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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baseball America names Cardinals' Top 10 prospects

BY DERRICK GOOLD | Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:45 am | (6) Comments

TOWER GROVE • When I finished one of the early drafts of the St. Louis Cardinals' top 10 prospects for Baseball America, there were two well-known and obvious names that I skipped over, completely forgot, didn't rank at all.

I blame October.

Having watched Lance Lynn work in the World Series and charted the availability for the postseason of Eduardo Sanchez, I took it for granted that the two relievers, like Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso, had torched their eligibility for the annual ranking of the top 10 prospects in the Cardinals' system. Not so. Both still qualify. Both just qualify. A rewrite was in order.

This morning, at Baseball America's official Web site, the Cardinals' Top 10 was released, under the headline "Flying High." Shelby Miller is the prospect featured in the picture, and naturally Miller is the top prospect on the list. The scouting reports that go with each player are behind the pay wall at BA. But here is the list, as compiled in a joint effort between the editors at BA, including Jim Callis, and myself:

1. Shelby Miller, rhp
2. Carlos Martinez, rhp
3. Oscar Taveras, of
4. Zack Cox, 3b
5. Kolten Wong, 2b
6. Tyrell Jenkins, rhp
7. Lance Lynn, rhp
8. Eduardo Sanchez, rhp
9. Matt Adams, 1b
10. Jordan Swagerty, rhp

The addition of Lynn and Sanchez to the list reorganized the top seven, of course, but also left some worthy prospects outside the top 10. A few of those considered for those spots were RHP Trevor Rosenthal, SS Ryan Jackson, 3B Matt Carpenter and newcomer OF Charlie Tilson.

You can see the list and the "top tools" survey from the organization -- best control? Boone Whiting! -- by following this link.

As usual, there will be a chat at BA's site at 2 p.m. today St. Louis time.

But the conversation won't be confined to BA.

Each year, I open the floor here to questions about the top 10, about the Cardinals' system, and, yes, about the top 30 that will appear in the forthcoming Baseball America 2012 Prospect Handbook. We'll do it in the style of those old pre-chat PostCards mailbags. There are three ways to submit a question:

Write Please include name and city, if you please.
Scrawl a question in the comments section below.
Visit Bird Land@Facebook and write a question on the wall.

Any question is fair. Comments are welcome.

These rankings always come with a caveat. Remember, the players are only compared against other prospects in the Cardinals' system. That means a top-10 prospect in the Cardinals system might not crack the top 20 in, say, the Kansas City Royals' system. There is no perfect way to rank prospects, and the attempt here is to offer a snapshot of the system through its prospects.

I find it helpful to use history as a lesson.

I've done the rankings for Baseball America for the past five years -- actually more, but whatever -- and each year I sit down and look through past rankings to see what went right and what went wrong. I want to fight Prospect Fatigue and correct any blindspots. I whiffed on Matt Adams last year, and the reasons he didn't crack the rankings are now ones I've reconsidered.

My goal each year is not to contribute to the hype of prospects, but to offer context for these prospects and illustrate what they've done, what they're capable of doing (if everything goes right), and what they have to improve to make it happen.

It's far easier to criticize the rankings than to do them.

That latter actually takes time, research, reporting, knowing the names of lower minor-leaguers, etc.

The rankings aren't "my" rankings. I write the scouting reports and make some suggestions for the order. The rankings truly are the blend of opinions from scouts from other teams, coaches, opposing managers, Cardinals' officials, reporters and, of course, the editors at Baseball America. I think in recent years all of that has resulted in some informed top 10s. Look back at the Cardinals' top 10 that came after the 2009 season, and consider the number of prospects ranked in that top 10 that contributed to the recent World Series title:

1. Shelby Miller, RHP
2. Jaime Garcia, LHP
3. Lance Lynn, RHP
4. Daryl Jones, OF
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
7. Allen Craig, OF
8. Blake Hawksworth, RHP
9. Daniel Descalso, 2B
10. Robert Stock, C

Jones was coming off his "player of the year season." In hindsight, Craig could have been higher, but his lack of position at the time held him (incorrectly) out of the top five. Still ... Eight out of 10 ain't bad. I bet there are some farm directors who would take that kind of return on their internal rankings.

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