“When I take just a quick snap shot and think back or reflect on the Arizona Fall League for 2016, the Cardinals should be very proud,” St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak.
And yes, with the likes of Alex Reyes, Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, and other prospects such as Harrison Bader and Austin Gomber the shelves are not bare within the St. Louis Cardinals farm system.
But how are the organization’s prospects viewed from an outside perspective?
“I don’t think their system is necessarily as strong as it was five years ago, and I don’t think it’s anything that they’re doing wrong,” assessed Jim Callis, Senior Writer at MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com.
“I think it’s just these things are cyclical. You graduate guys to the big leagues or you trade them and your system kind of ebbs and flows. I still think it’s a good system. I think there’s some depth to it. It was a for a while kind of a perennial or close to it, Top 10 farm system year after year–and maybe not quite that high right now, but there’s still some talent and obviously some players who are going to help in the near future.”
Obviously, at the top of that list is right-hander Alex Reyes.
“Alex Reyes might be the best pitching prospect in baseball,” stated Callis. “Luke Weaver was up in the big leagues last year, I think you’ll see him and Reyes again this year.”
“Carson Kelly might be the best catching prospect in baseball,” said Callis, noting he expects a dramatic rise from last year’s #11 ranking. “He might be their second best prospect, I really like Carson Kelly.”
Callis was among those who’ve watched the transformation of Kelly from a third baseman to catcher–from learning the initial skills of the trade, to the grit and maturity required behind the plate, and now being comfortable enough for his offense to return.
“I think as the catching became more second nature to him, then you can maybe spend a little bit more time thinking about your offense,” he agreed. “I think there’s more power in there too. He hit six homers in 300+ at-bats in the minors this year. I think he’s got a little bit more power than that…I saw him hit with power–gap power, over the fence power in the Arizona Fall League, so I think he’s going to be really good.”
BADER TREMENDOUS VALUE
“I like Harrison,” said Callis. “I saw Harrison Bader play really well at the College World Series in 2015 and I remember thinking how did this guy last until the 3rd round?
“He’s a centerfield capable guy, who kind of has average to solid tools across the board. You usually don’t see that many college position players who are athletic and can hit because a lot of those guys scooped up out of high school and don’t make it to college in the first place. I thought that was kind of a steal in the 3rd round.”
“They really challenged him by putting him in Double-A to start this year and he had no problem making that jump. Struggled a little bit in Triple-A, but again, it’s his first full year in pro ball and I think Triple-A was probably a little bit much.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a regular. This could be a guy–I could see him hitting, playing centerfield hitting .270 with 15 or so homers. Getting on base a decent amount and he can run a little bit. He’s on our Top 100 Prospect List, I suspect he’ll be on our Top 100 Prospect List when we revamp it. I think that was a tremendous value in the 3rd round of the draft.”
GOMBER ALSO CLIMBING
Left-handed starter Austin Gomber should also climb in the MLB prospect rankings, which are expected to be released closer to Spring Training.
“Austin is probably a higher floor guy than ceiling guy, I think he’s probably a #4 starter at best. I don’t really know if there’s a plus pitch, but what he does–and he does it really well is he throws a ton of strikes. He keeps the ball down in the strike zone. He’s got a good changeup which keeps right-handers at bay. Curve ball is okay, it’s not great but it’s okay. He mixes his pitches well, so he’ll come up.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports,