St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Prospects Who Could Be in the Bigs by Next Season

Derek PiperCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Prospects Who Could Be in the Bigs by Next Season

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    St. Louis Cardinals fans have much to look forward to in the upcoming seasons, as they possess one of the MLB's best farm systems.

    Stars such as Yadier Molina, David Freese and Adam Wainwright got the call-up from the Cardinals' minor leagues, in addition to highly-touted prospect Shelby Miller, who had his number called earlier this month.

    Next year, the Cardinals will have another wave of great talent arriving on the scene. The future is bright for the Redbirds, which is exemplified by having five players on MLB.com's 2012 Top 100 Prospects list.

    Here are three Cardinals prospects (aside from Miller and Trevor Rosenthal) who could be in the "Big Show" next season.

Kolten Wong (Middle Infielder)

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    The Cardinals have been blessed with many things this past decade, but consistency at the middle infield positions has not been one of them.

    While Rafael Furcal filled in nicely last postseason, the Cardinals have not gotten good production from a shortstop on a regular basis since Edgar Renteria.

    With Furcal's elbow injury, which may require him to have Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals will have to keep looking. Prospect Kolten Wong (ranked 51st in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects), however, may be the answer.

    Wong was selected 22nd overall by St. Louis in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, and has performed well since entering the Cardinals minor league system. The 21 year-old second baseman hit .287 with nine home runs and 52 RBIs, in addition to 21 stolen bases, in AA this season.

    Wong would certainly upgrade the Cardinals' struggling middle infield, which has hit for an average of .253 in 2012.

    Expect Wong to show out in Spring Training in 2013 and earn himself a utility spot—before becoming a full-time starter by the 2014 season.

Carlos Martinez (Relief Pitcher)

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    Headlined by Jason Motte, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller, the Cardinals currently have a bullpen full of flamethrowers.

    As prospect Carlos Martinez continues to wing high-90s fastballs past minor league hitters, expect the Cardinals to add another pitcher next season who can blow it past his opponents.

    Martinez has been electric since joining the organization, totaling 268 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA in 248 innings of work. The 21 year-old also sports an impressive 1.15 WHIP, while allowing only ten home runs.

    Martinez has been rated as the 26th best prospect by MLB.com, and though he's been a starter in the minors, he could find himself with Motte (2.86 ERA and 40 saves), Mitchell Boggs (2.34 ERA and 33 holds) and Edward Mujica (1.13 ERA in 26 games with the Cardinals) in a lights-out bullpen in 2013.

Oscar Taveras (Outfielder)

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    Five years ago, it was Colby Rasmus who Cardinals fans could not wait to see—now, it is Oscar Taveras.

    Rated as the 12th best prospect by MLB.com, Taveras has been a hitting machine since joining the Redbirds' organization at the age of 17. Taveras hit .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs this season with the Springfield Cardinals, as he jumped Shelby Miller as the organization's No. 1 prospect.

    The talented, young outfielder can get on base with ease, and drastically improved his power and plate discipline in 2012.

    "He's phenomenal," Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said (according to an article on stlcardinals.com). "He's an amazing player."

    With one more year on Carlos Beltran's contract, the Cardinals starting outfield is solidified heading into next season, as Matt Holliday and Jon Jay will be mainstays in the lineup. However, expect Taveras to get an opportunity with the big league club in 2013, with Allen Craig making the permanent transition to first base.

    Mozeliak will likely want Taveras to get high volume at-bats in AAA to begin the year, but don't discount the possibility of the 20 year-old making his Major League debut next summer—as he prepares to take over Beltran's spot in 2014.