During that time, St. Louis has integrated Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Kolten Wong into its lineup, not to mention the since-traded Allen Craig, David Freese and Colby Rasmus. The pitching staff has received an equally strong infusion with Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha and the since-departed Mitchell Boggs, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Jason Motte.
Promotions and trades have thinned out the system since it ranked as the game's best two years ago. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty is the lone Cardinal on MLBPipeline.com's new Top 100 Prospects list, and he checked in at No. 90.
However, the St. Louis system is far from barren. When Jonathan Mayo and I received the latest Pipeline Perspectives directive, asking us to identify the best pitching prospect not among the Top 100, we each chose a Cardinal. And there was a third Redbird who was very much in the running.
Jonathan is going with left-hander Marco Gonzales, who isn't overpowering but succeeds thanks to his tantalizing changeup and exquisite command. Both Gonzales and fellow southpaw Rob Kaminsky appeared on the final version of the 2014 Top 100 list.
Both would have been worthy choices to open this year on our new list, and Gonzales helped his cause by winning two games in the National League Division Series. But I'm opting for a right-hander with the highest ceiling of them all: Alex Reyes.
My top five pitching prospects who didn't crack the Top 100:
1. Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals
2. Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros
3. Max Fried, LHP, Braves
4. Gonzales, LHP, Cardinals
5. Brian Johnson, LHP, Red Sox
Reyes has two legitimate swing-and-miss pitches in his fastball and curveball. His heater usually operates at 93-95 mph and can reach triple digits, while his bender has power and depth. As a 19-year-old in low Class A last year, Reyes recorded 137 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.
The rest of Reyes' game is very much a work in progress. He has some feel for his changeup but it lacks consistency. Though he has an easy delivery, his control and command are erratic. And while his 6-foot-3 frame (which carries more than its listed 185 pounds) is built for durability, he'll need to watch his conditioning.
Reyes still has youth on his side and made notable progress in the second half of the 2014 season. After losing four straight starts to drop to 3-5 with a 5.25 ERA in early June, he finished with a 4-2, 2.35 kick that included an 80-26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and a .195 opponents average in 61 1/3 innings.
After his junior season at Elizabeth (N.J.) High in 2011, it would have been impossible to believe Reyes would rank among baseball's most intriguing young mound prospects a few years later. Reyes was as much an infielder as a pitcher, and he wasn't drawing much attention from area scouts.
In order to gain exposure, Reyes made an unusual move. Though he was born and raised New Jersey, both of his parents are from the Dominican Republic, so he moved there to live with his grandmother and focus on baseball full-time. The gamble paid off, as Reyes' arm strength got him noticed on the mound and earned him a $950,000 bonus after the Cardinals outbid the Astros and Royals.
Now Reyes is the next power pitcher coming though the St. Louis pipeline. He should crack the Top 100 at some point this year, and he could continue to move toward the top of the list as he rises through the Minors.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.