Kolten Wong (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

S2S 2012 Team Prospect Lists: St. Louis Cardinals

With the S2S 2012 Top 100 Prospects List now in the books, it’s time to take a closer look at the future of each team. And that means team prospect lists!

Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.

St. Louis Cardinals

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will state up front that I didn’t expect much when I started looking at the Cardinals but this system is in much better shape than I thought when I started my research. By the time I had my preliminary list put together I was amazed how much I had been underselling the upside, depth, and balance present here. The Cardinals have a good mix of assets in the fold. There are guys who got a taste of the majors in 2011 and are primed to contribute in 2012 and there are guys with notable intrigue and upside that are a ways away. There are a number of high powered, electric arms in the starting ranks – led by one of the game’s best in Shelby Miller – as well as a good mix of less-flashy back of the rotation guys and some quality relief candidates.

The upside among the position players isn’t as great as on the mound but St. Louis has one of the better collections of OF prospect talent that I’ve come across  and they also legitimately went at least three deep at every position on my initial list. For the record the Cardinals are the 9th organization I’ve covered for our team prospect lists and it’s the first that doesn’t have a glaring hole at one (or more) positions. A strong 2011 draft class certainly helped augment the ranks and as an added bonus, it featured one of my favorite pre-draft prospects in Kolten Wong.

If I were ranking the systems 1-30 I’d put the Cardinals just inside the Top-10 based on what I’ve found in my reading, research and statistical analysis. If that seems high to you, consider that my unbiased, data-based ranking of the systems using Top-100 lists had the Cardinals ranked #8.

Position Player Upside: B
Position Player Depth: A-
Pitching Upside: A
Pitching Depth: B+
System Grade: B+

Catcher – Robert Stock (22):  Hit 0.240/.314/.330, 10 2B, 2 HR, 23 BB and 23 SO in 230 PA (58 G) with Quad Cities (A) and Palm Beach (A+). You were probably expecting Cody Stanley or perhaps Tony Cruz, but I think Stock has the best chance to develop into a  quality major league catcher. With the bat he has excellent strike zone awareness and a solid approach at the plate. Stock has also shown some power potential at times in high school, college and in the Appalachian League in 2009 after signing. He has solid defensive skills with a strong arm and did not make an error or allow a passed ball in 2011. The overall statline in 2011 is a little deceiving due to  a poor 16 game stint in the Midwest League, but he was much better in the FSL hitting 0.262/.339/.349 in 171 PA. Even his rough patch with Quad Cities is understandable since he spent the first month and a half of the season on the DL with a knee injury and was knocking the rust off before being promoted. With just 189 minor league games under his belt since he was the team’s 2nd round pick in 2009, a full season of health and consistency will get him back on the prospect map where he belongs.

First base – Matt Adams (23):  Hit 0.300/.357/.566, 23 2B, 32 HR, 40 BB and 90 SO in 513 PA (115 G) with Springfield (AA). Adams has hit 54 HR in the last two seasons combined. As his 2011 Texas League MVP award can attest, he handled the jump from Low-A to Double-A and didn’t skip a beat. Adams has hit better than 0.300 at all four stops, held serve on his 2010 OBP and increased his SLG for the 3rd year in a row. He struggled in the AFL with a disappointing 28-3 SO-to-BB but he’s otherwise shown an above average K% for a power bat and had the best BB% of his career in 2011. At 6’3″ and 230 lbs he’s a big boy, doesn’t run that well and has subpar range but he’s developed into a solid defensive 1B overall. Given the improvement he’s shown each season while moving up the ladder there’s little reason to believe he will  fall short of his projection as a solid to above-average everyday 1B in the majors.

Second base – Kolten Wong (21):  Hit 0.335/.401/.510, 15 2B, 5 HR, 9 SB, 21 BB, 24 SO in 222 PA (47 G) with Quad Cities. If you read this site, you’re already aware that Nathaniel and I don’t agree (respectfully of course) on his ranking of Brian Dozier in our Top-100. What you might not be aware of is that I lobbied hard for him to pull Dozier in favor of Wong. Obviously I failed in those efforts, but Nathaniel didn’t give a lot of “rankings love” to guys with limited pro experience so his position fit with his methodology. A methodology that I’m not encumbered by here. Wong makes excellent, solid contact, has good gap power to all fields and is adept at handling the bat in all situations. He’s willing to take a walk, is hard to strike out and is an all-around heady and instinctual player. Kolten also has above average speed and all the tools needed to be an above average defensive 2B as well. He does everything well and has no weaknesses. Nathaniel may want more data but I have no doubt in my mind that Kolten Wong is a future All-Star in the making.

Third base – Zack Cox (22):  Hit 0.306/.363/.434, 27 2B, 13 HR, 40 BB and 98 SO in 569 PA (135 G) with Palm Beach and Springfield. The Cardinals 1st round pick (25th overall) in the 2010 draft is coming off his first full season as a professional and handled himself very well while reaching Double-A. Similar to Kolten Wong, he’s a natural and instinctual hitter that should have no trouble staying above the 0.300 threshold once he’s established in the majors. While his range and defensive instincts are currently marginal, he has plenty of arm to stay at 3B and should be able to stay there long term. He doesn’t have the thunder that you’d like in a corner infield bat but I believe he will provide better power than most are giving him credit for, especially given his natural aptitude for hitting.

Shortstop – Ryan Jackson (23):  Hit 0.278/.334/.415, 34 2B, 11 HR, 44 BB and 91 SO in 599 PA (133 G) with Springfield. Yet another very instinctual player, Jackson differs from Cox, Wong and Adams because his natural talents shine the brightest when he’s out in the field. He has all the defensive tools you could want out of a major league shortstop with soft hands, outstanding range and a plus arm. The unknown for Jackson’s future has always centered around his bat but after a rough debut season in 2009 with Batavia, he’s hit 0.278 each of the last two seasons and showed surprising pop with 48 XBH in 133 games. Jackson also slightly improved his K rate from 16% in 2010 to 15.2% in 2011 and did so while making the jump to Double-A. As good as he is defensively, he doesn’t need to do much with the bat to have a shot as a major league regular but if the offensive gains he showed this past season persist going forward he’ll all but eliminate the potential utility player label that some sources slap on him.

Outfielder #1 – Oscar Taveras (19):  Hit 0.386/.444/.584, 27 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 32 BB and 52 SO in 347 PA (78 G) with Quad Cities. In my Top-100 Prospect List Showdown series, Taveras was ranked on 5 of the 6 lists I examined and generally in the 30-40 range. That’s high praise for a 19 year old from the Dominican. Of course finishing with the highest batting average in the Midwest League last season didn’t hurt his cause. He’s another instinctual and advanced hitter with a knack for making solid contact. Taveras has average speed, an average arm and projects to possibly have average power down the road. He’s capable of playing all three OF positions but will probably wind up in a corner by the time he reaches St. Louis.

Outfielder #2 – C.J. McElroy (18):  Hit 0.228/.303/.278, 2 2B, 8 SB, 7 BB and 15 SO in 89 PA (23 G) the GCL Cardinals (Rk). The team’s 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft, C.J. signed for $510,000 and left a chance to play D-I football at the collegiate level behind. The son of former major league reliever, Chuck, C.J. put his plus-plus speed on display swiping 8 bases in his first 23 games as a pro. He doesn’t have much power but has a solid swing and a good approach at the plate. Defensively he has a below average arm but has outstanding range and is an excellent athlete overall.

Outfielder #3 – Lance Jeffries (18):  Hit 0.256/.363/.376, 8 2B, 12 SB, 15 BB and 48 SO in 147 PA (44 G) with the GCL Cardinals. Another HS product from the 2011 draft, the Cardinals didn’t have to go far to scout him since he played at McCluer HS in the St. Louis area. He averaged 1.1 SO per game in his first pro season which is a bit of a concern but he also stole 12 bases and got on-base at a good clip. In terms of tools he has plus speed, plus range and more than enough arm for center and enough to play either corner. Despite his 5’9″ and 185 lb frame Jeffries has natural strength, excellent bat speed and some nice power potential. He’s a bit of a project and there is a great deal of risk that he’ll flame out, but he has outstanding upside and could be a special player.

Starting Pitcher #1 – RHP Shelby Miller (21):  2.77 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 53 BB and 170 SO in 139.2 IP (25 GS) with Palm Beach and Springfield. What more can you say about Miller that hasn’t been said before? He’s a consensus top-10 prospect that came in at #4 overall on Baseball Instinct’s list and #8 on the Seedlings to Stars Top-100. I was a huge fan of his going into the 2009 draft and was flat out astounded that he made it to the Cardinals who snapped him up with the 19th pick overall. He already has three plus pitches, advanced command and has maintained H/9 and BB/9 as he’s advanced. His SO rates fell off a bit in Double-A but he still struck out 89 in 86.2 IP which is outstanding and he’s only 20 years old. He’s a future ace plain and simple, and yes I’m still a huge fan.

Starting Pitcher #2 – RHP Tyrell Jenkins (19):  3.86 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 13 BB and 55 SO in 56.0 IP (11 GS) with Johnson City (Rk). Martinez (see just below) is generally regarded as the team’s second best pitching prospect but I like Jenkins quite a bit better. A naturally gifted athlete, Tyrell was a four-sport star in high school and passed on a D-I football scholarship with Baylor University to sign with St Louis out of the 2010 draft. He wasn’t overwhelmed in his first extended pro season and turned in a strong 2.1 BB/9 though he may have been around the plate a little too much by allowing 63 hits in his 56 innings of work. Jenkins already throws in the 92-96 range with his fastball and his secondary pitches – curveball and changeup – show some potential. Jenkins is quite a ways off but he’s very projectable which combined with his top-shelf athleticism and 6’4″ frame makes me believe that he can reach his ceiling as a #1 starter.

Starting Pitcher #3 – RHP Carlos Martinez (20):  3.93 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 44 BB and 98 SO in 84.2 IP (18 GS) with Quad Cities and Palm Beach. Ranking him behind Jenkins is probably a case of being a prisoner to the stats, at least in part but there’s no denying that Martinez has an elite level arm. He features an upper-90s fastball, low-90s sinker, plus curve and developing changeup. Carlos rolled through Quad Cities in just 8 starts but met with some struggles once he reached Palm Beach. Those struggles included a jump in his H/9 and BB/9 that pushed him to a 5.28 ERA in 10 starts. I don’t anticipate those struggles will persist but his smaller 6’0″, 165 lb frame does raise some questions about his durability, especially given how hard he throws and how much effort he uses in his delivery. He could develop into a #1 starter but of the three pitchers listed so far I think he’s the most likely to flame out due to injury or other problems along the way.

Starting Pitcher #4 – RHP Trevor Rosenthal (21):  4.11 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 39 BB and 133 SO in 120.1 IP (22 GS) with Quad Cities. Let’s start off with the bad news; Rosenthal does not have a #1 ceiling like Miller, Jenkins and Martinez. Instead he profiles as a #2 starter with his three pitch mix that includes a mid 90s fastball, a mid-80s slider that can generate plenty of swings-and-misses and a changeup that made a lot of progress in the last year. Born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri he’s a local kid from the Kansas City side of the state which immediately makes me a huge fan. His ERA from the last season is very misleading as his 3.04 FIP and 3.08 SIERA are better indicators of the quality of his 2011 efforts. In most systems he’d be the top pitching prospect and a much more well known commodity, but he flies under the radar in this system. Nathaniel ranked him #92 in our Top-100 and Baseball Instinct had him all the way up at #43.

Starting Pitcher #5 – RHP Joe Kelly (23):  3.68 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 59 BB and 113 SO in 132.0 IP (23 G/22 GS) with Palm Beach and Springfield. Armed with a mid-90s sinking fastball that tops out around 98-100, a hard slider, changeup and just for show curveball he’s an intriguing arm but he’s several years older than the four guys above him and did not handle a mid-season promotion to Double-A. He could develop into a #3/#4 starter but at 6’1″ and 165 lbs there are durability questions and a move to the bullpen might be in his future.

Relief Pitcher #1 – RHP Lance Lynn (24):  3.84 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 25 BB and 64 SO in 75.0 IP (12 GS) with Memphis (AAA) and a 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11 BB and 40 SO in 34.2 IP (18 G/2 GS) in the majors. Lynn would be a solid back of the rotation prospect, but he seemed to take to relief in the majors and may have found a long term home in the bullpen given the state of the major league rotation and the quality of arms coming up behind him in the minors. In relief he worked primarily off his mid-90s fastball that can touch 98 and a 77-80 mph curveball but he also has a slider and changeup from his days as a starter.

Relief Pitcher #2 – RHP Eduardo Sanchez (23):  2.45 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 2 BB and 6 SO in 7.1 IP (5 G) with Springfield and Memphis as well as a 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 16 BB and 35 SO in 30.0 IP (26 G) in the majors. The Cardinals are in an enviable spot when it comes to their relief prospects on this list as both of them reached and pitched effectively in the majors and both figure to be bullpen assets with St. Louis in 2012. Sanchez was even better than Lynn in the majors but was sidelined by a shoulder injury that shut him down after his appearance on June 12th. He returned briefly to make three appearances in July and another at the end of September. Sanchez features a mid-90s fastball and also a curveball that averages about 79 mph (scouting reports say it’s a slider but Pitch f/x has it listed as a curveball). His shoulder didn’t require surgery and shouldn’t hold him back from contributing at the major league level in 2012.

Best of the Rest

In addition to the 15 players above and the 10 players that follow, a number of others stood out and received strong consideration. I could have added at least another five players to this section, but we’re limiting it to ten so I had to make some very tough choices.
  • #1) RHP Jordan Swagerty (22):  1.83 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 23 BB and 89 SO in 93.2 IP (36 G/12 GS) with Quad Cities, Palm Beach and Springfield. I wanted to put Swagerty somewhere up above but I wasn’t sure whether to classify him as a starter or a reliever. To resolve that dilemma I put him here. He throws a mid-90s sinking fastball but his true weapon is a hybrid mid-80s slider/curve that gets adjectives such as “nasty” and “wicked” attached to it on a regular basis. The team’s 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft he sailed through three levels in his first minor league season. I think he could succeed in either role with the upside of a #3 starter or a lockdown reliever.
  • #2) 3B Matt Carpenter (26):  Hit 0.300/.417/.463, 29 2B, 12 HR, 5 SB, 84 BB and 68 SO in 535 PA (130 G) with Memphis and also went 1-15 in his first major league action. Carpenter handled Triple-A without a problem and walked 16 more times than he struck out. The batting average and on-base skills are legit as is the doubles power. Unfortunately his defense isn’t up to par with his bat and he’s already 26. At worst, Carpenter should be able to carve out a career as a bat off the bench in the majors but may get a look as a starter if he finds the right situation.
  • #3) OF Charlie Tilson (19):  Hit 0.333/.400/.407, 2 2B, 1 SB, 3 BB and 4 SO in 30 PA (8 G) with Johnson City and the GCL Cardinals. Tilson is the third OF prospect to make this list from the 2011 draft class but he was the first one selected (2nd round). While I like McElroy and Jeffries better, I think it’s a close call between the three. Tilson has plus speed, good range and a slightly above average arm but it’s unknown what he can do at the plate with average bat speed and little power. As an amateur he displayed good plate discipline but it remains to be seen how that will play as a professional.
  • #4) RHP Maikel Cleto (22):  3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 65 BB and 135 SO in 134.2 IP (25 G/24 GS) with Palm Beach, Springfield and Memphis. Cleto also made his major league debut in 2011 throwing 4.1 innings in relief for the Cardinals (stats not mentioned to protect the innocent). Nathaniel aggressively ranked Cleto #82 in our Top-100 and is a big fan. I’m not as high on him but there’s no denying his fastball that scrapes triple-digits and mid-80s curveball. If he can develop his changeup and improve his control he could be something truly special.
  • #5) LHP John Gast (23):  4.02 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 61 BB and 113 SO in 161.1 IP (26 G/25 GS) with Palm Beach and Springfield. As the top left-handed pitching prospect in the system, Gast deserved to be on this list somewhere. With a low-90s fastball, curve and changeup that are all assets he has the stuff to sit in the middle of a major league rotation but he needs to improve both his command and control to reach that ceiling.
  • #6) C Cody Stanley (23):  Hit 0.264/.317/.425, 24 2B, 11 HR, 4 SB, 27 BB and 92 SO in 413 PA (101 G) with Quad Cities. Stanley had a hot bat in May and July but was otherwise lackluster at the plate. While he gets good reviews defensively, he needs to show more offensively to be anything more than a major league backup.
  • #7) RHP Boone Whiting (22):  2.41 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 24 BB and 122 SO in 119.2 IP (30 G/14 GS) with Quad Cities. In addition to the  wonderful stat line, Whiting has a plus changeup and outstanding command of his pitches.
  • #8) OF Anthony Garcia (20):  Hit 0.308/.407/.527, 14 2B, 6 HR, 4 SB, 21 BB and 36 SO in 216 PA (51 G) with Johnson City. The Cardinals 18th round pick from the 2009 draft, Garcia is a converted catcher who put up an impressive stat line in the Appalachian League as a 19-year old.
  • #9) OF Adron Chambers (25):  Hit 0.277/.368/.415, 19 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 22 SB, 53 BB and 90 SO in 501 PA (128 G) with Memphis and also went 3-8 in 18 games with the Cardinals. A contact hitter with above average speed and a good arm, Chambers is ready to help St. Louis as a 4th outfielder and could make the Opening Day roster in that role. If he lives up to that role the Cardinals will have gotten excellent value out of their 38th round pick in the 2007 draft.
  • #10) 2B Breyvic Valera (19):  Hit 0.311/.368/.410, 9 2B, 14 SB, 15 BB and 26 SO in 204 PA (47 G) with the GCL Cardinals and Johnson City. Signed out of Venezuela on May 16th of 2010, Valera has hit a combined 0.319/.386/.443 in 107 games in rookie ball and should get a chance to take on A-ball this season.


The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.

For more on the Cardinals, check out Redbird Rants.

You can follow us on Twitter @Seedlings2Stars and yours truly @thebaseballfish. You can also keep up to date with all things S2S by liking our Facebook page.

Tags: Adron Chambers Anthony Garcia Boone Whiting Breyvic Valera C.J. McElroy Carlos Martinez Charlie Tilson Cody Stanley Eduardo Sanchez Joe Kelly John Gast Jordan Swagerty Kolten Wong Lance Jeffries Lance Lynn Maikel Cleto Matt Adams Matt Carpenter Oscar Taveras Robert Stock Ryan Jackson Shelby Miller St. Louis Cardinals Trevor Rosenthal Tyrell Jenkins Zack Cox

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