St. Louis Cardinals Prospects Creating the Most Buzz so Far in Spring Training
Spring training is in full swing and the St. Louis Cardinals are creating plenty of buzz. The reigning National League champions have a stacked roster at the major league level. It is the continued improvement of the players in the farm system that keeps the fans coming back for more early in spring.
The roster offers very few surprises for 2014. This is a great time of year to get a glimpse of a team's future, however. The future stars around the diamond for the Cardinals are keeping fans chattering about the possibilities.
Buzz is not always a positive thing. While the Cardinals have plenty of positive things happening around the youth in the organization, one of the team's top prospects, Oscar Taveras, has yet to take the field. There is also no timetable for when he will. Kolten Wong, another prospect that is slated to have a spot in the starting lineup this season, is turning heads with his continued lack of production. The work ethic is there but the results will need to come around eventually.
Meanwhile, Randal Grichuk, the newest prospects in camp, is doing all the right things to prove that he is ready to realize his potential in a new uniform. Sometimes, it is the work going on before and after the games that lay the ground work for future opportunities.
Of course, it is the surplus of young pitching that always draws attention and the Cardinals have young pitching in a seemingly endless stockpile. That stockpile showed up in a big way over the weekend and had fans chattering almost immediately.
The following prospects are causing plenty of buzz with fans and pundits alike this spring.
Statistics in the following article are sourced from MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Kolten Wong's Struggles Continue
Kolten Wong is poised to assume the starting role as the Cardinals' everyday second baseman. The talent is there, the work ethic is strong and the focus is precise. The problem, however, is the results have been less than ideal.
Wong was brought to the big leagues in late 2013 and given the chance to show what he could do as the team played its way into the postseason picture. Those 32 games left him with a .153 batting average and 12 strikeouts. The young man also has yet to drive in a run in the majors.
Wong, whose brother, Kean, is a prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, worked hard during the offseason to shorten up his swing to get to the ball quicker. A hitter that was often seen as a defensive liability, he has seemingly become just the opposite. His defense has been stellar but his bat continues to struggle.
Mike was really helpful to me because he could see I was ... not getting down, but getting a little frustrated because I worked so hard this offseason trying to shorten up my swing and figure things out. And to come in and kind of not see success, it's tough. I have the right mindset. He told me to just have fun and enjoy the game. It's a process. I know it's gonna come.
Wong is one of the team's top prospects entering the 2014 season but he's currently creating buzz for all the wrong reasons.
Randal Grichuk Has Impressed in a New Uniform
Randal Grichuk was "the other guy" in the trade that sent David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels and Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals. It has not taken long for the young man to show fans that he intends to be a key part of that trade.
Admittedly, Grichuk's transformation from often-injured prospect to hard-working player started last season while in the Angels' farm system. It may have been too little, too late for him to change the opinion of him in Los Angeles, however. The Cardinals took notice of him in the Texas League last season and seem happy with his progress so far this spring.
Grichuk's spring is off to an average start with two extra base hits in his first eight at bats. He has also struck out five times and looked overmatched at times. His ability to hit the ball and his improved ability to field the ball have turned enough heads to create the buzz he is trying to achieve this spring.
It is rare to get a second chance to make a first impression. Grichuk seems poised to do just that.
Oscar Taveras Has Yet to Take the Field
Possibly the most buzz this offseason has been surrounding Oscar Taveras and his impending arrival in St. Louis. Fans were excited to see the young man come into spring camp and play his way to the roster. The problem is simple: Taveras has yet to play.
He has been hobbled by an ankle injury that shortened his 2013 season and required surgery to repair. He arrived to camp and reports started to surface that he had yet to be cleared to play. Derrick Goold of StlToday.com reported that he is still being held back at this point.
Not being available to play has the team pressing for tempered expectations this spring. Manager Mike Matheny shared his thoughts with Goold:
Without him being healthy, that’s getting too far ahead of ourselves. He’s a talent. But being a talent and being a part of our best 25 comes with execution. You can’t execute till you’re healthy.
Taveras is the most anticipated of the Cardinal prospects. His reputation as a power hitter has fans anxious to see what he is capable of. If he is not healthy, that becomes a much more challenging perception to live up to.
Tim Cooney Dazzles in Debut
The Cardinals found success in 2013 thanks to the young pitching that seemed to never end. One would expect that to mean that the system had been completely exposed on that level. This spring started off proving that the cupboard is far from bare when it comes to pitching in the Cardinals' system.
Tim Cooney was one of the first pitchers to get a chance to show that. The young pitchers of the Cardinal farm system combined for six shutout innings in the third game of the spring on Sunday. The combination of Keith Butler, Zach Petrick and Cooney silenced the New York Mets.
It was Cooney that turned heads. Cooney, who threw two scoreless innings, struck out four Mets on the afternoon. He did so with an average fastball and solid command of his curveball. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist shared his thoughts on Cooney with Rick Hummel of StlToday.com:
His fastball has got some life and he commands it. He’s got a cutter and a good curveball and he throws strikes. His delivery repeats and he’s got a good idea of where the ball is going all the time.
Cooney is an impressive part of the Cardinals' future. This spring, he has already created the buzz that he is a big part of the organization going forward.
Early Spring Offers a Great Time to See the Future
Spring training offers fans a great time to get a close look at the players they will watch throughout the summer. Writers get a chance to share stories about the players and their families. It is a time to get to know the players.
It is the early games of spring training that allow fans a chance to get a look at the future of their favorite club. Young pitchers and position players get a chance to show the big league coaching staff what they are capable of.
The youth of the Cardinals' organization is ready to show everyone why there is so much hype surrounding them. The future for the organization is bright, even if a few of the pieces still need polishing.
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