2012 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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St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals had less than 72 hours to enjoy the improbability of their World Series championship before the inevitability of their future interrupted the celebrations.

Good thing they had been planning ahead.

Two days after St. Louis dispatched the Rangers in Game Seven of a riveting World Series, three-time MVP and St. Louis icon Albert Pujols became a free agent for the first time as a pro. The next morning, manager Tony LaRussa retired after 33 years in the dugout, the final 16 of which were spent with the Cardinals.

St. Louis will attempt to re-sign Pujols, but LaRussa's departure hastens what's been a steady identity shift for the franchise, from a veteran-studded roster to a streamlined one with higher-paid core players at the top and a growing stream of less expensive youngsters ready to provide increased impact.

"One of the things we've tried to really focus on over the last four or five years is really make sure that our minor league system is going to be able to produce some everyday players or middle- to top-of-the-rotation type starters," Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said. "Happy to say, we believe our pipeline is very strong, and so if this is an Albert-less club in the future, we still think we have a lot of positives coming."

The first hints of that came late in 2011 as the St. Louis overcame a 10½-game deficit on Aug. 25 to win the National League wild card on the final day of the regular season. Several contributors in that unexpected run were either developed by the Cardinals or acquired in exchange for their prospects.

St. Louis put the finishing touches on NL Championship Series and World Series MVP David Freese, a St. Louis native acquired as a Class A third baseman from the Padres in exchange for Jim Edmonds. Allen Craig, a 2006 eighth-round pick, homered three times in the World Series, including the go-ahead shot in Game Seven. He also stole a homer with an over-the-wall catch in the Series finale and he caught the final out as one of seven homegrown players on the field at the time.

Jason Motte finished that game and closed out five postseason victories. Lefty Jaime Garcia went 3-0 in September and pitched seven shutout innings of Game Two of the World Series. Colby Rasmus, three times the system's top-ranked prospect, stalled but was dealt to the Blue Jays for key pieces Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson and Marc Rzepczynski.

As they searched for a new manager, the Cardinals put an emphasis on a leader comfortable with integrating and nurturing youth. He will inherit not only most of a roster that won the 11th title in franchise history, but also what looks like St. Louis' best crop of minor league talent in more than two decades. That group is headlined by righthanders Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, outfielder Oscar Taveras and second baseman Kolten Wong.

Mozeliak encouraged his amateur scouts to seek out speed, athleticism and middle infielders in the 2011 draft. The result was Wong (first round), center fielder Charlie Tilson (second round) and outfielder C.J. McElroy Jr. (third). Wong played for a Midwest League championship team at low Class A Quad Cities, and Rookie-level Johnson City affiliate won its second consecutive Appalachian League title.

1. Shelby Miller, RHP Born: Oct 10, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Brownwood (Texas) HS, 2009 (1st round).  Signed by: Ralph Garr Jr.
Background: The Cardinals' most heralded righthanded pitching prospect in nearly two decades, Miller spent most of the summer hearing from coaches how he needed to embrace his secondary pitches for the good of his development. It was only halfway through the season that pitching coordinator Dyar Miller wondered: "What if he doesn't? Maybe the fastball is good to get him there." It's that good. Miller may be able to ride his fastball all the way to the majors, where he's expected to arrive in the near future. The 19th overall pick in 2009, he became the first high school pitcher selected in the first five rounds by St. Louis since 2005 and the first prep arm taken in the first round by the club since 1991, when St. Louis selected Brian Barber with the third of three first-rounders. Signed for $2.875 million, Miller hasn't wilted under the hype. In his two full pro seasons, he has ranked as the No. 1 pitching prospect in each of his three leagues. His only difficulty came in August, when an alcohol-related incident led to a weeklong suspension. The Cardinals were pleased how he responded to the punishment. In his final start of the year, he struck out nine in eight scoreless innings to punctuate what St. Louis hopes was a season of maturation both on and off the mound.

Scouting Report: Miller embraces his Texas gunslinger lineage and has the heat and mound presence to match. His overpowering fastball cooks consistently in the mid-90s and spikes to 97 mph. The fastball comes with late sinking and boring life that's just as notable as its velocity, and the ease of his delivery makes it seem to explode on hitter. Both Miller's curveball and changeup could become plus pitches with further refinement. His high-70s curveball has tight drop and his mid-80s changeup has nice fade that allows it to slide in on lefthanders. He limited lefty batters to a .202 average and one home run in 228 at-bats last year. The Cardinals hoped his midseason jump to Double-A Springfield would reinforce their insistence that he utilize his secondary offerings more often and effectively. For a while he pitched with an offspeed pitch quota, even if his curve and changeup got hit, and both came out the better for it. True to the organization's preference, Miller has pitches that invite meek contact, and he has proven economical even when he gets fastball-happy. Throughout the 2011 season, he showed improved stamina and sustained velocity. As his brawny frame continues to fill out, he'll be able to maintain his power and his command later into games. He's a good athlete who might have punted in college had he followed through on a baseball scholarship from Texas A&M.

The Future: Set for his third consecutive invitation to big league camp, Miller could open the season in the Triple-A Memphis rotation if he has a strong spring. He'll have to display increased dexterity with his secondary pitches to succeed at the highest levels. He could earn a callup to St. Louis late in the 2012 season and claim a permanent job in the majors in 2013. He's an ace-caliber starter and the most talented pitcher the Cardinals have developed since Rick Ankiel.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'09 Quad Cities (LoA) 0 0 6.00 2 2 0 3 5 3 2 0 2 2 .357
'10 Quad Cities (LoA) 7 5 3.62 24 24 0 104 97 51 42 7 33 140 .237
'11 Palm Beach (HiA) 2 3 2.89 9 9 0 53 40 20 17 2 20 81 .201
'11 Springfield, MO (AA) 9 3 2.70 16 16 0 87 72 28 26 2 33 89 .217
Minor League Totals 18 11 3.17 51 51 0 247 214 214 87 11 88 312 .224

2. Carlos Martinez, RHP Born: Sep 21, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 165
Signed:Dominican Republic '10 Signed by: Juan Mercado.
Background: The Red Sox originally signed the righthander then known as Carlos Matias for $160,000 in 2009, but he failed to pass an MLB investigation because his name didn't match his paperwork. The Cardinals helped him piece together the required proof, then signed him for $1.5 million in April 2010. In his first season in the United States, he pitched in the 2011 Futures Game and reached high Class A Palm Beach at age 19.

Scouting Report: Martinez has an easy delivery, an overpowering fastball and plenty of bravado. His four-seam fastball routinely sits in the upper 90s and reaches 100 mph, even late in games. He also can fire a sinker at 92-93 mph. After he was pushed to high Class A, his mechanics faltered and his command followed. Martinez has a devastating curveball at times, but it was more loopy after he got to Palm Beach. He also has a changeup that features some fade but loses effectiveness when he throws it too hard. Some scouts wonder if his size lends itself to the durability needed in a starter, though he does have wiry strength.

The Future: Martinez will return to high Class A to get his delivery and command back on track. Once he does, St. Louis may have a hard time holding him back. He has the ingredients to become a frontline starter or a closer.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'10 Cardinals (R) 3 2 0.76 12 12 0 59 28 8 5 1 14 78 .137
'11 Quad Cities (LoA) 3 2 2.33 8 8 0 39 27 10 10 1 14 50 .189
'11 Palm Beach (HiA) 3 3 5.28 10 10 0 46 49 31 27 2 30 48 .262
Minor League Totals 9 7 2.63 30 30 0 144 104 104 42 4 58 176 .194

3. Oscar Taveras, OF Born: Jun 19, 1992 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180
Signed: Dominican Republic '08. Signed by: Juan Mercdo.
Background: Another product of the Cardinals' revived presence in Latin America, Taveras signed for $145,000 as a 16-year-old. Not yet 20, he won the Midwest League batting title in 2011 with a .386 average, the highest in the low Class A circuit since Deacon Jones hit .409 in 1956.

Scouting Report: The verb most often used to describe Taveras' game is "barrel," because of his preternatural ability to get good wood on pitches in all areas of the strike zone. His fluid mechanics and superb eye-hand coordination aid a swing that stays balanced as it sweeps through the zone. He's an aggressive swinger but doesn't strike out much. His line drives to the gap hint at the average power he'll have as he matures. Taveras has played all three outfield positions, though his average speed and solid arm will point him toward right field. He remained at Quad Cities all year because his baserunning and defense weren't ready for a promotion, and at times his effort waned.

The Future: To gauge what they had in their teen phenom, the Cardinals shipped him to the Arizona Fall League as the second-youngest player there. He started slowly but caught up quick. He could make the leap to Double-A in 2012, and if his power continues to develop, he'll profile as a No. 3 hitter.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Cardinals (R) 237 35 61 13 8 1 42 28 36 9 4 .257 .338 .392
'10 Cardinals (R) 30 1 5 1 0 0 2 1 5 1 0 .167 .194 .200
'10 Johnson City (R) 211 39 68 13 3 8 43 12 41 8 5 .322 .362 .526
'11 Quad Cities (LoA) 308 52 119 27 5 8 62 32 52 1 4 .386 .444 .584
Minor League Totals 786 127 253 54 16 17 149 73 134 19 13 .322 .381 .496

4. Zack Cox, 3B Born: May 09, 1989 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Arkansas, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Jay Catalano.
Background: Cox parlayed his status as the best pure hitter in the 2010 draft and his extra leverage as a sophomore into a $3.2 million big league contract that included a $2 million bonus. He quickly reached Double-A in his first full pro season, batting .335/.388/.500 in his final 61 games after a slow start.

Scouting Report: Cox's initial struggles at Double-A came because he was bending too much at his waist, cheating to reach outside pitches and growing vulnerable to inside ones. A more upright stance allowed him to pull pitches with more power. Scouts believe he'll continue to hit for average, though whether he'll have more than average power is a subject of debate. Cox made strides at third base once he settled his feet. He has the arm to handle the position, though he'll need to continue to refine the footwork to enhance his range. Some evaluators have wondered if he'd fit better at second base, though his lack of quickness would seem to make that a stretch. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Cox will begin 2012 in Double-A with the expectation that he'll be in Triple-A by midseason. Another potential No. 3 hitter, he could earn his first big league callup in September, though David Freese looms ahead of him in St. Louis.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'10 Cardinals (R) 15 0 6 1 0 0 1 1 3 0 0 .400 .471 .467
'11 Palm Beach (HiA) 164 22 55 8 0 3 20 11 29 2 2 .335 .380 .439
'11 Springfield, MO (AA) 352 54 103 19 0 10 48 29 69 0 1 .293 .355 .432
Minor League Totals 531 76 164 28 0 13 69 41 101 2 3 .309 .366 .435

5. Kolten Wong, 2B Born: Oct 10, 1990 B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Hawaii, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Matt Swanson.
Background: Twenty-five years after they last drafted a second baseman in the first round (Luis Alicea), the Cardinals did it again because they were so smitten with Wong's bat. He had won the MVP award in the wood-bat Cape Cod League in 2010 before hitting .378 at Hawaii last spring. The 23rd overall pick last June, Wong signed quickly for $1.3 million and helped lead Quad Cities to the Midwest League championship.

Scouting Report: Wong's short, strong frame hides a compact swing with unexpected pop and his innate ability to hit for a high average. He uncoils to generate line drives from corner to corner and could grow into 15-homer power. He brings a savvy to the plate that includes the ability to bunt or hit-and-run and the patience to draw walks. Wong is not a burner, but he's aggressive and instinctual enough to steal a few bases with slightly above-average speed. He has a plus arm for second base, along with solid range and improving footwork.

The Future: St. Louis may send Wong to Double-A for his first full professional season. The Cardinals haven't had an all-star second baseman since Tommy Herr drove in 110 runs in 1985, but Wong could put an to that drought in the near future. He could be big league-ready by 2013.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Quad Cities (LoA) 194 39 65 15 2 5 25 21 24 9 5 .335 .401 .510
Minor League Totals 194 39 65 15 2 5 25 21 24 9 5 .335 .401 .510

6. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP Born: Jul 20, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Henderson (Texas) HS, 2010 (1rst round supplemental).  Signed by: Ralph Garr Jr.
Background: Jenkins could have been running routes as a Baylor wide receiver instead of strong-arming Rookie-level Johnson City to a second consecutive Appalachian League title. A four-sport star in high school, he turned down a football scholarship to sign for $1.3 million as the 50th overall pick in the 2010 draft. The youngest player on the Johnson City roster, he drew plaudits from scouts as the Appy League's best pitching prospect.

Scouting Report: Jenkins has a lithe and loose but raw delivery that was all high leg kick and arm when he came out of high school. It has become more traditional, as he uses his legs more and puts less stress on his arm, also resulting in improved command. He works both sides of the plate with his fastball, sitting at 91-93 mph and touching 95-96 with increased regularity. Jenkins abandoned his slider in 2011, favoring a 12-to-6 curveball with tighter spin. He also is developing a changeup.

The Future: The Cardinals are setting a deliberate path for Jenkins, one that could put him two levels behind Carlos Martinez. More time in extended spring training is possible in 2012, though a stretch in low Class A at some point during the season is the goal. He'll require patience but ultimately could develop into a frontline starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'10 Johnson City (R) 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 3 2 0 0 0 2 2 .182
'11 Johnson City (R) 4 2 3.86 11 11 0 56 63 33 24 3 13 55 .273
Minor League Totals 4 2 3.66 13 13 0 59 65 65 24 3 15 57 .269

7. Lance Lynn, RHP Born: May 12, 1987 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 250
Drafted: Mississippi, 2008 (1st round supplemental).  Signed by: Jay Catalano.
Background: Lynn made his name as a workhorse who never missed a scheduled start after signing for $938,000 as a 2008 sandwich pick, but he was a revelation as a reliever in the majors. His performance was reminiscent, in short bursts, of his 16-strikeout start in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs in 2010, an outing he describes as the day "everything finally came together at once." After missing the rest of the regular season after straining his oblique in early August, he returned to earn victories in the National League Championship Series and World Series.

Scouting Report: As a starter, Lynn mixed a darting 88-92 mph sinker, a curveball that could get loopy and a so-so changeup. As a reliever, he became more aggressive with a four-seam fastball that sits around 93 mph and zooms as high as 98 with late life. He also developed a harder, sharper curve that gave him a true second weapon. He has created more downhill plane with less rotation on his delivery, an adjustment that improved his command.

The Future: Long thought of as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater, he has rewritten his future with the stuff he showed when not encumbered by multiple innings. The Cardinals have five starting pitchers returning in 2012, earmarking Lynn for set-up duty.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Batavia (SS) 1 0 0.96 6 4 0 19 12 5 2 0 4 22 .176
'08 Quad Cities (LoA) 0 1 2.25 2 2 0 8 8 2 2 2 2 7 .250
'09 Palm Beach (HiA) 0 0 2.30 5 2 0 16 16 4 4 0 3 17 .254
'09 Springfield, MO (AA) 11 4 2.92 22 22 0 126 117 51 41 5 51 98 .236
'09 Memphis (AAA) 0 0 2.70 1 1 0 7 5 2 2 0 3 9 .200
'10 Memphis (AAA) 13 10 4.77 29 29 0 164 164 96 87 21 62 141 .250
'11 Memphis (AAA) 7 3 3.84 12 12 0 75 79 33 32 2 25 64 .260
'11 St. Louis (MAJ) 1 1 3.12 18 2 1 35 25 12 12 3 11 40 .194
Major League Totals 1 1 3.09 18 2 1 35 25 25 12 3 11 40 .192
Minor League Totals 32 18 3.69 77 72 0 415 401 401 170 30 150 358 .244

8. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP Born: Feb 16, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170
Signed: Venezuela '05. Signed by: Enrique Brito
Background: Less than a year after pitching a perfect inning in the 2010 Futures Game, Sanchez made quick work of his major league debut and validated a new frontier for the Cardinals with each pitch. He became the first signee from the organization's expanded Caribbean presence to reach the majors. He received a cameo at closer and settled in as a hard-throwing set-up man before a shoulder injury in mid-June all but ended his season.

Scouting Report: Sanchez's stuff is far more imposing than his reed-thin frame. He repeatedly delivers 94-95 mph fastballs and can reach back for upper-90s heat. His fastball has natural movement that he exploits further by commanding the pitch to both sides of the plate and down in the strike zone. Sanchez's hard, quick slider handcuffs righthanders, who hit .136 with 24 strikeouts in 59 at-bats against him in the majors. He already has shown he can dominate big leaguers as long as he's throwing strikes, which becomes a problem at times.

The Future: Sanchez's shoulder soreness relented late in the season, though St. Louis left him off its playoff roster. He won't need surgery and should have a normal offseason. He's a near lock to make the big league bullpen in 2012, with his role to be determined.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'06 Cardinals (R) 1 2 8.71 19 2 0 31 47 33 30 3 24 38 .336
'07 Cardinals (R) 0 1 1.50 7 0 3 6 2 2 1 0 6 7 .100
'07 Johnson City (R) 2 1 1.17 12 0 5 15 8 2 2 0 3 22 .148
'08 Quad Cities (LoA) 5 1 2.86 24 5 1 57 40 23 18 1 25 55 .190
'09 Palm Beach (HiA) 0 1 1.44 19 0 3 25 12 4 4 2 5 26 .138
'09 Springfield, MO (AA) 2 0 2.70 41 0 10 50 32 16 15 4 20 56 .176
'10 Springfield, MO (AA) 1 1 3.12 24 0 11 26 22 13 9 2 8 27 .220
'10 Memphis (AAA) 0 0 1.67 26 0 3 27 19 7 5 2 12 31 .190
'11 Memphis (AAA) 1 0 0.00 2 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000
'11 Springfield, MO (AA) 0 1 4.15 3 0 0 4 3 3 2 0 2 3 .188
'11 St. Louis (MAJ) 3 1 1.80 26 0 5 30 14 6 6 1 16 35 .135
Major League Totals 3 1 1.80 26 0 5 30 14 14 6 1 16 35 .135
Minor League Totals 12 8 3.17 177 7 36 244 185 185 86 14 105 268 .202

9. Matt Adams, 1B Born: Aug 31, 1988 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 230
Drafted: Slippery Rock (Pa.), 2009 (23rd round).  Signed by: Brian Hopkins.
Background: Adams starred at Slippery Rock (Pa.), leading NCAA Division II in hitting (.495) in 2009 while setting school records for single-season and career (.454) batting average. Signed for $25,000 as a 23rd-round pick, he moved from catcher to first base and hasn't stopped hitting. He won the Texas League MVP award in 2011, setting a Springfield record with 32 homers and leading the Double-A circuit with 101 RBIs and a .566 slugging percentage.

Scouting Report: Adams has a hulking frame but doesn't rely solely on muscle to catapult his moonshot homers. He has a compact swing that doesn't need an uppercut or loop to create distance. A coach called the stroke foolproof because it gives him the ability to punish more than mistakes. One scout likened him to Freddie Freeman with more power and less defense. Though he's big and has below-average speed and quickness, Adams has improved defensively and shows soft hands and an accurate arm.

The Future: There's a starting spot waiting for Adams in Triple-A, though his long-term role will be influenced by what happens in St. Louis. If the Cardinals can re-sign Albert Pujols, Adams will have to move to the outfield—which might be a stretch—or move in a trade to have value. He has powered his way into becoming an asset either way.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Johnson City (R) 115 15 42 6 0 6 25 9 20 0 0 .365 .406 .574
'09 Batavia (SS) 130 16 45 11 0 4 27 11 21 0 0 .346 .394 .523
'10 Quad Cities (LoA) 464 71 144 41 0 22 88 33 78 5 1 .310 .355 .541
'11 Springfield, MO (AA) 463 80 139 23 2 32 101 40 90 0 1 .300 .357 .566
Minor League Totals 1172 182 370 81 2 64 241 93 209 5 2 .316 .365 .552

10. Jordan Swagerty, RHP Born: Jul 14, 1989 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175
Drafted: Arizona State, 2010 (2nd round).  Signed by:
Background: A college closer, Swagerty began 2011 with a standout turn as a starter in Class A. The Cardinals wanted to give him regular innings and time to develop his pitches. Only when his innings started to climb did St. Louis shift him to the bullpen, where he posted a 1.64 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 27 innings.

Scouting Report: St. Louis graded Swagerty's breaking ball as the best curveball in the 2010 draft. It's actually more of a hybrid that he calls a slider, but it's nasty by any name, a mid-80s offering that breaks down and away from righthanders. His time as a starter allowed him to become more effective with his fastball and add a useful changeup. When he comes out of the bullpen, his heater sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96. Swagerty has some funkiness in his delivery and a slight build. Both lead to concerns about his durability, questions somewhat dispelled by his stamina in 12 starts.

The Future: Swagerty soared through three levels in 2011, finishing the season as a Double-A closer. The Cardinals remain intrigued by him as a starter, thought that would require more development time compared to expediting him as a reliever. He has the upside of a No. 3 starter or closer.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Quad Cities (LoA) 3 1 1.50 5 5 0 30 18 5 5 2 2 30 .167
'11 Palm Beach (HiA) 2 2 1.82 22 7 5 54 42 13 11 1 16 52 .205
'11 Springfield, MO (AA) 0 0 2.89 9 0 3 9 8 5 3 1 5 7 .222
Minor League Totals 5 3 1.84 36 12 8 93 68 68 19 4 23 89 .196