I’m excited to be joining the United Cardinals Bloggers group this month. My first “official” piece for them is participating in a project Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch started a few years back. Participating blogs are asked to submit their list of Top 7 St. Louis Cardinals prospects heading into the 2012 season. You can see the other Top 7 lists here.
“Prospect” is left to the bloggers discretion, but the general rule of thumb is anyone who hasn’t lost their major league eligibility. Being the technical guy that I am, I pulled up the specific rules regarding rookie eligibility from mlb. com.
Determining rookie status:
A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).
What the Team is Saying
Here’s the top prospect list posted on the Cardinal’s site. A lot of names left off the list, in my opinion, if the sole criteria is a player that hasn’t lost his rookie eligibility.
My Evaluation Method
My goal is to rank 1-7 the guys currently in the farm system that will have the most impact once they reach the majors. This isn’t the NEXT 7, but the BEST 7.
I combined stats, age, experience, and some of what I saw in person this past season to evaluate the players.
1. Matt Adams, 1st base
In 115 games this season at AA Springfield, 23 year-old Adams absolutely mashed. He hit 32 home runs, 101 RBI, .300 Avg, .566 SLG. Last month, Adams was named Texas League Player of the Year over several other strong candidates, including 19 year-old Mike Trout who was promoted from AA to the Los Angeles Angels. I had the opportunity to watch Adams several times first hand this season, including the longest HR in Texas League All Star history. This kid gives Cardinals Nation hope for if there is “life after Pujols”.
2. Shelby Miller, pitcher
Most other bloggers will have Shelby Miller as #1 on their list today, but what Adams did this year is too impressive and Miller needs to develop a solid third pitch before he’s major league ready (more thoughts on Shelby Miller here). Many fans are anxious to see Miller mid-2012, but barring a serious injury to one of the starting 5 that seems highly unlikely. 2013 is a better estimate of when we can see Miller with the Big Birds. Nonetheless, the kid is a very exciting prospect.
At AA Springfield he posted a 9-3 record with a 2.70 ERA in 16 starts. In 86.2 IP, he had a WHIP of 1.21 and struck out 89 while only walking 33
3. Ryan Jackson, shortstop
This one will surprise a lot of people, as I don’t expect to see him this high on any other list. But I watched him play several times this year, and was really impressed. Remember, this list is who will have the biggest impact when they reach the bigs. With the current state of the Cardinals middle infield defense (particularly if we don’t resign Furcal), Jackson is on the fast track to the majors.
He was another Texas League All-Star for the Springfield Cardinals. Jackson continues to impress with his improvement at the plate. After hitting .216 in A Ball 2009, he posted .272 at Quad Cities and .291 at Palm Beach last season. This year at AA, he hit .278 with 34 doubles, 3 triples, 11 home runs, and 73 RBI’s in 135 games. The Cardinals would have loved a middle infielder that hit 73 RBI’s this season. If he can continue his good hitting in AAA next season, he could be a huge asset to the club as a cost-controlled option at middle infield for many years.
4. Carlos Martinez, pitcher
This 19 year-old pitcher is still very raw but has tremendous upside. He was listed as the third-best prospect in the Cardinals organization prior to the 2011 season. At Quad Cities, he posted a 3-2 mark with a 2.33 ERA in 38 2/3 innings striking out 50 and walking only 14. He struggled more with his ERA once he was promoted to Palm Beach (5.28) but struck out 48 in 46 innings. He throws in the upper 90′s and is the kind of power arm the Cardinals have been craving to bring up through the system.
5. Zach Cox, third base
At 22 years old, Cox is still developing at the plate, but is putting up impressive numbers at AA Springfield. Before coming to Springfield, he hit .335 at Palm Beach in 42 games. At Springfield this season he hit .293 with 19 doubles, 10 HR, 48 RBI, and a .432 SLG %. He has often drawn comparisons to Brett Wallace because of a perceived lack of power and questionable defense. I however, see a higher ceiling for Cox than that. If he works hard on improving his defense, he will have his opportunity for the Big Birds with Freese constantly a health risk.
6. Brandon Dickson, pitcher
In 25 starts for Memphis this year, Dickson (26) went 8-9 with a 3.95 ERA and 1 complete game. He posted a WHIP of 1.28 and struck out 124 in 157 1/3 innings, while only walking 32. He is expected to be a valuable long reliever/”sixth starter” for the Cardinals next season.
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
Another exciting young player (20 years old) that should help shore up the Cardinals middle infield in the next few seasons. Wong was 22nd pick of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and 1st pick by the Cardinals. At the University of Hawaii, he posted a .358 batting average with 47 doubles, 25 home runs, and 145 RBI in 684 at-bats. Since coming to Quad Cities this season, he’s batted .337 in 47 games. He has excellent speed (9 SB’s), shows good pop with the bat (2 triples, 5 HR, 25 RBI), and gets on base consistently (.401). He also has all the “intangibles”…loves the game, works hard, good attitude, etc. Will be exciting to watch as he rises through the farm system.
Adron Chambers, Maikel Cleto, Joe Kelly, Oscar Taveras, Jordan Swagerty, Tyrell Jenkins
Thanks for reading