John Sickel’s top 20 St. Louis Cardinals prospects for 2011

Since Baseball America isn’t coming out with the top prospects of the Cardinals until January 14th, I thought I would use the list that John Sickels recently put out.  Sickels worked for ESPN from 1996-2005, writing regular “Down on the Farm” columns, focusing on the minor leagues.  After being let go by ESPN, he started his own blog, www.minorleagueball.com, a part of SB Nation.  He also does www.rotowire.com podcasts.  Sickels writes the annual Baseball Prospectus Book, giving scouting reports on about 1,000 minor league players.

I ran across Sickels work in the research from yesterday’s article on Hall of Famer Bob Feller.  He penned a 2004 biography of Feller, called Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation.

So here’s Sickels look at the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals prospects, ranking them and giving them grades and brief details of their performance and how high of a ceiling he thinks they have.  I like the listing except for the fact that Adron Chambers and Aaron Luna are only honorable mentions.

1) Shelby Miller, RHP, Grade A-: Grade may seem a notch aggressive, but I totally buy into him as a future ace, with the standard injury caveats of course.

2) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade B: This grade seems even more aggressive, but I’m playing instinct here as much as projectability. I might revise it but we’ll see.

3) Zack Cox, 3B, Grade B-: It may seem weird to rank college hitter Cox behind high school arm Jenkins, but I guess I’m in a weird mood today. Plus, there is something about Cox that makes me think he might not quite live up to expectations.

4) Carlos Martinez (Matias), RHP, Grade B-: What? Sickels ranking a DSL guy this high? Yep. Maybe I’m just in a good mood today. This might look stupid in a year, or inspired. I feel like gambling.

5) Seth Blair, RHP, Grade B-: Future number three starter.

6) Matt Carpenter, 3B, Grade B-: Scouts seem to have mixed feelings about him, but the performance is hard to knock.

7) Eduardo Sanchez, RHP, Grade B-: I think he’s the best of the large group of future bullpen arms.

 8.  Oscar Taveras, OF, Grade B-: Good Appy League numbers, some concern about low walk rate.

9) Deryk Hooker, RHP, Grade B-: Another grade that may seem aggressive but I love the guy, big sleeper for 2011.

10) Allen Craig, OF, Grade C+: Under the at-bat limit so I’ll still rank him. Hit very well in the second half for the Cardinals, albeit in limited action. He can help if they let him.

11) Lance Lynn, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eating fourth starter type.

12) Joe Kelly, RHP, Grade C+: Love the sinker, but needs to show better results.

13) Jordan Swagerty, RHP, Grade C+: Another future middle reliever with some closer potential.

14) Adam Reifer, RHP, Grade C+: Another bullpen part to watch.

15) Cody Stanley, C, Grade C+: Can he avoid Robert Stockitis and bring his Appy League success forward to the Midwest League? I think so.

16) John Gast, LHP, Grade C+: Looked much better against pro hitters than college ones.

17) Tommy Pham, OF, Grade C+: Always had the tools, and skills are starting to develop.

18) Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Grade C+: Who? Low-level sleeper with breakthrough potential.

19) Nick Longmire, OF, Grade C+: University of the Pacific product with solid tools.

20) Blake King, RHP, Grade C: Check out the K/IP and H/IP numbers. If he can sharpen his command. . .

OTHERS: Matthew Adams, 1B; Bryan Anderson, C; Adron Chambers, OF; Tony Cruz, C; Daniel Descalso, 2B; Anthony Garcia, C-OF; Steven Hill, C; Daryl Jones, OF; David Kopp, RHP; Pete Kozma, SS; Aaron Luna, OF; Casey Mulligan, RHP; Audry Perez, C; Zach Russell, RHP; Francisco Samuel, RHP; Robert Stock, C; Niko Vasquez, 3B.

I did an article on Luna a while back, and I think his K/BB ratio as well as a great OBP should make him climb faster on the ladder than many others.  I don’t hear his name a lot, but his OBP in the minors makes him project well in my opinion.  If he could produce at the majors close to his levels in the minors (it’s a small sample size), his OBP and the pop in his bat would make him a nice option at 2B.  I think he may be our solution at RF or 2B in the future, hopefully 2B, where his stats would shine better.  The Cardinals are mainly trying Luna in LF and RF, but he has played a few games at 2B at both A and AA.  I think he could be the player we need at that position, hopefully sending Schumaker  back to being a 4th outfielder.  Here is Aaron Luna’s Baseball Cube page.

Maybe Zack Cox moves to 2B, and maybe Luna will be another player in the minors that doesn’t translate to MLB success.  I would like to see the Cards try him there though.  It also looks like Adron Chambers is moving fast through the system.  There’s nothing earth shattering about his stats, but his speed in RF would be nice in the future.  Anyway, he’s not bad for a 38th round pick from the 2007 draft.  I keep hearing good things about his skill set, so we’ll see.  I’m curious to see what his 2011 statistics for a full year at AAA will be.

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