2013 St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects

 

System Overview: The top three prospects in St. Louis’ farm system — Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez — rival that of any organization in baseball. Taveras profiles as a potential middle-of-the-lineup hitter with superstar capability. And both Miller and Martinez have a chance to develop into certified aces down the line.

While those three alone could make a farm system, St. Louis is brimming with talent. First round pick Michael Wacha dominated in a brief audition. Trevor Rosenthal, a potential number three, Tyrell Jenkins and Tyler Lyons could all become solid big league contributors. Outfielder, and often overlooked prospect, Anthony Garcia is already showing above-average in-game power. And first baseman Matt Adams could be the Opening Day first baseman/designated hitter on any number of other teams.

 

 

#1. Oscar Taveras, Age: 21, Position: CF

Among the top handful of prospects in the game, Taveras put together another impressive showing in 2012, hitting .321/.380/.572 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 23 homeruns and 10 stolen bases against Texas League pitching. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 59% better than the league average, the second best mark, despite being four years younger than the average TL hitter.

Defensively, he spent the majority of his time center field where he made six assists.

Projection: A star in the making, Taveras shows a complete offensive package: the ability to hit for average, sneaky speed, above-average in-game power, strong contact rates, solid eye at the plate, and no discernible platoon splits. Granted, Hammons Field, home to the Springfield Cardinals, tends to inflate homerun production. However, while Taveras did benefit in his home ballpark — he hit .375/.426/.628 — his away production was still very impressive (.319/.385/.528). He’s a potential #3 hitter.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

 

#2. Shelby Miller, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Plagued by an unsightly 4.74 ERA, Miller posted extraordinary peripherals during his Triple-A debut, averaging 10.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 27 starts. His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was nearly a run-and-a-half better, at 3.27.

Projection: Outside of a bad ERA Miller dominated the Pacific Coast League competition last season, despite being just one of two 21-year-old hurlers (Texas Rangers’ Martin Perez being the other). A lot of his troubles came from a ridiculously high homerun rate, 1.58 HR/9, which should regress some next season given his career norms up to this point. But he may be a bit homerun-prone in the big leagues given his propensity for allowing fly balls; his groundball rate with Memphis was just 32.9%.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

Update: Through the first seven starts of his big league career, Miller is showing an above-average fastball (92-94 mph), a hard 88-mph cutter, a 78-80 mph curve, and a 85-87 mph change up. 

 

#3. Carlos Martinez, Age: 21, Position: RHP

Rounding out the triumvirate of prospects quickly ascending through the minor leagues is Martinez, a lively-armed right-hander blessed with strong control and a potentially limitless ceiling. After making seven starts with Palm Beach (33 IP, 9.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9), the organization promoted him to Double-A where he continued to impress, throwing another 71.1 innings while averaging 7.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.

Projection: There’s really not a whole lot to like about Martinez at this point. He’s young, shows a very advanced feel for pitching, and has typically posted fantastic K-rates. And the decline in Double-A last season — down by two full punch outs per nine innings — isn’t a concern given his age and level of competition. Look for him and Miller to give the Cardinals a one-two punch that will rival any in baseball.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#4. Trevor Rosenthal, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Rosenthal, picked in the 21st round of the 2009 draft out of Cowley County Community College, continued his rapid ascension through the minor league ranks, making stops with Springfield and Memphis, as well as a 19-game stint in St. Louis.

In total, he made 20 starts in the minors last season, throwing 109 innings with 104 punch out and 42 walks. And he finished with a combined 3.62 SIERA.

Projection: Rosenthal saw a bit of drop in his K-rate last season, going from 9.95 K/9 in 2011 to 7.9 K/9 during his time in Double-A, though he did rebound by striking out 21 in 15 Triple-A innings. He’s got a live arm and promising peripherals that all suggest he could be a solid #3 starter.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

Update: Used as a late inning reliever, Rosenthal’s fastball is sitting above 97 mph, a 90 mph cutter, 86-88 change up, and 80-82 mph curveball. 

 

#5. Michael Wacha, Age: 21, Position: RHP

After an impressive final season with Texas A&M (113.1 IP, 116 strikeouts and just 20 walks), the Cardinals nabbed Wacha with the nineteenth overall pick in last year’s draft. The 6-foot-6 right-hander made brief stints at three levels, throwing 21 innings while striking out an impressive 40 batters and walking just four.

Projection: Despite making just 11 appearances for the organization last year, four of which were in Double-A, Wacha seems to be on the fast track to the big leagues. It will be interesting to see where he starts 2013. A refresher course back in High-A shouldn’t be out of the question, but neither should a return to Springfield.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

Updated: Mid-90s fastball, hard change up and 75 mph curveball. 

 

#6. Kolten Wong, Age: 22, Position: 2B

At just 21-years-old, Wong was one of the younger position players in the Texas League. And the former 2011 first rounder — 22nd overall — hit .287/.348/.405 with 23 doubles, six triples, nine homeruns and 21 stolen bases. His offensive production, however, was just 11% better than the league average.

Projection: After spending just 47 games in A-Ball following his selection in the draft, there’s no doubt that the Cardinals are aggressively pushing Wong through the minor leagues. Last season, he saw a decline in overall plate discipline, though it remains solid-average, and power. Wong profiles as a potential mainstay at the keystone for St. Louis for the better part of a decade, developing into a solid .280/.340/.420-type hitter.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

 

#7. Matt Adams, Age: 24, Position 1B

A solid find in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft, Adams put together another strong showing last season, hitting .329/.362/.624 in 67 games with Memphis. And typical Adams, he showed tremendous in-game power, slugging 22 doubles and 18 homeruns.

Projection: Adams, who owns a career .318/.365/.565 minor league line, has done nothing but mash since becoming a professional. His walk rates are a bit troublesome — they typically hover in the below-average range — but he should develop into a solid .280/.330/.440 hitter capable of adding 20+ homeruns. For now, he’s blocked behind Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#8. Anthony Garcia. Age: 21, Position: OF

Debuting as a catcher during his first year-plus in professional baseball, Garcia has since moved to the outfield. Position notwithstanding, his bat could potentially play anywhere on the diamond. As a 20-year-old in the Midwest League, Garcia offered a glimpse at his offensive potential, hitting .280/.354/.525 with 34 doubles, three triples and 19 homeruns in just 109 games. His total offensive production was 43% better than the league average, the fourth best mark.

Projection: Garcia has as much in-game power as any player in the Cardinals organization, including Taveras. The problem, however, is his propensity to swing-and-miss. His K-rate last season, 24.1%, while not extraordinarily high, needs watching. On the positive side, he didn’t post anything close to that number in the rookie levels.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#9. Tyrell Jenkins, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Masked by an ugly 5.14 ERA, Jenkins’ peripherals in his 19 starts with Quad Cities were far better, averaging 8.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. And his SIERA, 3.78, was nearly a 1.5 runs lower. He also generated a ton of groundballs, at 50.4%.

Projection: Despite being in the system for parts of three seasons now there’s still not a whole lot of data to go on, just 141.1 total innings. Jenkins has typically shown strong K-rates, but his control has waffled a bit. Add in the fact that he’s still entering that injury nexus, and I’m going to withhold any long term projection until next offseason.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#10. Tyler Lyons, Age: 25, Position: LHP

Despite making his professional debut just two seasons ago, Lyons, a ninth round pick out of Oklahoma State University in 2010, breezed through High-A and Double-A, before making 15 starts with Memphis last season. The 6-foot-2 left-hander tossed 88.1 innings for the Redbirds, striking out 89 and walking just 18.

Projection: Lyons owns some pretty fantastic peripherals throughout his career: 9.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. And while he’s locked behind starting pitchers at both the big and minor league levels, he could develop into a solid mid-rotation-type pitcher. He also generated a slightly above-average amount of groundballs last season too, at 44.6%.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His CeilingModerate

Updated: Through the first three starts of his career, Lyons is showing a 90 mph fastball, low 80s slider, soft curve and change. 

 

#11. Stephen Piscotty, Age: 22, Position: 3B

A solidly built 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Piscotty, a two-way contributor for Stanford, hit .329/.415/.467 with 13 doubles, three triples, and five homeruns during his finally collegiate season. He also made 12 appearances on the mound, four of which were starts, striking out 20 and walking nine in 41.1 innings.

The 36th overall pick in last year’s draft, Piscotty performed well during his 55 games with Quad Cities, hitting .295/.376/.448. He showed solid-average power, a decent eye, but made a whopping 22 errors at the hot corner. His total offensive production was 34% better than the league average.

Projection: Piscotty doesn’t profile as the typical power hitting third baseman, but his bat plays well there. Of course, his defense will need to make serious strides if he hopes to stay there.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#12. Patrick Wisdom, Age: 21, Position: 3B

Picked in last year’s supplemental first round, Wisdom showed a promising mix of power and plate discipline with St. Mary’s during his final year, slugging nine homeruns and walking 37 times. And he more or less continued where he left off in the professional ranks, hitting .282/.373/.465 with 16 doubles, five triples, and six homeruns for Batavia. His total offensive production was 47% better than the New York-Penn League average.

Projection: Wisdom’s basic skill set translated well into professional ball; he showed an above-average eye (11.1% BB-rate), solid-average power and a modest K-rate (20.8%). He doesn’t look to be a star but could very well develop into an above-average regular.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#13. Steve Bean, Age: 19, Position: C

Selected seven picks after Wisdom, Bean, a lefty swinging catcher, had a less impressive debut, hitting .200/.325/.285 during his time between the Appalachian and Gulf Coast Leagues.

Projection: Per the usual, I’m going to refrain from giving any long term projections until next season. But Bean did show a strong eye at the plate, walking nearly 15% of the time, and nailed 37% of would-be base stealers.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#14. Mariano Llorens, Age: 20, Position: RHP

In just 36 relief innings last year, Llorens showed why he could quickly move through the system, striking out an incredible 62 (15.5 K/9) and walking just 11 (2.8 BB/9).

Projection: It was the young right-handers first foray into professional baseball, and 36 innings isn’t a whole lot to go on, but he could be special.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#15. Juan Perez, Age: 17, Position: RHP

One of just three 16-year-olds in the Dominican Summer League last season, Perez struck out 55 in 52 innings, while walking 34.

Projection: To put things into perspective, if Perez was born stateside he’d be entering his junior season in high school. Instead, he was posting some impressive numbers against some of the better international talent. He’s still very young (obviously) and quite raw, but he could be one to watch in the coming years.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#16. Greg Garcia, Age: 23, Position: SS

The Cardinals have really shown a knack for finding value outside the opening rounds of the draft. And Garcia, a seventh round pick from the University of Hawaii in 2010, is just further proof. The young lefty swinging shortstop hit .284/.408/.420 for Springfield last season, adding 20 doubles, three triples, 10 homeruns and 10 stolen bases. His total offensive production was 37% better than the league average.

Projection: With one stand out tool — his patience at the plate — and a shed full of complimentary ones, Garcia could develop into a solid backup, maybe even peaking as an everyday player depending how his defense grades out for a couple years. He walked in nearly 16% of his plate appearances last season, had a strong contact rate, and posted the best ISO of his three-year career, at .136.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

 

Photo of Oscar Taveras Courtesy of Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.