Cardinals Instill Winning Atmosphere

Affiliates bring in minor league titles

ST. LOUIS—There is a wave of potential prospects lurking in the lower levels of the Cardinals system that only knows a season ends in the playoffs and does not know what it's like to lose in the postseason.

The Cardinals system has produced four league titles in the previous three seasons and five total since 2005.

Rookie-level Johnson City won its second consecutive Appalachian League title this season, and a handful of Johnson City graduates helped the low Class A Quad Cities club that won this summer's Midwest League championship. Young players like catcher Cody Stanley, righthanders Trevor Rosenthal and Drew Benes and outfielder Oscar Taveras have won back-to-back minor league titles with perfect runs through the playoffs.

"The primary goal has to be to develop guys for (the majors)," farm director John Vuch said. "That has to be the goal at every level. I think we all know we'd rather have a parade on Market Street (in St. Louis) then one on Main Street in Johnson City. But if you play the right way, a lot of times winning can be a byproduct of that."

With the onus the club puts on reaching the postseason at the major league level, there previously has been talk of a trickle-down expectation in the minors. During one push in the past decade, the team underscored a stretch of winning records at every level.

As the Cardinals have sought to increase the number of impact prospects coming through the system, team success has been encouraged of course but not at the expense of development.

At the lower levels, the Cardinals have found a blend of both. Rosenthal and Taveras, two of the team's top prospects, were key parts of the 2010 title team in the Appy League. Taveras hit the winning home run in the opener of this year's Midwest League title series, and Rosenthal pitched the clincher, touching 99 mph in one of his late innings. Taveras hit .386/.444/.584 and ranked as the No. 6 prospect on the Midwest League Top 10.


• Shortstop Yunier Castillo shifted to pitcher in the middle of the season after popping a mid-90s fastball during an experimental bullpen session. Castillo gave up 13 hits and five walks in nine innings, giving up 14 runs (nine earned).

• To make additional room on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals removed hard-throwing righty Francisco Samuel. Spring shoulder trouble compromised the reliever's season, and his 12.21 ERA in 14 innings included 16 walks.