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The 2017 St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects

Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Alex Reyes, RHP                                                  
Born: 08/29/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Tyler Glasnow, Yovani Gallardo, Eduardo Sanchez, Stephen Gonsalves, Henry Owens
Height: 6-3 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 20 A+ 63.2 2 5 2.26 1.75 13.57 4.38 36.60% 11.80% 0.00 75.90%
2015 20 AA 34.2 3 2 3.12 2.32 13.50 4.67 36.40% 12.60% 0.26 67.40%
2016 21 AAA 65.1 2 3 4.96 3.72 12.81 4.41 32.00% 11.00% 0.83 67.30%

Background: I’ve never used an illegal drug or taken a legal drug without a prescription – so with that respect, maybe it’s a bit difficult for me to fully understand the need to do drugs. Now with that being said, I genuinely don’t understand when an athlete – for any sport, I’m looking at you Josh Gordon – can’t abstain from doing said drugs during their career. If they’re caught there are two pretty severe consequences (typically, speaking): #1 Suspension, which is crucial loss of development time for a young player, and this leads us to…#2 Loss of money. Enter: Alex Reyes, the latest flame-throwing right-hander St. Louis’ system has developed. As I noted in last year’s book this is the same pitcher, by the way, who became the third 21-year-old to lead the entire minor leagues in strikeout percentage in 2015 (minimum 100 innings of work).

So how does Reyes celebrate a wildly successful campaign? By toking up, of course. And just like we learn when we’re growing up, there are consequences if you get caught. He got caught in early November last year and subsequently suspended 50 games for marijuana usage. That suspension didn’t take effect until the start of the 2016 season.

Reyes, who didn’t make his regular season debut until the end of May, made 14 starts with the Memphis Red Birds, throwing just 65.1 innings while fanning a ridiculous 93 hitters and walking 32. The Cards called him up in early August where he mainly work out the club’s bullpen, posting a solid 52-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio (with a 1.57 ERA) in 46.0 innings of work.

Projection: I’m hesitant to use the word stupid in describing his action, but it certainly lacks a lot of maturity and/or foresight. One would have to assume that if he doesn’t get suspended, he likely gets called up sooner – perhaps a month or so. Pro-rate the minimum salary of a big leaguer, and you’re looking at a six-figure difference. That’s not a lot of money in the industry, but for a 21-year-old kid playing a position that one shoulder injury could end his future as a stud, it’s a lot of money.

Anyway, on to the actual analysis: Despite the bloated 4.96 ERA in the PCL, Reyes posted the fifth highest strikeout percentage, 32.0%, among all Triple-A hurlers with at least 60 innings.

But here’s where it gets better: Since 2006, here’s the list of 21-year-olds to post a strikeout percentage north of 32.0% (min. 60 IP): Yovani Gallardo and Reyes. That’s it.

Here’s what I wrote about the talented hurler in the 2015 Handbook:

“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.”

And here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“His dominant showing in 2015 leaves little doubt that there are all kinds of ace potential brewing in his thunderbolt-slinging right arm. The control didn’t take a step forward, but it’s also important to remember that’s he’s facing more and more disciplined hitters at an accelerated pace. Meaning: it’s not a concern yet.

Simply put, Reyes is just another high ceiling caliber arm in what’s seemingly become an endless march up to the big league rotation, ultimately following in the footsteps of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal (he should be in the rotation), etc… True, legitimate #1 starting material – but the control/command needs to take that next step forward.

One final note: Reyes is a candidate for a late-season call up and/or could potentially be placed on the Earl Weaver break-em-in-easy pitching plan (i.e. having him develop in the big leagues as a reliever than transition him into a starting role in 2017).”

After the book went to the publisher, Reyes was scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery.   

Ceiling: 5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

2. Luke Weaver, RHP                              
Born: 08/21/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Liam Hendriks, Marco Gonzales, Mitch Talbot, Rafael Montero, Javier Solano
Height: 6-2 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A+ 105.1 8 5 1.62 2.28 7.52 1.62 20.70% 4.50% 0.17 72.70%
2016 22 AA 77.0 6 3 1.40 2.04 10.29 1.17 28.60% 3.30% 0.47 74.90%

Background: Fun Fact Part I: The Cardinals took six hurlers with their first six selections in the 2014 draft. Fun Fact Part II: The first four of those hurlers were right-handers. Fun Fact Part III: Four of those six hurlers were collegiate arms. Anyway, Weaver was absolutely unhittable during his final two years with Florida State, throwing a combined 204.2 innings with 204 punch outs, just 42 walks, and a 2.46 ERA. Weaver, who was the first hurler the Cards selected that year, 27th overall, continued to be unhittable as he moved his way to – and through – the minor leagues. He strung together a 1.62 ERA while averaging 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in the Florida State League two years ago. And made it look incredibly easy with Springfield in the Texas League the first half of 2016.

In 12 starts with the St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, Weaver fanned 88, walked just 10, and posted a 1.40 ERA. After another dominant start in the Pacific Coast League, the Cardinals called up the 6-foot-2, 170-pound hurler in mid-August for another nine appearances, eight of which were starts. He finished his time in The Show with 45 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36.1 innings. The bad news: he tallied a 5.70 ERA.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the talented Florida State prospect before the draft:

“Production-wise, Weaver 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 backward, which adds some obvious risk associated with his draft selection.

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.

Plus, considering his slight build – he weighs only 170 pounds – there could be some room for velocity growth [if] he can add the right kind of weight.”

Weaver certainly had his moments in the Cardinals’ rotation – between August 20th and September 11th, he made five starts, throwing 27.0 innings with an impeccable 36-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 3.33 ERA. But when you finish with a near-6.00 ERA, it goes without saying he had a handful of terrible games too. I still think he’s a safe bet to churn out multiple 3.0-win seasons and hold the middle spot of the Cardinals’ rotation for the next decade or so.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

3. Harrison Bader, CF                                   
Born: 06/03/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Jones, Zoilo Almonte, Christian Marrero, Jose Osuna, Jake Marisnick
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 228 11 2 9 0.301 0.364 0.505 0.204 6.60% 19.30% 152
2016 22 AA 356 12 4 16 0.283 0.351 0.497 0.214 7.00% 26.10% 143
2016 22 AAA 161 7 1 3 0.231 0.298 0.354 0.122 6.80% 23.60% 74

Background: Pop Quiz Part I: Since the inception of the current MLB draft, there have been 51 players selected with the 100th pick in the draft; name the player with the highest career WAR total chosen with the 100th pick. The answer: Ron Gant. Pop Quiz Part II: Behind Ron Gant (33.9 bWAR) and Shane Mark (21.7 bWAR), who was the third most productive player chosen at #100? The answer: former catching vagabond Josh Bard, of course, who tallied just a smidge over 3.0 wins above replacement in his 10-year big league career. At this point, I’m sure you can probably guess which pick the Cardinals plucked Harrison Bader out of the University of Florida in 2015, right?

Bader put together a pretty stellar career for the Gators between 2013 and 2015, hitting an aggregate .312/.391/.466 with 29 doubles, five triples, 20 homeruns, and 36 stolen bases in 169 games. But it was his offensive explosion during his junior campaign that thrust his name up many clubs’ draft boards.

In a career best 67 games that year, the toolsy center fielder slugged .297/.393/.566 with career highs in doubles (16) and homeruns (17) – both numbers surpassing his previous career totals.

And since then, he’s continued to prove that the skill set he displayed heading into the draft was a reliable, repeatable one.

But perhaps his most impressive accomplishment to date: after appearing in seven games in short season ball and 57 contests in the Midwest League, Bader made the big jump to Class AA and didn’t miss a beat.

In fact, he was the second best offensive player in any Class AA league – trailing only teammate Louis Voit, who happened to be three years his junior. Bader also spent some significant – and difficult – time in the PCL as well.

Overall, he finished the year with a composite .267/.335/.452 triple-slash line with 19 doubles, five triples, 19 homeruns, and 13 stolen bases.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“A lot of the important skills trended in the right direction for Bader throughout his collegiate career – most importantly his power, which improved in each of his three seasons. His walk rate also took an important jump during his final campaign as well. With that being said, Bader’s never going to be mistaken for Houston’s Nolan Fontana when it comes to walks, but he does have an intriguing combination of power and speed. He could be a 15/15 threat if everything breaks the right way.”

Well, he barely missed the 15/15 mark so I wouldn’t be surprised if he posts a 20/20 or 20/15 season in the coming years. Average tools across the board with, perhaps, a slightly better-than-average hit tool, Bader looks like a very solid, capable big league outfielder – one who should post a 2.5-win season together in the two or three years.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP                                 
Born: 09/07/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Luke Jackson, Phil Bickford, Frank Lopez, Jake Thompson, Justus Sheffield
Height: 6-4 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 56.7 1 9 3.97 2.92 8.74 3.02 22.30% 7.70% 0.16 62.30%
2015 19 R 64.1 4 4 3.22 3.49 7.13 2.80 19.10% 7.50% 0.42 67.70%
2016 20 A 90.1 5 7 4.08 3.21 11.86 4.48 29.80% 11.30% 0.40 65.70%
2016 20 A+ 32.1 0 4 3.62 2.54 9.46 3.90 25.40% 10.50% 0.00 67.50%

Background: How’s this for understatement of the year? In last year’s book I listed Alcantara, who had a good, not great season in the Gulf Coast League as a 19-year-old, among the Barely Missed section, writing: “[A] tall, lanky right-hander out of the Dominican, Alcantara made his stateside debut in 2015. In 12 starts in the Gulf Coast, the 6-foot-4, 170-pound hurler posted a 51-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings of work. He will likely find his way into the club’s Top 25 next season.” Not only did he find his way in the Top 20, but the hard-throwing starter vaulted his way up to becoming one of the game’s most promising starting pitching prospects. The 20-year-old Alcantara made 17 starts with Peoria in the Midwest League, throwing 90.1 innings with 119 strikeouts, 45 walks, and a 3.21 FIP. St. Louis’ brass decided to give him a late-season push to the Florida State League where for the first time in his career he faced off against older competition on a consistent basis. And after a difficult first start (2.1 IP, 4 ER, 1 K, 4 BB), Alcantara finished the year with a 33-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final 30.0 innings.

Projection: Consider this: Among all minor league hurlers with 120+ innings last season, Alcantara’s strikeout percentage, 28.7%, ranked sixth. Again, that’s out of all MiLB hurlers. So when’s the last time a 20-year-old accomplished this feat? Tyler Glasnow in 2014. Alcantara was absolutely dominating at various points throughout the season. Between May 17th and July 8th, he punched out 77 in just 50.1 innings of work. For those counting at home, that’s a strikeout percentage of nearly 35% and an average of 13.8 K/9. The control/command still has ways to go, but if he can refine it – even a little bit – the sky is the limit. He’s already walking down the path of Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

5. Jack Flaherty, RHP                             
Born: 10/15/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Jake Thompson, Dan Cortes, Justus Sheffield, Giovanni Soto, Rob Kaminsky
Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 19 A 95.0 9 3 2.84 2.83 9.19 2.94 23.70% 7.60% 0.19 72.30%
2016 20 A+ 134.0 5 9 3.56 3.20 8.46 3.02 22.30% 8.00% 0.54 68.60%

Background: Taken in the same draft that Luke Weaver to the fold, 2014, Flaherty continued to impress against older competition last season. Making 24 appearances with the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League, the then-20-year-old right-hander tossed a career best 134.0 innings with a very solid 126-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 3.56 ERA and a 3.20 FIP. This of course comes on the heels of his work in the Midwest League as a teenager in 2015: 95.0 innings while averaging 9.19 strikeouts and fewer than three walks per nine innings. For his career, Flaherty’s punched out 251, issued free passes just 80 times, and compiled a 3.11 ERA in 251.2 innings.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about Flaherty after his work in rookie ball three years ago:

“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 Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky and head to Peoria as a 19-year-old.”

 And I followed that up by writing the following in last year’s book:

“Test officially passed – with flying colors. Flaherty was simply too good, too polished for the Low Class A competition. He’s likely going to pass the next test, High Class A, with a relative amount of ease as well and could potentially spend a decent amount of the 2016 season in Class AA. Not quite on the same level as Reyes, Flaherty’s a nice ##2/3-type arm.”

 So let’s update this a bit, shall we?

Only one other qualified 20-year-old hurler in any High Class A league posted a higher strikeout percentage than Flaherty’s 22.3% – New York’s Justus Sheffield. But no 20-year-old posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage (14.4%) or FIP (3.20). Poised beyond his years with pitchability oozing from his ears, Flaherty could be in line for a late-season promotion to the big leagues if everything goes well in 2017 – though 2018 is more reasonable.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

6. Dakota Hudson, RHP       
Born: 09/15/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-5 Weight: 215 Throws: R

Background: One of the biggest collegiate risers in the 2016 draft class, Hudson went from little used hurler – he threw 34.0 combined innings between his freshman and sophomore seasons – to one of the best arms available last June. But the potential to be an impact arm was always there. The Rangers reportedly had conversations with the talented right-hander heading into the 2013 draft about taking him in the top five rounds if he agreed to take the slotted-bonus. He didn’t. Texas, nonetheless, used a late-round flier on the then-prep hurler and subsequently failed to sign him. And after his first two years with the Bulldogs, it looked like a massive mistake for the Tennessee native; he posted 36-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio with an ERA above 4.00.

But something clicked last season – perhaps, it was just a chance to play more often? – as Hudson fanned 115, walked just 35, and tallied a 2.55 ERA en route to posting a 9-and-5 record for Coach John Cohen. St. Louis grabbed him with the 34th overall selection last June.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about Hudson prior to the 2016 draft:

“Going back to the 2011 season and extending through the end of 2015, there have been only seven pitchers – Mark Appel, Jon Gray, Nick Tropeano, Kevin Gausman, Jeff Degano, Andrew Barbosa, and Jonas Dufek – that have met the following criteria: at least 6-foot-4, 80+ innings, a strikeout rate of at least 9.5 K/9, a walk rate below 3.0 BB/9, and a homerun rate under 0.30 HR/9. Five of those players – Appel, Gray, Tropeano, Gausman, and Degano – were either high round draft picks and/or have become established big league starters.  

Obviously, the overall lack of a track record is a bit concerning when it comes to Hudson; through nearly three full college seasons he’s thrown just 114 innings (at the time of the writing). However, his work in the Cape last summer helped ease some concerns. Judging by the numbers, he seems to generate a lot of downhill action – as evidenced by his 0.24 career homerun rate – and has the prototypical innings-eater build. 

Hudson doesn’t have true ace material, but he should settle in nicely as a #2/#3-type arm. And one that could potentially move quickly through the minor leagues.

Well, the Cardinals seem to agree with his potential to move quickly through the minors as they pushed him into the Florida State League after just four innings in the Gulf Coast League. Hudson’s likely headed back to High Class A to begin 2017, but he’s going to spend the majority of his year in the Texas League

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

7. Junior Fernandez, RHP                               
Born: 03/02/97 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Jarrod Freeman, Tyler Green, Luis Heredia, Foster Griffin, Colton Pitkin
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 17 R 28.0 0 5 5.79 4.72 4.18 3.86 10.50% 9.70% 0.32 47.10%
2015 18 R 51.0 3 2 3.88 2.21 10.24 2.65 26.50% 6.90% 0.00 63.50%
2016 19 A 78.1 6 5 3.33 3.86 7.24 3.91 18.80% 10.20% 0.34 69.00%
2016 19 A+ 43.2 2 2 5.36 4.88 5.15 4.12 12.50% 10.00% 0.82 64.20%

Background: “The next great flame-throwing St. Louis prospect, Fernandez got a brief two-game taste of the Florida State League [in 2015]. At the age of 18. His career numbers, 85.2 IP, 76 K, 29 BB, and a 4.31 [ERA], are very misleading. He’s a ticking time bomb. Tick, tick, tick…” That’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I named the Dominican-born hurler among the Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016. So how’d Fernandez do? Well, he certainly had his moments as a teenager in the Midwest League. He punched out 10 without issuing a walk across eight innings against the Timber Rattlers in late April. Or the six-inning, eight-strikeout, two-walk performance against, well, the Timber Rattlers in late May. Or the seven-strikeout, zero-walk, four-hitter in 5.2 innings against the LumberKings on the first of July. He really, really has a disdain for teams associated with wood, I guess. Overall, he finished his time against the Midwest League hitters with 63 strikeouts and 34 walks with a 3.33 ERA in 78.1 innings.

St. Louis’s front office pushed the precocious 19-year-old up to the Florida State League where he struggled to get his footing, but dominated over his final four starts when he posted a 0.71 ERA over his final 25.1 innings.

Projection: So did Fernandez really breakout in 2016?

It’s up for discussion, I think. He had plenty of moments, but he also had more than a few clunkers as well. It’s important to remember that he (A) was only 19-years-old and (B) fewer than 90 innings under his belt heading into last season.

Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Look, Fernandez is 85.2 innings into his pro career, so a lot of things could spiral off into different directions. But the Cards’ front office clearly sees something special in the teenaged right-hander, evidenced by having him spend his last two games in the Florida State League. He’s a big time power arm with the uncanny ability to hit the zone on a regular basis. Here’s one of the bolder predictions I will make in this year’s book: Junior Fernandez, a soon-to-be 19-year-old right-hander with 85.2 professional innings under his belt, is the best pitching prospect you’ve never heard of. Yet.”

Tick, tick, tick…

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

8. Carson Kelly, C                 
Born: 07/14/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: John Ryan Murphy, Pedro Severino, Alex Monsalve, Austin Hedges, Austin Romine
Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 19 A 415 17 4 6 0.248 0.326 0.366 0.118 8.90% 13.00% 100
2015 20 A+ 419 18 1 8 0.219 0.263 0.332 0.113 5.30% 15.30% 80
2016 21 AA 236 7 0 6 0.287 0.338 0.403 0.116 5.90% 19.50% 115

Background: It took quite a while – a lot longer than anyone would have anticipated – but Carson Kelly, former second round pick who looked like a bust from the word go, turned himself into a legitimate big league prospect. It just took four years and a lot hard work and patience. And, oh yeah, a position change from the hot corner to donning the tools of ignorance. Last season Kelly, the 86th pick in the 2012 draft, put together his finest season to date. Splitting time between Springfield and Memphis, Kelly slugged .289/.343/.395 with 17 doubles and six homeruns. The kid also got a brief call-up to The Show as well, going 1-for-13 with a double.

Projection: You know, it’s incredibly difficult to pick up a position at the professional level and that’s before you consider that his move behind the plate is easily the most difficult in the game to make. So it’s not surprising his offense cratered as he learned the nuances of the position as well as dealing with all kinds of dings-and-dents that catching puts the body through. Defensively, he’s thrown out nearly a third of would-be base stealers in his career. And offensively he’s not completely hapless either. Decent eye at the plate, the power is slightly below average, but the hit tool is solid enough. Add it all up and he looks like a very sturdy starter.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

9. Magneuris Sierra, CF                                             
Born: 04/07/96 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Elvis Escobar, Dustin Fowler, Harold Ramirez, Yefri Carvajal, D’Arby Myers
Height: 5-11 Weight: 160 Throws: L
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 252 6 3 1 0.269 0.361 0.340 0.071 11.50% 13.10% 115
2014 18 R 223 12 3 2 0.386 0.434 0.505 0.119 7.20% 13.50% 170
2015 19 R 239 8 0 3 0.315 0.371 0.394 0.079 7.90% 17.60% 117
2015 19 A 190 1 3 1 0.191 0.219 0.247 0.056 3.70% 27.40% 33
2016 20 A 562 29 4 3 0.307 0.335 0.395 0.088 3.90% 17.30% 115

Background: Existing proof that one of the best player development engines can make a mistake. St. Louis’ brass aggressively pushed the then-19-year-old up to the Midwest League in the second half of 2015 after a stellar performance in the advanced rookie league. The Dominican-born center fielder promptly fell flat on his face. He batted – a term used in the loosest of senses – a paltry .191/.219/.247 with just one double, three triples, and a dinger. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was a whopping 67% below the league average mark. So, of course, Sierra found himself back in the Midwest League for a recap in 2016. The results? Solid. In 122 games with the Chiefs, Sierra batted .307/.335/.395 with 29 doubles, four triples, three homeruns, and 31 stolen bases (in 48 attempts). This time he topped the league average mark by 15%.

Projection: Despite the dreadful showing in the Midwest League two years ago, this is what I wrote in last year’s book:

“There’s a lot to like about the package: the hit tool has a chance to be the best in the system; the power could jump up into 15-HR territory as his lean 160-pound frame fills out, and he’s quick enough to swipe 30+ bags in a season. I originally pegged Sierra as a potential fourth outfielder in last year’s book, but I’d bump that up to a better-than-average regular – though there’s some risk given his youth and failure in Class A.”

Well, he already swiped the 30 bags in a season, though it took a lot of attempts to get there. But the overall power numbers didn’t spike as I thought they would – though to be fair he hit .322/.355/.424 from June 1st through the end of the year. I still like his odds as a potential above-average center fielder, more so depending upon his defense.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

10. Paul DeJong, 3B         
Born: 08/02/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Laird, David Thompson, Wes Hodges, Will Middlebrooks, Mat Gamel
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 247 12 3 5 0.288 0.360 0.438 0.151 9.30% 17.40% 133
2016 22 AA 552 29 2 22 0.260 0.324 0.460 0.200 7.20% 26.10% 123

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Since the first player selected from Illinois State in 1967, there have been only six prospects from the university taken before fifth round in the June draft – Jeremy Rhoades and DeJong, both of whom were taken in the fourth round just a year apart, 2014 and 2015, respectively. Fun Fact Part II: former big league relievers Neal Cotts and 2004 All-Star Danny Kolb called the school home. Dejong, though, has a chance to the best player taken from the school – though, admittedly, that current title belongs to Dave Bergman and his 7.0-WAR career. After a solid, borderline dominant showing in the Midwest League during his professional debut, the Cardinals aggressively pushed the 6-foot-1, 195-pound third baseman right up to the Texas League. And he made it look pretty easy too. In 132 games with Springfield in the Texas League, DeJong hit .260/.324/.460 with 29 doubles, a pair of triples, and 22 homeruns while swiping a trio of bags. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average by 23%.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“It’s interesting, isn’t it? How the draft, no matter how much you research or study or scout a player, a lot of comes down to a roll of the dice. Take for example DeJong, a fourth round pick out of less-than-impressive baseball university, and 2012 first round pick Patrick Wisdom. DeJong blew the doors off of the NYPL and handled himself adequately in the Midwest League; Wisdom, on the other hand, spent his debut in Short-Season ball and batted a solid .282/.373/.465, but he followed that up with a paltry .231/.312/.411 showing with Peoria the next season. DeJong is another excellent value pick by the organization. He may not have the prototypical pop the average run-producing third baseman shows, but he’ll run into 15 or so homeruns once he gets above the A-levels.”

So he may have the prototypical power the average run-producing third baseman possesses. DeJong finished with the fifth most doubles and homeruns in the Texas League – as well as an impressive .200 ISO. But here’s the best part: after a terrible – and I do mean terrible – April, DeJong batted .271/.334/.490. With respect to his extra-base knocks, he logged all but five doubles and one triple once the calendar flipped to May. And do you know what we call that? An adjustment period.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com



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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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