St. Louis Cardinals: Predicting the MLB Debuts of Top 3 Prospects

Jeff SucherContributor IIIAugust 7, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: Predicting the MLB Debuts of Top 3 Prospects

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    A good farm system is the key to having years upon years of contending teams. Sounds simple, right?  Well, it is more difficult than most think, just ask the Pirates and Royals of years past. They always had high draft picks and solid prospects, but traded them away for more prospects and the vicious cycle begins.

    The Pirates are finally hanging on to their homegrown talent and look where they are this year. Perhaps the light came on for ownership or perhaps Clint Hurdle pinned their GM up against the wall and told him to keep the talent.  Either way, the Pirates are on their way up for the first time in 20 years.

    The Cardinals have been in the hunt every year since 2000, thanks in large part to some homegrown talent. 

    Here is a list of my prediction when each of the top three prospects in the Cardinals farm system will make an appearance in the show.

Shelby Miller

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    Shelby Miller has struggled with his jump to Triple-A Memphis this season, but he is still highly rated as a top prospect in baseball. At the beginning of this season, Miller was rated by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect. 

    Miller has posted a 7-9 record with a shabby 5.25 ERA in 22 starts this season. Miller has also struggled with the long ball this season, surrendering 20 in 106.1 innings pitched. All those stats aside, he is still the power pitcher the Cardinals made a No. 1 pick in 2009. His average of 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings is pretty impressive.

    My best guess is that Miller will make the 40-man expanded roster in September of this year in an attempt to groom him for a rotation spot next spring. Miller could be this season's Lance Lynn and fill some big relief innings as the Cardinals make their attempt at a playoff spot down the stretch, all the while gaining valuable experience.

Oscar Tavares

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    Oscar Tavares is probably the Cardinals' No. 1 prospect. The guy just seems to make the game look easy, and his numbers back that up. 

    In his four-plus seasons in the minor leagues, Tavares has driven in 226 runs in 307 games. The guy can straight-up hit and has proven it at every level. Tavares will probably start the season at Triple-A in 2013, but don't be surprised to see him at the big-league level in fall of 2013. 

    Carlos Beltran will be wrapping up his contract, and no one knows what Jon Jay will actually develop into, so needless to say there will be room for Tavares in 2013 leading in to 2014.  Tavares is still only 20 and would only be 22 in 2014 as a starter in the outfield.

Kolten Wong

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    Second base has been a bit of a sore spot this season. Tyler Greene hasn't hit, and until late neither has Daniel Descalso. Kolten Wong has proven he can hit, posting a .301 average with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 148 games between the two levels he has played at thus far. 

    One big key to Wong is that the guy does a decent job of getting on base, posting a .369 OBP in his minor league career thus far. The Cardinals will need a leadoff guy in 2014 when Rafael Furcal is a free agent, and Wong seems to be the perfect fit. 

    Wong does need some seasoning in the field. In his 148 career games, Wong has made 21 errors. A solid up-the-middle defense is important to pitchers like Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter. Once Wong tunes that in and continues to hit, he'll be a hit at the major league level.

    My prediction is he will get a shot to make the squad next spring as a utility player and get a full-time shot in 2014.