On Monday, news that the Oakland A’s have re-hired St. Louis Cardinals Director of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz to become one of their two assistant general managers was divulged. (You can read more here.)
Of all the remarks I read on Twitter and message boards, I only saw one critical comment. It was offered at The Cardinal Nation message board. The specifics follow.
“The quality and quantity of our prospects has declined during Kantrovitz’ time here. Our system was ranked #1 when he got here. It moved down to #6 for 2014, and it is likely that our system will be ranked even lower in 2015. We do not have a single power prospect in our entire system. Kantrovitz lucked out in getting an offer from Oakland because he was about to get hit with a lot of criticism for his work here.” – mudville
I will come back later with a more comprehensive look at the three drafts Kantrovitz ran for the Cardinals, though in reality, it will take several more years to draw a final conclusion.
Here and now, I wanted to start by addressing the specific comments noted above. This post is not intended to sound defensive, but to offer additional information which seems relevant. I changed the order of the original points slightly, but respond to all of them.
Please offer your opinions as well, either here or at The Cardinal Nation message board.
“Our system was ranked #1 when he got here. It moved down to #6 for 2014, and it is likely that our system will be ranked even lower in 2015.”
No, that is not the case. Kantrovitz was hired in January 2012. In Baseball America’s spring 2012 rankings, which incorporated the 2011 draft and season, the Cardinals system was 12th, an improvement from 24th in 2011.
Accelerated by the extraordinary circumstance of five first-rounders in the 2012 draft, Kantrovitz’ first, the Cards moved up to the top spot in 2013, then dropped to seventh in 2014. I share the suspicion that St. Louis will likely fall lower this spring.
One should remember that rankings are of the entire system, which include the impact of drafts, PLUS international signings, PLUS player development once they are all in house. Kantrovitz was responsible for the first of the three only.
There is also the element of time to consider. The faster that players reach the majors, the less time they spend on top prospect lists. As we know, the Cards have gone college-heavy in recent drafts.
If one is assessing Kantrovitz’ job performance, one would also have to evaluate professional scouting, not just the amateur side. There has been a fair amount of turnover among those ranks, but a meaningful review would be difficult from his vantage point.
“The quality and quantity of our prospects has declined during Kantrovitz’ time here.”
Let’s start with quality, sticking with BA to keep it simpler.
In 2012, when Kantrovitz arrived, the Cards had six top 100 prospects nationally – Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, Zack Cox, Kolten Wong and Tyrell Jenkins. One was in the top 20, Miller, at number eight. Of the six, four had joined the organization through the draft.
In 2013, St. Louis’ top 100 total remained at six, with Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha replacing lower performers in Cox and Jenkins. Two were in the top 20, Taveras (3) and Miller (6). Of the six, again four came through the draft.
In 2014, the total dropped to four with Stephen Piscotty joining, but Miller, Wacha and Rosenthal graduating to MLB. Taveras was still at number three overall, the only top 20 Cardinal. Only two of the four were sourced from the draft.
In summary, the number of Cardinals top 100 prospects remained the same from 2012 to 2013, but declined in 2014 and could again in 2015. (It should also be noted that any organization’s “fair share” of top 100 prospects would be approximately three.)
The broader issue of quantity seems to be an ongoing strength of the Cardinals. Regardless of the number of top prospects, minor league teams remain competitive and less-heralded players end up reaching St. Louis. Key contributors to the Major League club, such as National League All-Stars Matt Carpenter and Lance Lynn, were not widely-celebrated prospects while coming up. It is too early to tell if there will be a next generation of these kinds of players – sourced from the 2012 through 2014 drafts.
“We do not have a single power prospect in our entire system.”
This generally seems true but has been the case for years. Matt Adams was the lone exception in recent memory and he was as much known for high average and run production as power.
We have read a number of articles in which the organization states they have been moving toward trying to source additional athleticism. Whether that is right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful, remains to be seen.
One thing we do know is that overall across the game, power as a commodity is becoming more and more scarce.
“Kantrovitz lucked out in getting an offer from Oakland because he was about to get hit with a lot of criticism for his work here.”
I don’t recall seeing or hearing anything but positive reviews of Kantrovitz’ work with the Cardinals. In fact, last spring, he was noted as one of the top GM candidates in the game.
In fact, I also don’t recall much substantive criticism of the previous scouting director, Jeff Luhnow, when the Cards were ranked 29th in 2010 and 24th as recently as the next year, 2011. Overall, I believe that most consider Luhnow’s Cardinals stint to have been very successful.
The broader point is that rankings are cyclical over time for all organizations, including the Cardinals.
As mentioned above, the jury is still out on the 2012-2014 drafts for every system. Time will give us a much clearer view.
My immediate take is that this is a major loss for the Cardinals. I hope/expect general manager John Mozeliak will fill the position with a man at least as broadly prepared for this most important job as was Kantrovitz.
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