|Original Published Date: October 17, 2014|
The St. Louis Cardinals have graduated a number of prospects over the past two years including Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez. These four players illustrate the player development process for the Cardinals perfectly. It’s a combination of high-upside young players, in Taveras’ and Martinez’s cases, international signees; along with advanced college players who can quickly help the big league team. While the organization has clearly taken a hit in talent, there are still some very interesting high-upside prospects along with several players, particularly pitchers that are nearly big league ready.
The Cardinals system lacks the big names you’ll find in the top 50 of our prospect rankings. However, there are number of players that can be found in the 51-200 band and this depth will continue to provide options for the Cardinals, either by contributing in St. Louis or as trade pieces.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
Alex Reyes has graduated from our 2014 Emerging Prospect to be the number one ranking in the Cardinals organization. Part of his ascension can be attributed to an overall weaker system and perhaps from a little bit of sandbagging by us, but most of it can be attributed to some of the best stuff in the minor leagues.
Reyes’s arsenal starts with a plus fastball that sits 92-95 MPH with a ton of arm-side run that batters really struggle to square up. While he does pitch up in the zone, he also gets very good plane on his pitches, further explaining why he only gave up 82 hits in 109.1 innings. His secondary pitches consist of a traditional curve that sits in the mid-70’s and a harder, slurvy offering that adds more bite and plenty of swing and miss. He also throws a change-up that is not fully developed, but shows promise.
If you catch Reyes on a good day, his pitching mechanics can be very good. However, they are far from consistent and that is leading to bouts of control problems. As an example, in a six inning outing on June 25th, he struck out five and walked one. In his next outing, he struck out 10 over five innings, but also walked seven. The problems stem from him getting off balance on his landing and therefore losing his alignment with the plate. However, he’s extremely athletic and there’s a good chance that he’ll clean up his deliver with more repetition. If it all comes together, he has a number two upside.
Fantasy Impact: I love owning pitchers like Alex Reyes on my Dynasty teams. He’s got strikeout stuff, he’s athletic, and most importantly, he’s not a top 50 prospect yet but has the upside to move there. If it all comes together, he could be a strikeout an inning pitcher with above-average ratios despite walking more than you would like.
This will be one of the last times you can invest before the price starts to get very expensive.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 210||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
Drafted in the supplemental round of the 2012 draft out of Stanford University, Stephen Piscotty has made quick work of the minor leagues and is nearly big-league ready. His carrying tool is his mature approach and his ability to make solid contact. The open question is how much ultimate power his swing will produce
Piscotty’s swing mechanics are geared towards contact as opposed to over the fence power. The swing is level and void of a lot of leverage, although the power will show-up in batting practice. His 87% contact rate will make him a tough out and his walk rate will only improve as he gains more experience. Since his defensive profile is a corner outfielder, this could ultimately hurt his upside and give him a profile similar to that of Allen Craig.
While you never want to completely alter a players 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 .425.
Fantasy Impact: Piscotty can hit and that is the foundation for being a big leaguer. Unfortunately, you need power and/or speed to make a player relevant in a fantasy league. While he currently has shown below average power, I’m going to bank on him adding leverage, resulting in at least average over-the-fence power. With his size, strength and bat speed, I believe 20 home runs and a .290 batting average player is still possible. Then again, he could be Allen Craig and therefore his fantasy value will be based on lineup position and a high BABIP. If that happens, you could see huge value swings year-over-year
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016-17|
The Cardinals have been lauded for signing tall pitchers who throw hard. Look no further than the success they’ve had with Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal. Therefore, it was a bit of surprise when they selected 5-foot-11 Rob Kaminsky in the first round of the 2013 first year player draft.
While Kaminsky doesn’t have the 6-foot-6 frame of Michael Wacha, he can really pitch. First, he has sneaky velocity with a fastball that he can run up to 93 MPH when needed. The pitch has great movement with late tailing action. Oddly enough, despite his height, he pitches down in the zone and gets enough plane on his pitches to make it difficult to make solid contact. In 100.2 innings, he only gave up 71 hits with an impressive 2.47 ground-ball-to-flyball ratio.
His money pitch is a curveball that is already considered a plus offering. It has great shape and depth and can be a real knee buckler. He also throws a very good change-up that baffled Midwest hitters the entire year.
Kaminsky’s pitching mechanics are simple and efficient. He uses a leg hitch on his landing as a timing mechanism, ala Clayton Kershaw. It seems to work as he walked less than three per nine.
Fantasy Impact: I’m biased against small pitchers and therefore I’ve always been hesitant with Kaminsky. There will always be questions of whether he’ll have the physicality to pitch 200 plus innings and whether the size will make him homer prone. If he continues to pitch tall and keep the ball down, he should be fine. It’s a risky profile but so far, I’m buying.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 195||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
Marco Gonzales was drafted in the first round of the 2013 first year player draft and has the distinction of being the first player in the draft class to make his major league debut. It was short-lived as Gonzales lasted 14 innings where he posted a 7.07 ERA while walking 11. Clearly things could only go up from there and they did. In his return to the big leagues, Gonzales pitched better and showed the kind of polish that got him to the big leagues in the first place.
Gonzales was drafted as a low-ceiling, high-floor pitcher that would work through the minor leagues very quickly. To date, that appears to be the case. At 6-foot and 185 pounds, Gonzales doesn’t have the frame nor the arm speed of a power pitcher as his velocity sits 89-91 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.
Because of his size, a big key to Gonzales’ success will be keeping the ball down in the zone. If he elevates, he’ll be homer prone as his stuff gets flat given his lack of plane. This has been the case in Triple-A as he gave up seven home runs in 45.2 innings.
Fantasy Impact: Gonzales has the pedigree of a first rounder but the profile doesn’t translate to a player you want to roster on your fantasy team outside of a deep mixed league or NL Only. His command will help to keep his WHIP down and his change-up with allow him to strikeout 7 to 7.5 strikeouts per nine but there is a razor thin margin of error.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Since being drafted in the first round in 2009, Randal Grichuk has been best known as the guy the Angels drafted before Mike Trout. However, that is changing as Grichuk is starting to fulfill the promise that made him the 24th overall player drafted in the “Year of Trout”.
Grichuk carrying tool is plus raw power and that power is turning into in-game power as he slugged .493 in the Pacific Coast League while hitting 25 home runs. He also saw 110 big league at-bats where he posted a modest .678 OPS.
Most of his power is generated through raw strength and leverage as opposed to premium bat speed. The biggest concern with this profile will be his ability to handle inside velocity. However, in Double and Triple-A, this was not a problem as he slugged 47 home runs across 2013 and 2014. Grichuk is a free swinger, walking 6.4% of the time which will put pressure on his batting average with a .250 batting average being a reasonable future projection.
Fantasy Impact: Grichuk is big league ready but there is no room in the outfield in St. Louis. He could be used as trade bait over the offseason or be one of the first call-ups once injuries eventually hit the team. In a full-season, a Khris Davis type of production could result; meaning a .250 hitter with 20-25 home runs.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
Due to the loss of Carlos Beltran to free agency, the Cardinals received the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft and selected 6-foot-4 high school pitcher Jack Flaherty. While Flaherty also played shortstop in high-school, the Cardinals elected to start Flaherty on the bump where his arsenal is promising but raw.
The Cardinals have already tweaked his delivery and the 88-91 MPH fastball velocity he showed in high school has ticked up a couple of miles per hour. His breaking pitches are still a work in progress with his slider showing flashes of being a swing and miss offering. His change-up is his best secondary offering and he’s generally able to throw it from the same arm slot as his fastball giving the pitch some nice deception.
While the pitching mechanics are raw, Flaherty is athletic and it shows on the mound. He has good momentum to the plate and balance on his landing. He doesn’t always stay in line to the plate and his release point is terribly inconsistent, but those are things that will be fixed as he goes through the development process
I’ve put Flaherty ahead of older, more established prospects based on the upside the profile. However, he’s very raw and his delivery still needs refinement. However, that’s what the development process is all about and the Cardinals have a nice track record of success with similar high-upside athletic pitching prospects.
Fantasy Impact: If you like rostering high-upside prospects that will take at least three years of grooming, then Jack Flaherty fits the bill. The upside is a solid number three starter, if not more, particularly if his velocity continues to tick up. Since the projection takes a lot of dreaming at this point, we’ll hold back on trying to predict strikeout and ratio percentages.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:5-11 Weight: 175||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015-16|
Charlie Tilson was named our emerging prospect in 2013 despite missing the entire 2012 season due to a separated shoulder. Since then, Tilson has been able to stay healthy and has 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 80% contact rate across High and Double-A in 2014. Despite having good strike zone awareness, his aggressive approach (5.5% walk rate) could limit his batting average and on-base percentage upside. With his contact oriented swing, Tilson projects to have below average future power with single digit annual totals.
Tilson has plus speed that gives him the upside of a future defender in center-field. His routes need work but should improve over time. Despite his plus speed, he managed to only steal 12 bases in 22 attempts.
Fantasy Impact: If Tilson can improve his on-base skills and stolen base percentage, he could be an interesting top-of-the-order bat. However, there is still a lot of work to do in both areas and for now, Tilson should only be rostered in Dynasty Leagues that roster 250-300 minor league players.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: Backup
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
The Cardinals started Carson Kelly back at Peoria of the Midwest League and while his OPS of .692 is not eye-popping, the scouting book continues to outpace the results.
Kelly has good bat speed that he combines with strong hands and a compact swing that gives promise of plus future power. He also has good strike zone awareness and makes excellent contact as his 54K/37BB strikeout-to-walk ratio showed in 363 at-bats this year. Defensively, Kelly is still adjusting to life behind the plate as he works on his foot work and catch-and-throw skills. Most of the people I spoke with believe that he is athletic enough to make the transition and has a chance to be at least an average defender.
Fantasy Impact: The fantasy upside for Kelly is a second catcher who will not hurt your batting average with the possibility of 12 to 15 home runs. However, the likely outcome is a 200 at-bat backup catcher.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: #4/5 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015|
Drafted in the third round of the 2012 first year player draft, Tim Cooney is nearly big league ready after throwing 158.0 innings in Triple-A during the 2014 season. It was a fine season for the 23-year-old left-hander from Wake Forest as he posted a 3.47 ERA while striking out 119 and walking 47. Cooney is more of a command and control pitcher, with a fastball that sits 88-90 MPH and average secondary pitches. Everything does play up due to his ability to command each pitch and pound the strike zone. However, if he doesn’t keep the ball down, he’ll get punished as he did in Triple-A where he gave up 21 home runs, fourth most in the league.
Fantasy Impact: Command and control lefties are difficult to own in a fantasy league given their inability to post significant strikeout totals and without plus velocity to challenge batters, they can be homer prone. While there is some love for Cooney in fantasy circles, he’s a pass for me.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 170||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
In keeping with their recent strategy of drafting polished college pitcher with a high floor and low-ceiling, the Cardinals selected Luke Weaver with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft. Weaver has a command and control profile with a fastball that sits 88-91 MPH and an inconsistent curve ball that can flatten out at times. The package plays-up with his ability to control his arsenal and command his fastball. Expect Weaver to start the season in Low-A or High-A in 2015 with a chance to see Double-A before the end of the season.
Fantasy Impact: It’s nearly an identical fantasy profile for Luke Weaver as it was for Tim Cooney, except Weaver is a righty. It’s a pass for me at the juncture in a fantasy league.
2015 Emerging Prospect
While the Cardinals have been drafting high floor, college pitchers in the June draft, they are also signing high ceiling Latin players in the International markets. Frederis Parra was signed in 2011 when he was 16-years-old and made his states-side debut in the GCL in 2014. He has good stuff that consists of a 91-93 MPH fastball that can touch higher, a change-up that the kids in the GCL couldn’t hit and a slurve that also looks promising. While the stuff is good, his ability to throw strikes is even more impressive. He’s tall and lanky and could add another grade on his fastball as he mature.