Updated: Nov 29, 2017
**For the introduction of what we are doing here and how we are doing it, click on THIS LINK**
THE GUYS YOU KNOW
Magneuris Sierra: Age 21, MLB - 60 AB, 19 H, 0 Doubles, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 2SB/2CS, 14 SO, 4 BB, 317/359/317/676
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: C+
Again, I'm going to keep in short in regards to the players that you know, but I want you to know that, to be contrarian to Baseball America, Sierra is absolutely the best defensive outfielder in the organization. That might change as Oscar Mercado gets more seasoning and consistency in the outfield, but right now it's Sierra. That being said, If Sierra were on the top 5 list below he'd be 5th on that list. Currently, he doesn't have any type of offensive profile. He doesn't take enough walks or steal enough bases to utilize his plus-speed and he doesn't hit the ball often enough or hard enough even when he squares up a ball. He's still only 21, so maybe he'll grown into it(odds are against it)?
You know him, you love him, you probably over-value him.
Harrison Bader: Age 23, MLB - 85 AB, 20 H, 3 Doubles, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2SB/1CS, 24 SO, 5 BB, 235/283/376/659
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: B-
The ultimate grinder, Harrison Bader should never have been able to stick in center with his skill set. Yet, there he is doing it well enough to grade out as average. He definitely isn't afraid to go all out for a ball:
The most obvious comp to Bader is former Cardinals prospect James Ramsey. What gives Bader the edge is his brain and his underappreciated athleticism. If he were on the list below he'd probably be 2nd because he's already made a major league impact and he's ready to fill in at a moments notice, Now, if we were talking about potential alone he would ultimately be fourth because he's too aggressive at the plate, he hits sliders like Randal Grichuk does, and the minute he looses a step he becomes a below-average hitting left fielder.
*The stats for both Sierra and Bader are MLB only stats*
THE TOP 5
1. Tyler O'Neill: Age 22, Triple-A - 146 AB, 37 H, 5 Doubles, 1 Triple, 12 HR, 39 RBI, 5SB/0CS, 43 SO, 10 BB, 253/304/548/852
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: B+
First, I've decided that I'm only going to provide you with Tyler's stats as a member of the Cardinals organization. It's well known in the industry that the Mariners have compromised their prospects to varying levels. It wasn't until Alex Jackson was freed from the organization for him to thrive and rebuild his stock. After an up and down 2017 season, I wouldn't be surprised if O'Neill has the same kind of stock-restoring success during the 2018 season as Jackson did in 2017. I want you know how he did once he got away from that environment.
O'Neill is the most unique and important prospect in the entire organization. He's the only hitter with the upside of a super star and he's the only player capable of hitting for enough power for it to send the fan base into fits of excitement.
A hero of Canada, O'Neill is widely regarded as one of the best power hitters in the minors. There are some serious flaws in his game, namely his two strike approach. The other thing with O'Neill is, even though he played CF down the stretch and has played a solid RF during his minor league career, he is a prototypical LF and there isn't a problem with that.
2. Randy Arozarena: Age 22, Double-A - 428 AB, 114 H, 32 Doubles, 4 Triples, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 18SB/7CS, 87 SO, 40 BB, 266/346/437/783
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: B
There's a triumvirate of Cardinals prospects, led by Arozarena and accompanied by Andrew Knizner and Ryan Helsley, that I like so much and that I am so high on that I might not be able to view them objectively. Oh well...
As talented as Randy is, he's also a high energy, high hustle player. He made headlines all over baseball when he turned an infield pop up into a triple during this heads up play:
Arozarena can be one of the most electric prospects in all of the minors. It could even be argued that he's the most athletic prospect in the entire system. He had a weird season in which he struggled at first in Palm Beach (I hate the Florida State League) but then turned it on in the mid-part of May and crushed the Florida State League. Next he received a promotion to Springfield and mashed at first, but then proceeded to struggle again at the end of the season.
So far, "Arousalrena" has been pretty good in the Mexican Fall League, flashing the same power/speed/athleticism that puts him second on this list. One thing worth noting: he's been way better as a LF then as a CF in both the field and at the plate. He's one helluva LF, too.
3. Jose Adolis Garcia: Age 24, Triple-A - 445 AB, 129 H, 34 Doubles, 2 Triples, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 15SB/9CS, 108 SO, 33 BB, 290/340/476/817
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: B
I'm so drunk on the potential of Randy Arozarena that I've put him one spot ahead of a prospect that is almost as athletic and further along in his development than Randy is. Jose Adolis Garcia(get used to reading JAG, because that's what I refer to him as almost exclusively) has easily the best Outfield arm in the organization. He's also built like a brick-outhouse (you know what I wanted to say there). Take a look at where this moonshot lands:
There's never been a more prototypical RF to play for the Cardinals in the minors. The problem with JAG is that he's still trying to figure out what kind of a hitter he wants to be. A former MVP in Cuba, his struggles in the minor leagues of the Japanese League are alarming, even when you consider that he was going through a culture shock while so far away from home.
Some times JAG is all swing and miss and sometimes he's all hard contact. He is working on that consistency and you could see that work paying off towards the end of the season. I'm really looking forward to JAG's 2018 season.
4. Oscar Mercado: Age 22, Double-A - 477 AB, 137 H, 20 Doubles, 4 Triples, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 38SB/19CS, 112 SO, 32 BB, 287/341/428/769
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: C+
There isn't a prospect in the organization that did more for himself in 2017 than Oscar Mercado.
By now you've heard the story, I'm sure; a top draft pick and former top short stop prospect that was all but written off at the age of 22 before a position change turned him into a center fielder and helped to restore his standing in the organization.
The thing about Mercado is that, although an overall success, his 2017 season was a tale of 2 seasons: pre and post shoulder injury. Before the shoulder injury he was in total rake-mode, but afterwards he really struggled to make solid contact. The good news is that he's been pretty good in the Arizona Fall League, but the bad news is that he's been good with relatively little power. He's taken a ton of walks, though, and that's a great thing to see from him.
Mercado made waves earlier in the month when Baseball America named him the best defensive outfielder in the organization. Accolades of all types are great, but Mercado is still a kick behind Sierra in my book. He still does some weird things out there, things that you'd expect to see from a player new to the position. That said, it isn't far fetched to think that Mercado could supplant Sierra for that superlative by the end of the 2018 season
5. Dylan Carlson: Age 19, Single-A - 383 AB, 92 H, 18 Doubles, 1 Triple, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 6SB/6CS, 116 SO, 52 BB, 240/342/347/690
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: C+
The stat line is really rough for Carlson, but the stat line only tells lies in this case.
Carlson was drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 draft and spent the entirely of that season playing in the GCL at the age of 17. That season wasn't the best, but he came on strong at the end of 2016 and he showed the organization enough to warrant an extremely aggressive and rare promotion to Peoria to start the 2017 season.
The switch-hitting Carlson is much better, at this point, from the left side of the box than he is the right. He's still so young and a relative novice in pro-ball, but we might be talking about a young man that's better suited to stick as left-handed only hitter. Take a look at this swing:
The stat line above tells you just how much Carlson struggled at that advanced level. Struggles aside, I know that the organization was impressed with what they saw out of Carlson this season. I've heard John Mozeliak, Gary LaRocque, and Michael Girsch all talk about how impressive he was while playing in a league that he was three and a half years younger than, on average.
Carlson does fine in the outfield and he has the potential to really excel in either of the corner positions. However the organization has a huge hole at first base and the 6'3, 200 pound switch-hitter is a prototypical first baseman in every sense of the word. It will be essential for Carlson to add a little bit of bulk to his body and his body could/should easily add 20 pounds. There's a lot of power in there and when he gets the chance to play against equal talent he's going to punish it.
THE NEXT MAN UP
Chase Pinder: Age 21, Rookie Level JC - 169 AB, 54 H, 9 Doubles, 1 Triple, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 5SB/3CS, 39 SO, 31 BB, 320/442/438/880
CURRENT PROSPECT GRADE: C-
Yes, I am deliberately picking Pinder over Scott Hurst and Jonatan Machado (DGoold exlpains the spelling of Machado's first HERE) and, yes, I am a bigger fan of Pinder's future than I am of Hurst's. Let me explain:
I think Pinder has a better chance of staying in centerfield and I think that the consistent improvements that he made over his career at Clemson are telling. He's capable of making plays like this on a regular basis:
By the way, that's a grand slam that he robs here.
Most of Scott Hurst's draft value comes from a helium-high Junior season that saw him blow up offensively. I've been really impressed with Hurst, but there's something about Pinder's game that I think is both: a) sustainable and b) improving. I was very high on Andrew Knizner entering the 2017 season because I saw a tight swing path, a good approach, and maturity to his game. I see a lot of those similar traits in Pinder. I'm probably going to look like a fool in one-year time wit this one.
I'm also pumping the breaks on Machado because his arm is so below average right now that it's scary. Also, he's still so far away. If there's one thing that Magneuris Sierra's great GCL season in 2014 has taught us it's that you shouldn't get too invested or excited about a really great season in the GCL. 2018 will be a better season to evaluate Machado.
One final note here: I'm still not giving up on Bryce Denton. He received consideration here, as well, but I'm giving it to Pinder for now.
Thanks For Reading!