2017 St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects

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1. Alex Reyes, rhp
2. Luke Weaver, rhp
3. Delvin Perez, ss
4. Carson Kelly, c
5. Magneuris Sierra, of
6. Sandy Alcantara, rhp
7. Harrison Bader, of
8. Edmundo Sosa, ss
9. Dakota Hudson, rhp
10. Eliezer Alvarez, 2b

As October proved it could do just fine without them and their archrival soared to heights not seen in generations, the Cardinals found comfort in something they did subtly and strategically, under the surface of the standings that turned so sour.

With an abundance of draft picks and a cap-busting spending spree on international talents, the Cardinals feel they replenished their farm system. General manager John Mozeliak referred to it as the “deepest” he had seen in his tenure. What it lacked in advanced prospects, it had in impact talent percolating the lower ranks. The Cardinals believed they could maintain their place as a contender while transitioning to a younger team, one that can close the gap on the new kings of the National League Central, the Cubs.

Mozeliak had one word for the team he imagines: “Exciting.”

That was not an adjective that applied to the 2016 Cardinals as they thundered their way to an 86-76 record with a curious club. The Cardinals wanted more power and got it with 225 homers, the second-most in club history. But the tradeoff was crippling. A franchise known for its crisp play, coming off one of the best run-prevention seasons in history, saw its fundamentals fray. The Cardinals had one of the most unreliable defenses in the league. The pitching crumpled as a result. Both kept the team from keeping pace—17 ½ games back of the Cubs—and left them, for the first time since 2010, out of the postseason.

To reclaim a seat in October, Mozeliak set out to establish a more athletic lineup and a more agile defense, one that can keep clean the real engine of contention for the Cardinals, their rotation. Budding ace Carlos Martinez will be joined by future ace Alex Reyes and established ace Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals spent $82.5-million to bring center fielder Dexter Fowler from the top of the Cubs’ lineup to the top of theirs. Mozeliak committed to the athletic Kolten Wong as their everyday second baseman and personification of the improvement.

For the past half dozen years, Mozeliak has stressed athleticism in the draft, wanting to find it and pitching whenever possible to overcome the Cardinals’ annually low selection. With his first pick as scouting director, Randy Flores picked a caliber of player the Cardinals rarely have had a shot at: top-five talent Delvin Perez. The teenage shortstop fell to No. 23 because of a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. The Cardinals took the risk and acquired a player a lot like what they sought in every corner of the amateur ranks. Through the first half of the international signing window, the Cardinals had blown past their $2 million limit and signed four $1 million bonuses. Cuban center fielder Jonatan Machado ($2.3 million) alone surpassed the spending limit.

All of this was done to close what the Cardinals recognize as a “gap” in their system. With the graduation of Stephen Piscotty to the everyday lineup in 2016 and Alex Reyes to the rotation in 2017, there is a low tide before the next crest of elite talent. It collected at the low minors in 2016, where the Cardinals won league titles at their three lowest affiliates: the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Rookie-level Johnson City (Appalachian League), and short-season State College (New York-Penn League). That deep group of talent is the reinforcements the Cardinals believe will keep them in perpetual contention.

1. Alex Reyes, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Aug. 29, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 230. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Rodney Jimenez/Angel Ovalles.

Fastball: 80
Curveball: 70
Changeup: 60
Control: 50
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: When he decided to leave his home and family in New Jersey to see if baseball would take notice of him in the Dominican Republic, Reyes packed his dreams of being a third baseman, a glove, some cleats and a few bats. He wouldn’t need the latter for long. Born and raised in Elizabeth, N.J., the righthander skipped his prom and graduation to live with his grandmother and become eligible as an international amateur, if he could draw the scouts. He did with one move—to the mound. Reyes volunteered to throw when his Dominican team ran out of pitchers one day, and after flashing a power fastball a trainer gave him advice: “Stick to pitching,” Reyes recalled. As his velocity increased, scouts swarmed. The Cardinals signed him to a $950,000 bonus, winning a bidding war against the Astros and Royals. He zoomed through the minors, but late in 2015, at the Arizona Fall League, was hit with a 50-game suspension for marijuana use. That delayed his 2016 debut but not his arrival in the majors.

Scouting Report: The Cardinals see Reyes as a stronger, taller, broader version of a pitcher with whom he’ll share the rotation: Carlos Martinez. Reyes operates at the highest registers when it comes to velocity. He averaged 97 mph on his fastball in the majors, routinely worked from 96-100 with it, and an opposing team clocked him in the minors at 102. He can maintain that power late into his starts and spot it up in the zone. Almost 45 percent of his outs (1,003) came on strikeouts (449) in the minors. His fastball has been described as “elite.” With it, he mixes a hard, hammer curve that unnerves the first batter that sees it in every game. It too is a plus pitch, and increasingly in the majors his strikeouts came off the curve, or soon after a hitter saw it. Reyes’ changeup profiles as a plus pitch, though he’s had less consistency with it, and he is working on a cutter/slider that can get him access to both sides of the plate. Reyes throws across his body and his mechanics, like his command, can fluctuate. To pitch deeper into games he has to become more efficient with his pitch count (reducing a 4.4 walks per nine rate), and a root cause coaches feel is finding a rhythm for his delivery so that he can repeat it. He has the wide shoulders and tree-trunk legs to hog innings.

The Future: If other teams’ interest is any measure of a prospect, then Reyes is poised for stardom. The Cardinals had difficulty finding an impact trade for an outfielder because other teams wanted Reyes. That was a non-starter for the Cardinals, who intend to have Reyes a permanent part of the rotation starting in 2017. He’ll be an early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year, and in the years to come could emerge as that rare, power-packed, bona fide ace.

Memphis (AAA) 2 3 4.96 14 14 0 0 65.1 49 6 32 93 .252
St. Louis (MLB) 4 1 1.57 12 5 0 1 46 33 1 23 52 .201

2. Luke Weaver, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Aug. 21, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Florida State, 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Charlie Gonzalez.

Background: There was a time when Weaver used his slight frame as a ruse. He would dial back his warmups so his stuff looked as undersized as he did, but there was no hiding his velocity from live hitters. An ace at Florida State by his sophomore year and a member of USA Baseball’s 2013 Collegiate National Team, Weaver signed for $1,843,000 and was billed as the next college arm to speed through the system. He was sidelined in 2016 by a broken (non-pitching) wrist but returned in June, emerged as a Texas League dynamo, and zoomed to majors.

Scouting Report: The elasticity and athleticism of Weaver’s mechanics allow him to have excellent pound-for-pound velocity. His fastball sits 92-94 mph and touches 96, which he complements with an an above-average changeup. He is fearless with the pitch, throwing it to either side of the plate. In the minors, Weaver relentlessly worked the edges of the strike zone with his sinker or changeup 80 percent of the time with double-plus control. He wasn’t as aggressive in the majors, groping for a precise pitch instead relying on the movement. That made him less economical and prone to damage. An improved breaking ball would be a boost.

The Future: Earmarked to be the ace of the Triple-A Memphis staff so he can sharpen his approach, a strong spring will cement Weaver as the Cardinals’ next arm up when a starter is needed.

Springfield (AA) 6 3 1.40 12 12 0 0 77 63 4 10 88 .214
Memphis (AAA) 1 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 6 2 0 2 4 .100
St. Louis (MLB) 1 4 5.70 9 8 0 0 36 46 7 12 45 .311

3. Delvin Perez, ss | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Nov. 24, 1998. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Ceiba, P.R., 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Mike Dibiase/Juan Ramos.

Background: Perez was identified as a top-10 talent entering the 2016 draft, and the finest shortstop available, before a report surfaced that he tested positive for an undisclosed performance-enhancing drug. He admitted a mistake that cost him millions. Perez tumbled to 23rd overall, where the Cardinals pounced for a $2,222,500 bonus.

Scouting Report: Perez has some traits that draw comparisons to fellow Puerto Rican shortstops Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. He has that lithe, lanky, quick-twitch lope that comes from high-functioning athleticism. He has 70 speed on a 20-80 scouting scale and movement in the field that match that quickness. He showed flashes of instincts, true hands, and above-average range, but also committed 17 errors because he had difficulty playing under control. Consistency will come when he syncs his raw skills. A project at the plate, Perez proved aggressive and able to drive fastballs. He was a pull hitter in his pro debut and undone by quality offspeed pitches. Scouts see strong hands and strong forearms that project for gap power, and maybe more.

The Future: Encouraged by how he responded to why he dropped in the draft and how he gobbled up instruction, the Cardinals believe they may have a blue-chip stock in Perez. He’ll get work in extended spring training before heading to Rookie-level Johnson City, a launch pad for prospects.

GCL Cardinals (R) .294 .352 .393 163 19 48 9 4 0 19 12 28 12

4. Carson Kelly, c | bba_video_icon_red

Born: July 14, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Portland, Ore., 2012 (2nd round). Signed by: Matt Swanson.

Background: When Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former Gold Glove winner, authored the chapter on catching in ‘The Cardinal Way’ handbook, he listed traits any good receiver must have. Kelly memorized and tried to mimic all of them. A third baseman when the Cardinals drafted and signed him for an above-slot $1.6 million bonus, Kelly has morphed into a Cardinals catcher straight out of central casting. He reached the majors in September and doubled off Antonio Bastardo in his first at-bat.

Scouting Report: After two seasons consumed by learning to catch, the Cardinals felt Kelly’s promotion to Double-A Springfield was a chance to reveal he could hit. He took advantage. Kelly generates reasonable power with his strength and pendulum swing. He had a homer robbed from him in the Futures Game in spacious Petco Park. He’s been more selective at each level and the gap between his bat and his glove shrank. His glove is double-plus. Kelly has made himself into a gifted receiver with smooth framing, quick transitions, a strong arm and nimbleness. He won a minor league Gold Glove at his position, and in every clubhouse had the gravitational pull of a leader. He keeps a black book on hitters to help him be conscientious and creative when calling a game.

The Future: Kelly is ready to be Yadier Molina’s backup if needed in 2017, but the Cardinals would prefer he start every day at Memphis instead of rusting on their bench. They see him as Molina’s complement in coming years—and then heir.

Springfield (AA) .287 .338 .403 216 29 62 7 0 6 18 14 46 0
Memphis (AAA) .292 .352 .381 113 13 33 10 0 0 14 11 17 0
St. Louis (MLB) .154 .214 .231 13 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 2 0

5. Magneuris Sierra, of

Born: April 7, 1996. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Rodney Jimenez/Angel Ovalles.

Background: Part of an international signing class with Alex Reyes and Edmundo Sosa, Sierra landed a $105,000 bonus and swiftly asserted himself. Sierra hit .386/.434/.505 in 2014 in the GCL, his first domestic assignment. He became the first teenager to win the Cardinals’ organization player of the year award, and that invited an aggressive promotion the next season that chilled his production. Given a second crack at low Class A Peoria, the live-wire athlete got his groove back.

Scouting Report: Sierra is a superior defensive center fielder with an easy gallop and wide-open range. Before turning 20 he showed instincts beyond his level, playing shallow to steal singles and still being able to track back without a glitch. His arm plays even better than its plus strength because of his quick release and accuracy. His glove will keep him in the lineup, allowing a polarizing bat to steady. Sierra has a swift, compact swing, and he added strength that allows him to drive the ball. Better pitch recognition will help him unlock the above-average hitter he can be. He’s an above-average runner speedy enough to steal 31 bags and learning to be savvy enough to not get caught 17 times.

The Future: Sierra could slingshot to Double-A Springfield at some point 2017. If he hits, he’ll surge because the glove is deft. At his best, he’s Dexter Fowler’s understudy and eventual replacement in center field.

Peoria (LoA) .307 .335 .395 524 78 161 29 4 3 60 22 97 31

6. Sandy Alcantara, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 7, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013. Signed by: Rodney Jimenez.

Background: Longer than they’ve been pros, Alcantara and teammate Junior Fernandez have been linked, from their time with the same trainer (Felix Liriano) to 2016 in the same, power-packed Peoria rotation. For the first time, Alcantara surged ahead as a prospect. Signed for a $125,000 bonus at 17, the righthander always had a frame and untamed power that suggested robust talent. During an extended spring outing in 2015, he hit 102 mph with his fastball and he routinely touched 100 mph while sitting 95-96. At the time of his promotion to high Class A Palm Beach, he led the Midwest League with 119 strikeouts.

Scouting Report: There is still room on Alcantara’s frame for strength gains, and that could help the lean, loose, wiry starter center his delivery and make it more consistent. The makings are there. At present, he can lose his feel for his mechanics and his fastball drifts up or out of the zone and the walks flow. Alcantara improved throughout the season and started showing an effective curve and above-average changeup. The righthander has packed on the innings as a pro and his three-pitch mix is enough for the Cardinals to project him as a starter, even ahead of sidekick Fernandez.

The Future: Primed for a return to Palm Beach and its pitcher-friendly environs, Alcantara’s climb is about to accelerate, especially if a need opens at higher levels for a 100-mph blowtorch in the bullpen.

Peoria (LoA) 5 7 4.08 17 17 0 0 123 103 4 45 119 .228
Palm Beach (HiA) 0 4 3.62 6 6 1 0 32 25 0 14 34 .216

7. Harrison Bader, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: June 3, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Florida, 2015 (3rd round). Signed by: Ty Boyles.

Background: Bader shined as a three-year starter for Florida and even hit the first home run to center field at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, but faced persistent questions whether he would hit for enough power to fit a corner outfield spot. The Cardinals drafted and signed Bader for a $400,000 bonus, and he rewarded them with a .311/.368/.523 line in his debut. His 11 homers led all 2015 draft picks. That allowed the Cardinals to test him with advanced placement in Double-A, where before the end of May he had a 17-game hitting streak, one shy of affiliate record.

Scouting Report: Cast as a leadoff hitter to inspire a grinding approach, Bader, at heart, remains an eager hitter. Two evaluators called him “aggressively confident” at the plate and his ambush power has grown as a result. He is a coiled, broad-shouldered athlete that has above-average speed and a rising aptitude to take an extra base. A solid-average swing and a seasoned feel for the strike zone served him well in the Arizona Fall League to go with his average power potential. Bader showed capable range and a good arm for center, where his bat profiles as an asset.

The Future: A taste of Triple-A in 2016 will become a priority starting role there in 2017. If he sticks at center, Bader will increase his imminent value to the Cardinals as a fourth outfielder or muscle his way into a trade.

Springfield (AA) .283 .351 .497 318 48 90 12 4 16 41 25 93 11
Memphis (AAA) .231 .298 .354 147 22 34 7 1 3 17 11 38 2

8. Edmundo Sosa, ss | bba_video_icon_red

Born: March 6, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Signed: Panama, 2012. Signed by: Arquimedes Nieto.

Background: The third headliner from the 2012 international class, Sosa’s climb through the system has been more deliberate. Sosa received a $425,000 bonus, the largest for any Panamanian in 2012 and debuted in 2013. By 20, Sosa had more than 1,000 plate appearances as a pro and nearly 250 games. He’s been called a bat-first infielder, the finest glove in his league, and, most recently, the club’s best all-around prospect at shortstop.

Scouting Report: Sosa has above-average actions at shortstop, from his range to his arm and especially his superb hands. He plays with a natural levity that can sometimes be misread as laissez faire. He has a flair—and a knack for making plays that cannot be taught. A .300/.369/.485 hitter at short-season, Sosa’s approach came undone with low class A Peoria. He lost track of his zone and as a result his ability to get on base flagged. He did not start hitting to the level until the Cardinals promoted him out of need, and then a left wrist injury (tendinitis) ended his season in late July.

The Future: Sosa is likely headed back to high Class A Palm Beach, and a good showing in the challenging Florida State League should result in a promotion to Double-A Springfield.

Peoria (LoA) .268 .307 .336 351 42 94 13 1 3 30 19 71 5
Palm Beach (HiA) .294 .314 .412 34 3 10 0 2 0 4 1 8 0

9. Dakota Hudson, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 15, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Mississippi State, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Clint Brown.

Background: Few college arms had as much buoyancy as Hudson, who added 25 pounds through college and via the Cape Cod League (54 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings) emerged as an intriguing, four-pitch power collegian. He threw in the upper-90s coming out of a Tennessee high school but had an uncomfortable relationship with control. Strength and experience brought command. He cut his walk rate in half as a junior and had a 9.2 strikeouts per nine rate. A balloon rising in teams’ evaluations, Hudson went 34th overall to the Cardinals and became a rocket, finishing the year in the Double-A Texas League playoffs.

Scouting Report: Hudson has a fastball that rises to 96-97 mph and sits 94 mph. He offsets it with a biting 78-82 mph curveball and a slider that sizzles around 87 mph and is already the best of its ilk in the organization. An improved changeup will defy lefthanded hitters. One crosschecker called Hudson’s arsenal the most-advanced blend of pitches in college this past year, and what brought it all together for was a simplification of his delivery that can be more repeatable. His velocity and feel faltered with career-high innings and stiffer SEC competition, but it snapped back as a pro.

The Future: After a promotion to Double-A Springfield to get playoff experience, Hudson has the organization seeing its next quantum-leap college starter, following the jet streams of Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales, and Luke Weaver.

GCL Cardinals (R) 1 0 0.00 4 1 0 0 4 4 0 0 9 .235
Palm Beach (HiA) 1 1 0.96 8 0 0 3 9 6 0 7 10 .188

10. Eliezer Alvarez, 2b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Oct. 15, 1994. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011. Signed by: Rene Rojas/Juan Mercado.

Background: An Appalachian League all-star in 2015 like teammates Magneuris Sierra and Edmundo Sosa, Alvarez hardly had the name recognition or shine of his peers. Four summers spent as a short-season denizen and several injuries gave him the look of an idle infielder. Dubbed a “five-tool player” early in his career, his career took a sharp turn with his first full-season assignment. Alvarez’s .879 OPS ranked behind only heralded prospect Eloy Jimenez (Cubs) in the low Class A Midwest League, his 36 steals led the league, and no other Cardinals infielder had a slash line like his .323/.404/.476.

Scouting Report: A simple swing from the left side gives Alvarez a balanced sweep through the strike zone and ability to dart pitches to all fields. He rarely lunges or gets caught with a silly swing. Alvarez inflated his slugging percentage with smart baserunning, racing for 36 doubles. That same headiness is sometimes lacking in the field. Alvarez can ease back on grounders, invite a bad hop, and that contributed to 27 errors. He has an above-average arm for second and Cardinals feel keener attention could make him an adequate fielder at several infield positions.

The Future: The manifest of Alvarez’s talent was so assertive that the Cardinals added him to the 40-man roster and are leaning toward pushing him straight to Double-A.

Peoria (LoA) .323 .404 .476 433 70 140 36 6 6 59 53 96 36

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