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Earlier today, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the St. Louis Cardinals. In this companion piece, I look at that same St. Louis farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Cardinals have the 15th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH, and rank second best in terms of pitching.
There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.
Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.
1. Alex Reyes, RHP (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 7.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 65 FV
Reyes’ numbers were stupid good last year. Thanks to a fastball that sits in the upper 90s, he whiffed an absurd 37% of batters faced between High-A and Double-A last season, supporting a 1.96 FIP. The one caveat was his 12% walk rate, but that can certainly be excused given his elite strikeout numbers. With just 35 innings above A-ball, Reyes is unproven in the high minors, but his A-ball dominance is enough to make him an elite prospect.
|Rank||Player||Proj. WAR||Actual WAR|
2. Oscar Mercado, SS (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 4.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV
Mercado’ a speedy shortstop who stole 50 bases in Low-A, but hit just .254/.297/.341. Despite the light triple slash, KATOH loves his 12% strikeout rate. Even if the power and walks never come, Mercado has enough going for him to suggest he’ll make for a fine big leaguer.
3. Carson Kelly, C (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 3.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV
Kelly hit a respectable .248/.326/.366 in Low-A, but his performance cratered to .219/.263/.322 in High-A last year. Despite his struggles, Kelly made a good deal of contact and showed some power, so KATOH’s betting on some upward BABIP regression from last year’s .239. If that comes to be, Kelly could easily hit enough to provide value at catcher.
4. Jack Flaherty, RHP (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 3.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV
Flaherty had a stellar season in Low-A last year. Over 95 innings, he struck out 24% of batters faced and posted a 2.83 FIP. Flaherty is obviously very far from the show, but as a 6-foot-4 pitcher who dominated as a teenager in full-season ball, his minor-league career is off to a fine start.
|Rank||Name||Proj. WAR||Actual WAR|
5. Junior Fernandez, RHP (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 3.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV
Fernandez was all sorts of dominant in his stint in Rookie ball last year, striking out 27% on his way to a 2.21 FIP. Fernandez just turned 19 and has barely pitched above Rookie ball, but the early indicators are very positive. I’m excited to see how he fares in full-season ball this year.
6. Edmundo Sosa, SS (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV
Sosa slashed a slick .300/.369/.485 in Rookie ball while manning shortstop on the defensive side. His .185 ISO gives him an exciting offensive profile for a middle infielder. We’ll see if he can carry his success over to a full-season league in his age-20 season.
7. Charlie Tilson, OF (Profile)
KATOH Projection: 2.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV
A speedy outfielder, Tilson hit .295/.351/.388 with 46 steals in Double-A last year. He has very little power, but makes a ton of contact. Now that he’s succeeded in Double-A, he’ll likely make for a nice fourth outfielder at the very worst.
|Rank||Name||Position||KATOH WAR||Dan’s FV|
|15||Zach Petrick*||RHP||1.3||In Japan|
|17||Cody Stanley*||C||1.2||Free Agent|
|19||Alejandro Mejia||SS||1.2||Cistulli’s Guy|
The Cardinals have a lot of off-the-radar performers in their system. Jose Martinez hit just .254/.321/.308 in Rookie ball, but makes tons of contact and plays shortstop. Zach Petrick is already 25, but held his own as a starter in Triple-A last year. Twenty-nine-year-old Dean Anna puts up solid minor-league numbers year after year, but never seems to get a shot. Cody Stanley is a catcher who didn’t hit terribly in Triple-A last year. Former 40th-round pick Artie Reyes pitched excellently in Double-A last year, but wasn’t as successful following a late-season promotion to Triple-A. Breyvic Valera has very little power, but is a second baseman who makes obscene amounts of contact. Nick Martini succeeded in Double-A and Triple-A as a 25-year-old last year. He walks as often as he strikes out, and has also shown a hint of power.
|Name||Position||KATOH WAR||Dan’s FV|
Darren Seferina hit a solid .295/.354/.446 in his first taste of full-season ball, but KATOH’s turned off by his 20% strikeout rate, and to a lesser extent, by his small stature. Nick Plummer hit .228/.379/.344 in Rookie ball last season. KATOH isn’t buying his 17% walk rate and is alarmed by his 25% strikeout rate. Austin Gomber is a 6-foot-5 lefty who pitched very well in Low-A, but KATOH doesn’t like that he’s already 23.