St. Louis Cardinals

Original Published Date: Oct. 11, 2013

The Cardinals graduated several elite prospects who made contributions to the parent club in 2013 including: Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Matt Adams.  As a testament to the depth of the system, the Cardinals still have a Top 10 farm system led by one of the best prospects in the game in Oscar Taveras.

Taveras should have joined his fellow prospects in St. Louis but was derailed by an ankle injury that eventually needed to be surgically repaired.  He should return fully healthy in 2014 and should also be a pre-season favorite for NL ROY.  Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong did get a chance to contribute in St. Louis and should also see considerable time in the big leagues in 2014.

While the system does tail off after the big three, there is still promising talent.  2013 saw the Cardinals draft two lefties in collegian Marco Gonzales and high-schooler Rob Kaminsky.  While Gonzales is further along the development curve, Kaminsky could move quickly as his pitchability is very advanced for a teenager.  Stephen Piscotty has moved to the outfielder and continues to put up consistent if not spectacular numbers.

One blemish on the system has been the shoulder injury to promising right-hander Tyrell Jenkins.  Provided he can put his injuries behind him, the arsenal and athleticism shows a lot of promise.

1. Oscar Taveras (OF)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling:Role 7
Ht:6-2 Weight: 200 Bats: Left Throws: Left
ETA: 2014
2013 AAA 174 25 5 32 5 .310 .348 87.4 5.7 .329

It was a disappointing season for Oscar Taveras as an ankle injury ultimately ended his season after only 174 at-bats.  Hopefully the surgery he had in mid August will resolve the problem and Taveras will hit the ground running in the Spring.  While the numbers were slightly down in those 174 at-bats, I think it’s easy to attribute the drop in production to either a small sample size, his injury, or both.  Taveras is a toolsy player with monster potential and all he lacks is the opportunity.

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.

Taveras will enter the 2014 season still only 21-years-old and while there’s a chance he’ll start the year back in Triple-A, there’s an equal chance that he’ll start the year as the Cardinals starting right-fielder.  A lot will depend on how he looks during the Spring and whether the Cardinals brass thinks he’s ready.

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.  In a Dynasty League, he’s a must own player and he’ll likely go high in a redraft league in 2014.

2. Carlos Martinez (RHP)

2014 Age: 22 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 AA-AAA 79.2 65 22 4 3.16 8.13 2.49 1.17

With a rich farm system, the Cardinals can promote high-end pitching prospects like Carlos Martinez and use them in relief to give them both experience and to help the big league club.  The 6-foot Dominican met the challenge and pitched well with a 7.25 K/9 and a 3.22 BB/9.  By pitching in short burst, his fastball really played up – averaging 98.31MPH with his power curve coming in at 81.06 MPH.

The arsenal is electric and as a starter, Martinez four-seamer will sit 94-96 with plenty of late life that he gets from excellent momentum in his delivery.   He also throws a nasty two-seamer that sits 92-93 with a lot of sink. The two-seamer has a lot of glove side run and generated a WHIFF rate of 11.29%. His change-up is an excellent offering with a release point matching very closely to his fastball.  It has a lot of natural fade and as he matures, should be a real swing and miss pitch.

The curve, that was lagging behind his change-up, took a step forward in 2013 with a 19.23% WHIFF rate in his 28.1 innings.  I think it’s going to grade out to a plus pitch and that will give Martinez three plus pitches with above-average command and control.  That’s a ceiling of at least a number two starting pitcher but there is concern that he will be better served in the bullpen as his delivery is violent with maximum effort.  The Cardinals are saying that he is starter but given their depth, he might join Trevor Rosenthal in the pen; which will have us all wondering, “What if”.

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.

3. Kolten Wong (2B)

2014 Age: 23 Ceiling:Role 5-6
Ht: 5-9 Weight: 185 Bats: Left Throws: Right
ETA: 2013
2013 AAA 412 68 10 45 20 .303 .369 85.4 10.0 .332

As with a lot of the elite Cardinals prospects, Kolten Wong got a chance to show his stuff in St. Louis in 2013.  While he showed flashes, he also looked overwhelmed at times.  However, as a 22-year-old who was not getting consistent at-bats, it’s understandable that he was overmatched.

While Wong is not a physically imposing player as he stands only 5-foot-9, his weight along with a short compact swing allows him to drive balls with authority.  The swing has yet to translate into home run production, but he did slug .466 in the PCL in 412 at-bats.  He does have above-average speed and combined with excellent base running skills, translated into 20 stolen bases in Triple-AAA with only one caught stealing.  That’s a huge improvement from 2012.

Kolten Wong is going to be a good baseball player, not a star, but more of a Role-5 solid contributor.  His ability to make contact and take a walk should make him an ideal number two hitter for the Cardinals as soon as next year.  However with the emergence of Chris Carpenter, playing time is a concern unless the Cardinals decide to make a move with David Freese.

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.

4. Stephen Piscotty (OF)

2014 Age: 23
Ceiling:Role 5
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws:Right
2013 A+-AA 427 47 15 59 11 .295 .355 89.2 8.7 .313

Drafted out of Stanford in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, Stephen Piscotty has been the model of consistency in every level he’s played.  In 210 at-bats in Low-A in 2012, he had a slash line of .295/.376/.448.  In 243 at-bats in High-A, he had a slash line of .292/.348/.477 and finally in 184 at-bats in Double-A, he had a slash line of .299/.364/.446.  That’s pretty remarkable!

In scouting Piscotty, it’s pretty easy to see why he’s been so consistent as he has a plan on every at-bat.  He knows the strike zone and looks for his pitches.  His 89% contact rate is fueled by his quick compact stroke that is tailor made for gap power.  However, with his swing, I’m not sure how much power he’ll ultimately have and given he’ll profile best as a corner outfielder, that might not be enough to give him full-time at-bats in St. Louis.

While you never want to completely alter a batters swing, the Cardinals might be well served to add some leverage in Piscotty’s swing and have him start to pull the ball more.  He’s got the size and the bat speed to potentially hit 20 home runs, but by maintaining his existing stroke, his slugging will probably hover around .450.

Fantasy Impact:  Piscotty can hit and that is the foundation for being a big leaguer.  However, the rest of his game is empty but I actually believe he’ll develop power.  He has size, strength and bat speed, so I’m going to be buying Piscotty in Dynasty Leagues.  I think a 20 home run, .290 batting average player is possible.

5. Marco Gonzales (LHP)

2014 Age: 22 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 185 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 R-HiA 23.1 18 7 1 3.09 8.87 2.70 1.11

Drafted as their first pick in the 2013 first year player draft, Marco Gonzales is a command and control lefty that has above-average secondary pitches and advanced pitchability.

At 6-foot and 185 pounds, Gonzales doesn’t have the frame nor the arm speed of a power pitcher as his velocity sits 88-90 MPH.  He is able to locate and keep the ball down and most importantly, throw it for strikes.  His curveball grades out as an average offering but the change-up is his money pitch as it grades out to a plus offering.  It’s a really nice pitch with nice fade and should keep glove side batters honest.

The pitching mechanics grade out as average.  First his momentum is very good and should provide a little extra life on his fastball.  The balance is not great and it looks like he’s not able to repeat his delivery that well.  However, his performance in college would suggest that he is able to throw strikes as does his small sample size of 23.1 innings in professional ball.

Fantasy Impact: Command and control lefties are plentiful and I see nothing particularly special about Gonzales.  The arsenal is not over-powering but there is definitely swing and miss in his secondary pitches.  I see his ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter who should move through the system very quickly.

6. Tyrell Jenkins (RHP)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling: #3 or RP
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 204 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 A-A+ 59.1 64 31 4 3.79 6.07 4.70 1.50

At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Tyrell Jenkins is the type of athletic and projectable body that player development directors love to see enter their office.  Jenkins was recruited heavily out of high-school as a wide receiver but decided to take the $1.3 million signing bonus from the Cardinals in 2010 and make baseball his profession.

The arsenal is solid with a fastball sitting 92-93 MPH with a curveball and change-up that are both flashing as plus.  The pitching mechanics are a little stiff but with his athleticism, the hope is that he will be able to repeat his delivery and improve his command.

After posting a 6.20 K/9 and a 3.23 G/F ratio, Jenkins was promoted to the Florida State League but started complaining of shoulder soreness.  In August, Jenkins had shoulder surgery with an extended recovery period slated.  It’s an unfortunate situation for the 21-year-old Texan as there is now uncertainty around his future.

Fantasy Impact: Prior to the injury, Jenkins’ ceiling was a mid-rotation starter or a back of the bullpen contributor.  However, assuming he can return successfully from his surgery, the Cardinals might decide to move his to the bullpen to lessen the overall load on his arm.

7. Rob Kaminsky (LHP)
Selected with the 28th pick in the 2013 draft, Rob Kaminsky is a 5-foot-11 lefty with an arsenal and pitchability greater than his youthful age of 18.  His fastball sits in the low 90’s with a plus curveball that is a true swing and miss pitch.  While he doesn’t get a lot of plane on his pitches, he does manage to keep the ball down as was evident with has 2.44 G/F; albeit a small sample size of 22 innings in the Gulf Coast League.  While there are some mechanical issues with his delivery, most notably his lack of momentum to the plate, there’s a lot to like with the teenager from New Jersey.  Kaminsky should start 2014 in full season Low-A and could move quickly through the system with a ceiling of a #4 starter if not more.

8. Carson Kelly (3B)
Carson Kelly was given an aggressive assignment to start the 2014 season and unfortunately struggled.  In a nutshell he was overmatched and while he made contact, it was weak contact which explained his .252 BABIP.  At mid-season, he was moved down a level to short-season and performed better while showing the ability to make contact and take a walk.  While it was a disappointing year, Carson Kelly only turned 19 in July and is still very much on the prospect radar.  There is bat speed that should eventually translate into at least average power.

9. Charlie Tilson (OF)
After missing the entire 2012 season, Charlie Tilson stayed healthy in 2012 and started to show the skills that got him drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft.   A contact hitter with a short compact swing, Tilson managed an 86% contact rate across two-levels in 2013.  While he has plus speed, he managed to only steal 14 bases but did have six triples.  He should begin the 2014 season in High-A as a 21-year-old and should continue to progress through the ranks with an upside of an extra outfielder or a second division starting center fielder in the mold of a Jon Jay type of player.

10. James Ramsey (OF)
Selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, James Ramsey is moving quickly through the Cardinals system; even making an appearance in Triple-A at the end of the season.  The approach is mature with a .265/.366/.440 slash-line, however Ramsey also managed to post a poor 71% contact rate.  In the stacked Cardinals organization, he is probably a fourth outfielder but could also be used as trade bait and could eventually profile as a second division starter within a different organization.

2014 Emerging Prospect:

Alex Reyes (RHP)
Signed out of the Dominican in 2012 for over $900K, Alex Reyes posted a nice line of 68K in 58.1 innings for his professional debut .  His stuff is electric with a fastball that sits 92-94 MPH and can touch into the upper nineties with the ability to spin a curveball and a feel for change-up.  He has some control problems but the delivery is clean and with his athleticism, he could improve quickly.  He should start the season in the Midwest League and play the entire year at 19-years-old.

13 comments on “St. Louis Cardinals

  1. I have heard the Cards may try Carson Kelly at catcher. What are your thoughts? Could he make it there or will St Louis try to make Steve Bean heir-apparent to Molina?

  2. Do you see Oscar Mercado ever reaching the big leagues, or does he just not have the bat to match his good glove? Also, do you ever see Zack Petrick fitting into the major league team?

    • I’ve not seen Mercado play, but I know the Cardinals are very high on him and paid over-slot for him if I recall this past June. Really young and will take some time. Petrick is a real sleeper. Velo upticked this year and he knows how to pitch with good control. Will he get a chance anytime soon…dunno, but there is talent there for sure.

  3. Do we ever see Grichuk doing anything in the majors or is he in Baseball Purgatory now?

  4. Where do you project Samuel Tuivailala and his potential with in the Cardinal’s organization in the future?

  5. No Tim Cooney? His ratio numbers K/9 and G/F say he is a number 2 starter, what about him to you says he’s not a top 10 player in the Cards system?

    • Cooney has great numbers but the arsenal consists of a 90 MPH fastball, a plus change-up, and really no curve/slider. He clearly can put the ball where he wants it. Just don’t see a high ceiling for me as I see a back-of-the-rotation guy.

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