By far the best time of the year for baseball, the next month never gets boring in my opinion. It does help that the Cardinals are probably the most hated club in the game, but that will happen when you make playing in October a yearly party. The biggest reason for the continued St. Louis success has been the continued development of one of the best farm systems in baseball.
Look no further than the 2015 campaign with the contributions of a number of rookies who have graduated from the minors into being mid-season saviors as the injury parade continued on under the arch. It is also true that this year’s Super 7 list could very well be the first to not feature a single player who will contribute in next calendar season. And you know what, I’m completely okay with that as the organization continues to reload.
Everyone has an idea of what counts as a prospect to them, but I use a unique approach as the Preacher. Any player who has already made an appearance wearing the Birds on the Bat is ineligible for my list, so this month’s UCB project is all about the future. It wasn’t as hard as expected to piece my seven names together, and I’m willing to bet most of the below players will show up in one way or another on the majority of any prospect lists.
That’s also why I give one bonus prospect who I fully expect to land in the Top 7 when we revisit this in another year. One thing is for certain, however, as the Cardinals continue searching for the hidden gems of the draft and all over the world. It may not matter where St. Louis finds the talent, because the system just keeps on producing.
Alexander Reyes slots at number one on every list, and he won’t be a disappointment if 2016 is spent mowing down the competition as the Memphis ace. Reyes could also serve an apprenticeship in the bullpen first since triple-digit readings on the radar gun work at any level. I was lucky enough to catch the RHP in person, and I was impressed with the poise of the young flamethrower. He is as close to untouchable as there is in the organization and will be fun to watch for years to come.
This is where things get more fun, though, as there is no wrong answer to this list. After the initial two months to the season, Magneuris Sierra was not having nearly as good a time as Jack Flaherty in Peoria. The Cardinals were aggressive in sending the reigning prospect of the year to full-season ball, and Sierra was quite frankly not ready. He rebounded quite nicely in Johnson City to place second on my list as well as fourth for Baseball America.
Sierra needed a hurdle to climb, and his trip back to Peoria next year should include a familiar face from the Appalachian League top-10 list. Edmundo Sosa continues to impress, and the shortstop gets high marks in the field as well as at the plate. He certainly could be in the discussion for best position player with a strong 2017, and he looks firmly entrenched in the top five.
Flaherty and another RHP will always be linked together in more ways than just my top five. Luke Weaver is only behind his fellow 2014 first-round pick due to age. Flaherty dominated the Midwest League and very well could have used a call-up to replace Weaver had the Texas League came calling. There is still plenty of time for the pair to share a rotation, as both front line starters will be highlighted with honors in the very near future.
Weaver left nothing to prove for Palm Beach and only a late start to his season prevented a promotion to Springfield. There he would have had the luxury of the next wave of stellar outfielder at his disposal. Charlie Tilson probably rates as the most underrated player in the system, and he also has the best chance on this list of spending all of next year at the highest level. Tilson missed a crucial season of development due to injury but has not let it stop him upon returning.
Kolten Wong may be the most remembered pick from the 2011 Draft, but I would argue Tilson should not be forgotten. He doesn’t turn 23 until December and crushed the always tough Texas League to the tune of 0ver 200 total bases and a whopping 46 steals. While no fault of his own, the current outfield depth makes a strong season at Memphis a priority for the Illinois native. He also presents the best-case scenario for the third center fielder on the list and the one most likely to be given plenty of time to develop.
Nick Plummer was a surprise choice for St. Louis in this year’s June draft, but he also represents what the Cardinals needed the most. Pitching has been a strength of the organization that has carried the major league club all year, but the lack of offense should be the bigger story. Injuries to position players are harder to overcome, and it was imperative that depth was added without having to break the bank since that will be coming soon enough.
Plummer and my bonus pick, Bryce Denton, are the first test subjects if you will of the new approach that is certain to be used going forward. The only way you can counter 100 on the gun is with the quickness at the plate that players such as Randall Grichuk have shown. Plummer and Denton possess the same skill set even if the results take a few years to witness the evolution. Any way you look at it, the next 5-10 seasons will need contributions from everyone on this list for the Birds on the Bat to remain atop their perch in the National League Central.
1. Reyes, RHP Springfield
2. Sierra, OF Johnson City
3. Flaherty, RHP Peoria
4. Sosa, SS Johnson City
5. Weaver, RHP Palm Beach
6. Tilson, OF Springfield
7. Plummer, OF GCL Cardinals
Bonus — Denton, 3B GCL Cards