Injuries may have cast an unfortunate spell on the St. Louis Cardinals in early 2013, but the Major League Baseball world is fast learning that their farm system is more than capable of stepping up.
Last night, Tyler Lyons took the mound for Jaime Garcia, who is having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. The week before saw the MLB debut of John Gast in Jake Westbrook's place. And both have been outstanding, combining for three wins.
Although the Cardinals have plenty of prospects who are doing exactly what we expect of them so far, the future is still uncertain and not every young player lives up to his full potential.
Looking at the expectations surrounding their signings alongside what they were ultimately able to accomplish, here are five recent Cardinals prospects who simply did not live up to the hype surrounding their names.
*All statistics are current on baseball-reference.com as of May 23, 2013.*
Expectation: The Family Name
Let's go ahead and face it—Yadier Molina has been a staple in the Cardinals organization for a long time, and quite frankly may be superhuman. He consistently plays upwards of 130 games a year and plays them extremely well.
But catcher is a demanding position and backup is necessary no matter who's behind the plate. That is where Pagnozzi was supposed to come in.
Considering that he is the nephew of All-Star Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, this guy was an exciting draft pick.
However, in the minors, he consistently hit around .200, with the exceptions being one .235 and one .242 season. Additionally, he had only one year in the minors with over 30 RBI (2009).
He improved in the majors and ended up hitting .359 in 15 games while splitting catching duties with Bryan Anderson in late 2010 due to a Molina knee injury. On the field, though, he threw out a meager one runner out of 10 who attempted to steal on him. It's a shame that his uncle's three Golden Gloves couldn't have been hereditary.
He was left to free agency after that season, and these days finds himself in the Braves minor league system.
Expectation: Long-Term Ace
Reyes was once considered the top-rated pitching prospect in the Cardinals farm system.
He did have some success in the majors. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning during his 2006 debut. His highest honor came in the World Series that year, when he pitched the Cardinals to a Game 1 win, setting a rookie record with his 17 consecutive batters retired.
But 2007 was a different story. Reyes opened the year with an 0-8 record and a 6.08 ERA. He had a notorious lack of run support, but that was no excuse, and he was sent down to Memphis.
He never quite regained his World Series form. Instead, Adam Wainwright is the pitching star from that 2006 series that headlines the staff today.
In July of 2008, Reyes was traded to the Cleveland Indians for reliever Luis Perdomo and cash. And he has since been released, making him a current free agent.
Expectation: Dominant Reliever
After the struggles of Ryan Franklin left the Cardinals with an open closer position, Sanchez was one of several candidates for the job. And he did make a great showing in 2011 with five saves and a 1.80 ERA.
It's worth noting that he was sidelined for part of the season with an injured right shoulder. And of course, we all know how that season ended: with a World Series win and Jason Motte locking up the role.
But there was still room for Sanchez to be a dominant reliever. In 2012, things took a turn and he posted a much-inflated 6.60 ERA in 17 appearances. With all of the early 2013 bullpen issues, the Cardinals had yet another chance to turn to Sanchez. But instead, Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica got the votes of confidence.
He had a 3.72 ERA for the Cardinals this year in the minors before being released to make room for Lyons on the 40-man roster. Sanchez was claimed off waivers by the Cubs, so we'll have to see what the future has in store for him there.
Expectation: First-Round Pick
Wallace was a 13th overall pick from Arizona State University. In college, he was a two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and a two-time Triple Crown winner. He was considered to be one of the best at the plate and a tough out.
In the minors, though, his batting average hovered around .300 and he only hit eight home runs in his first 234 plate appearances. The entire 2008 season (split between Single-A and Double-A clubs) he drove in 36. It seems as if the "Crown" had gone missing from his professional career.
Unfortunately for Wallace, he could have been putting up huge numbers, and may have still become trade bait, because the first baseman at the major league level was superstar Albert Pujols.
He was indeed traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2009 as part of a package deal for the current Cardinal All-Star Matt Holliday. These days, Wallace is with the Astros organization. He started the 2013 season going 1-for-24 with 17 strikeouts before being demoted to Triple-A.
Expectation: First-Round Pick
Carrying a similar story to Wallace's, Cox was a 25th overall draft choice, and his name came with a lot of promise. According to Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' vice president of scouting and player development, at the time of his signing, "There's not a lot this guy (couldn't) do with the bat." And he had hit .400 at the University of Arkansas to prove it.
He started off strong offensively. But looking at his batting average through the two-and-a-half seasons he spent in the Cardinals' minor league system, he seemed to be on the decline. When he left the Cardinals, he was hitting just .254. All of a sudden, the guy who, according to Luhnow, was going to be a "fast mover through the minor leagues," didn't seem to be going anywhere.
And I'm sure it didn't help that David Freese had an MVP postseason in 2011, leaving little room for upcoming third baseman the following year.
In July 2012, he was traded to the Miami Marlins for reliever Mujica, who was a missing piece to last year's bullpen and is currently filling in as closer for an injured Jason Motte in 2013.