Updated: Nov 26, 2017
**For the introduction of what we are doing here and how we are doing it, click on THIS LINK**
THE GUYS YOU KNOW
RHP Alex Reyes: Age 23 - Missed 2017 Due to Tommy John Surgery
PROSPECT GRADE: A-
You know Alex. you love Alex. Alex loves you. Probably. I'm guessing.
Plus fastball. Plus curveball. Plus changeup. And when I say "plus" I mean potential to be *at least* "plus".
Now let's all hold our breath that he doesn't get traded and he comes back from Tommy John Surgery throwing darts like he was when he captivated us at the end of 2016. He's as good as it gets from a prospect stand point, and the only thing that stops him from being an A or A+ prospect is the TJ surgery recovery question. You just never know, ya know?
RHP Jack Flaherty: Age 22 - 5 Starts, 0-2, 21.1 IP, 6.33 ERA, 20 K, 10 BB, 1.574 WHIP, 5.27 FIP
PROSPECT GRADE: A-
DO NOT SOUR ON JACK FLAHERTY.
Often, when a prospect struggles upon their first taste of the majors fandom will jump off of the bandwagon like it's on fire and headed for a cliff side. I implore you not to do that with Flaherty.
Alcantara is a beast, Weaver is polished, Hicks has limitless potential, and Alex Reyes is as exciting as they come, but Flaherty is the only one that checks all of those boxes. Also, don't forget that one year ago he was falling off of top 10 lists and some were profiling him as a back of the rotation arm, at best.
Flaherty took note of that, redidicated himself to pitching, and took the minors by storm. A pitcher dressed by the same cosmetic counter as Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, Flaherty has every tool needed to pitch his way into the same conversation with those Cardinals greats. The A- prospect grade that I've assigned to him is probably a little too bullish and probably resembles something closer to a B+, but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to.
*Flaherty's stats are for the majors only*
THE TOP 5
1. RHP Sandy Alcantara: Age 22, Double-A - 22 Starts, 7-5, 4.31 ERA, 125.1 IP, 106 K, 54 BB, 1.43 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE: B+
OK, So I'm taking liberties with this one. Alcantara only pitched 8.1 innings after his September call up and most of those innings came when the game didn't matter and you had already turned the TV off in frustration with either Al Hrabosky or Rick Horton. There for, you don't really know him, ya know?
Alcantara dials it up to 100+ with a complementary changeup that can be really dynamic and a sinker that can be absolutely brutal on hitters, the only thing that Alcantara is missing is command. At times, it accurately looks like he has no idea where the ball is going upon being released from his hand and that's more normal for him than it isn't and that's concerning.
At times, Alcantara's 100+ MPH fastball can flatten out and that's problematic. As we all know by now, it doesn't matter how fast you throw in today's baseball if you can't locate and your pitch doesn't have movement. Hell, Sandy's turn at Double-A proves that. By all accounts he should have dominated there, but he didn't.
Still, the talent is there, the stuff is there, and the way that he pitched at the end of his turn in the Arizona Fall League(and the end of the Double-A season) was impressive enough for me to table some of those concerns.
Also, Joe Schwarz wrote a terrific piece on Sandy's change up and repertoire. Give it a read HERE!
*Alcantara's stats are from the minors only*
2. Jordan Hicks: Age 21, A+ Palm Beach - 19 Starts, 8-3, 2.74 ERA, 105 IP, 95 K, 45 BB, 1.34 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE: B+
Jordan Hicks is the prospect de jour right now. You won't find another prospect in the system that is getting the same hype and generating the same amount of buzz as the 21 year old Hicks. And that's for good reason.
First, look at this kid. He looks like a pitcher. He isn't huge, but he's tall enough and he's stout:
While he lacks consistency with his pitches, he possess a fastball that gets up into the 100's with ease. He also possesses one of the, if not THE best, curveballs in the organization(honestly, I would have said it was his easily, but I just watched a bunch of video of Austin Gomber throwing his video and I had forgotten how dynamic it can be).
Hicks struggled at the on-set of the Arizona Fall League, but he really came into his own and was pitching dominantly and with authority by the end of the AFL.
I was really impressed watching Hicks pitch out of the pen for Palm Beach at the end of the season and I feel confident when I say that his future, AT THE VERY LEAST, is that of a dynamic pen arm. But at 21 with only 34 career appearances underneath his belt and a repertoire that should be envied, the sky is absolutely the limit for him.
3. RHP Dakota Hudson: Age 23, Triple-A - 25 Starts, 10-5, 3.42 ERA, 152.2 IP, 96 K, 49 BB, 1.28 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE: B
I'm going to keep it short but pointed with Hudson.
Nothing would surprise me less than to see him creep into top 100 prospect lists by the mid part of the season. He has the best slider in the organization and he was often pitching to contact in the minors. That's fine and dandy and it helped him progress quickly through the system, but he has the potential to be a strike out pitcher. I expect those strike outs to come in 2018 and, even more, I expect Cardinals fans to be clamoring for a promotion to the major league club by July.
4 RHP Ryan Helsley: Age 23, Triple-A - 23 Starts, 11-3, 2.72 ERA, 132.1 IP, 137 K, 48 BB, 1.15 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE B
At one point I had Helsley second on this list, but I'm trying to work through my obvious bias towards Helsley and this is how I course correct.
Earlier in the month Helsley went from a relatively unknown but totally unappreciated prospect to #10 on Baseball America's top 10 prospects in the Cardinals system. If you've been following me, you know that I've had Helsley in my top 10 for the last 3 seasons. "Why?", you might be asking. Weill, the abridge version is because, first, he's build like a damn horse:
Second, his delivery is just wonky enough to create deception. Third, because he can dial up the head with an explosion out of his hand that mimics a fastball but is more of a heat seeking missle. Fourth, he has the most underrated pitch arsenal in the system with a deceptive changeup(that still needs work), an average/leaning above average curveball, and cutter that's a work in progress, but can be devastating when he's commanding it.
The only thing stopping Helsley from being first on this list is he loses hitters way to often after he gets ahead of them. If he can fix that and iron out that changeup then you are looking at a potential front-of-the-rotation-but-more-than-likely-middle-of-the-rotation-with-high-leverage-bullpen-innings-as-a-fallback righty.
5. LHP Austin Gomber: Age 24, Double-A - 26 Starts, 10-7, 3.34 ERA, 143 IP, 140 K, 51 BB, 1.17 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE: B-
Somewhere along the lines during the 2017 season Gomber lost some of his flare as a prospect and that doesn't make any sense to me at all. His stuff is still good (Look at that slurvy-thing below), he's still pitching with the same intensity, and he had a great finish to the season at Springfield.
The hitch in his delivery is beautiful and deceptive and it helps him pitch up, that is to say, better than his stuff already is.
Gomber did get off to a rough start in 2017 and he was hammered in his first start. Then, just a month or so later, he suffered an injury that set him back a little further. As I mentioned above, he ended so strong and he definitely deserved a promotion to, at least, Memphis to end the season, but he didn't get it. Initially I had Gomber's prospect grade as a C+, but if there's one thing that the Marco Gonzales for Tyler O'Neill taught us it's that left handed starting pitching with a plus secondary offering is mucho valuable on the market, more valuable than a C+ rating.
In a system full of pitching prospects, Gomber is the standout lefty with huge stuff and an equally as big personality. When he makes it to the majors, I full expect him to be a fan favorite.
NEXT MAN UP
RHP Zac Gallen: Age 22, Triple-A - 26 Starts, 10-8, 2.93 ERA, 147.2 IP, 121 K, 35 BB, 1.17 WHIP
PROSPECT GRADE: C+
At the start of the 2017 season Gallen was the forgotten man of trio of pitchers taken in top 10 rounds of the 2016 draft. A group of Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones, and Gallen.
Funny that Gallen was the first of the group to reach Triple-A. Baseball, ya know?
Gallen is an extreme control pitcher that rarely walks anyone. As a matter of fact, the only time that you'll ever see him walk anyone is when he isn't trusting his stuff the way he should. We saw that in his first taste of Springfield and Memphis, but we also saw him regain his confidence in his pitches and pitch outstanding at those levels.
Gallen had a rough end to the 2017, which is to be expected from a player that pitched 50%+ additional innings on top of his career high during his 2017 campaign. So much of Gallen reminds me of what I saw from Kyle Lohse all of those years ago when he was making his way through the Twins organization(I always forget that Lohse was drafted by the Cubs. Crazy world). Hopefully he stays on that track.
Thanks For Reading!
For a recap of the top 5 OF in the organization, click HERE!