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St. Louis Cardinals Prospects: How we rank prospects

Alex Reyes will have high expectations for 2017.

I have been releasing my top prospect list for a few years now. It is probably the one thing I enjoy the most when writing about prospects. With The Redbird Daily, I have another writer who knows as much, maybe more, about Cardinals prospects as I do. Thus the idea of a joint prospect list was created.

Kyle Reis and I came up with our own top 30 prospect list and merged them together, which should allow for more perspectives and more debate. We will bring you a new prospect in our countdown every other day. Before we get into the top 30, we will begin with a word on how we rank our prospects then a look at our favorite prospects who missed our top 30.

How we rank prospects

Kyle Reis

First, a word of warning: Nowhere on my list will you find the name Marco Gonzales. You see, Marco is absolutely a top 30 prospect in the Cardinals farm system based on the rules that constitute rookie status. However, the kid is entering his 3rd season since making his major league debut. You know him, You’ve seen plenty of him, and you deserve a chance to get to know one additional prospect.

So, how did I come to these rankings? To start, I tend to favor prospect that have had success at the higher levels as compared to those that have had success at the lower levels. Proximity makes the evaluation process more precise.

When evaluating pitchers, I like to look at strike out and walk rates. I like to know a pitchers average and OPS against paired with their WHIP. I also try to find out as much as I can on what type of pitches they throw and how they throw those pitches.

When evaluating position players, I take into account where they play on the diamond and how likely they are to stay at that position. At the plate, I love OPS and OPS+, and I give higher grades to hitters who do not strike out a ton.

With all prospects, I consider it a necessity to know what age they are and how that compares to the level they are competing. A hot name among Cardinals Nation this past September was Brian Sanchez, and for good reason. The kid raked. But being two years older on average than his competition at such a low-level means very little. Play in Peoria and produce that way and you have yourself a prospect.

Players coming off of long-term injuries get knocked down a peg. That’s, in part. to manage my own expectations, but mostly because you just don’t know how a kid is going to respond coming back.

This list took me four outlines to finalize. Each time, to varying degrees and spots, prospects 7 through 25 changed. In my opinion, this should Excite Cardinals Nation. It demonstrates the large number of quality to high-quality prospects the Cardinals have in the pipeline.

It’s worth noting just how deep the pitching depth is in the system. It’s deeper than I ever seen. Many of these pitchers are entering career defining season. It should be a blast!

And that’s about all you’ll need to know. I watch as many Memphis, Springfield, and Peoria games as I can take in, often at the expense of watching the Cardinals. I try to evaluate as often as possible with my own eyes and not the stat line. But mostly, I love the dialogue and passion that comes with following these kids by the fan base. So, thanks for reading and let’s discuss!!

John Nagel

Kyle and I have very similar ways we grade prospects, and that came through when I paired the two lists together. In the past, I tended to rank prospects who were closer to the Major Leagues a lot higher than prospects with higher ceilings. I have backed off of that a little with the true intent of my list.

My intent is to find quality major league players. A player, like Breyvic Valera, will likely have a MLB career, but it will likely not be one of much substance. He will be a nice bench bat and can play many positions. However, his long-term impact on the club is limited. To me, I would rate a player with a higher upside – but risky – higher than Valera.

All of the stats Kyle mentioned, I like too. I tend to shy away from batting average, runs batted in, and runs scored when evaluating. I think wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) or wOBA (weighted on base average) are better than AVG, and RBI’s are overrated because there has to be runners on base to bring home runs.

I look a lot at age when evaluating prospects. A player who is older than other players in the league or a player who has repeated a level takes a hit in my book. While they still may be considered “prospects” or may still have solid MLB careers, age is a factor in my opinion.

I am glad to bring Kyle on board as he has tremendous knowledge of the Cardinals minor league system and I think, between the two of us, you will be hard pressed to find minor league coverage any better that is not behind a pay wall.

Thanks for checking out our ranking styles and make sure you check out our “Best of the Rest post” on Wednesday.



Father, husband, teacher who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Grew up in St. Louis and has been a huge Cards fan as long as I can remember.
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