Category Archives: Minor Leagues

Jon’s 2011 Cardinals All-Prospect Team

This is a post that I was interested in writing for quite some time. I’ve taken notes and considered my options. Some people do top prospect lists, like today you will find that this month’s UCB project is for us to do a top-7 prospects list. Instead of that, what I really wanted to do was identify my favorite player in the Cardinals’ system at each position in an All-Prospect team. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, many of these players are still a year or two away.

And so, with the Minor League playoffs pretty much done, I shall begin.

C Tony Cruz (.262, 4 HR, 25 RBI in 45 games at AAA Memphis) – Tony Cruz is my catcher. The 25 year old 26th round draft pick made a mark for me this season in his limited playing time in St. Louis. When Gerald Laird went down with an injury, it was Cruz that stepped into his shoes as the backup catcher and got the job done, hitting .258 in 34 appearances with the big league club. He got a September callup and I would place him as the odds on favorite to potentially be the full-time backup catcher next season for the Cardinals. It would be a cost savings over Laird and Cruz has proven himself both with the bat and the glove. The fact that Carpenter and Cruz were paired up and were successful speaks volumes about Cruz and puts him ahead of Bryan Anderson on my list.

1B Matt Adams (.300, 32 HR, 101 RBI in 115 games at AA Springfield) - Matt Adams made a name for himself this year in the Cardinals organization. He backed up a strong single-A season last year at Quad Cities with an even stronger season for the double-A Springfield team. At 23, Adams has shown that he can flat out hit. He was named the Texas League Player of the Year this year. For the Cardinals, Adams’ emergence means one of two things for the Cardinals. He provides a solid backup option in the event that Albert Pujols opts for free agency and another team. We have a slugging first baseman in the minors who can hit and while he’s not superman with the glove at first base, he is serviceable there. But if Pujols returns, he provides a valuable trade chip that many teams may be interested in acquiring, especially if he continues smacking the ball in Memphis next year.

2B Kolten Wong (.335, 5 HR, 25 RBI in 47 games at A Quad Cities) - Kolten Wong was the Cardinals’ first round draft pick this year and quickly established why the Cardinals viewed him so highly. He showed that he had an advanced bat for single-A and hit his way to a .335 batting average and featured an on base percentage over .400. While lower level numbers don’t mean as much because they are playing lesser competition, he has impressed me more than the other players. Pete Kozma had been moved to second base in Memphis and they demoted Donovan Solano to Springfield to get them both more playing time. To me, that means that neither is predicted to have much of a future in St. Louis. His defense left a little to be desired, but that can be attributed early on to adjusting to the game, the league, and the change in lifestyle. Most players improve as they develop.

SS Ryan Jackson (.278, 11 HR, 73 RBI in 135 games at AA Springfield) - Jackson had a solid year for the Cardinals and might be their solution at short stop in a couple years. He experienced a little bit of a breakout year in 2011 showing up with some power that he hadn’t previously shown at any level. Over the last few years his defense has been stepped up as well, which advances him ever closer to the major league roster. Jackson isn’t special, but he does seem to have the tools required to be a solid short stop. Those are in high demand in the major leagues today.

3B Zack Cox (.306, 13 HR, 68 RBI in 135 games between A+ Palm Beach and AA Springfield) - Zack Cox was the Cardinals’ 2010 first round draft pick and got his chance at the Arizona Fall League last year. Viewed as a rather advanced hitter, Cox has been a bit of a slow starter after each promotion. However, that hasn’t stopped him from turning in solid numbers overall. Cox is projected to have a bit more power than he’s shown, but from what I’ve read he is focusing more on getting hits and becoming a pure hitter rather than focusing on hitting for power. I love that approach. Plus, he showed up early for spring training this year to get some extra work in before the big names showed up. That plays nicely to Cardinals fans who enjoy a good, hard working player. With a major league contract already given to him, Cox burns up options every year he heads down to the minor leagues, so the team has incentives to get him to the majors as soon as possible.

LF Andrew Brown (.284, 20 HR, 73 RBI in 107 games for AAA Memphis) - Andrew Brown was one of the Cardinals’ minor league hands to get his first taste of major league action this year as he appeared in 11 games for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, he failed to really make a mark on the team, hitting just .182 during his time up. Brown can flat hit and from what I hear he has a gun for an arm. He’s got the power (no breaking into song, please). Though that arm might be better suited to right field, for some reason he has played infinitely better in left field. Why? Who knows. All I know is that the guy can hit and won’t usually embarras you with his defense. What more do you want?

CF Adron Chambers (.277, 10 HR, 44 RBI in 128 games for AAA Memphis) - Mr. Chambers is an exciting young talent for the Cardinals in the outfield. While he doesn’t have the star of a Colby Rasmus, Chambers has displayed the necessary tools to play at the major league level. He can hit for average, has a solid OBP, some speed, and plus defense. All that combines to a solid player who can truly play all three outfield positions. The only problem for him? He hits left handed, so he’s not going to make a mark as the right handed outfielder to spell Jon Jay in the outfield next season meaning that the Cardinals would prefer another player to fill the fourth outfielder role. I like everything that Chambers brings to the table, plus he has a cool sounding name.

RF Oscar Tavares (.386, 8 HR, 62 RBI in 78 games for A Quad Cities) - The 19 year old Tavares is young and that’s good. The Cardinals kept him in Quad Cities because they felt he had more things that he needed to work on refining before he got promoted, at least that was the official story. The unofficial one might be that they were having trouble dividing up playing time at Springfield and Memphis for outfielders because of their depth of solid talent there. Tavares is a bright star though, even with an adjusted batting average he won the league batting crown. He also got the majority of his playing time in RF this season and has played all three outfield spots. As he develops the next couple seasons his true potential will become clearer, but early response says that he could be a top of the order hitter, much like the guy I moved him for.

SP Shelby Miller (11-6, 2.77 ERA in 25 starts between A+ Palm Beach and AA Springfield) - At 20 years old there is no more exciting prospect in the Cardinals system than Shelby Miller, and I’m sure most would agree. If Miller puts the work in, there is almost no doubt that he will be a top level major league pitcher if he can put it together. After a suspension for violating team rules, Miller will need to work to stay away from off the field problems as well or that could further derail his speed through the Cardinals’ system. Through his time this season, Miller got promoted and got better, something that doesn’t necessarily always happen and didn’t happen to his fellow top prospect Carlos Martinez. If he keeps working on mixing up his speeds and his pitches his success will continue.

RP Jordan Swagerty (5-3, 1.83 ERA in 12 starts and 24 relief appearances between A Quad Cities, A+ Palm Beach, and AA Springfield) - Swagerty was one of the Cardinals’ big four picks from last season that saw them really begin to change their methodology when it came to selecting draft picks. While signability and cost was a factor in years previous, the Cardinals went after who they thought was the best talent and paid them what they needed to. While Swagerty started the season starting in the minor leagues, the organization moved him to the bullpen in order to limit his innings. There, he showed that he was more than capable. While he may be able to transition back into the starting role and the team will likely do that, his future role may be that of a reliever if he stays with the Cardinals organization. With the near future of the rotation looking to be Wainwright, Garcia, Miller, and Martinez that leaves one spot open that many other players will have first chance to claim. He’s moved through the system pretty quickly and has me excited about him.

The Cardinals have a lot of talent down in the minor league system. That’s a huge change from where they’ve been in recent years. While there is now a handful of top level talent in guys like Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Zack Cox, there are plenty of other guys who deserve note as well but won’t get the touting of the national media. Just because they don’t doesn’t mean they aren’t good. In fact, Matt Holliday never made a top prospect list before he broke out in the major leagues and we all know how great a player he is. The lists really mean nothing.

In the end most of the guys in the minor leagues have the necessary tools to be successful in the major leagues. It is a matter of opportunity and then putting it all together when they get there. Some guys capitalize on their opportunities, like Jon Jay. Others, like Tyler Greene, struggle to lay claim to a major league roster spot despite having it all figured out in the minor leagues. The Cardinals need to work on developing opportunities for these guys, more so than they have in the past because we actually have a solid system with true talent now.

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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Young Pups Report: June

After a lot of dedication to the MLB Draft I am back to give an update on our Young Pups. I can’t remember another year in recent memory that you have seen so much movement of our youth this early in the year. We have guys getting promoted to the big league club due to injuries, guys getting promoted and demoted in the minor league system and others getting released. We also have had the Short Season clubs getting kicked off over the past week or so which gives a lot more players to try and keep your eye on and follow which can get crazy at times…but I love it! Let’s take a look at the good in our system thru late June! Continue reading

Cardinals’ MLB Draft Recap: Day 2

After having 1 selection on Day 1 in which we took Kolten Wong out of Hawaii the Cards had a full day of picks. Wong isn’t projected to be a tough sign nor will it take much, if any, overslot to sign him. With that said I anticipated that we would take a few gambles for upside in Day 2. The day started off well with a nice selection of Charlie Tilson but very few exciting picks the rest of the day. The biggest disappointment was the amount of upside talent that we passed on throughout the 2nd Day. They went athletic with their 3rd and 4th Rd picks and made their first pitching selection in the 5th. Local product Lance Jeffries was nabbed in the 10th Rd and is quite intriguing as is 2 catching prospects in Adam Ehrlich (6) and Aramis Garcia (20). On a side note we did get some interesting names such as Martini, dual and plural last name Peoples-Walls, a kid named Dutch and a Sherriff. Here is a list of picks for the day with some comments on key players. Overall the Cards draft has not been spectacular but they are showing they want to improve on the position player side early in the draft and then after the 15th Rd they went heavy on pitching. After 30 picks I am not that thrilled as I don’t know if anyone but Wong would project to break out Top 10 prospects for 2012. Tilson has a chance but I would think he is in the teens until he can prove some things with a wood bat in pro ball. Continue reading

Cardinals’ MLB Draft Recap: Day 1

The 2011 MLB Draft got underway last night and it was like just about every draft over the years. Some teams took the obvious choices at the top, some teams reached for players and some of the “signability” guys fell. The Cardinals had been linked to a number of players leading up to the draft and ended up selecting one of them in Kolten Wong. Let’s take a closer look at this selection:

Day 1 Draft Grade: B

Kolten Wong, 2B, University of Hawaii

Wong isn’t a big guy at 5’9″ and 180lbs but don’t be fooled that he can’t handle the bat. He handles the bat from the left side just fine with good bat speed. He has an advanced approach at the plate and is a very patient hitter that has a great knowledge of the strikezone. He has a little pop in his bat but profiles more as gap power. He will spray the ball all over the field which bodes well for him in pro ball with no glaring hole at the plate that could be exploited. He has been pitched around quite a bit this year but has never shown frustation or expanded his zone which shows his maturity level. He projets as a solid 2 hole hitter as he can do it all (bunt, hit and run, hit to the right side to move a runner, etc). He also stole over 20 bags this year but his speed is just slightly above avg. He is a smart baserunner and projects as no more than a 15 SB guy but will take the extra base when possible.

On defense Wong has adequate range and arm but great insticts which makes his range look better than it actually is. He will do all the small things correct and is mentally tough. He probably will never be a gold glover but also won’t be a liability. Continue reading

2011 MLB Draft Preview: Part 3

On the eve of the 2011 MLB Draft (or like us draft nerds like to call is XMas Eve!) we will wrap up this 3 part series with a look at players of interest in the 2nd and 3rd Rds. After the 1st Rd it gets harder and harder to predict who will still be around and what bonus demands will do for some of these players. I will use my personal rankings to predict who “should” be around for each of these rounds. Also stay tuned for the Cards Draft Roundup (MLB Draft June 6-8) each day of the draft to analyze our picks and other random thoughts of the day.

Cards Picks:
2nd Rd – #79 Overall
3rd Rd – #109 Overall

Overview:

After going overslot in the 1st Rd (I predict a $2-4M sign in the 1st) I see the Cards taking a player that is signing for slot or somewhere in the ballpark of slot with their 2nd and 3rd Rd picks. I will stick with players that fit our typical draft strategy as well. Continue reading