7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Taveras, Piscotty headline Cards' updated Top 20 list
Five-tool St. Louis outfield prospects also make overall Top 100 Prospects
By Jim Callis / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Oscar Taveras, OF
Preseason rank: 1
MLB Top 100 rank: 2 (Preseason: 3)
Scouting grades: Hit: 75 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 70
The Cardinals' development system earned plenty of plaudits in 2013, but the best is yet to come.
Taveras was stalled by an ankle injury that eventually required surgery last August, but he hit well when he was healthy, and he remains one of the best prospects in baseball. Taveras is a gifted hitter, and he has proven that at every level of the Minor Leagues. He utilizes an aggressive approach, and he consistently barrels up balls, driving them to all areas of the field. Taveras generates impressive bat speed, and he produces above-average power that plays well in games.
Taveras has a strong arm and he has average speed. He covers ground well in the outfield, and the Cards have used him in center field in the Minor Leagues. Taveras probably fits best in right field and, he will soon get a chance to prove he belongs in St. Louis.
2. Stephen Piscotty, OF
Preseason rank: 3
MLB Top 100 rank: 57 (Preseason: 98)
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Piscotty was billed as an advanced college bat coming out of Stanford, and he looked the part in his first full professional season. He advanced to Double-A Springfield, and he ended the year with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Piscotty has continued to rake at Triple-A Memphis this season.
Piscotty has a mature approach at the plate, and he has the chance to be a .300 hitter in the Major Leagues. His swing is more geared toward hitting line drives than home runs, but he should be able to supply average power along with his high average. After playing primarily third base at Stanford, Piscotty was moved to right field by the Cardinals in 2013. He handled the transition well, improving as the season went on. Piscotty has a strong arm and covers ground capably.
Piscotty has hit everywhere he's gone, and his polish could have him in the Major Leagues soon.
3. Rob Kaminsky, LHP
Preseason rank: 4
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
St. Louis has cleaned up in recent years with pitchers who have lasted longer than expected in the first round. Kaminsky, who lasted 28 picks in the 2013 Draft -- mainly because he's 5-foot-11 -- could follow in the footsteps of Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.
Though Kaminsky is small in stature, he has big-time stuff that earned him a $1,785,300 bonus. He's a left-hander who throws strikes with three pitches that all have the potential to be plus offerings. Scouts rave about Kaminsky's competitiveness as well. If everything comes together, he'll be a front-line starter.
Kaminsky's best pitch is probably his curveball, which has sharp downward break. If there's a knock on him other than his size, it's that he can fall in love with his curve too much. Kaminsky's fastball ranges from 89-94 mph, and he shows precocious feel for his changeup.
4. Marco Gonzales, LHP
Preseason rank: 5
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55
Gonzales swung a nice line-drive bat, and he played quality defense as a first baseman at Gonzaga, but the Cardinals selected him 19th overall in the 2013 Draft based on what he can do on the mound. The first first-round pick in Bulldogs history, Gonzales signed for $1.85 million, and he made his big league debut barely a year later.
Gonzales stands out most for his changeup and his command. His changeup was the best in the 2013 Draft class, as he sells it with deceptive arm speed, and he gets it to fade at the plate. Gonzales repeatedly fills the zone with quality strikes, thanks to an easy and athletic delivery.
Gonzales' 88-91 mph fastball doesn't overwhelm hitters with its velocity or life, but it plays up because he can spot it on both sides of the plate. He throws two breaking balls, with his curveball grading better than his slider. Gonzales is a potential No. 3 starter, with a high likelihood of reaching his ceiling.
5. Alexander Reyes, RHP
Preseason rank: 6
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55
Reyes grew up in New Jersey, and he would have been eligible for the 2012 Draft, but he moved to the Dominican Republic before his high school senior season to become an international free agent. His gambit paid off, as he earned a $950,000 signing bonus, and the Cardinals added another live arm to their system.
With two future plus pitches, a promising third offering and an athletic and projectable frame, Reyes has the highest ceiling among St. Louis' starting pitching prospects. He already sits at 93-94 mph, hits 97 mph with his fastball and he could push it to greater heights as he adds strength.
Reyes can also make hitters look bad with his hard curveball. He has better feel than most teenagers for a changeup, which makes it even harder for opponents to try to sit on his fastball. Reyes does a nice job of using his size to deliver his pitches on a steep downward plane.
6. James Ramsey, OF
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Ramsey drew Tim Tebow comparisons at Florida State, where he stood out as a star athlete with obvious leadership skills and a strong Christian faith. The Rhodes Scholar nominee turned down second-round money from the Twins as a 22nd-round pick in 2011, then he went 23rd overall as a senior the following June, signing for $1.6 million with the Cardinals.
Coming out of college, Ramsey projected as a solid hitter, but there were mixed opinions on how much power he would have. In his first full pro season, Ramsey hit for less average (.265) and more home run power (16) than might have been expected, while spending most of the year in Double-A. He's doing a better job of finding a happy medium in Triple-A this season.
Ramsey draws a healthy amount of walks and has plus speed, though he's not a big baserunning threat. He puts his wheels to good use in center field, and he also has enough arm strength to handle right field.
7. Jack Flaherty, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50
Coming into the 2014 season, scouts were split on whether Flaherty was a better prospect as a pitcher or a third baseman. By the end of the spring, he stood out more on the mound, and he became the third first-round pitcher out of the Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, Calif., in the past three Drafts -- following Max Fried (Padres) and Lucas Giolito (Nationals). The 34th overall pick in June, Flaherty gave up a North Carolina scholarship to sign for $2 million.
Flaherty translates his excellent athleticism into a smooth delivery that he repeats well and allows him to throw strikes with four pitches. He projects to add more velocity as he fills out and he focuses on pitching, so he could have three plus offerings down the road. Flaherty's changeup is his best pitch. He also has a fastball that reaches 93 mph, an improving slider and a get-me-over curveball.
As a third baseman, Flaherty projected as a quality defender with gap power. He has a ceiling as a No. 2 or 3 starter on the mound, and he could move quickly given his advanced feel for pitching.
8. Luke Weaver, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50
Weaver wasn't as dominating as a Florida State junior this spring as he had been as a sophomore, but his track record of success and his pitchability still carried him into the first round. The Cardinals selected him with their top pick (27th overall) and signed him for $1,843,000.
Though Weaver has hit 97 mph with his fastball, he spent most of 2014 operating at 89-93 mph. He commands his fastball well and it features some sink, though his deceptive changeup is even livelier. Weaver has yet to develop a reliable breaking ball, and he may be better off using more of a cutter than a slider.
Like former Seminoles teammate Ramsey, a St. Louis first-rounder in 2012, Weaver earns praise for his makeup and his competitiveness. He could advance at a rapid pace, and he could become a No. 3 or 4 starter.
9. Charlie Tilson, OF
Preseason rank: 11
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
The Cardinals thought enough of Tilson to give him a $1.275 million bonus as second-round pick in 2011, then they saw him lose his first full pro season when he injured his non-throwing shoulder in extended spring camp. He recovered from a slow start in 2013 to bat .302/.352/.388, and then he earned a promotion to high Class A by season's end.
Tilson fits the profile of a leadoff-hitting center fielder. He puts his above-average speed to good use, beating out hits, stealing bases and playing fine defense. As Tilson advances, he'll need to show more patience, and he has to drive the ball more consistently, though he'll never be a big power hitter.
St. Louis is loaded with outfield talent in the Majors and Minors, giving Tilson plenty of time to develop. But he's also the best pure center fielder in the system, and if he keeps improving like he did over the course of 2013, Tilson could force the issue sooner rather than later.
10. Randal Grichuk, OF
Preseason rank: 12
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
The Angels actually picked Grichuk one spot ahead of Mike Trout in the first round of the 2009 Draft. While Trout was rocketing to superstardom, Grichuk had trouble staying healthy. He finally did so the past two seasons, hitting a combined 40 homers while reaching Double-A, before Los Angeles sent him to St. Louis in a trade for David Freese.
Grichuk has the tools to hit for some average and power in the big leagues. He has a quick bat, and he has room on his frame to add some more strength. Grichuk is very aggressive at the plate, something pitchers might exploit at higher levels.
Grichuk has played all three outfield positions in the Minors, fitting best in right field with his average arm and his fringy speed. The Cardinals have a logjam of outfield talent, so his versatility could help when he is ready for St. Louis.
11. Juan Herrera, SS
Preseason rank: 15
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 20 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
The Cardinals acquired Marc Rzepczynski from the Blue Jays at the 2011 Trade Deadline, a move that helped them win the World Series that fall. St. Louis dealt him at the 2013 Trade Deadline, a transaction that may have landed the club's future starting shortstop in Herrera.
Herrera has all of the tools to play shortstop in the Major Leagues. He has a solid arm and has good range, and his tools play up because of his instincts and body control.
While Herrera's offensive game is less polished than his defense, he shows a discerning eye at the plate. He won't ever have much power, but he could produce solid on-base percentages. An average runner, Herrera could fit in the No. 2 hole or at the bottom of a lineup.
12. Tim Cooney, LHP
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 40 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Another fast-moving member of the Cardinals' 2012 Draft, Cooney reached Double-A 11 months after turning pro as a third-round pick. He's a slightly lesser version of St. Louis' top pick in 2013, fellow college southpaw Gonzales.
Cooney's best pitch is his sinking changeup, which he masks with deceptive arm speed. He does a nice job of keeping his 87-93 mph fastball down in the strike zone, he and can locate it on either side of the plate. Cooney throws two breaking balls, with his curveball more effective than his slider/cutter.
Cooney works with an easy delivery, making his fastball appear quicker than it really is and allowing him to throw strikes at will. He projects as a No. 4, starter but he will likely have to break into the deep St. Louis staff as a reliever.
13. Carson Kelly, C
Preseason rank: 8
MLB Top 100 rank: NA (Preseason: 87)
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 30 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
When the Cardinals took Kelly in the second round of the 2012 Draft, he became the first Oregon high schooler to be selected that early in 17 years. While Kelly threw in the low 90s off the mound, St. Louis drafted him for his power, and the club signed him for $1.6 million.
While Kelly wasn't quite ready for low Class A in his first full pro season, he performed well after moving down to the short-season New York-Penn League. He made consistent contact at both stops, and his bat speed portends at least average future power.
Solely a third baseman in his first two years as a pro, Kelly began making the conversion to catcher in instructional league. He has the hands and arm strength to get the job done behind the plate. The early returns were encouraging enough for Cards manager (and former Gold Glove catcher) Mike Matheny to sign off on inviting Kelly to big league camp.
14. Patrick Wisdom, 3B
Preseason rank: 9
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
The Cardinals took three third basemen in the first two rounds of the 2012 Draft, but they have since moved Piscotty to the outfield and Kelly to catcher. Wisdom remains at the hot corner, which comes as no surprise because he was the best defender of the three, and he fits the position's profile well.
Wisdom's bat can be inconsistent, as he has some holes in his swing, and he sometimes gives at-bats away. He has impressive power to all fields and is at his best when he lets it come naturally, rather than swinging for the fences and trying to pull every pitch. He could develop into a .250 hitter good for 20 homers per season.
An instinctive defender, Wisdom could be a future Gold Glover. He has an exceptionally strong arm, and he ranges well to both sides.
15. Sam Tuivailala, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 75 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
The Cardinals drafted Tuivailala in the third round of the 2010 Draft out of a California high school as a shortstop. He spent his first two pro seasons batting .220/.332/.306 while trying to make it as a position player. Moved to the mound in 2012, Tuivailala posted a 5.03 ERA in his first two years as a pitcher before taking off in 2014.
Tuivailala has the strongest arm in St. Louis' system. His fastball can reach triple digits, and it sits around 95-97 mph. Tuivailala has made strides with his power curveball, which he uses to make sure hitters don't sit on his heater.
Though Tuivailala fiddles around with a changeup, he profiles as a two-pitch reliever who could work the late innings. To do so, he'll have to continue to improve his control and command.
16. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
The most athletic pitcher available in the 2010 Draft, Jenkins not only starred in baseball, but he was also Baylor's top quarterback recruit, lettered in basketball and ran a 49-second quarter-mile in a relay race -- without any track training. Jenkins' development has progressed slowly since he went 50th overall and signed for $1.3 million. He also had shoulder surgery last August that kept him out until mid-2014.
Assuming he reclaims his stuff and can add some polish, Jenkins still has what it takes to become a front-line starter. When healthy, he had a fastball that sat at 93-95 mph, and it featured some nasty sink. Jenkins also flashed a curveball with some power and depth, and he had the makings of an effective changeup.
Jenkins' shoulder had bothered him during each of his two years in full-season ball, so his stuff may kick up a notch once he's fully healthy. He lacked consistent control, but his athleticism should allow him to get better at repeating his mechanics.
17. Zach Petrick, RHP
Preseason rank: 17
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
In one year, Petrick went from a non-drafted free agent out of Northwestern Ohio -- an NAIA school that started its baseball program in 2010 -- to the Cardinals' 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Signed for $1,000, Petrick led St. Louis farmhands with a 1.99 ERA and a .213 opponent average, while climbing from the low Class A Peoria bullpen to the Double-A Springfield rotation.
The Cards liked Petrick's athletic and projectable frame when they signed him, and they have seen his velocity rise in pro ball. After working mostly in the upper 80s in college, Petrick now throws 90-94 mph, with good sink. He has an effective three-pitch mix that also features a solid changeup and a curveball that he has tightened up since signing.
Petrick doesn't have a true out pitch, but his command helps all of his offerings play up. He repeats his delivery well, allowing him to pinpoint his pitches where he wants.
18. Oscar Mercado, SS
Preseason rank: 14
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 30 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
Mercado entered 2013 as a likely first-round pick in a Draft light on shortstops, but he struggled with the bat as a high school senior. That enabled St. Louis to get him in the second round with the 57th overall pick, and the club signed him for $1.5 million.
In Mercardo's pro debut, he continued to show the defensive wizardry that endears him to scouts. He has very good actions, and he has instincts at shortstop, enabling him to cover plenty of ground. Mercardo also has soft hands and a strong arm.
Mercado didn't hit much in his first taste of pro ball, posting a .597 OPS in Rookie ball, but the Cardinals have faith that he will. They like his swing and believe he will develop some gap power. Mercardo is an average runner with good baserunning instincts.
19. Rowan Wick, OF
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Wick batted just .229 in his first two pro seasons while trying to adjust to catching at the pro level, though he did hit 10 homers in 56 games at Rookie-level Johnson City in 2013. The Cardinals decided to move him from behind the plate and make him a full-time right fielder. The results have been spectacular, as he homered 14 times in 35 games at short-season State College to earn a promotion to low Class A Peoria.
Wick's raw left-handed power got him drafted twice, in the 19th round out of a Canadian high school by the Brewers in 2010 and in the ninth round out of Cypress (Calif.) Junior College by the Cards in '12. He draws walks but can also get overly aggressive at the plate, which could limit his ability to hit for average.
Wick struggled with his receiving as a catcher, but that's no longer a concern now that he's an outfielder. His strong arm fits just as well in right field, where he can become an average defender.
20. Nick Petree, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 45 | Curveball: 45 | Cutter: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 45
Missouri State has sent nine pitchers to the big leagues since 2001, and Petree could join the club despite being unimposing on the mound. He led NCAA Division I with a 1.01 ERA in 2012. Petree had streaks of 38 1/3 straight scoreless innings and 73 consecutive without an earned run. After a strong encore in 2013, he signed with the Cardinals for $40,000 as a ninth-round pick.
Petree has continued to work his magic in pro ball, as he would have led the short-season New York-Penn League ERA with a 1.62 ERA in his pro debut if he hadn't fallen just short of qualifying. He got off to a hot start in 2014, swiftly reaching high Class A while continuing to get outs with his outstanding pitchability.
Petree usually pitches at 87-88 mph with his fastball, which plays up because of his ability to locate it wherever he wants. His lone plus offering is his changeup, and he can keep hitters off balance by throwing a curveball and a cutter for strikes. Based on pure stuff, it's hard to project Petree as a big league starter, but based on his track record of blowing away expecations, it would be silly to bet against him.