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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baby Birds: Top ten Cardinals prospects, a mid-season review

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English: St. Louis Cardinals Cap Insignia
John Nagel of @stlbabybirds ranks the St. Louis Cardinals top ten prospects at mid-season. - (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 2012 season began with a few question marks related to the St. Louis Cardinals prospects and farm system. Would Oscar Taveras be able to make the jump to double A Springfield? When would Shelby Miller make his MLB debut? What would the 2012 draft look like without Jeff Luhnow, the former farm director?

The Baby Birds mid-season top ten looks a little different than the pre-season list. We have some risers and some decliners. Lets see where they stack up:

1. Oscar Taveras, 20- Taveras has handled the jump from Low-A Quad Cities to Double-A Springfield amazingly well. Taveras is a future middle-of-the-order guy who could hit well above .300 with 30 plus home runs. As of July 14th, Taveras is fifth in the Texas League in home runs, first in average, and first in OPS. I don't think the Cardinals will rush him, I expect him in St. Louis in either late 2013 or starting the season 2014.

2. Shelby Miller, 21- It is true, Miller has had a disastrous 2012 season. Miller has had command issues and long ball issues, but he is still only 21. Miller has 10.30 K/9 which is very good. He had a strong outing on Saturday night. I think his MLB debut will be delayed, but he is still a top flight prospect. I would not be suprised to see Miller make a late season debut, but most likely 2013. Cards fans, do not give up on this kid.

3. Carlos Martinez, 20- Martinez may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Cardinals system. Many scouts have compared him to Pedro Martinez due to his size, velocity, and arm action. That may be a stretch, but he has ace material. Martinez has handled the AA jump very well. In six starts he has an ERA of 2.30 and opponents are hitting just .238. 2014 looks to be the time when Martinez makes his debut in St. Louis

4. Kolten Wong, 21- Wong has been in the Cardinals system a little over a year and has impressed. Wong made the same jump that Taveras made, Quad Cities to Springfield. Wong is hitting .303 with an on base percentage of .380 for Springfield. I could see Wong as the opening day second baseman next year in St. Louis and a potential top of the order guy.

5. Tyrell Jenkins, 19- Jenkins has struggled at Quad Cities this year after spending last year at Rookie Level Johnson City. Jenkins has had injury problems this year but he may be the best athlete on this list. I would like to see him add some pounds as he is 6'4" and  weighs 192. I believe Jenkins will make his debut late 2014 or early 2015.

6. Michael Wacha, 21-  The Cardinals first selection in the 2012 draft has had a word attached to him by scouts, "polished".  Many believe he could fill be in the Cardinals rotation right now. The Cards are not going to rush him. Wacha made his pro debut this past week and should finish 2012 at High-A Palm Beach. I think Wacha will rocket through the system next year and could finish 2013 in St. Louis.

7. Carson Kelly, 18- The Cardinals second round pick in 2012, passed up an opportunity to attend the University of Oregon to sign with the Cardinals. The third baseman could be a middle of the order hitter with well above average power. If hitting does not work out for Kelly he can pitch too as he can hit 93 on the radar gun. Kelly is the youngest Cardinal domestic farmhand. Lets put his debut at 2016.

8. Zack Cox, 23- Cox began the season as Keith Law's number 66 ranked prospect in all of minor league baseball. Cox's batting average and on base percent are down from his previous years. In the past month he has shown an improvement. Cox may be stuck for a while with Freese at third in St. Louis. I could see Cox as trading material for the Cardinals. I still think he can outperform Freese at third base but will he get the opportunity?

9. Trevor Rosenthal, 22- Rosenthal made the Quad Cities to Springfield jump as well and has been successful. Rosenthal came on the scene last year when he struck out 133 batters in just 120 innings. My concern is his place in the future rotation. Rosenthal may be the odd man out, and like Cox could be used as trade bait. If he sticks with St. Louis, he could debut late in 2013 or early 2014.

10. James Ramsey, 22- Ramsey was the Cardinals second first round pick this year and is the second oldest on this list behind Cox. His age is his downfall. I don't believe the ceiling is very high for Ramsey although he is a multi-tool player who could be a top of the order guy in the future. At Palm Beach he is hitting .306 with three stolen bases in 12 games.

The future is bright for the St. Louis Cardinals. Pitching is a strength in the Cardinals minor leagues. I can imagine the 2015 starting rotation as Wainwright, Miller, Martinez, Wacha, and Jenkins. If that holds true, that is an impressive staff.

So, what do you think? What would you change from this list? Leave your comments and thoughts below!

For more on the Baby Birds and the Cardinals minor leagues, you can follow John Nagel on Twitter, @StlBabyBirds.  Or if you have a question you can send him an e-mail at john.nagel@stlsportsminute.com

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