February 1, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Oscar Taveras
What Happened in 2012: Simply put, Taveras emerged as the premier offensive star in the minors, hitting for average and power in Double-A against much older competition.
Strengths: Elite bat speed; impressive hand/eye coordination; violent torque-heavy swing, but excellent bat control in the zone; hit tool projects to easy 7; batting title potential; raw power is 8; game power could play as 6+; uses the entire field; very hard to exploit; shows defensive aptitude; 5+ glove; arm is solid at al spots; most likely a corner, but can handle center field at present.
Weaknesses: Approach is aggressive and he doesn’t keep bat on shoulders; better pitching will challenge his see-ball/attack-ball approach; will expand his zone; one pro scouting director said Taveras’ biggest weakness is that he doesn’t play for the scouting director’s team; baserunning could still improve; routes/angles to ball in OF need refinement; minor nitpicks.
Overall Future Potential: 7; perennial all-star
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; already dominated Double-A level; high floor/cathedral ceiling.
Fantasy Future: Monster player; has the potential to hit over. 300 with 60-plus extra-base hits.
The Year Ahead: In another org, Taveras might be penciled in to the major-league lineup to start 2013, but the Cardinals can afford to put Taveras in Triple-A until a spot opens up on the 25-man. He’s going to continue to mash at a very high level in Memphis, and when injury or inconsistency opens up a spot at the major-league level, Taveras will mash there as well. His offensive ceiling could make him one of the best talents in the league, the type of player you can build a franchise around. This is a very special prospect who is likely to develop into a very special player at the major-league level. If you haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon, do so quickly. This is a future star.
Major league ETA: 2013
2. Shelby Miller
What Happened in 2012: A slow start and slightly diminished stuff raised warning flags, but Miller quickly quelled those concerns and put together an impressive season that eventually landed him in the major leagues.
Strengths: Prototypical size/strength; power pitcher with good feel; fastball is plus-plus offering; likes to blow hitters away; curveball will settle in as plus offering; changeup shows at least average potential; pitches with purpose; looks to attack; knows how to miss bats.
Weaknesses: Can fall in love with heater at expense of sequence; command can get loose; tendency to elevate/work up in the zone; because of FB-heavy attack, secondary offerings slow to play to potential.
Overall Future Potential: High-6; no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; major-league ready; stuff to play up in rotation.
Fantasy Future: Should develop into 200-IP pitcher with chance for high win totals/high strikeouts.
The Year Ahead: Miller is ready for the major-league rotation, and could offer immediate impact in that role. The 2012 season was huge for the big Texan, as the taste of failure and setback aided in the maturation process, both on the mound and off. His willingness to sequence and manipulate hitters improved as the season went on, and the grip it and rip mentality that allowed for success in the low minors gave way to a well rounded pitcher who will find success at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2012
3. Carlos Martinez
What Happened in 2012: A few minor injury hurdles prevented a full-scale breakout, but the Dominican arm still found his way to Springfield, where he flashed top-of-the-rotation potential.
Strengths: Small size, but not small strength; special arm speed; multiple fastball looks; two-seamer works low-mid 90s with sink; four-seam is explosive at 95+; can work 99+ in bursts; curveball and changeup can work plus; changeup might even project higher; possible 7; good feel for pitching; very good feel for secondary command/execution.
Weaknesses: Limited height; can lose angle; will toy with hitters instead of putting them away; tendency to abandon big fastball; relief whispers because of size and violence in delivery/action.
Overall Future Potential: 7; high-end no. 2 starter on a championship level team/elite closer
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; size/delivery could limit workload; some injury concerns
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to be a very good starting pitcher, with electric stuff capable of missing bats. Workload potential is a question mark. If he ends up in the bullpen, could be elite closer.
The Year Ahead: If Martinez can stay healthy and continue to refine his arsenal, he has the chance to be a very special arm. His long-term role is still up for debate, with the secondary stuff and command to excel as a starter, but with some concerns about his physical stability in a rotation coupled with his elite potential in the bullpen, others think he is destined for the late-innings. Either way, Martinez is yet another impact arm in the making, and possesses the highest overall ceiling of any pitcher in the Cardinals system.
Major league ETA: 2013
4. Trevor Rosenthal
What Happened in 2012: Magic season for Rosenthal, as his impressive run in the minors was overshadowed by his postseason performance that saw him strikeout 15 hitters in 8.2 innings while allowing only two hits. That’s good, right?
Strengths: Elite arm strength; can hold velocity as a starter; in rotation, can work 93-97 with comfort; in bursts, can work 97-100 mph; both cutter and curveball play well off fastball; curveball shows plus potential; can thrive in either role.
Weaknesses: Fastball-heavy arsenal; secondary stuff gets backburner treatment; changeup is average offering; command can get loose, but survives because of extreme velocity.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter/elite closer
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; already proved major league quality out of bullpen; has elite fastball.
Fantasy Future: Depending on the role, Rosenthal could be either quality no. 2/3 starter or elite closer. Impact arm.
The Year Ahead: This is the question of the moment: Will Rosenthal start or relieve? If his future is in the rotation, he will most likely start in Triple-A and work to refine his secondary arsenal. He’s very close to being a complete pitcher, as he has the fastball and the feel for the secondary stuff, not to mention he’s a baseball rat who soaks up knowledge from all available sources. If his future is in the ‘pen, you can stick him in the majors and he’s going to punish people with his elite fastball and that’s going to be the story. Like Carlos Martinez, he’s an impact arm regardless of the role, but will offer more overall value if he can develop to potential in the rotation.
Major league ETA: 2012
5. Michael Wacha
What Happened in 2012: Wacha provided the unexpected in ’12, showing up to professional ball with even better stuff than he showed in college, giving him the potential to be one of the steals of the draft class.
Strengths: Excellent size; creates steep plane to the plate; arm works very well; repeats; fastball in bursts can sit 94-96; in longer stints, should find consistency in the 91-95 range; curveball is major-league plus offering; very tight and lots of depth; changeup flashes plus potential; excellent approach to pitching.
Weaknesses: Has yet to work more than short bursts; unknowns about ability to sequence/face lineups multiple times; changeup wasn’t much of a factor in brief professional debut; has a lot of body to control in delivery.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; has the size/strength/arsenal, but has yet to work out of the rotation as a pro; too many unknowns for low risk despite maturity.
Fantasy Future: Could develop into prototypical mid-rotation arm, with workload potential and a solid-avg-to-plus arsenal.
The Year Ahead: Wacha is either going to stabilize as a mid-rotation prospect by proving he can hold velocity and execute his secondary arsenal, or his stock is going to drop because of a failure to do so. He was considered a “safe” pick coming out of college, the type of arm that can move fast and be consistent, but not the kind of arm that can dominate or play above his mid-rotation ceiling. Based on the small sample, Wacha looked even better than advertised, and if that proves to be true in a longer sample, he will hold steady as one of the 100 prospects in the game and a future member of the Cardinals starting rotation.
Major league ETA: 2013
6. Kolten Wong
What Happened in 2012: In his first full season, Wong played 126 games at the Double-A level and then hit over .320 in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Baseball skills; impressive feel and instincts; plus bat-to-ball ability; compact and short to the ball; can make hard contact; not empty hit tool; can turn around velo and stay back on off-speed; great hands at the plate; 6 potential at second; arm is above-average; good glove; good run.
Weaknesses: Packs a punch for size, but is still limited in that regard; below-average power; lacks high-end tools and unlikely to develop into impact talent; right-side profile on defense
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; performed well at Double-A level; mature skill-set.
Fantasy Future: Not flashy, but can do a little of everything on the field; has potential to hit .280-plus with good secondary skills (OBP, some steal, some pop).
The Year Ahead: Wong is the second baseman of the future for the Cardinals, and could achieve that eventuality at some point in 2013. He’s a gamer all the way, and despite not owning a high-impact tool collection, makes the most of his size and skills. He’s going to hit the baseball at the highest level, with enough sting to keep pitchers honest and defenses aware. It’s not a superstar profile, but Wong is the type of player that will stick around on a major-league roster for 15 years. He’s that guy.
Major league ETA: 2013
7. Tyrell Jenkins
What Happened in 2012: Up and down season for the former multi-sport athlete, showing glimpses of greatness immediately followed by glimpses of gloom.
Strengths: Plus athlete; legit arm strength; fastball is plus pitch; both secondary pitches show plus potential; multiple sources put future changeup ahead of curveball; pitch shows excellent late fade to the arm side; can throw strikes despite being raw.
Weaknesses: Pitchability behind raw stuff; slot inconsistency; works better in three-quarters, but will bring arm over the top to get more velocity but loses movement and command; still has a long way to go.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; pitchability needs to improve; still raw.
Fantasy Future: Could develop in a number of different ways; has arsenal potential and delivery to start; flashes electric potential.
The Year Ahead: Jenkins will most likely move to High-A, where the environments should help him survive even if his fastball command remains loose and his secondary arsenal inconsistent. He has a lot to work on and a long way to go, but with an athletic delivery and the feel for three pitches, he has a chance to put the pieces together and emerge as a high-end prospect. His breakout might not be on schedule for ’13, but the potential is there and the patience has a chance to pay off.
Major league ETA: 2015
8. Matt Adams
What Happened in 2012: Called up to the majors in late May, Adams failed to deliver on the promise that his minor-league production suggested was possible.
Strengths: Very large raw power; game power should at least play at the plus level; shows hittability; not just all-or-nothing power bat; glove is solid; arm is solid.
Weaknesses: Approach can get aggressive; fastball eyes can leave him in front foot for off-speed; mistake hitter that didn’t see as many mistakes at major-league level; defensive profile puts pressure on bat; well below-average run.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; nothing left to prove at the minor-league level; some Four-A concerns.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to hit .275-plus with 25 HR at the major-league level
The Year Ahead: Adams has nothing left to prove in the minors, as he crushed Double-A in ’11 and improved on that performance in his 67-game run in Triple-A in ’12. Despite falling short in his initial major-league trial, Adams has the offensive skill to make the necessary adjustments in a longer look. He’s not going to be a star, and the defensive profile puts his future success on the back of his bat, but he’s not just a swing for the fences masher. Adams can really hit, and if given a full season to fail and adjust, he could be ready to make good on that potential.
Major league ETA: 2012
9. Patrick Wisdom
What Happened in 2012: After a somewhat disappointing junior season at St. Mary’s where he managed to hit only .252, Widsom was popped in the supplemental first round and performed well right out of the gate.
Strengths: Broad chest/broad shoulders; very good present strength; very promising defensive profile at third; very strong arm; accurate; glove is above average; major league quality defender; 6 power potential; can drive the ball with authority; good overall approach at the plate.
Weaknesses: Unlikely to hit for a high average; swing can show some length; struggled with velocity in junior season; how much power will play?; well below average run.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; 21-year-old college talent, but only short-season experience and questions about the bat.
Fantasy Future: Has potential to hit ~.260 with 25-plus home runs; not a stolen base threat.
The Year Ahead: Wisdom will move to full-season ball, and if he has any major holes in his swing or his approach, we will soon find out. Wisdom’s up and down junior season left a lot of talent evaluators skeptical of his professional profile, but scouts who saw him in the New York-Penn League came away impressed with the promise at third and the power potential in the bat. 2013 will help bring the real profile into the light.
Major league ETA: 2015
10. Carson Kelly
What Happened in 2012: A very promising two-way talent in high school, Kelly was drafted as a third baseman and began his long journey with a clip in the Appalachian League.
Strengths: Big raw power; very big arm (was low-90s+ on mound); excellent strength (present); more potential in hit tool than rookie numbers indicate; has bat speed and can drive the baseball.
Weaknesses: Defensive projection at third is shaky; lacks ideal lateral movements; well below-average run; might end up at first base at full maturity; swing can get long; will chase out of the zone; still raw.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; could be first-division type at third; bat has potential to play at first.
Explanation of Risk: High risk; only 18 years old; very long way to go.
Fantasy Future: If everything goes as planned, could be prototypical third base bat, with plus power potential.
The Year Ahead: Kelly is very young and could use more time at the team complex before returning to short-season ball over the summer. The impact potential is there, with plus weapons in the arm and the raw power, but it’s not going to be an overnight situation. More than anything else, he just needs to play against quality competition day in and day out, and even if the numbers don’t reflect the potential, the ceiling is quite high.
Major league ETA: 2016
Prospects on the Rise:
1. IF/OF Starlin Rodriguez: Toolsy and ready to take the next step forward in 2013. With Wong positioned as the second baseman of the future, look for Rodriguez to log time at different positions, with the speed and instincts for center field. Not a future star, but a player that could hit for some average, steal 20-plus bases, and surprise you with 10-plus HR pop. Good player that could put up numbers in Double-A.
2. OF CJ McElroy: The fastest player in the Cardinals organization, the Texas-born outfielder has major-league bloodlines and a chance to develop into an impact talent. He will attempt to add switch-hitting to his profile, giving the electric athlete another dimension to his game. It might be one step back in order to take two steps forward, but he has the raw ability to emerge as a major player of interest in 2013.
3. OF Charlie Tilson: Injured for all of the 2012 season, a fully healthy Tilson is ready to step back into the prospect spotlight. With incredible hands at the plate and instincts for the game that impress even the most seasoned major-league evaluators, it won’t shock many to see the former second-round pick jump into the top 10 by this time next year.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. RHP Maikel Cleto: Cleto is a large man with a large fastball, and the potential to be a force at the back of a major-league bullpen. With a fastball that works 96-99 and a mid-80s slider, he is going to miss barrels, but will need to refine his max-effort mechanics if he wants locate his offerings and execute to his potential.
2. SS Ryan Jackson: His bat isn’t going to keep pitchers up at night, but the overall profile will find a home at the major-league level, and he just might surprise a few people that want to sleep on his bat. It’s a glove-first profile, with legit baseball skills and instincts, and he should develop into a solid utility option going forward.
3. LHP John Gast: A solid but not spectacular starter, with a solid-average arsenal and the ability to execute and sequence. The soon-to-be 24-year-old isn’t going to dominate, but he has a chance to find a home at the back of a major-league rotation, and should get his first taste of major-league action at some point in 2013.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Younger (born 4/1/1987 or later)
There are organizations that get the nod for having “depth,” typically abundant with low-minors high-ceiling youngsters, but light years from the Show and in the infancy stages of the development process. And then there is St. Louis. The Cardinals not only boast a system deep with talent, but one filled with potential big-league regulars and impact players pushing into and through the upper levels.
The prospect-heavy 25-and-Younger list starts with Oscar Taveras, a rare combination of explosive hands and the ability to keep them under control without sacrificing that explosiveness. Taveras profiles as a classic third hitter, with his future as a franchise corner outfielder coming into focus. Shelby Miller carried his first taste of the majors and September call-up into a spot on the NLCS roster. The righty’s bat-missing arsenal could inject more youth into the Cardinals’ rotation as early as 2013, and he offers the organization a potential front-line starting fixture for seasons to come as he matures.
Fellow right-handed starter Lance Lynn kicked off that process in 2012, bringing an element of nastiness and the type of stuff to keep major-leaguer hitters at bay in a middle-of-the-rotation role after logging a full season’s workload in 2012. Former international signee Carlos Martinez bests both Miller and Lynn’s arm strength, with an explosive fastball that can touch the high 90s and a future that may see him anchoring a rotation. Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Kolten Wong are fast-trackers who should continue the youth movement on the roster or give St. Louis the option to acquire an established piece. Rosenthal and Wacha factor into the ever-important young arms race, while Wong can establish himself as the second baseman of the future. Tyrell Jenkins is an intriguing arm, more promise than product presently, but with the talent a development staff loves to work with.
Corner infielders Matt Adams and Patrick Wisdom finish off the robust list. Both have some questions on how their bats will ultimately translate, but possess the potential to round into average regulars, which illustrates just how deep this system is. St. Louis has become a model for player development and the output can prove to be a vital factor in being a perennial contender. –Chris Mellen
A Parting Thought: Damn, this system is good.