Right-hander Seth Maness' command is freakish.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system ranks as one of the best—if not the best—in the game. It literally has it all: elite pitching prospects, power arms, strike-throwers, mature and projectable hitters, sluggers and glove-first defenders.
While the organization houses numerous prospects capable of contributing in the major leagues next season, they also have an impressive crop of undervalued talent.
In selecting players for this article, I targeted prospects that are behind the developmental curve relative to their age, have a concerning medical history, lack significant professional experience or are simply under-appreciated.
Here’s a look at the five most underrated prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system.
A 13th-round draft pick out of Stanford in 2010, Walsh has spent a healthy chunk of the last three seasons at Low-A Quad Cities in the Midwest League.
Although he’s always showcased advanced plate discipline—he owns a .390 on-base percentage through 226 minor league games—the 23-year-old’s bat had been slow to develop.
However, that changed last season while repeating at Low-A Quad Cities. The 6’0", 190-pounder batted .314/.419/.530 with six home runs and 65/60 K/BB in 97 games.
Given his ability to play nearly every position on the field, Walsh could have a career as a utility player in the major leagues. First, he’ll have to prove he can hit at higher levels.
Selected in the ninth round of the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma State, Lyons didn’t make his professional debut until the following year.
After registering a 4.50 ERA with 79/29 K/BB in 94 innings at High-A Palm Beach, the Cardinals handed the left-hander an aggressive assignment to Double-A Springfield to open the 2012 season.
Lyons quickly proved to be more advanced than originally expected, and was subsequently promoted to Triple-A Memphis. The 24-year-old continued to thrive despite the challenge of a higher level, and ultimately registered a 4.28 ERA (but 3.19 FIP) with 89/18 K/BB in 88.1 innings.
Even though his arm lacks mileage after breezing through the minors, Lyons' ascent to the major leagues will ultimately depend on the success of the other left-handers housed in the upper levels of the Cardinals’ system.
A 41st-round pick in the 2008 draft, the Cardinals kept Siegrist on a short leash during his first three seasons in the minor leagues.
However, it was seemingly worth the wait, as the left-hander registered a 2.26 ERA over 107.1 innings during his full-season debut between Low-A Quad Cities and High-A Palm Beach.
After a solid showing in early March, Siegrist endured a pair of injuries that held him out of action until late June. Upon the southpaw’s return, he registered a 2.28 ERA over 10 starts at High-A Palm Beach, and spent the final two months of the season at Double-A Springfield.
Assigned to the Arizona Fall League to make up for time lost due to injury, the 6’5” southpaw dominated in five of six outings, and ultimately registered a 1.62 FIP, 12.79 K/8 and .214 BAA in 19 innings.
As a result of his strong showing in the AFL, the Cardinals added the 23-year-old to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
Selected in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, 24-year-old Maness garnered the organization’s pitcher of the year honors after registering a 2.97 ERA with 112/10 K/BB in 169.2 innings—the majority of which came at Double-A Springfield.
The 6’0", 184-pound man doesn’t come off as anything special, primarily due to his lack of a plus pitch. However, what Maness does have is command—and it’s phenomenal.
Over the last two seasons, he’s walked only 15 batters in 222.2 innings. That’s insane.
The right-hander could open the 2013 season at either Double-A or Triple-A depending on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. It’s impossible to discount what Maness accomplished in 2012, though he’ll still have to prove himself once again next season in the high minors.
Selected out of a Puerto Rico high school in the 18th round of the 2009 draft, Garcia had flown beneath the radar after spending three consecutive seasons in a rookie-level league.
The 21-year-old outfielder finally made his full-season debut in 2012, as he batted .280/.354/.525 with 56 extra-base hits (19 home runs) and 107/34 K/BB in 109 games for Low-A Quad Cities.
The jump in Garcia’s strikeout total last season is concerning, although it essentially served as a trade-off for improved power numbers. He’ll be forced to make more adjustments next season at High-A Palm Beach, but at 21 still has plenty of time to develop.
Garcia has improved in each season since the Cardinals drafted him in the 18th round in 2009 out of Puerto Rico.
His bat receives less credit than it deserves. Garcia is a physically strong right-handed hitter and is actually highly projectable provided that his plate discipline continues to improve.