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St. Louis Cardinals

Original Published Date: Sept. 23, 2012

It’s nice when an baseball organization has talent at both the major and minor league levels.  The St. Louis Cardinals have done just that and have one of the best hitting prospects in Oscar Taveras and after a brief period of adjustment, one of the best right-handed pitcher prospects in the game with Shelby Miller.  Kolten Wong is also a nice second base prospect with a first division ceiling.  Rounding out the elite prospects is Carlos Martinez, a potentially top of the rotation right-handed starter or a dominating closer.

If you’re looking for a flaw, the Cardinals do not have a tremendous amount of talent in the lower minors.  That’s partially due to picking guys that move through the system quickly, like Michael Wada, their first round pick in 2012, who has already pitched in Double-AA.

1.   Oscar Taveras (OF)

2013 Age: 20 BP:D.R.
Ht:6-2  Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws:Left ETA: 2013
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AA 477 83 23 94 10 .321 .380 88.3 8.8 .323

Signed out the D.R. in 2008, Oscar Taveras has exploded on to the scene and now is one of the top prospects in the game.  Turning 20 this past June, Taveras was the second youngest player after Jurickson Profar in the Texas League, but arguably had the best year.  In 477 at-bats, he batted .321 with 23 home runs and a terrific 56K/42BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While Taveras has plenty of tools, his ability to make hard consistent contact is what has the St. Louis Cardinals so enthusiastic about the young Dominican.  I would not call his swing perfect by any stretch as it’s an all-out violent approach.  However, if you slow the swing down, you see the magic in Taveras as he waits a long time to allow the ball to get deep in the zone before using his strong wrist to explode on the ball.  There’s also a lot of torque in his swing as his hip rotation is tremendous.  Plus his ability to adjust to the ball is impressive and immediately makes you think of Vlad Guerrero.  That said, do I worry about the swing?  Absolutely.  But as the saying goes…so far so good.

After destroying Double-AA, Taveras will move to Memphis in the PCL and while Memphis is not necessarily a hitters paradise, there are many parks in the league that he will make look small.  With the move to AAA, Taveras should see a more steady diet of off-speed pitches and I will be curious to see how he handles the challenge.  His swing mechanics may make him more susceptible to off-speed pitches.  If not, the path to the majors and future stardom will occur very shortly afterwards.

Fantasy Impact: I rate Oscar Taveras’ hit tool as plus-plus and his future power as plus-plus.  If they fully mature, a potential .300 average with 30 home runs could be in the making.  Given how he managed Double-A, this is a player you want to target early in a dynasty league, possible in the high single digit rounds.

2.   Shelby Miller (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP:Texas
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AAA 136.1 138 72 24 3.29 10.54 4.74 1.38

At the start of 2012, I had Shelby Miller listed as the number one right-handed pitching prospect in baseball.  He has a plus-plus fastball that sits in the mid-90’s but can peak at 98 MHP.  Not only is the velocity elite, the fastball has a lot of heavy sink and since his delivery is free and easy, it makes the fastball appear to have a lot of late life.  Both his curve and change-up are above average pitches that look like they could become a lot more as he moves through the development process.  With this arsenal, size, and delivery intact, it appeared to be just a matter a time before Miller started to dominate the majors; maybe even as early as 2012.

However, as happens frequently, the development process has it’s own timeframe and early in 2012, Miller struggled, and struggled badly.  On July 7th, his ERA stood at 6.17 and he had given up 17 home runs in 56.1 innings.  The strikeouts were there at 90 but so were the walks (43), or almost seven per nine.  The most concerning stat was his velocity was down and he was no longer able to dial it up to the upper 90’s.  Something was wrong.

Whether it was adjusting to the advanced hitting in AAA, or gaining back some weight he had lost to get more athletic, or a mechanical tweak, Shelby started to roll in mid-June and that roll led him all the way to the majors where in a small sample size, he’s pitched very well. 6.2 IP with an 8K/2BB.  We might not ever know what happened, but the good news is that the elite pitcher I saw enter 2012 is back and I see a ceiling of a #2 starter, or possibly more.

Fantasy Impact: Shelby Miller has the ceiling to be a fantasy ace and still should be targeted as such.  If a dynasty owner has soured, jump on him.  I think you should expect 180+ strikeouts per year with great ratios and the opportunity for wins as the Cardinals are good now and should continue that status as Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong make their way to the majors.

3.   Carlos Martinez (RHP)

2013 Age: 21 BP:D.R.
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A-AA 104.1 91 34 6 2.76 7.93 2.96 1.18

Born in the D.R. and one of many players who suffered from an identity crises, Carlos Martinez finally made his way to professional ball in 2011 and has been impressive since his first pitch to the St. Louis brass in spring training of that same year.

Martinez is not very big at six feet and 180 lbs, but his arm is electric with his four-seamer sitting 94-96 and peaking at 100 MPH with plenty of late life.  He also throws a nasty two-seamer that sits 92-93 with a lot of sink. His secondary pitches are above average with his change-up ahead of his curveball. While his delivery is violent, he does repeat his delivery and therefore his command is very good.

The big question surrounding Martinez is whether his size and repertoire is better served in the bullpen or in the starting rotation?  While size can be over-rated (see Kris Medlen), it’s the violent delivery and the ability to throw 100 MPH that might eventually push him to the pen, but for now, St. Louis will keep him as a starter.

Fantasy Impact: Martinez has front of the rotation stuff but the uncertainty of moving to the bullpen makes him a difficult selection in a dynasty draft.   That said, if he does become a reliever, a Craig Kimbrel type of comp is not out of the question.

4.   Kolten Wong (2B)

2013 Age: 22 BP:Hawaii
Ht: 5-9  Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AA 523 79 9 52 21 .287 .343 85.9 8.0 .320

Second baseman’s are generally not drafted but are instead converted failed shortstops.  However, in the deep draft of 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Kolten Wong with the 22nd pick as their future at the keystone.

Wong is not a physically impressive player as he stands only 5-9, but his weight, which he carries well, along with a small compact swing allows him to drive balls with authority.  While his .133 Isolated Power is not impressive, particularly in Double-AA, I believe his swing mechanics will eventually lead to 15-18 home runs at the major league level.  He does have above average speed and that resulted in 21 stolen bases but with 11 caught stealing.

Fantasy Impact: I actually believe that Kolten Wong will be a better fantasy player than a major league player and that is primarily due to his ability to steal 20 bases as a middle infielder.  He should hit at the top of the lineup as his ability to hit for contact should make him a perfect number two hitter.  His ceiling is a .290-.300 hitter with 10-15 home runs, 20+ stolen bases and 90-100 runs annually.

5.   Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Missouri
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA-AAA 108.2 78 36 7 3.49 8.64 2.99 1.10

I’ve always been a big fan of Trevor Rosenthal and have therefore always ranked him higher than the industry.  While I was surprised at not only the decision by the Cardinals to have Rosenthal skip High-A, but also the promotion to the big league pen in late August, where Rosenthal has pitched very well – 22K/6BB in 19 innings.  Clearly the Cardinals are high on Rosenthal as well.

Rosenthal has a big fastball that he can throw in the upper 90’s, but as a starter, he typically stays in the 92-95 MPH range.  The fastball has a lot of sink and should allow Rosenthal to have a 50%+ ground ball ratio.  He also throws a nasty slider that is graded out as a plus pitch and a change-up that has improved greatly over the past several years.  His control and command is improving and while Rosenthal will never have pinpoint control, a BB/9 in the low three’s should be the norm for him.

While Rosenthal has had success as a reliever in the majors this year, I believe the Cardinals view him as a starter long-term.  I think they are following a similar plan that yielded such great success for Lance Lynn but Rosenthal has better stuff and more upside.

Fantasy Impact: If you believe in ground ball pitchers that can strikeout guys, then Rosenthal will be your guy. He will not be an elite pitcher, but has the chance to be in that next tier of players.

6.   Michael Wacha (RHP)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-6 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R-AA 21.0 8 2 1 1.71 17.14 0.86 0.57

Listed at 6-6 and 195 lbs, right-handed Michael Wacha is a big guy that is probably closer to 220 lbs.  Selected #19 by the Cardinals, Wacha has already been moved to Double-A with an impressive 40K/4BB in only 21.0 IP.  His velocity sits 90-93 and pitching with a significant downward plane, Wacha gets a lot of late movement with his fastball.  His out pitch at the moment is a plus change-up with nice arm side run that is proving effective against both right-handed and left-handed bats.

At the moment, his curve ball is getting mixed results.  With some scouts, I’m hearing his curve is under developed and grades out as a below average pitch and others are indicating that they’ve seen his curve flash above average, if not more.

Usually guys that are 6-6 have trouble with their command, but that is not the case with Wacha.  In 113.1 innings during his junior year of college, Wacha had a 116K/20BB strikeout-to-walk ratio as well as an impressive 40K/4BB in his very small sample size of 21.0 innings in professional ball.

Fantasy Impact: He could provide 160-180 strikeouts with good ratios and the opportunity to win games as part of the Cardinals.

7.   Matt Adams (1B)

2013 Age: 24 BP:Pennsylvania
Ht:6-3  Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2012
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AAA 258 41 18 50 3 .329 .362 77.9 5.8 .362

If you had a chance to see Matt Adams in his short call-up to the major leagues this year, you know that his listed playing weight of 230 lbs must have been his high-school playing weight.  Yes, Matt Adams is a big boy and even though he did not fare well in the majors, Matt Adams can hit and hit for power.

Matt Adams has always been able to make solid contact with his AAA contact rate at 78% and previous year totals even higher.  So, his 73% contact in the majors was clearly disappointing but does illustrate, yet again, that playing in the Major Leagues is really hard.  I still believe in the bat and believe that Adams will carve out a good major league career as .270-.280 average first baseman who can hit 25+ home runs.  However, with the emergence of Allen Craig, that might not be in St. Louis.

Fantasy Impact: I do not believe Matt Adams will be a star but in deeper leagues, I believe Adams will be serviceable, if not quality corner infielder.  Given his physical condition, expecting a long career is probably also not in the cards for Adams, so the sooner he can get to the show, the better off he will be.

8.   Tyrell Jenkins (RHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws:Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 LowA 82.1 84 47 5 3.94 8.74 5.14 1.46

Tyrell Jenkins was recruited out of high-school by Baylor to be running routes for RGIII and then to potentially become their quarterback of the future.  However, he choose instead to sign for $1.3M in 2010 to become a St. Louis Cardinal and try his hand on the bump.

Obviously very athletic, Jenkins also has a big arm with plus velocity and very nice, although inconsistent secondary pitches (12-6 curve and change-up).  His fastball sits 91-94 and peaks at 96 with heavy sink that induces a lot of ground balls (1.98 G/F in 2012).  His 8.74 K/9 rate is impressive, but as with many young pitchers, particularly ground ball pitchers, he has trouble finding the plate.

While Jenkins is still a long way off, he just turned 20, he should start 2013 in High-A.   His athleticism is special and should allow him to make the necessary physical adjustments as well as repeat his delivery.

Fantasy Impact: A flyer at the moment, but a pitcher that fantasy owners should keep on their radar.

9. Stephen Piscotty (3B)

Stephen Piscotty was taken in the 2012 supplemental first round as a junior out of Stanford.  His career at Stanford indicates a plus hit-tool with modest power.   However, as he matures I believe Piscotty will have a chance to hit double-digit home runs with a .290 plus batting average.  Will this be enough to make him a solid regular at the highest level?  I don’t know as he profiles either at third base or a corner outfielder and typically teams are looking for more pop at those positions.

10. Carson Kelly (3B)

Not only did the Cardinals take a third baseman in the 2012 supplemental first round, they double-down and took high-school third baseman Carson Kelly in the second round.  Kelly shows good defensive abilities at third with a rifle arm (was also a pitcher in high school).  He also got off to a nice start in the Appy League in 2012 by showing nice contact (85%) and the ability to drive the ball with authority by hitting nine home runs as a young 17-year-old teenager.  While he has a long way to go, the Cardinals might have found something with Kelly.

10a. Charlie Tilson (OF) – A bonus writeup

2011 second round draft pick, Charlie Tilson had a tough year.  After diving for a ball in extended Spring Training in May, he required surgery to repair a severely separated shoulder and missed the entire 2012 season.  So why did he make my Top 10?  Answer: While he lost an entire year of development, there is still a ton of upside.  I really like Tilson’s swing and believe he’ll make excellent contact and with plus-speed, he has top-of-the-order potential.  The defense should also play as well.  Of course, there are negatives as he’ll now be 20-years-old and might start the season again in extended spring training before moving to short season ball.

7 comments on “St. Louis Cardinals

  1. Why are there only 8 prospects listed for the Cardinals? Am I missing something?

  2. Thanks for the list. I put together a composite list of the top cardinals prospects by combining the top 10 lists from around the web. You can check it out at:

    http://cardinalsfancubsland.blogspot.com/2013/01/2013-cardinals-top-10-composite.html

    • Good list and really good system. Best in baseball if you ask me due to high-end prospects and good balance on both sides of the ball. Depth doesn’t really start to drop off until about 15 or so. I had to include Charlie Tilson though as I still really believe…just hope he stays healthy!

  3. Where would Wacha fit in Most other team’s lists? St. Louis System is so studly at the top…what is Wacha’s perfect world projections? If that Curveball develops into a swing and miss pitch…how good can this kid be?

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