St. Louis Cardinals' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2015

St. Louis Cardinals' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

0 of 12

    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The once-stocked Cardinals system isn’t as strong as previous years, though that was to be expected after the team graduated Kolten Wong and Carlos Martinez to the major leagues last season and tragically lost a future star in Oscar Taveras.

    Outfielder Stephen Piscotty didn't come into the system with a lot of hype but has really turned into an excellent player; dude can flat-out hit, and he’s likely to get his first crack at the major leagues in 2015. 2012 second-round pick Carson Kelly made significant strides in his ongoing transition from third baseman to catcher, while outfielder Charlie Tilson staked his claim one of the team’s top position prospects.

    As usual, the Cardinals’ system is also loaded with high-ceiling arms in the lower levels of the minors. 

    Alex Reyes, a 20-year-old right-hander, has the best arm in the group behind a projectable 6'3", 185-pound frame, but he’s still learning how to harness his outstanding stuff and throw strikes. 2014 first-round pick Jack Flaherty opened eyes in his professional debut after signing, making it clear why the Cardinals seemed designed their draft strategy around landing the prep right-hander.

    Southpaw Marco Gonzales, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, excelled toward the end of the regular season and well into October, and it’s hard to see him not receiving strong consideration for a rotation spot next spring. Meanwhile, Rob Kaminsky, another undersized left-hander, has polish and a hammer breaking ball to complement an above-average fastball, both of which served him well last summer in his full-season debut at Peoria. 

    Here are the St. Louis Cardinals’ top 10 prospects for 2015.

How They're Ranked

1 of 12

    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age versus level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach, strike-zone management, pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present versus projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity, up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery, arm speed, release point
    • Age versus highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present versus future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

2 of 12

    Magneuris Sierra, CF

    Malik Collymore, 2B

    Jacob Wilson, INF

    Sam Tuivailala, RHP

    Oscar Mercado, SS

10. Carson Kelly, C

3 of 12

    Position: C

    DOB: 07/14/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2012 (Westview HS, Oregon)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4555406550

    Scouting Report

    Kelly returned to the Midwest League last year and had another respectable offensive campaign, batting .248/.326/.366 in 98 games, all the while making important strides behind the plate.

    The 6’2”, 200-pound right-handed hitter has a powerful swing thanks to above-average bat speed as well as his strong wrists and forearms. He eliminated a lot of the pre-pitch movement with his hands he showed in 2013, although it did lead to some minor issues with extension and weight transfer. Kelly doesn’t walk or strikeout often, instead making lots of hard contact across the field.

    The Cardinals converted Kelly from third base to catcher last year during the fall instructional league, and so far, the 20-year-old has made the most of the transition. The overall profile is understandably raw given his inexperience, but Kelly’s aptitude and capacity to make adjustments, in addition to his obvious tools and athleticism, could make him an average defensive backstop at maturity.

    Ceiling (Overall Future Potential [OFP]): 55 (solid-average regular)

9. Luke Weaver, RHP

4 of 12

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/21/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Florida State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60506055

    Scouting Report

    An inconsistent spring at Florida State saw Weaver nearly fall out of the first round but not before the Cardinals could grab him with the No. 27 overall pick.

    The 6’2”, 170-pound right-hander lacks an efficient delivery, but it’s consistent, and he’s always been able to make it work thanks to his strong frame and athleticism. Weaver’s fastball consistently registered at 88-92 mph last spring, but he’s been known to bump as high as 97 mph in the past. His combination of downhill plane and arm action produces good sinking action and some arm-side run that makes the pitch difficult to barrel.

    Weaver’s slider is presently a below-average offering and the weakest in his arsenal, and it doesn’t project as a swing-and-miss breaking ball at maturity. The right-hander’s changeup flashes plus potential with good arm speed and finish, while the pitch’s 78 to 81 mph velocity range offers nice contrast to his fastball.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (no. 4 starter) – High risk

8. Randal Grichuk, OF

5 of 12

    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/13/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2009 by Angels (Lamar Consolidated HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4555455555

    Scouting Report

    Grichuk went from odd-man out with the Angels in 2013 to become a big leaguer with the Cardinals the following year, as he batted .245/.278/.400 in 47 games—not including the postseason—while playing all three outfield position.

    The 23-year-old’s top tool is his plus raw power, and his ability to apply it in games has seen increased utility in the last two years in the form of back-to-back 20-plus homer campaigns. However, Grichuk’s bat likely will continue to be exploited by quality secondary stuff from right-handers, as his aggressive approach and pitch recognition create too much swing-and-miss.

    On the other side of the ball, Grichuk is a clean fit in either right or left field; he’s a solid-average defender with good arm strength, but his problems with hitting right-handed pitching likely will keep him from an everyday role.  

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular) – Low risk

7. Tim Cooney, LHP

6 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/19/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Third round, 2012 (Wake Forest)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 7

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCutterCurveballChangeupControl
    5050505555

    Scouting Report

    Cooney’s strikeout rate took a hit last season at Triple-A Memphis, but beyond that, it was another consistent and successful showing for the 24-year-old left-hander.

    The 6’3”, 195-pounder features a fastball that sits in the low 90s with late run to the arm side, and he’s adept at attacking hitters on both sides of the plate with the pitch. His cutter represents another advanced offering, registering in the upper 80s with consistent glove-side slice.

    Cooney’s changeup is arguably his best secondary offering and tends to play up thanks to the deception in his delivery and fastball-like arm speed. The pitch projects to be at least average, and he already has impressive feel for using it in relation to the heater.

    Cooney also has a curveball in his arsenal, though it’s noticeably his least advanced offering and doesn’t project to be more than a serviceable option at best at the highest level.

    While his pure stuff pales in comparison to the other arms to come through the Cardinals’ system in recent years, Cooney does know how to pitch and exploit hitters’ weaknesses. The secondary arsenal leaves something to be desired—especially in regard to his breaking ball—and will need refinement as he continues to climb the organizational ladder.

    However, his combination of handedness and command should at least be enough to get him to the major leagues in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (no. 4 starter) – Low risk

6. Charlie Tilson, OF

7 of 12

    Position: OF

    DOB: 12/02/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 175 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (New Trier HS, Illinois)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 10

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5040605560

    Scouting Report

    Charlie Tilson, the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2011, missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he’s improved in all facets of the game over the last two seasons and resuscitated his prospect stock in a big way. The 22-year-old spent most of 2014 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he batted .308/.357/.414 in 89 games before moving up to Double-A Springfield.

    The left-handed hitter has sneaky top-of-the-order potential, with a line-drive swing, mature approach and plus speed. His bat speed is slightly above average, but it plays up due to his feel for working counts and using the entire field. The level nature to Tilson’s swing isn’t conducive for hitting home runs, bit his above-average speed should help him amass plenty of doubles and triples.

    Tilson’s speed and strong defensive skills should give him a chance to stick in center field, as he’s an explosive athlete who gets excellent reads and can close on the ball in a hurry. His above-average range plays up thanks to his instincts, while his below-average arm is still suitable for a career in either center or left field.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – Medium risk

5. Jack Flaherty, RHP

8 of 12

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/15/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Harvard-Westlake HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2019

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5550605555

    Scouting Report

    Flaherty’s stock had some serious helium leading up to the draft, but he still lasted until the Cardinals with the No. 34 overall pick. Well, the 19-year-old right-hander already looks like a potential steal, as he as finished his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League with a 1.59 ERA, four walks and 28 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.

    At 6'4" and 205 pounds, Flaherty has a durable frame with quiet, simple mechanics that enable him to explode toward the plate with a quick arm. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball that’s going to miss bats, but he understands how to pitch off the heater, sitting around 90-92 mph with it and occasionally touching one or two miles higher.

    There's average potential with both of Flaherty's breaking balls, although his slider is likely to serve as the better offering at the highest level. He also shows good feel for his curveball but must learn to repeat the right release point. Flaherty's changeup is easily his best weapon, as it’s an above-average offering that flashes plus with late fading action that leads to a lot of swings and misses. 

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter) – High risk

4. Rob Kaminsky, LHP

9 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 09/02/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 191 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (St. Joseph Regional HS, New Jersey)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60705555

    Scouting Report

    Left-hander Rob Kaminsky, the No. 28 overall pick in the 2013 draft, enjoyed an impressive full-season debut at Low-A Peoria. He paced all Midwest League pitchers (with at least 100 innings) with a 1.88 ERA and held opposing hitters to an overall batting line of .194/.266/.251 over 407 plate appearances.

    The 20-year-old southpaw didn’t miss as many bats as expected this season, but his pure stuff and ability to attack hitters suggests that will come with experience. Either way, Kaminsky’s handedness, present feel for pitching and lack of physical projection could have him moving quickly toward starting next year.

    Kaminsky’s fastball sits at 88 to 92 mph and he’ll top out around 94, while his smooth and balanced delivery causes the pitch’s velocity to play up. The pitch lacks significant movement, but Kaminsky commands it to both sides of the plate against right- and left-handed hitters, and he isn’t afraid to attack under the hands.

    The left-hander’s curveball is a potential plus-plus offering; it’s a power breaking ball with tight spin in the 78-82 mph range, excellent pace and late downward bite, thrown from same release point as his fastball. Kaminsky uses his changeup sparingly, though he does have an early feel for turning it over to create late fade and sink.

    In general, Kaminsky has the potential for plus command of his three-pitch mix, while his high baseball IQ gives him knowledge of how to sequence his offerings.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65/60 (No. 2 or 3 starter) - High risk

3. Marco Gonzales, LHP

10 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 02/16/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Gonzaga)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5550507060

    Scouting Report

    Gonzales, the Cardinals' first-round pick from 2013, scuffled during his initial call-up in June, posting a 7.07 ERA over three starts. The left-hander returned to the major leagues in September and basically dominated, posting a 2.70 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 16.2 innings, while his success extended well into October.

    Gonzales, 22, may be undersized at 6’1”, 195 pounds, but he’s an outstanding athlete with a clean and consistent delivery as well as superb command and pitchability. The left-hander’s fastball sits comfortably in the 88-92 mph range, and he sustains velocity deep into starts. His advanced command and smooth delivery allow him to sneak up on opposing hitters, while the pitch itself features some arm-side action.

    Gonzales throws a curveball and slider, and he has a feel for when to add/subtract with both pitches. He throws a tall variation with consistent shape and pace in the mid-70s to go along with a tighter version with better rotation and more downer bite in the 78-82 mph range.

    The southpaw’s changeup is easily his best offering, as he’s comfortable throwing it for a strike in any count but also understands how to use it to expand the zone. It’s a plus-plus pitch that he turns over nicely at 75-78 mph with significant arm-side fade.

    Expect Gonzales to compete during spring training for a spot in the Cardinals’ Opening Day starting rotation.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55/60 (No. 3 or 4 starter) – Low risk

2. Alex Reyes, RHP

11 of 12

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/29/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2012 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70655550

    Scouting Report

    Reyes was all over the place this year during the first half of his full-season debut, as the 19-year-old’s stuff and performance varied from start to start. However, he eventually settled in and flashed his enormous upside over his final 10 starts, posting a 2.48 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 24 walks in 54.1 innings. Reyes finished the year ranked fifth in the Midwest League with 137 strikeouts. The right-hander was difficult to barrel (.207 BAA) and consistently missed bats (11.3 K/9), but his lack of control was a season-long problem and resulted in 58 walks (5.02 BB/9) in 109.1 innings.

    When he’s at his best, the 6’3”, 185-pound Reyes works comfortably in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball and will run it up to 97-98 with ease. Reyes’ long arms allow him to create a sharp downhill plane and achieve serious extension toward the plate, in turn making his fastball difficult to lift.

    His curveball is filthy and only going to get better, as he throws it with power from the same release point, creating tight spin and devastating two-plane break. It’s a legit swing-and-miss offering with outstanding pace that he can also throw for a strike early in the count.

    Reyes’ changeup lags behind his fastball-curveball, as expected, though his feel for the pitch steadily improved over the course of the 2014 season. In general, it has the potential to be a solid-average pitch at maturity, possibly even more.

    The sky is the limit for Reyes, whose pure staff ranks among the best in the minor leagues. However, given his inconsistent full-season debut, there’s clearly a lot of work that will need to be done for the right-hander to approach his lofty ceiling.

    Ceiling (OFP): 7 (No. 2 starter) – High risk

1. Stephen Piscotty, OF

12 of 12

    Position: OF

    DOB: 01/14/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Stanford)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6050506555

    Scouting Report

    Piscotty continued to hit this season at Triple-A Memphis, batting .288/.355/.406 with 41 extra-base hits, but never showed the in-game power that many were expecting to see in his second full professional season.

    The 23-year-old is a smart hitter with a mature approach and consistently uses the whole field, stinging the ball from line to line. The right-handed batter demonstrates patience at the plate as he works deep counts and waits for specific pitches, and he rarely cheats himself by chasing secondary pitches out of the zone.

    Piscotty has plenty of gap power, with at least 40 extra-base hits in each of the last two seasons, but he lacks the power frequency commonly associated with a first-division corner outfielder.

    Piscotty's speed may be only average, but it plays up on both sides of the ball thanks to his impressive athleticism. A third baseman in college, Piscotty’s athleticism and high baseball IQ helped him make a smooth transition to the outfield in 2013. He profiles as an above-average defender in right field with plus arm strength, and he gets consistently good reads off the bat and takes direct routes.

    Piscotty’s hit tool and solid defense will get him to the major leagues in 2015, but it’s the ongoing development of his in-game power that will determine whether he reaches achieves his projected ceiling of an above-average player.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division player) – Low risk

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X