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Cardinals Hitters Missing from BA Best Tools

Recently, Baseball America posted its annual Best Tools survey results. Managers and coaches in each full-season league are polled for their opinions on the talents in their respective leagues.

The table below summarizes the results for the St. Louis Cardinals system, extracted from each of the original articles, posted by level.

In tabular form, it indicates why the Cardinals are a middle-of-the-pack farm system and why there should be concern about the offensive pipeline of top talent anywhere near the majors.

Across four leagues and levels, only one hitter was called out among 10 Cardinals recognized – and that was for ability to take walks by a non-prospect, .250-hitting, 24-year-old low-power first baseman still at high-A.

Not a single Cardinal was identified as best hitter, best power potential or most exciting player in their respective leagues.

On the other hand, St. Louis’ pitching prospects continue to be recognized, as are their up-and-coming defenders, with the latter representing at least half the organization’s most acknowledged top tools. All three pitchers singled out have since been promoted, headlined by the system’s top prospect, Alex Reyes.

Maybe the 2016 draft class will help address this high-end offensive shortfall, but that storyline will take considerable time to develop.


Hitting Pitching Defense / Speed
Triple-A Best fastball – Alex Reyes Best first baseman – Efren Navarro

Double-A Best catcher – Carson Kelly

High-A Best strikezone judgment – Casey Grayson Best first baseman – Casey Grayson

Best baserunner – Darren Seferina

Best outfield arm – Blake Drake

Class A Best fastball – Sandy Alcantara Best second baseman – Eliezer Alvarez

Best changeup – Junior Fernandez

Totals 1 3 6

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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19 Responses to “Cardinals Hitters Missing from BA Best Tools”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    There would have have been 200 nominees. Divide by 30 teams, average representation would be 6.67 honorees per team. The Cards did well to snag 10 mentions.
    Not all honors are equal. Do we care Navarro and Grayson are slick with the glove?
    Seven of the honors seem encouraging, the pitchers, Kelly, seferina, drake and Alvarez. This has to be higher than many other teams.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    There is consistent recognition for Kelly as a defensive catcher. With the cards, this tool will earn playing time.
    He has also made good progress as a hitter. Some people learn to use the who field, some can’t do this. Happily mr Kelly has learned to do this.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Grayson has 80 walks already, the most at palm beach in the past dozen years. Better walker than was little Mike oneill.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Pujols and Musial may have accustomed fans to hitting prospects who spend little time in the minors. Oscar too was up to the 7th rung by his fourth year, another fast moving hitter.
    While it’s great to lasso a talented hitter, talented pitchers move up faster, in general. One main aim of the minors is to keep pitchers healthy, not burn them out.
    With hitters there is not as much injury risk, so we can give them years more training. Trends in the industry favor fewer major league players in their thirties, though also longer minor league training of position players. When we invest in high school hitters like Plummer, Denton, Carlson, Walker, Whalen, etc., we should do this expecting them to take seven or more years to move up the ladder. Tommy Pham’s decade in the minors looks like the new normal.

  5. Bw52 says:

    I hope the Cards don`t expect it to take 7 years for these young guys to make any impact in the majors.What about minor league free agency Jumbo? I can understand a couple of years to get used to pro ball but after 2 years you would think the organization has a general opinion on player progression.You mention guys like Casey Grayson and OF Blake Drake as voted having top tools as voted by managers and coaches.So what`s the probable ceiling for Grayson and Drake.Grayson was voted best strikezone judgement and best 1B.So grayson has a good eye at the plate and plays good defense.He has shown little power in his career so he`s not a big bat but he`s good glove man.So I think Tony Muser at best;fringe major leaguer if he improves who can be a backup 1B/PH/ defensive replacement.As for Drake having best arm won`t matter if you don`t show enough potential to make the team keep you around.Backup OF/defensive replacement looks like ceiling so far.I have dubts if either Grayson or Drake are more than longshots to reach STlouis in the future.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I am just putting the finishing touches on a new prospect list to be posted tomorrow. I decided to expand to 50, but neither Grayson nor Drake were seriously considered.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Drake has some upside. Because the cards lack depth at AA, he has been over promoted. He should have spent season at Palm beach. Drake has arm and speed to defend a premium position. He needs at bats to improve as a hitter for average. A good guy to have in your system.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          chris Duncan was the son of a coach and a first round pick in 1999. Did not reach majors until mid 2006. Par for the course. It takes time for many.
          Exceptions can be defensive stars like Yadier and Carson. Perez might move up fast because SS is a position for the young.

  6. Bw52 says:

    Brian -What`s your take on Brian O`Keefe and Chris Chinea ?Both seem to have offensive potential and have adequate defensive skills.Since the Catching at Palm Beach is poor offensively{ although Steve Bean is supposed to be a very good defensive guy} could either of these guys be promoted and are either future big leaguers?Not meaning to put you on the spot it just seems the systems catching might be getting a bt better wth MCarvel,O1Keefe,Chinea,etc

    • Brian Walton says:

      Not putting me on the spot at all. I have wondered the same thing. Palm Beach has been left to struggle with Bean and fill in guys while Peoria has three catchers, all of whom have shown a decent bat. The other is Jose Godoy. I don’t know about MLB potential at this point, but I would point out that Chinea has been DH or 1B in all but 18 games this season, where O’Keefe has mostly been behind the plate. McCarvel is tall and lanky and is seeing a lot of time at 1B. The catcher to watch, IMO, is Jeremy Martinez at SC. It is still very early, but I have been impressed.

  7. Bw52 says:

    I saw that Chinea was behind O`Keefe defensively and has played 1B a lot.Could be 1B a future home if offense keeps improving.Playing 1B with the ability to know how catch is nice versatility.I know Matt Adams was drafted as a catcher and converted to 1B his 2nd year?Anyway I was wondering if the Catching situation isn`t as dire after Yadi as most think.

  8. Bw52 says:

    doi9ng some more looking after Carson Kelly Cards might be okay .Not great .

    Mike Ohlman AAA-AA this year-if he fails to get a callup in September I think he no longer in the teams plans.
    Rosario-system guy,adequate
    Luis Cruz-has played AAA,AA this year
    Jesse Jenner-played AAA,AA,Hi A this year
    Brian O`Keefe-Hi A and A this year,shows some popaverage defense
    Jose Godoy-A ball,good defense,split time with O`Keefe at Peoria-nice heads Brian,Thanks
    Jeremy Martinez-Short season A,threw out 58% base stealers-Great heads up from Brian W.

    Several defene only guys who belong in the Jerry Zimmerman class
    (showing my age with that name)-Steve Bean,Chris Rivera.

    @ guys who look like they will be moved to other postions Chris Chinea-big hitter who played Catcher 20 games,1B 27 games and DH others at Peoria

    Ryan McCarvel played 1B-37 games,Catcher -6

    • JumboShrimp says:

      McCarvel is the nephew of an NBA player. Teammate pitcher Carson is the son of an NBA player. The cards like second generation athletes, not just from baseball.

  9. blingboy says:

    Happy to hear Lance Lynn made his first rehab appearance today for PB. Maybe he makes a cameo for STL in september.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Yes, he has been ahead of schedule all along. I spoke with him in Jupiter six months in (three months ago) and he was really excited about his progress. That grabbed me as Lynn is not usually pleasantly excited – at least with the media.

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