Updated: Nov 27, 2018
*Welcome to the Organizational position rankings!! This is the preface. What I aim to do with this list is show you what the organization looks like beyond the obvious names at the top. As a result, aside from a brief mention at the beginning, players like Patrick Wisdom, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Giovanni Gallegos will not show up on the list. As a matter of fact, any player that has made a major league debut will not show up on the organizational position rankings. This is purposefully designed to be a quick glance of what's going on, so it might seem light on details as compared to what you'll find on the Dirty 35. You'll get more in-depth analysis on these players come February when we do the preseason Dirty 35 rerankings.
You might being asking "how did you get to these rankings?" Well, THAT'S NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS JUST ENJOY THE RIDE. Know that I usually do lean heavy to proximity to the majors when doing the organizational rankings. Sue me.
So, without further ado, Birds On The Black Presents...
THE TOP 5 CATCHING PROSPECTS
Editors note: Kyle dives deeper into the top catching pitching prospects in the St. Louis Cardinal organization with this podcast below, available on soundcloud & itunes podcast.
SIDENOTE: Just to avoid the confusion, Carson Kelly does not appear on this list because he has accrued enough MLB service time in days on the active roster to not be rookie eligible in 2019. Just clarifying. There are other outlets that have yet to realize it so, here ya go.
#1: Andrew Knizner - 23 Years Old - AA & AAA
Statistically, 2018 was a disappointing season for Knizner. After his breakout 2017 season, it seemed like he was poised to steal the reigns of the fictitious and narrow-sighted title of "eventual backup to Yadier Molina" from Carson Kelly.
But that didn't exactly happen. And I'm willing to bet that the young, smart, and extremely talented "Kiz" would be the first person to express his disappointment with his season.
Don't let the numbers and the start of this article fool you, it was still a very good season for Knizner. He spent a lot of time during the season in a weird type of limbo. He was passed up by Jeremy Martinez early on for a promotion the AAA, a promotion that Kiz deserved. Then, a few weeks later, he finally got that promotion and he really excelled. During his first Memphis tour, Knizner hit 333/400/444/844 over 51 plate appearances in 14 games. Knizner deserved to stay, but then Yadi came off of the major league DL and that sent Carson Kelly back to AAA which sent Knizner back to AA.
After the demotion, Knizner never seemed to get going. The right-handed hitter with a habit of hitting the ball into the right-center field gap seemed to lose a ton of momentum. And here is where the true beauty of "Knizner; The Hitter" unfolds. This is what losing momentum looks like for him: Over his last 50 games at AA he hit 301/337/415/752 and had hits in 38 of those final 50 games. That's how good and polished he is.
Sure, maybe when it's all said and done the best option moving forward for Kiz is to have him playing a corner infield position to get him to the majors quicker. I will say that his defense behind the plate seemed to take a tiny step backwards during the season. At the end of his turn in the AFL in 2017 he seemed like he'd be able to stick at catcher. But this year was brutal for his measurable defensive skills. Of course, it's not worth selling off on this extremely smart and hardworking young man yet. My guess is, he'll right the ship faster than he took a step back.
Knizner has become prisoner to the Cardinals handling of Carson Kelly and that is a shame. The Cardinals owe it to both themselves, Kelly, and Knizner to find a more permanent home for both of those gentleman. The way that I'd like for it to happen is with Kelly as Yadi's backup and Knizner playing catcher every day for Memphis, but only time will tell how it will really shake out. I'm ready to see what a AAA regular Andrew Knizner can do over a full season. Spoiler alert: It's going to be good. And never forget that Knizner wins anyway, because he's dating a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.
#2: Dennis Ortega - 21 Years Old - Full Season-A
It turned out to be a very good season for Ortega, and the Cardinals desperately needed that from him, from an organizational perspective.
We've spent a lot of time talking about who is going to replace Yadi when his career comes to an eventual end (probably in 2025). Will it be Carson Kelly? Will it be Andrew Knizner? Well, if he keeps up the development that he showed in 2018, Ortega makes way more sense on the timeline. Between Ortega, our "Next Man Up", and the next player on the list, the Cardinals have interesting options in reserve, at the very least.
Ortega has that "it" factor that you want out of catcher. You can tell that he is a team leader-type, at least in spring training when I watched him in the backfields. There, Ortega had a commanding presence as compared to the other minor leaguers. Ortega is a really good defensive catcher that has managed to get a little better behind the plate each season. His size and skill set remind me of where Carson Kelly currently is. That's to say, Ortega might currently be on par with what we've seen from the major league version of Carson Kelly.
During the Midwest League All-Star game, Ortega threw a runner out at second by about 1,000 steps off of a ball in the dirt that most catchers would have no business even trying to gun down to second. Now, he isn't consistently this good and consistency is going to be the big point of emphasis for him moving forward, but the skills are all there.