Youngsters in Spring Training

As Spring Training Winds down and all the Cardinals’ fans are itching for Opening Day let’s take a look back at how our youngsters did in Spring Training. The future of the Cards will include many of these guys, so it’s always nice to know the names, what they bring to the table and how close to the majors they are.

Keep in mind it is a small sample size, but many of these players got exposure against legit major league players so that counts for something.

The Good:

1) Matt Carpenter (3B) – Unless you have been in a cave all of Spring Training you have heard the other “Carps” name quite a bit in ST. A guy I feel could be a productive 3B for a long time in the bigs. He only tore up his roughly 50 AB’s in ST and almost won a reserve spot on the big league roster. Though he got beat out by Descalso (who we will talk about below) you got to see a player who is very close to MLB ready. He needs to work on his defense and show consistency against the higher minors competition. I personally see Carpenter being the choice if Freese were to go down for an extended period of time. He brings a high OBP, solid average and good doubles power to the table.

2) Daniel Descalso (2B/3B) – We got a glimpse of Descalso late last year and he looked like he belongs. In ST he did nothing to change that perception. Ultimately he won the reserve utility job over Carpenter which I feel was the right move. Descalso will provide a slightly above average defense at 3B or 2B and lefty bat off the bench. He is a fringe 2B starter long term but if Freese needs a day off or Skip struggles we might see Descalso a few times a week. Will be curious what happens with him once Punto is healthy.

3) Adron Chambers (OF) – A guy I am higher on than most as many see him as a 4th OF prospect. He continued off his 2010 success showing he can play with the big boys. He had a respectable average but his OBP and defense were outstanding in ST. With a logjam of outfielders he might not see the bigs until a Sept callup but if he continues to grow in the upper minors his speed and defense combo will be ready to contribute as early as mid-year.

4) Pete Kozma (SS) – We all know the story of Kozma as our #1 pick in 2007 as we let Porcello pass us by. Kozma has been extremely erratic in the minors since being drafted. The key with Kozma is consistency. If he can show his all-around game is much more consistent (which IMO is more mental than anything for him) then he can stay on the prospect map. In his limited time in ST he did show a few flashes of not giving up on him. Not sure he will be a starting shortstop in the bigs but he might be able to move over to 2B and play well there. This is a critical year for Kozma to show the Cards brass he is still worth believing in.

5) Zack Cox (3B) – Our 1st round pick from last year’s draft and being called the most advanced hitter in the draft will put a little pressure on you to move quickly. If he is nervous he sure isn’t showing it. All reports out of camp was he showed up early and stayed late and was willing to listen to the coaches and veterans to get a better understanding on how to improve. This type of attitude and approach goes a long way with coaches, veteran players, and fans. He will give you many things that Carpenter will give you with an advanced eye at the plate, good doubles power, and a solid OBP. Keep an eye on the first full year of pro ball for Cox.

6) Fernando Salas (RP) – A guy that has been a closer throughout his minor league career showed he is MLB ready right now. Though he will most likely get optioned as Brian Augenstein has also been lights out as they battle for the final bullpen spot. His stuff is not lights out but he maximizes his arsenal with a GREAT feel for how to get guys out. I see him as more of a 7th or 8th inning guy in the bigs that will always outperform his stuff. Probably the first reliever called up this year.

7) Lance Lynn (SP) – His stats in ST won’t blow you away but he showed he can get big league hitters out and have a fairly strong K rate. All positive signs. Probably the first SP that will be called up from the minors if the need arises.

8) Eduardo Sanchez (RP) – I consider him to be the closer of the future. He is a step below Salas as far as being ready for the bigs but it’s a small step. If he dominates for half a year in the upper minors he will be ready by mid-year if the need arises. Once he arrives he will most likely stick for good.

9) John Gast (SP) – A lefty from the 2010 draft class that has continued to impress since signing. I wasn’t sure he was starter material out of the draft and I think the jury is still out… though he is doing more and more to prove me wrong which is just fine with me!! Still a few years away but a guy to keep an eye on.

10) Ryan Jackson (SS) – A slick fielding SS that was knocked as a fringe hitter. He showed last year he could hold his own with the bat as long as he has the glove. With a solid year and if Kozma falters he will certainly become the best SS in the system. Impressed in camp to get the eye of the staff.

11) Adam Reifer (RP) – In his limited work in camp he showed the ability to get hitters out with a good K rate. I see him being another back of the bullpen pitcher for us which is one of our systems’ greatest strengths. A year and a half away.

12) Shelby Miller/Carlos Martinez (SP) – The two most exciting prospects in our system didn’t disappoint in camp. Both are still a few years away and Miller is ahead of Martinez from a timetable perspective. They both show top of the rotation stuff so all they need is experience. It says a lot when the coaches, veteran players and front office stops what they are doing to watch you throw a bullpen. That happened for both of these guys this spring.

The Bad:

1) Tyler Greene (SS/2B/OF) – Most have seen Greene play and not impress over the past year or so. His only saving grace is he is showing a decent ability to backup Colby Rasmus in CF and give a RH compliment (per se). His abilities always outshine his performance and I just don’t see this working out. If he is still on the big league club by mid-year, I will be surprised.

2) Mark Hamilton (1B) – An older prospect trying to do anything to get a chance in the bigs. With Albert Pujols in front of you, that is a tough task! Anyone thinking Hamilton might be able to take over the starting 1B if Pujols leaves via FA after the season is kidding themselves. The one thing he brings to the table is power and a lefty. That rings no better than a power bat off the bench long term. Not impressed.

3) Francisco Samuel (RP) – A Futures Game participant a few years ago still can’t get his control on the mound. His stuff is impressive but if you can’t throw strikes you will never make it. He still has a long way to go in that realm.

4) Joe Kelly (SP) – I like Kelly long term as a starter but he showed he is still a ways off from being ready… which shouldn’t be surprising. Some think he is better suited for the bullpen but I still see a back of the rotation starter. I was hoping to see a little better performance in ST though.

5) Maikel Cleto (RP) – The pitcher we received from the M’s for Brendan Ryan. The book on him is power arm but rarely knows where it’s going. That held true in camp as he still has a lot of work to do and might never make it.

Overall, we had plenty of bright spots from our youngsters in camp that shows we have hope for some guys over the next few years to contribute. Will be great to watch some of these kids grow this year from the lower minors to making that big jump to AA.