photo: Nolan Gorman (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
2020 was a year of both challenge and change for most everyone, especially those associated with minor league baseball. The leagues making up the official entity of Minor League Baseball in its final year of existence in its prior form, were unable to play a single game.
A very limited number of prospects were invited to participate in two-month organizational alternate camps, which presented a markedly better developmental opportunity than the vast majority of minor league players received.
As it became clear that contraction of 42 minor league teams would occur (a group that includes two farm clubs of the St. Louis Cardinals with up to 70 player jobs lost), organizations stepped up their releases of players. That process is not yet complete. Many coaches and staff were let go as well.
Against the backdrop of financial pressure due to closed big-league ballparks and the upcoming contraction, the First-Year Player Draft was dropped from 40 rounds in 2019 to just five this past summer.
Even with all this turmoil, players found ways to improve their skills, whether together or alone. Scouts and player development personnel continued to perform their duties under less than ideal circumstances.
Taking all of this into account, The Cardinal Nation has developed and will roll out our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List for 2021, our 16th annual rankings.
There is a lot new to share.
An important new voice
Change is inevitable here, as well. As we unveil our 2021 Cardinals Top 50 Prospect List, I am delighted to announce a new partner, one who is fully contributing to our ranking and evaluations.
Matt Thompson (Twitter @mdthompFWFB) is the co-founder of Prospects Live and owner of Friends with Fantasy Benefits. The latter is not only home to some excellent fantasy baseball content, their regular podcasts are recognized across the industry.
The core work at Prospects Live is why Matt is here, however. The scouting-focused site not only features various prospect lists of amateurs, by organizations and across minor league baseball, they offer over 1,600 videos of players at every level.
Among his many responsibilities at Prospects Live, Matt leads a team that focuses on scouting and ranking Cardinals prospects, a particular long-standing interest of his.
His expertise in scouting prospects nationally is also important in keeping our Cardinals projections grounded. I am delighted his scouting-driven evaluations are being coupled with our assessments for this project.
The process to set TCN’s new Top 50 for 2021 is similar to prior years. Matt and I separately ranked 60 prospects in the Cardinals system. We then melded our two lists into one, with the consensus 50 best chosen. (Note: Andrew Knizner, Jake Woodford and Rangel Ravelo are considered graduated. We decided to be consistent with the national prospect raters.)
As you will see in our daily countdown of the Top 50, which begins on Monday, November 2, Matt will provide an in-depth scouting report on each prospect, highlighting the five major tools for position players and grades for every pitch offering. These are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, along with an overall assessment of future value, role and risk to achieve it.
My role will be to provide the background of the prospect, his progress in the organization, where he fits against others and his outlook for the coming season and beyond. Following the countdown will be our annual baker’s dozen series of “best-of”, “just-missed” and in-depth analysis articles of the Top 50 collectively. This series will conclude as the arrival of 2021 Instructional Camp will hopefully be just around the corner (which was later unfortunately canceled).
As always, selected prospect reports will be made available to all, but for full access to all 50 write-ups and the following articles, one must be a member of The Cardinal Nation. Join today!
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 15 winters, click here, or you can always access them via the permanent link in the left column located underneath the site logo called “PROSPECT RANKINGS”.
The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospects – 2021
- Brendan Donovan(free)
- Edgar Escobar
- Conner Capel
- Ludwin Jimenez
- Evan Kruczynski
- Evan Mendoza(free)
- Chandler Redmond
- Alex FaGalde
- Delvin Perez
- Juan Yepez
- Justin Toerner(free)
- Jack Ralston
- L.J. Jones IV
- Kramer Robertson
- Alvaro Seijas
- Pedro Pages(free)
- Edgardo Rodriguez
- John Nogowski
- Tommy Parsons
- Levi Prater
- Logan Gragg(free)
- Patrick Romeri
- Andre Pallante
- Alec Burleson
- Ian Bedell
- Julio Rodriguez(free)
- Edwin Nuñez
- Luken Baker
- Mateo Gil
- Edmundo Sosa
- Griffin Roberts(free)
- Tony Locey
- Seth Elledge
- Justin Williams
- Kodi Whitley
- Junior Fernandez(free)
- Malcom Nuñez
- Jhon Torres
- Trejyn Fletcher
- Tink Hence
- Angel Rondón(free)
- Johan Oviedo
- Masyn Winn
- Elehuris Montero
- Jordan Walker
- Zack Thompson(free)
- Iván Herrera
- Matthew Liberatore
- Nolan Gorman
- Dylan Carlson(free)
At the conclusion of the countdown, a multi-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.
Next will be 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 2020 list who dropped off for 2021, a potential-only based-list wrapped up with a tiered-view of the new Top 50.
Top 50 Analysis Baker’s Dozen
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Movers and Shakers
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Newbies
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – The Departed
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – 2020 Picks and Pans
- 2021 The Cardinal Nation Cardinals All-Prospect Team(free)
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers
- 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Best of the Rest
- 2021 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects by Level and MLB Debut
- 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospect Tiers
- 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Top 50 Prospects Ranked by Future Value Only
- 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Top Position Player Prospect Tools
- 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospect Best Pitches
Scouting grading scale and risk
The following table aligns the level of each scouting grade for hitters and pitchers to the comparable future MLB role.
Grade Hitter role Pitcher role 80 Top 5 hitter 1-3 arm. Ace if multiple years 70 Top 10 hitter 2 starter FIP sub 3.00 60 All-Star 3 starter 3.30 FIP (200 IP) 55 Above average regular 3/4 starter 3.70 FIP (160 IP) 50 Average everyday guy 4 starter 4.00 FIP (or 190+ IP) 45 Platoon guy 4/5 starter 4.20 FIP 40 Bench guy Backend starter 5.00 FIP 30 AAAA guy AAAA guy 20 Organizational guy Organizational guy
Behind these basic grades are more detailed scales which help translate player measurements by position types into grades. Examples include average and home run levels and home to first base times for hitters, pop rates for catchers and velocities, strikeout and walk rates for pitchers.
- Risk is another measure included. It indicates the chances a player hits the Future Value scouting grade given.
Now taking 2021 Prospect Guide pre-orders
Now available for pre-ordering, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 200 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.
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