Cardinals place 4 prospects on Top 100 list

ST. LOUIS -- For the second straight year, the Cardinals placed four players in MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 prospect rankings, which were revealed during an MLB Network special on Saturday night.

Leading the group is right-hander Alex Reyes, who landed at No. 18. Also cracking the Top 100 are right-hander Jack Flaherty (No. 38), catcher Carson Kelly (No. 46) and outfielder Tyler O'Neill (No. 94). The Cardinals were one of 13 clubs to have at least four players on the list.

The Braves topped all teams with eight Top 100 prospects. Two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who signed with the Angels in December, was chosen as the top overall prospect.

The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline 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 2018 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

This marks the third straight season in which Reyes ranks as the Cardinals' top prospect. He is listed seventh among all right-handed pitching prospects and is expected to make his mark in the Majors this year. A preseason favorite to compete for Rookie of the Year honors a year ago, Reyes ended up missing all of 2017 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

That recovery is ongoing, though the Cardinals are hopeful Reyes will be ready to join the big league club around the start of May. Whether he will pitch in relief or as a starter will be determined based upon need and how much control the Cardinals want over his workload.

Flaherty, who did not dent MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 list in 2017, climbed back into the rankings after ascending from Double-A to the Majors last year. He made six appearances for the Cardinals, though, barring injury to any of the team's other starters this spring, he is likely to begin this season back in Triple-A.

Kelly fell down a few spots after entering '17 ranked as the 39th-best prospect. However, he didn't get a full season's worth of playing time to showcase his development last year. After playing in 68 games with Triple-A Memphis, Kelly spent the second half of the season serving as Yadier Molina's backup. It's a role he's expected to hold again in 2018.

O'Neill joined the organization in July as part of a swap that sent pitching prospect Marco Gonzales to the Mariners. The Cardinals are intrigued by O'Neill's power -- he has a .508 slugging percentage in five Minor League seasons -- and will give him a chance to compete for a big league bench role this spring. O'Neill's ability to play all three outfield spots will help his case.

Saturday's prospect rankings followed a two-week rollout in which three Cardinals players -- Reyes, Kelly and second baseman Max Schrock -- were named Top 10 prospects at their respective positions. Still to be unveiled is the Cardinals' Top 30 prospects list, which will be updated before the start of the season.

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