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.
After a brief tech glitch — let's call
it keyboard error, ok? — we're up and typing on the annual Cardinals
Top 10 chat. Thanks for all the questions already entered. I'll try to
get to as many as possible. Off we go.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Just how close was it between Miller and Martinez for the top spot?
Not real close. Both have high ceilings
and both had strong 2011s, but Miller dominated the level that Martinez
experienced his first speed bump. Miller is at least a year ahead of
Martinez when it comes to development. Miller is more polished when it
comes to command. If you were to do a tale of the tape on both righties,
most of the checks would go in Miller's column ... for now.
Ben (Leland Grove): Doesn't Martinez have faster heat than Miller? How did Miller top him in the "Best FB" category?
Martinez does have more velocity than
Miller, but as we know a fastball is not made of velocity alone. Miller
has good sink and better command of his fastball. Both boast that
explosive fastball that comes with easy velocity. Right now Miller's
command and the movement on his fastball gives him the "tool" title.
Frank (Chicago): How many of the top 10 do you think are worthy of being on BA's top 100 list?
I wondered the same thing as I put
together the list. I think both Miller and Martinez will be in the top
50, and probably much higher. Taveras deserves consideration. So, let's
go with at least three. Those decisions are made above my pay grade at
BA, but I bet two for sure, likely three and next year I'm betting a
certain middle infielder makes the top 100.
Blake (St. Louis): Between pitchers John Gast and Trevor Rosenthal, who came closer to your top 10? What did you think of both of their seasons?
Rosenthal came closer to the top 10. He
was one of the "big movers" this past season — coming from outside the
top 30 (he received, how do you say?, "consideration" for the 2011 top
30) to the cusp of the top 10. Rosenthal's season and how went about
putting up numbers in Quad Cities was impressive. He showed some fatigue
late, but rallied to pitch impressively in the postseason. The past two
pitchers to do that? Miller and Lynn. Good company. Rosenthal has that
frame and arm strength you look for in a starter with staying power.
Gast is arguably the top lefty starter prospect in the system, and there
are some inside the Cardinals' office who think he belongs in the tier
right below Miller-Martinez. Gast's command wasn't the same in 2011 as
it was in his first pro season, and that will continue to be his focus
as he climbs through the system and really gets a cleat-hold in the
conversation for a rotation spot.
Derek (Dallas, TX): Who would you say is the biggest sleeper in the system?
I guess Oscar Taveras no longer
qualifies right? He was the easy call a year ago at this time. Cody
Stanley deserves more attention as a hitting catcher, and it will be
interesting to see his improvement behind the plate come this spring
training. Some other "sleepers" OF Anthony Garcia and INF Breyvic
Dan (St.Louis): the cards have a load of rhp,
but few lhp. Is this an organizational bias on drafting and developing
lhp's, or have the right arms just not been available in the draft for
Oh, they have coveted lefties in recent
drafts. A few years ago the Cardinals had a handful of lefties lined up
to draft an then watched them go click-click-click off the board before
they had a chance to get one of them. The past two drafts the Cardinals
have purposefully set out to select lefties (Gast, Hald, Miranda).
Rzepczynski was an important part of the Rasmus trade because he's under
control for so many years — and there isn't an obvious lefty zooming
toward the majors in the role. (Sam Freeman was just added to the 40-man
and will get a chance to enhance his stock this spring.) It's been a
hole in the depth chart and one they are trying to patch via the draft
so they no longer to go into the free agent pool to find lefties.
@Jaypers413 (IL): How close to the top 10 was OF Charlie Tilson? What's the skinny on him?
Closer than any 2011 draft pick not from
Hawaii. Tilson received a promotion to Johnson City this past season
because there was playing time available there and a logjam of
outfielders in GCL. Tilson will get priority playing time at center
field because the Cardinals believe his athleticism and skills will keep
him in center as he advances. He doesn't project for power, but has a
good feel for the strike zone, a swing that could develop into a
high-average approach and speed to turn singles into doubles. He and
McElroy will be interesting to watch as they jockey position — in the
rankings, sure, but mostly on the field — in the coming years.
Dara (Springfield, MO): Daryl Jones - prospect or suspect?
Neither. He's a Cincinnati Red.
@Jaypers413 (IL): If Pujols sticks around, which OF position is Adams best suited for, and are you confident he can adapt?
The safe answer — and the one presented
to me when I asked this same question not too long ago — is left
field. This spring, if No. 5 is still around, Adams is going to get more
reps in the outfield, and that will reveal where he is most comfortable
and where his tools best fit. An aside: This perpetual interleague play
that is coming to baseball in a couple years could increase the number
of games that the Cardinals need a DH. Enter Adams.
Frank (Chicago): Your impressions of Maikel Cleto's brief callup? What is his future role? Did he make the top 30?
His second shot at the majors was much
better than his first. Cleto had an impressive season because he zoomed
through three levels as a starter and had those brief sips of
opportunity as a reliever in the majors. Cleto hasn't got a big arm with
some electricity crackling off his fastball. Command hasn't been his
forte, though it improved when he refined his delivery and stopping
flying open and trying to pitch for mph instead of pitching for results.
He did make the top 30. Shhh, don't tell, but he made the top 20.
Ben (Leland Grove): You brought up the possibility of Carlos Martinez becoming a reliever. How likely is this, in your opinion?
I think the phrase was that he has the
stuff of a "closer." Martinez becoming a reliever isn't something
imminent. He'll continue to progress as a starter until he gives them a
reason to think he cannot handle the innings of a starter or he's
major-league ready and the opening in the majors is in the bullpen. He's
got too high of a ceiling as a starter to push him into relief right
Ryan (AZ): I see you have Ryan Jackson as your
starting shortstop in 2015. Is this because you believe in his bat
enough to play there every day, or is it because there is no better
Why can't it be both? Jackson's bat is
always going to be the question. But when you talk with people who have
scouted him or coaches who have worked with him, Jackson has improved on
the things that will make him a viable offensive player if his glove is
good enough to stay in the lineup. There's no reason, right now, to
think he won't be a contributor at the plate. Jackson has a good feel
for the strike zone. He's got an idea of how valuable OBP can be to a
guy who projects as a No. 8 type hitter in the NL. He had a strong
offensive year in Double-A and reviews of his performance in the AFL
have been positive.
Sal (St.Louis, MO): Why isn't Cody Stanley on
this list? .284 avg with 17 HR 107 RBI and 89 R for a catcher in 150 or
so games so far should warrant consideration, no?
By "on the list" do you mean in the top
10? If so, he didn't crack the top 10 because of the potential and
performance of the players already on there. Stanley had a strong year,
and he's working his way up the depth chart as a catcher. If by "on the
list" you mean in the top 30 ... rest assured. He not only warranted
consideration, he merited a place in the top 30. His bat is a plus, and
his improvement behind the plate is noted. See above answer about
"sleepers" in the system.
Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Interesting that Tyrell
Jenkins was named Best Athlete. You don't see pitchers take that tool
very often. How much of that is kudos to Jenkins' athleticism and how
much is an indictment on the system lacking athletes?
The Cardinals scouts and draft officials
went into this past draft season with a mandate from above to add more
athleticism to the system. They wanted stronger athletes and preferably
stronger athletes at the middle infield positions and center field. Scan
through the Cardinals' 2011 draft picks and you'll see examples of
this: Wong, Tilson, McElroy, Jeffries, Williams, Peoples and so on. Two
pitchers received consideration for that tool — Jenkins and Freeman.
Freeman was the fastest player on his affiliate two years ago. Yes,
Jenkins getting this "tool" title is a nod to his overall agility and
previous success in football and track. But it also does have to do with
a system that made a point this season to improve its stockpile of
George (Houston, Tx): It seems hard to believe
that Kelly, Reifer, Cleto andRosenthal, all guys who can throw it at or
near 100, didn't make this list. As a preview to the Prospect Handbook
(available for pre-order now!) where do these guys fit in the top 30?
Kelly settled in around the 94-95 this
season. Reifer missed time with injury. Cleto and Rosenthal were both
talked about above. Speed thrills. And a few years ago speed might have
been enough to crack the top 10 in the slim pickings of the Cardinals'
organization. Heck, I sure it would have been. But the system has
rebounded and velocity alone doesn't crack the top 10, especially not
when you're talking about three high-velocity pitchers already in there
(Miller, Martinez and Lynn) and two who can throw in the 94-95 range
(Jenkins and Sanchez).
As of now, all of the pitchers you mention are ranked in the top 30.
Rosenthal just missed the top 10. Cleto and Kelly are top 20 talents.
Reifer is coming off injury and that should be considered as a factor in
Sammy (Tampa, FL): Thoughts on Robert Stock at this point? Should he revert back to pitching?
Excellent question. Stock was sent to
High-A Palm Beach with the idea that it would be the tiebreaker. If he
succeeded there, he could continue as a catcher. If he ran into troubles
— the kind of troubles he had in Low-A Quad Cities — then the
organization would approach him about pitching. Well, Stock did well in
Palm Beach. He didn't electrify the box scores but his .262/.339/.349
line was respectable and the reviews of his play behind the plate and
handling of the pitching staff were strong. He'll come to spring as a
catcher, and it wouldn't be a surprise if 2012 sets up like that
assignment to Palm Beach: the season that decides what role he'll play
in the next season.
Laura (St Louis, MO): Impressions of Adron Chambers?
Well, he had a couple at-bats that
helped get the Cardinals into the postseason and he did score a spot on
the postseason roster. Chambers' speed made that possible, but his
approach at the plate earned the longer look. Chambers could emerge this
spring as a fourth-outfielder option. A lot will depend on how the
Cardinals shape their roster in the coming month or so, but Chambers
will have the opportunity to play his way onto the bench. His success in
September gives him a head start.
Dan (St.Louis): Cards spent a lot on Roberto De
La Cruz and he is just now beginning to develop his power but has a
long way to go. Martinez was a find, Mateo Wagner didn't work out. Do
you see them going more with the smaller bonuses and signing more
players from Latin America, as they did last year, or still being in the
hunt for the bigger names, when it makes sense. thanks.
Well, the new CBA changes this equation a
little bit. I imagine this question was asked before the news came out.
The Cardinals plan to still be active in Latin America because of the
success of Martinez, the rise of Taveras, the arrival of Sanchez and so
on. The emphasis has usually been on finding talent, but the Cardinals
also have been willing to invest money when they fall for one of the
talents there, as they did with DLC and Mateo. They aren't pocketbook
Rachel (Missouri): I think the Cardinals should
move to the American League. That way, I can watch Matt Adams be the DH
with Albert Pujols hopefully staying here :D
You shouldn't have even let this idea out into the universe. Take it back. Take it back now.
Dawson (Calgary): Do you really think David
Freese is good enough to fend off Zach Cox? What kind of stat line could
Freese put up, if healthy for a whole year?
I do really think that yes. Health has
always been the drag on Freese's production. If he bats sixth in the
Cardinals' lineup — or even fifth, depending on Pujols' future —
Freese will drive in a lot of runs. He may settle in that .265-.275-.280
average range and he may not be a 20-homer guy, but he will
consistently drive the ball from line to line for doubles. He was able
to adjust this season as pitchers started testing him inside, and he'll
have his fits of strikeouts, but overall he's a "damage"-type hitter who
will consistently drive in runs.
Indiana Cardinal (Lowell, Indiana): Who in the system made suprising biggest move forward and who made the most disappointing regression this past season?
Thanks for your work on this list and chat.
Seth Blair had a difficult and curious
season. He has all of the traits and stuff of a prospect pitcher and
wasn't able to put it together into production this season. He looked
uncomfortable at times and looked frustrated at other times. It seemed
like one or two things went awry early and the season snowballed on him.
He appeared distracted at times and focus was a concern. If there was
one player who needed a reset button to the season it was Blair, and
this winter he gets it. He'll start fresh in spring.
Michael Stern (Rochester NY): What are you
hearing about Matt Adams? I thought he'd
be rated higher than 9th. I feel he is very underrated. All
he's ever done everywhere he's gone is hit - for average and
for power. I think if given a shot as an everyday first baseman - either
in St. Louis or elsewhere (depending on Albert of course) - he will put
up big numbers. What do you think?
Adams could have been higher. I'll admit
that I had to double-check Lynn and Sanchez because I initially thought
there was no way they were still eligible. Had they not been on the DL
in the majors during the season, Adams would have been higher because
Lynn and Sanchez wouldn't have been eligible. Adams was once described
to me as Freedie Freeman with more power and less of a glove. That's a
quality player however you order the caveats. Adams can hit and hit for
power. He has a low-maintenance swing — a coach called it "foolproof"
— and doesn't succumb to the strikeout in his search for homers. So
much of his future with the Cardinals hinges on others, but he has hit
his way into being an asset for the club.
Grant (NYC): What did scouts have to say about RHP Joe Kelly? Top 30 guy to you?
Most people I talk to about Joe Kelly
remark about how he's altered his career path with his performance as a
starter. Kelly didn't start the season with the same velocity he had in
the past, but he gained it as the season continued, and he continued to
be more advanced and refined as a starter than originally imagined. He
did get consideration for the top 10. Kelly will have to improve his
command to crack the top 10 and ascend either as a starter or a
reliever. Though, I did like how he approached this season, working the
command of his fastball, the usage of his breaking ball and establishing
his ownership of the inner edge of the plate.
Indiana Cardinal (Lowell, Indiana): Do the
Cards still think highly of Robert Stock? Is there any consensus within
the organization as to who would be the catcher of the future if Molina
leaves after 2012 or starts to age while with Cards going forward?
The Cardinals think highly of Stock,
yes, but there are other catchers in line ahead of him for that role as
Molina's understudy or replacement. Tony Cruz is at the top after his
impressive turn in the majors this season. Bryan Anderson is still
around and shouldn't be ignored just because he has been around long
enough to have been Colby Rasmus' roommate in their first full season
assignment. Cody Stanley was already mentioned and he deserves a spot
ahead on the depth chart right now.
George (Houston, TX): Rightly or wrongly, Tony
LaRussa had a reputation for preferring veteran players to younger
players regardless of ability. Any word on Matheny's willingness to
play younger players?
That was something that the Cardinals
stressed during interviews with all six of the finalists for the job,
and it was something they actively sought out in some of the candidates.
Sandberg, McEwing and Maloney all had experience nurturing and shaping
and developing prospects at the minor-league level, and the Cardinals
believe that the next manager must be able to do some development on the
job and must be open to integrating younger players into everyday
roles. I thought a recent comment from pitching coach Dave Duncan was
telling. He said that Matheny was a good fit for where the organization
wants to go in the next several years, not just in the next year.
Dan (St): The Cards have began a pipeline of
talent to the bigs. I have been a Cards fan for...a long time. I
remember Jorgue Roque and Leon Lee as big minor league talents. this is
the best system I can remember as far as depth of talent. does this
validate the Mo/Luhnow approach to drafting, or have they just gotten
lucky with some picks? it seems the high choices are tending to pan out
more than before. thanks.
It seems that way because it's true. The
depth has improved. Now the Cardinals are out to see if the impact can
improve. They've been able to find and use complementary players from
inside the system. The expectation for the Cardinals now should be that
their system is advanced enough to produce an impact player, an everyday
player, a core player. Allen Craig has that potential. Jason Motte
could be that internal answer at closer. The next impact one must come
from the pool of Miller, Martinez, Wong, Cox ... and so on. The
Cardinals have raised the bar on their minor-league system. Pundits,
writers and fans should do the same.
Noel (Portland, OR): Should Oscar Taveras' inability to take a walk be a concern?
Interesting question. I have wondered
the same thing and asked around this summer about that. The
oversimplified answer is: The kid loves to hit, and he knows he's good
at it. Taveras has the ability to get the barrel on the ball and often
does go outside of the strike zone to do it. He's not swinging and
missing at the pitches. He's just opting to drive them. The belief is
that as pitchers gain more control and try to lure him outside of the
strike zone to hit their pitches, Taveras will readjust and show more
patience. He's not lacking walks because he has an inflated sense of the
strike zone or a penchant for wild swings. He just likes to hit.
James (Toronto, ON): What can we expect from 3B
Matt Carpenter and will he get a chance to play everyday with the Cards
given the fact he's performed well in AA and AAA these past two years?
Carpenter is blocked right now from an
everyday spot because the Cardinals have a starter at every spot he'd
fit. After a slow start in Memphis, Carpenter validated his status in
the organization with a turn as the Redbirds' starting third baseman.
For the second consecutive season, Carpenter was one of the system's
leaders in OBP and he was able to increase his pop at the plate by
swinging from less of a standstill than in the past. Carpenter has fans
at the major-league level — even with the new coaching team in place —
and it's feasible that he'll get a long look for a bench spot in the
majors, and that he'll be asked to show increased versatility this
spring with time in the outfield. Carpenter is in a pinch with Freese
above him and Cox coming from Double-A. Versatility will be ladder to
kevin (bristol): Most exciting player to watch in the system is....
... Oscar Taveras.
(You did say player.)
mike mckay (boston): Zach Cox is not in your 2015 lineup. Are his tools lacking or are people speculating a trade?
Blame Kolten Wong. Or, rather, blame the
Cardinals for drafting a second baseman like Kolten Wong. Had there not
been an obvious second baseman available for that 2015 lineup, then Cox
would have been there. Look, as one of the editors tells me each year
as I fret and worry and rewrite and reorder and fret some more over the
future lineup: it's a glorified depth chart. Freese is there at third
because he's there at third now. A lot can happen in the next three
seasons that would change that lineup for 2015. The Cardinals, for
example, hope that Pujols re-signing is one of those things and that
he's playing first base in 2015. There's no guarantee Molina will be
under contract with the Cardinals in 2015. And so on. Don't read Cox's
absence from that lineup as any indication or indictment of his place in
the system. The ranking is a far better read than the lineup.
Lloyd (Lakewood): Could Zack Cox move to 1B if Pujols leaves?
I suppose so. But isn't Allen Craig the
more likely future option at that position? Cox figures to move to
second base if that's the spot that is open in the near future at the
major-league level and his bat is ready for the challenge.
Mike (Scottsdale,az): Tyler Lyons just an organizational guy?
In this system, no lefty is "just" an
organizational guy. Lyons received a spot in the Arizona Fall League to
show that he's more than that, and I think his performance there will
increase the opportunity he gets. He had 28 strikeouts and seven walks
in 29 innings out in the desert, and there are indications that what
he's done at High-A will translate to the higher, hitter-happy level
waiting for him next summer.
Chris (Fayetteville, NC): Is Tyler Rahmatulla a
sleeper candidate? He seemed like he was a big deal at UCLA two years
ago, and he was the best player on Johnson City's club.
Sure. He moved into the No. 3 spot in
the order and held onto it for a championship club. He showed some
intriguing double power there, and proved playable at second base. I
think he's on the radar. A player like him coming from a program like
that has to show he can do the same thing at a full-season club before
he really blossoms as a prospect. Right now, he has people's attention.
Jack (Florissant): Would "poor man's Roberto Clemente" be an unfair comp for Taveras?
A "poor man's Roberto Clemente" is still
a "poor man's 3,000-hit Hall of Famer." I'm hesitant to apply that
label to a young hitter who is already in the majors let alone one who
doesn't have a regular-season base hit outside of the Midwest League.
Call me gun shy, but I have a hard time hanging such comparisons on
young players. I remember a Cardinal draft pick who was described as
"Derek Jeter-like" on the day he was drafted. What a way to start a
kid's career. He's immediately set up to fail. That draft pick is now an
outfielder. I imagine if you told him he'd be the next Andrew Brown,
he'd be thrilled.
Jason Catania (New York): Thanks for the chat. Your gut tells you: Shelby pitches more/less than 50 innings for the Cards in 2012?
kevin (bristol): What affect will the new CBA
have on a team that has gotten a lot of recent 1st rounders to fall due
to spending (Cox, Wallace, miller) and some big name international
signings (taveras, martinez, etc). Not to mention that jenkins was a
supplimental pick...Do you think the cards can continue to exploit the
market to add talent to their farm system?
This is a great question and one that is
difficult to answer as the ink dries on the new CBA. The Cardinals have
worked within a budget and only recently have been willing to push the
"slot" envelope to acquire talent through the draft. They will have to
alter their approach, but knowing the Cardinals they'll lean on their
ability to scout and, via analytics, identify amateur players' potential
better as their best way to exploit the market. That approach won't be
handcuffed by the new CBA. If anything, it will be more essential in the
new draft paradigm.
bobby (stl): What are Cards Plans with former 1st RD pick Adam Ottavino? I just saw he was added to 40 man roster after he was taken off.
I think the phrase some of my peers use
is ... "developing." At the end of the regular season there seemed to be
mutual interest in finding Ottavino another organization. The Cardinals
weren't going to just give him away, but they were open to trading the
righty if the right deal developed. Ottavino was frustrated by how the
organization handled his shoulder injury in 2010, and how the perception
he was hurt may have eased his way off the 40-man roster. It's
interesting that the Cardinals have put him back on the 40-man. Could
they move him to another team? Sure, again, for the right deal. Could
they move him ... out of the rotation? There has always been some
thought that Ottavino could blossom as a reliever if given that chance.
Heck, a few years ago, the major-league pitching staff kept him around
in spring training just to see how he handled the role of relief and the
pressure of competing for a major-league job. Ottavino has a place on a
pitching staff, somewhere and in some role. The Cardinals just get
first dibs on deciding if it's with them.
John (St Louis): What kind of upside do you see
in Taveras' bat? Are we talking about a guy who can hit .300 with
20-25 HR in the middle of a lineup?
Taveras has done nothing to alter the
high expectations for his bat. That kind of power surge might be a
little much to expect — but then I'm always conservative when it comes
to predicting power — but a high average seems reasonable. Taveras is
going to get the opportunity to reach Double-A before he turns 20. The
rest of his game needs refinement. He's got to improve as a baserunner
and fielder to truly succeed at the Double-A level and advanced beyond
Greg (St. Charles): What are scouts saying
about Boone Whiting? Is he another one of these guys with enough
command to dominate at lower levels, but not enough stuff to succeed at
the higher levels?
The Cardinals have had their share of
pitchers like that in recent years, and we've seen how Double-A or even
High-A exposes them and they plummet from the top 30 and eventually
vanish from the system. Scouts I spoke to think Whiting has a better
chance to advance and succeed than the pitchers like that who came
before him. First, Whiting has more oomph behind his pitches than the
other ones. Second, he has a better complement of pitches and doesn't
have to over-emphasize one pitch. Third, there are the swings and
misses. Whiting really took the rotation when he got a chance. And to
the others who asked about whether he made the top 30 ... short answer:
Thanks for filling up the inbox here.
Sorry that I couldn't get to all of the questions. I hope that I was
able to touch on a lot of the topics and address some of the questions
that were asked several times. As always, if you have further questions
please don't hesitate to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm going
to be putting together a mailbag about the top 10, the top 30 and the
Cardinals' prospects as a whole for the blog I write at StlToday.com,
Bird Land. I'll include your questions there to continue this
discussion. You can also find me on Twitter (@dgoold) or almost everyday
in the pages of the Post-Dispatch. Thanks again. Happy Thanksgiving.