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January 21, 2011

Future Shock

St. Louis Cardinals Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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 Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: From the outside, this system looks like Shelby Miller and the rest, but it's a bit better than that.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Shelby Miller, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
2. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
3. Carlos Martinez, RHP
4. Zack Cox, 3B
5. Lance Lynn, RHP
6. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
7. Oscar Taveras, OF
8. Matt Carpenter, 3B
9. Seth Blair, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Adron Chambers, OF
11. Jordan Swagerty, RHP

Nine More:
12. Daniel Descalso, 2B: There's nothing sexy about Descalso, but there's also no reason he can't be a second-division starter.
13. Maikel Cleto, RHP: A raw arm acquired in the Brendan Ryan trade, Cleto's armed with huge velocity but little else.
14. Joe Kelly, RHP: Kelly throws hard, but scouts project him as a reliever, and his secondary stuff is lacking.
15. Allen Craig, 1B/OF/3B?: Craig has consistently posted good stats in the minors, but with no defensive skills, he might be a Quad-A type.
16. Tony Cruz, C: An unheralded catcher, Cruz has gap power and a plus-plus arm.
17. Nick Longmire, OF: A fifth-round pick who showed all-around tools in his pro debut, Longmire could move up next year.
18. Tommy Pham, OF: Pham is an ultra-toolsy player who showed some real progress in 2010.
19. Adam Reifer, RHP: This power reliever throws hard and throws strikes, but he needs a second pitch.
20. Scott Gorgen, RHP: The opposite of Reifer, Gorgen mixes pitches extremely well but has a middle-relief ceiling.

1. Shelby Miller, RHP
DOB
: 10/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Brownwood HS (TX)
2010 Stats: 3.62 ERA (104.1-97-33-140) at Low-A (24 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: The Cardinals' first-round pick in 2009 gained consistency as the season wore on, and was the Midwest League's top arm by the end of the year.
The Good: Miller has the potential to be an upper-tier starter with dominant stuff. His fastball is already there, sitting at 93-95 mph and touching 97, and he already flashes plenty of plus curveballs in every outing. He has an ideal power pitcher's build, as well as an ideal power-pitcher makeup, with a nearly robotic approach to pitching.
The Bad: Miller has occasional command issues, and when he misses, he misses up in the zone. He gets tighter spin on his curve when he throws it as a true power pitch, but he takes something off it too often. His changeup is still below average, but he does show a feel for it.
Ephemera: Miller had a bizarre home/road split in 2010, with a 6.47 ERA at home (despite striking out 60 in 40 1/3 innings), but a 1.83 mark on the road.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: The ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts should all be of high quality.
Path to the Big Leagues: Miller will likely begin 2011 at High-A Palm Beach, but with his second-half surge, he's an excellent breakout candidate who could accelerate his development path.
ETA: 2012

2. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
DOB
: 7/20/92
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2010, Henderson HS (TX)
2010 Stats: 0.00 ERA (3.0-2-2-2) at Rookie (2 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: Jenkins was among the best athletes available in the draft, so the Cardinals spent $1.3 million on the 50th overall pick to buy Jenkins away from playing quarterback at Baylor.
The Good: The term 'projectable' was practically invented for Jenkins. While baseball has never been his focus, he has a clean delivery and electric arm action, already sitting in the 91-94 mph range with his fastball and touching 96. He throws both a curve and a slider, but the curve has more potential as a plus power breaker and will likely be his focus as a pro. He's ultra athletic and takes well to instruction.
The Bad: Jenkins is still raw, and his development will require patience. He is inconsistent with his breaking balls and needs to learn a changeup. More than anything, he needs innings and repetition.
Ephemera: Located in a small East Texas town, Henderson High School has produced just four major-league draft picks. It is better known for its football program, which produced Jets cornerback Drew Coleman and former tight end Rickey Dudley.
Perfect World Projection: Jenkins' ceiling is through the roof, but he's definitely in the high-upside/high-risk category.
Fantasy Impact: He could be many good things at this point, or nothing.
Path to the Big Leagues: Jenkins will likely begin 2011 in extended spring training, then move to a short-season team in June.
ETA: 2015

3. Carlos Martinez, RHP
DOB
: 9/21/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 0.76 ERA (59.0-28-14-78) in Dominican Summer League (12 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: This teenager sizzled in the Dominican while waiting for the paperwork on his $1.5 million deal to finalize.
The Good: No talent in the Dominican Republic generated anywhere close to the buzz that Martinez did in 2010. Despite his smaller stature, he has a blindingly fast arm that delivers a heater that sits in the mid-90s and occasionally touches 98-99. He gets good break on a low-80s curveball, and at least has an idea on the grip and release of a changeup. Despite a delivery with considerable effort, he repeats his release point well and throws plenty of strikes.
The Bad: Martinez is still rough around the edges in terms of his secondary offerings, as he can overthrow all of his pitches and lose movement. His combination of size and mechanics leave scouts wondering if he's capable of handling a starter's workload.
Ephemera: In his last five starts for the DSL Cardinals, Martinez delivered 23 innings without allowing an earned run, gave up just 12 hits, and struck out 36.
Perfect World Projection: Martinez's ceiling matches that of any pitcher in the system.
Fantasy Impact: Can we get him in the United States first?
Path to the Big Leagues: Martinez will likely make a full-season debut at Low-A Quad Cities.
ETA: 2014

4. Zack Cox, 3B
DOB
: 5/9/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, University of Arkansas
2010 Stats: .400/.471/.467 at Rookie (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: Among the top pure hitters in the country, Cox dropped towards the end of the first round because of his anticipated bonus demands; he fulfilled those concerns when he signed a big-league deal for more than $3 million.
The Good: Cox is a talented hitter. He has a big league-ready approach, good bat speed, fantastic hands, and projects to produce both a high batting average and high on-base percentage. In the field, he has solid defensive fundamentals and a plus arm.
The Bad: Beyond his hitting ability, Cox's tools fail to impress. He's a slow, bad-bodied player with below-average range. While he has played some second base in the past, he doesn't have the athleticism to play up the middle in the big leagues. There are plenty of debates about his power ceiling, because while there's strength to his swing, he has a line-drive stroke and uses the opposite field far more than he drives balls.
Ephemera: Cox was a 15th round pick by the Dodgers in 2008 out of Pleasure Ridge High School in Kentucky, where he also went 38-3 with a 1.05 ERA on the mound.
Perfect World Projection: A solid everyday third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Good average and good on-base (if your league uses that), but that's it.
Path to the Big Leagues: Cox is advanced offensively and could begin the year as high as High-A in the Florida State League.
ETA: 2013

5. Lance Lynn, RHP
DOB
: 5/12/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2008, University of Mississippi
2010 Stats: 4.77 ERA (164.0-164-62-141) at Triple-A (29 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: Lynn was once a finesse arm, but that was before he transformed into a power pitcher and had some especially dominating starts late in the season.
The Good: Once a huge man with average velocity, Lynn scrapped his two-seam fastball for a pure four-seam heater. He suddenly started delivering 92-95 mph velocity and touched 97. He has two solid/average secondary pitches in his curveball and changeup, and he's physically designed to eat up innings.
The Bad: After giving up five home runs in 2009, Lynn surrendered 21 last year as he missed up on his fastball far too frequently. Despite the jump in velocity, he lacks that plus second pitch to give him more than mid-rotation potential.
Ephemera: Lynn is not going to help the Cardinals at the plate, because in his minor-league career he has gone 1-for-46 with 32 strikeouts at the plate.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid third starter.
Fantasy Impact: He'll bring innings and strikeouts, with an ERA that won't kill you.
Path to the Big Leagues: With no obvious opening in the big leagues, Lynn will likely head back to Triple-A and wait for his opportunity.
ETA: 2011

6. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
DOB
: 2/16/89
Height/Weight: R/R
Bats/Throws: 5-11/155
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Venezuela
2010 Stats: 3.12 ERA (26.0-22-8-27) at Double-A (24 G); 1.67 ERA (27.0-19-12-31) at Triple-A (26 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/control

Year in Review: A power reliever, Sanchez put himself on the brink of the big leagues with success at both upper-level affiliates.
The Good: Sanchez shocked scouts by cranking 94-98 mph heat out of a build more reminiscent of the bat boy's than a power pitcher's. He'll flash a plus slider with good two-plane break, and he wants the ball in pressure situations.
The Bad: Sanchez is borderline tiny, and his delivery a touch violent, which leads to on-and-off control issues. He needs to improve his location or find another pitch to make him more effective against left-handed hitters.
Ephemera: Right-handed hitters facing Sanchez in 2010 went 17-for-108 (.157) with 41 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: His stuff is good enough to pick up saves in the big leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sanchez will compete for a job in spring training, and will be in the big leagues at some point during the season.
ETA: 2011

7. Oscar Taveras, OF
DOB: 6/19/92
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .167/.194/.200 at Rookie Gulf Coast (7 G); .322/.362/.526 at Rookie Appalachian (53 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: Taveras is a little-known player who signed for $145,000, and then had a stunning US debut.
The Good: Taveras is an instinctual hitter who generates hard contact to all fields with a quick swing that incorporates plenty of strength from his core. He projects for average to plus power as his game and body matures. He's a solid defensive outfielder with an average arm.
The Bad: He's just short of being an average runner now, and will likely slow down as he gets older. He needs to develop a more patient approach, and left-handers with breaking balls can make him look foolish.
Ephemera: Despite splitting time nearly equally at the two positions in 2010, Taveras hit .277/.282/.373 as a left fielder, but a much healthier .374/.429/.667 when playing center.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an average to above-average corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: It's not huge, but he'll have some average and power.
Path to the Big Leagues: Taveras is ready for a full-season assignment and will begin the year at Low-A Quad Cities.
ETA: 2015

8. Matt Carpenter, 3B
DOB
: 11/26/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 13th round, 2009, Texas Christian University
2010 Stats: .283/.441/.404 at High-A (28 G); .316/.412/.487 at Double-A (105 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: An unheralded 13th-round pick, he just kept hitting, and even more so after moving up to Double-A.
The Good: While he'll never impress on a tools level, Carpenter is a very tough out. He doesn't swing at bad pitches and sprays strikes to all fields while occasionally showing gap power. He has a tremendous makeup and brings an infectious max-effort style of play to the field.
The Bad: Carpenter is a below-average third baseman with poor footwork, and his arm is merely average. He's a slow runner, and it's unlikely he'll develop the kind of power normally associated with his position.
Ephemera: Texas Christian is known much more for their pitching than hitting of late; Jeff Newman (1970) and Freddy Benavides (1987) remain the only players drafted out of the school to hit homers in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday third baseman whose value comes from the ability to get on base and hit doubles.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have batting average only, but even more value for leagues with on-base percentage.
Path to the Big Leagues: Carpenter needs to keep proving himself, and he'll begin the year at either Double- or Triple-A.
ETA: 2012

9. Seth Blair, RHP
DOB
: 3/3/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2010, Arizona State University
2010 Stats: Did not play
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: The Friday starter for one of the top teams in the country, Blair pitched his way to becoming a day-one pick.
The Good: Blair's fastball is what earned him a bonus of just over $750,000, as it's a 91-95 mph plus pitch with late, heavy movement. He'll flash a solid 12-to-6 curveball, and has above-average control of both pitches.
The Bad: Blair's changeup is below average and needs to be tightened up. He's not big or physical, so there's not much projection in him. He'll throw his breaking ball for strikes, but needs to learn how to use it as a chase pitch out of the zone.
Ephemera: According to the Arizona State media guide, Blair's favorite television show is Dancing With the Stars. Should that lead to makeup questions?
Perfect World Projection: He could be a third or fourth starter.
Fantasy Impact: It's nothing special.
Path to the Big Leagues: Because he signed too late to make his pro debut, the Cardinals will likely take it a bit slowly with Blair, and start his career at Low-A Quad Cities.
ETA: 2013

10. Adron Chambers, OF
DOB
: 10/8/86
Height/Weight: L/L
Bats/Throws: 5-10/185
Drafted/Signed: 38th round, 2007, Pensacola Junior College
2010 Stats: .282/.376/.417 at Double-A (75 G); .290/.390/.362 at Triple-A (37 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/arm

Year in Review: This toolsy outfielder continued to improve his all-around game at the upper levels of the system.
The Good: Chambers is an impressive athlete with top-of-the-order speed that grades out at 60-65 on the scouting scale. He has developed a patient approach at the plate and honed his swing with a much smoother style with gap power. He now looks much more like a baseball player than a football player getting by in the game solely on his tools.
The Bad: Chambers is still raw on the basepaths, as in he's still learning how to steal bases. His outfield play needs work, and his arm is a below-average tool. He will never be a power hitter.
Ephemera: No player who signed as the 1153rd overall pick in the draft has reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a second-division starter or good fourth outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: He will be one of those types who doesn't hurt in any category, but doesn't especially help, either.
Path to the Big Leagues: Chambers is ticketed for Triple-A Memphis in 2011, but he will be one of the first to get a call should injuries create a need at the big-league level.
ETA: 2011

11. Jordan Swagerty, RHP
DOB
: 7/14/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/175
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Arizona State University
2010 Stats: Did not play
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: Cardinals scouts checking out Blair got plenty of exposure to Swagerty, who was busily thriving as the Sun Devils' closer.
The Good: Swagerty brings a pair of plus pitches to late-inning situations. He has very good command and control of a 92-93 mph fastball, but it's mostly a set-up pitch for a true plus power curveball with strong spin and considerable break. He'll occasionally mix in a splitter with changeup-like action to keep lefties off balance.
The Bad: It's hard to find many knocks against Swagerty; it's more of the case that he doesn't generate considerable excitement among scouts. He has a relief profile, but for many, his ceiling ends in the eighth inning.
Ephemera: Unlike Lynn, Swagerty could have some value at the plate, though opportunities will rarely present themselves as a reliever. He played catcher and first base at times at Arizona State, and finished his college career with averages of .273/.333/.455.
Perfect World Projection: He would be a set-up man, but there's some thought as to seeing if he can start.
Fantasy Impact: He's likely a reliever, but save opportunities are not a guaranteed part of his future.
Path to the Big Leagues: Depending on his role, Swagerty will begin the year at one of the A-level affiliates, but after holding his own in a brief Arizona Fall League stint, he won't take long to make it up as a reliever.
ETA: Assuming a relief role, late 2012.

The Sleeper: Shortstop Ryan Jackson surprised many with the bat in 2010, and if he can repeat those types of numbers at Double-A, he'll become a notable shortstop prospect, as he's already a plus defender.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Colby Rasmus, CF
2. Shelby Miller, RHP
3. Jaime Garcia, LHP
4. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
5. Carlos Martinez, RHP
6. Zack Cox, 3B
7. Lance Lynn, RHP
8. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
9. Oscar Taveras, OF
10. Matt Carpenter, 3B

The Cardinals don't have a young team, but at least the two prospects they already have up for this list are mighty good. Despite some interpersonal struggles with manager Tony La Russa, Rasmus made huge strides in 2010, and his .276/.361/.498 line is still far from his eventual prime production. As great as Garcia was in 2010, expecting another sub-three ERA would be a mistake (PECOTA thinks it will go up significantly), and he's still not proven for a full year's workload.

Summary: This was a pleasantly surprising list to do. It's still not a good system, but I went into the rankings expecting Shelby Miller and not much else, and found plenty of talent that can at least potentially turn the system around.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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