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Cards' Top 30 Prospects list led by MLB-ready talent

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Cardinals fans may not be used to not finishing atop the NL Central year after year. Thanks to a strong, and now top-heavy, system, it's easy to see this two-year absence from the postseason as a blip on the radar.

Cards Top 30 Prospects list

Cardinals fans may not be used to not finishing atop the NL Central year after year. Thanks to a strong, and now top-heavy, system, it's easy to see this two-year absence from the postseason as a blip on the radar.

Cards Top 30 Prospects list

While St. Louis doesn't have a top 10 farm system, it's not far off, standing out more for its depth, perhaps, than it's elite-level impact prospects. This is an organization, after all, that was able to trade for Marcell Ozuna this offseason and still has a lot of talent stockpiled.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

Much of it is gathering at the upper levels of the system. More than half of this year's new Top 30 prospects list are poised to contribute as needed in 2018. It starts right at the top, as the Cardinals are very excited to get No. 1 prospect Alex Reyes back from his Tommy John surgery rehab, and continues from there, with the top six prospects all expected to either start the year in St. Louis or with Triple-A Memphis waiting for a call.

Especially with the acquisition of Ozuna, there's a serious outfield logjam. Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader are ready to at least be fourth outfielders in the big leagues, but can there be room for both? And Randy Arozarena and Oscar Mercado, both in the top 15, are on their heels.

There's also a good amount of pitching depth behind Reyes. Jack Flaherty is competing for a spot in a crowded big league rotation and should see time there at some point. Dakota Hudson is close to being ready as well, while Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley could have their timetable sped up more if they're needed out of the bullpen.

The pool of talent amassing in Memphis can provide two things. The first is help when things go wrong in St. Louis, either with injury or poor performance. The second is trade bait. The Cardinals braintrust was able to package Top 30 prospects in right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen and outfielder Magneuris Sierra to get Ozuna. Pitching and outfielders. That's called trading from your strength, and the Cardinals know they can dip into those coffers again should they need to in order to get back to the postseason in 2018.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Ryan Helsley, RHP (2017: NR | 2018: 8)
Fall: Delvin Perez, SS (2017: 4 | 2018: 25)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 55 - Max Schrock (Harrison Bader, Andrew Knizner, Breyvic Valera)
Power: 60 - Tyler O'Neill
Run: 70 - Jonathan Machado
Arm: 60 - Carson Kelly (Yairo Munoz, Oscar Mercado, Delvin Perez)
Defense: 65 - Kelly
Fastball: 75 - Alex Reyes
Curveball: 60 - Reyes (Austin Gomber)
Slider: 60 - Dakota Hudson
Changeup: 55 - Junior Fernandez (Reyes, Jack Flaherty)
Control: 60 - Flaherty

How they were built
Draft: 16
International: 10
Trade: 4

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 16
2019: 7
2020: 1
2021: 6

Breakdown by position
C: 3
2B: 2
SS: 3
OF: 7
UTIL: 1
RHP: 12
LHP: 2

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals