ST. LOUIS -- General manager John Mozeliak's assertion that the Cardinals' farm system is more fertile now than it's been in recent years received supporting evidence on Saturday, when during an MLB Network special, four of the organization's Minor Leaguers were named to MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospect list for 2017.
Leading that group is right-hander Alex Reyes, who took the sixth overall spot. Reyes also earns the distinction of being the top ranked pitching prospect entering the season. Also landing in the Top 100 are catcher Carson Kelly (39th), right-hander Luke Weaver (68th) and shortstop Delvin Perez (91st).
With four players on this list, the Cardinals doubled their representation from a year ago, when only Reyes and pitcher Jack Flaherty were recognized. MLB Pipeline did add Weaver to its Top 100 rankings midseason, with the righty landing in the 81st spot at that time.
The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2017 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
Reyes, Weaver and Kelly maintained rookie status despite the fact that each graduated to the Majors in 2016. Perez, 18, was the Cardinals' first-round pick in last summer's Draft.
Of the four Cardinals to dent this prospect list, Reyes projects to make the biggest impact in St. Louis this season. He'll enter camp a candidate for a rotation spot after leaving a strong first impression during his time with the big league team last year. Over 49 innings with the Cardinals, Reyes struck out 52 while posting a 1.57 ERA and a 1.217 WHIP. His final three appearances came as a starter, and the Cardinals, who were in the thick of the National League Wild Card race at the time, won all three.
Weaver was an on-and-off member of the Cardinals' second-half rotation, as well, and he finished with a 5.70 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). He was dominant in the Minors, however, after healing from a spring wrist injury. Weaver had a 1.40 ERA in 12 Double-A starts, and he threw six shutout innings in his lone Triple-A appearance. It was after that start that he was summoned to St. Louis.
Kelly, the highest-ranked catcher on the Top 100 list, enjoyed a breakout offensive season before joining the Cardinals as a September callup. He slashed .289/.343/.395 while splitting time with the organization's top two affiliates and showcased himself as an above-average defender. Kelly appeared in 10 games with the Cardinals and then capped his year with a stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Perez was a surprise Draft choice by the Cardinals, only because most prognosticators expected him to be a top-10 selection. A failed drug test dropped Perez far enough that he was still available when the Cards made their selection with the 23rd overall pick. Perez then joined St. Louis' Gulf Coast League affiliate and hit .294/.352/.393 in his 43 games.
The Cardinals are one of 16 clubs with at least four players to make the 2017 preseason Top 100 list. The Braves and Yankees led all teams with seven players apiece.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.