*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. However, you should probably know that I generally put an emphasis on proximity to the majors when doing the organizational rankings.
So, without further ado, Birds On The Black Presents...
THE TOP FIVE SHORT STOPS
Editors note: Kyle dives deeper into his Shortstop rankings with this podcast, available below (itunes podcast and soundcloud)
SIDENOTE: So, the short stop list is weird because most of these guys spent 2018 playing multiple positions. It's also weird because Edmundo Sosa has already made a major league debut. It's also weird because I'm a hack and I don't know what I'm talking about.
#1: Tommy Edman - 23 Years Old - AA & AAA
As you'll see above, Tommy Edman put up matching 108 wRC+ part-seasons for Springfield and Memphis following a 2017 season in which he put up a 106 wRC+ while at Palm Beach. I bring that up first because I believe that’s exactly the type of run-creator that Edman is. He has a very solid contact tool And eye for the strike zone.
In 2018, Edman was given the chance to embrace his eventual major league role as a utility infielder and he didn't disappoint. Edman can handle short stop, and he's come a long way at both second and third. He's ideally suited for short stop in spurts and second if he needs to fill in over long absences from a starter at the next level, though. The fact that he can hit left-handed gives him the chance to be the long-term replacement for Greg Garcia. He's a good minor league fielder, but screams "Average-to-above" at the major league level.
I really like Edman's hitting profile, as well. The Stanford product has a great feel for the strike zone. From the left side, he'll supply modest amounts of power and from the right side you'll see him maintain something around a .280 average. I like that his profile is a little different from each side of the plate, but not so different that he compromises his ability to get on base.
At the end of the Memphis season, Edman was the toughest out in the lineup. I have a feeling that there are going to be times when he is streaking that he'll be hard to get out. He goes down to get the ball better than you'd think on both sides of the plate and that is a large part of the reason why I am so high on Edman at the plate. Good plate coverage with average pitch recognition, average plate coverage, and reasonable strikeout and walk rates are all of the things that I love to see out a utility infielder at the plate.
Tommy Edman is a professional player with intrigue as a league-average hitter and defensive replacement late in games. That's his floor. And a valuable asset, at that.
#2: Edmundo Sosa - 22 Years Old - AA & AAA
If you are only reading the first line of this then I want you to know that there is still plenty of ceiling for Mr. Sosa to reach. As a matter of fact, I'm more on board with Sosa now than I have been in a couple of seasons.
It might not seem like much on the surface, but the 12 home runs and 30 doubles were an awesome development. His AVG/OBP combo with a 20% K-rate leaves a lot to be desired. I do love that the mechanical adjustment that he made during the end of the 2017 season and into the Arizona Fall League paid off in a slugging way. There are plenty of light-hitting middle infielders out there to hang your hat on, but a slick-fielding middle infielder with slugging potential as a utility player is a gift that keeps on giving.
In the .gif below, I want you to take note of Sosa's bat speed. That has been a big development, for me. I don't ever remember seeing his bat work that quickly. It stayed consistently quick in 2018 too, and that's a great development. He's learning to trust the hands and the instincts that put him on the prospect radar and the beginning of his minor league career. He doesn't try to do much with this pitch, but he does let the bat do the work. And, sheesh, does the ball jump off of that bat:
It was nice to see Sosa regain some of his former acclaim in the field during the 2018 season, too. That was one area of his game that had taken a step backwards during the prior two seasons. That he was able to handle all three of the skill positions on the infield without much in the way of a hiccup is a very important development.
I'm excited to see what his 2019 season will look like. Especially with another year of familiarity with the mechanical switch at the dish under his belt. Sosa is currently on the Cardinals' 40-man roster and he could be an important and interesting depth-cog for the big league club next year in a super-utility role while moving back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis.
Sosa does have the contact tool of Yairo Munoz, but he does have the pop and he's prone to displaying a steadier fielding prowess.
#3: Delvin Perez - 20 Years Old - Short Season-A
Delvin, Delvin, Delvin....
You know, I still don't know what to say about the recently-turned-20-year-old Perez. I wanna say that he took a step forward both defensively and with the hustle that he showed on the diamond. I wanna say that the stats are somewhat misleading. I want to stay optimistic and lobby for more patience. However, we are at the point with his development where it's time for him to put up or shut up. I'm at that point with him that I imagine most parents are at with their kids that hate school: JUST GO AND GRADUATE SO THAT YOU CAN GET PAID LATER.
Perez SHOULD be the #1 short stop in the organization and that he undoubtedly isn't is a letdown. Until it isn't, his work-ethic will always be called into question. It appeared that he had turned the corner during the first half of the State College season. Sure, it wasn't the time of corner that you'd want from a former first round pick, but he was hitting 260/353/313 over his first 150 plate appearances of the season.
Again, not much slugging going on (and that'll be a theme moving forward on this list) but it was a statistical improvement and approach that you'd hope for out of a short stop. Especially a short stop who was proving that he could play short daily and get on base, too. Over those first two months, he also carried a high-but-manageable 20.6% K-rate. Sure, I would have liked to see that number smaller, but it was an "OK thing" to deal with as he took a couple steps forward in other aspects of his game.
Unfortunately, it isn't always about how you start, but rather how you finish and August BRUTALIZED Delvin. During the month of August, Perez hit 137/226/137. You'll notice that the batting average and the slug are exactly alike and that's because Mr. Perez failed to get an extra base hit in 106 plate appearances. He was still hustling when reaching the base paths, but he was back to struggling out in the field.
While there were a lot of positives to be gained from the early part of his 2018 season, the way that it ended is cause for more alarm. Perez will start the 2019 season with Peoria more than likely, and he'll need to put his entire game together to not be exposed in the Midwest League. Just like last year, Perez would do extremely well for himself to add a TRUE amount of weight to his extremely lanky frame. Not lean muscle mass that he likes to show his Twitter and Instagram followers, but BULK. As you'll notice in the .gif above, that lanky frame doesn't give him much in the way of lower body leverage at the plate. His swing is all arm-and-slap.
Don't give up on this young man just yet, but understand that the clock is ticking fast.
#4: Kramer Robertson - 24 Years Old - A-Advanced
There are few players in the minor leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals that have the cult following of Kramer Robertson. Sure, a lot of the higher-end prospects (players like Nolan Gorman, Dakota Hudson, Ryan Helsley, Randy Arozarena etc.) are followed closely by the average fan. Yet, Robertson has to be the prospect that I am asked the most about outside of the top tier of prospects. I'd like to think that it's because of his hair, but there really is no telling as to why.
Robertson had a better season for Palm Beach than I've been giving him credit for. Maybe that's because it's most inflated by a month of August that saw him hit 297/418/414 in 135 plate appearances while striking out eleven times and walking seventeen times. Maybe it's because he's currently a second baseman long-term playing short stop. Maybe it's because I'm jealous of his hair. Who knows, really. I was largely dismissive of his season and I just wanted to point that out.
Leading into August, Robertson was hitting 237/319/303 in 398 plate appearances. As you'll notice by both his pre-and-during-August numbers, there isn't much in the way of slugging in his game. That just isn't who he is. That being said, his ability to slug was suppressed a bit by the Florida State League. He finished the season with a slugging percentage of .330. More than likely, Kramer is more of a .370-type slugger. Again, not much more but enough to mention, for sure.
While Kramer is an "all-out" short stop and a lot of fun to watch at that position, there are questions about his arm that force profile long-term into the second base category. There were times during the 2018 season that his arm was definitely stronger than it was in 2017 and that's a great sign. It's going to need to continue to get stronger to stick at short. Like I alluded to, he isn't afraid to get dirty and he's actually a lot of fun to watch in the field.
I'd expect Mr. Robertson to start the year in the hitter-friendly Texas League environment. It should be fun to see how/if those numbers inflate. I'd definitely like to see this quick-twitch and quick athlete incorporate more doubles into his offense.
#5: Edwin Figuera - 21 Years Old - Short Season-A & Full Season-A
Shout out goes to my friend Colin Garner who has always been a fan of Figuera.
It was an unusual season for FIguera. He started the year off in Peoria and played extremely well there to start the season. Not only was he holding his own at the plate to a tune of 304/360/348, but he was doing it while playing a very good defensive short stop.
Figuera's time at Peoria was cut short on May 12th and he didn't get back to baseball until the start of the 2018 short-season with State College. For those keeping track, that means that he was actually playing at a level lower than he did to start the year. That's rare for a player that was as good at the Full Season-A level as Figuera was. Of course, these things happen when a player ends up missing the time that Figuera did due to injury.
While at State College, Edwin transitioned into more of a utility infielder role. Under most circumstances, I'd prefer that a player would stick as short for as long as possible when that player is as good defensively as Figuera is. However, I really like the decision for him. It seemed to really invigorate him. And he continued to hit at the pace that he did whilst at Peoria, so that's a plus!!!
Just like with Kramer Robertson, Figuera is a singles hitter. Unlike Robertson, he's a truly gifted defender at multiple positions. Both Robertson and Figuera also profile similarly offensively because of their out-of-the-box speed. These two gents are full of infield singles:
Right now, there isn't much else to say. It's going to be a lot of fun to see what role Figuera has in the organization moving forward. With tools that are quiet but interesting and an advanced and active skill-set that I wish that Delvin Perez would exhibit, I'm really looking forward to a full 2019 season for Figuera.
NEXT MAN UP
As it stands right now, the short stop grouping is probably the weakest group in the organization. The good news is, the Cardinals took at least one player during the 2018 draft that is very young with a very high ceiling. And he's the son of a former major leaguer to boot! He is...
Mateo Gil - 18 Years Old - GCL
If you are going to take a seventeen year old in the draft, I'd recommend taking one that's athletic enough to play the right side of the infield, but also a good enough pitcher to have a fall back in case the bat never comes around.
And that is exactly who Mateo Gil is.
The third round pick was so highly regarded as both a pitcher and an infielder that some fans were surprised to find out that he was playing the infield to start his minor league career. Reasonably so, because Gil's fastball was clocked in the mid-90's during the showcase circuit leading into the draft.
The Cardinals made the correct move to start Gil's professional career in the infield and at short stop, in particular. There are moments when this teenager looks more than just "the part." He does this by maximizing his athleticism which is off of the charts. The issue with Delvin Perez, up to this point, is that he doesn't have the drive to match his athleticism. Well, Gil absolutely does and that makes him a prospect worth watching. I also love his footwork at short. He just seems to have "it." I really liked the idea of the Cardinals selecting prep short stop Bryce Turang with the 19th overall selection in the 2018 draft had Nolan Gorman not fallen to them. However, as a 3rd round pick, Gil is a FINE secondary option to what Turang does/offers.
Now, keep in mind that he was seventeen when he was drafted and there is still a lot of development to be had. He'll be a "promotion-per-year" player, meaning that it's going to take him awhile to get to the show if he continues down the path that he is currently on. That also means that he needs time and patience to develop.
The son of former major leaguer Benji Gil, Mateo has a bright future ahead of him. After a very good debut in 2018, the patient-hitting and defensively-athletic Gil might just end up being a steal in the draft. He is certainly the projectable, high-ceiling-type player that the Cardinals don't have many of.
Thanks to Fangraphs for the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!