No. 1 Oscar Taveras, Outfielder
124 G, .321/.380/.572, 153 H, 37 2B, 7 3B, 23 HR, 94 RBI, 42 BB, 56 K, 10 SB (Double-A)
Taveras is the best pure hitter in the minor leagues right now, though it won't be long before he takes his immense talents to St. Louis and hits in the middle of that already potent lineup. He has a vicious swing but manages to control it so well that nothing gets by him.
Because his bat speed and plate coverage are so good, he can hit any pitch anywhere on the plate and drive it into gaps or over the fence. He always had great power potential and finally showed it off last year, hitting six more home runs last year alone than he did in his first three years.
He has played some center field in the minors, but his profile fits best in right field where he will have great range and his strong arm will play well. Taveras will be one of the best players in baseball and an MVP candidate at his peak.
No. 2 Shelby Miller, Starting Pitcher
27 G (27 starts), 11-10, 136.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 138 H, 78 R (72 ER), 24 HR, 50 BB, 160 K (Triple-A)
6 G (1 start), 13.2 IP, 1.32 ERA, 9 H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 16 K (MLB)
Ignore Miller's overall numbers from Triple-A last season, because they aren't indicative of what he looked like at the end of the year. The first half of 2012 was a struggle because an offseason diet program caused him to lose a lot of weight and his stuff suffered as a result.
However, after getting back into the swing of things later in the season, Miller posted a 2.88 ERA with 70 strikeouts against just seven walks in 59.1 innings after the All-Star break.
Miller works with a hard, moving fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a sharp curveball he has a great feel for. His changeup is still coming along, though he got a better handle on it as the season moved along.
Still one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Miller has the upside of a No. 1 starter and will be a fixture in the St. Louis rotation very soon.
No. 3 Trevor Rosenthal, Starting Pitcher/Relief Pitcher
Age: 22 (Turns 23 on May 29)
17 G (17 starts), 8-6, 94.0 IP, 2.78 ERA, 67 H, 33 R (29 ER), 6 HR, 37 BB, 83 K (Double-A)
3 G (3 starts), 15.0 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 21 K (Triple-A)
19 G, 0-2, 22.2 IP, 14 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 25 K (MLB)
A breakout star last postseason. Rosenthal exhibits everything that the Cardinals have done right in the drafting and development department over the years. He was a 21st-round draft pick from a community college in Kansas and, as Derrick Goold of Baseball America (subscribers only) noted, was taken by an area scout who saw him throw one inning.
Rosenthal has already been worth more to the Cardinals than his draft stock would indicate, but there is a lot more left in his right arm than what they saw last October.
As a starter, which he should get the chance to be this season, Rosenthal works in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and a devastating curveball that was on display in the postseason. His changeup will determine how high his ceiling is, but it has the potential to be an above-average pitch.
Rosenthal does tend to lose command of his pitches within the zone, which makes him very hittable. But he made great strides late last season and could end up being a No. 2 starter.
No. 4 Carlos Martinez, Starting Pitcher
7 G (7 starts), 2-2, 3.00 ERA, 33.0 IP, 29 H, 12 R (11 ER), 10 BB, 34 K (High-A)
15 G (14 starts), 4-3, 2.90 ERA, 71.1 IP, 62 H, 27 R (23 ER), 6 HR, 22 BB, 58 K (Double-A)
Martinez and Rosenthal are 1 and 1A behind Miller in the Cardinals' system among pitching prospects.
Even though Martinez doesn't have ideal size for a pitcher—he is listed at 6'0" and 165 pounds—but his arm is one of the best in the minors. He has an electric fastball that he can ramp up to 100 with one of the smoothest deliveries in baseball.
His curveball and changeup took steps forward last season, allowing him to start showing more of that potential he has had since signing with the Cardinals in 2010. His command and release point are still inconsistent.
As long as Martinez can learn to repeat his delivery and his offspeed stuff takes a step forward, he could pitch in St. Louis this season and has the upside of a No. 1 starter.
No. 5 Kolten Wong, Second Baseman
126 G, .287/.348/.405, 150 H, 23 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 44 BB, 74 K, 21 SB (Double-A)
Wong is not a high-ceiling player, but all he does is hit wherever he goes. He is not great as a defensive second baseman, though he has made strides in the last two years to at least be good enough.
The bat is what will carry Wong to the big leagues. He doesn't have much home-run power because his swing is so short and compact and, at just 5'9", 190 pounds, he is small. But because he controls the strike zone so well, he should hit for a high average.
On the bases, Wong is more instinctual than fast. He knows how to read pitchers and take an extra base when the situation calls for it. Given the Cardinals' issues at finding a second baseman, Wong could be up sooner rather than later.