St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Top 15 Prospects
The rest of Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects can be found on the 2013 Team Prospect Lists Bar on the right side of your screen. Thanks for reading! -BB
Bullpen Banter St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Jeff Reese: I think it’s fair to say that Oscar Taveras has proven to be better than we thought he would be; even without yet reaching the majors, I think that’s a true statement. I have underrated him in the past, but I am now a firm believer in his talents. His ability to hit has shown no signs of degradation as he’s advanced through the Cardinals system. Yet, I still do prefer Shelby Miller of the two. His AAA season wasn’t dominant like those that came before, but the PCL is a different animal and can make good young starters’ numbers look mediocre. The athleticism and stuff are all still good enough for me to project a top of the rotation starter; he showed it off briefly during his September call up, racking up a swinging strike percentage of 12.2% in a very small sample size. My preference doesn’t take away from the fact that Taveras is an elite prospect, and I was obviously overruled in their placement.
There’s a drop in quality from the top two to those beyond. Carlos Martinez & Trevor Rosenthal both have impressive fastballs that highlight their repertoire and come with doubts about whether starting is their long term role as major leaguers. Martinez has the edge in raw fastball velocity and quality of secondaries, but he’s smaller with rougher mechanics. Rosenthal meanwhile continued to perform well as a starter in the minors and thrived in his taste of the majors — albeit in the capacity of a reliever. Both will be groomed as starters, but it’s a good bet that at least one permanently takes to the bullpen. Like with Miller and Taveras, this is another grouping where you can defensibly place either player ahead of the other.
The 2012 draft represents well on this list; unsurprising given the quantity of draft picks they had within the first two rounds (six). Michael Wacha first impressed me as a Sophomore at Texas A&M when he was the Saturday night guy to ace John Stilson. He dominated off of a good fastball/changeup mix that he commanded well and pounded the lower half of the zone. Wacha’s size gives the fastball downward plane in addition to its raw velocity and good late run/sink. The change compliments the fastball well with similar movement and deceptive arm speed. The biggest question mark has always been the quality of Wacha’s breaking ball; he has a big breaking 12-5 curve ball that seems to just fall out of the sky. It lacks sharpness though and is used more as a pitch early in the count with which he can steal a strike. Improvement there will be the major obstacle for Wacha, but if you know my preferences by now, you also know that I am a believer. Carson Kelly is another favorite of mine from their class. The prep third baseman has a good feel for hitting and the power potential to make some noise offensively. Third base was a position that the Cardinals invested in heavily this draft class. Besides Kelly, St. Louis landed Stephen Piscotty & Patrick Wisdom with high selections. Piscotty is a good pure hitter out of Stanford who has the tools to play third base; his arm in particular is a major asset, but he has struggled with errors throughout his career with the Cardinal and was moved to the outfield last year in favor of Alex Blandino.
Tim Cooney improved his stock during his junior year at Wake Forest. The lefty has good athleticism with an easy arm action and a nice array of pitches: a fastball with some late action that can reach the low 90s; a cutter in the mid-to-high 80s with good, late glove side movement; a 1-7 curve ball with heavy spin and depth that can get a bit too slow at times (varying from high 60s to mid 70s); a high 70s change up with hard fading and diving action that he shows good confidence in; and a low 80s slider with 2-8 break. He aggressively attacked hitters in my look, mixing pitches well and keeping them off balance; the command was inconsistent. Perhaps the most surprising player from the draft that I saw is the lanky left-hander out of Central Missouri State, Lee Stoppelman. During the NYPL All-Star game he showed an 88-90 MPH fastball with significant arm side run, a quality change up at around 80 MPH with fade and sink, and a breaking ball around the same speed with late 1-7 break. Everything moved and he looked dominant in the inning of work. Not a top 15 prospect but certainly someone to be aware of.
Tyrell Jenkins may seem kind of low given his athleticism and the potential that he still does have. I’m skeptical at this point; between the shoulder discomfort that ended his season in late August and the lack of production to date, he’s just not someone I have a lot of confidence in right now.
It’s not the first system that you think of when discussing the best in the minors, but the Cardinals belong in that discussion.
Al Skorupa: Like Jeff, I was somewhat skeptical of Oscar Taveras in the past. Also like Jeff, I’m fully on board now. Taveras ranks first in the system for me but he’s not without his flaws. He’s nothing special in the field but does possess a strong arm, which will fit nicely in right field. His approach could still use a good deal of refinement as well. Taveras hasn’t completely abandoned the free-swinging habits of past seasons. As someone who watches a lot of minor league baseball I can assure you that minor league pitchers try like hell to pitch around the “best” hitter in a lineup (or anyone with legit power). Thus we often see free swinging prospects having great years make big jumps in walk percentage as pitchers avoid giving them much to hit. Don’t mistake me, though – Taveras is an impact major leaguer with his savage bat speed and fantastic ability to square up pitches.
Around midseason I was really down on Shelby Miller. I think the reasons were pretty obvious given his poor first half performance and stuff. This is a perfect example of the drawback of ranking prospects like this. Rankings are a snapshot of a moment in time while player values are floating up and down like a wave. Miller finished very strongly and his stuff came all the way back by the end of the season. I’m still not entirely sold on his command and control enough to project him as a #1 starter, but he’s looking like an excellent bet to be a mid to front end starter as soon as this upcoming season. Another Cardinals pitching prospect who finished strong was Trevor Rosenthal. He’s also another guy whose command and control might not be true front of the rotation quality. I still find it hard to bet against Rosenthal. He does keep getting better each year and has flashed dominant velos and a strong three pitch mix. I actually prefer Rosenthal to Carlos Martinez at this point. I’ve long leaned towards Martinez ending up in the bullpen because of mechanics, size and command & control. Martinez still probably has more electric raw stuff… but Rosenthal has improved enough that the rest of his game enough that’s he the preference now. Michael Wacha impressed me when I saw him as an amateur but the lack of a solid breaking ball held him back. While I had heard from some sources this Spring that he improved his breaking pitches, the reports from his pro debut still see it as a problem. Even if doesn’t find a breaking ball that works well it shouldn’t really prevent him from a being a quality middle of the rotation big league starter. Heck, his changeup drops so much and so late it actually resembles a good curve. What did improve this Spring was his velocity as he was low 90′s at best a couple summers ago.
Like Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong’s pure hitting ability makes him a better prospect and player than the raw tools and athleticism would indicate. Unlike Taveras, I see Wong as a good player but not a star. Stephen Piscotty has some holes in his profile I’ve discussed before. The tools aren’t there for more than a solid regular but he has a good chance to get there. James Ramsey isn’t a similar player to Piscotty but he has similar limitations on the type of pro he’s going to be. Ramsey won’t be an impact major leaguer but he plays hard and gets the most out of his tools. Ramsey is a classic tweener type and I’m not clear exactly where he fits. I can’t help but think about how well the Cards have developed similarly limited profile players in the past… so I’m not betting against either player.
This is a deep and strong farm system with future all-stars, future regulars and a good amount of guys who could develop into useful pieces. St. Louis, as usual, is set up well for the next generation of talent to filter in.
RHP Shelby Miller (Steve Fiorindo)
RHP Carlos Martinez (Steve Fiorindo)
RHP Michael Wacha (Al Skorupa)
3B Carson Kelly (Steve Fiorindo)
3B/OF Stephen Piscotty (Steve Fiorindo, Stephen Kuperman, Al Skorupa, Peter Wardell)
3B Patrick Wisdom (Jeff Reese)
RHP Tyrell Jenkins (Stephen Kuperman)
LHP Lee Stoppelman (Jeff Reese)
2B Breyvic Valeria (Jeff Reese)
LHP Tyler Melling (Jeff Reese)