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Jerry’s 2011 End of Year Cards Top 7 Prospects

The UCB is doing a Top 7 Prospect listing so I thought I would throw in my 2 cents.  The Cards prospects have taken a big step forward this year with so many prospects taking a big step forward and some jumping from the lower minors to AA and beyond.  Narrowing down to the Top 7 wasn’t easy and to me there can be an major argument for many players from #5-7.  I will talk about my ranking philosophy, explain my Tier system and then get into my prospect ranking.

 Prospect Ranking Philosophy

I have always been someone that values upside over readiness but not to the extreme.  There is a lot to be said for producing in the upper minors.  I take a look at all the tools, performance, video, respected analyst and scout opinions and then my personal “gut” feeling.  I ranked CMart my #2 prospect over Cox coming into the season and have spoken extremely highly of Taveras for a year and a half now.  I have gotten a lot of criticism for those 2 things but I stick with my guns.

Prospect Tier System

I use a Bird(s) system to explain my Prospect Tiers and the Cards overall system.  I started doing this near the end of last year to give a fair representation to prospects acrossed organizations and to look back at Cards prospects from past years to have an easier system to compare them to the recent crop of prospects.

5 Birds – The elite of prospects. These prospects will be stars in the bigs AND have enough body of work in the minors to justify the top rating. From a category perspective this would be a rare rating if the system had quite a few 5 Birds Rating. Basically the elite of elite in a category.
4 Birds – Prospects that will have a solid body of work in the minors and will be above avg players in the bigs OR prospects with the upside of a 5 Birds Rating but not enough service time in the minors to justify the rating. From a category perspective this would be a category with a number of 4 and 5 Birds Ratings players. It would require a balance of depth and stardom.
3 Birds – Prospects that will be a regular in the bigs but won’t be a significant piece to the ball club. These prospects won’t be All-Stars nor will they be top of the rotation or middle of the order players. From a category perspective this would be a middle of the road category with few 4-5 Birds Rating players and plenty of 2-3 Birds Ratings.
2 Birds – Prospects that will be role players in the bigs. These prospects will bounce around from AAA to the bigs and most likely will play for many franchises over the years if they are fortunate enough to stick around. From a category perspective this would be many role/utility type players in the category with little to no star power.
1 Bird – Prospects that will be career minor leagues and may get a cup of coffee in the bigs. From a category perspective this is the ultimate insult. If you get a 1 Bird in any category you basically have very few players in the category that could even be role players in the bigs.

2011 Cards End of Year Top 7 Prospects

Now to what everyone is waiting for…the always talked about prospect ranking!  After the name of the prospect in parenthesis was my beginning of the year ranking and after his position is his Bird Tier Rating.  I also excluded any prospect that was promoted prior to September (Sanchez, Lynn, etc) even though technically many still qualify.  Let’s jump right in…

1)  Shelby Miller (1)- RHP – 5 Birds
Miller is just about everything you want in a pitching prospect…you have the size and frame, you have the mentality, you have the FB, you have the makings of a very good to great CB and CH and you have the results to back it up.  The knocks on Miller are his focus (some off the field troubles in-season) and his use of secondary stuff.  I am not worried about his secondary stuff as I have seen enough video that shows he just needs to continue to use and refine those pitches and I have no doubt it will happen.  His upside is a true ACE and anyone that knows me I am bullish on using that term.  Many consider him a Top 5 prospect at this point and there is a good argument that he is the best SP prospect in baseball.
2)  Carlos Martinez (2) – RHP – 4.5Birds
Martinez is on everyone’s radar after the year he had.  I was bullish on him being my #2 prospect coming into the season as his command was known to be pin point for his age and it didn’t hurt he consistently hit upper 90′s even late in games…but he hadn’t pitched an inning on American soil.  Well he came over to start the year and showed by everyone should be excited about him.  His FB and command were as advertised and his breaking ball shows flashes of at least a plus pitch.  His arm angle is ideal for a CH and he showed better consistency as the year went along.  His delivery seems fairly smooth (I am no pitching mechanics/delivery expert by any means) and is arm action doesn’t show any red flags.  I try to hold my expectations down just a touch so I see upside as a legit #1 starter but not quite an ACE (and yes…I think there is a difference).
3)  Oscar Taveras (15) – OF – 4 Birds
As I was high on Taveras for the past year and a half I also knew he was still very young and raw.  He grew up quickly this year (though he had a few hamstring injuries this year) as he is currently trying to lead the River Bandits to the Midwest League Championship.  When you hit .386 with an OBP of .444 for the year people start talking a lot about you.  He doesn’t walk much though he worked on that in the 2nd half of the season and did improve on strike zone judgement that will only help him as he progresses through the season.  His hit tool is off the charts for his age.  He seems to square up every ball he hits.  His power is quite there yet but is projectable to be a 20 HR guy or better.  His speed is there though he isn’t a burner.  He can handle all 3 OF positions with good arm strength and if he is able to stay in CF that just increases his overall value.  I see a middle of the order bat that plays good D if everything works out.
4)  Zack Cox (3) – 3B – 4 Birds
First off it is not “Zach” it is “Zack”…for some reason I see many people spelling his name wrong.  I was not sold on him coming into the year as a 4 Birds rating but he showed why he should be upgraded to one with his effort this year between Palm Beach and Springfield.  He is not your prototypical 3B that can mash but I do see more power coming as he continues to rise through the system (look at his 2nd half for evidence).  Another knock on him is the defensive ability at 3B…which is a very valid point but I have seen Brett Wallace and Zack Cox at 3B multiple times…and why they get the same comparison is beyond me.  Cox is a better 3B than Wallace was on his best days…and thats not saying its a guarantee he sticks at 3B either.  He is a very smart player and hitter and knows how to use the whole field.  He seems to always take a little time to adjust to each level but once he gets its he starts hitting, hitting and hitting some more.  His power is a hot topic but he has shown he has that power tucked away somewhere but he is more of a 15 HR guy than a 30 HR guy in the future.  I see an above avg overall player that will contribute in the middle of the order somewhere.
5)  Matt Adams (NR) – 1B – 3.5 Birds
Adams sure did who everyone that he can hit for avg and power this year.  He had a great year and is starting to get a little bit of National recognition as a prospect.  His fate as a Cardinal will be with Pujols’ contact situation this offseason as he is only a 1B.  As a 1B you get pressure to be an elite hitter to be competitive just at your own position.  I am not sure I see Adams as an elite hitter once he arrives but a .290ish hitter that will hit between 25-30 HR’s is realistic.  That is quite productive.
6)  Jordan Swagerty (19) – RHP – 3.5 Birds
I will admit that I never saw Swagerty as a starter but what he showed this year I am starting to believe he could be and my ranking of him represents that.  And don’t be misled by his move to the bullpen later in the year as that was a move to limit his innings.  He has a plus FB and CB and should start the year in Springfield in 2012 which could put him in the mix for a call up late in 2013 if all goes well.  His upside is a #2 starter or a closer type reliever.  Everything will depend on how his CH continues to develop but count me in as buying into the hype as a starter.
7)  Tyrell Jenkins (6) – RHP – 3.5 Birds
I ranked Jenkins quite high on my beginning of the year rankings as his upside is quite exciting.  He is super athletic (could be the most athletic pitching in all of the minors) and is quite raw.  At JC this year he did show why we should be excited about him and signs that he is learning to pitch (which is a good sign as he was a million sport star in HS so he never had the opportunity to focus on any one sport).  He had a 4:1 K to BB ratio which is GREAT to see to start his career and he had 1 K/IP.  He has a hard sinking FB, SL and CH in his arsenal and reports say his secondary pitches are developing faster than expected.  Still a project and won’t be ready until late 2014 at best.  His upside is a very good #2 SP.
Just missed list:  Ryan Jackson (SS), Kolten Wong (2B) and Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)

Cardinals Young Pups Report – August

The Cards newest member to the Organization is their 2nd Round Pick Charlie Tilson who signed at the deadline on August 15th for well over two times the recommended slot.  He is one of the more exciting picks we made in the 2011 Draft.  Welcome to the Cards Organization young man!

As the Minor League seasons are coming down the home stretch for 2011 Cards fans have to be very pleased with our system overall.  We have had a very few major disappointments and so many guys that have taken a huge step forward.  For the ranking nerds it is highly likely that the Cards system will be a Top 10 system going into 2012 which is a huge jump forward.  Let’s highlight a few of the guys on both ends of the spectrum.

The Bad:

1)  Seth Blair – RHP – The biggest disappointment in the 2011 season has to be Seth Blair and his inability to show any level of control of his pitches.  As a high draft pick you are have some many eyes on you at all times.  Blair has just over 74IP and a astounding 61BB, 11WP and 14HBP to go along with his over 5 ERA.  If you want to have a glass is half full approach then you will look at his 67K’s and convince yourself that with all the BB, WP and HBP it is remarkable he only has a 5 ERA.  Reality is he has had a TERRIBLE year.

2)  Adam Reifer – RHP – Reifer had a breakthrough 2010 campaign and showing why so many Cards prospect nerds were so high on his stuff.  Unfortunately he only had the opportunity to pitch 6+ innings in 2011 before injuring his knee and having season ending surgery.  In a year our bullpen REALLY needed some help it would have been great to have him as an option mid-year.

3)  Deryk Hooker – RHP – After a dynamite 2010 where Hooker had an ERA of just under 3 and over a K/IP he follows that up with a terrible 2011 season.  He has given up way too many hits and given up too many free passes.  That combine has lead to just under a 5.50 ERA and only 1 win.  To his credit injuries have played a part in his bad season.  I had him as being right behind Shelby Miller in the predictions of the Cards Minor League Pitcher of the Year award for 2011…DOH!

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Matt Carpenter Called Up

Matt Carpenter mad quite an impression on Cards fans in Spring Training and was one of the final cuts. Now we will get to see him wearing Cardinal Red in STL. According to Carpenters hometown paper he has been called up to STL and added to the 40 man roster (final spot). With Freese out for quite some time and Carpenter warming up at the plate this move makes a lot of sense.

Descalso has played well at 3B and been clunch late in games but he isn’t our future at 3B…perhaps 2B. Carpenter has a legit shot of taking over 3B for at least the foreseeable future.

So what does Carpenter bring to the table? He is an OBP machine and plays a solid 3B. He will not hit for much HR power but will provide plenty of doubles. I doubt they are bringing him up to play every 3rd day so we should expect to see him get every opportunity to play almost everyday.

Welcome to the bigs Mr. Carpenter!

Quad City River Bandits at Busch

Exciting news for prospect geeks like myself came out semi-recently that the Quad City River Bandits (Cards Low A affiliate) were playing Kane County Cougars (Royals Low A affiliate) at Busch Stadium on Thursday, May 26th. Tickets are all GA and are $10 and all concessions are half price. The more exciting news is Carlos Martinez is scheduled to pitch in that outing. That alone makes it worth paying $10 to get an early glimpse of the star to be in the Cards system. If you decide to go here are some key Cards prospects to keep an eye on:

Carlos Martinez – RHP – As mentioned above he will be the highlight of the night. He has Shelby Miller upside and to me is the 2nd best prospect in our system. He supports a mid-upper 90s FB with movement and very good control at only 19! His secondary stuff is underrated as he flashes a potential plus CH and CB and his SL will be at least avg long term. The word dynamite comes to mind!
Oscar Taveras – OF – He has been hit by the injury bug this year so hopefully he will be back in the lineup by the time they play next week. He has kind of an awkward stance and swing but don’t let that fool you. At worst he will have great gap power but I see more power to come as he grows. Definitely one of those exciting players that puts butts in the seats. BTW – in his limited time this year (just over 50 AB’s) he is hitting .500 with a 1.228 OPS!

Cody Stanley/Juan Castillo – C – Both of these guys are fairly exciting offensively which is a nice bonus for a C. Stanley is provides solid D both from a catch and throw perspective. Honestly I don’t know much about Castillo’s D…but hopefully I get to see him behind the plate next week.
Nick Longmire – OF - A favorite of mine from the 2010 draft he is currently playing CF but I project as more of a RF. He is struggling this year as he needs to improve on cutting down his swing and not striking out as often and show better plate discipline to take a walk more often. But the tools are there and he is definitely an exciting player.
Other Pitchers – You may or may not see depending on if they try to get some of there guys to pitch on the big stage or just play it like a normal game: Trevor Rosenthal (#3 SP in our system on upside), Justin Wright (he almost has 2K/IP) and Seth Blair (struggling mightily with his command this year).
The moral of the story is if you like to see who you might see in STL in a few years then go to the Cardinal’s website and get some tickets. Needless to say I already have my tickets and will post a recap after the game!

Cardinals Young Pups Report – April

After a little hiatus due to a busy schedule I am back to update you on what is going good in the Cardinals Farm System. I will make this a monthly post to keep everyone updated on the latest and greatest from our Young Pups! Let’s jump right in…

The Good

Eduardo Sanchez/Fernando Salas – It was about the time that these 2 guys got called up that our bullpen got much more stabilized. Coincendence? I don’t think so. These guys have been used in critical spots (men on, setup and closer situations). All they have done is come through just about every time. I will also say this once again (been saying it for a year and a half)…Eduardo Sanchez is our closer of the future and the future might not be that far away which is remarkable for a TLR run team. Sanchez has a dynamite FB that runs in the mid-90s with a wipeout SL. He definitely have a closer mentality as well…if you haven’t seen him on the mound make it a point to soon!

Adam Ottavino (Memphis) - Still holding out hope Ottavino can provide us value at the MLB level (probably as a reliever/AKA Boggs) or a nice trading chip. He has 4 starts and hasn’t went deep in any and has walked way too many guys. But he also has a K/IP and has less than a 2 ERA. He also has a respectable WHIP (1.33) for having so many BB (15 in 23IP) which is indicating he is not giving up many hits. I think he could be another power arm in the bullpen.

Ryan Jackson (Springfield) – Do we finally have a legit SS prospect in our system? Not sure I am ready to give him that label but he is extremely interesting at bare minimum. The book on him coming out of Univ of Miami a few years back was his D at SS was MLB ready right then (and yes it is extremely legit – he is SOOOO SMOOTH!) but concerns that he would never hit with wood. Some gave him an Adam Everett label. Well he is showing the ability to hit the past year+. At Springfield he is hitting over .320 with a respectable .854 OPS for a SS and an OBP of roughly .400. You add the fact that he is a legit GG caliber defender and I am asking “Where do I sign up?”!!

Matt Adams (Springfield) – Man-O-Man has he had a terrific first 5 weeks of the season for Springfield. To me he is the April MVP of our Farm System. His rankings in the system to date: 4th in AVG, 1st in H, HR and RBI’s and 2nd in SLG. That’s making things happen! Problem is he is a 1B so he won’t see more than a Sept taste this year. But if he keeps this up he will at minimum be a good trading chip…and heaven forbid we don’t sign Pujols he would be in the discussion as our 2012 1B. Thats optimistic but he is turning heads right now for sure!

Tommy Pham (Springfield) – After a really slow start he is scorching hot the last 2+ weeks. He is in the athletic mold of DJ Tools was being talking about a few years ago…lets hope he doesn’t fall off like Jones. He provides an intriguing level of power and speed with good D in the OF. Keep an eye on him this year.

Nick Additon/Scott Schneider (Springfield) – Both starters are at least intriguing from a prospect standpoint. They have both got off to great statistical starts. Additon has a WHIP of 0.76 and an ERA under 3. He is also striking out close to a batter an inning. Schneider is right behind him with a WHIP just under 1.10 with an ERA under 3…not as attractive of a K ratio though. Not sure either projects as anymore than a back of the rotation type of ceiling but no one is telling them this!

Palm Beach Staff Minus John Gast and Justin Smith – Yes this includes the already famous Shelby Miller. But it also includes Mikel Cleto (acquired from the M’s for Brendan Ryan), Eric Fornataro and Joe Kelly. Out of this group Miller has the worst ERA! Miller and Cleto are strikeout pitchers and their stats are showing that…Miller especially. If I lived in Palm Beach I would try to go see as many games as possible with this staff.

Oscar Taveras (Quad Cities) – What if I told you we had a guys hitting closer to .600 with an OPS of over 1.5 in our system? His name is Oscar Taveras…now with that said he only has 22 AB’s due to an injury (that he just came back from) but this just gives you a glimpse of his talent. Some would say he is the best position player prospect in our system…well he might be in everyone’s mind after this year.

Trevor Rosenthal/Jordan Swagerty (Quad Cities) – If you don’t know these 2 names then you better get to know them in fast order. Rosenthal is a power pitchers that has enough talent to be mentioned with the likes of Miller and Carlos Martinez in our system. He might not be quite as good as either but if you are in the same sentence as those 2…well you get my drift! Swagerty being converted to a starter from closing games at ASU as panned out well so far. I was skeptical so I am excited to date he is proving me wrong.

Justin Wright (Quad Cities) – Anytime you have a 2:1 K/IP ratio you must be mentioned! Definitely walking too many hitters but it appears each outting he has lowered his number of walks which is a good sign.

Other Notes:

  • Zack Cox is fairing fine in Palm Beach but he is showing absolutely no power (3 doubles and no 3B or HR). Its still early but something to keep an eye on
  • Carlos Martinez has not been assigned to a team…speculation is he will either go to Johnson City or Batavia which has not opened the season or announced rostes yet
  • Adron Chambers, Bryan Anderson and Pete Kozma are not fairly very well in Memphis at the moment
  • Lance Lynn has been avg at best so far in Memphis
  • Audry Perez has done fine but nothing outstanding at Palm Beach. My pick for our next solid C in the Bigs
  • Deryk Hooker and Seth Blair have been BRUTAL so far!

Matt Holliday Undergoes Appendectomy

After a challenging offseason and Spring Training that saw our best pitch require Tommy John all Cards fans were waiting for the season to start and hope it would turn our luck around. Opening Day didn’t go as well as we had hoped but the bright spots were Chris Carpenter, Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday. Well earlier today we heard that Holliday was undergoing an appendectomy and will miss at least 2 weeks and up to 6 weeks. So after validating this wasn’t just a bad April Fools joke I started to think what will the Cards do now with Holliday certainly hitting the DL?

First off let’s look at the bright side of this injury: Its only 2-6 weeks and not another injury that loses a key member of our team for the year. We are taking the glass is half full approach. Next we need to take a look at who will replace Holliday in the starting lineup? And what will our batting lineup look like without Holliday? And lastly what prospects will have a chance to get an early call? I will attempt to answer these questions though TLR is very hard to read so I might be way off base!

Who will start in place of Holliday?
To me its an obvious approach based on how TLR typically manages. Jay and Craig will share the duties and if 1 of them gets hot TLR will most likely ride out the hot streak. I personally see Craig as a bigger contributor offensively yet a step behind Jay defensively. Craig has the pop to provide a legitimate threat in the lineup. Jay will provide better overall defense but will spray the ball around and pop an occasional double. One thing is for sure…this is a great opportunity for both of these guys to showcase their growth from last year and might be a chance for opposing teams scouts to take an extended look at each for a potential trade later in the year. My vote is give Craig a chance first and see if his bat will come alive.

What will the batting lineup look without Holliday?

Another great question with a complex answer! TLR likes to shuffle the lineup so I am not sure we will see a consistent batting order. But my guess is more times than not they will stay with Theriot and Rasmus at the top and Pujols stays in teh 3 hole with Berkman sliding to the 4 hole with Freese in the 5 hole. Beyond the 5 hole is where the shuffling will happen. I would say put Craig or Jay in the 6 hole depending on who is starting. That will leave Molina and Skip going 7-8 respectively with the pitcher batting 9th.

What prospect will get the early call?
I would warn any Cards fan that the choice will most likely not be a sexy pick. I don’t think Adron Chambers is ready and there are no other upside OF’s that will be considered. To me if they choose to pick an OF it will be Stavinoha. Not that I don’t like Stavinoha it just isn’t a sexy pick. But the experience will be key and they will be looking for a bat off the bench which Stavi has shown the ability in the past to provide value in this role. But who says it will definitely be an OF that is called up? I personally think with only 1 day off for the next 2+ weeks it would be more beneficial to call up a reliever. The obvious choice is Fernando Salas who was the last cut and had a terrific spring. With McClellan maybe not ready to go more than 6 and Garcia having a very rough spring we might need an extra RP early in the year. My vote says we call up Salas and have that extra arm.

***Edit: Forgot Stavi is no longer on the 40 man roster which probably negates him getting the call. The only OF on the 40 man not on the big league club is Chambers which I don’t feel is ready. This leads me to believe Salas will be the man called up***