Top 30 Prospects Update: Setting the Table

Over the next week, I’ll be releasing my update on the Cardinals Top 30 Prospect list. I’ll be frank: the list is going to get weird. First, let’s talk about how I rank prospects and where the original list comes from. Over the course of four months from December 2017 to Opening Day, my Prospect To Be Named Later co-host Kyle Reis and collaborated on our original Top 30. We felt good about the list at the time, and we still do. We put a premium on watching as many games on as possible, although I think I put a little more emphasis on stats than Kyle.

Since our original list was published, things have gotten weird. Alex Reyes should have graduated in 2017, but he’s lost two seasons to injury and is still rookie-eligible. Kyle elected to leave him off this iteration of the Top 30 (in his case, the Dirty Thirty-Five, which can be found over at Birds On The Black). He also chose to leave off Austin Gomber, who’s close to graduating. I will be including Gomber if only because after the first 20 players or so, as I said, things got weird.

Several players did, technically, graduate. Those are Jack Flaherty (2nd in preseason rankings), Harrison Bader (6th), Jordan Hicks (7th), and Yairo Muñoz (17th).

This is an awkward time to be re-ranking prospects. The short season clubs have played a little less than a month’s worth of baseball, which is the perfect amount of time to draw premature conclusions. Delvin Perez, for example, is having a solid if not spectacular start to his season, but I’m not ready to push him or any short-season player up too far in my rankings. The exceptions are the newly drafted players. Nolan Gorman is off to a great start in Johnson City. I haven’t settled on a specific ranking for him but he is safely in the Top 15 based solely on his pre-draft scouting report.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about some of the players that fell off the preseason list because of performance.

 OF Wadye Ynfante (.202/.286/.273, 74 wRC+ in State College) – Preseason Rank: 26

Wadye Ynfante is a prime example of why you shouldn’t get too excited about teenagers at short-season levels. Last year, Ynfante had tremendous numbers in Johnson City, namely a .491 slugging-percentage and eleven stolen bases. This year, the strikeouts have caught up with him. He’s K’d in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, and his HR/FB rate, which surged last year to 18.9%, is back down to a more realistic 3.1%. I’m not writing off Ynfante. After all, he turns 21 this month and his poor numbers come in just 112 plate-appearances which is not a terribly small sample size, but the dropoff is noteworthy.

RHP Matt Pearce (15 IP, 3.60 ERA, 13 K’s, 4 BB’s in Springfield and Memphis) – Preseason Rank: 27

Matt Pearce barely made it onto the preseason top 30, and on March 23 he was suspended 50 games for PED use. Needless to say, he will not be on this version of the list.

RHP Alvaro Seijas (89 IP, 5.06 ERA, 56 K’s, 39 BB’s in Peoria)- Preseason Rank: 28

Alvaro Seijas and Johan Oviedo have been mentioned together for over a year now and for good reason. They’re pretty much the same age, have been at the same level, and despite physiques that could not be more different, have relatively similar repertoires. Both are struggling this year and I’ve decided to drop Seijas from the list and not Oviedo mainly because Seijas hasn’t notched many strikeouts. I’ll get into Seijas in more detail when I discuss Oviedo.

1B Stefan Trosclair (.281/.330/.438, 104 wRC+ in Springfield) – Preseason Rank: 30

Trosclair was by far the toughest to leave off the list. He hasn’t had a bad season, most of it coming in Springfield. I think I overvalued Trosclair at the beginning of the season and there are a couple reasons for that. First, he’s an athletic first baseman, but ultimately he’s still a first baseman, so how athletic is he really? Second, while he put up some nice numbers in Peoria, his power has always been average at best and he’s seen his strikeout rate and walk rate worsen significantly at every level. Third, his power has deteriorated this season, most of which has come in the hitter-friendly Texas League. That being said, Trosclair is still an above-average hitter at an advanced level. It was a tough call but I went with a couple younger hitters over Trosclair.

In the name of transparency, I will warn you: I don’t feel as good about these rankings as I did in March. Part of that is the graduation of prospects I had watched play a ton of baseball. Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t been able to watch nearly as much minor league baseball as I would like. I’m not longer in Springfield, so I haven’t been to Hammons Field since May. So I’d like this list to be a conversation-starter, not a be-all end-all. Criticism is welcome, whether it’s on Twitter (@colingarner22) or in the comments. I couldn’t be more excited to write here at the longest-running Cardinals blog, and it kicks off in earnest tomorrow, with Prospects 30-26.

Thanks for reading.

Colin Garner

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