Finding future Cards major leaguers off radar

Sam Freeman: former 32nd-round pick

A look back at our early identification of Cardinals prospects who were destined for the majors.

Even after 50 articles focusing on the top St. Louis Cardinals prospects for 2013, there remains uncovered ground. A subscriber, Indianacardinal, recently asked a most thought-provoking question on The Cardinal Nation message board.

"I was wondering if you have ever looked back at previous years ‘Just Missed Lists' of you, the Community and writers such as Carioca to see who amongst yourselves may have been the first in previous years to rank players who became either helpful players, or trade bait for the Cards or who (identified) currently stud prospects, e.g. who first, if any of you, had Taveras close to but just outside the Combined Top 40?"

My interpretation of that includes at least two related questions.

The first is a look at those players who were among the top 46 players as named by each individual voter here at The Cardinal Nation, but missed our group top 40. (We individually rank 46 to ensure we end up with 40 names having received at least two of three possible votes.)

The second view is how rapidly we as voters in our annual ranking process recognized future Cardinals stars. In this case, I exclude by definition those prospects originally among the Cardinals' top draft picks.

I see both as most relevant and interesting questions. We will tackle the first one in this article.

Before proceeding, I want to make a statement. This is an effort to look for positives only. For every player about whom we may have been right, we probably missed the ball on any number more. This may seem unnecessary to mention, but I felt I needed to, anyway.

OK, here is the process I followed in part one. I took the individual top prospect votes from our process in six prior years – 2007 through 2012 – and highlighted names of selected future major leaguers based on who identified them first. Or, in the case of the most recent years, I identified a few top prospects called out early.

Here are the codes that correspond to the voters. I am the only constant over these years, denoted as "BW." In the left column is CariocaCardinal for 2012 – "CC" – preceded by Dustin Mattison, "DM," in 2008-11 and Jason Scott, "JS," in 2007. Ray Mileur, "RM," voted from 2007-09. The message board community, "Com," was incorporated into the site ranking process starting in 2009.

The numeric value is where that rater placed the player in their individual top prospect ranking that year. (The rankings are always completed prior to each season.)

CC 2012 Com BW
31 Jon. Rodriguez 32 Steven Hill 33 Sam Gaviglio
34 Greg Garcia 34 Anthony Ferrara 39 Hector Hernandez
35 Scott Gorgen 35 Deryk Hooker 43 Roberto DeLaCruz
39 Justin Wright 36 Tyler Lyons 44 Matt Williams
41 Kyle Hald 37 David Kopp 46 Aidan Lucas
45 Michael Swinson 41 Amauris Capellan
42 Jose Garcia
DM 2011 Com BW
30 Kevin Thomas 39 Casey Mulligan 30 Scott Gorgen
34 Roberto DeLaCruz 42 Bryan Augenstein 39 Breyvic Valera
38 Alex Castellanos 43 Xavier Scruggs 41 Blake King
39 Javier Avendano 44 Frederick Parejo 43 Deimer Bier
40 Amauris Capellan 45 Scott Schneider 44 Donovan Solano
DM 2010 Com BW
35 Yunier Castillo 27 Mike Parisi 24 Grabiel Hernandez
36 Blake King 31 Charlie Cutler 25 Deimer Bier
37 Ryde Rodriguez 33 Shane Robinson 35 Audry Perez
38 Deryk Hooker 39 Donovan Solano 37 Hector Garcia
40 Sam Freeman  40 David Kopp 38 Luis Mateo
40 Yunior Castillo
DM 2009 Com BW
33 Tommy Pham 32 Mark Diapoules 36 Tony Cruz
34 Brett Zawacki 38 Domnit Bolivar 39 Aaron Luna 
36 Luis De La Cruz 39 Jarrett Hoffpauir
38 Tyler Henley 40 Amaury Marti
40 Anthony Ferrara 
RM
36 Colt Sedbrook
40 Mike Parisi
DM 2008 RM BW
23 Brett Zawacki 37 Luke Gorsett 29 Daniel Descalso
29 Tyler Henley 39 Tony Cruz 37 Shaun Garceau
32 Brian Barden 39 Tony Cruz
40 Tommy Pham 40 Eddie Degerman
JS 2007 RM BW
36 Adam Daniels 35 Travis Hanson 30 Travis Hanson
39 Travis Hanson 36 Reid Gorecki 34 Juan Lucena
40 Reid Gorecki 38 Josh Wilson
40 Mark Michael

Let's get into the detail of the highlighted names above.

Garcia

2012: One year ago, CariocaCardinal had an early spotlight on Greg Garcia, ranking the infielder 34th. Garcia had logged an .819 OPS in 59 games at Palm Beach to close out the 2011 season.

As Tyler Lyons was coming off an Arizona Fall League showing - but over a year ahead of him scoring a major league spring training camp invitation - the message board community placed the lefty at number 36.

While neither has yet reached the majors, both seem on that trajectory.

2011: The bat of Alex Castellanos caught Dustin Mattison's eye. After a strong first half of 2011 with Springfield, the outfielder was flipped to the Dodgers in return for Rafael Furcal. Castellanos made his MLB debut last summer.

I placed second baseman Breyvic Valera in my top 40 a full year before he took the New York-Penn League by storm in 2012. Now Valera is a consensus top 20 prospect here.

At number 44 on my list two years ago was infielder Donovan Solano. While the Cardinals let him walk as a free agent following the season, the Colombian went on to make 316 plate appearances for the 2012 Miami Marlins while logging a .717 OPS. To be fair, the community had him at #39 the year prior, but had lost interest by 2011.

2010: Former Kansas lefty Sam Freeman was liked enough by Dustin Mattison to be placed at number 40. In 2012, Freeman leapt from Double-A to the majors.

Outfielder Shane Robinson had been in the system since 2006, but his glove always seemed to be ahead of his bat. The community placed him at #33 after he made his brief debut in St. Louis during 2009. Robinson spent most of 2012 in the majors.

2009: In our 2009 rankings, the community placed second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir at number 40. Hoffpauir went on to have a brief MLB debut with the Cardinals that following season and again with Toronto in 2010.

I liked what I had seen in catcher Tony Cruz, converted from third base and showing a nice bat. While I had Cruz at number 36 prior to the 2009 season, I also had him at #39 even a year earlier, as did Ray Mileur.

2008: I will talk more about Daniel Descalso in part two of this report.

2007: Outfielder Reid Gorecki never reached the majors as a Cardinal, but did so with the 2009 Atlanta Braves. Both Ray (#36) and Jason Scott (#40) singled out Gorecki's potential before the 2007 season.

I will come back to this topic in further detail in part two of this report, looking at how rapidly we identified future major league stars.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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