For this month’s project with the United Cardinal Bloggers, we are ranking what we think are the top 7 prospects in the Cardinals farm system. For this project, I’m using people that have not yet achieved rookie status (130 AB/50IP in the major leagues). This does eliminate a couple people that I would have probably had on the list. This includes Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons.
I’ll be honest. Following the minor league system for the Cardinals is not my strong suit. I try to catch a blog or two by Jim Grundy when I can, but I am not the most well-versed in the prospects, I’m going to do my best and give this a shot:
1. Carlos Martinez – He’s one of the ones in the majors right now, but I’m thinking he won’t reach rookie status this year. He’s thrown 25 and 2/3 innings mixed in between 1 start and 17 relief appearances, which includes the save in last Friday night’s game. He hasn’t had stellar numbers in the majors, with and ERA of 5.61, but he had some good numbers in the minors. His numbers in the majors aren’t indicative of his stuff recently. Split between Springfield and Memphis, he went 6-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 16 starts. He has a plus fastball, and I think that he could make an immediate impact on the major league club, not only this year, but possibly next.
2. Oscar Taveras – Oscar Taveras would have been with the club right now if he hadn’t have had season-ending ankle surgery. He’s currently rehabbing in Jupiter, FL. Before the injury, people thought he would be in the outfield next year. I don’t know if that’ll still be the case, especially if they can re-sign Beltran. He put up good numbers before his injury, going .306/.341/.462 with 5 home runs in 46 games in Memphis this year, while only committing one error from the field between center and right. Most people thing he’s going to be a right fielder, but I would like to see him maybe take over for Jay in center in two years. Next year, I think if the Cardinals don’t get Beltran back, then Craig should move to right, Adams go to first, and Taveras can pinch-hit and play off the bench for one season to learn how it is in the majors as well as make sure his ankle is ok before letting him play every day. Either way, I think he’ll be in the majors next year.
3. Kolten Wong – I bet some people will rank him higher, but I’m not that impressed with him. In the majors, he’s gotten 9 starts. He would have gotten more, but the division race is keeping him out of the lineup. In 53 at-bats with St. Louis, he’s hitting .151/.196/.170. In Memphis, however, he was hitting .303/.369/.466 before being called up. This is more indicative of what I expect he’ll do in the majors. Unfortunately, I haven’t found his defense to be great in the majors either. Matt Carpenter has out-shined him at second base on the defensive side by a long shot. That’s only based upon my eye test, but I think people smarter than I could find the stats to prove me right or wrong. People think he will make the club next year, but the only way that will happen is if Freese leaves or goes to the bench, Carpenter moves over to 3rd, and Wong takes 2nd. This might help the offensive side if Wong can get up to where he was in the minors, but I think it’ll actually hurt the defense. I think Wong won’t make a bench spot, though, as Descalso will take the main infield spot since he can play all around the infield. If Adams is an everyday player, Wong may take his bench spot, but I think that Taveras will take that spot over Wong.
4. Marco Gonzales – I know he just got drafted this year, and it’s really early to judge what he’ll be like going forward. In 8 games, 6 starts, between two different minor league clubs, He had a 2.70 ERA in 23 and 1/3 innings. The Cardinals took him 19th overall this year, and I don’t think they’ll have to wait but a year or two to see how good he’ll be moving forward. The mlb.com scouts have him rated as average, but he’ll be above average in the future. Getting a left-hander in the rotation would be nice, but I think that might happen with the guy I have at #5 first. He’s a three-pitch pitcher, and I think he’ll do great in the majors when he gets here.
5. John Gast – I think that John Gast will have a more immediate impact than Marco Gonzales, maybe if only because he has already worked some in the Majors. If there is an injury in the rotation late next season, then he may be called upon to take the spot. In the majors this year. He only pitched 3 games before having shoulder surgery to end his season. He went 2-0 with a 5.11 ERA. In Memphis, Gast went 3-1 in 7 starts with an ERA of 1.16 and never gave up a home run. He’s expected to be back between April and July sometime. He might be a September call-up either way, but I rate him lower than Marco Gonzales because his stuff isn’t rated as good, and I don’t know if he’s going to have the same long-term impact in the majors. With the same three pitches, the scouts rate him as below average and think he’ll only be average in the future.
6. Tyrell Jenkins – Jenkins has a plus fastball, but he’s got alot to work on outside of that. His other pitches and overall grade from the scouts at mlb.com have him as below average, but he has the potential to be above average since he has a plus fastball. He started 13 games in the minors this year, and got an ERA of 4.70 in 59.1 innings. These aren’t great numbers, but I think that in time he’ll be a good pitcher and could make an impact in the rotation or as a power arm out of the bullpen. Most guys with a plus fastball can thrive in the bullpen, and maybe a move there would help him. As a starter, his fastball reaches 96-97. I’d love to see what it could reach out of the ‘pen.
7. Eric Fornataro – He’s another power arm out of the bullpen. I guess I have a soft spot for them. He’s got a plus fastball and and average curve. He’s been in the system a while, getting drafted in 2008. He has the ability to be a Seth Maness-type person out of the bullpen, with a good groundout/flyout ratio. His numbers aren’t as impressive as I’d like them to be with a 5.86 ERA in 40 games in the minors this year with a 1-4 record. This is his second year in the bullpen, and I think that if he can make sure to work on control, and the Cardinals bounce the bullpen around like they did last year, then he might get a couple of appearances in the majors next year. I don’t see that happening next year, but then again, I didn’t see it this year either.
So, there’s my top 7 prospects in the Cardinals system. I guarantee someone will find me to be wrong somewhere. As I said, I don’t pay a ton of attention to the minor league system and am writing this list based upon what I’ve seen in the majors and the bit of digging I did around the minor league affiliates’ websites and stats. I hope to be seeing these players making an impact sometime in the future for the Cardinals.