I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
The Cardinals have long been an organization that sits in the late teens and early 20’s in prospect rankings. However, they have always seemed to get some bang for their buck, and continue to produce quality major leaguers. David Freese, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig are all guys that had little fanfare in their farm system and have contributed nicely. Now the Cardinals are getting some guys that fit into the top 50 in all of baseball, and one that fits into the top 10.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Shelby Miller (SP)- Miller is a dominant right-hander that has reached AA already at 20 years old. He is 21 now, and is a strikeout machine. At some point in 2012, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller make his debut in the big leagues. His 3 pitch mix has a chance to be plus across the board, and is in a tight race with Julio Teheran for being the best right-handed pitching prospect in the game.
2. Carlos Martinez (SP)- Martinez is a guy that kind of exploded on the scene in 2011, but the talent was there before that. He made it to high A ball by the end of the year, and his 3 pitch mix that includes a mid to upper 90’s fastball is the kind of stuff that is top of the rotation. Needs to work on stamina, and his change up to reach high ceiling.
3. Oscar Taveras (OF)- Taveras is a 19 year old OF that is really adept with a stick in his hands. He hit .386 after all in the Midwest League in 2011, which is no small feat. He doesn’t walk a ton, but doesn’t strikeout much either. His frame points to more power in the future.
4. Tyrell Jenkins (SP)- Jenkins is another 19 year old stud in the Cardinals system that is more raw than Miller and Martinez, and his ranking reflects that. Still, he has a power fastball and curve in his arsenal already, and is working on developing his change. His ideal pitching frame is tantalizing as well. Good command for someone still somewhat raw.
5. Zach Cox (3B)- Cox is a guy that looks like he will hit for average at the very least in the big leagues. I don’t see him having more than average power, but I do see him sticking at 3B. I’m not sure he has the positional value you look for out of a 3B guy, but he looks like he would fit nicely in the 2 hole as a hitter.
6. Kolten Wong (2B)- Wong looks like a guy that is somewhat similar to Zach Cox. He is going to hit for average, or at least he should. There is good plate discipline, a compact swing, and could be an above average defender at 2B.
7. Jordan Swagerty (SP)- Swagerty is a guy that could end up as a starter or a high leverage reliever. As a starter, he has a mid rotation ceiling. As a reliever, he is either a set-up man or a closer. Either way, he has low to mid-90’s heat, and a nasty slurve breaking ball that generates swings and misses.
8. Matt Adams (1B)- Adams has got a lot of thunder in his bat. He hit 32 homers in 2011. Adams manages to not strike out a ton for a power guy, in large part due to a short compact swing. He isn’t an athlete for sure, but his bat is good enough to potentially make a big league debut in 2012.
9. Trevor Rosenthal (SP)- Rosenthal has really good stuff. At least middle of the rotation quality stuff, and I am not sure why he doesn’t get more love. Still has work to do on his secondaries.
10. Lance Lynn (RP)- Lynn has developed into a productive bullpen asset. Works in the mid-90’s with his fastball, and he owns a power curve ball as well.
Sleepers: Anthony Garcia (OF) and Boone Whiting (SP). Garcia is a multi tooled youngster with potential break out ability in 2012. Whiting doesn’t wow people with stuff, but it’s good enough, and he is able to command. He gets a serious look with a good 2012 in high A.
Rebound Candidate: Seth Blair. Blair had a rough season statistically, but he has quality stuff and if he works out some kinks, he could have a much better 2012.
Verdict: The Cardinals are defending World Series Champions heading into 2012, and their cupboard isn’t bare by any means. That’s a good spot to be in. Though they lost Pujols, there is Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams, along with David Freese to hold down the corners. The real stock in the system lies in their starters though. Miller, Martinez, and Jenkins are a formidable trio. I feel like there is a lot of room for their guys to get even better, and this system could vault forward even further. There used to be a lack of athletes in the the Cardinals system, but now with the 2011 draft, they have some good athletes now as well. Tilson, along with Kenny Peoples and C.J. McElroy add athleticism to guys like Nick Longmire and the under appreciated Tommy Pham. Very comfortable with the Cardinals in the top 10.