Wait, what? This doesn’t look like Halph…SIGH, yucky words from Ralph. TL;DR…. Now that we got that out of the way. Yes, this Saturday you get yet another verbose, yet informative minor league rundown from Prospect Jesus himself. Not to worry, we just flip-flopped days, your weekly dose of the prospect podcast is coming tomorrow. Today we dig into the useful but always a little boring St. Louis Cardinals system. Only this time we got some sweet sweet muy caliente at the top of the system, with at least 4 members of my forthcoming Top 100 (dropping February 22nd Shameless plug). With Alex Reyes on the cusp of the major league stardom, and Luke Weaver and Harrison Bader not too far behind, the future remains bright in “The Lou”. Isn’t it always? Seems one generation leaves, and another comes up right behind it. Death, taxes, and the St. Louis Cardinals player development machine just keeps rolling along. It should come as no surprise that the 2016 draft yielded yet another strong crop of players including wunderkind Delvin Perez, and personal favorite Dakota Hudson. Not to worry there’s plenty more to discuss, and a lot of good names to be cognizant of for dynasty league managers. So off we go, let the trumpets blow and hold on because the driver of this mission is a pro. The Ruler’s back. The Top Cardinals Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Alex Reyes, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Tommy John Kills Dreams, out for 2017 Season
Originally a high school third baseman from Elizabeth, NJ, Reyes moved to the Dominican Republic his senior year of high school to live with his grandmother in hopes he’d be discovered. Instead the tall righthander discovered his own raw pitching ability, and the rest as they say is history. After barely sneaking under his limits last year, Reyes has blossomed into the top pitching prospect in the game, surpassing Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, two pitchers ranked higher this time last year. Reyes brings to the table two double plus pitches, a devastating high 90’s to triple digit fastball, and a 70 grade curveball, as nasty as any in the game. He mixes in an average change, that he’s shown increasingly better feel for each season, and uses effectively to play up his two plus plus offerings. It’s already been announced that Reyes will be a part of the Cards rotation, and he’s certainly a frontrunner for NL rookie of the year.
Luke Weaver, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
A 2014 first round pick out of FSU, Weaver returned from a broken wrist to his non-pitching hand in 2016, and pushed his way to the majors by mid-August. Blessed with number two starter upside, Weaver mixes a mid-90’s fastball with an above average change, as well as average curve and cutter offerings. He throws all of his pitches for strikes, and pounds the zone frequently with double plus control. His swing and miss stuff is present, exemplified by his high K per 9 totals between AA and the majors last season. If he can continue to refine his approach and improve the depth and spin on his curve we could be looking at a very nice one-two punch with Reyes. Should start the season in AAA Memphis with a short path to the majors when needed.
Harrison Bader, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
After a very good collegiate career with the Florida Gators the Cardinals took the outfielder in the third round of the 2015 draft. Upon his first taste of pro ball Bader immediately impressed, hitting 11 homers and leading all 2015 draftees. He followed up his strong debut with an impressive showing in 2016, despite an aggressive assignment to AA Springfield. There Bader slashed .286/.350/.491 with 13 homers and 9 steals in 318 at bats, before being promoted to AAA Memphis in early July. After struggling in AAA, Bader was demoted back to AA in late August and finished out his season there, adding three more homers and a couple steals. Bader returned a month later in the Arizona Fall League and impressed once again hitting .304/.349/.430 with 2 homers and 4 steals for the Desert Dogs. More than likely Bader should see assignment to AAA Memphis out of camp with a chance for promotion to the majors by June or July. He poses across the board above average offensive skills, with many scouts seeing him as a future lead off hitter. Needs to improve his plate approach a bit, and he’s not the most efficient base runner (13 caught stealing in 26 attempts).
Delvin Perez, SS | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: Rk
After dropping due to a failed PED test the Cardinals showed once again why they’re playing chess when other teams are playing checkers, snatching Perez up with the 23rd overall pick in the first round. He responded by hitting .294/.352/.393 with 12 steals in the Gulf Coast League as a 17 year old. His combination of hit tool, speed, and natural fielding ability give him one of the top 5 upsides in last year’s draft. If the PED stuff bothers you, I’ll gladly take Perez when he drops, and hope the juice is still flowing through his blood stream.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Jack Flaherty, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+
A former high school teammate of Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, Flaherty is neither’s equal as a pitching prospect. After ranking highly on many Cardinals lists a year ago he tumbled off a few top 10’s most notably Baseball America’s. While he brings a starters build, three above average offerings, and plus control, he’s struggled to put it all together to cement his place as the top arm behind Reyes in the system. Still not one to forget about, and certainly wouldn’t be dropping him.
Carson Kelly, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
Possibly the most gifted defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Kelly a converted third baseman has studied under the tutelage of current and former Cardinals backstops Yadier Molina and Mike Matheny. While I could go on and on about his receiving skills, game calling, and pitch framing I won’t. I’ll simply say that he’s an excellent defensive catcher and leave it at that. At the plate which is all we really care about for our purposes Kelly is an above average hitter with good bat to ball skills, and average power. Should spend most of the season at AAA Memphis but make no mistake he is Yadier’s heir.
Paul DeJong, 2B/3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
An unheralded power bat from the 2015 draft, DeJong hit 9 homers in his first taste of proball. He then handled an aggressive assignment to AA well, connecting for 22 more longballs. He has a quick bat, puts the ball in the air and uses his pull side approach to get the most out of his average raw power.
Austin Gomber, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
One of the breakout pitchers of the Arizona Fall League, Gomber works off his rainbow curveball, and plus control. He’s one of those prospects where his production outpaces his scouting reports and leaves you scratching your head as to why he’s not more universally liked. Never going to be a superstar, but has a chance to surpass the “5th starter” tags.
Others: Marcos Gonzalez, Andrew Morlaes, John Gant, Connor Jones, Ronnie Williams
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Sandy Alcantara, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A
A big righty with an upper 90’s fastball that could touch triple digits, that mixes an above average change, and a fringe curve. He’s not without bullpen risk, but not due to a lack of innings, as he’s proven quite durable so far. Alcantara’s biggest question marks come in the form of his mechanics repeatability often leading to his fastball working too high in the zone and the walks coming. If he can tighten up his mechanics he has top of the rotation upside, if not he may end up a high leverage reliever.
Magneuris Sierra, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
A smooth fielding athlete with good bat to ball skills, Sierra showed better in his second run at Midwest League with Peoria. He has a quick compact left handed swing more designed to hit singles than for power, though he has the legs to make that work. Stole 31 bases in 2016 which was a career high, but he’s not exactly efficient as a base stealer having been caught 17 times. If Sierra is to take the next step, and put his skillset to it’s best use he’s going to need to improve his pitch recognition skills and ability to take a walk.
Edmundo Sosa, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A-
A smooth-fielding shortstop with a solid bat, Sosa struggled at times last year in the Midwest league with Peoria, before rebounding somewhat upon promotion to the Florida State League. He’s never going to be a power hitter, but he’s shown impressive understanding of the strike zone at earlier stops in his career. Not the most exciting prospect for fantasy but one to be aware of in deeper setups.
Dakota Hudson, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: Rk
Hudson was one of my favorite arms in the 2016 draft, and I had him going much earlier than he was taken in my mocks. Then again my mocks were based on sense and reason, unlike the actual MLB draft. Here’s what I wrote about Hudson in my first year player draft rankings. “The arm strength and projectability of Hudson has been well known since his time as a Tennessee high school talent. However, he opted to attend Mississippi State, where he honed his plus 94-97 MPH, and nasty cutter/slider breaking pitch. He mixes that with average change and curve offerings, but throws all four for strikes. With a durable frame and deceptive, if not bizarre delivery. He’s one of those players, where you read the scouting reports and wonder, “why didn’t he go earlier”. Scouts are bat shizz, that’s why.”
Junior Fernandez, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A-
Alas a small righty your Uncle Ralph does not like. A player a had a great deal of hope for this time last year, but he’s shown no ability to throw strikes or really do anything but just throw as hard as he can with his eyes closed. Great baseball name though.
Eliezer Alvarez, 2B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A-
A heady hitter with a clean balanced swing from the left side, Alvarez implies an all fields approach. By far Alvarez’s top tool from a fantasy perspective is his baserunning ability. He’s no burner, but his advanced instincts mean he’ll always steal bases at every level.
Randy Ar(r)ozarena, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: N/A
Another Cuban lotto ticket with little game reps since 2014, so it’s tough to project or know just who Ar(r)ozarena is. Hell, I have to put an R in parenthesis because I’m not sure of the correct way to spell his name even. What I’ve heard is he’s a gap to gap hitter with above average speed, and the ability to play multiple positions.
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