With four World Series appearances in the last decade, the St. Louis Cardinals are baseball’s closest thing to a dynasty.
However, rather than procuring talent during the offseason like most large-market franchises, the Cardinals continue to produce winning teams the old-fashioned way: by developing players.
That being said, a strong case can be made that the Cardinals would not have reached the postseason—let alone the World Series—if not for their impressive young arms.
Using 12 rookie pitchers during the regular season, the Cardinals led the major leagues (among rookies) with 308 games pitched, 36 wins, 541 strikeouts, a 3.25 FIP and, most importantly, a 6.7 fWAR (via FanGraphs).
Even after the graduation of top prospects Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha to the major leagues last season, the team’s prospect pool is still loaded with an ideal mixture of high-ceiling and high-floor talent.
Three of the team’s top-ranked prospects from last year, Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong, are still in the mix for 2014. Martinez and Wong both saw time in the major leagues after the All-Star break and ultimately secured spots on the team’s postseason roster. But because neither exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched, both players' rookie seasons carry over into 2014.
Taveras, on the other hand, was limited to only 46 Triple-A games last year due to an ankle injury sustained in May that led to season-ending surgery in mid-August. Even though there’s a realistic chance he will open the 2014 season back at Triple-A, expect the 21-year-old to make up for the lost time with an eye-opening rookie campaign.
As for pitchers, the organization doesn’t boast as many flame-throwing studs as it did a year ago, but that’s not to say it’s thin on arms.
Beyond the aforementioned Martinez, the Cardinals house one of the more exciting pitching prospects below A-ball in right-hander Alex Reyes. Like so many of the great arms to rise through their system in recent years, the 19-year-old possesses a special combination of athleticism, arm strength and pitchability. However, given the state of the team’s big league rotation, don’t expect it to rush him up the ladder without reason.
The Cardinals’ prospect pool also has a deep collection of left-handed pitchers, including both of its 2013 first-round draft picks Marco Gonzalez and Rob Kaminsky.
And for those of you hoping to identify the next Cardinals prospect to overachieve and carve out an everyday role in the major leagues, then look no farther than outfielder Stephen Piscotty. After his strong showing last season between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield, followed by an equally impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League, the 22-year-old may not be long for the minors in 2014.
Here’s a look at the St. Louis Cardinals’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.