clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

The Cardinals are known for their ability to get the most out of their prospects, and there are even more coming. Who are their top 10 fantasy prospects?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With the offseason in full swing, that means it will be time for teams to assess their needs for next season and start planning for a longer than hoped offseason. We're at the same point for fantasy owners in dynasty leagues, and we're here to help you with the information you need as you prepare for your minor league drafts.

In previous years, we have done rather intensive top 10 prospect lists, including an organizational rundown, opportunities in the coming season, as well as the top fantasy prospects. However, we have found that a number of these topics are covered as we continue through the offseason, and specifically through profiles done as a part of our preseason redraft rankings. As a result, this year's top 10 lists will be primarily that: a list of the prospects with brief writeups rather than the 4000-8000 word opuses that have occurred in the past. We feel that this year's format will both suit the goal better (of providing fantasy relevant information and rankings) as well as allow us to move through them much more quickly so that they can be completed by the Christmas holiday.

The schedule itself is fairly basic: We cover a division, going in alphabetical order of city/location name. This means the next team after this post will be the Diamondbacks.

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat I provide every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the offseason, and so it is very possible that by the end of the offseason, how we view a player may be very different from where we had them originally.  We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

Something new I wanted to introduce this year is a tier system to help delineate where prospects are likely to fall on the overall top prospect list. We have not completed our top prospects lists yet, and will not likely do so until we are close to finishing all the prospect rankings. The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers which do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

#1 - Alex Reyes (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2017

Reyes went the unusual route of moving from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic in order to get better exposure, and it worked. He signed with the Cardinals in 2012 for just under $1 million. He has moved very quickly through the minors, reaching AA as a 20 year old this past season and posting elite strikeout totals (151 in 101 innings) while doing so. He was also sent to the Arizona Fall League this year, but only made four starts after being shut down, as it turned out, for a 50-game suspension for marijuana use. The suspension might make him more likely to debut in 2016, as he will be out until late May, and could help limit his innings for use later. Reyes is one of the few pitching prospects in the minors with true ace upside, capable of providing elite strikeout totals on the strength of three potential plus pitches. He still needs to work on his command, but he can still be a mid-rotation starter even with a higher walk total.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

There are no Cardinals' prospects in this tier.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats like 12 and 14 team leagues.

#2 - Jack Flaherty (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 20
ETA: 2018

A supplemental first round pick in 2014, Flaherty moved straight to full-season ball this year and pitched well in the Midwest League. He threw a total of 95 innings at Low-A, striking out 97 against 31 walks with a 2.84 ERA. He's a bit of a high-floor type prospect, as his fastball is in the low 90s and not considered an above-average pitch, but is extremely polished overall for a high school draftee. He should be a mid-rotation starting pitcher going forward, providing solid but not spectacular numbers, and could potentially grow into more if the velocity improves.

#3 - Luke Weaver (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 22
ETA: 2016

Weaver's 2015 season jumps off the page, as the FSU product cruised to a 1.62 ERA in 105.1 IP at High-A. He made headlines for his Summer dominance, as well, allowing only 6 ER in his last eleven starts, good for a 0.82 ERA from July 5 through the end of the season. Weaver features two above-average to plus pitches in his low to mid-90s fastball and change-up, and has shown promise with his curveball. And, as his low walk rate would suggest, he has excellent command and control. He's on the thin side (6'2" and only 170 pounds), which makes some worry about his durability, but he has clean, repeatable mechanics, and he's very athletic. Weaver profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter, with a bit more upside if his curve turns into a true weapon.

#4 - Marco Gonzales (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
ETA: 2016

Gonzales was poised to contribute at the big league level this season, on the strength of a solid command/control profile and three average or better pitches (the best of which is his change-up - one of the best in the minors). Unfortunately, he was limited to just 83.1 IP between the minors and the Majors, missing six weeks between May and July due to a shoulder injury. If he is back at full-strength this season, he should spend most of the year in the Cardinals rotation, where he could be yet another solid mid-rotation starter.

#5 - Tim Cooney (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 25
ETA: 2016

Cooney is a classic command/control lefty - the sort of pitcher that should slot into the back of a rotation and churn out 180+ average-ish innings like clockwork. He throws four fringe average to average pitches (fastball, change-up, curve, cutter), and commands all four quite well, but doesn't have a true swing and miss pitch. Cooney does tend to pitch up in the strike zone, which leads to a fair share of flyballs, but he limits walks at an elite rate and generates a great deal of weak contact. His floor is quite high, and there is always value in an innings eater.

Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays

These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.

#6 - Magneuris Sierra (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
ETA: 2020

Sierra won the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year award in 2014, on the heels of leading the GCL in batting average (.386!) and hits, and was promoted to Low-A to start off 2015. He promptly fell flat on his face, batting .191/.219/.247, struggling to catch up to high-velocity and to pick up spin - par the course for such a young, inexperience prospect. Upon being demoted to Rookie ball, Sierra perked back up, batting .315/.371/.394 and stealing 15 bases (2 CS) in 239 PA. He has a high-contact approach, with excellent bat speed, well above-average speed, and athleticism to spare. Sierra does not have much present power, but some think that it may develop as he fills out. He's a long way off, but he could be a top of the order threat with solid defense in CF.

#7 - Harrison Bader (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2018

A 3rd round pick in 2015, Bader had an excellent debut primarily in the Midwest League. He hit .311 with 11 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 61 games overall. A bit on the smaller side at 6' even and 195 lbs, Bader still has the potential to be a very interesting fantasy outfielder. The overall tool profile doesn't really project a carrying tool, but all five are expected to be at least average and should lead him to provide decent across-the-board production. We should get a better idea whether he can be an above-average contributor as he progresses, but for now he's an interesting flier at the end of most drafts.

#8 - Edmundo Sosa (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 20
ETA: 2019

Signed out of Panama in 2012, Sosa spent the 2015 season in the Appalachian League, where he hit .300 with seven home runs and six stolen bases in 49 games. He's a long way from the Majors right now, having not played above a short-season league yet. The profile could be an interesting one, with the potential to provide a high batting average on the strength of a good approach and solid contact ability. Add in some stolen bases, and it can work in a lot of leagues as a starting middle infielder. He's a name worth watching at this point, but I wouldn't invest except in deeper NL-only leagues.

#9 - Nick Plummer (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
ETA: 2019

The top pick of the Cardinals this year, Plummer debuted with the Cards' GCL affiliate after signing. The overall performance was a bit of a mixed bag, hitting .228 with a home run and 8 steals in 51 games, a 17% walk rate and a 25% strikeout rate. The walk rate really stands out for a high school draftee, even one who was considered more polished than an average draftee. The potential for Plummer is for him to hit for both average and power, but we likely do not see him until at least 2019.

#10 - Charlie Tilson (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 23
ETA: 2017

Tilson spent his season at AA Springfield, hitting for a high average (.295) with a league-leading 46 stolen bases. That performance made it a fairly easy decision for the Cardinals to add him to the 40-man roster in November, but he may be a player that is of more use to them than fantasy owners. Multiple reports on Tilson point to a potential fourth outfield profile, a player that may not be a starter for a good team. The only tool that is above-average is his speed, so he can be a source of stolen bases with regular playing time. Tilson credited his improvement in stolen base success in part to a meeting with Juan Pierre, but it remains to be seen whether he settles in closer to 25+ steals or back in the 15-20 range he was previously.