clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

St. Louis Cardinals Top-Ten Fantasy Prospects

New, 7 comments

The Cardinals’ system, though not elite, features some impressive young players who could make a big leap in 2017.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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 that must be rehashed 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 off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. 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

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players 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 that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-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: 22

ETA: 2017

Only a handful of prospects have the look of a future frontline starter, but Reyes most definitely is one of them. At his peak, the young righthander will feature three plus offerings, including a fastball and curveball that grade as double-plus. In 2016 Reyes posted a pedestrian 4.96 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 14 starts at Triple-A Memphis. He impressed, however, following his August callup to the majors, finishing 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 appearances (5 starts). The only knock on Reyes is his control, which, despite improvements, remains below average, as evidenced by a 4.41 BB/9 rate at Memphis and a 4.50 mark with St. Louis. Nonetheless, he remains a Tier 1 fantasy prospect who offers the possibility of elite strikeout totals; his minor-league career K/9 rate stands at a remarkable 12.09. Assuming Lance Lynn returns to full health, the Cardinals’ rotation appears set, which means that club officials could bring Reyes along slowly, as they did with Carlos Martinez. Owners in re-draft leagues should be aware of this possibility, as well as the fact that Reyes has yet to top 111.1 IP in a single-season. A return to Triple-A to open 2017 appears likely.

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.

#2 - Luke Weaver (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 23

ETA: 2017

A 2014 first-round pick, Weaver put together a 2016 season that was in some ways the polar opposite of the one submitted by his teammate Alex Reyes: a dazzling minor-league campaign followed by a rocky major-league debut. Weaver dominated hitters at Double-A Springfield to the tune of a 1.40 ERA, 88 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 77 innings. In nine major-league appearances, however, he posted a 5.70 ERA while allowing a .311 batting average. With an above-average fastball-changeup combo and very good control overall, he still projects as a solid mid-rotation starter. He’ll open 2017 at Triple-A Memphis and could be back in St. Louis before long.

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.

#3 - Harrison Bader (OF)

Age on Opening Day: 22

ETA: 2017

The 100th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Bader last season struggled in 49 games at Triple-A Memphis. Otherwise, the young outfielder has encountered few stumbling blocks during his impressive ascent through the Redbirds’ system. In 700 minor-league ABs he has demonstrated an advanced feel for hitting along with an impressive combination of power and speed. He’s not a franchise-type player, but there’s a chance he could develop five above-average tools. Fantasy owners might expect a few 20-20 seasons with a solid batting average. The Dexter Fowler signing blocks his immediate path to St. Louis, so Bader will get more seasoning at Triple-A in 2017.

#4 - Sandy Alcantara (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 21

ETA: 2019

In a system filled with flamethrowers, Alcantara might have more upside than anyone besides Alex Reyes. Alcantara already sports a 70-grade fastball, which he complements with an above-average changeup and a developing curveball. His promising repertoire and 6’4” frame give reason to hope that he can remain a starter. In 2016, his first taste of full-season ball went even better than expected. Between Low-A Peoria and High-A Palm Beach, he finished with a 3.96 ERA, 59 walks, and a whopping 153 strikeouts in 122.2 IP. It’s worth noting that he logged a heavier workload than either Reyes or Luke Weaver, who pitched at higher levels. Alcantara should return to Palm Beach in 2017, but the challenge of Double-A Springfield beckons. His strikeout potential alone makes him a big-time sleeper and possible future stud in fantasy circles.

#5 - Jack Flaherty (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 21

ETA: 2018

A 2014 first-round pick, Flaherty has moved one level at a time through his first two-plus professional seasons. He is solid--perhaps the textbook definition of the word. He combines three above-average pitches--fastball, slider, and changeup--with above-average control, which gives him the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. In 2016 at High-A Palm Beach he finished 5-9 with a 3.56 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 45 walks in 134 IP. Although he lacks a true wipeout offering, his pitchability augurs well for continued success at the higher levels, where he should have no trouble remaining a starter. Fantasy owners might not see anything here that excites them, but Flaherty nonetheless projects as a useful contributor once he reaches the majors. He’s ticketed for Double-A Springfield in 2017.

#6 - Magneuris Sierra (OF)

Age on Opening Day: 20

ETA: 2019

Sierra, it seems, has been a prospect forever, but he’s still only 20 years old and coming off his first full season of pro ball--a successful season by any measure. In 2016 at Low-A Peoria the young outfielder slashed .307/.335/.395 with 3 HR and 31 SB in 122 games. His above-average hit-tool and plus speed make him an intriguing name to watch in fantasy circles, though he’ll have to improve his on-base skills if he is to reach his ceiling as the Cardinals’ future centerfielder and leadoff hitter. He should open 2017 with High-A Palm Beach of the rugged Florida State League.

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.

#7 - Junior Fernandez (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 20

ETA: 2019

Fernandez made six starts as a teenager at High-A Palm Beach, and his fastball has clocked in the triple-digits, so there’s plenty of promise here. He also throws an above-average changeup and projects to have at least average control. He’s developing a slider, the success of which could be the difference between Fernandez reaching his ceiling as a frontline starter or becoming a high-leverage reliever. Despite the quality of his stuff, he only struck out 88 batters in 122 IP last season, though that could be a function of his having faced advanced competition. Fantasy owners also should keep in mind that young pitchers often are asked to eschew their best offerings and work on their secondary pitches, which makes it dangerous to scout minor-league numbers. Either way, Fernandez offers a ton of potential. A return to High-A Palm Beach in 2017 appears likely.

#8 - Delvin Perez (SS)

Age on Opening Day: 18

ETA: 2020

A top-ten talent who fell to 23rd overall in the 2016 draft due to a positive drug test, Perez profiles as a plus defender at shortstop with solid offensive potential. For fantasy purposes, he could develop into a good hitter with plus speed. In his 2016 rookie-league debut he hit .294 with 12 SB in only 43 games. The drug test gives some pause, and he’s a very long way from the majors, so this ranking admittedly is a bit cautious. If the Cardinals are equally cautious with their very young shortstop who turned 18 in November, then they’ll start him at rookie-level Johnson City in 2017.

#9 - Jake Woodford (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 20

ETA: 2019

The 39th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Woodford succeeds more on pitchability than pure stuff. He throws an above-average fastball along with three secondary pitches that could become major-league average. As a teenager in the Low-A Midwest League, he enjoyed an encouraging 2016 season, posting a 3.31 ERA with 37 walks and 82 strikeouts in 108.2 IP. While he might never amass elite strikeout totals, Woodford, like many Cardinals prospects, simply knows how to pitch. He’ll head to High-A Palm Beach in 2017.

#10 - Paul DeJong (3B)

Age on Opening Day: 23

ETA: 2018

A fourth-round pick in 2015, DeJong has moved quickly through the system, skipping High-A altogether and reaching Double-A Springfield, where he spent all of 2016. As a fantasy prospect, his best attribute is his power. Last season he finished fifth in the Texas League with 22 HR. Speed is unlikely to be a part of his game, though he did steal 13 bases in 2015. If he shows he can hit Triple-A pitching, DeJong might reach St. Louis as early as 2017. He projects as an average, everyday third baseman with the potential for more.