St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals place four among baseball’s top 100 prospects

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes throws during the first inning of a 2016 game against the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes throws during the first inning of a 2016 game against the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis. AP

According to Baseball America, the St. Louis Cardinals have plenty of prospects to protect during what has been an active but cautious offseason.

The amateur baseball scouting site ranks four Cardinals prospects on their annual Top 100.

Right-handed pitcher Alex Reyes, 23, is the team’s top prospect at No. 17 overall, a slide from his No. 3 ranking prior to having Tommy John surgery that cost him last season. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak estimated Reyes’ return at May 1, which could find him either in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

Jack Flaherty, 22, another right-handed starter, made the list at No. 53. He made his major league debut in 2017, appearing in six games (five of them starts) with a 6.33 ERA. Including his time at double-A Springfield and triple-A Memphis, he was 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning.

Carson Kelly, the 55th-ranked prospect in baseball, will likely start the 2018 season as Yadier Molina’s backup at catcher. The 23-year-old former second-round draft pick has appeared in 44 big league games split between 2016 and last season. In 68 games in Memphis, he batted .283 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Tyler O’Neill, a Canadian-born outfielder, was a third-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2013 and came to the Cardinals organization in a July 21, 2017 trade for pitcher Marco Gonzales. His emergence, along Memphis teammate Harrison Bader, are what made Randal Grichuk expendable for trade to Toronto.

In 495 minor league at-bats in 2017, O’Neill, 23, hit 31 home runs and 26 doubles with 95 RBIs.

Also appearing on the list, at No. 70, is pitcher Sandy Alcantara, the centerpiece of the Cardinals trade to the Miami Marlins for slugging outfielder Marcel Ozuna. Magneuris Sierra, another part of that trade, is not among the Top 100, but is one of the Marlins’ top 10 prospects.

Bleacher Report also recently released its rankings of minor league systems. The Cardinals fell form No. 11 overall in 2017 to No. 13 for the coming season. It ranks the Cardinals top 10 prospects: Reyes, Kelly, Flaherty, O’Neill, pitcher Jordan Hicks, Bader, pitcher Ryan Helsley, infielder Yairo Munoz (acquired from Oakland in Stephen Piscotty trade), shortstop Delvin Perez, and catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Atlanta Braves have the top-rated farm system in baseball, according to Bleacher Report. The Braves have seven prospects on the Baseball America Top 100, including five in the top 50 and the No. 1 overall prospect, outfielder Ronald Acuna.

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman