Double-A Doesn't Faze Cardinals' Taveras





Best Player: At the beginning of spring training, the Cardinals' management, including major league manager Mike Matheny, spoke to outfielder Oscar Taveras about the chance he'd have to skip high Class A and play at Double-A Springfield. They put the advanced assignment out there as a carrot. Taveras chomped. A teen phenom who turned 20 in June, Taveras started July with the best average in the Texas League (.323) and the highest slugging percentage in the organization (.607). His 17 homers and 60 RBIs led his team and validated his place as the Cardinals' top position prospect and a preternatural hitter who, if the rest of his game develops, could see the majors at some point in 2013, at age 21.

Biggest Leap Forward: A hard-throwing closer when he left UC Riverside as the Cardinals' third-round pick in 2009, righthander Joe Kelly was shifted to the rotation to get him scheduled innings to work on his secondary stuff. He was supposed to move back into the bullpen as he advanced. That didn't happen. Less than 12 months removed from high Class A, Kelly vaulted to the majors as a fill-in for Jaime Garcia. Kelly, 23, was 2-5, 2.86 in Pacific Coast League before going 1-0, 3.38 in his first four major league starts. He reintroduced a power slider to his game and stayed with a fastball that can cook in the mid 90s. With another off-speed pitch, he's remained as a starter with stuff, and this turn as a sub could position him for a breakout spot in a big-league bullpen that needs a boost.

Biggest Disappointment: The Cardinals' concerns for their top prospect, righthander Shelby Miller, started during the winter when officials saw the weight Miller had lost as a result of an offseason program. A coach visited Miller to rework his workouts and nutrition to regain lost strength before spring, but the repercussions continued there. Miller spent the early season looking for his velocity, a result of a hitch in his mechanics as much as his strength. The Cardinals gave Miller (4-6, 5.70) a midseason break from a start to refine his mechanics and they instituted a no-shake rule so that he would have to use his secondary pitches and not lean heavily on his fastball.

Redbird Chirps

• With 13 of their 14 picks from the top 10 rounds of the June draft signed, the Cardinals had already overspent their assigned draft bonus cap. Dan Kantrovitz, the team's director of amateur scouting, said the team was willing to pay a financial penalty in order to spend between 1 percent and 5 percent more than the cap. They expect to sign all 14 top-10 round picks.

• The Cardinals' two first-round picks, righthander Michael Wacha and outfielder James Ramsey, will be teammates at high Class A Palm Beach eventually. Ramsey debuted there less than four days after signing his contract. Wacha was scheduled to throw at least twice for the Rookie-level GCL Cardinals before moving into the Palm Beach rotation.