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?
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.
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.
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.