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So here we are, the final Minor League Preview of the offseason, and just in time for pitchers and catchers. It’s been a long grueling road that spanned four months, two writers, and countless late nights, study, and pizza rolls. Only punk rock pizza rolls, none of that commercial shizz! All of this has led us to today, and your payoff….THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS!!! Okay, so it’s not that exciting, unless you like far away hitting specs, and loads of floorbored material arms. As far as I know the Cards Floorboreds do not cause cancer, but the same can’t be said about the Angels. As for the St. Louie’ system, they’ve certainly churned out their share of high end talent over the years, and 2015 was no different. As the Redbirds graduated two top half of the order type bats in Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. I still can’t help but think that 2015 should have been the year of Oscar Taveres. My prospector eyes still weep for Oscar. Regardless, there’s still plenty to be aware of in the higher and lower levels, and a couple of beachy specs too! No not Brandon Beachy, because then their arms would be falling off. The Cards leave that to the northern most birds, the Blue Jays. Ha! Prospector humor kills me!! Let’s take a look at the St. Louis Cardinals Prospects, shall we?

 

2015 Graduates
Randal Grichuk | Stephen Piscotty | Tommy Pham

 

Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings

Alex Reyes, RHP |Age: 21 |ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: RK/A+/AA
2015 Stats:
101.1 IP, 2.49 ERA, 4.4 BB/9, 13.4 K/9

From a non-baseball perspective Reyes background is one of the more out there stories of the spec universe. He’s from NJ but moved to the Dominican Republic in 2012 to gain international signing eligibility. I mean hey it worked out the guy signed for $950k back in 2012. Since then, he’s done nothing but throw heat and chew up batters, posting double digit K/9 totals at every level. Things were moving along for the righthander, until a failed drug test for Marijuana during the Arizona Fall League ended his season and delayed his 2016 until May. Off field issues (?) aside Reyes posses ace level stuff. A grade 80 fastball that tops out at 100, paired with a plus plus 12-6 hammer curve, and a plus change in the high 80’s makes Reyes’ arsenal quite frankly duuuuurty. Seriously it’s so filthy I removed the i and replaced it with multiple u’s. The one knock is the control can be lacking, but that’s common with young hard throwers. He’ll still pile up K’s and force grounders at a better than 50% rate, and that my friends is the perfect prospect pitching makeup.  He should be up late this season if all goes well.

Jack Flaherty, RHP |Age: 20 |ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: RK/A
2015 Stats:
95 IP, 2.84 ERA, 2.9BB/9, 9.2 K/9

Travel with me if you will to a magical place known as Harvard-Westlake High where future 1st round spec arms flock like the birds of Capistrano. This place is real, and in 2012 it produced Lucas Giolito and Max Fried. The third baseman on that 2012 team was a sophomore by the name of, you guessed it, Jack Flaherty. Unlike his predecessors Flaherty doesn’t have electric stuff, he gets by on pitching acumen, and location. He’s able to get sink, cut, and run on his fastball. His secondary offerings are a plus change, and average slurvy breaking ball. The ceiling here is top of the rotation guy, but his polish sets the floor at mid-rotation arm.

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Tier 2: Floorboreds

Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.

Tim Cooney, LHP |Age: 25 |ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats:
88.2 IP, 2.74 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 6.4 K/9

If not for a mid-season appendectomy Cooney would be listed at the top of the page with the graduated specs. He’s 25, so he’s older for a prospect, but the lefty college standout moved quickly up the minor league ladder after leaving Wake Forest. He mixes 5 pitches, and uses his plus plus change to make them all work. He’s got a very good chance of landing a back of the rotation spot with the Cards in 2016.

Marco Gonzales, LHP |Age: 24 |ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
2015 Stats:
80.2 IP, 4.69 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

A year ago all the cool kids were on the Marco bandwagon, and who could fault them. He had made quick work of the minors in 2014. Spending as much time in the majors as the other three levels he visited in his first full season of pro ball. 2015 was a very different story, derailed by a shoulder injury he was passed by the aforementioned Cooney and toiled in AAA. Funny thing is he’s not that different from Cooney, in the sense that he’s a lefty with middle of the road stuff that gets by on mixing pitches and relaying heavily on a changeup. Should also be in play for the back end of the Cards rotation this year.

Luke Weaver, RHP |Age: 22 |ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats:
105.1 IP, 1.62 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Got to love a scouting report that compares a players build to Tim Hudson, and then compares his actual pitching to Jered Weaver. In other words this guy is the pitcher in the minors least likely to ever be drafted by Grey. He’s another college arm much like Gonzales and Cooney, but his fastball is superior. Weaver does the little things well like field his position etc, and he could be in line for some major league time in 2016 if things go right. A good arm to consider in deep dynasty leagues, where high floor specs hold top value. He’s worth noting if only for his twitter handle @DreamWeava7.

Sam Tuivailala, RHP |Age: 23 |ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats:
45.0 IP, 1.60 ERA, 5.2 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Bullpen-philes listen up, we could be talking about the Cards future closer here. A converted third baseman, that’s earned callups in consecutive seasons looks to make a mark in 2016. Wow, that opening sounded like a personal ad for Sam Tuivailala. A big fastball with sink that touches 100, and some minor league experience closing. The problem is a true secondary pitch and a general struggle to throw strikes. Though he did find some success with a cutter last year, and it will be interesting to see how he’s developed over the offseason.

Oscar Mercado, SS |Age: 21 |ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats:
513 PA, .254/.297/.341, 4 HR, 50 SB, 4.4% BB, 11.8% K

A 2013 2nd rounder Mercado has taken some time to develop, spending his first season and a half in rookie ball before matriculating to class A Peoria for the 2015 season. There he showed off superior base stealing skills, swiping 50 bases in 69 attempts. His lack of defensive chops could land him in center and his non-existent power limits him as a hitter, but a SAGNOF he could be. It’s good to know your SAGNOFS.

Others: Charlie Tilson, Carson Kelly, Aledmys Diaz, Austin Gomber, Paul DeJong 

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Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.

Edmundo Sosa, SS |Age: 19 |ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 223 PA, .300/.369/.485, 7 HR, 6 SB, 7.1% BB, 17.0% K

The 2012 Cardinals International signing class is a budding legendary haul as players like Reyes, Sierra, and Sosa work their way up to the big leagues. Sosa in large part, is the least discussed name of the bunch, but he projects to be a fantasy worthy bat at shortstop. He brings the ability to hit for average, solid on-base skills, and average power. In fact he sounds a lot like the Cardinals current shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

Magneuris Sierra, OF |Age: 19 |ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK/A
2015 Stats: 429 PA, .259/.304/.327, 4 HR, 19 SB, 6.0% BB, 21.9% K

A speedster with an above average hit tool, and gap power, Sierra is one of the buzziest names over the past couple of years. He’s still quite young at 19, and showed his age this season at low A Peoria where he struggled mightily. Following a demotion to Johnson City, Sierra found his stroke and hit .315/.371/.394. He’s a ways away but the hope is for a 5 tool fantasy star with category winning speed.

Nick Plummer, OF |Age: 19 |ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rookie
2015 Stats: 228 PA, .228/.379/.344, 1 HR, 8 SB, 17.1% BB, 24.5% K

A young outfielder with with a polished hit tool and a refined approach, Plummer went 23rd overall in this past summer’s draft. He intially struggled in his first taste of pro-ball, but he has the skill set to be a well rounded fantasy hitter providing both average and power.

Junior Fernandez, RHP |Age: 18 |ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 57.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.8 K/9

A righthander that touches 100 on the gun with U.S roots that signed as an international, yeah they got two of these guys. Go figure? Fernandez flashed plus K potential at high A Palm Beach with a 10.2 k/9 in 51 innings last season. He matches the heater with a double plus change and average breaking ball. Raw is an understatement but the ceiling is number 2 starter or high leverage reliever.

Harrison Bader, OF |Age: 21 |ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level:A/A+
2015 Stats: 258 PA, .311/.368/.523, 11 HR, 17 SB, 5.8% BB, 18.9% K

A 3 year star at Florida, Bader kept hitting once he jumped to pro-ball. The third round pick slashed .311/.368/.523 while leading all 2015 draftees with 11 homers. He’s everything you’re looking for in a young hitter, he works counts, takes walks, and makes solid contact. He’s also not shy on the bathpaths stealing 17 bases as well. Lots been made about Willie Calhoun being the jewel that escaped the first two rounds, but it might be Bader.

Others: Bryce Denton, Jake Woodford, Sandy Alcantara, Ronnie Williams, Allen Cordoba

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Minor League Preview Index

 

   
  1. Jensen says:
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    For the record, most cardinal’s scouts would consider Reyes’ change-up his second best offering based on potential. It’s not as pronounced yet, but he has shown a much better feel and delivery on his change-up than the curve.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Jensen: Initially when he was being scouted before signing that was true, but over the past two years his curve has passed it. Baseball America graded the curve a 65 and the change a 50.

  2. Tehol Beddict says:
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    What does ur mother charge for a blowjob ?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tehol Beddict: I don’t know. What’s your going rate?

      • J-FOH says:
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        I would of asked why he pays for blow jobs. Does he not have the skills to get them for free?

  3. Manny says:
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    Correcting your note on Harrison Bader, because for the record Virginia won the 2015 College World Series and not Florida. It was the Florida softball team and not baseball that won the 2015 title as they went back-to-back and are currently the prohibitive favorite for a 3-peat in 2016. The Florida baseball team however finished 3rd in 2015, although they are also #1 in 2016 and the favorite to win it all this year as this year’s roster is absolutely stacked. I had to point this out as my love for fantasy baseball is second only to my love of all-things Gator…

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Manny: Damn! I didn’t double check and trusted my gut. I’ll make the change.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Manny: Fixed! Thanks again.

  4. The great Knoche says:
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    Nice work. Are you taking over all minor league questions going forward or is Mike just on hiatus?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @The great Knoche: I’m the man you want to see.

    • And Now The Jon Lovitz Dancers! says:
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      @The great Knoche: Mike didn’t say for sure he was coming back…. said it was life stuff he had to take care of.

  5. Connor says:
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    I’m almost done with my startup dynasty draft and I have 13 minor league bats and Giolito. Is this bad?

    I swear I wasn’t *really* trying to avoid arms but they just kept getting swiped unreasonably high.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Connor: That’s a good approach, I usually go bat heavy, and try and pluck a high end arm or too early. Bats develop earlier, and usually hold more trade value.

    • And Now The Jon Lovitz Dancers! says:
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      @Connor: a top 3 prospect pitcher alleviates a lot of the depth issues. a lot of these guys don’t end up being great, the higher up the list you go the more likely they do.

  6. Yescheese says:
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    Paul DeJong gonna rocket up this list. Cards had a nice draft last year. I freaking hate the Cardinals…

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Yescheese: They really did! So many solid players across multiple rounds.

  7. Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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    ok, so we’re in the 2 round snake predraft draft. this was done as a stopgap against to ensure EVERY owner has a chance at prospects in our Yahoo (this was main problem, as they just added some of the most recently drafted names, and a LOT of the old ones weeks ago, mazara/brinson/devers etc) FRONTF’ING LOAD(of shit)ED 16 team dynasty league roto with total bases and K/BB added with net saves + holds replacing saves, net steals replacing steals, QS replacing wins, and OBP replacing AVG. start 1 of each hitting spot with 2 utils, start up to 6 RP (which i do pretty much all the time) and 2 SP (4 P slots so on heavy SP days RP get benched). 7 BN, most of those SP of course. 1500 innings max. 5 NA and 5 DL slots. in this 2 rounder (turns out our comish is actually very good, while even though he didn’t tell 12 owners about how he invited 3 guys to replace the worst teams on premise it’s a front loaded draft, once this was known and became an issue he allotted this 2 rounder before keepers were due to alleviate concerns a team might keep like 12 and draft 4/12’s of best prospects just in yahoo or something) if we draft anybody we have to have them as keepers 3 days later (can be traded before, and dropped/traded after); 25 max guys kept 3 days post this draft. i’m 13th.
    C sal perez
    1B rizzo
    2B kipnis
    SS none yet
    3B bryant
    LF d.peralta
    CF ellsbury
    RF JD mart
    Util delino
    Util none yet
    NA JP crawford/dahl
    SP cole/liriano/pineda/fiers/heaney/buchholz/ryu/wheeler
    RP giles/watson/romo/a.miller/britton
    NA stephenson
    that’s 24 guys. we’re on pick 9 and swanson/snell/mazara/reed were drafted, 2 major league types in castellanos/k.hendricks (standard FA’s), and 2 guys haven’t shown up even with 8 hours time per pick (this could be they just wanted to not have to keep anybody they could draft but it’s more likely they just aren’t responding to emails). with this roster and those gone I am gonna pick 1 prospect and maybe nobody else, or if i do draft anybody else i’d have to either drop one of above, make a 2-1 trade with only 3 days to do it, or i guess if somehow rodgers is around at 13th (i’m guessing less than 10% chance of that) take rodgers and try to trade or drop JP crawford, and draft 2nd round. due to front loading i’ll be better off keeping those 24 and my best prospect and draft no one else in front loaded standard snake draft since my only “pick” would be at 3rd to last anyway. anyhoo, does this list look bout right?
    rodgers/benintendi/g.torres/bregman/devers/brinson/barreto/mateo/albies/phillips/alford
    mcmahon/contreras/d.smith/rosario/robles/guerra/adames/wall?
    tell me also if these assumptions are wrong
    1. with that roster i’ll just forego adding any prospect pitchers (till waivering/FAAB on some to fill NA slots, maybe, post draft) since any team with 2 starting hitter holes needs to grab best depth in that first
    2. clearly my roster might be best served by having SS depth (including prospects), but, that being the case, do you have all of those above better than JP crawford?
    3. are there any other names i’m missing from your list that comes out sunday (i’ll just miss being able to use this in this draft). these are already owned (all the completely obvious names that were in yahoo last year assume are owned) along with n.williams, margot.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: 1. Agree
      2. No Crawford is the best fantasy SS in the minors with the shortest ETA, excluding Seager
      3. Victor Robles

      • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: robles is in that list (maybe he’s not high enough) i had him 16th inbetween a.rosario and guerra.

        ok on crawford, i’m seeing (and heard others, Rudy at least) mention JP Crawford as much better D player than hitter. i’m seeing his tools being good in hit/speed (but not elite in speed), but bad power, with 60/45/50. he is ranked like 5th by MLB.com, but with those tools that’s looking D based (or ETA based). that very same site has arcia/swanson both with 60/45/60 yet has him behind Crawford. closest guy with those tools would be bregman/barreto at 60/50/50, even Torres slightly higher at 60/45/55 (years off though). he does appear clearly better than mateo (other than speed) he’s 55/45/80. it’s of course possible you see crawford having more power than this.

        • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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          @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: got the brinson vs benintendi choice at 13th overall. rodgers went as late as 11th. not easy.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: I wouldn’t call Crawford an all D guy. He’s got a good bat and should develop some solid power. Home park doesn’t hurt either. I’d take him over any of the guys you mentioned. D is important at SS for fantasy prospects because it means they’ll stick at the position

          • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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            @Ralph Lifshitz: ok, got brinson. will stick with crawford (was likely to unless i somehow got a better SS). got another pick in 4 picks (only 2 guys to pick though before me again)
            . anybody that i draft here i have to keep, meaning i’ll have to drop wheeler for him (still have 7 SP without wheeler). i’ll either take
            1. benintendi (if he’s there not likely)
            2. best out of vince velasquez/f.martes/a.espinoza/fulmer (WSOX)/tate (TEX). who you got best here.

            • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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              @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: or could of course grab another bat, but for this year that would still leave me with 2 starting hitter holes post draft and short wheeler too. thinking benintendi is in fact worth that, not sure how much others might be (have dahl/crawford/brinson stashed of course)

              • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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                @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: good god, benintendi IS here, and since i started with so much weaker hitting in the first place (2 hitter holes) think i can’t pass this up, it’ll mean more streaming this year.

                • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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                  @Montezuma’s Revenge… right now: only issue is i’ll have 3 of these coming up next year (possibly), so roster crunch in OF’ers with possibly tendi/brinson/dahl/delino/d.peralta/ellsbury/jd mart for 5 spots. talent of course dicates it.

              • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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                @Ralph Lifshitz: thanks, i might be lucky enough to grab one of those arms later, maybe. espinoza just went, good to know order on the other three. i just tried to sell ellsbury + britton + tapia to guy for cain + strop. no bite. he asked about closers britton and giles but he wanted both only.

  8. John Baker says:
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    Because of the little problem Reyes has gotten himself into, I put Flaherty and Weaver ahead of him. Gomber, Bader, Tuivailala and DeJong are nipping at his heels. Where’s the love for Danny Poncedeleon and Chris Chinea? Longshot specials: Juan Herrera-Danny Diekroeger-Collin Radack and Breyvic Valera. Time will tell.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @John Baker: He got caught smoking weed, they shouldn’t even test this guys for it. I wouldn’t discard a potential ace over that. Especially when his ceiling is significantly higher. With that said I like both Flaherty and Weaver.

      Poncedeleon is pretty meh, he’s 24 in A ball with low K/9 totals.
      Chris Chinea hit okay in rookie ball, he’s a 17 rounder so he’s a real deep league guy. If he shows well he could make the list next year.

  9. Clint says:
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    I was wondering about Marco Gonzales because at the beginning of last season, he was talked about in the same vein as C-Mart but this offseason, all I hear about in terms of Cards’ pitching prospects seems to be Alex Reyes. This, despite the suspension of Reyes to boot. I find it kind of weird no one’s looking at Gonzales as a potential bargain snatch in dynasty or keeper leagues.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Clint: I was pretty adamant last year that Martinez would win the rotation spot, and then the shoulder injury sapped his ability to make pitches so the callup went to Cooney. He’s got some things going against him this year. First with the addition of Leake and return of Wainwright, you’d need an injury to Garcia for a rotation spot to open. Now that injury is certainly likely at some point but even then you have Cooney ahead of him, and arms like Weaver and Flaherty, and eventually Reyes in tow. Any of that trio could play a role down the stretch late in the year.

      At this point I’d be looking for a trade out of St’ Louis if I owned Gonzales.

      • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: he’s out of options too so their possible plan to bring him up when needed and sent back down is out the window. it’s why they’re having to keep lyons up now too. if they don’t think one of those other guys mentioned are ready to start in case of shorter term injury they’d possibly use lyons again as SP #5.

  10. Fungazi says:
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    In a 12 team, keep 6 with no penalties league, who would be the NA stash most likely to become a top 50 bat in 2017? The Correa/Sano type from last year that had enough playing time to establish this.

    My rank: Mazara, AJ Reed, JP Crawford, someone else?

    Thanks

    • And Now The Jon Lovitz Dancers! says:
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      @Fungazi: that’s a good list, tomorrow i’m thinking Dr. Lipshitz’s list will likely mesh with this.

  11. S.H says:
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    Ralph my man. In a 12 team head to head dynasty league with usually between 30-40 keepers, would you do Archer and Gallo for Urias and Heyward.? Thanks again

  12. goodfold2 says:
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    ok, got 1.420,997 million left for last week of bidding. only players i would have any interest in are
    m.gonzalez (MI/CI/OF) and dietrich (CI/OF),
    or one of these RP:
    yimi, salas, jeffress, morin, o.perez, howell, cedeno. some of those i likely won’t afford at all (yimi, jeffress likely for sure)
    or one of these SP:
    shoemaker, colby, roark, garza, ERV sant. it’s even more likely i can’t afford ANY of those.

    roster now
    C d’arnaud
    CI beltre
    CI howard
    MI segura
    MI alcides
    OF a-jax
    OF rosario
    OF altherr
    Util leonys
    BN smoak, c.perez (starting catcher for minimum deal), k.johnson (CI/MI/OF)
    SP liriano, sale, quintana, morrow, hellickson, petit (waiting for roark to fail since he’s worse pitcher than petit or injury)
    RP melancon/n.jones/d.hernandez/fien/l.hendriks/rj alvarez
    BN urena (MIA)
    If i want dietrich or marwin i’d drop k.johnson and get back .714 (i’d be eating the other .714, bidding done in multi week sessions makes for weird decisions), meaning i’d have 2.134997 now to bid with to attempt to get 1 hitter and 1 RP. I know you mentioned dietrich having better power, but since i already have smoak backup CI i thought the extra MI of k.johnson had value (marwin also has this)
    1. stick with k.johnson or grab one of marwin/dietrich?
    2. if i get a RP i’d have to either drop rj alvarez/urena (both on long deals at minimum, 4 and 3 years) OR drop a prospect for sending alvarez down. alvarez does appear to be going to minors to start year. which prospect is the drop if so? (i’ll ask ralph as well)
    30 prospects i have 1 C, 6 CI, 4 MI, 7 OF, 8 SP, 11 RP, and 1 SP/RP (staumont, just drafted by KC)
    weakest prospects are:
    h.lee MI (ex TB, recently traded i think to SF, he’s been awful or hurt for 2 years)
    m.ynoa RP WSOX (used to be a big deal SP prospect)
    m.cabrera RP ATL
    j.sherfy RP ARI (but i know he was really good 2 years back and is likely nice set up man)

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