St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects Chat

Derrick Goold: Salutations from not-too-chilly St. Louis. ‘Tis the season — for ranking prospects. It’s nice to be back here at the helm for Baseball America’s annual Cardinals prospect chat. Sorry for the late start. Had to find some wi-fi. Had to get a coffee. Tried to do both at the same time. Did neither promptly. I will be swifter when it comes to answering questions. Let’s dive in …

John (Atlanta): What caused Jack Flaherty to slide out of the top 10?
Derrick Goold: I figured this would be one of the first questions — and it’s one of the best. I began the rankings with the premise that Flaherty would be one of the top 10 prospects, and possibly even in the top five. If pressed I would suggest he has one of the highest ceilings of the pitching prospects in the Cardinals system, maybe even second to Reyes. He has all of the traits of a front-line starter. The frame. The feel for pitches. The projectability, if you will. The possibility to develop greater velocity. That said, at some point those traits do need to manifest. Scouts and managers and coaches saw that happen with many prospects this year — like Alcantara, Bader, and Alvarez — and they leapfrog Flaherty because while he still has that high upside they had the production, they had the tangible advancement toward the majors. Flaherty has more velocity to give. He easily projects as a top five prospect, in this system, but as we started doing the top 10 and looking through the reports and opinions of him that’s all it was — projections. Others had performance, too. Don’t believe for a moment he slid too far, though. Spoiler: He’s likely No. 11.

Mike (Ft Lauderdale): Dakota Hudson had a decent collegiate career as a SP, after draft he pitched like a reliever, to save innings, but is he a legit frontline starter in the future? Is his command a problem or was he just trying to limit hits in his appearances?
Derrick Goold: You hit on all of the Hudson questions there in a short burst. Hudson moved swiftly as a reliever — and yes that started as a way to get him experience and limit his innings. It became a chance to get him some playoff experience at an upper level. The Cardinals believe he has the best slider in the system, right now, and that with his velocity and that bite he could be a reliever, a fast-moving reliever, at that. Command is part of that thought. To stick as a starter he would need to improve that command, become more deft with a third pitch, and more efficient. As a reliever he’s able to air it all out. He’ll get a look-see as a starter, for sure, but if the need or opening arises and the Cardinals think that fastball/slider will play then they’ll promote him as a reliever, as they’ve done with other pitchers who got to Class AA and had that one standout pitch when they had that one obvious need.

Casey (Illinois): The 2020 lineup would look a lot better with Lourdes Gourriel at third and diaz at second.
Derrick Goold: I’m not so sure about that. Keep in mind 3B is in play for a major-league acquisition for the Cardinals. And it could also be where Paul DeJong plays in the near future, and that would make the lineup look different too with his possible power. The 2020 lineup is an estimate based on who is in the organization right now. It is entirely possible — maybe even preferable — that player isn’t in the organization right now.

Mitchell Baker (Evansville, IN): Is Luke Weaver's ceiling a #3 starter, or am I being too conservative?
Derrick Goold: That doesn’t seem too conservative. When a player gets to the level Weaver has maybe it’s more appropriate that we talk about his floor and let him decide what his ceiling is. Some players when they get to those final stages of development and into the deployment stage of their career shatter their ceiling. They become more because of timing, because of coaching, because of usage. Weaver could be that pitcher. It seems fair to say No. 3 if you see Lance Lynn as a No. 3 or Mike Leake as a No. 3. It just seems more likely to say his floor is a No. 5. He’ll provide innings and quality starts. That much is clear.

Jake (St. Louis, MO): Very shocking not to see Jack Flaherty or Junior Fernandez! Did their stocks drop, or did others simply surge ahead?
Derrick Goold: Agreed. As I ordered the prospects it became clear that Alcantara and Bader and of course newcomers Hudson and Perez had surged ahead. This list would look different — Flaherty in it, for example — had Reyes thrown one more start in the majors or Weaver not missed time with a wrist injury and reached the majors sooner. Their eligibility this year pushed everybody down by two, and the newcomers left four fewer spots in the top 10. Someone had to drop — even if their promise didn’t.

Dustin (KC): DG, Do you think in 2018 the cardinals will have a top 10 farm system when their lower level prospects start to graduate to higher levels of the system? A lot of intriguing talent.
Derrick Goold: Yes. I full expect the Cardinals to be a top-third farm system for this and next year, barring some sort raid-the-cupboard trade that would be entirely out of character for this front office. We had John Manuel as a guest on a radio show a few of us host in St. Louis and we talked about how if the Cardinals had the sixth-best farm system then a few weeks ago they really had the fifth-best before the White Sox started landing prospect after prospect. Here’s the rub, though, and I hope you’ve read this far into the answer: The Cardinals have depth and quantity. What we’re going to find out in 2017, right here, on the horizon, is how much quality can they expect from the group. Reyes is an elite talent. That’s consensus. Who is the next one, two, three that the Cardinals can develop?

Frank (Brazil): You reported Machado as receiving a $2.35 million signing bonus but then failed to list him among the highest Cardinal bonuses of all time. Oversight? Misreported bonus initially?
Derrick Goold: Oversight. The biggest bonuses were from the draft. In the past they haven’t included the international bonuses given to a few players, so it was only the draft folks. He would be listed in overall amateur bonuses. So, oversight on my part. Or an out and out mistake on my part when filing the list. My apologies.

Bosa (NC): If the Cards were going to trade for a 3b at deadline, would Perez be considered an untouchable?
Derrick Goold: Depends entirely on the third baseman and the years of control. There is a third baseman that 2/3 of baseball would love to have on their team, at their hot corner, and if that third baseman were suddenly, surprisingly available at the trade deadline then it would be foolish to consider anyone untouchable, right? The Cardinals are not going to be shopping Perez or looking to move him, if that’s your question. But if the right deal came their way, they would recognize that it would be quite a major-league player they’d be getting if Perez is involved.

john (stl): what happened to junior fernandez? his strikeouts and walks both got worse. did his stuff/control decline or can we chalk it up to age?
Derrick Goold: He had a difficult time keeping his delivery under control, especially when it came to problem situations. His answer to such moments was to try and throw hard, harder, hardest. Not always in control. From the scouting report I wrote up: He has a violent delivery that sometimes rattles loose. As I talked to folks and read up on evaluations of him, I heard more and more how Alcantara moved ahead as a likely starter and Fernandez could move toward the bullpen to advance.

Charles Bartlett (Shelburne, Vermont): Junior Fernandez had an up and down season and has seemed to fall behind other arms such as Alcantara. Do you think he winds up as a reliever or starter? And do you think he still possess the same ceiling as he did prior to this season? Which I believe was a 2 or 3 starter.
Derrick Goold: A bit of a loaded question but one that piggybacks nicely with the previous one. He still possesses the same ceiling for me. But he had that look of a reliever, and this past season had more people seeing that as a possibility. Strong arm. Plus fastball. Secondary stuff can improve. Good makings for a reliever.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Does Michael Ohlman get to squat behind home plate a bit in St.Louis this year? What are your thoughts on his defense?
Derrick Goold: He’s with Toronto now.

John (NJ): I was kind of shocked to see Jack Flaherty not on this list. Did his stuff fall off of the cliff that much this past season?
Derrick Goold: It’s hard to call falling to No. 11 a cliff … He’ll be fine.

Vale (Ohio): With no thumper near, would Cards consider Chris Carter for a 1 year deal?
Derrick Goold: That has not been a name that’s come up, not when I’ve asked around. You are correct that the power prospect the Cardinals have is Paul DeJong, and he’s set to be the starting shortstop at Class AAA Memphis this year, according to the front office. Victor Garcia has the best power upside of any prospect ranked in the Cardinals’ organization. But if the Cardinals want impact, power now they are going to have to pay for it. It’s part of the reason why they’re bending back toward the style of play that they felt served them well in 2015.

Simeon (Chicago): Any chance Cards move Carson Kelly or is he seen as Yadi's long term successor?
Derrick Goold: He is viewed as Molina’s heir, and he’ll be the starter in the majors if there’s a reason Molina goes on the DL or has an extended absence.

Dakota Hudson (Jupiter Beach, Jupiter, Florida, United States of America): You have me ranked higher than Jack Flaherty but in your 2020 lineup he is in the rotation and I am not. Should I be packing my bags for another organization?
Derrick Goold: No. You should look forward to arbitration as a high-leverage reliever. Congrats on the forthcoming raise.

Ethan (St Louis): Is Dakota Hudson a sleeper candidate for the bullpen this season?
Derrick Goold: He’s a sleeper candidate to contribute. At the winter meetings as I asked around and gathered info for the prospect rankings, I heard the most about three players: Hudson, Arozarena, and Hicks. Hudson was described to me as the kind of college pitcher who could zoom up swift like Wacha and Gonzales did, only, yes, as a reliever that could even catch the major-league staff’s eye this spring. Not to win a job, but similar to Trevor Rosenthal — to at least keep him in mind for a job down the road, later in the season, as Rosenthal did.

Mark (Wildwood): Who is the Cardinal's top prospect in 2018?
Derrick Goold: Delvin Perez. Sleeper challenger: Randy Arozarena.

Ethan (St Louis): Delvin Perez next Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa
Derrick Goold: He’s not the complete Correa, not that kind of power, and he’s not the defensive whiz that Lindor is. He’s got trace elements of their games. He’s a blend of the two, a rung or two behind their upside, and the Cardinals can only hope he’s as good as young as either of them. They’re galactic talents.

Kyle (Jacksonville, Florida): Jake Woodford and Jack Flaherty seem to be pitchers with similar skill sets on the same trajectory through minor league baseball. Which has the higher upside and is a more realistic choice to work towards the front of a big league rotation?
Derrick Goold: Agreed. That’s part of why I found myself ranking them so close together each and every time I put together the list. They gravitated toward each other, the scouting reports had similarities, and so on. Who has the higher upside depends on who you ask. I’m in the chair today or the chat, so my feel has been Flaherty. I’ve been told by folks who, you know, evaluate talent professionally and are employed by major-league baseball teams to do so that they think Woodford is an unheralded prospect with just as much upside, and a more realistic chance to reach it. I actually look forward to them being on the same staff here, against the same level of competition, and see how it shakes out.

Danny V (Glastonbury, CT): Hi Derrick. Thanks for the chat. Derian Gonzalez performed well in his first taste of full-season ball. Was he in the mix for #10?
Derrick Goold: Good arm. Interesting player. Eager to see him pitch in person based on the scouting reports that I’ve seen. He did not get consideration for the top 10 because — as you can see — it filled up swiftly. He did get consideration for the top 30, especially the lower third of it.

Kyle (Jacksonville, Florida): Zac Gallen, Connor Jones, and Dakota Hudson- all Major League starters? Are Gallen and Jones that much further behind Hudson?
Derrick Goold: It’s interesting because I grouped them in a similar way, sort of like a control group. And when I would ask people about them I would always try to get them to rank them against each other. Hudson was the consensus one of the group. Jones was the majority No. 2. And Gallen finished third in that exercise. The times that Gallen was ranked ahead of Jones was when he was described as that prototypical Cardinals pitcher, the one that they excel at developing and advancing, and he has all those trappings. Jones impressed, and there were some raves about him when it came to the evaluations I heard from scouts and coaches. I don’t think Jones is all that “far behind” Hudson. Both Jones and Gallen likely have more deliberate rises ahead of them than Hudson.

Jean Francois (Manhattan): How much of a concern is it that Delvin Perez showed no power in his GCL stint last year? And at this point is he a top 10 talent from last year's draft?
Derrick Goold: Not much concern at all. He’ll be 18 on opening day. Still room to grow, strength to build, experience to get. I’d have him in the top 10. The reason he dropped to 23rd didn’t have anything to do with his upside.

TomBruno23 (RF): What's the outlook on Jordan Hicks?
Derrick Goold: Strong. Or, to borrow the word thrown around by Cardinals’ officials: “Bullish.” Hicks really stormed into consideration for the top 30 based on a few things: First, how he finished in the top 20 for different leagues this past year, and, second, how he was a player other teams showed interest in. Hard to get a better gauge of ability than the interest from other teams. His debut was delayed, but when he got into games he shined. A scout called his curveball a 70. Referred to it as “sick.” He’s got velocity, too, with sharp sink on the fastball. He’s a player that a former scouting director around here would talk about “dreaming on,” and he’d have every reason. Wouldn’t be a shock if he’s a top-tenner next year.

Eric (Milwaukee, WI): Besides power, what does Paul De Jong bring to the table?
Derrick Goold: Evidently an ability to play shortstop. The Cardinals want to find out. He’s done well in the short stints there, and he was able to handle the position at the Arizona Fall League. He’s already shown he can play third and when asked he’s done well at second base. There were some that expected him to move through the minors at second — or get converted to catcher, another player he played. This shortstop move is interesting. He has the arm strength for it. He has the footwork. He’ll be a positioning oriented shortstop — and that should help his range. He’s got the instincts and reactions for it. Everybody will be watching to see how this sticks. Him too. He’s as intrigued by it as anyone I’ve spoke to.

Kyle (Jacksonville, Florida): Any chance Victor Garcia's offensive calling card is anything more than raw power and strikeouts?
Derrick Goold: Yes. Though he will have plenty of each of those, too.

Leonard (Peoria): What feedback did you gather on the Cardinals recent Cuban signing Johan Oviedo, who was perhaps the most underrated signing in the 2016 J2 class?
Derrick Goold: Heard that exact description. There is a significant amount of cautious excitement about the 6-foot-6 righthander. They’re eager to get him into the complex, under the wing of some coaches, and to start channeling what’s considered advanced, but raw ability for his experience. If Fernandez, Alcantara, and Flaherty on are the current class of high-ceiling pitchers in need of experience to focus their abilities, then Oviedo is the head of the next class.

Mark (St Louis): What is the likelihood Bader gets to the majors in 2017? What type of impact do you see him delivering when he does arrive?
Derrick Goold: He’s an injury away from the majors. That’s how it looks right now. For comparisons, I would put Bader in that Pham/Ramsey group. He’s as close to the majors as Tommy Pham was when he got to Triple-A and performed, and he’s like Ramsey in the sense that he tore through Class AA and then was trying to carve out a place as a fourth/fifth outfielder option for the Cardinals at Triple-A before the trade. Bader fits in with that tier. The best news for him right now is that he’s earned a spot on the depth chart where production is everything. If he produces he advances. If he produces he arrives. If he produces he stays. He’s in control, in that sense.

Ed (State College): What is the upside of Jordan Hicks? I notice he was top 10 on two end of year league lists. Could he be a helium type guy in 2017?
Derrick Goold: Talked about Hicks a few questions ago but I like your use of “helium.” He is exactly that. He’s going to rise in the rankings, like helium.

UofIx3 (Bloomington/Normal IL): Do you see the Cards signing with any more international free agents since they've greatly exceeded their limit already?
Derrick Goold: They intend to, yes. The next chatter on this could be in January. But they have their eyes on a few players, including at least one Cuban player, that they would like to try and sign before the end of this period.

larry harnly (springfield, ill.): please look into your crystal ball. which of these 4 position players do you think will be surefire regulars with the cards -- kelly, sierra, perez, bader. any others?
Derrick Goold: One of those four appears to be a lock for a regular role with the Cardinals. That’s Kelly. The other three in order of their likelihood of being a regular player in the majors would be, right now, Perez … Sierra, Bader. Though the last two are close. Sierra has the glove and glide to handle center, and he’s going to be able to stick at that position as he advances. The bat is an open question. The bat is obviously less of a question for Bader, but is it a corner-outfield bat? Is he a fourth outfielder? There’s no “surefire” answer to that. Bader is not the defensive player that Sierra is in center, though he can handle the position. Don’t see him nudging aside Dexter Fowler, however, and that’s what it would take to be a “surefire regular” at this point.

Ryne (Waco, TX): Any international prospects at the lower levels of the minors worth keeping an eye on? Thanks.
Derrick Goold: Arozarena, definitely. Jonathan (or Jonatan) Monchado. I would also keep an eye on a catcher Dennis Ortega. Write that name down and see where he goes from here as far as production, affiliate, and rankings in the future prospect lists.

Matthew (Salem, Ma): What kind of offensive ceiling does Randy Arozarena have?
Derrick Goold: Leadoff hitter. OBP, speed. Lots he could do with those traits at their best.

Damien (Australia): Hi Derrick, intrigued about Dakota Hudson. Is he the next Trevor Rosenthal? I don't mean that in terms of stuff, velocity etc. but progression to the majors, role etc. Thanks!
Derrick Goold: Entirely possible. That’s the comparison I would draw.

Phil (Minneapolis): What am I missing about Sierra? His athleticism is enticing, and he seems to have some aptitude with the bat, but he has shown very little patience or power to this point. That profile screams 4th OF. Does he realistically project to improve his power and/or OBP in the coming years, or are his speed and defense such weapons that he can be a starter even with these weaknesses?
Derrick Goold: It’s a mix of all of those things, Phil. A left/left center fielder who can handle the position with such dexterity and has such athleticism and speed is going to get the time to develop at the plate, and they continue to think he will. The things that are missing (outside of the power, which he may not have) can be taught, and he’s shown improvements on those things. He reasonably can improve his OBP in the coming year(s), and he can enhance is SLG with his SPD — taking an extra base, turning singles into doubles. But it all comes back to the traits you mentioned. His defense is enough to keep him on the field, and with time other elements of the game are likely to improve too.

Johnny (St. Louis): You seem a bit lower on Bader than other prospect rankings. Does he have a place on the Cardinals' roster? With Fowler signed and Sierra on the way it seems like he is the odd man out.
Derrick Goold: Cannot argue at all with what you’ve outlined here. He does seem to be blocked. The Cardinals have had a handful of similar prospects to Bader in the 10-11 years I’ve been doing this ranking for Baseball America, and they all reach the majors with the Cardinals or are traded to a deal that brings back a major-leaguer. That’s no small thing. That says that Bader is a true prospect, one that will contribute in some way. Where the rankings are going to differ is that way. Opinions vary even among my colleagues at The Post-Dispatch. I’m one of the more conservative of the group. Usually am. And I see the way for Bader to fit with the current Cardinals’ setup is as a fourth outfielder, a challenger or replacement or heir for Tommy Pham. He’s playing for that promotion — or he’s playing to be part of a deal that will get him that promotion with another organization.

Johnny (St. Louis): Where do you expect to see Gant and Ellis in the handbook?
Derrick Goold: Both got consideration for the Cardinals’ top 30. When I submitted my suggestions for the 30, in all honesty, only Gant was in the top 30. Ellis was in my 31-34 range for the Cardinals. Gant is going to be part of their starters depth chart opening the season, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him have a role in the majors at some point. He could be a reliever in the role Seth Maness and Matt Bowman have had.

Wes (Wautoma, WI): I don't envision any of these top 10 guys starting 2017 in Peoria. Any names come to mind that you expect to be there?
Derrick Goold: Allen Cordoba could be there if he doesn’t stick with the Padres. That’s a name to look forward to seeing.

The Hammer (Jupiter): The Cardinals seem to continually develop successful major league pitchers at an unprecedented rate. What is their secret formula and who is responsible for this? As an Angels fan, I'm jealous.
Derrick Goold: It all starts with some of the things the Cardinals look for in pitchers and then how they evaluate them as they progress, particularly as they arrive at High-A and Class AA. I can offer a few examples of this in Trevor Rosenthal and Seth Maness. When in doubt (or late in the draft) the Cardinals like to side with athleticism. They feel they can teach mechanics and delivery, especially if the player starts with a natural athletic gift. Maness is one of the best in the clubhouse at any competition, from Ping Pong to golf to basketball. The Cardinals see a pitcher like that as a quick-learner. Rosenthal, too. He had arm strength, which cannot be taught, and had been a shortstop. The rest can be developed with innings, which the Cardinals give by making even future relievers starters at the beginning. That gives them the experience, the innings to adapt. In Class AA, Maness showed a sinker that the Cardinals knew could be used for a specific role coming out of the bullpen, and they believed it would be good enough for that role in the majors. So, up he went. Not as a starter. Not as a late-inning reliever. But for that purpose that his pitch suited. Rosenthal had the blowtorch fastball and the late-inning look so up he went as a future closer. Carlos Martinez had arm strength and athleticism. Go figure. There are examples like them all over the minor-league rosters, from Tuivailala to Wick, Gonzales to Flaherty, Hicks to Jones. I’m not sure if it’s OK with BA protocol here, but I’ll try because a few years ago I did a much deeper story on this pitching development that has details I don’t have room to get into here. You can still read it at

John (St. Louis): Thoughts on Tommy Edman's performance in the NYPL?
Derrick Goold: Strong. Stood out for his refined approach at the plate, his eye, and all around solid look. Got really good reviews for the polish on his game.

Brett L. (Minneapolis, MN): In today's game prospects with Jonathan Machado's skill set seem nearly extinct. Is there still a place in modern baseball for a guy like Machado? It feels like Revere, Altuve, Ichiro (or at least he used to be), and maybe Albert Almora are the only active players with a similar profile and even they have had drastically different results despite being similar in stature. What do you foresee for Machado and could he truly be the next great small stature star or will he fail?
Derrick Goold: This is a good question. I spoke with a player last night who was making the case that the game was speeding back in the direction of players like that. Power remains at a premium, but you see teams like Kansas City win a World Series and see a team like the Chicago Cubs really enhance their success with a run-prevention upgrade (Baez, Heyward, for example) and there’s room in the game for athleticism however you find it, and that does seem to fit a player like Machado. That’s not to say he can be only a singles, walk, good glove player. There’s got be a jolt in his game. Steals. Gap power. Doubles. The player I keep finding myself returning to as an example when this conversation comes up — as it did last night — is Adam Eaton. He is underrated and so, so valuable (look at the trade, for goodness sake) because there are many ways he does not make outs. He finds a way to get on base. He runs well when he’s on base. If that’s a player’s ceiling, if that’s a player’s upside, then there is definitely room in the game for a player like that. Machado has the ability to not make outs.

dave (grayson, ga): Do Chris Ellis and Luke Dykstra, acquired in the Garcia trade, make the top 30?
Derrick Goold: They did not crack the top 30 that I submitted, no.

Mary (NC): In your podcast, which was extremely entertaining, you mention Hudson as a fast riser as a reliever this year for Cards- did you mean as a permenant reliever or do you think he could still develop into a starter?
Derrick Goold: Just as a reliever for now. Didn’t close the door to him starting. That’s possible. We’ve seen players rise as relievers and then stick as starters many times.

Derrick Goold: And thanks for checking out the podcast. That’s much appreciated!

Johnny (St. Louis): This strikes me as a system with a lot of talent, albeit mostly farther away from the bigs. Still, would you expect to see this system in the top 10 with the potential to rise dramatically barring trades?
Derrick Goold: Yes. It needs that top-end prospect to emerge. There are candidates, but no guarantees. That’s what is holding the farm system back from a top-five ranking. To be candid, they had more candidates for the top 10 than any previous year I’ve done the rankings. Usually I run out of obvious candidates around Nos. 7 or 8. This year there were 13-14 who could be top 10 in previous years. I’ll add that the depth is greater too than in previous years. I’ve had years where there is that obvious top eight, and then there is an obvious next eight to ten, and then there is a jumble of players who really are all the same, nebulous cluster of could-bes. Not so this year. There’s a pretty distinct top 25, top 27.

Michael Stern (Rochester NY): How close was Austin Gomber to the top 10? All he's done is pitch great everywhere he's been. What's his ceiling? Do the Cards see him in the future rotation down the road? Thanks for the chat!
Derrick Goold: Agreed. He was very close. In fact, I heard from some advocates that he had to be a top-10 pitcher. He’s a high-performance lefty. A lot like Marco Gonzales was when Gonzales was ranked the top prospect overall in the Cardinals system. There is a lot to like about Gomber. He’s consistent. He’s got quirky stuff. He adds deception with his delivery, which he can repeat over and over and over again so that he’s ruthlessly consistent. Just a good, steady, reliable all-around prospect who is going to be a starter in the majors. He’s what I’m talking about when I mention how there were 13-14 players who could have been top 10 in year’s past.

976 (Fake New York): What can you tell me about 3B prospect Bryce Denton? Heard he was working on sticking at the hot corner. Does the bat play anywhere else?
Derrick Goold: He has been, yes. And if he can do that defensively, then it will be a good fit. If he has the bat for third, then he certainly has the bat for second. It gets trickier if he has to play a corner outfield spot or first base. He could be a LF or RF, and depending on the power the team gets from CF be a fit in the corner. It’s all about that sliding scale, right? The more you get from a position usually not carrying that level of offense, the less you need from a prototypical power spot. The Cardinals infield has been like that for a few years. Denton got a wider spectrum of reviews than I expected. He stirred at the end of the season, which makes me think that some of the reviews were based on timing — when the scout or coach or manager saw him play. If it was early in the season, the reviews wouldn’t have been as strong as later in the year. That sort of thing.

Aaron (Durham NC): Over under on a Delvin Perez MLB Rookie season in 2019?
Derrick Goold: I’ll take the over because you said rookie season, not debut. Trick question!

Aaron (Durham NC): I think this offseason experience thus far should serve as an indightment on the Cardinals conservative approach to the international market the past few years. Most of the major deals that were made heavily involved big international signees (Moncada in the Sale trade, Lopez in the Eaton trade, Soler in the Davis trade). The Cardinals have the financial muscle, scouting savvy, and developmental prowess to be much more competitive in obtaining big ticket players from Cuba, Venezuela, the Caribbean, and Asia. Imagine what this offseason would have looked like if we had Moncada or Soler or Eloy Jimenez, Ravael Devers, or Victor Robles? This past signing period, Lourdes Gurriel, Lazarito, come to mind, and especially Kevin Maitan, who the Cardinals were linked to but did not outbid the Braves for. They have to do better, so that they have the talent capital when they need it. Thoughts?
Derrick Goold: An entirely fair read on the situation. The Cardinals themselves have talked about how conservative they’ve been in the Cuba market and how they eyed this current signing period as the time to be more aggressive. What was one of the reasons? Why it was because some of the bigger spenders were limited by rules. The Cardinals saw auctions they could win. Maitan is the one player on that list that the Cardinals raved about — and who didn’t. That said, consider the fact that the Braves signed him when there were other teams out there also interested, and they didn’t trump the Braves’ offer. The Cardinals scouted Lourdes, had fine evaluations of him, had interest in him, but I have not heard the same level of interest in him as, say, I did in Monchada or Arozarena. Or a few other Cuban players. Victor Garcia was also a guy they really sought out to sign and didn’t want to be beat on, and they did get him. All of that is to offer examples of how what you describe is starting to change. It’s important however that we also take a step back and recognize how unlikely it is that the Cardinals make two of those trades you mentioned. They have made it very clear they don’t want to deal in prospects at that level of talent or that level of control. I’ll add that the Cardinals approach in the international market is a reason why they experienced the “gap” they had in the system, and in the coming year it will be a reason why they’ve been able to close that gap if it happens. In the final Top 30 in the Prospect Handbook more than a third of the prospects could be international signings.

Alexander (St. Louis): What is Alex Reyes' ceiling in his first year? Do you think he could, potentially, have an All Star caliber year?
Derrick Goold: He could be the NL Rookie of the Year.

Jeff (The Frozen North): Any hope for at least average power from Sierra?
Derrick Goold: Average for center field? I don’t know if there’s been a scouting report I’ve heard or read or a scout I’ve asked that has projected 14-15 homers from him, that’s your definition of average. Double-digit? Possibly. That’s not his game right now. If we expand the term power to include doubles, then we’re talking. That could be his game.

Nick (Louisiana): How does Alex Reyes compare as a prospect to Shelby Miller a few years back?
Derrick Goold: Greater upside. Let’s just say the Cubs only wish that the Cardinals would be willing to trade him for Jason Heyward.

Ralph (KC): Coming out of his first professional season what is the word on Alvaro Seijas? Could he be next in the line of stud latin american pitching prospects for the Cardinals?
Derrick Goold: Absolutely. On the heels of Alcantara.

Aaron (Durham NC): What is the weakest position in the system currently?
Derrick Goold: Is power a position? I’m going with power. Power. So first base.

Mike (St Louis): Ryan Helsley touched 100 and has shown great control. Could he be a closer?
Derrick Goold: I’m glad someone brought him up in the chat. Good name to know. One of the best under-the-radar names, especially when you want to think ahead to 2018 Top 30. I considered him as one of the sleeper types, and probably could have/should have listed him there. A few people have slipped his name to me as a guy that I could look smart ranking aggressively. He has late-inning upside. Power. That control you mention. Lots going for him — except for name recognition. That’s about to change.

Elizabeth K (Winketta): The Cardinals seem to have a habit of bypassing High-A for top hitting prospect, seemingly because of the poor hitting conditions, do you see any prospects making the jump straight to double A this year? (Sierra and Alvarez and Sosa, even though he had a cup of coffee there this year)
Derrick Goold: They do indeed have top hitting prospects skip High-A for that exact reason. Palm Beach and the Florida State League have swallowed hitting prospects whole. See: Garcia, Anthony. Wong, Adams, and others have moved right to Class AA. Alvarez is ticketed for the same advancement. Could see Sosa and Sierra starting in Palm Beach and moving to Springfield, though I imagine — and I don’t have an inside insight on this, only instinct and educated feel — there will be discussion about where is it best for Sierra to go. A year ago they moved him aggressive and his production slipped. He returned to Peoria and did well in a second swing at Low-A. Will that make the Cardinals hesitant to get him to Class AA? Once bitten? Or do they see the possible return and confidence that he gets from being at a better offensive level/league as being worth the risk? His glove is ready for that level.

Adam (Detroit): How many Cards do you think make the top 100?
Derrick Goold: Four, maybe five. I bet Alex Reyes gets consideration for No. 1, but doubt he scores that honor. He will be in the discussion.

Jeremy (Monticello,IL): When is the last time we had a legit 1st baseman prospect? Any to get excited about now?
Derrick Goold: Albert Pujols. Unless you consider Matt Carpenter. He’s going to have the position now, and the Cardinals wouldn’t mind if he held it for awhile.

Aaron (Durham NC): Is Gyorko 2.0 a good way to think about DeJong's ceiling? Power guy who can play anywhere on the infield?
Derrick Goold: Maybe. It’s not a completely outlandish comparison.

Dan (Hartford, CT): Is Derian Gonzalez a top 15 prospect in a system as deep as this?
Derrick Goold: He did not crack the top 15 I submitted.

Vern Den Herder (Miami): Thanks for chatting, Derrick. The top 7 pitching prospects are clear (at least to me). Which means that one of the following is only the 14th-best pitching prospect in St. Louis' system: Ryan Helsley, Jake Woodford, Alvaro Seijas, Derian Gonzalez, Johan Oviedo, Jordan Hicks, or Connor Jones. So my question: for rotation arms, is this by far the best depth you've ever seen in the StL system? Thanks again.
Derrick Goold: For power arms it is, easily. Gosh, it was only 11-12 years ago that the number of pitchers who could thrown 95 mph or better could be counted on one hand. Now, dozen–plus are averaging that. There was also a time in my tenure here when there wasn’t a single starter in the minors who had more innings pitched than hits allowed. Imagine that. Crazy. So, in those terms you could make the argument this is a deeper group than ever before. I think that’s one the Cardinals have actually tried to do: When you can’t draft high, acquire a lot of the same. Throw numbers and probability at the situation and count that if you have five, one will rise. That’s kind of thing. You look at the names you mentioned and not all of them are in the top 30. All would have been top 20 a decade ago.

Jack (St. Louis): With so much promising pitching depth in the minors, have the Carlos Martinez extension talks become less of a priority for the front office? Or is there still mutual interest? Thanks.
Derrick Goold: Absolutely not. There remains mutual interest. They are waiting for mutual timing.

Aaron B (Marquette): Whats the word on Randy Arozarena?
Derrick Goold: Enthralling.

Sandra (Decatur, Il.): Does this sound right for April, Derrick? Harry Bader plays CF in AAA, Randy Arozarena CF in AA, and Mags Sierra CF in High-A? Also, have you seen Arozarena in person? He's been top 2 in steals in all 3 pro leagues in which he's played, so I was wondering how *much* of a burner he is. (Because he's also been thrown out quite a bit, too.) Thanks!
Derrick Goold: Seems right on, part of that conversation mentioned earlier re: Sierra. I have not seen Arozarena in person. I’ve been told he’s a burner. He plays a speed game.

Tim (Lisle): Where does Perez start in 2017?
Derrick Goold: Extended spring training.

Followup (Followuptown): So Ryan Helsley is NOT viewed as a potential MLB starting pitcher down the line? Or are you just saying that the bullpen is a *likelier* landing spot, a la Rosenthal? So, maybe 70/30 he ends up in the 'pen? Thanks and Merry Christmas!
Derrick Goold: I was asked if he could be a closer. The answer is yes for many reasons. He’s not being limited at this point. It’s just possible to see a player like him move up swifter, be used earlier as a reliever. No big breaking news there.

Johnny (St. Louis): Do you believe that the outcome of the Heyward trade has left Mo reluctant to deal young talent for a player whose contract is expiring in the near future? Obviously price was prohibitive, but did that play a role in MO's not dealing for a player such as CarGo this offseason and instead surrendering the draft pick for Fowler?
Derrick Goold: No. I believe the Heyward trade was made to address a sudden hole on the roster, in the lineup, one created by tragedy. The Cardinals had to make a deal that they wouldn’t otherwise make because they were in a spot that no team, no one wanted them to be in. They had to do something that broke from their usually restrained, data-driven approach to make a deal because they had a need. Their approach to this winter is far more in character: Look for the trade, look for the trade, see the market zoom to crazy places, reject team’s interest in Alex Reyes, try to talk them into quantity instead of the highest-end quality, and then decide to spend money to get it. They have money. They like their prospects.

Grant (NYC): Any chance Delvin Perez could begin in the Midwest League this year, or are the Cards intent on taking it slow with him?
Derrick Goold: They intend to take it deliberate with him, yes. Could he finish there? I imagine that will be determined by his performance at a short-season club and what club is headed to the playoffs. It wouldn’t shock me at all if the Cardinals try to get Perez onto a playoff team at Peoria or lower. If Peoria qualifies early, it could be the place where he spends the postseason.

Jason (NY): Hi, Derrick, and thanks for taking the time to chat. I was surprised not to see Jack Flaherty in this top 10 (if not top five, frankly). How much consideration did he get, and what caused him to drop this time around? Lack of upside? Rougher 2016 season than expected (really, only one brutal early start hurt his numbers)? Or simply that others leapfrogged him?
Derrick Goold: The short answer is that others leapfrogged him. The long answer was earlier in the chat. Promise. It has to do with production too. All of the projections are great, but eventually they have to manifest for a player.

Jason (West Michigan): Which pitcher is most likely to crack the rotation after Wainwright's contract expires? Flaherty or Gomber?
Derrick Goold: Yes. Either of them. Add in Woodford, and let the race begin.

Jason (West Michigan): Could you see both Fernandez and Alcantara being used as closer and set up guys down the road?
Derrick Goold: Seems like an entirely reasonable outcome. I took the advice of someone I trusted when it came to speculating on the future lineup and put Alcantara at closer, even though he profiles now as a starter.

Mick (Chicago): Is A. Diaz a good candidate to fall on his face offensively this year? The major leagues will adjust and pitch to him the same way the minors did. He never approached the stats in the minors that he achieved in the majors.
Derrick Goold: I’m going to go with no. Aledmys Diaz will improve defensively and continue his ascent as an offensive provider for the Cardinals. Bating second could be very very good for him. While he doesn’t have as many bleacher doubters as, say, Randal Grichuk, Diaz has his share, and I, frankly, don’t get it. Solid player. Improving player. His rookie year was not a fluke. He never approached the stats in the minors that he did in the majors because he spent the minors mostly knocking off the rust from an 18-month hiatus from competitive baseball, and the majors are a truer reflection of his talent as a result.

Aaron (Durham NC): If his defensive skill allows him to develop offensively in the Majors (as Yadier Molina did), what is Carson Kelly's offensive ceiling? Since he was drafted for his power potential, his latent power potential from the catcher's position, combined with the plate discipline skills he's demonstrated, has always excited me.
Derrick Goold: It’s fair, I think, to actually compare the two offensively with one caveat. Molina was always a contact guy, and that contact (i.e., lack of strikeouts) portended a good ability to hit for average eventually in the majors. He did that. Kelly has less of a swing for average and more of a swing for flashes of power. Otherwise you could see a parallel in how their offense translates over time. Molina with the higher average, Kelly with the higher chance of power.

Tyler (Peoria, Illinois): Who had the chance to be the next impact prospect in the Major Leagues, along the lines of Alex Reyes last year? What are the ceilings of last year's top draft picks like Dakota Hudson? Thanks for chatting!
Derrick Goold: This is THE QUESTION for the Cardinals. It is the one that preoccupies them, or should. The Cardinals have spent the past few years — since the move of Piscotty to the majors and now with the arrival of Reyes — knowing that there was a space in their system, a “gap” that existed between the majors and their next wave of possible high-end talent. In 2017, the potential candidates to be the next “impact prospect” are going to arrive at Class AA. Who thrives? If we’re honest with what constitutes “impact” then Carson Kelly is next in line. But after him is the unknown. There are a handful of players who could, players who have that upside, players who have that ability, that talent, that ceiling. That said, it all comes back to where we started this chat. Ranking high is swell. Projecting well is nice. At some point that ability has to manifest as production. This is the thing to watch with the Cardinals in 2017. What prospect — from this top 10, from the international class, from out of left field — asserts himself with the production that says, he’s the next impact prospect. Hudson could. Perez could. Sierra could. Cordoba, if he’s back, could. Alvarez could go bonkers in the Texas League and be that guy. Arozarena could be. Bader could at Class AAA. The stage is wide open. The spotlight is one. Who steps in?

Derrick Goold: Seems like a good place to call it a day. Thanks for a delightful couple of hours here. I tried to pay as much attention to the names as the questions and hope I got to most of the people who submitted questions. If not, know that I do one of these chats almost every Monday at The next one will be after New Year’s. Check the web site for details. Or you can always find me on Twitter and yell at me there, @dgoold. The Baseball America prospect projects is one of my favorite things to do every year because it teaches me more and more about what goes into development, and helps me better understand the major-league team and the organization I cover. These questions help me think of new things to explore, too, and I thank you for that. Hope everyone has a great stretch of holidays.

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