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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Alex Reyes, rhp|
|2. Tim Cooney, lhp|
|3. Jack Flaherty, rhp|
|4. Luke Weaver, rhp|
|5. Marco Gonzales, lhp|
|6. Magneuris Sierra, of|
|7. Edmundo Sosa, ss|
|8. Nick Plummer, of|
|9. Junior Fernandez, rhp|
|10. Carson Kelly, c|
Cardinals fans experienced the best regular-season team in baseball in 2015, in the tradition of the game's most consistent organization.
St. Louis reached the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, winning the National League Central for the third straight season and winning 100 games for the first time in a decade—the first team in the majors to reach the century mark since 2011.
And yet, the Cardinals team that faced the rival Cubs in the NL Division Series was not the same team that won the division. Not quite.
Left fielder Matt Holliday missed half the season with a quad injury and wasn't himself. Catcher Yadier Molina, with a ligament injury in his left thumb, did not start the elimination game of the NLDS. And instead of having Carlos Martinez, the pitching staff's hardest thrower and strikeout leader, to pitch the do-or-die Game Four, the Cardinals turned to 36-year-old ace John Lackey, working on short rest.
St. Louis fought gamely but lost the series in four games, the earliest ending to a Cardinals season since 2010. By any measure, though, manager Mike Matheny's fourth season has to be considered a success.
Matheny steered the team without former top prospect Oscar Taveras, who died in an offseason car accident in the Dominican Republic. Trading Shelby Miller to the Braves in a four-player deal yielded new right fielder Jason Heyward, who starred in all phases. The Cardinals also showcased the outfield depth to replace the impending free agent, with rookies Randal Grichuk (second on the team with 17 home runs) Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty all contributing. Lefthander Tim Cooney also provided solid production over six big league starts before an appendectomy ended his season prematurely.
St. Louis doesn't have a pressing need for big league pitchers, despite having to replace free agent Lackey. The organization's goals include finding long-term replacements for Molina and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Both are 33 and signed through 2017. Aside from the glove-first Brendan Ryan and Pete Kozma, marginal regulars at their peaks, the Cardinals haven't developed a homegrown regular at shortstop since Garry Templeton in the mid-1970s.
That was not the motivation for a second scouting-director change in two seasons, though. St. Louis had promoted Chris Correa internally from its baseball development department in December, and he oversaw a classic Cardinals draft that intermingled high-ceiling high school picks and polished college bats.
But in July, general manager John Mozeliak fired Correa in the wake of a federal investigation into whether the Cardinals illegally hacked into the personnel database of the Astros, whose GM Jeff Luhnow left the Cardinals in 2011. St. Louis hired Randy Flores, who pitched for the club as recently as 2008 but has no formal scouting experience, as scouting director in August.