photo: Alex Reyes (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)
The subject here in the 55th article in our Top 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2019 series is our view of the organization’s best minor league prospects by position. At the end, all top 50 members are shown by position in an organizational prospect depth chart.
The selection process is very straightforward. We have already unveiled our top 50 prospects in the system via the “50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Prospects” series. Putting together this year’s All-Prospect Team is as simple as culling the top-ranked player at each position from that top 50.
The annual The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals All-Prospect Team includes 12 players – eight position players, including two corner outfielders, plus four pitchers – left and right-handed starters and relievers.
Listed are each player’s overall ranking in the top 50, age and highest level played in 2018.
The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals 2019 All-Prospect Team
|Catcher||Andrew Knizner *||6||23||AAA|
|First Base||Luken Baker *||15||21||A|
|Second Base||Max Schrock||27||24||AAA|
|Shortstop||Tommy Edman *||18||23||AAA|
|Third Base||Nolan Gorman *||3||18||A|
|Corner Outfield||Tyler O’Neill||5||23||MLB|
|Corner Outfield||Dylan Carlson *||8||20||A+|
|Center field||Lane Thomas *||9||23||AAA|
|LH Starter||Evan Kruczynski *||17||23||AA|
|RH Starter||Alex Reyes C||1||24||MLB|
|LH Reliever||Genesis Cabrera *||11||22||AAA|
|RH Reliever||Seth Elledge *||30||22||AA|
|* new members|
|C = unofficial captain|
|Ages as of 1/1/19|
After two consecutive years of seven of the 12 members of the All-Prospect Team being new, this year, the turnover is considerably more extensive with nine. (Newbies are denoted by an asterisk * above).
With the departure of Carson Kelly, who set a record six consecutive All-Prospect Teams, Alex Reyes takes over in his fifth straight year and becomes our unofficial team captain. The other two repeat members have made just two teams each.
Back for a second year are outfielder Tyler O’Neill, the organization’s 2018 Player of the Year, and second baseman Max Schrock. Ironically, both were trade acquisitions in the prior year. The system’s Pitcher of the Year, Dakota Hudson, was edged out by Reyes as the top-ranked right-handed starter prospect.
Neither of The Cardinal Nation’s top players in 2018 made the All-Prospect Team. TCN’s Player of the Year Elehuris Montero is the second-ranked third baseman after first-rounder Nolan Gorman. Pitcher Jake Dahlberg was the other TCN choice, down the pecking order among left-handed starting pitching prospects.
The nine new members of the team come from two different places. Six are homegrown, drafted Cardinals and three were trade acquisitions – outfielder Lane Thomas, left-handed reliever* Genesis Cabrera and right-handed reliever Seth Elledge.
* I originally placed Cabrera into the left-handed starting pitching spot. However, there are no traditional lefty relievers in the remainder of the top 50. Since there is some speculation that Cabrera could become a reliever, I moved him for this exercise, putting Evan Kruczynski into the lefty starter’s spot. As I’ve written previously, I hope this does not occur in real life, though, as I believe both could eventually be MLB starters.
Of the six homegrown players, Gorman and first baseman Luken Baker are from the 2018 draft. The somewhat disappointing 2017 draft is represented by Kruczynski. Andrew Knizner, Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman were taken in 2016. No new internationally-developed players are on the 2018 All-Prospect Team.
TCN St. Louis Cardinals All-Prospect Teams – 2006 through 2018
|Catcher||Carson Kelly||Carson Kelly||Carson Kelly||Carson Kelly|
|First Base||Luke Voit||Luke Voit||Luis Bandes||Xavier Scruggs|
|Second Base||Max Schrock||Eliezer Alvarez||Jacob Wilson||Jacob Wilson|
|Shortstop||Yairo Munoz||Delvin Perez||Aledmys Diaz||Aledmys Diaz|
|Third Base||Evan Mendoza||Paul DeJong||Paul DeJong||Patrick Wisdom|
|Corner OF||Tyler O’Neill||Harrison Bader||Nick Plummer||Stephen Piscotty|
|Corner OF||Adolis Garcia||Randy Arozarena||Magneuris Sierra||Randal Grichuk|
|Center field||Harrison Bader||Magneuris Sierra||Charlie Tilson||Charlie Tilson|
|LH Starter||Austin Gomber||Austin Gomber||Marco Gonzales||Marco Gonzales|
|RH Starter||Alex Reyes||Alex Reyes||Alex Reyes||Alex Reyes|
|LH Reliever||Ryan Sherriff||Corey Littrell||Dean Kiekhefer||Dean Kiekhefer|
|RH Reliever||Josh Lucas||Sam Tuivailala||Sam Tuivailala||Sam Tuivailala|
|Player of Year||* Andrew Knizner||* Allen Cordoba||* M. Sierra|
|Pitcher of Year||* Jack Flaherty||* Luke Weaver||* R. Kaminsky|
|Catcher||Carson Kelly||Adam Ehrlich||Tony Cruz|
|First Base||J. Rodriguez||Matt Adams||Matt Adams|
|Second Base||Kolten Wong||Kolten Wong||Kolten Wong|
|Shortstop||Oscar Mercado||Ryan Jackson||Ryan Jackson|
|Third Base||Patrick Wisdom||Carson Kelly||Zack Cox|
|Corner OF||Stephen Piscotty||Oscar Taveras||Oscar Taveras|
|Corner OF||Oscar Taveras||Anthony Garcia||Anthony Garcia|
|Center field||James Ramsey||James Ramsey||Charlie Tilson|
|LH Starter||Rob Kaminsky||John Gast||John Gast|
|RH Starter||Carlos Martinez||Shelby Miller||Shelby Miller|
|LH Reliever||Sam Freeman||Sam Freeman||Sam Freeman|
|RH Reliever||Keith Butler||Eduardo Sanchez||E. Sanchez|
|Player of Year|
|Pitcher of Year||* Zach Petrick||* T. Rosenthal|
|Catcher||Bryan Anderson||Robert Stock||Bryan Anderson|
|First Base||Mark Hamilton||Mark Hamilton||Curt Smith|
|Second Base||Daniel Descalso||Daniel Descalso||Jose Martinez|
|Shortstop||Pete Kozma||Pete Kozma||Pete Kozma|
|Third Base||Zack Cox*||David Freese||Brett Wallace*|
|Corner OF||Oscar Taveras||Daryl Jones||Nick Stavinoha|
|Corner OF||Allen Craig||Allen Craig||Jon Jay|
|Center field||Adron Chambers||Jon Jay||Colby Rasmus|
|LH Starter||John Gast||Jaime Garcia||Jaime Garcia|
|RH Starter||Shelby Miller*||Shelby Miller*||Jess Todd|
|Reliever||Eduardo Sanchez||Eduardo Sanchez||Jason Motte|
|Player of Year||* M. Carpenter||* David Freese|
|Pitcher of Year||* B. Dickson||* Lance Lynn|
|Catcher||Bryan Anderson||Bryan Anderson||Bryan Anderson|
|First Base||Mark Hamilton||Mark Hamilton||Mike Ferris|
|Second Base||Jose Martinez||Jose Martinez||Jose Martinez|
|Shortstop||Pete Kozma||Tyler Greene||Tyler Greene|
|Third Base||Allen Craig||Randy Roth||Travis Hanson|
|Corner OF||Joe Mather||Nick Stavinoha||Nick Stavinoha|
|Corner OF||Jon Jay||Cody Haerther||Cody Haerther|
|Center field||Colby Rasmus||Colby Rasmus||Colby Rasmus|
|LH Starter||Jaime Garcia||Jaime Garcia||Eric Haberer|
|RH Starter||Adam Ottavino*||B. Hawksworth||Anthony Reyes|
|Reliever||Chris Perez||Chris Perez||Tyler Johnson|
|Player of Year|
|Pitcher of Year||* P.J. Walters|
All-Prospect Team members from the previous 13 seasons are included for comparison purposes with our TCN Cardinals Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year in those years listed in bold.
The asterisks (*) denote those cases in past years when either the Pitcher or Player of the Year (or both) was not ranked as the top prospect in the system at his position in the following off-season.
Here is how the nine players who left the 2018 All-Prospect Team broke out. Three graduated to the majors – shortstop Yairo Muñoz, center fielder Harrison Bader and left-handed starter Austin Gomber.
Three were also traded away – catcher Carson Kelly (Ari), first baseman Luke Voit (NYY) and right-handed reliever Josh Lucas (Oak). Lefty reliever Ryan Sherriff was injured and released.
The final two, outfielder Adolis Garcia and third baseman Evan Mendoza, remain in the organization, but were passed by others. In the case of Mendoza, he was passed by three prospects – Gorman, Montero and teenager Malcom Nuñez.
Age and experience
After the then-27-year olds Lucas and Sherriff and 26-year old first baseman Luke Voit departed, the “old man” of the Top Prospect Team is not that old at all. Reyes and Max Schrock, at “just” 24 years of age, lead the way, with the pitcher about six weeks older than the second baseman.
In fact, the overall team in 2019 is younger than in 2018, returning to a comparable age for the Top Prospect Team average prior to last year.
With Gorman’s arrival, this marks the fourth year in the last five with at least one teenager on the squad, with the only recent exception having been 2018.
After the average age of the team members last year was the oldest ever, at 23.8 years of age, the current 22.2 mark is pretty consistent with earlier teams.
The level of play reached by the average player is listed as Double-A, one level lower than last year. Mathematically, the average was slightly above the respective level. But again, as a whole, this group is one full level less experienced than last.
In another indication of the less-experienced 2019 All-Prospect Team, only two of the 12 reached the majors during 2018 compared to six the year before. 2019 is closer to the numbers in the more distant past – four in 2016 and two in 2015.
At the other end of the spectrum, just two of the new 12 finished at Class-A this past summer and none in short-season ball. And both of the two were 2018 draftees. It has been three years now since there was a short-season representative, which to me suggests better top prospect depth across the board in full-season ball – a good thing.
Runners-Up/Depth Chart (name/overall ranking)
I will close with this year’s “Runners-Up” – the 34 players who made the 2018 Top 50 Prospect List, but not this All-Prospect Team. The following list also provides a quick visual snapshot of system-wide balance at all positions behind the 12-man All-Prospect Team. (Note the overall total is 46, not 50, due to four players traded away.)
|Pos||#||Name (top 50 rank)|
|C||3||Ivan Herrera (23)||Dennis Ortega (43)||Julio Rodriguez (45)|
|2B||1||Ramon Urias (33)|
|SS||2||Edmundo Sosa (28)||Delvin Perez (35)|
|3B||3||Elehuris Montero (4)||Malcom Nunez (10)||Evan Mendoza (26)|
|COF||5||Randy Arozarena (12)||Adolis Garcia (16)||Jhon Torres (20)|
|Justin Williams (24)||Leandro Cedeno (32)|
|CF||5||Conner Capel (31)||Scott Hurst (40)||Joerlin De Los Santos (42)|
|Jonatan Machado (47)||Chase Pinder (49)|
|LHS||1||Steven Gingery (29)|
|RHS||10||Dakota Hudson (2)||Ryan Helsley (7)||Griffin Roberts (13)|
|Daniel Ponce de Leon (14)||Jake Woodford (19)||Johan Oviedo (25)|
|Alvaro Seijas (37)||Jake Walsh (44)||Alex Fagalde (46)|
|Casey Meisner (48)|
|RHR||4||Junior Fernandez (36)||Connor Jones (39)||Giovanny Gallegos (41)|
|Derian Gonzalez (50)|
Top prospect depth at catching and third base have improved substantially year to year. This is especially case at third, where our Top Prospect Team player from last year is now fourth in the pecking order at his position – despite not dropping in the overall rankings.
First base can be sourced from the ranks of third basemen or outfielders, so I do not worry too much about it – though it should be nice to watch Luken Baker develop.
Behind the plate, it is doubtful that any of the younger prospects will be ready in time to replace Yadier Molina in two years if Andrew Knizner cannot – but the increased depth is encouraging.
On the other hand, middle infield looks to be a major exposure. As Baseball America observed recently, since Andy Young was traded away, there isn’t much coming after Tommy Edman.
The wealth of center fielders remains close in quantity with five runners up compared to six last year. However, the quality is much less, with none of the five in the new top 30. Then again, with Harrison Bader and Lane Thomas up top, maybe this is not a big issue right now.
On the corners, the group remains solid, with four of the five placing among the top 24 prospects in the system. That is good since the futures of Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler remain unclear.
On the pitching side, right-handed supply has dropped year to year, from 14 in 2018 to just 10 now. The top tier remains very strong, however, led by no. 2 prospect Dakota Hudson. Matters look much more shaky below high-A.
The quantity of left-handed starters is an obvious ongoing need, though again with Austin Gomber, Genesis Cabrera and Evan Kruczynski, the problem looks to be below Double-A.
The four additional right-handed relievers who made the top 50 are interesting, but two of them were starters a year ago. As long as a plentiful supply of starters remain, more bullpen shifts can always follow. Again, the left side stands out for the wrong reason.
We will dig much deeper into the potential long-term ramifications of this talent mix in the next installment of this series, “Behind the Numbers”.
In the next article in this series, we dive into the numbers behind the top 50, then take a look at our best and worst selections from 2018, the top prospects by level of play, those players that left the rankings from last year to this and finally take two different looks at the top 50 – based on potential only and by tiers.
Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s message boards.
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