Updated: Jan 11, 2018
Starting on January 28th my friend Colin Garner from The Redbird Daily and I will be putting together our list of the Top 30 prospects in the Cardinals organization. It's a true treat, but it's an exhausting task. As I write this article, under a month before the listing is to begin with prospect #30 on January 28th, the back 17 prospects are a tough group to rank because it gets weird after prospect 13 for me. You could rank group 14-20 any way and 21-30 (maybe even 40) in any order, as well. The top 13 prospects have been easier, but only to the smallest degree. I've probably gone through five different drafts of that group. For me, the top 5 is pretty straight forward. Six through ten is less clear, but still a very strong group of prospects.
Then you have (spoiler alert) prospects 11 and 12, not respectively: Randy Arozarena and Jose Adolis Garcia (I'll be referring to him as "JAG" from here on out, or until Jose Ortiz calls me a racist or whatever). These two corner outfielders have left me stupefied in my ranking-pursuit. Every time I do another draft of my top 30, these two players switch spots. I hate myself.
"So, instead of internalizing this decision like I normally would, I'm going to work this out right here in front of you. It's going to get messy, so, as Towelie from South Park would say, "Don't forget to bring a towel"!"
MANCRUSH x1000. I've got it baaaad for Arozarena. I'm aware of my bias towards Randy, and it haunts me. When I watch Arozarena I see pure excitement. He's a 5'11, 180 pound ball of stout athletic-energy. The Cuban signed with the Cardinals on July 27, 2016 for a bonus of $1.25 million. At the time I knew very little about Arozarena.
"I quickly fell in love with his short stroke at the plate. It has extreme doubles potential written all over it."
There isn't a more prototypical hit for Randy than you'll see below. Notice that delightful and direct little cut:
Athletic enough to play second base, Arozarena was moved to the outfield because he wasn't skilled enough, mostly a footwork issue (think Eli Alvarez, but even worse), to stick at second.
Arozarena is more of a left fielder than anything else. I wouldn't feel comfortable with him seeing a seasons worth of reps in center, but he is capable of logging limited innings there. He has the arm to play right field, but he reads the ball way better in left than anywhere else. He's really good out there, too:
Arozarena will enter the 2018 seasons at the age of 23. While he is ready for the challenges of AAA, he will most certainly begin the season at AA because of the ridiculous logjam of outfielders in the organization. Hopefully there's some movement in the organization by opening day and Randy will get the shot at AAA he deserves.
The Artist Formerly Know As Jose Adolis
The 25 year old JAG is a Cuban refugee and a former MVP of Cuba's Nacional de Béisbol. He signed with the Cardinals on February 24, 2017 for a bonus of $2.5 million. He possesses a 6'1 body that appears to be chiseled out of marble.
"JAG is a physical presence. Another athletic specimen, JAG is quick and powerful and he has a chance to be a four or five tool talent."
Look at this monster. I can't even count high enough to count all of his abs:
Garcia possesses what is easily the best arm in the organization. It's one of the best outfield arms in the minor leagues. Like with Randy, JAG is solid in limited action in center, but this fella is meant to patrol right field.
While he hasn't exactly displayed it yet, there is a ton of raw power to be tapped into. He's been a streaky hitter so far in the minors. When he's dialed in, he's capable of hitting balls over the fence with basically one hand, like here:
After struggling mightily in Japan's minor leagues due mostly to a culture shock, JAG rebounded strongly between AA and AAA during his 2017 campaign for the Cardinals. He's slated to start the season roaming the Memphis outfield.
Both of these young men have one season stateside under their belts. Let's see how their 2017 stacked up (a life without baseball reference is a life not worth living):
This comparison becomes fun almost immediately because they were both at the minor league levels that they should have been to start 2017. That's not an easy thing to come across when comparing two prospects. JAG gets extra points because he started and ended the season at a higher level. That was to be expected for such a decorated prospect and former professional, albeit in a different league. I don't think it's coincidence or luck that JAG put up nearly identical numbers at Memphis as he did in Springfield. That's the kind of consistency that you look for. On the surface, looking at the base line stats, it seems like JAG has the edge. But let's not stop there.
Looking even further, we do have some common ground with these two that we can use, as they both spent time in Springfield. So, let's compare their time there:
There are a couple of things that really stick out to me. First, in regards to Randy, his OBP really sticks out. The 1 extra walk in 150 less plate appearances as compared to JAG is really impressive. Most of the time, when a player gets a midseason promotion they struggle. They'll see their K rate go up and their walk rate go down (as we'll see with JAG at Memphis in just a minute). Neither of those things happened with Arozarena. What might get lost in this comparison is that Randy was 2 years younger on average than the Texas League while JAG was age appropriate for the level. While JAG's counting stats were higher on average per at bat, his success wasn't as bold as it maybe should have been for a prospect of his caliber.
So let's take the next step and compare how they did at the level they finished at. For JAG that's Memphis and for Randy that's Springfield.
I mean, what do you even do with that?! First, I'd like to push across to everyone that this is the prototypical type of success that you want to see out of prospects after promotions. Yes, you can hope for all-star level success, but any promotion is a tough adjustment and all-star level success is rare. There is nothing in either set of numbers that are alarming to me. Those numbers are pretty similar. Not much to differentiate the two, here.
What the numbers do not tell you is how that Randy really struggled down the stretch and that really killed his numbers. That being said, he's been playing at MVP levels in the Mexican Winter League and that's helped to stomp out some of the adjustment concern that I usually have with a late season fall-off.
Randy in August:
Randy in Mexico (stats are not complete):
With Randy Arozarena and Jose Adolis Garcia we have two gentlemen who each had solid first seasons stateside. They excelled almost equally at age appropriate levels both at the start the season and after promotion at basically the same position. Randy is younger and has succeeded at a lower level. JAG is a leGit right fielder with a plus arm while Randy is ultimately a left fielder.
It really is a push between the two. However, with JAG being one step away from the majors and having the success that he had at AAA, along with his arm that's so good it'll make you wanna write about it, Garcia gets the edge here. He also possesses serious power potential that he has yet to tap into. I wouldn't be surprised even a little if he tapped into that during his 2018 season.
I firmly believe that both Randy and JAG are special talents.
Thanks For Reading!