State of the Cardinals Farm System – Recap/Overview

In the 4 part series we looked at the overall systems pitching, outfielders, infielders and catchers respectively. Now we will recap the system and give a brief write-up of the top prospects of each category. The trend across all categories is we have some exciting raw talent with minimal pro experience. Some of these guys will pan out, some will come out of nowhere to put themselves on the prospect map and some will flop. The thing about prospects is there is no such thing as a “sure thing”. Some of the most coveted prospects in baseball have never panned out (recent years look at Alex Gordon, Cameron Maybin and Brandon Wood to name a few). But the excitement for the next wave of young talent is undeniable and the best you can do is put together your best assessment based on in person scouting, video clips, other analyst write-up and anything else you can get your hands on to review the talent of a specific player. I love prospect hunting and hope the articles can get others excited as well!

Rating System:
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 Pitchers. 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.

Overall:

Star Power – 2.5
Birds Depth – 3 Birds
Overall – 3 Birds

The Cards overall Farm System has a mix of just about everything but definitely has some weaknesses as well. Catchers and power relief RHP is the strength of the system. MI, LHP and advanced OF are the key weaknesses of the system. 2010 was a critical year to restock talent after making a number of trades to deplete our system depth. The Cards Brass did a solid job of providing an influx of talent but we still lack star power. If there is one thing that will be exciting to watch over the next year is how some of these raw talents in our lower minors progress. If many progress well it will give our overall system a boast. Another critical stage of our systems growth will be another aggressive year in the 2011 Draft and IFA process. I don’t see us making any significant trades of MLB talent to get more talent in the system (Pujols WILL NOT be traded under any circumstance IMO). The 2011 Draft is being touted as one of the best and deepest draft class in recent memory. That bodes well for us being able to obtain high end talent to add to our depth. Below is a look into the top talent in each category. Enjoy!
Top Pitching Prospects:
1)Shelby Miller (RHP) – A true ace in the making. He has everything you look for in a pitcher: mound presence, maturity, intimidation, work ethic and most importantly a solid array of pitches. He won’t arrive before late 2012 and most likely 2013 but we should see him finish the year in AA with maybe a taste in AAA to finish the year. As exciting as a Cards pitching prospect since Rick Ankiel
2)Carlos Martinez (Matias) (RHP) – One of the biggest splashes the Cards have taken in the International Market (2010). A RHP with FB and command that is extremely advanced for his age (19). He throws mid-upper 90’s with movement and solid command of both sides of the plate. His secondary pitches are underrated. CB and CH project as plus pitches and his SL will be either avg or above. Still many years away.
3)Eduardo Sanchez (RHP) – To me the closer in waiting. The difference in Sanchez from Perez, Motte, Boggs, etc is his control of dominate stuff. He provides a combination of a mid-upper 90s FB to go with a hard biting CB. Should be a mainstay in the STL bullpen starting early to mid-2011.
4)Lance Lynn (RHP) – A polished workhorse from the 2008 Draft that will have a chance to get a spot start or 2 in the bigs this year. Lynn has a 4 pitch arsenal (FB, CB, SL, CH) with no pitch that will overwhelm you but all are at least avg offering. His control is iffy at times and he will give up more long balls than you want but a solid #3 SP ceiling. Has a chance to have a long career as a middle-back of the rotation asset.
5)Tyrell Jenkins (RHP) – One of the exciting 2010 Draft picks for the Cards. A raw talent that is extremely athletic. Bought him out of a football scholarship as a QB to Baylor. He was a 4+ sport athlete in HS so he never focused on one sport. Now that he has chosen baseball I anticipate the raw tools being refined and he will show what the excitement is all about. A fluid motion with a plus FB with movement. His secondary pitches need work and refinement. A true high risk/high reward prospect…something the system was lacking.
Best of the Rest (in no particular order): Adam Reifer, Deryk Hooker, John Gast, Seth Blair, Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Swagerty and Joe Kelly

Top Outfield Prospects:

1)Nick Longmire – A product of our 2010 Draft. He can play all 3 OF positions but projects best as a RF in the bigs. He will have above avg or above D skills across the board. He has both gap and HR power and plays the game the way fans and coaches love…max effort all the time. He needs to cut down on his Ks and be a little more selective but that should come with experience. Has a chance to go as high as AA if all goes well in 2011.
2)Adron Chambers – Projects best as a CF with his speed and solid D but is currently blocked by Rasmus. I am higher on his ceiling that most and see him as a solid regular in the bigs with solid leadoff hitter potential. I see him as a .280-.285 hitters with an OBP of .360+ and 30+ steals. Unfortunately with an abundance of OF in the bigs fighting for playing time I see him more as trade bait unless we deal others to make room for him. One way or another he will provide value to the Cards whether it be via trade or production in the bigs.
3)Oscar Taveras – A unique talent with plenty to like as a prospect. His stance and swing are a bit awkward and sometimes gets his rhythm out of whack. His natural ability says he could be a .300+ hitter with power but he has a lot to prove and clean up over the next few years. One of many exciting prospects in our lower minors.
4)Tommy Pham – Very athletic OF that started to put it all together in 2010. He showed a great eye at the plate in 2010 with an OBP of just under .400 between High A and AA. He will never be a power hitter but his speed will allow him to have plenty of doubles, triples and SBs. Could arrive for a cup in Sept of 2012 with a chance to make the club out of ST in 2013. Exciting talent for sure.
Best of the Rest (in no particular order): Tyler Henley, Daryl Jones, Virgil Hill, Reggie Williams Jr and Chris Edmondson

Top Infield Prospects:

1)Zack Cox (3B) – Our 1st Rd pick from the 2010 Draft was the most advanced hitter in the draft but fell to us due to signability issues. Some think he might be a 2B but I just don’t see it. Will be an avg D 3B but will hit for a solid avg and have a high OBP. His power will be modest and he won’t provide speed. Even though there are no sure things from a prospect perspective it would be hard to imagine him not becoming a productive big leaguer. Should arrive for a cup in 2012 and will be fighting for a spot on the roster out of ST in 2013.
2)Matt Carpenter (3B) – Carpenter advanced very quickly after we drafted him in 2009. I guy I was high on in College and thought he was a 5-7 Rd type of guy for the draft…we snagged him in the 13th Rd which is showing to be quite a bargain. He has shown an advanced approach at the plate with a good eye. Don’t see him being an all-star caliber player but will play a solid 3B and have a high OBP with moderate power. With Freese, Cox and Carpenter all in the mix for 3B it will be interesting to see how the Cards handle all 3 of them. I see Cox with the highest upside with Carpenter close behind and Freese as the guy keeping the position warm.
3)Daniel Descalso (2B) – Got a taste late in 2010 and will be battling for a utility spot in 2011. He won’t wow you with any of his skills but will be avg across the board. A lefty hitting 2B he is avg on D and will be a doubles hitter with a .285ish avg. Nothing special but could be a cheap option to replace Skip in 2012.
Best of the Rest (in no particular order): Ryan Jackson (SS), Pete Kozma (SS), Mark Hamilton (1B), Niko Vasquez(3B) and Matt Adams (1B)

Top Catching Prospects:

1)Audry Perez – A solid combination of defense, hitting avg and raw power. All he needs now is experience to develop his overall game. Put on the prospect map by KLaw in 2010 when he put him as the Cards 10th best prospect…no one knew anything about him at the time. After his 2010 campaign anyone paying attn to Cards prospects knows him now. Be patient as he is many years away.
2)Cody Stanley – Another 2010 Draftee that has solid skills across the board. His D is solid and he calls a nice game. He will hit for decent avg and have decent pop. Can definitely see him being a solid regular in the bigs for a long time but never make an all-star game.
3)Bryan Anderson – Everyone that remotely follows the Cards prospect scene has heard of Anderson. He was always young for his level and has played a roller coaster from his projections from year-to-year. What you like about him is he bats lefty handed and has potential to hit for a good avg with pop. The question with him continues to be his defense…will he be good enough to stay their long term? To me he will have to get traded to find out what he can do unfortunately.
Best of the Rest (in no particular order)**NOTE – I view Robert Stock as a Pitching prospect and not a Catcher**: Steven Hill, Charles Cutler and Juan Castillo

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