 195 163 34 41 10 1 3 9 8 3 27 34 .252 .366 .380 .746 62 8 3 1 1 0
2017 22 -0.8 Palm Beach FLOR A+ STL 70 295 265 38 73 22 3 8 40 10 4 13 53 .275 .333 .472 .805 125 3 12 1 4 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/5/2018.

What I Like

Randy Arozarena absolutely dominated the Florida State League in his first season stateside. I don’t think the significance of that can be overstated. While adjusting to the cultural difference all foreign players experience, Arozarena mashed in the toughest hitting environment professional baseball has to offer. He did it with average (.275), slugging (.472 SLG%, 8 HR’s), and speed (10 stolen bases). Without a doubt, he was the most exciting player on the Palm Beach roster in the first half.

On June 30th, right about the time I really locked in on the minor leagues, Arozarena was promoted to Springfield, where I’d be able to see him play several times. The first thing that caught my eye was the “infield triple” (it was ruled a three-base error) that went semi-viral.

It’s definitely a flukey play, but I think it says a lot about the type of player Arozarena is. After popping the ball up, he didn’t pout. He busted it out of the box even though it’s a play that is made 99.99% of the time, was on second when the ball dropped, and alertly took third because nobody was there. A fluke? Sure. Indicative? You bet.

Arozarena’s athleticism is absolutely off the charts, and it’s on display in left field.

His slugging really dropped in Springfield, but like JAG in Memphis, Arozarena was trying to find himself as a hitter. His BB% jumped from 4.4% in Palm Beach to 13.8% in Springfield, and that’s in a 195 plate appearance sample size at Double-A. While I definitely don’t think a BB% that high is sustainable, it’s great to see that he can be patient when he needs to, because the physical skills are remarkable.

What I Don’t Like

There were times when Arozarena looked frustrated and overmatched against some of the more advanced Double-A pitchers. When Springfield faced Franklin Perez (the #35 overall prospect according to Baseball America), Perez didn’t throw his curveball in the first five innings in order to work on his fastball command. In doing so, he became much more hittable than his pedigree suggests. Then, in the 6th, he broke off a nasty 12-6 curve to Arozarena, the first of the game, and you could already see the at-bat was over. Arozarena’s body language showed that he lost the at-bat then and there, simply because he couldn’t eliminate Perez’s best pitch. Arozarena will see advanced stuff than Perez’s in Triple-A and the majors, so he’ll have to adjust.

The anecdote above is indicative of what I’d like to see from Arozarena in 2018: a more even-keeled approach. His frustration showed at times, causing to swing for the fences and get himself out. When you think about it, the potential is downright scary. Arozarena had a tremendous 2017, even with a substandard approach at times. If he locks in on his approach on a day-to-day basis and doesn’t let minor slumps affect him, Arozarena could be cracking Top 100 lists by this time next year.

Thanks for reading! As always thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for their statistics databases. Be sure to check out Kyle’s post tomorrow at Birds On The Black, and listen to Prospect To Be Named Later for even more minor league content.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #12, Jose Adolis Garcia.

12. Jose Adolis Garcia – OF

Signed on February 24, 2017
Entering age-25 season
Double-A wRC+: 124

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 24 -0.7 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA STL 124 489 445 64 129 34 2 15 65 15 9 33 108 .290 .340 .476 .817 212 12 4 1 6 2
2017 24 -2.4 Memphis PCL AAA STL 40 147 136 21 41 11 2 3 10 3 1 7 31 .301 .342 .478 .820 65 6 2 1 1 0
2017 24 0.0 Springfield TL AA STL 84 342 309 43 88 23 0 12 55 12 8 26 77 .285 .339 .476 .815 147 6 2 0 5 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/3/2018.

What I Like

When it comes to pure physicality, JAG is second to none in the Cardinals system. On the 2-80 scale, Fangraphs evaluated him at 50 raw power, 60 speed, and 70 arm strength. While other outfielders might have better individual tools than JAG, none blend them quite as well as he does.

When he was assigned to Springfield last year, he was an unknown. He had been signed roughly a month earlier, and I knew very little about him. It became clear very early on that he was a very athletic player with potential for plus game power. Early in the season, he showed it.

Notice the pitch was a curveball. Off-speed pitches gave JAG some trouble, but in the video above he crushed a hanger. Overall, JAG did everything the organization asked of him in Springfield. In 342 plate appearances, he hit .285/.339/.476 with 12 homers.

He forced his way to Triple-A and he did… fine. Honestly, he really didn’t do poorly, it was just uncharacteristic production. He hit .301, which is obviously really good, and he maintained a .342 on-base percentage. The coolest thing he did, though, was hit a walk-off homer in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

He’s played really well in the first week of Spring Training games, hitting .412 with a homer. Spring Training stats are pretty meaningless and, with Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill ahead of him on the depth chart, JAG is still a longshot to make the Opening Day roster. That being said, they’ve been playing him in center field, even when he’s shared an outfield with Oscar Mercado. That tells me the club thinks he could be a bigger part of their 2018 plans than the average fan expects.

What I Don’t Like

His power absolutely disappeared when he went to Memphis. The Pacific Coast League and Autozone Park are hitters havens, so the power evaporation was really unexpected. Especially considering JAG definitely wasn’t overwhelmed by the pitching — he hit .301 for a wRC+ of 110.

His approach can be Randal Grichuk-esque. Even though be crushed a hanging curveball in the video above, he can still get a little swing happy and chase pitches out of the zone. He struck out 22% of the time in Double-A last season, and there were stretches where it was a real struggle for him to put the ball in play.

His walk rate, which wasn’t terrible at 7.6% in Double-A, absolutely plummeted in Triple-A to under 5%. Increasing your walk rate is like diversifying a financial portfolio — it’s not the most fun thing to do, but it can go a long way towards making a player more consistent. A little more on-base skill would allow JAG to be a well above-average player even if he’s not hitting for power.

All things considered, I want JAG to get at least another half season in Memphis. Like I said before, he did just fine, but I think there’s more potential than what he showed. I’d love to see him start the season in Memphis, hit a few home runs early, maybe take a few more walks, and be in a position to help the big league team in the case of an injury.

Thanks for reading! As always thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for their statistics databases. Be sure to check out Kyle’s post tomorrow at Birds On The Black, and listen to Prospect To Be Named Later for even more minor league content.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

 

0 comments

 

Archives

Subscribe to The Conclave via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 14,351 other subscribers