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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The 3 biggest weaknesses in the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system

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On Tuesday, MLB.com released their top 100 prospects for 2013 and the Cardinals had six players on that list. Pitchers Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Shelby Miller to go along with second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Oscar Taveras made the list.

Recently, BaseballAmerica.com called the Cardinals farm system the best in the MLB. The depth at certain positions like pitcher, third base, second base, and outfield is incredible.

The Cardinals do have some holes in the system. These are areas they may be looking at upgrading in the upcoming June draft.

1. Catcher depth

Now, obviously this is not an immediate need for the Redbirds thanks to Yadier Molina. While the depth at the top of the organization is of All-Star caliber, the rest of the farm is a question mark. After major league catchers Molina and Tony Cruz, the next best prospect in 20-year-old Adam Ehrlich.

Ehrlich played 2012 with both of the Cardinals rookie level teams and has a long way to go. The Cards have a pair of 24-year-old catchers in Audry Perez (Springfield) and Cody Stanley (Palm Beach) who have some potential but need to advance through the system. Perez should begin 2013 in Memphis and Stanley in Springfield, although Stanley may start at Palm Beach because he missed significant time last season.

2, First Base depth

Matt Adams, the Cardinals top first base prospect, was just named the second best 1st base prospect in all of Major League Baseball by MLB.com. So, why is this area a weakness?

I believe this will be Adams last season in the Cards system, either he will be traded (my guess) or he will have a full time spot on the Cards roster. A lot has to happen for the ladder to come true.

After Adams, the next prospect is either Xavier Scruggs, who spent 2012 in Springfield and smashed 22 home runs but is age 25, or possibly David Washington, who spent 2012 at short season A level Batavia and hit 9 home runs.

First base could be very weak next season if the Cards don't address it in the draft.

3. Shortstop depth

I believe this is a huge area of concern for the Cardinals because there is no superstar at the major league level and no prospect who has a decent chance of being a star. This is where I think the Cardinals will go in the first round of the draft. Keep your eye on Oscar Mercado, a high school shortstop from Florida.

The aging Rafael Furcal is slated to be the starting shortstop for the Cards this season. We know that he is aging and also wearing down. The Cards are potentially looking at Ryan Jackson or the newly acquired Ronny Cedeno as his back up.

In the system, Greg Garcia, who should begin 2013 in Memphis is the closest to the majors. Garcia, 23 had a very solid 2012 season at Springfield. He had a .408 OBP and hit 10 home runs. I see him as a potential utility player in St. Louis. Alex Mejia is someone to watch at the lower levels. Mejia was a 2012 draftee who played his college ball at the University of Arizona.

The Cardinals should be in contention for another playoff appearance in 2013, and with the prospects that will be getting "the call" soon the future looks bright. Hopefully these weaknesses can be fixed this season through the draft or with players making a step up in development.

John Nagel is the owner and editor of CardinalsFarm.com, a website dedicated solely to covering the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. We are privileged to have Nagel's insight and expertise occasionally here at StlSportsMinute.com. You can follow Nagel on Twitter (@CardinalsFarm) or "Like" his page on Facebook.