Oscar Taveras Responded To Move To Double-A





BEST PLAYER: When Oscar Taveras arrived at minor league spring training, three Cardinals officials, including major league manager Mike Matheny, met with the preternatural hitter and held out a carrot. A promotion to Double-A, completely skipping high Class A, was there for his taking—if he proved his defense, baserunning and fundamentals rose to that level. No one doubted his bat was ready.

Taveras, 20, responded. The organization's top hitting prospect batted .321/.380/.572, and his power bloomed with 23 homers, as he won Texas League player of the year honors. He also advanced enough defensively to handle center field regularly—including at the Futures Game—and his lapses on the bases became diminished as he led a third consecutive team to the postseason.

BEST PITCHER: Although he entered the season down the depth chart behind higher-profile prospects like Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly's pitching in a pinch put his performance on top. When an injury opened a spot in the big league rotation, Kelly leapfrogged the others to earn the assignment.

After going 2-5, 2.86 in 72 innings at Triple-A Memphis, the athletic righty with a 95-97 mph fastball provided seven consecutive quality starts in the majors and took a 5-6, 3.51 turn into the final weeks of the season. A third-round pick in 2009 out of UC Riverside, Kelly came to the Cardinals as a closer, but a move to the rotation to guarantee him innings turned into a revelation.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Colin Walsh split time between second base, left field, DH and even limited action at the infield corners this year, but his offense was a constant. Walsh batted .314/.419/.530 for low Class A Quad Cities with 16 homers and 68 RBIs. Walsh played second base at Stanford and will focus on it during instructional league, report to the Arizona Fall League as a utility fielder.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• The Cardinals called up Miller in September, with plans to use him as a reliever. It's his first time on the 40-man, and he debuted with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings.

• Outfielder Mike O'Neill won the Florida State League's batting title with a .342/.442/.417 line, and took the crown despite a mid-August promotion to Double-A Springfield. O'Neill also hit .563/.643/.719 in 13 games to help Springfield into the playoffs.