The St. Louis Cardinals have a deep system...I'll give you a second to take that in.
Who would have thought that the Cardinals would finally develop players? Remember, this is the team that traded away Daric Barton, Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, Coco Crisp and Jack Wilson. What did the Cardinals get in return for all of those players? Mark Mulder, Chuck Finley and Jason Christiansen.
The Cardinals made it a priority to start devoloping their own talent. After all, they struck gold on Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Kennedy (sort of).
Now, the Cardinals are starting to use their young talent at the Major League level and it's paying dividends. The ones who aren't making a giant impact get the seasoning in The Show and can work on what wasn't working. The ones who are producing at the top level are still learning and providing a huge boost for the team. Finally, the Cardinals can rely on young talent to keep them afloat.
Let's look at some of this top-flight, can't-miss young talent still to come, and their current numbers:
Colby Rasmus: How can you NOT mention this kid? He has breezed through every level at which he's played and is mentioned by most experts in the top-five prospects in all of baseball.
Currently at Memphis, Rasmus has been on a tear. Through April and the first half of May, Rasmus was hovering around a .200 average. Currently, his line is as follows: .247 BA/10 HR/33 RBI. Yeah, after a slow start that sparked a giant discussion about what level he should be playing at, Rasmus has turned it on. If he can continue this streak, he may be first in line for a call-up when a starting outfielder goes on the DL (which, for the Cardinals right now, is always a possibility). He's the real deal, and he'll be starting every day in 2009 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jamie Garcia: Garcia is considered by many to be a mid- to back-end starter in the majors. Ask any Cardinals fan or coach, they may say different.
His curveball and fastball are Major League-ready, his changeup is developing at a strong pace, and he's starting to get that demeanor that will make him a good starter. What's even more deadly is his killer combination of being tough to hit (8.71 K/9IP) and hit in the air (2.03 GB:F) so far, through 82 2/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A this year. He has the ability and presence to be a frontline starter, though never an ace. He's also left-handed. Always a plus.
Chris Perez: Perez got his shot in the majors when Jason Isringhausen went on the DL with a lacerated hand. He didn't take advantage of this shot...he took it and ran like hell.
As of June 18, Perez has a dominate line of: 2.77 ERA/12:6 K:BB/13 IP. Yeah, Perez will never have to ride a bus again. He's flying first class from now on. He'll be closing down games in 2009, possibly as a fill-in closer in 2008.
Pete Kozma: He's currently batting .273/3 HR/23 RBI at Single-A Quad Cities. Yeah, that doesn't look amazing right now, but just wait.
The power will come, though not much (projected as a 10-homer threat at best), and his average will rise as he adjusts. His strikeouts are piling on (currently at 46), but that should change down the road. Kozma is ticketed for a St. Louis Cardinals debut in 2011, maybe 2012.
P.J. Walters: Walters was the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season and is turning in another good season.
Yes, his ERA is up over 5.00 at Triple A, but that's understandable. He's trying to adjust to the tougher hitters, and with St. Louis not too far away, he's trying to deal with the pressure. Still, though, between Double-A and Triple-A, Walters has put up this line: 7-3 (15 starts)/4.45 ERA/80K:29BB/83 IP.
Honorable mentions: Clayton Mortenson, Mark Worrell, Joe Mather, Nick Stavinoha, Mark Scherer, Bryan Anderson, Nick Webber, Jess Todd, Jon Jay, Mike Parisi...yeah, it's that deep in talent.
The Cardinals turned in a third straight year with a good draft. The past two drafts have been stellar and produced some top-flight talent. This year's draft looks just as good.
The Cardinals were finally in a position to draft talent instead of need, and they did it. Their first overall pick was Brett Wallace. He's a BIG third baseman out of Arizona State. He has a good arm, a sweet swing and an amazing talent to drive the ball with authority. He should stick at third if he can move left and right with better ability. They also took some elite college pitching talent, and some gambles on high school players. All in all, the Cardinals are giving themselves more talent at the lower levels.
There you have it, folks. The Cardinals are starting to get deeper in talent and are looking at a top-seven farm system ranking next season. Enjoy!