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The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1.  Alexander Reyes, RHP

Born: 08/29/94  Age: 20   Height: 6-3   Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Randall Delgado, Frank Lopez, Jake Thompson, Blake Thompson, Fabian Williamson
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 58.3 3.39 2.97 10.5 26.9% 4.3 11.1% 0.15 70.9%
2014 19 A 109.3 3.62 3.45 11.3 29.5% 5.0 13.1% 0.49 66.9%

Background: Reyes’ path to pro ball is a rather interesting one: born stateside and attended Elizabeth High School in New Jersey, the young right-hander moved to the Dominican Republic following his junior year in high school to live with family. He would eventually bounce around in a couple of baseball academies before signing with the Cardinals for a little less than $1 million. The hard-throwing, lanky hurler dominated the Appalachian League competition during his debut two years ago, fanning 68 with 28 walks in 58.1 innings. The organization pushed him up to full season ball in 2014 and the results were still impressive for the then-19-year-old: 109.1 IP, 137 strikeouts, and 61 free passes with a 3.45 FIP.

Projection: The control/command still has quite a ways to go, but anytime a teenager fans nearly 30% of the batters he faced in full season ball is definitely noteworthy. The fact that his strikeout percentage ranks third in all of Low Class A is just an added bonus. Reyes is still a minimum of three years from making his big league debut, but there’s mid- to front-of-the-rotation potential here.

Ceiling:  3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2017/Early 2018

 

 

2.  Marco Gonzales, LHP

Born: 02/16/92  Age: 23   Height: 6-1   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Zach Stewart, P.J. Walters, David Cales, Andrew Heaney, Zach Putnam
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 16.7 1.62 3.36 7.0 21.3% 2.7 8.2% 0.54 88.2%
2014 22 A+ 37.7 1.43 2.67 7.7 21.3% 1.9 5.3% 0.24 83.7%
2014 22 AA 38.7 2.33 2.19 10.7 28.8% 2.3 6.3% 0.47 72.1%
2014 22 AAA 45.7 3.35 4.77 7.7 20.7% 1.8 4.8% 1.38 81.9%

Background: Sandwiched between Chris Anderson and Jonathon Crawford, a pair of high profile collegiate hurlers, Gonzales sprinted through the minor leagues in about a year-and-a-half and made his big league debut after fewer than 100 minor league innings. The 6-foot-1 lefty, who flashed a fringy 89 mph fastball during his 10-game stint in St. Louis, became the highest draft selection out of Gonzaga University (19th overall). For his minor league career he averaged 8.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

Projection: Prior to the 2013 draft I wrote,

“More finesse than anything else, Gonzales grades out as a mid- to late-first rounder. His work with Team USA [in 2012] adds to his impressive resume (29 K’s in 22 IP). One red flag, however, is the amount of extra-base hits he’s surrendered through his 106 innings: 17 doubles and a pair of triples. As a part-time [regular], he’s hitting .311/.375/.389 in 167 ABs. He profiles as a good #4-type guy.”

Back then I pegged Gonzales as having a 2.0- to 2.5-win ceiling. And nearly 200 professional innings under his belt the analysis still looks reasonable.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

3.  Luke Weaver, RHP

Born: 08/21/93  Age: 21   Height: 6-2   Weight: 170   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 20 R 6.0 0.00 1.01 13.5 40.9% 0.0 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2014 20 A+ 3.3 21.60 9.09 8.1 12.5% 10.8 16.7% 2.70 51.5%

Background: For the third consecutive year the Cardinals opted to take a collegiate hurler with their first pick in the June draft. Everything about the 27th overall selection screams St. Louis prospect – a high floor/low ceiling polished collegiate arm with impeccable control and pitchability that saw his stock dip because of a slight downturn in production during his junior campaign. Weaver capped off a largely successful career at Florida State with a 2.62 ERA and 85 punch outs and 23 walks in 106.1 innings.

Projection: In Weaver’s pre-draft analysis I wrote,

“Production-wise, [he] falls into the same category as LSU right-hander Aaron Nola – extreme control pitchers that have historically exhibited some pretty strong strikeout numbers. The difference being, of course, Nola’s maintained status quo whereas Weaver’s taken a dramatic step backwards, which adds some obvious risk associated with his draft selection.”

I continued,

“Weaver’s a solid, safe prospect – at least as “safe” as a pitching prospect can be. Another mid-rotation-type arm poised to move quickly through the minor leagues. His K-rate probably won’t be as high as Nola’s in the professional ranks, but it should settle in around 7.0 K/9.”

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2016/Early 2017

 

 

4.  Rob Kaminsky, LHP

Born: 09/02/94  Age: 20   Height: 5-11   Weight: 191   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Eduardo Rodriguez, Luis Cruz, Jeff Lyman, Dan Cortes, Andrew Faulkner
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 22.0 3.68 2.87 11.5 28.6% 3.7 9.2% 0.41 60.1%
2014 19 A 100.7 1.88 3.28 7.1 19.4% 2.8 7.6% 0.18 77.0%

Background: Kaminsky teamed with Alexander Reyes to give Peoria one of the most dominant one-two combos in the entire minor leagues. In total the pair of hurlers tossed 210 innings with 216 strikeouts, 92 walks, and a sparkling 2.79 ERA. For his part, Kaminsky, the 28th overall pick two years ago out of St. Joseph Regional HS, was the polar opposite of his rotation-mate, getting it done with an advanced feel for pitching as opposed to generating a lot of swings-and-misses. The 5-foot-11 lefty finished with 79 strikeouts, 31 walks, and a 3.28 ERA in 18 starts.

Projection: The type of mid-rotation starting pitcher that the organization routinely develops. Kaminsky won’t blow a lot of hitters away, but he does a fantastic job limiting walks and homeruns while generating a ton of groundballs (his groundball percentage through his first two years is 49.3%).

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2017/Early 2018

 

 

5.  Andrew Morales, RHP

Born: 01/16/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-0   Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 R 5.0 3.60 5.51 10.8 28.6% 5.4 14.3% 1.80 55.6%
2014 21 A+ 7.3 1.23 2.16 7.4 24.0% 0.0 0.0% 0.00 66.7%

Background: Unequivocally, without a doubt my favorite collegiate pitcher in last season’s draft class, Morales was easily one of the more overlooked prospects in 2014. A slight, 6-foot right-hander with a track record of improved performance, Morales began his collegiate career at Rio Hondo Community College where he went a staggering 21-1 while allowing 49 earned runs in 182.1 innings pitched. He found his way to UC Irvine and would eventually post an impressive 1.68 ERA in more than 200 innings. I listed him as the 18th best collegiate prospect last year.

Projection: When it comes to Morales, the most impressive statistic is his strikeout rate – beginning with a laughably low 2.16 K/9 in 2011, it improved to 6.82 in his final season with Rio Hondo (2012) and jumped to 8.02 with UC Irvine followed by a career-high 9.35 K/9 last year.

In his pre-draft write-up I opined,

“I hate – HATE – throwing around terms like ‘winner’ or ‘grinder’ or ‘dirt bag’. But if they fit any amateur in the country it is Morales. The strikeout rate is going to hover somewhere close to 7.5- to 8.0 K/9 in the big leagues; the control is an above-average skill, and he’s done a solid job keeping the ball in the park. He’s going to lose a lot of leverage in signing a deal because he’s a senior, so a team could force him into taking a below-slot deal. Love the potential though.”

Morales, by the way, signed for about $250,000 below his slot value. One more fact: he finished his four-year collegiate career with a 40-3 record.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

6.  Stephen Piscotty, LF/RF

Born: 01/14/91  Age: 24   Height: 6-3   Weight: 210   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Garrett Guzman, Willie Cabrera, Jose Martinez, Tim Kennelly, Jacoby Ellsbury
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 A 237 .295 .376 .448 .823 .152 7.6% 10.5% 134
2013 22 A+ 264 .292 .348 .477 .826 .185 6.8% 10.2% 134
2013 22 AA 207 .299 .364 .446 .810 .147 9.2% 9.2% 129
2014 23 AAA 556 .288 .355 .406 .761 .118 7.7% 11.0% 100

Background: A supplemental pick – and former third baseman – out of Stanford in 2012, Piscotty’s overall production took a noticeable step back during his first taste of Class AAA pitching. After hitting an aggregate .295/.355/.464 with a career best 15 homeruns split between Palm Beach and Springfield in 2013, Piscotty produced at the PCL league average mark, totaling a 100 wRC+ en route to hitting an uninspiring .288/.355/.406.

Projection: Piscotty has the advantage of playing in St. Louis’ organization. Meaning: if he was in another team’s farm system he probably would barely crack the club’s Top 10 prospects, but because St. Louis’ player development program churns out big leaguers with the best of them it’s just assumed the polished outfielder will be the latest.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers, though: Piscotty’s never hit for a whole lot of power at any point in his career and owns a career .435 slugging percentage and .143 ISO; he’s not particularly efficient on the base paths or walks a whole lot. Plus, his overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, has been declining since he left High Class A (134, 129, 100) while his BABIP has been rising (.300, .304, .313). And there’s basically one month that helped buoy his overall numbers: he slugged .364/.467/.500 in June and .258/.329/.386 in every other month.

Piscotty’s definitely getting the benefit of the doubt right now, though. He’s a fine prospect – one who could spend eight to 10 years in the big leagues, but he looks like a fringy everyday guy on a championship caliber squad. Nothing more.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

7.  Jack Flaherty, RHP

Born: 10/15/95  Age: 19   Height: 6-4   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Kelvin De La Cruz, Deivy Estrada, Dellin Betances, Cedric Redmond, Andres Rosales
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 22.7 1.59 2.54 11.1 29.8% 1.6 4.3% 0.40 67.8%

Background: The 6-foot-4 prep right-hander’s pedigree stacks up with the best of them: a four-year member of Harvard-Westlake’s varsity team, which isn’t an easy feat considering that a pair of his teammates – Lucas Giolito and Max Fried – both went in the first round during his sophomore campaign; recipient of the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year for California; and he failed to lose a game during his final two years. The Cardinals grabbed Flaherty in the supplemental first round last June, 34th overall, and sent him to the Gulf Coast where he posted a 28-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Projection: Another one of the polished pitchers that the club tends to collect. Flaherty overpowered the Gulf Coast during his 22.2-inning stint last season and should follow in the footsteps of both Alexander Reyes and Rob Kaminsky and head to Peoria as a 19-year-old.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

8.  Randal Grichuk, LF/RF

Born: 08/13/91  Age: 23   Height: 6-1   Weight: 195  B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Tyler Colvin, Juan Portes, Sean Henry, Quincy Latimore, John Shelby
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 19 A 131 .230 .267 .402 .669 .172 4.6% 22.1% 86
2012 20 A+ 575 .298 .335 .488 .823 .190 4.0% 16.0% 109
2013 21 AA 542 .256 .306 .474 .780 .218 5.2% 17.0% 116
2014 22 AAA 472 .259 .311 .493 .805 .234 5.9% 22.9% 102

Background: Acquired from the Angels with Peter Bourjos for Fernando Salas and the remains of David Freese, who’s all but washed up after hitting .261/.330/.382 in his 1,032 plate appearances, Grichuk had a bit of an up-and-down year in the St. Louis organization. After hitting .256/.306/.474 with a 116 wRC+ in Class AA two years ago, the young corner outfielder’s production maintained status quo in the offensive-friendly PCL (.259/.311/.493 with a 102 wRC+). Grichuk bounced between St. Louis and Memphis quite a bit in 2014, hitting an aggregate .245/.278/.400 with the big league club.

Projection: Basically the polar opposite of Stephen Piscotty. Grichuk abhors the free pass, will swing-and-miss quite a bit, and features gobs of raw power. CAL likens the former first rounder to Tyler Colvin, another corner outfielder bat who hated the walk, swung-and-missed a lot, and showed above-average to plus-power. Colvin did have two seasons of league average play. Grichuk has a slightly higher ceiling than Piscotty, but the latter is far more likely to have the longer career.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

9.  Sam Tuivailala, RHP

Born: 10/19/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-3   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Carlos Rodon, Jacob Dunnington, Tyler Wilson, Mark Montgomery, Adrian Rosario
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 19 R 13.0 4.15 4.17 15.9 35.9% 9.0 20.3% 0.69 80.5%
2013 20 A 35.3 5.35 2.55 12.7 31.5% 5.1 12.6% 0.00 60.0%
2014 21 A+ 37.7 3.58 1.93 15.3 39.5% 4.3 11.1% 0.24 69.3%
2014 21 AA 21.0 2.57 1.69 12.9 34.1% 3.9 10.2% 0.00 71.4%

Background: Blessed with a blistering mid- to upper-90s fastball, Tuivailala opened the season with Palm Beach and capped it off with a two-game stint in St. Louis. Tuivailala, a former third round pick, totaled 61.0 innings at all four stops, fanning 36.8% and walking 10.9% of the batters he faced. For his career, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has fanned 170 and walked 60 in 108.1 innings of work.

Projection: Power arm with improving control, Tuivailala has slowly been trimming his walk rates down through his three-year career, averaging 9.0 BB/9 during his debut to 5.1 BB/9 to 4.0 BB/9 in 2014. Potential closer/late-inning, impact reliever.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

10.  Tim Cooney, LHP

Born: 12/19/90  Age: 24   Height: 6-3   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Dallas Keuchel, Simon Castro, Kyle HendricksBrian Flynn, Scott Diamond
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 21 A- 55.7 3.40 3.26 7.0 19.6% 1.3 3.6% 0.65 69.5%
2013 22 A+ 36.0 2.75 2.74 5.8 15.8% 1.0 2.7% 0.25 69.7%
2013 22 AA 118.3 3.80 2.43 9.5 25.2% 1.4 3.6% 0.61 67.7%
2014 23 AAA 158.0 3.47 4.93 6.8 18.0% 2.7 7.1% 1.20 79.9%

Background: See. I told you the organization cultivates back-of-the-rotation arms like nobody’s business. Cooney, a third pick out of Wake Forest after a solid three-year collegiate career, made his debut in Class AAA less than two years after entering pro ball. The 6-foot-3 polished left-hander had a huge coming out party in 2013 when he spent the majority of the year dominating in Springfield: 118.1 IP, 125 K, and just 18 walks. Cooney’s numbers, however, tumbled quite a bit in the PCL last season, totaling just 119 strikeouts, 47 walks, and surrendered a whopping 21 homeruns, tied for the second highest total in the PCL.

Projection: CAL also agrees that Cooney looks like a solid, back-of-the-rotation-type arm, linking him with the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Kyle Hendricks, Bryan Flynn, and Scott Diamond. Again, the lefty’s the type of guy that slides into the back of the rotation and stays there until he gets too expensive.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

 

 **All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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