UCB September Project: Top 7 Prospects

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UCB September Project: Top 7 Prospects
For the third straight year, the United Cardinal Bloggers are spending their September project making their selections for the top 7 prospects (thus the name) in the Cardinal farm system.  As per usual, you can find links to all the posts at this index post over at our official site.

The Cardinal farm system has become more bountiful in recent years, with all but one farm team making the playoffs or winning their championship this season.  While that's not necessarily the best way to judge a system, it's surely better than having all teams in last place.  With that success, more names are up for consideration for this list, so it should be interesting to see how much the lists agree and disagree.

That said, I'm pretty sure that #1 will be the same across the spectrum.  But before we get to the list, let's take a look at what last year's list did this season.

1) Shelby Miller.  More on him in a bit.  Eligible in 2010.
2) Jaime Garcia.  In a heated race for NL Rookie of the Year.  Not eligible in 2010.
3) Wagner Mateo.  Eye problems voided his contract, finally signed with AZ.  Not eligible in 2010.
4) Daryl Jones.  Regressed somewhat.  Eligible in 2010.
5) Allen Craig.  Rode the Memphis/St. Louis shuttle quite a bit.  Not eligible in 2010.
6) Eduardo Sanchez.  Split time between Springfield and Memphis.  Eligible in 2010.
7) Robert Stock.  Struggled in A ball. Eligible in 2010.

So now, onto the 2010 list:
1) Shelby Miller, RHP

2010: 7-5, 24 starts, 104.1 IP, 3.71 ERA, 140 K, 33 BB, 12.08 K/9, 2.42 FIP (A)

There was a time when it looked like Miller might be struggling a bit.  Some of the more traditional measures of a pitcher, the record and the ERA, weren't what Cardinal fans wanted to see, especially when they looked around the league and saw young guns moving quickly up organizational ladders and making an impact on the big league squad.  There was even talk that he could be moved to Seattle for Cliff Lee as a player to be named later before Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers.

Miller was rested some in the middle of the season, getting only two starts in June, and after that seemed to take off.  From July on, he was 6-2 with 80 strikeouts in 60 innings.  He posted a 3 ERA, even with two rough outings where he gave up five earned in five innings and, later, seven runs in five innings.  He dominated his first playoff game as well, throwing seven scoreless innings with thirteen strikeouts.

Miller is still the most exciting arm in the system and the prospect everyone else will be asking for if they try to trade with the Cardinals.  Thankfully, it appears that John Mozeliak and the rest of the front office have no intention of moving him.  Miller got a long look in spring training this season and should next year as well, and a strong '11 at Springfield would get him a legitimate shot at cracking the 2012 roster.

2) Zack Cox, 3B

2010: .400/.471/.467, 1 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K (R)

Have to give some love to another Razorback.  Cox was the Cardinals' first round selection in the 2010 draft, but it was a surprise that he was still available when they picked at 18.  Cox was projected to be one of the most major-league-ready bats in the draft, though there is still some debate on where he will play.  It would not be a surprise to see the Cardinals move him to second base, as they have numerous players (David Freese, if he returns healthy, and Matt Carpenter) who can play third base, but second is a position that can be upgraded.

Cox signed a major league deal with St. Louis, so they obviously plan on him making the bigs quickly as they will have to start burning option years starting in 2011.  If his bat is as advertised and he can field whatever position they put him at, I wouldn't think a September '11 callup was out of the question, though more likely he would be in the same boat as Miller, going to spring training '12 with a chance at the club.

3) Carlos Matias, RHP

2010: 3-2, 12 starts, 59 IP, 0.76 ERA, 78 K, 14 BB, 11.90 K/9, 1.79 FIP (R)

I know I'm tempting fate here.  After all, it was just last year when I put Wagner Mateo on the list, then the very day that I published it, his contract with the Cardinals was voided due to Mateo not passing the eye part of his exam.

I'm not sure Matias is even technically signed, though he has put up astounding numbers in the Venezuelan Summer League.  Matias had been signed before by the Red Sox, but that deal was nullified when it turned out Matias was not as old as he said he was.  MLB is still investigating this deal, but I have to think that if it was going to be rejected, it would have been done already with that kind of history.

According to the entry at Future Redbirds when he signed, Matias possesses one of the best fastballs in all of baseball per Baseball America.  He's obviously dominated the competition in the Dominican, so it will be interesting to see where the Cardinals start him when he officially signs.  I'd expect low A ball to help him get adjusted to American life as well, but it's possible that he could be a fast riser, and if things panned out, a rotation of Wainwright, Garcia, Miller and Matias would be a devastating one for the rest of the National League.

4) Lance Lynn, RHP

2010: 13-10, 29 starts, 164 IP, 4.77 ERA, 141 K, 62 BB, 7.74 K/9, 4.43 FIP (AAA)

Lynn has steadily risen up the ranks since his debut in 2008.  Last year was his first full year in Memphis and at times it looked like he might have topped out, as he posted the worst numbers of his minor league career.

Looking over his game log, it looks like he could be very on or very off, depending on the day. I count 11 games that he gave up five runs or more, including a stretch in June where he gave up 22 runs over three games.  Then again, he had eight games where he gave up a run or less, including his next-to-last regular season start which had him tossing six one-run innings while striking out 11.  You look at what he did in the first round of the playoffs, when he had a 16 strikeout game to push Memphis into the championship.  While he's probably not ever going to have high strikeout numbers in the bigs, at least he's got some potential.

It seems reasonable to think that he could give the team what Kyle Lohse is giving them right now, and probably would have gotten more of a look if Lohse and his no-trade clause were not on the roster.  Lynn may need a bit more time in Memphis to gain a little more consistency, but he should get a long look in spring training next season, perhaps competing with someone like Kyle McClellan for the fifth starter role.

5) Eduardo Sanchez, RHP

2010: 1-1, 14 SV, 50 games, 53 IP, 2.38 ERA, 58 K, 20 BB, 9.85 K/9, 3.28 and 3.42 FIP (AA and AAA)

There's not much exciting about a middle relief prospect.  Sanchez looks like he could close, and he's done some of it, but it doesn't look like they are grooming him for that role.

However, what is obvious (and exciting) is that he can get people out.  Another solid year of relief work keeps him about the same spot on my list.  Middle relief is always something that a team can use and a good pitching arm is not always easy to find.

Besides, if McClellan does win the fifth start out of camp next year, there's going to be a slot for him in that bullpen.  The success of Fernando Salas will probably help his case and if, for some reason, the Cards cut ties with Blake Hawksworth, there will be another slot for him to slide into.  If Ryan Franklin stumbles again, there are going to be a lot of young arms to replace him.  I think we'll see Sanchez in St. Louis next season.

6) Matt Carpenter, 3B

2010: .308/.415/.486, 31 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 70 RBI, 90 BB, 102 K (AA and AAA)

Carpenter is not a name I was familiar with until well into the season, when the blogs and other Internet sites started talking about him as a possibility at third base.  Taking a look at the statistics, you can see why that option was bandied about.

What stands about Carpenter is his plate discipline.  Whether that would translate to the majors is debatable, but 90 walks and a .415 OBP would be a nice boost for the current Cardinals, who have trouble getting runners on.  Most of this work was done at AAA, so he shouldn't tail off too much in the bigs.

Five triples is also an interesting stat.  He had two in Springfield and three in Memphis.  He also stole 11 bases at Memphis after having only three in his entire minor league career before that.  So he's got a little bit of speed.

Good speed and good on-base skills?  Sounds like a great leadoff or number two guy for a team that doesn't have a good option for either slot.  If Freese struggles at all with his rehab, Carpenter may come along and stake his claim at the hot corner as early as the beginning of next season.

7) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP

2010: 0-0, 2 starts, 3.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2 K, 2 BB, 6.00 K/9, 3.87 FIP (Rookie)

The Cardinals felt like they got three top talents with their first round and supplemental picks this season.  Jenkins was the second of those supplementals, but was considered a top athlete that slipped somewhat due to the fact that he had a football scholarship to Baylor and somewhat because of the "raw factor".  However, Keith Law had him at 23, so for the Cardinals to get him at 50 was a steal.

Jenkins has a lot of upside, more than Seth Blair, who was taken before him in the supplemental draft.  He looks to have two solid pitches now in his fastball and his curve, so if he is able to add something to them, like a changeup, and work on his command issues, he could be a front-of-the-rotation type.  It'll be three years or so before we know exactly what the Cards have here, though.

Honorable mentions: Seth Blair, Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton
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