On Saturday, reader Lou Schuler commented about the challenge of prospect raters identifying late bloomers, specifically mentioning St. Louis Cardinals-developed players Placido Polanco, Yadier Molina, David Freese, Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter never being considered national top 100 prospects.
While Baseball America was not singled out, its past histories are most readily available, both online and via BA’s annual Prospect Handbook. A stack of the latter, going back for a number of years, rests off to my left. So I selected BA for this analysis.
As Lou noted, none of the five aforementioned Cardinals ever made BA’s national top 100 prospect lists. Here are the Cardinals that did place in the top 100 in the years most relevant to the quintet. (The seasons during which the five debuted in the majors are noted by their names in parentheses.)
|Cardinals in BA|
|national top 100|
|2011 (Carpenter)||13. Miller||62. Cox|
|2010 (Craig)||50. Miller|
|2009 (Freese)||3. Rasmus||40. Wallace||91. Perez|
|2008||5. Rasmus||85. Anderson||97. Perez|
|2004 (Molina)||47. Hawksworth||49. Wainwright|
|2002||44. Journell||88. Narveson|
|1998 (Polanco)||18. Ankiel||33. Marrero||39. Looper||69. Butler|
|1997||25. Morris||29. Young||32. Looper||37. Marrero||68. Aybar|
Other than some newcomer named Wainwright in 2004, Molina seemed to have little competition, however. Polanco came up in an era during which the Cardinals system was far more respected nationally.
To take it a step further, I went into BA’s Cardinals top 30 lists in those same years to see where these guys stacked up. In a couple of cases, Freese and Craig, the players were still prospect-eligible the season after which they made their respective St. Louis debuts, hence the “Debut+1” designations.
|top 30||MLB debut||Debut+1 rank||Debut year rank||Year-1 rank||Year-2 rank|
|David Freese||2009||5||9||Padres 28|
For comparison, I include below The Cardinal Nation’s rankings during those same seasons. We began our formal top 40 in 2006, so Molina and Polanco are excluded. The format matches the table above identically.
(Note: Freese is listed as “13a” in 2008, as we inserted him into the top 40 upon his trade to the Cardinals in December 2007. His BA ranking that year was with San Diego as their Handbook must have gone to press prior to the trade.)
|top 40||MLB debut||Debut+1 rank||Debut year rank||Year-1 rank||Year-2 rank|
Neither of us had any of these players among the top three prospects in the system at any point in time. Given that, it is not surprising they all fell short of the national top 100s as well.
I will note that we at The Cardinal Nation were generally more aggressive than BA in ranking these future Cardinals major leaguers.