What happened. Baseball America released their annual preseason rankings of the top-100 prospects in baseball. RHP Alex Reyes once again leads the way, this time at #17. Others on the list are RHP Jack Flaherty at #53, C Carson Kelly at #55, and OF Tyler O’Neill at #86.
The numbers. Alex Reyes, 23, is on Baseball America’s preseason top-100 list for the fourth straight season after peaking at #4 last season. He missed the entire 2017 season rehabbing from a February Tommy John surgery. In limited action in St. Louis in 2016, Reyes had a 1.57 ERA over 46 innings as both a starter and reliever. He is not expected to return to the mound until May 2018.
Jack Flaherty, 22, made his big league debut in 2017 after posting a 2.18 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. However he struggled upon arrival in St. Louis, posting a 6.33 ERA over 5 starts and a relief appearance. He will compete with Luke Weaver for the Cardinals’ fifth starter spot and potentially a spot in the bullpen. This is his first appearance on Baseball America’s preseason prospect rankings. He was #57 on their mid-season update.
Carson Kelly, 23, makes his second appearance on Baseball America’s preseason top-100 list, moving up from #65 last season as he debuted as a consensus top-100 prospect. Kelly hit .283/.375/.459 with 10 home runs in 68 games for Memphis last season before receiving a midseason call up to the big leagues where he served as Yadier Molina‘s backup. He hit .174/.240/.217 over 34 games in the big leagues.
Tyler O’Neill, 22, was able to hold onto a spot in the top-100, sliding from #38 to #86 this season after early season struggles upon the promotion to AAA. He was acquired by the Cardinals over the summer for Marco Gonzales. Over 130 games between Triple-As Tacoma and Memphis, O’Neill hit .246/.321/.499 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI.
The impact. 0/10. No real impact here, just some validation for the organization. Three of these four players should graduate off the list this season with Reyes expected to arrive in St. Louis in May, Kelly expected to spend the season as Molina’s backup, and Flaherty likely to play a Luke Weaver (#50 on last year’s preseason list) role this year.
Falling off the list is shortstop prospect Delvin Perez, who had been a consensus top-100 prospect before the 2017 season and #86 on Baseball America’s list. Most of that carried on him projecting as a toolsy shortstop who had a great age 17 season in his debut in rookie league. However, he struggled in his age 18 season and just turned 19 a couple months ago. It’s less of a reflection on Perez and more on the difficulty in projecting a teenage player’s development. Kyle Reis at Birds on the Black wrote a nice piece on this a couple weeks ago.
Further, I can’t help but chuckle a bit at the positioning of Alex Reyes. Reyes was #4 last year before going to the disabled list with Tommy John. He was #12 at the midseason update in July and has fallen even further despite four guys ahead of him in the midseason rankings either graduated or dropped below him. It’s like, what happened in those six months that convinced them that Reyes at #12 was too high and that he needed to drop five more spots?