The St. Louis Cardinals endured a down year by their astronomically high standards. They finished second in the NL Central with an 86-76 record, 17.5 games behind the Cubs. But read this crazy stat about St. Louis: that was tied for their fourth lowest record since 2000. They have been remarkably consistent over the years, having finished with a sub-.500 record only once in the 2000s.
And the way they’ve been able to keep up this consistency is by maintaining a strong farm system throughout the years. You look at their team now and in the past, it has almost always been littered with players who have come up through their organization. Franchise cornerstones like Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez and virtually everyone else has come up through their system. They are arguably the finest run organization in Major League Baseball and with the strong farm system they currently have, expect them to maintain that reputation for years to come.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Today I am beginning my list of prospect systems in the NL . I have already covered the. Later, I will delve into the and . To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.
Top Overall Talent: Alex Reyes
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: Alex Reyes
Biggest Boom or Bust: Alex Reyes
The Cardinals were undoubtedly extremely excited about getting to see a full season of Reyes in the big league starting rotation. Those hopes were shot down in early February, however, when it was announced that the talented right-hander would be receiving Tommy John surgery.
Prior to the surgery, Reyes had demonstrated an ability to miss bats like few others could. With a consistent upper-90s fastball (sometimes triple-digits) and the best right-handed curveball in the minors, Reyes could be near untouchable at times. His control was always a bit shaky, but the Cardinals are great at developing young pitchers and should hopefully iron out his issues.
He is obviously the boom or bust guy for now because we have no idea how this surgery will affect him. Some guys bounce back relatively quickly and without so much as a hitch, others have their career derailed by it. Reyes will remain a complete unknown until early 2018 when he starts pitching again. Then we will see if he remains the future ace of the Cardinals or if the surgery will cause irreparable harm.
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Carson Kelly
Kelly has come a long way since being selected 86th overall in the 2012 draft. He began as a relative unknown prospect to the heir apparent to Yadier Molina behind the dish in St. Louis. Kelly has made this ascension thanks in large part to his defense, but his bat has finally started to make progress as well. Scouts see him as someone who could probably hit .260-.280 in the big leagues with enough raw power to eventually develop 15-20 home run pop. If he can keep improving his plate discipline and continue driving the ball, he has a chance to become a potent bat behind the plate. Kelly will begin in Triple-A, but should find himself as the backup later this season and starter if Molina is hurt for any extended period of time.
Biggest Sleeper: Dakota Hudson
Hudson was a standout arm while at Mississippi State, helping lead the Bulldogs to a 44-18-1 season in his final year with them thanks in large part to his 2.55 ERA in 17 starts (113.0 innings) with only 106 hits allowed and 115 strikeouts. He didn’t pitch much after being drafted, but when he did, scouts were impressed. They saw a big right-hander with four above-average pitches, promising command and a real presence on the mound. Hudson has a mid-90s sinking fastball and while it likely won’t be a big strikeout pitch, it should help him generate a ton of ground balls. Hudson could be a quick riser through the minors thanks to his advanced control and outstanding repertoire and should be able to become a No. 3 pitcher for the Cardinals.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Victor Garcia
One of the top international prospects in last year’s class, Garcia wowed scouts with his incredible power. It was an easy choice for him to be seen as the top power bat in the draft class as most who watch him play see a guy capable of blasting 40 home runs at the big league level. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound outfielder has the size to keep up the power production and scouts believe that his power may already be less raw and possibly already capable of producing high home run totals. He is only 17 and will need to work on the other areas of his game, but if he can successfully reach the majors, dynasty owners should be quick to pick up the bat as he could be one of the next great power hitters in our game.
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Eliezer Alvarez
For the first time in his professional career, Alvarez ascended beyond the Rookie league and played a full season at Class-A. And man oh man did he impress. The switch-hitting second baseman slashed .323/.404/.476 with six home runs and 36 successful stolen bases in 116 games. Arguably his most impressive numbers might be the plate discipline numbers he displayed as he walked 10.6 percent of the time while only striking out in 19.2 percent of his plate appearances. The Cardinals appear to want to be aggressive with him moving forward and as a result are likely to start him in Double-A after adding him to their 40-man roster this offseason. He could be a future leadoff hitting second baseman with a .290-.310 batting average and 25 stolen bases.
Best Burner on the Bases: Magneuris Sierra
Alvarez may be fast, but Sierra is just a tick faster. A quick glance at his stats, and many will be disappointed by the stolen base numbers. They will see only 15 in 2013, 13 in 2014, 19 in 2015 and capped off by an impressive 31 in 2016. But when put into context, those sub-20 SB numbers look quite a bit better. Consider that in 2013 and 2014, he played in less than 65 games in both seasons and he only barely reached 120 games last season. Now Sierra did get thrown out 17 times last season, but that has more to do with getting bad jumps than it does with his pure speed. Sierra is no Roman Quinn or Billy Hamilton, but if he can learn to get better reads, his ability to actually hit for average should allow him to reach base enough to steal 30-35 bases per season.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: Alex Reyes
Though Sandy Alcantara and Luke Weaver could certainly make cases for this spot, Reyes is the clear winner for strikeout machine. During his professional career, Reyes consistently generated strikeouts at a rate near 30 percent which puts him in Noah Syndergaard and Max Scherzer territory. His filthy fastball/curveball is one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, let alone the minors and it could be again if he bounces back from TJ surgery all right. Reyes will remain a question mark until we see him pitch again, but if he makes a full recovery, he will step right back into a spot where he could be a perennial contender for the NL strikeout title.
Best Command: Luke Weaver
This category was just as much of a runaway as the strikeout machine category was for Reyes. Weaver may be able to make a legitimate argument for having the best command of any starter in the minors, in fact. Outside of the six innings at Triple-A and 3.1 innings at rookie league in 2013, Weaver has never walked batters at a higher rate than 7.2 percent at any level and that rate was in the majors. In the minors, his highest walk rate was 5.3 percent (min. 10 IP). Weaver also possesses a solid repertoire with a well above-average fastball/changeup combination, though his curveball will need some improvement. Weaver has an incredibly high floor because of his control and will likely get a chance to start regularly at the big league level in 2017.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the St. Louis Cardinals
1. Alex Reyes (SP, MLB)
The Tommy John surgery puts his future in question a bit, but Reyes is a remarkably talented arm and still stands a great chance of becoming the next Cardinals ace.
2. Delvin Perez (SS, ROK)
Perez’s draft stock fell a bit due to a positive drug test, but he has the bat and defensive ability to become a franchise shortstop for the redbirds.
3. Carson Kelly (C, MLB)
Kelly is one Molina injury away from stepping into a starting role behind the dish and will become the regular starter after Molina leaves St. Louis.
4. Luke Weaver (SP, MLB)
A control freak by nature, Weaver has the highest floor of any prospect in this system and seems destined to occupy the No. 3 spot in the St. Louis spot for many years to come.
5. Sandy Alcantara (SP, A+)
Alcantara has the stuff and body size to become a frontline rotation, but he requires a little bit more time to put it all together.
6. Magneuris Sierra (OF, A-)
The speedy center fielder looks like a future leadoff option for St. Louis after a little bit more time in the minors to iron out his approach.
7. Eliezer Alvarez (2B, A-)
Alvarez has been a quick riser through the minors and could be a top-of-the-order bat for both the Cardinals and for dynasty owners.
8. Harrison Bader (OF, AAA)
Bader’s strikeout issues limit his upside, but there is the chance for a regular outfielder to hit .260 with 15/15 seasons.
9. Edmundo Sosa (SS, A+)
Though not quite as exciting as Perez, Sosa still possesses some projectability and could become a regular shortstop for a big league club with a .260 average and some steals.
10. Dakota Hudson (SP, AA)
Hudson possesses a well-rounded repertoire of pitches and could be a future middle-back of the rotation starter.
The Cardinals never seem to rebuild, but rather reload. They always seem to have a strong, deep farm system that helps to keep their big-league club successful. Their system right now is led by an imposing trio of pitchers in Reyes, Weaver and Alcantara as well as a couple of potential franchise batters like Perez, Kelly and Sierra.
And there are many other names in this system that could have dynasty impacts in the future. Pitchers like Jack Flaherty and Marco Gonzales could eventually become big-league regulars (despite the injuries and other struggles of the latter) and batters like Victor Diaz and Nick Plummer could become middle-of-the-order bats if they are able to reach their full potential. This is one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and one that needs plenty of examination for dynasty owners looking to gain an edge on the opposition.