Tag Archives: Kolten Wong

2012 Preview: Shortstop

For the Cardinals, the Opening Day starter at shortstop is pretty well assured. That would be Rafael Furcal. A mid-season addition at the trade deadline for the Cardinals in 2011, Furcal provided a significant upgrade to the defense at shortstop for the Cardinals. It was a steadying glove when the Cardinals needed one most.

The oft-injured Furcal was in the final year of his previous deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Furcal had a $12 million club option on his contract for 2012 that could automatically vest with 600 plate appearances. Since he ended up with just 356 between the Dodgers and the Cardinals, the Cardinals’ declined the option and made him a free agent. Eventually, they brought him back as their first post-Pujols deal for 2 years at $7 million a piece.

This could be a very short preview post. You see, because of the injuries that Furcal has suffered over the last 4-5 years, it’s hard to get a good read on what kind of player the Cardinals’ can expect Furcal to be.
Continue reading

2012 Preview: Second Base

Second base looks to be one of the more interesting positions in 2012. The perceived incumbent, Skip Schumaker, is looking at more of a utility role than in years past while both Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene have been mentioned as potential starters by Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak. It certainly looks to be the only real positional battle for the Cards entering spring training and it will be one that will have clearly defined battle lines.

Greene, 28, is one of the most polarizing young Cardinals. In fact, a few of us bloggers were discussing him on Twitter today. A few thinking he is the breakout Cardinal of the year while myself and a couple others still question just what type of player he is.

A former first round pick, most of the interest in Greene has been created by the numbers he’s put up the last three years in the minor leagues. What happened three years ago, he turned 25, the age where you start taking the “prospect” tag away from a minor league player. If he hasn’t shown up by then, will he ever? Going into the 2009 season, Greene’s career line in the minor leagues was a paltry .254/.323/.414. His defense is below average at what people would call his “natural position,” short stop.
Continue reading

Cardinals announce non-roster invites

In addition to the 40 man roster, major league teams typically invite other players in their organization to participate in Spring Training as non-roster invites. The Cardinals have invited 19 additional players to Jupiter. The 2011 list includes 10 pitchers, 5 catchers, 4 infielders, and no outfielders.

This doesn’t mean that guys like 3B Zack Cox and OF Adron Chambers aren’t invited, they are already on the 40 man roster and therefore should already be there.

Teams also usually invite a large number of catchers from the organization because they have a lot of pitchers needing to get their work in.

The Cardinals have also invited RHP Carlos Martinez and OF Oscar Taveras along with OF Lance Jeffries, OF C.J. McElroy, OF Charlie Tilson, and IF Kenny Peoples-Wall to report early for major league camp.

Pitchers: LHP John Gast, LHP Nick Greenwood, RHP Tyrell Jenkins, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Victor Marte, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Kevin Siegrist, RHP Jordan Swagerty, and LHP R.J. Swindle.

Catchers: Luis De La Cruz, Koyie Hill, Steven Hill, Cody Stanley, Robert Stock

Infielders: 1B Matt Adams, SS Ryan Jackson, 2B Eugenio Velez, 2B Kolten Wong

Outfielders: None

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)

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!

Continue reading