The Top-Five Cardinals Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the St. Louis Cardinals. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not St. Louis’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Cardinals’ system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the St. Louis system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Jacob Wilson, 2B (Profile)

550 .234 .281 .346 77 0.4

The Cardinals’ success in recent years has been defined by a capacity to transform late-round draft picks into capable major leaguers. Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, and Allen Craig all produced at least 1.5 WAR for the 2013 edition of the club that won the National League pennant — and yet all three were selected in the eighth round or later. Wilson is a candidate to join that peculiar fraternity. Selected in the 10th round following his senior year at Memphis and signed for just $20 thousand, Wilson has exhibited a well-balanced offensive approach while also playing second base — a position at which McDaniel suggests he’s capable of remaining. In the longer term, that’s a promising overall profile. For the moment, it’s a slightly better than replacement-level one.

4. Randal Grichuk, OF (Profile)

550 .234 .272 .400 87 0.5

If Steamer has a bias so far as prospects are concerned — as compared, that is, to the sort more highly valued for their physical tools — it’s in the direction of those players who’ve produced strong plate-discipline rates in the high minors. Neither Dean Anna nor Ty Kelly, for example, appears among McDaniel’s top-prospect list for the Cardinals, yet both have recorded nearly even walk and strikeout rates in recent years and both receive Steamer projections greater than one win. Grichuck, for his part, is notable because he hasn’t produced particularly good walk and strikeout rates — producing marks of just 5.9% and 22.9%, respectively, last year over 472 plate appearances at Triple-A Memphis — and yet receives a pretty encouraging forecast anyway. Steamer doesn’t project any improvement so far as the plate discipline is concerned but anticipates enough power (represented by the .166 ISO) to compensate for it.

3. Stephen Piscotty, OF (Profile)

550 .257 .306 .371 91 0.8

Piscotty’s minor-league offensive resume doesn’t fit the typical right-field profile. He’s never recorded more than 15 home runs in a single season but has also never recorded a strikeout rate above 11%. That’s essentially every one of Martin Prado’s seasons since 2011. Different, that, than the Jay Bruce or Justin Upton types who indulge their power while accepting the strikeouts. McDaniel believes that Piscotty’s physicality can yield more power than he’s exhibited, however. If that’s true — and if Piscotty can retain some of the contact skills in the meantime — then that would produce a fine overall player.

2. Tim Cooney, LHP (Profile)

150 6.6 2.6 0.9 3.95 1.1

Cooney recorded a strikeout- and walk-rate differential of 21.6 points over 118.1 innings at Springfield in 2013 — the best such figure among all qualified Double-A pitchers. His overall mark of 19.6 points across all levels was among the top 20 by that measure among all minor leaguers to throw at least 100 innings. It was a strong year, in other words. A promotion to Triple-A in 2014 proved more challenging, as Cooney’s differential was halved while facing more talented competition. Less strong, that — although Steamer doesn’t call for any more decay in his rates. The result is a pitcher capable, right now, of taking a couple turns in the rotation for an injured starter without anyone really noticing the difference.

1. Aledmys Diaz, SS (Profile)

550 .248 .285 .371 84 1.3

The Cards signed Diaz for just $8 million over four years. That’s a lot of money, of course, in actual human-being terms. In the current baseball market, however, it’s almost like zero dollars. The 24-year-old Cuban defector is forecast to produce more than a win per 550 plate appearances without ever having recorded a major-league appearance. That’s not starter-type production necessarily, so it’s probably not subject to an orthodox dollars-to-win analysis. Upside exists here, though — and were he to produce even just one average season over the next three years, he would have more than returned the Cardinals’ principle investment.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

It’s a shame not to see Oscar Taveras’s name on this