St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.

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For a team that wants and needs to be more reliant on its farm system to produce talent, the Cardinals exited 2010 humbled and aware they had to make changes. They started near the top.

St. Louis contended for much of the season and sat in first place in mid-August after a series sweep of the Reds. But the team's stars—Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in the rotation—didn't get enough help from complementary players and the team wilted down the stretch. The Cardinals finished five games back of the Reds and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

After the season, St. Louis reorganized the minor league side of its front office, promoting John Vuch to farm director and reducing the responsibilities of vice president Jeff Luhnow, who had multitasked as director of both scouting and player development. The club positioned the move as a way to let Luhnow and others focus on specific responsibilities, and general manager John Mozeliak said it didn't represent a dramatic change in philosophy. But this was more than moving furniture in the executive offices.

Further shuffling reassigned two of Mozeliak's lieutenants, Gary LaRocque and Matt Slater, from the pro side to amateur and minor league overview positions. There was also an undercurrent to the moves that had its genesis in fissures between the major league and minor league staffs that dated back before GM Walt Jocketty's firing in 2007. The promotion of Vuch, a respected Cardinals lifer, and greater inclusion of pitching coach Dave Duncan in minor league decision-making are significant strides for internal unity.

The changes continued through the offseason, as assistant GM John Abbamondi left the team after three seasons to join the Padres in a non-baseball job as their director of strategy and business analysis.

Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia and Mitchell Boggs—all products of the 2005 draft—are significant parts of St. Louis' future. But after their graduations and recent trades to get players such as Holliday, the farm system is thin on talent. As the Cardinals learned at the 2010 trade deadline, when they had to use major league outfielder Ryan Ludwick to swing a deal, their system is viewed as a collection of contributors and role players but thin on high-end talent.

To turn that situation around, St. Louis added a standout college hitter (Zack Cox) and a high-ceiling high school arm (Tyrell Jenkins) in the 2010 draft. The team also added its first headline-grabbing international signing (Carlos Martinez) in recent years.

The charge now for Vuch and the restructured development staff is to mold the new talent into the next wave of prospects. The Cardinals plan a less aggressive approach to promotion going forward, and they named Mark DeJohn as field coordinator after leaving the position vacant for three seasons. They also hope to establish more standardized instruction from the top down, with members of the major league staff, such as Duncan, getting the increased influence they have sought.

Interestingly, all of the changes came in the wake of a successful season on the field for the organization's minor league affiliates, which finished 431-237, the best composite winning percentage in baseball (.569). Triple-A Memphis reached the Pacific Coast League finals a year after winning the league championship, and Rookie-level Johnson City won the Appalachian League title for the first time since 1976. Every affiliate finished .500 or better.

1.  Shelby Miller, rhp   Born: Oct. 10, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Brownwood, Texas, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Ralph Garr Jr.
Shelby MillerBackground: One of the Cardinals' representatives in the 2010 Futures Game, Miller validated his place in the organization not only with the sum of his season, but with his lone playoff start. Age 19 at the time, he promised a shutout before taking the mound—and delivered. Miller struck out five of the first six batters he faced, finished with a career-high 13 whiffs, hit 95 mph in his final inning and pitched seven scoreless innings to get low Class A Quad Cities a victory. "We saw him rise to the challenge," pitching coordinator Dyar Miller said, "in a way you can't predict." St. Louis broke from tradition to draft Miller in 2009. The 19th overall pick, he was the first prep pitcher taken in the top five rounds by the Cardinals since 2005, and the first selected in the first round by them since 1991. They did so knowing that he would command an above-slot bonus, eventually signing him for $2.875 million. St. Louis projected him as a potential No. 1 starter and thought he was mature beyond his years. As his pre-playoff pronouncement indicated, Miller embraces the lofty expectations. He turned down a Texas A&M scholarship to pursue pro ball, and he quickly made an impression on the major league staff. Though Miller had pitched just three innings in his 2009 pro debut, pitching coach Dave Duncan kept him in big league camp in March, actively seeking Grapefruit League innings for the unflappable teen to see what he could do against major leaguers. (He froze Duncan's son Chris with a changeup in one opportunity.) By the time Miller started the season, he already was considered the most talented young gun the Cardinals have had since Rick Ankiel.

Scouting Report: Miller earned his spurs as a true Texas gunslinger—a legacy he not only relishes, but invokes—by overpowering the Midwest League with his fastball. Quad Cities coaches claim he went at least his first five starts without giving up a hit on his explosive fastball, which sits at 94 mph and can regularly touch 98. Some scouts see his heater as major league-ready right now. His brawny frame and simple delivery hint at sustained and perhaps improved velocity in the future. For most of June, the Cardinals pulled Miller out of the rotation and had him throw a series of bullpens designed to manage his workload and give him a laboratory to improve his secondary pitches. He emerged from that hiatus with more faith in a tighter 12-to-6 curveball and more command of what could become a plus changeup with deception and sink. Miller's fastball hops partially because of the ease of his delivery, and he needs only to refine the consistency of his mechanics to improve his command of his pitches. He combines an aggressive disposition with a cucumber-cool poise.

The Future: Further improvement of his secondary pitches will speed Miller's ascent. He'll get another non-roster invitation to big league spring training, where his performance will determine his next stop. The Cardinals are open to Miller reaching Double-A Springfield's rotation in 2011, possibly starting the season there. Regardless, he could reach St. Louis by the end of 2012.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Quad Cities (Lo A) 7 5 3.62 24 24 0 0 104 97 7 33 140 .243
2.  Zack Cox, 3b   Born: May 9, 1989B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 215
 Drafted: Arkansas, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Jay Catalano
Zack CoxBackground: Cox was the best pure hitter in the 2010 draft, but his $6 million asking price and extra leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore allowed him to slip to the Cardinals at No. 25 overall. He signed a $3.2 million major league contract at the Aug. 16 deadline. St. Louis threw him into the Arizona Fall League after only four pro games, and he batted a respectable .262/.333/.446.

Scouting Report: Cox's balanced and refined swing enabled him to lead the Southeastern Conference and set an Arkansas record with a .429 average last spring. He modified his approach after being too home run-conscious as a freshman, flattening and shortening his stroke and using the opposite field more often. Some scouts question how much pop he'll have, but he's a gifted hitter with strength and strike-zone awareness, so he should have at least average power. Cox has the arm strength and instincts for third base, though some evaluators think his actions are better suited for second base. He has fringy speed and quickness, but he has the work ethic to improve his defense.

The Future: The Cardinals will keep Cox at third base until he shows he needs a move or a shift to second would speed his ascent. They may let him begin 2011 in low Class A, but he should get to St. Louis well before his contract forces the issue.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Cardinals (R) .400 .471 .467 15 0 6 1 0 0 1 1 3 0
3.  Carlos Martinez, rhp   Born: Sept. 21, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 165
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010Signed by: Juan Mercado
Background: Previously known as Carlos Matias, Martinez agreed to a $160,000 bonus with the Red Sox in 2009 but failed to pass a Major League Baseball investigation. MLB suspended him for a year in March 2009. His velocity soared while he was off limits, and when he became eligible to sign again the Cardinals offered him $1.5 million last June. While he went through another investigation with MLB and the U.S. consulate, he was able to pitch for St. Louis' Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate (players do not have to wait to have their contracts approved by MLB to being playing in the DSL). After confirming his identity, MLB signed off on the deal in October, and Martinez is expected to receive his visa.

Scouting Report: With an athletic frame and a whippy arm, Martinez consistently unleashes 96-99 mph fastballs in short stints. He pitches consistently in the mid-90s. His fastball has a hard, natural cutting action that has prompted some scouts to call it an 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale and already one of the best fastballs in baseball. He complements the sizzler with a sinking 86-87 mph changeup that he throws with good arm speed, and a sharp curveball that clocks in at 78-80 mph with late break. He has a sinker that hums in at 92-93 mph, but his command of the pitch is spotty. His control of his other pitches is advanced, however. Martinez will need lots of refinement, particularly with his secondary pitches.

The Future: Martinez will come to the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter, Fla., early this spring so organization coaches and officials can see him firsthand for the first time. He'll be assigned to a U.S. affiliate, possibly a full-season club if his performance merits it. His rise could mirror Shelby Miller's, and St. Louis is eager to see if he can surpass Miller's debut.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
DSL Cardinals (R) 3 2 0.76 12 12 1 0 59 28 1 14 78 .144
4.  Tyrell Jenkins, rhp   Born: July 20, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Henderson, Texas, 2010Signed by: Ralph Garr Jr.
Tyrell JenkinsBackground: Billed as the most athletic pitcher available in the 2010 draft, Jenkins turned down a football scholarship to play quarterback at Baylor to sign with St. Louis for $1.3 million, almost twice the recommended bonus for the No. 50 overall slot. He also lettered in basketball and ran a 49-second quarter-mile in a relay race—sans training. The Cardinals saw Jenkins run a sprint in a track meet, then race to the diamond and throw low-90s fastballs. In his first pro inning, he retired the side on six pitches, inducing a strikeout and two weak groundouts.

Scouting Report: Jenkins has a loose, quick delivery that fires fastballs consistently at 92-93 mph and as hard as 95. His athleticism allows him to repeat his smooth mechanics, maintain his velocity deep into games and throw strikes. As he adds strength to his frame, his velocity could climb. He has a curveball with a tight spin and projectability, and he's comfortable with a slider and changeup. However, he's relatively inexperienced on the mound and will need time to develop.

The Future:Jenkins' aptitude as a starting pitcher should rise as he gains experience. The Cardinals may start him in extended spring training to soak up instruction before moving him into the rotation at short-season Batavia or Quad Cities.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Johnson City (R) 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 .200
5.  Allen Craig, of/1b   Born: July 18, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: California, 2006 (8th round)Signed by: Dane Walker
Allen CraigBackground: Craig put himself in the Cardinals' plans with a breakout 2009 season in which he hit .322/.374/.547 at Triple-A Memphis. He made the Opening Day roster last April as a reserve, but he found it difficult to adjust to scattered playing time. Shipped back to Memphis after going 1-for-19, he found his swing and drove in 81 runs in 83 games before carrying that success to St. Louis at the end of the season.

Scouting Report: A seasoned hitter, Craig has improved his feel for the strike zone and his ability to turn on pitches. He has power to all fields and is learning the areas of the zone where he can drive pitches. When he gets regular playing time, he has shown a knack for making in-game adjustments. Craig continues to work out at third base, but he lacks range and arm strength, and the major league staff sees him as an outfielder. He has playable range on the corners and a decent arm for left field. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: The Cardinals are on the lookout for a hitter with a nose for RBIs and the power to hit 15-20 homers—and that's Craig calling. They've earmarked him for an expanded role in 2011, and he may begin the season in a right-field platoon with Jon Jay.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
St. Louis .246 .298 .412 114 12 28 7 0 4 18 9 26 0
Memphis (AAA) .320 .389 .549 306 57 98 24 2 14 81 34 59 1
6.  Lance Lynn, rhp   Born: May 12, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 250
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2008 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jay Catalano
Lance LynnBackground: A sandwich pick in 2008 and St. Louis' minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, Lynn lacked his usual consistency last season. He punctuated his up-and-down year by striking out 16 batters in a Pacific Coast League playoff game, setting a Memphis franchise record for any contest. He got the 16 whiffs in a 20-batter stretch, overpowering most with a fastball that routinely hit 95 mph.

Scouting Report: Lynn remains the prototypical Cardinals draft pick—a durable and predictable college pitcher who can be relied on to gobble innings at the back of a big league rotation. His velocity markedly increased in 2010, as he went from using a 90-92 mph sinker to a mid-90s four-seamer. He took to working high in the strike zone, an approach that won't play well in the majors. To shift his crosshairs down, St. Louis is working with his mechanics so that he's pushing the ball less and throwing downhill more. His curveball also improved last year, though he continues to work on his changeup.

The Future: Lynn did his best pitching at the end of 2010, setting the stage for him to compete for a big league job this spring. If he can't crack the Cardinals rotation, he'll return to Triple-A to get regular work and wait for an opening. He has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA) 13 10 4.77 29 29 0 0 164 164 21 62 141 .259
7.  Eduardo Sanchez, rhp   Born: Feb. 16, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 155
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005Signed by: Enrique Brito
Eduardo SanchezBackground: With little fanfare, Sanchez breezed through his three batters in the 2010 Futures Game, getting three routine groundballs on a series of 96-97 mph fastballs. It was a familiar script. Unheralded when signed out of Venezuela, the slight reliever began a meteoric rise in 2009 and continued his ascension last year, succeeding as a closer in Double-A and a set-up man in Triple-A.

Scouting Report: The engine behind Sanchez's fastball, which sits at 95-97 mph and threatens to hit 100, is an agile and consistent delivery. He has enough command and movement with his fastball to keep it down in the zone, and he gets most of his outs on grounders and strikeouts. Sanchez's slider has good depth and terrorizes righthanders, who hit .157 against him in 2010. Control troubles surfaced at times in 2009, but he did a better job throwing strikes last year. Durability remains his biggest concern, as his small frame leaves some scouts wondering how his stuff will hold up at the major league level.

The Future: Added to the 40-man roster in November, Sanchez will come to big league camp but probably open 2011 closing games at Memphis. He has a steady pulse in save situations, which will enhance his chances of sneaking into St. Louis' crowded relief picture.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Springfield (AA) 1 1 3.12 24 0 0 11 26 22 2 8 27 .232
Memphis (AAA) 0 0 1.67 26 0 0 3 27 19 2 12 31 .200
8.  Seth Blair, rhp   Born: March 3, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 185
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Aaron Krawlec
Seth BlairBackground: It's hard to imagine St. Louis going through a draft without taking a pitcher like Blair. He displayed start-to-start reliability in a top conference and Cape Cod League success, two traits the Cardinals value. After a 12-1, 3.64 All-America junior season at Arizona State, Blair went 46th overall in the 2010 draft and signed for $751,500.

Scouting Report: Blair flashes electric stuff that hits at a higher ceiling beyond his baseball-card data. He touched 98 mph in his first start last spring, and his fastball usually operates at 92-94 and tops out at 96. His heater has good life and some sink. His curveball projects as possible plus pitch, and he's working on both a changeup and cutter. He slashed his walk rate in 2010 but still floats too many pitches out of the strike zone. Cleaning up his mechanics would improve his control and make him more economical.

The Future: After throwing 106 innings in the spring, Blair took a break and didn't sign until late July, so St. Louis elected not to push his arm back into game action. He spent time at Batavia, throwing on the side and getting acclimated to pro ball, and will make his debut this spring in Class A. The Cardinals will develop him as a starter, but if he can't refine a third pitch and his command, he could become a late-inning reliever.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
9.  Jordan Swagerty, rhp   Born: July 14, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 175
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Aaron Krawlec
Jordan SwagertyBackground: Swagerty starred as both a pitcher and catcher in high school and saw action at both positions at Arizona State. Selected 29 picks after Sun Devils teammate Seth Blair last June, he used his leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore to get an above-slot $625,000 bonus in the second round. Swagerty signed too late to pitch in the minors, but did make four Arizona Fall League appearances.

Scouting Report: The Cardinals graded Swagerty's curveball as the best in the 2010 draft. He throws it in the mid-80s with both vertical and horizontal break, and it's becoming more of a hybrid pitch that he calls a slider. He relies heavily on his breaking ball, and also pounds the strike zone with a 92-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96. He'll add in an occasional changeup. He has a hitch in his delivery that adds deception, though that funkiness and his lack of size lead to concerns about whether his durability. He relished pitching the late innings as Arizona State's closer.

The Future: As evidenced by his AFL assignment, Swagerty could move swiftly. However, St. Louis may use him as a starter in 2011 to give him innings to work on his changeup and enhance his stamina. He may open his first full pro season in the Quad Cities rotation, but his future is still as a set-up man or closer.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
10.  Joe Kelly, rhp   Born: June 9, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 165
 Drafted: UC Riverside, 2009 (3rd round)Signed by: Jeff Ishii
Joe KellyBackground: Kelly set a UC Riverside record with 24 career saves, but the Cardinals made him a full-starter at the beginning of his first full pro season in 2010. It was meant to be a temporary assignment, giving him innings to improve his secondary pitches, but the results could prolong it. Kelly made adjustments with his delivery and showed enough command with his curveball to spend the entire year in Quad Cities' piggyback rotation.

Scouting Report: Kelly has an electric fastball, ranging from 93-99 mph last year, and he has touched 100 mph as a reliever. When he gets on top of the ball, he creates good sink to go along with raw velocity, and he can run his fastball in on righthanders. He throws two breaking balls, with his slider a better pitch but his curve featuring more command. Both have the potential to be above-average offerings, and his changeup has moments of effectiveness. Further improving his command will be key to Kelly's development, and his long arm action and wiry frame have some wondering if he can handle a starter's workload. When he's at his best, he generates more groundballs than strikeouts.

The Future: While his detour through the rotation has been beneficial, Kelly's future remains in the bullpen. He has closer upside and will advance to high Class A Palm Beach this year.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Quad Cities (Lo A) 6 8 4.62 26 18 0 1 103 103 3 45 92 .265

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Photo Credits:
Ed Wolfstein (Miller)