Jerry’s 2011 End of Year Cards Top 7 Prospects

The UCB is doing a Top 7 Prospect listing so I thought I would throw in my 2 cents.  The Cards prospects have taken a big step forward this year with so many prospects taking a big step forward and some jumping from the lower minors to AA and beyond.  Narrowing down to the Top 7 wasn’t easy and to me there can be an major argument for many players from #5-7.  I will talk about my ranking philosophy, explain my Tier system and then get into my prospect ranking.

 Prospect Ranking Philosophy

I have always been someone that values upside over readiness but not to the extreme.  There is a lot to be said for producing in the upper minors.  I take a look at all the tools, performance, video, respected analyst and scout opinions and then my personal “gut” feeling.  I ranked CMart my #2 prospect over Cox coming into the season and have spoken extremely highly of Taveras for a year and a half now.  I have gotten a lot of criticism for those 2 things but I stick with my guns.

Prospect Tier System

I use a Bird(s) system to explain my Prospect Tiers and the Cards overall system.  I started doing this near the end of last year to give a fair representation to prospects acrossed organizations and to look back at Cards prospects from past years to have an easier system to compare them to the recent crop of prospects.

5 Birds – The elite of prospects. These prospects will be stars in the bigs AND have enough body of work in the minors to justify the top rating. From a category perspective this would be a rare rating if the system had quite a few 5 Birds Rating. Basically the elite of elite in a category.
4 Birds – Prospects that will have a solid body of work in the minors and will be above avg players in the bigs OR prospects with the upside of a 5 Birds Rating but not enough service time in the minors to justify the rating. From a category perspective this would be a category with a number of 4 and 5 Birds Ratings players. It would require a balance of depth and stardom.
3 Birds – Prospects that will be a regular in the bigs but won’t be a significant piece to the ball club. These prospects won’t be All-Stars nor will they be top of the rotation or middle of the order players. From a category perspective this would be a middle of the road category with few 4-5 Birds Rating players and plenty of 2-3 Birds Ratings.
2 Birds – Prospects that will be role players in the bigs. These prospects will bounce around from AAA to the bigs and most likely will play for many franchises over the years if they are fortunate enough to stick around. From a category perspective this would be many role/utility type players in the category with little to no star power.
1 Bird – Prospects that will be career minor leagues and may get a cup of coffee in the bigs. From a category perspective this is the ultimate insult. If you get a 1 Bird in any category you basically have very few players in the category that could even be role players in the bigs.

2011 Cards End of Year Top 7 Prospects

Now to what everyone is waiting for…the always talked about prospect ranking!  After the name of the prospect in parenthesis was my beginning of the year ranking and after his position is his Bird Tier Rating.  I also excluded any prospect that was promoted prior to September (Sanchez, Lynn, etc) even though technically many still qualify.  Let’s jump right in…

1)  Shelby Miller (1)- RHP – 5 Birds
Miller is just about everything you want in a pitching prospect…you have the size and frame, you have the mentality, you have the FB, you have the makings of a very good to great CB and CH and you have the results to back it up.  The knocks on Miller are his focus (some off the field troubles in-season) and his use of secondary stuff.  I am not worried about his secondary stuff as I have seen enough video that shows he just needs to continue to use and refine those pitches and I have no doubt it will happen.  His upside is a true ACE and anyone that knows me I am bullish on using that term.  Many consider him a Top 5 prospect at this point and there is a good argument that he is the best SP prospect in baseball.
2)  Carlos Martinez (2) – RHP – 4.5Birds
Martinez is on everyone’s radar after the year he had.  I was bullish on him being my #2 prospect coming into the season as his command was known to be pin point for his age and it didn’t hurt he consistently hit upper 90′s even late in games…but he hadn’t pitched an inning on American soil.  Well he came over to start the year and showed by everyone should be excited about him.  His FB and command were as advertised and his breaking ball shows flashes of at least a plus pitch.  His arm angle is ideal for a CH and he showed better consistency as the year went along.  His delivery seems fairly smooth (I am no pitching mechanics/delivery expert by any means) and is arm action doesn’t show any red flags.  I try to hold my expectations down just a touch so I see upside as a legit #1 starter but not quite an ACE (and yes…I think there is a difference).
3)  Oscar Taveras (15) – OF – 4 Birds
As I was high on Taveras for the past year and a half I also knew he was still very young and raw.  He grew up quickly this year (though he had a few hamstring injuries this year) as he is currently trying to lead the River Bandits to the Midwest League Championship.  When you hit .386 with an OBP of .444 for the year people start talking a lot about you.  He doesn’t walk much though he worked on that in the 2nd half of the season and did improve on strike zone judgement that will only help him as he progresses through the season.  His hit tool is off the charts for his age.  He seems to square up every ball he hits.  His power is quite there yet but is projectable to be a 20 HR guy or better.  His speed is there though he isn’t a burner.  He can handle all 3 OF positions with good arm strength and if he is able to stay in CF that just increases his overall value.  I see a middle of the order bat that plays good D if everything works out.
4)  Zack Cox (3) – 3B – 4 Birds
First off it is not “Zach” it is “Zack”…for some reason I see many people spelling his name wrong.  I was not sold on him coming into the year as a 4 Birds rating but he showed why he should be upgraded to one with his effort this year between Palm Beach and Springfield.  He is not your prototypical 3B that can mash but I do see more power coming as he continues to rise through the system (look at his 2nd half for evidence).  Another knock on him is the defensive ability at 3B…which is a very valid point but I have seen Brett Wallace and Zack Cox at 3B multiple times…and why they get the same comparison is beyond me.  Cox is a better 3B than Wallace was on his best days…and thats not saying its a guarantee he sticks at 3B either.  He is a very smart player and hitter and knows how to use the whole field.  He seems to always take a little time to adjust to each level but once he gets its he starts hitting, hitting and hitting some more.  His power is a hot topic but he has shown he has that power tucked away somewhere but he is more of a 15 HR guy than a 30 HR guy in the future.  I see an above avg overall player that will contribute in the middle of the order somewhere.
5)  Matt Adams (NR) – 1B – 3.5 Birds
Adams sure did who everyone that he can hit for avg and power this year.  He had a great year and is starting to get a little bit of National recognition as a prospect.  His fate as a Cardinal will be with Pujols’ contact situation this offseason as he is only a 1B.  As a 1B you get pressure to be an elite hitter to be competitive just at your own position.  I am not sure I see Adams as an elite hitter once he arrives but a .290ish hitter that will hit between 25-30 HR’s is realistic.  That is quite productive.
6)  Jordan Swagerty (19) – RHP – 3.5 Birds
I will admit that I never saw Swagerty as a starter but what he showed this year I am starting to believe he could be and my ranking of him represents that.  And don’t be misled by his move to the bullpen later in the year as that was a move to limit his innings.  He has a plus FB and CB and should start the year in Springfield in 2012 which could put him in the mix for a call up late in 2013 if all goes well.  His upside is a #2 starter or a closer type reliever.  Everything will depend on how his CH continues to develop but count me in as buying into the hype as a starter.
7)  Tyrell Jenkins (6) – RHP – 3.5 Birds
I ranked Jenkins quite high on my beginning of the year rankings as his upside is quite exciting.  He is super athletic (could be the most athletic pitching in all of the minors) and is quite raw.  At JC this year he did show why we should be excited about him and signs that he is learning to pitch (which is a good sign as he was a million sport star in HS so he never had the opportunity to focus on any one sport).  He had a 4:1 K to BB ratio which is GREAT to see to start his career and he had 1 K/IP.  He has a hard sinking FB, SL and CH in his arsenal and reports say his secondary pitches are developing faster than expected.  Still a project and won’t be ready until late 2014 at best.  His upside is a very good #2 SP.
Just missed list:  Ryan Jackson (SS), Kolten Wong (2B) and Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)

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