September’s UCB Project, after all the requisite UCB Weekend related postings, was the annual top-7 prospects. We don’t have to do it like that, and in the end Daniel leaves it to us to figure out what makes a prospect and what doesn’t.
Last year, I did an All-Prospect Team, pointing out my favorite players at each position in the organization. This year, I’m going to do the same. However, this year, the list takes a more distant look. Most of the players I deemed as my favorites last year spent enough time to take away that tag, was traded, or injured.
As far as what is and what isn’t a prospect, I’ll go with the definition of anyone under the age of 25 who will maintain their MLB rookie status. For those who don’t know, that’s 130 at bats, 50 innings, or 45 days of service before expanded rosters. Those 45 days is why Lance Lynn was no longer a rookie this season, though I’d have to think he’d be on the shortlist for Rookie of the Year if he had been.
It feels weird writing that “under the age of 25″ line. I wouldn’t qualify anymore and it feels like forever since I would have. Not that I’d have been on anyone’s top prospect lists. Unless, of course, it was a list of who to cut in the offseason. Or who not to draft. Anywho, let’s get going.
This isn’t necessarily a best prospect list, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a big minor league analyst. However, I like guys who consistently put up good stat lines all the way through the minor leagues. That’s what I like to see. And I’m sure that will be reflected on this list as there are some guys who would never sniff a top-10 prospect list anywhere. But they had a good season or put together a couple good years and I want to recognize that.
C Casey Rasmus
.218/.250/.308, 2 HR, 9 RBI, in 51 G between Palm Beach, Quad Cities, and Batavia
It’s a rather thin class at catcher now that Tony Cruz has advanced to the big league roster as the backup catcher and Bryan Anderson (my longtime official prospect) doesn’t qualify based on age. While Rasmus might be light hitting, I have heard good things about his defense. He threw out over 50% of would be base stealers this year. I also got the opportunity to see him play a few games of college ball and he had a pretty solid bat, despite it’s lack of transfer so far.
1B Matt Adams
.244/.286/.384, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 27 G in St. Louis
.329/.362/.624, 18 HR, 50 RBI in 67 games in Memphis
Matt Adams once again proved he had nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Thanks to injuries to Lance Berkman and Allen Craig he got the opportunity to make his big league debut in the late summer and stick on the roster for just over a month. Injuries unfortunately derailed the opportunity for him to make an impact for the Cardinals’ in September. He could be eyeballing a roster spot in 2013, but I still don’t see the room being there. With Oscar Taveras on the way and looking like the team’s future in right field, Adams may find himself with another organization in the coming year.
2B Kolten Wong
.287/.348/.405, 9 HR, 52 RBI in 126 G in Springfield
After a strong 2011 season, Wong’s numbers dipped a little bit on his promotion to Springfield, which does concern me a little bit. But I always like to keep in mind that the jump to Double-A is usually the toughest transition for a minor leaguer to make. Wong proved himself solid with the bat and very good with the glove at second base. He got an Arizona Fall League invitation and is said to be in the running for a potential starting job at second base next season. Except I don’t see that happening. I see a 2014 landing for Wong in St. Louis after a full season in Memphis. He may also end up getting a call in September as well.
SS Greg Garcia
.284/.408/.420, 10 HR, 51 RBI in 124 G in Springfield
This was a tough call. I thought briefly about Pete Kozma after his strong September performance (where he’s arguably been the best hitting shortstop in baseball). I thought about Ryan Jackson, who got the nod last year. Kolten Wong’s former college teammate gets my nod. His 2011 season caught my eye last year, but Jackson seemed like the best available and I wanted Garcia to prove that bat above Single-A. Garcia played all of his games at shortstop for Springfield this season and turned in what the stats say was a solid season with the glove. He looks to have great plate discipline as well with that .408 OBP. Ultimately there is a long way to go for Garcia to even get an opportunity to play in the big leagues as he’s currently behind Furcal, Kozma, Descalso, and Jackson on the depth chart there. Either way, he’s got some tools for me keep an eye on in the future.
3B Patrick Wisdom
.282/.373/.465, 6 HR, 32 RBI in 65 G in Batavia
This was another difficult decision. With Matt Carpenter up in the big leagues and Zack Cox being traded, there was a definitely vacuum in the system at third base. The team filled that on draft day, picking up three third basemen in the first two rounds. It came down to Wisdom or Stephen Piscotty, both first rounders, but I ended up going with Wisdom even though he did his at a lower level. The thought behind it was that Wisdom excelled defensively more than Piscotty. Wisdom shows good defense and, so far, a solid bat. I liked the new crop of draft picks. Not a lot of power in them, but plenty of guys who look to be able to handle the bat.
LF Anthony Garcia
.280/.354/.525, 19 HR, 74 RBI in 109 G in Quad Cities
Garcia showed off some power for the first time to match the hitting ability he showed in Johnson City last year where he hit .308. We won’t talk about the two-thirds of an inning he pitched (4 hits, 3 walks, 6 earned runs), but they aren’t paying him to pitch. He is still two years away from getting any kind of opportunity, but he should be fun to watch and see if those batting lines transfer up a level next year.
CF Oscar Taveras
.321/.380/.572, 23 HR, 94 RBI in 124 G in Springfield
This guy makes a second appearance on the list. Rated the #74 prospect in baseball before the 2012 season by Baseball America, I’m betting he takes a huge jump next year. I’ve heard him called the best hitting prospect in baseball and he’s certainly earned that. Last year he took the batting title in the Midwest League as he hit .386. Though he didn’t qualify by several plate appearances, he still had enough hits to take the title. This year he showed off his power hitting ability as he helped Springfield to a Texas League Championship and ended up the second consecutive Cardinals’ player to take home Player of the Year honors. There was even talk of Taveras getting a September callup this year and if he can stick in center field, he may get the opportunity to bump Jon Jay out of the lineup next season.
RF Chris Swauger
.289/.338/.448, 13 HR, 61 RBI in 103 G between Memphis and Springfield
Yet another guy not high on anyone’s list, but putting up decent numbers in the minor leagues. He showed off a decent bat and good power. He started the 2012 season in Memphis, but found himself demoted in early May to Springfield where he rebounded while he hit .296, all of his home runs, and all but one of his RBI.
SP Shelby Miller
2.35 ERA, 1-0 in 5 appearances in St. Louis
4.74 ERA, 11-10 in 27 starts in Memphis
Even a rough start to the year couldn’t knock this guy from the starting pitcher spot on my list. He regained his form mid-season and finished the season strong enough and showing enough personal growth, to receive a ticket to St. Louis in September. Despite the depth of talent at starting pitcher with Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, and Carlos Martinez giving us a lot of be excited about, none have the upside that Miller does, in my opinion. As long as he keeps learning and developing, the future is bright for him. A rotation spot will be hard to come by next year in St. Louis though. That could see him returning to Memphis or hitting the bullpen in St. Louis. My personal preference, would be in Memphis getting ready to take a slot in the rotation in case of injury.
RP Michael Wacha
0.86 ERA, 0-0 in 11 appearances in the GCL, Palm Beach and Springfield
Another of the Cardinals’ first round picks from 2012, Wacha will jump into the rotation next season after working out of the bullpen to limit his innings load after pitching his college season. Wacha was impressive out of the bullpen at every level. In the end, he struck out 40 batters in 21 innings of work. In Springfield, he struck out 17 in 8 innings. He was dominant and nearly unhittable. Hopefully, he won’t get stung by the Tommy John bug that last year’s relief pitcher pick, Jordan Swagerty, was last year.