The Cardinals entered 2013 with the best farm system in all of baseball, as listed by both ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America, and while the graduations of Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, and Matt Adams may have depleted it some, it is still a strong organization overall. They draw talent from all sources, acquiring their top two prospects via international free agency and the rest of the top 15 through the draft. Most impressive about the St. Louis prospect ranks, however, is the potential for immediate impact; three of their most talented prospects could be starting in the majors by May of 2014.
Triple-A: Memphis Redbirds (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Springfield Cardinals (Texas League)
High-A: Palm Beach Cardinals (Florida State League)
Class-A: Peoria Chiefs (Midwestern League)
Short-Season A: State College Spikes (New York-Penn League)
Advanced Rookie: Johnson City Cardinals
Complex-Rookie: GCL Cardinals (Gulf Coast League), DSL Cardinals (Dominican Summer League)
Patrick Wisdom – 3B
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Analysis: Wisdom is a plus defender at third with the potential to hit 25-30 home runs in the majors, but only if he can make more consistent contact. The 22 year old struck out in 29.5% of his plate appearances last year – well above big league average – en route to his poor .235 average and .313 OBP. He is either going to have to show more than 15 home run power on the field or strikeout less, otherwise he won’t put up the offensive numbers to be anything more than a defensive minded bench guy.
2014 Prognosis: Wisdom will start next season in High-A Palm Beach with a chance to move up to Double-A with some solid play.
Randall Grichuk – OF
Analysis: Grichuk was picked up by the Cardinals as the secondary piece in the trade that brought them Peter Bourjos and sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to Los Angeles. In the 2011 draft, Grichuk was taken with the pick directly preceding Mike Trout, and while he obviously can’t match Trout’s talent, Grichuk has some ability in his own right. His primary asset is power, which he has begun to show for the first time over the last couple seasons and he is also an excellent defender in the outfield, with good range and a plus arm. The question for Grichuk will be if he can get on base at a solid rate, as he hit .256 last season and showed little plate discipline (5% walk rate)
2014 Prognosis: Grichuk will probably start next season in Triple-A, and could see major league time at some point during the year.
Rob Kaminsky – LHP
Analysis: The Cardinals went for upside with their second first round pick of the 2013 draft, taking Kaminsky, a small high school left hander with a lot of potential but who will likely need to log a ton of innings in the minors before he is major league ready. The 19 year old works primarily off of a fastball that touches 95 and a hard breaking ball that could be a plus pitch down the road. He is developing a change up and while it has the capacity to be an above average offering, it lags far behind his other two pitches right now. The major concern for Kaminsky heading into the draft was durability, as his 5’11, 191 lb frame is not exactly what you would call a pitcher’s build. If it indeed becomes an issue, a future in the bullpen may be in order.
2014 Prognosis: Kaminsky will probably spend the entirety of next season in Class-A Peoria.
Lee Stoppelman – LHP
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Analysis: Most minor league relievers aren’t highly regarded prospects, but Stoppelman’s incredible numbers as a professional merit him a spot on this list. Since being drafted in 2012, the 23 year old left has posted an ERA of 1.26, a K/9 of 11.0, and a WHIP of 0.957 over 100.1 innings. Although he started last season in High-A, he reached Triple-A by the end of last season and should be in the majors by the middle of next one. He might not be a closer, but he has the ability to be a dominant set up man or at least a very good lefty specialist.
2014 Prognosis: Stoppelman will likely start next season in Triple-A, although he could be first the man on deck should an injury occur in the St. Louis bullpen.
Mike O’Neill – OF
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Analysis: It’s hard to get respect as a prospect when you’re only marginally taller and heavier than Dustin Pedroia, even harder when you didn’t reach Triple-A until the age of 25 and you’ve never hit more than two home runs in a professional season. Mike O’Neill, however, is on this list because he does one thing exceptionally well: get on base. He walked in 16% of his plate appearances – well above the major league average – leading to a .424 OBP. His to make contact is incredible, as he posted strikeout rate of just 7.8%, which was better than all but two MLB players. Turning 26 before the start of next season, O’Neill is incredibly old for a prospect, but his on base abilities could still give him a shot at success.
2014 Prognosis: The Cardinals seem to have their opening day outfield configuration set, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see O’Neill in St. Louis for an extended period of time at some point next season.