By John Nagel of Cardinalsfarm.com
With about a month until the big leaguers report to Spring Training and a month and a half until the Baby Birds report, now is the best time to begin our top prospect countdown. I had a goal of ranking 50 prospects for this list. I knew it would be a challenge getting from about 20-50, as the top 20 was the easiest part. Here is how I came to my rankings:
I first created rankings for position groups (you can find those posts scattered throughout the blog). Once I had the position groups ranked, I then started at one and worked my way to 50. There were a couple of adjustments in the positional rankings, but it pretty much was straight forward.
The next question I typically get, is how do I rank the prospects? This is the toughest part, deciding on a system for ranking prospects. My goal in the end is to rank them by major league impact. I may rank someone who has high upside higher than someone who may be closer to the major leagues, but whose ceiling is a bench player. I am looking for a player who will contribute a lot to the major league team.
What tools do I use? One of the biggest tools I use is age. The age of a prospect versus their level of play is a big factor. For example, Carson Kelly struggled during his stint with the Low-A Peoria Chiefs in 2013, but the 18-year-old did not face a single pitcher who was younger than him. Basically what this means is he was playing above his level, and it showed with his numbers, but he shouldn't be discouted for that. On the flip side, Zach Petrick faced primarily younger hitters during his ascent through the Cardinals system until he reached Springfield.
I also use various scouting reports and also like to watch as much video of a player as I kind. I am not saying that I can break down a swing or a pitching motion, but I feel it necessary to see them before I rank them. Many of the go-to stats are used last. I hardly look at runs batted in or batting average when creating these lists.
With all of that said, here are prospects 50 through 46. Hope you enjoy!
#50 – Steven Farinaro
The Cardinals were able to lure Farinaro away from UCLA with a $750,000 signing bonus, which was the fourth highest bonus the Cardinals issued in the draft. The reason he fell to the 11th round was signability, and the Cardinals were able to arrange things to make sure they had enough money to sign him. Farinaro's fastball sits around 90 and he has a good 12-6 curve, with a solid change-up. He had a rough debut in 2013, but should be able to bounce back in 2014.
I would not be surprised to see a return to the Gulf Coast Cardinals in 2014 for Farinaro. If he quickly catches on there, he could advance to Johnson City. He is definitely a player to watch, and has tremendous upside.
#49 – Jimmy Reed
Reed was the Cardinals' 6th round pick in 2013. Many see Reed as a very polished pitcher who could move quickly through the system. I could see an eventual move to the bullpen for him, but with four quality pitches, the rotation will likely be his spot for a year or two. Reed's rookie minor league season was very successful as he racked up a 3-2 record with a 2.04 ERA in 53 innings. Reed's ground ball to fly ball ratio was 1.14 which is incredibly high, which will help his future success.
Jimmy Reed's placement for 2014 is somewhat of a question mark at this point. A spot in the Peoria Chiefs rotation could be a possibility, but with the sheer number of pitching prospects at that level, it could be tough.
#48 – Ronald Castillo
Castillo will turn 22 during the 2014 season and had a pretty solid 2013 campaign. He has a good frame at 6'5?, 200 lbs, which means he could probably stand to add a few pounds. He has solid plate discipline with only a 2.5:1 K:BB ratio, but that could be higher as he could walk more. For Short-Season State College, he only hit 2 home runs in 37 games but still managed a solid .826 OPS. He has decent speed and could develop into a solid speed plus power option. A problem might be the depth ahead of him in the organization.
For 2014, Castillo should get a full-season placement, most likely with the Peoria Chiefs, but don't rule out the Palm Beach Cardinals as a possibility.
#47 – Steve Bean
Bean was a supplemental first round pick in the same 2012 draft that produced current and future major leaguers Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty, Lee Stoppelman just to name a few. Bean was taken as a raw but high upside catcher who would need several years in the system before he would become major league ready. His professional career has not started out the best, but it is too early to throw in the towel. In his 1 1/2 years of professional ball, he has not yet made it past the rookie level, but again he is raw. Bean is a plus defender with a plus arm. He could eventually show plus power at the plate and solid contact. Hopefully he will be healthy for 2014 and can make some strides to eventually end the season with a full-season club.
#46 – Ryan Sherriff
Sherriff was the Cardinals' 28th round selection in the 2011 draft, making him one of the most experienced on this list. Sherriff has put together a pretty strong minor league career with a career ERA at 3.10 over 252 innings. In 2013, his innings (105) were limited due to injury, but he still compiled an impressive 2.31 ERA for Palm Beach. In 5 starts for Double-A Springfield, Sherriff had an impressive 3.33 ERA. He has a good fastball that sits in the low 90's and a decent slider.
For 2014, Sherriff should open the season in the starting rotation of the Springfield Cardinals as he has mastered High-A. He should see success at the next level and could see time in Memphis late in the season.
John Nagel will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2014 Cardinals season. He is the owner/editor of cardinalsfarm.com. You can follow him on twitter @cardinalsfarmor on Facebook. If you have any questions, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.