As we embark on our trip through the Cardinals' minor league system, it only seems appropriate that we start with the players who are no longer on my list.
Each ranking and rating-system does things differently. It's why you'll see Tyler O'Neill on one list and not the other. It's why I'll almost certainly never have Jonathan Machado on one of my lists but another outlet might have him in their top 25. We all have our methods of operating, and we all view prospects differently.
What I usually do is, I eliminate anyone that has cashed out their major league service clock. While other outlets focus on 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched as their limits, I also eliminate anyone that has spent 45 non-September days on the active major league roster. That's because that is how the Major League rules work. Those are the three numbers, the three baselines if you will, that eliminate a player from the Rookie Of The Year Award.
I'll dig a little deeper into each of the four "Graduates" and why they are off of the list in each individual write-up. With that in mind, I also should say that I hate writing about the same guys over and over again, especially if they've made a major league debut or have been on the 40-man for multiple years. So, that's why I've decided to eliminate some of these players from my Dirty Thirty-Five (D35).
As compared to the individual write-ups that will rollout over the next month and a half, this article and the article about the prospects that just missed out on the D35 will not be as intense. They are more of a "snapshot", if you will.
That's enough explanation, I believe. Let's get to the list!
Graduate #1: Alex Reyes - Right-Handed pitcher.
It's pretty simple with Reyes and why he isn't on the Dirty Thirty-Five; all that he needs to do is record one more out at the major league level to exhaust his rookie eligibility. He is literally teetering on the 50 innings-pitched precipice. That's the first reason why he isn't on the list.
The second reason is, the guy made his major league debut in 2016. That's two full seasons ago. Since then, he's suffered two season-ending injuries. More importantly, for the sake of these articles, everything that can be said or be written about him has already been said or written. There isn't any information that I can give you that you don't already have. That isn't any fun for me and It completely negates what I view as the reason for these lists of prospects: To provide the audience with information that they aren't getting anywhere else.
That being said, the rundown with Reyes is simple: If he's healthy he'll be a top 20 pitcher in baseball. He has the raw stuff of Noah Syndergaard without the consistently exhibited command. That is, until he made his major league debut out of the bullpen. He then displayed the same type of needed-command while marching his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2018. That was the best that I have ever seen Reyes pitch, and I've been fortunate enough to have seen Reyes look "elite" countless times at the minor league level prior to his rehab in 2018. There was one change that I notice during his rehab and it was that he was altering, delaying-or-speeding up, his wind-up to alter the timing of hitters. This is such an advanced technique that few pitchers can master and it seemed like it was second nature to him.
Other than that, he throws three pitches that are well-above average with the potential to be the rare "plus plus" type of pitches in a fastball, curve, and change. His success will be determined by how he rebounds from a surgery that involved partially reattaching his right "lat" to a bone and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh that sounds awful. Anyway, here's another .gif of him because he's magic.
Graduate #2: Tyler O'Neill - Sex God/Outfielder.
The thing about Tyler O'Neill's rookie eligibility is that it doesn't exist. At some point during the middle-part of August, it was exhausted after he recorded 45 days on the active major league roster. Anyone that has added him to their list is just being lazy (I'M KIDDING, WORSHIP ME). They are just looking at his at-bats and phoning the rest in. So, that's why he's not on my list.
The deal with "Prince Sex" O'Neill is that he's gorgeous and Canadian. No. Wait. That's not what I mean.
The deal with Tyler O'Neill is that he's a Sex God.
Son of a... I'm doing this wrong.
The thing about Tyler O'Neill is that he's better than anyone is giving him credit for because he struck out 40% of the time during his 2018 major league tour. Truly, his high strike out totals really skew how people view him. Yes, he's susceptible to striking out on breaking pitches from right-handers outside of the zone. Yes, he's always going to strike out. Yes, these are relevant aspects deserving criticism and concern. The thing is, with consistent at-bats, he'll get that K-rate down. I'd bet everything on it. Sure, it might only go down to 30% at first, but that's going to come with 25-30 home runs. And, again, that's at first. O'Neill is the type of hitter that is capable of 35-45 home runs over 550 at-bats while posting a strikeout rate between 23% and 28%. It'll come, but it's going to take time. at-bats, and patience.
The other thing about O'Neill is, he's going to walk. It hasn't happened at the major league level yet, but it happened frequently in the minors. He's a smarter hitter than the limited major league sample has displayed. Again with regular playing time, this is all going to happen. That is, so long as he gets regular playing time in 2019.
The Cardinals need to find a way to get O'Neill at least 400 major league plate appearances during the 2019 or else they'll be serious compromising his development. With an outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader, and Dexter Fowler (which is an outfield that is filled with more questions than answers), Tyler O'Neill and his sexy and athletic Canadian body SHOULD be afforded every opportunity to claim a starting spot at one of those three positions by the end of May. Don't be surprised if we are talking about O'Neill as the starting outfielder by the All-Star break. I'm really excited to see what new hitting coach Jeff Albert can do with both Bader and O'Neill. With Albert's emphasis on making contact without totally changing a player, it seems like both of these young men (and O'Neill in particular) have a chance to really thrive if they totally buy in to what Albert is selling.
Graduate #3: Daniel Ponce de Leon - Right-Handed pitcher.
Excluding Daniel Ponce de Leon from this list was a bit of a coin flip. He still has all of his rookie eligibility, so he could still technically win the 2019 ROY award. Also, like with Mr. Reyes, you'd expect him to fill a valuable role for the Cardinals in 2019. Personally, I love him out of the bullpen with the potential to develop into a late-innings option, but he'll more than likely be a swing-man-ish starter/reliever/minor league depth at the onset of the season.
Ultimately, the reason that I decided to keep Mr. Ponce de Leon off of the list is because of his age. I know, it's a cop-out, but at 27-years-old already, it's tough to add him to the D35. Had he not already made a major league impact then I probably would have included him. He's pretty seasoned at this point, so it just made more sense to keep him off of the list so that I could write about someone else.
Immediately before making his historic major league debut in which he threw seven inning of hitless ball against Cincinnati, Ponce de Leon changed the grip of his changeup and how he threw it and that was part of the reason for the success that he's had at the major league level, so far. The new-ish change up is really good, but when it's paired with his fastball that is very effective up in the zone and a curve ball that can be 12 to 6 at times, he becomes a legitimately dangerous pitcher. His command is the only issue, but that concern becomes a little less of an issue when he eventually moves to the pen full time.
After all that Daniel Ponce de Leon has been through, from being drafted four times (including once by the Cubs) to taking a line drive to the head on the mound in May of 2017, Daniel Ponce de Leon is, simply put, a player that you root for regardless of how he is doing. Of course, now that his eyes have been corrected and he doesn't need to wear the rec-specs on the mound anymore, it's going to be just a little harder to root for him!! (I kid, I kid!!)
Graduate #4 - Giovanny Gallegos - Right-Handed-Relief-Pitcher
While Cardinals' fans might not be too familiar with him, I've decided to keep Gallegos off of the D35 because he's already had multiple tours in the major leagues over two seasons. Now, I probably would have kept him on the list had he just made his debut in 2018, but the
innings pitched during 2017 was enough to sway me to keep him off of the list.
The Cliff Notes version of Mr. Gallegos is that he has shown the ability to be dominant out of the pen at the minor league level. The issues is, he doesn't show that same dominance at the major league level because his stuff isn't really that great, per se. I mean, it's good and it'll work and it's serviceable, but he doesn't throw a high-velocity fastball or a breaking pitch that will wow you. His fastball is good and above average. His slider has good movement but it isn't a wipe-out pitch. His change up and occasional-but-rare curve are just "there," if that makes sense. He does command his arsenal very well, and that's a huge positive.
One thing that really impresses me about Gallegos (and is worth keeping an extra eye on), is how well he matches up against lefties. Keep a close eye on this .gif below. It's a three pitch mix in which he puts his fastball, change, and breaking pitch (in that order) on display. The hitter (Bruce Maxwell) never looks comfortable for a second (also, notice the solid frame job by Carson Kelly on the first-pitch fastball). In 95 plate appearances against lefties in 2018, Gallegos allowed a line of 193/245/261 with only four extra-base hits allowed. He put up those numbers while striking out a whopping 30.5% of lefties. To me, this is what makes him an interesting potential addition to the major league bullpen moving forward:
I'm very anxious to see what 2019 holds for Giovanny in relation to how the Cardinals decide to handle him. Right now, the potential 25-man bullpen doesn't appear to have anything in the way of an open spot, so Gallegos will have to really impress during spring training if he intends to break camp with the major league club. Either way, he's a very solid major league depth piece that will be called on often throughout the season.
AND THAT CONCLUDES the first leg of our march through the Cardinals' minor league system.
We'll see you on Monday for the "Million Prospect March!!!!!"
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Thanks For Reading!!