*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. But, for the sake of the organizational rankings, I usually put a weird amount of emphasis on proximity to the majors.
So, without further ado, Birds On The Black Presents...
THE TOP FIVE SECOND BASEMEN
Editors note: Kyle dives deeper into the second base prospects in the St. Louis Cardinal organization with this podcast below, available on soundcloud & itunes podcast.
1: Andy Young - 24 Years Old - A-Advanced & AA
I love Andy Young. Having a chance to interview him during the 2018 season was just a nice little cherry on top of how I already perceived him as a prospect.
Andy Young is also a tale in how players slip through the cracks. In high school, Young was the best player in the state of North Dakota. Now, baseball happens during a small window in North Dakota and players generally go unnoticed by scouts. Because of this, Young had to go the JuCo route before finding his way to Indiana State University. It took Young a little time to find his groove there, but by the end of his senior season he was raking and playing multiple positions.
Then, he had to wait until the 37th round to hear his name called in the draft.
Fast forward to now and you see a player that has wrapped up playing in the most prestigious fall league that baseball has to offer. Not only did he play in that league, but he did it impressively. The national services are starting to take note of Andy Young. He was a snub from the AFL "Fall Stars" roster and more than just the local sycophants noticed. Andy Young is starting to have a cult-like following and I, for one, couldn't be happier.
Upon entering the organization, Young was instructed to work on a leg kick for a timing mechanism at the plate and that's been the big difference for him. It's what has allowed him to incorporate power into his beautifully-direct and quick swing with tremendous leverage. Because of the mechanical adjustment, Young's K rate was high in 2017. However, in 2018 we really saw him settle into it while developing into a more complete hitter.
Young is still defining his offensive profile, but it appears to be getting better and better. He was held back at Palm Beach this past season for wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too long and it actually slowed him down, but you saw the true player that he can be with his time at Springfield. It was a smaller sample size, but it was more indicative of the type of hitter that he is. I do believe that the strikeout rate will go up just slightly, but I also believe that the walk rate will follow the strikeout rate upward.
Young is a solid but unremarkable defensive second basemen that gets to everything that you'd want him to, and a little more, with a solid arm. The question now, just like it was during the 2018 season, is "will opportunity and position logjam ahead of Young allow him the chance to truly thrive beyond the AA level, which is where he should start the season?" We'll have to wait and see.
#2: Ramon Urias - 24 Years Old - AA & AAA
Obviously, if you look at the stats, Urias was just too good for Double-A. The utility IF that spent most of his time at second really struggled at AAA, though. That's an obvious concern, especially for a player as highly decorated as Urias is on the International stage.
But those AAA numbers are cumulative (Duh, Kyle), and they only tell part of the story.
Injuries elsewhere forced Urias to start the year at AAA and the mouth of the PCL really chewed him up and spit him out. In a sample size that can be best described as “minute” 17 Plate Appearances during limited duty, Urias struck out six times while walking three times and getting one hit.
His second taste of AAA was longer/more substantial and a step in the correct direction, but it was still worrisome. That time, in 57 plate appearances over 22 games, Urias hit 259/286/500. As you'll notice, the slug was there, as he hit three home runs and four doubles. He also only struck out 11 times. Now, that still put his strikeout rate over 20%, but manageable. He was being too aggressive in counts and that's why his AVG/OBP was behind.
I do really like his swing and timing at the plate. His hands stay back and his hips really work well in conjunction with his small-and-unpronounced lower-half timing mechanism.
His third turn at Memphis is really when you start taking note. From August 7th to August 24th and spanning 55 plate appearances, Urias hit 352/364/444 with three XBH and nine strikeouts. Urias was also working deeper into counts, even though it wasn't evident on the stat sheet.
So, what I'm getting at is Urias got better with each stint at AAA and that's a BIG positive. It's something that gets me really excited for his 2019 season. The skills are there. The bat is there even if the glove can be suspect at times.
Urias is an interesting prospect with an International pedigree that helps flesh out a bat-first middle infielder. Needless to say, I was relieved that he was protected by the Cardinals from the Rule Five draft.
#3: Max Schrock - 24 Years Old - AAA
2018 couldn't have gone any worse for Mr. Schrock. What makes me laugh is, the guy who doesn't really ever strike out managed to strike out less in 2018 than he did in 2017 but at a higher level. That's as about unique as you'll find in the system.
What I liked most about Schrock's 2018 was the positive steps that he made defensively. The big question with Schrock was how/if he'd ever be a good enough defender at second. If he continues what he showed in the field during 2018 then the answer is a loud "yes, he will stick." Schrock ranges extremely well to his right and his arm is stronger now than I ever remember seeing it. He's come a long way with turning the double play, as well. This isn't a double play below, but it's an amazing and ranging play.
2018 got the better of Schrock the hitter because of how much contact he's capable of making. That's because of his plate coverage, as shocking as it might sound. There's a very good chance that Max is just too good at making contact with everything. He's rarely fooled and you can tell that he hates striking out, and because of that he gets ultra-aggressive late in counts. This means that he isn't swinging with authority as often as he should be. It also means that he is putting together a lot of defensive at-bats, which means that sometimes the tool is working against him and not for him.
As much as 2018 was a step back for Schrock, I fully expect an offensive rebound in 2019. When the season is all said and done, I suspect that we will see a statistical output somewhere between his 2018 season and we saw out of him at AA in 2017. I have no doubt that is the type of hitter that Schrock is and will continue to be as he makes his way to the majors. Time will tell what organization that'll come in, as Schrock was not added to the 40-man roster and is now exposed to the Rule Five Draft.
#4: Nick Dunn - 21 Years Old - Short Season-A & Full Season-A
Putting Dunn right next to Schrock is, perhaps, fortuitous. The two players are pretty similar in both profile and stature. Plus, they both swing left-handed. The fifth round pick out of Maryland is certainly a name worth keeping an eye on. I love it so much when the draftees make an immediate impact!
The best way to describe Dunn is to just say that he's solid and move on. Sure, that's not sexy or excitement-inducing, but it's the truth. He's a solid second baseman. He's a solid hitter with a short swing and solid feel for the strike zone. He doesn't chase often. He has a solid base for developing on top of. At his worst, he'll be solid organizational depth. I'm not kidding, the kid is just solid. This is about as solid of an approach that you can have with two strikes, and that's what Dunn does/is:
But there is plenty more to build on, including a ton of athleticism. As a 21 year old that just started his professional career, the sky is the limit. I'm apprehensive about trying to over-sell a player that might be all floor and no ceiling, but I just want you to leave this write up knowing that there really isn't much to say about him at this point. He was a great fifth round selection and his pro career got off to a great start in 2018. Now, let's see what he can do during a full-season turn with Peoria to start the 2019 season.
#5: Wood Myers - 24 Years Old - Full Season-A & A-Advanced
Speaking of organizational depth, the fifth prospect on our list is that to a "T." Where as there isn't much to say about Dunn because it's still so early in his career and he's so young with such a projectable profile, there isn't much to say about Myers because he doesn't really do much of note other than, just, BEING a great organizational player.
As I write that, I kind of feel like I'm bashing him, but I really hope that it doesn't come across that way. Like Danny Diekroeger or Danny Hudzina or Blake Drake before him, Myers is just a really great player to have around. He's a smart player who understands the fundamentals of baseball perhaps better than any other player that we'll talk about. He also plays the game with that intensity that Cardinals' fans love so much. He's the kind of player that hardly makes a mistake.
I love this home run. Just more proof that even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Myers has virtually no power. Still, he gets one here:
Myers is the perfect organizational soldier and if you had to pick a player currently employed by the Cardinals in the minor league system to be a minor league coach in five years, it'd be Myers. In the mean time, enjoy the steady-but underwhelming production and excitement that he brings to whichever affiliate he's assigned to and thank him for being the mentor-type to younger players.
NEXT MAN UP
Luckily for me but unfortunately for the organization, there aren't many additional second basemen to decided from. That, and I REALLY like our next man up. So, that fella is....
Donivan Williams - 19 Years Old - Rookie Level-A
I think that Williams can be best described as "an eye-catching prospect." There were times/spurts during the 2018 season when it really looked like the teenager was about to take off. I almost put him in the midseason Dirty Thirty-Five, but eventually decided that he'd be on the outside looking in.
From the start of the short season, from June 19th until August 4th, Williams hit 281/370/438/808 with four home runs and five doubles in 138 plate appearances. It seemed like the 10th round pick in 2017 was about to announce his arrival in a big way, much like Wadye Ynfante did in 2017.
But Williams hit 192/293/269/563 over the last 22 games of the season to finish the season on a sour note. This happened, mostly, because pitchers worked ahead of him in counts then put him away with breaking pitches. It's worth noting that this struggle isn't an uncommon struggle for players as young and inexperienced as Williams.
What was interesting and uncommon about Williams was his reverse split success. Against right-handers as a right-handed hitter, Williams hit 269/364/425. Against left-handed pitchers as a right-handed hitter he hit 154/233/154/386. I'd expect this to average/level out over the next season, but it was definitely something that I wanted to mention.
Williams is an extremely athletic player that is very similar to former Cardinals farmhand Malik Collymore. He'll need to work to get his strikeout totals down, but the gains that he made during the first half+ of 2018 have me optimistic for a solid, if not breakout, 2019 season.
Thanks to Fangraphs for their statistical contribution!
Thanks For Reading!!