Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals' Farm System

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 7, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals' Farm System

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    Amid the chaos of this week’s highly disappointing winter meetings in Nashville, I’ve continued with my offseason rankings of each organization’s top 10 prospects. Having recently ranked both the Toronto Blue Jays’ and Texas Rangers’ respective farm systems, I thought that I’d conclude the week with another organization whom I believe is worthy of a top-five overall ranking.

    The St. Louis Cardinals’ impressive system is highlighted the game’s best pure hitter, outfielder Oscar Taveras, who garnered MVP honors in the Texas League (Double-A) last year, his age-20 season, after leading the league with a .321 batting average and 67 extra-base hits.

    Beyond Taveras, the Cardinals boast numerous, highly projectable right-handed pitchers in Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, each of whom are on pace to reach the major leagues within the next two seasons. Their depth on the mound also put the team in a unique position to execute a trade at some point during the 2013 season, if the need arises.

    With a host of early-round picks in the 2012 draft, the organization netted four of their top-10 prospects: Wacha, Steve Bean, Stephen Piscotty and Carson Kelly—and that doesn’t include their first-overall selection, outfielder James Ramsey.

10. 3B Carson Kelly

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 7/14/1994 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2012 (Westview HS, Oregon)

    ETA: 2016

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: One of the younger players in the 2012 draft class, Kelly didn’t turn 18 until July; 6’2”, 200-pounder is physically strong but not especially athletic; also received draft consideration for his low-90s fastball off the bump; it may take patience, but his bat, more specifically his power, could be worth the wait.

    Right-handed hitter batted just .225/263/.399 in 56-game professional debut for rookie-level Johnson City, which, when considering his age and the jump from high school to minors, isn’t particularly worrisome; drives his hands through the baseball with ease; above-average-to-plus bat speed thanks to strong wrists and forearms; lack of experience against quality secondary pitches is obvious, but will improve with experience; too much pre-pitch movement with his hands that will need to be simplified next season.

    Will have to work hard to improve defense at the hot corner; average athlete who could gain a step and become more agile with the right training; flashes a good glove for his age and has more than enough arm strength for the position.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Rookie-level Johnson City

9. RHP Tyrell Jenkins

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 7/20/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 192

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Henderson HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: At 6’4”, 192 pounds, Jenkins is still more of a raw athlete than pitcher at this point; has developed slower than expected since signing, which isn’t surprising given his lack of mound time as a prep; battled shoulder fatigue and a strained lat during the 2012 season, will need to improve offseason training and conditioning; lean, athletic frame is highly projectable, as is his smooth, whippy arm; high release point may need to be tweaked in order to improve his overall command.

    Fluid arm action results in a mid-90s fastball that explodes out of his hand; struggles to locate the pitch and get ahead in counts; breaking ball can be too loopy at times and doesn’t draw as many whiffs as it should; feel for his changeup has improved, though there’s still a long way to go in terms of command his full arsenal.

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Palm Beach

8. 3B Stephen Piscotty

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 1/14/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Stanford)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Spent entire professional debut at Low-A Quad Cities where he showcased the advanced hit tool and plate discipline that made him a supplemental first-rounder; 6’3”, 210-pounder has a highly projectable frame that should allow him to add strength and hit for more power under guidance of big league coaches; bat will hopefully outweigh any ongoing defensive concerns.

    A right-handed hitter, scouts loved Piscotty’s refined approach and ability to use the whole field while at Stanford; demonstrates patience at the plate as he works deep counts and seemingly waits for specific pitches; rarely cheats himself and chases offerings, especially offspeed ones, out of the zone; has plenty of gap power but lacks the pop commonly associated with a third baseman; is physically strong and should be able to jump the yard more frequently by adding a little loft to his swing.

    Defense will need to improve as he’s not a clean fit at third base beyond his above-average arm; speed and range are adequate at best and he’ll seemingly be forced to rely on instincts; footwork and overall rhythm can be choppy and rushed, and he’ll need to demonstrate softer hands in coming seasons.

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Palm Beach

7. C Steve Bean

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    Position: C

    DOB: 9/15/1993 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Rockwall HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2016

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: A 6’2”, 190-pound, left-handed hitting catcher, Bean quietly possesses one of the higher ceiling in the organization; highly athletic with the tools and baseball IQ to be an impact player in all realms of the game; struggled in rookie-level Appalachian League (.125/.263/.213 in 24 games) before thriving following a slight demotion to the Gulf Coast League (.320/.424/.400 with 11/8 K/BB in 15 games).

    Considering his lack of experience, Bean showcased plate discipline beyond his years in pro debut; pitch recognition is solid but there’s room to improve regarding secondary pitches; compact and pretty left-handed stroke aided by an up-the-middle/opposite-field approach; present gap power should evolve into slightly above-average pop by the time he reaches major leagues.

    Receiving skills are still raw and he drew praise for how he handles pitches; athleticism accounts for impressive agility behind the plate; currently will box too many balls but nothing that won’t improve with experience; biggest defensive asset is plus arm highlighted by a smooth arm stroke and quick release; needs to streamline throws with more consistency rather than relying on sheer arm strength.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Peoria

6. 2B Kolten Wong

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 190

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Hawaii)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: A rare second-base-only first-round draft pick, the Cardinals selected Wong in 2011 for his overall polish both in the field and at the dish; potential top-of-the-order, left-handed bat capable of hitting for average and getting on base; high baseball IQ allows him to make quick, in-game adjustments which should aid his success as a major leaguer.

    Left-handed hitter understands the strike zone and drives to ball from line-to-line with a direct bat path; may need to simplify his load/timing mechanism, but it hasn’t hindered his production thus far; hit tools projects to be above-average while his power should be good for 10-15 home runs per season; doesn’t possesses typical up-the-middle speed, but is a smart baserunner who knows how to swipe a bag.

    Defense at second base is nearly big-league-ready; have never been impressed by his range at the position, but he compensates with true instincts and a good first step; hands and actions are smooth and consistent, though he needs more refinement backhanding ground balls; lack of arm strength limits him to a career at second base.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Triple-A Memphis

5. RHP Carlos Martinez

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 9/21/1991 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’, 165

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: April, 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 20-year-old opened the season at High-A before landing on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis; was promoted to Double-A starting rotation upon his return with no lingering issues; registered a 2.90 ERA in 71.1 innings with sharp command, though his strikeout rate dropped to 7.32 K/9.

    Undersized right-hander boasts a plus fastball in the mid-to-upper-90s thanks to a lightning-quick arm and explosive delivery; still has a few kinks to iron out in his delivery which should improve his overall command; secondary pitches are still on the raw side but flash above-average-to-plus potential; curveball is a hammer when he’s throwing it from a consistent release point; changeup should be a major asset given his excellent velocity and blinding arm speed.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Double-A Memphis

4. RHP Trevor Rosenthal

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 5/29/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 21st round, 2009 (Cowley County Community College, Kansas)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Rosenthal enjoyed a stellar breakout campaign that saw him begin the season in the Double-A rotation and finish as a main cog in the Cardinals’ bullpen; registered a 2.97 ERA, 6.4 H/9 and 7.9 K/9 in 94 innings at Double-A before promotion to majors; put himself on the national radar with lights-out performance in 2012 postseason: allowed two hits and two walks while recording 15 strikeouts in 8.2 innings; highest ceiling is as a starter, though he may be back in the bullpen in 2013.

    As a starter, the right-hander’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper-90s with lots of sink and arm-side movement; delivery is rather stress-free relative to his power arm; will sit in the high-90s and routinely hit triple-digits in shorter, bullpen stints; breaking ball is a second plus pitch with late, wipeout break out of the zone; changeup is an average offering that he’ll need as a starter, but somewhat unnecessary as a late-inning reliever.

    2013 Opening Day Level: MLB

3. RHP Michael Wacha

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 7/1/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 195

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Texas A&M)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: At 6’6”, 195 pounds, Wacha has an ideal pitcher’s frame that should allow him to add strength without sacrificing athleticism; was dominant in his professional debut after signing, registering a 0.86 ERA, 3.4 H/9, 17.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 over 21 innings; fanned 17 batters in eight innings upon reaching Double-A.

    Despite his lankiness, Wacha repeats his delivery well with minimal wasted movement; fastball was clocking mid-to-upper-90s this past summer out of the bullpen; more of a low-to-mid-90s guy as a starter; changeup continues to be his best offering and could be a legitimate plus-plus offering by the time he’s big-league-ready; was repeatedly criticized for lack of a true third pitch at time of draft, but curveball was much better than expected in pro debut; flashes potential to be an average-to-above-average pitch and significantly improves the chances he reaches his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Double-A Springfield

2. RHP Shelby Miller

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Brownwood HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Regarded as one of baseball’s top pitching prospects headed into the season, Miller had a frustrating first-half at Triple-A Memphis; left too many fastballs up in the zone without effectively mixing in secondary pitches; registered a 7.91 ERA in June before finally turning the corner the following month; everything clicked in August (2.91 ERA in 37.1 innings) when he recorded 53/4 K/BB; was impressive as a Sept. call-up; held Reds to one hit over six innings in only big-league start.

    Miller uses a rhythmic and repeatable delivery, exploding towards the plate following a modest foot strike; fastball is actually pretty straight, but it’s one of those rare swing-and-miss heaters that draws whiffs at 92-95 mph; commands the pitch well throughout the strike zone; works inside to both right and left-handed hitters; curveball will need to get sharper, but offers a difficult look when thrown off his well-located fastball; with more refinement, his low-to-mid-80s changeup could emerge as a viable weapon next season.

    2013 Opening Day Level: MLB

1. OF Oscar Taveras

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 6/19/1992

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 (Age: 20)

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: Nov., 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: The purest hitter in all the minor leagues, Taveras was named the MVP of the Texas League last year in his age-20 season; led the league in both batting average (.321) and extra-base hits (67); has all the makings of a future superstar with an outstanding hit tool, plate discipline beyond his years and unparalleled barrel-to-ball ability.

    A left-handed hitter, Taveras employs a powerful yet balanced swing; keeps bat head in the zone for an extended period of time without sacrificing pop; began to tap into his power last season against advanced competition and posted a career-best 23 home runs; extra-base machine who makes loud contact to all fields; comfortable hitting any pitch in any count; doesn’t walk a ton, but strikeouts will always be minimal given his pitch recognition and excellent hand-eye coordination.

    Capable of playing all three outfield positions, the Cardinals will likely keep Taveras in center for the moment where his bat offers the most value; honestly, his bat profiles best at whatever position will get him in the lineup; average runner but his routes in the outfield have improved over the last year, as have his reads and jumps as a baserunner.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Triple-A Memphis