By Jack Stephens, from Cardsblog.com
Before beginning, I'd like to briefly review the premise of this three part series. Essentially, I feel that traditional prospect rankings are overdone. There are seemingly "top 30 prospects" lists everywhere you turn.
While I am not necessarily discounting the value and validity of such lists, I wish to do something different with this series for Cardinals prospects. Specifically, I aim to offer a holistic snapshot of the farm system as it stands before 2017 officially commences.
Offering nine outfielders, infielders, and pitchers, a fan who is uninformed regarding minor league personnel can use these articles to gain a better understanding of the current landscape.
Even for fans more seasoned in minor league discourse, such a format provides an opportunity to analyze depth at specific positions, along with an early look at possible battles between players with similar projections and skill sets.
Before moving forward to the meat of the article, be sure to read the first installment, an overview of 9 outfielders to watch during the 2017 season.
At just 18 years of age, Delvin Perez is immensely talented. With a tall and lean 6'3" frame, he has tremendous speed and quickness, making him a rangey, dynamic shortstop. As it stands currently, his only defensive weakness regards a lack of control, for sometimes Perez fails to tone down his rocket arm or lightning quick feet.
Labeled as a "weakness," rest assure that Perez has plenty of time to polish as a defender. Afterall, you can always tone down explosion. Inversely, you cannot teach it. Put quite simply, "being out of control" due to elite physical prowess at 18 years just is not something to fret. If anything, it should be exciting.
Offensively, Perez is also physically talented. With good bat speed and solid pop, the potential is certainly there. However, he has a long way to go in terms of discipline. Specifically, he must improve upon his recognition and subsequent selection.
Hopefully his time spent with Jose Oquendo will help polish this issue, along with other "weaknesses" in his game. If this is the case, look for Perez to improve upon his 2016 campaign, in which he slashed .294/.352/.393 in rookie ball.
Edmundo Sosa, a Panamanian shortstop, is a product of the 2012 international signing period. Although he does not possess the flash of the aforementioned Perez, Sosa is extremely solid across the board. Perhaps not as talented or rangey on defense, Perez certainly makes up some ground through plate discipline.
Frankly, everything about Sosa is solid. He has solid speed, solid power, and plays a respectable short. You may ask, then, what is the issue?
Given that their the amount of formal scouting on Garcia is minimal, this article will take a slightly unorthodox approach with regards to analyzing his signing. To preface my claims, I understand they will be grounded largely in assumption. In that vein, leave room for your opinions, as you may interpret the little information we have in several different fashions.
Sosa, when you think about it, has no identifying features. Although he is solid, his up-side is not nearly that of Perez, and his performance does not necessarily match his attributes. For example, Sosa slashed .268/.307/.336 in 2016 in Advanced A.
While these are by no means horrible numbers, he will need to improve moving forward. If not, look for Perez to race past him in the Cardinals minor league system.
A former fourth round pick out of Illinois State, Paul Dejong is the lone third basemen on this list. As I see it, Dejong has a lot going for him. With perhaps the best raw power in the farm system, Dejong launched 22 home runs in 2016, driving in 73 runs along the way.
Although he only hit at a .260 clip during his AA campaign last season, his run production helps ease the pain. Furthermore, Dejong, despite possessing average speed, shows solid instincts on the basepaths. To complement such power and surprising base running, Dejong boasts a mature approach, seeing the ball well and laying off poor options.
In a negative sense, Dejong has a history of leg injuries, a result of his time playing catcher in college. While this is not presently an issue, this could be a hindrance at some point, especially considering the physical strain of professional baseball.
Let us hope this is not the case. Beyond injury concern, Dejong is not phenomenal on defense. In this way, he does not have a "true" home anywhere on the infield. In essence, he will have to hit his way into the big leagues.
Thus far, Eliezer Alvarez is the lowest profile prospect included on this list. A 22 year old out of the Dominican Republic, Alvarez is a prime example of persistence and development through rookie ball. Upon his entrance to the Cardinals organization, he struggled mightily.
Slashing .205/.324/.290 during his 2012 introduction, the outlook appeared glum for the young second baseman. In fact, things did not get much better in 2013, as he slashed .209/.264/.373 in his second attempt at rookie ball.
Moving forward, Alvarez showed excellent mental strength, finally breaking through in 2014, as he hit .353. From then onwards, he has been rock solid, hitting for a great average. Despite four years spent in rookie ball, Alvarez learned his lessons, and grew. In 2016, his first year in A ball, Alvarez flourished, hitting .323 and driving in 59 RBIs.
While Alvarez may not be a top prospect in the traditional sense, he is an excellent example of the patience required with extremely youthful talent. As players like Delvin Perez continue to develop, examples such as Alvarez should be held close in mind, as he reflects the growing pains one can confront before beginning to thrive.
As an introductory note, I would like to comment on the structure of this three-part series. The Cardinals are stacked with pitching in their Minor League system. From Luke Weaver to Austin Gomber to Jack Flaherty, it seems that the Cards have stockpiled solid arms at every level of their system.
A 2016 sixth round out of Stanford, Edman is extremely intelligent and polished. Not gifted physically in the same way as some other names on this list, Edman makes up for it with superior effort and grit.
With an OBP of .400 in his 2016 rookie ball campaign, Edman couldn't stay off the basepaths. Boasting a 15.5% walk percentage, Edman makes the most of his time on the basepaths.
Specifically, Edman stole 19 bags last season, being thrown out only 3 times. Extremely mature and savvy, Edman embodies the Cardinals way. Along with offensive grit, Edman is versatile on defense, showing an ability to play short, second, and even third if need be.
Regarding weaknesses, Edman's one question mark is pure offensive explosion. His effort and maturity is obviously invaluable, but scouts are sceptical about such skills' ability to carry him through the minors.
Moving forward, this will be an interesting development. Expected to begin in A, hopefully Edman's playstyle proves effective even as he moves up through the Cardinals system.
The only player who participated in AAA ball during 2016, Breyvic Valera is the closest on this list to realizing his major league dream. Already covered here on Cardsblog, Valera simply does not receive enough publicity.
After hitting .341 for the Memphis Redbirds in 2016, he did not think about slowing down. In fact, Valera continued straight to the Venezuelan Winter League, in which he hit .376 with an OBP of .435.
If Cardinals infielders experience serious trouble at the beginning of the 2017 season, do not be surprised if you see Valera come to the rescue. At 25 years old, he has paid his dues, and I believe he has a chance to contribute in Busch moving forward.
The lone first baseman to make my list, Voit is one of my favorite prospects. A burly man, Voit stands tall and strong at about 6'3", 230 pounds. While he is definitely not known for his defense (a limiting factor in his prospect stock), Voit can flat out rake.
For example, last season in AA Memphis, Voit slashed .297/.372/.477, belting 19 home runs and 74 RBIs. Arguably the most productive offensive force in AA last season, Voit drives in runs, and does so efficiently. As a cherry on top, Voit flaunts a 15.2% strikeout percentage, pretty solid for a run producer in the middle of the lineup.
Despite his offensive prowess, Voit's downfalls are obvious. First of all, he is 26. That is old, no matter how you shape it. Furthermore, Voit is a right-handed defender who can only play first base.
As nearly all baseball fans know, this does not bode well, most of the time. Nevertheless, Voit still has a chance to hit his way into the majors. If his production levels stay the same, he will be hard to deny for much longer.
"Mr. Irrelevant," the nickname given to last player chosen in the 2011 NBA draft is now a potential MVP candidate. While Isaiah Thomas has spent five years proving nay-sayers wrong, UCLA Freshman Jeremy Ydens is just getting started.
Son of former pro Lenny Dykstra, I am mainly including his son Luke for the purpose of publicity. Brought over from the Braves in the trade for Jaime Garcia, Dykstra is most likely an unknown player to most fans out there. With regards to his individual skills, Dykstra is a second baseman with excellent hand eye coordination.
He rarely strikes out, nearly always putting the ball in play in some form or another. While he does not possess great power or speed, Dykstra will certainly always put pressure on opposing defenses to make a play. In an era where the strikeout has been almost disregarded, he has the potential to be a breath of fresh air.
If he wishes to be taken seriously, though, Dykstra must clean up his plate approach. Perhaps in a related sense, he must also look to improve his overall pop, whether that be through strength or mechanical tweaks.
As we have moved past most of the "elite" prospects the Cardinals have to offer in the infield, Darren Seferina is interesting for another reason. Specifically, Seferina came into the league hot, slashing .295/.354/.446 during his time with single A Peoria.
During that campaign, he was explosive, hitting 26 doubles, 12 triples, and driving in 33 runs. Needless to say, the sky was the limit for Seferina.
2016, however, was not so kind. After a slight promotion, Seferina hit only .247 in high A ball, way beneath his previous number. Moving forward into 2017, it will be interesting to see if Seferina has the mettle to get back on track, re-igniting his big league dreams. At 23 years old, hopefully 2017 will be a bounce back year for Seferina at second base.