50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – 2020

photo: Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson

An annual tradition continues with the unveiling of the 15th version of The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect 50 List, beginning on Monday, November 11.

During the period we call “50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects”, a new top St. Louis Cardinals prospect is disclosed each day, starting with number 50 and carrying us to number 1 on December 30th – our top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system coming into the 2020 season. We will continue into January with a series of articles analyzing the list from a number of different perspectives.

Who will be number 1 this year, replacing four-time leader Alex Reyes? How will the comparison between Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman conclude for the new king of the farm system – or will an underdog slip ahead of the highly-heralded duo?

As always, following the top 50 countdown will be our annual 11-pack of “best-of”, “just-missed” and in-depth analysis articles. This series will conclude as the arrival of Instructional Camp and Winter Warm-Up signal that pitchers and catchers will be reporting in just four more weeks.

Continuing our well-oiled process, the final ranking representing the site is a melding of three individual prospect lists. Our 2019 voters return for another year – TCN owner Brian Walton, reporter Derek Shore and you, the readers.

Since just after Labor Day, the members of our free message board community voted for their own Cardinals prospect list. This detailed annual ranking involves considerable debate and discussion. The fan voting process has been imitated but never duplicated, as our readers continue to be the some of the most knowledgeable people anywhere when it comes to the players in the Cardinals minor league system.

The Cardinal Nation community ranking is given its customary one-third weighting to yield the countdown order to be unveiled here. The community leader who led the voting process, “14NyquisT,” a.k.a. John Baker, will summarize the group discussion in the individual player capsules posted daily. Shore will provide his scouting-oriented commentary on each member of the new top 50 as well as on a handful of others who just missed out.

To follow the countdown, you can either read each new story when posted on our home page every morning or click on the individual players’ names, which will be listed below as they are unveiled. You can also return to this page daily to check the current status of our Top 50 countdown.

As always, readers can join in the debate at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board, where there will be discussion surrounding that day’s entry onto the top prospect list.

To check out the corresponding rankings from each of the past 14 winters, click here, or you can always access them the permanent link in the left column located underneath the site logo called “PROSPECT RANKINGS”.


The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospects – 2020


There’s more!

At the conclusion of the countdown, an 11-part series follows, as we drill down into the details behind the top 50. Most of these articles will be exclusively for TCN members.

We will analyze individual top 50 lists, year-to-year changes and the top additions. The voters highlight their ranked players that did not make the combined top 50 and we unveil our All-Prospect Team – the highest-ranked players at each position.

We will take a view behind the numbers, a look back at our best and worst picks from the previous year, the top prospect list cut by level of play, those on the 2019 list who dropped off for 2020, a potential-only based-list and wrap it up with a tiered-view of the top 50.

  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally – Coming December 31
  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Newbies – Coming January 1
  • 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects: Best of the Rest – Derek Shore – Coming January 2
  • 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects: Best of the Rest – Brian Walton – Coming January 3
  • 2020 The Cardinal Nation All-Cardinals Prospect Team – Coming January 4 (free)
  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers – Coming January 5
  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Picks and Pans – Coming January 6
  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects by Level – Coming January 7
  • 2020 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Departed – Coming January 8
  • 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospects on Potential Only – Coming January 9
  • 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospect Tiers – Coming January 10

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That way, you will not miss a word of the most in-depth Cardinals prospect information available anywhere, including every article in this top 50 prospect series!


The voting process

Here is a bit of insight into the process behind the picks. Earlier this fall, Brian Walton and Derek Shore independently documented their top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The Community vote was then folded in.

A weighted score was tabulated, which drove the ranking you will see here. The individual scores will also be shown on the player pages as they are unveiled each day, along with a wealth of additional information on each of the 50 prospects.

To come up with the 50 names, each of us submitted a list of 65 players. This year, there was a high level of general agreement, as 71 prospects were identified by at least one voter, with all members of the top 50 required to have received at least two votes. Ties were broken by the best individual voter score.

In terms of qualification, all players in the Cardinals minor league system are eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation of at-bats or innings pitched. (For this year, Ryan Helsley, Lane Thomas and Tyler O’Neill are among those who are out. Andrew Knizner, Randy Arozarena, Junior Fernandez, Genesis Cabrera, Justin Williams, Edmundo Sosa and Adolis Garcia are in.)

The unequaled depth of coverage of the Cardinals system all year ‘round by The Cardinal Nation means there is much more behind these rankings than just a list of names.

Brian and Derek, who is Springfield-based, ranked based on personal observation as much as possible, and with local reporters in every affiliate city, TCN knows these players well. Brian was out to see the affiliates in person this spring, summer and fall. That included covering instructional camp, spring training, extended spring training, and the Arizona Fall League first-hand. We also received valuable input from coaches, scouts and others in and out of the organization.


Scouting Grades return for 2020

Brian Walton is again grading each prospect on a 2-8 scale, based on their most likely future potential. This mirrors the standard 20-80 scouting scale, while taking a simplified look at ultimate potential, rather than a full detailed, tool-by-tool breakdown. The grades are accompanied by a risk factor, which assesses the likelihood of a player reaching or exceeding his ceiling.

Grades:

8 – Elite talent
7 – All-star
6 – Above average starter, top to mid-rotation starting pitcher, closer
5 – Average starter, #3-5 starting pitcher, impact reliever
4 – Bench/bullpen contributor, spot starter
2 – Career minor leaguer

Risk:

Safe – Almost certain to reach ceiling
Low – Strong chance of reaching ceiling
Medium – Some work to become an MLB player
High – More projection than results
Extreme – Highly projectable, small chance of making the majors

Remember that these are point-in-time assessments, which can easily be overachieved (or underachieved) in the future as some players break out and others regress.

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