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Top Prospects for the Cardinals in 2012 Part 1

Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at 8:21 PM

By COREY NOLES

This is the first in a three-part series analyzing prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training only 44 days from today, I thought it would be fitting to begin my annual top 15 prospect report.

While a lot of Cardinals fans are still down in the dumps over the Pujols move, there is a lot of stuff in the farm system to be excited about.

Once per week for three weeks I will be doing an analysis of five of my personal picks. I should, however, point out up front that I have based this report solely on online scouting reports, statistics and the potential impact that the player could bring when (or if) they make it to the big show.

One thing that really stands out to me on my list is that our farm system has a lot of pitching depth, which is exactly where my list will begin.

1.Shelby Miller -- This shouldn't be a big surprise. Miller's ascension through the minor league ranks has been more highly publicized than any prospect for the Cardinals in recent memory. Miller finished the season at AA-Springfield going 11-6 with a 2.77 ERA. That's not too shabby, but here's the interesting number. In 139.2 innings pitched, he struck out 170 batters walking only 53. Aside from a mid-90s fastball that flirts with the upper-90s, he also brings to the plate an impressive 12-6 curve that has stunned many in Springfield as he continued to develop it this season. Miller has been long believed to be the one day ace of the big league team. He has had some issues with staying out of trouble, but if he can keep his head screwed on straight, big things will be in his future. At 21 years old, there is still plenty of time for that. I fully expect Miller to begin the season at AAA Memphis and make the big league roster as a September call-up. If not, expect him on opening day 2013. If Chris Carpenter retires at the end of 2012 as expected, Miller will likely take his spot in the rotation.
2.Carlos Martinez -- If you haven't heard yet about this 20-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic then it's time you do. Martinez was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a Minor League free agent on April 20, 2010 and received a $1.5 million signing bonus. While he finished up last season at Class A Palm Beach, he is only believed to be about a year behind Miller in terms of development. He throws consistently between 95-97 mph and has been compared to a young Pedro Martinez for his style and precise control. He is currently on pace to see time in St. Louis beginning in late 2013 or early 2014.
3.Matt Adams -- This is the only guy in the Cardinals organization who is probably glad to see Albert Pujols gone. As a top notch offensive and defensive first base prospect, he could have stalled out for years if Albert had re-signed with the team. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 23rd round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft, he has since set the minor league world on fire with his bat. In 115 games at Class AA Springfield, he earned awards and broke numerous records. After hitting .300/.357/.566 with 101 RBIs and bashing an organization leading 32 homeruns, he was named the Texas League Player of the Year. Adams is excited about the opportunity to move up to the next level and the chance to help out the Cardinals in the future. His full-time step to the big club will likely come following Berkman's departure after the season either through retirement or if the club chooses not to re-sign him. If Adams is ready, I firmly believe it will be his job to lose. He could see playing time in St. Louis as early as this season, but definitely by 2013. An injury on the club or an amazing showing at spring training could expedite things.
4.Kolten Wong -- Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1st round (22nd overall) of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, Wong is nothing short of a pleasant surprise. Playing 47 games at Class A Quad Cities in 2011, Wong batted .335 with 65 hits, 15 doubles, 2 triples and 5 homeruns. The need for middle infield depth within the organization is one of several reasons he was the Cardinals first pick last year. While he is not a power hitter, his ability to hit for average consistently will likely land him in one of the top two spots in the lineup once he makes his way to St. Louis. No time table has been set for his major league debut, but if he returns in the same form he showed at Quad Cities in 2011, I expect it to be sooner rather than later. I would guess you'll be hearing a lot more about him this year and can likely expect to see him some time in 2013.
5.Tyrell Jenkins -- I struggled with where to place Tyrell Jenkins on my list. He was initially number three, but the fact that he is still a couple of years away from St. Louis, I decided to move Adams up a notch. Jenkins went into the 2010 MLB Draft with an outstanding three year football commitment to Baylor, but his velocity, combined with a lot of interest, sent him on to professional baseball. To date he has only played in 13 games, but is believed to have strong potential. With plus athleticism, an above average fastball, solid breaking ball and a feel for a change-up, he projects to be solid at the major league level. He will likely start the season in High A ball. While the secondary pitches still have a ways to go, and he is still a bit raw, 2012 should give a better example to gauge his development stage.

While I'm not an expert on this subject, I have done extensive research and feel confident about the list. One thing I hope everyone can agree on is that right now our farm system has as much pitching depth as it has ever had and fans have plenty of reasons to be not only optimistic, but excited about the future of the organization.

Putting together a prospect list is complicated and time consuming with a lot of difficult decisions. For instance, many other columnists and organizations place Adams much farther down their prospect list, but I have a good feeling about him. His potential and work ethic will one day bring him to the Cardinals and not only will he continue to crush baseballs, fans will fall in love with him just like they have many before.

There are others on the list I struggled with as well, but I'll get to that when the time comes. Coming up soon I will run through prospects 6-10 of my Top 15 which I assure you are as promising as the players I've detailed here.

I look forward to hearing some of your predictions (and disagreements).


Comments
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You forgot one person that "Has" to be in the Top 5...

Zack Cox, 3B Acquired: 2010 1st round (University of Arkansas) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 21

Notes: The Cardinals organization gave Cox $2 million to sign as a draft-eligible sophomore out of the University of Arkansas. He projects to be a good hitter with a quick bat and solid line-drive power, which should develop into 20-homer power over time. Cox rocks back and forth in his stance but keeps his feet quiet. He's quick to the ball and shows good hip rotation. He does need to stay a little taller in his stance as he occasionally leans out over the plate. Defensively, he shows quick hands but could stand to improve his foot work and range at the hot corner. He has a strong arm. There have been some questions raised about Cox's ability to stick at third base and some have suggested a move to second base. The left-handed hitter could reach the Majors fairly quickly but it may take a few years for his power to fully develop.

-- Posted by Matt Foley (Agitator) on Thu, Jan 5, 2012, at 12:02 AM
Corey Noles
I haven't forgotten Cox. He is certainly worthy. He'll be in next week. I really struggled between he and Jenkins and frankly I still feel it could have gone either way, but after watching some YouTube video of Jenkins pitching and seeing his mechanics and speed, which I recommend everyone do, I thought he'd been slighted in a lot of other lists. He has a lot of potential. So does Cox. I felt like Cox's need for defensive development outweighed Jenkins need to further master his secondary pitches. Him playing third base, however, puts him in a bind (assuming Freese stays healthy). I have no doubt that when Cox's day comes, he will be impressive. I'm intrigued by your bit about him possibly moving to 2B. In terms of reaching the club, that could be the best move.

Thanks for commenting! I really enjoy these discussions with readers!

I have to wonder if the Cards' current GM will survive long enough to see these prospects after possibly being the scapegoat for his failure to sign Pujols. Would Walt Jocketty have signed Westbrook and Lohse? One has to wonder.

The legendary Jocketty did trade Dan Haren and sign Jim Edmonds to a two-year contract at the end of his career.

Is there anything the current GM could do to be classified as a legend? He did hire Mike Matheny as manager.

His current decisions are as debatable as the all-state teams and all-Christmas tourney teams in recent seasons at the high school level in Missouri.

The best players deserve recognition for their accomplishments. Regardless!

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Thu, Jan 5, 2012, at 2:41 AM
Corey Noles
I have mixed feelings on Mozeliak. I was a huge Jocketty fan and after the Edmonds trade I thought he could do no wrong. Mozeliak earned a lot of credibility this year and I really don't think losing Albert will hurt him the way the Mulder/Haren trade hurt Jocketty. Frankly, I really don't think Mo could do any better than his last season moves that helped deliver a world championship. Without the Rasmus trade and Furcal's acquisition, we don't make it to the World Series. I think the fact that everyone was still riding the high wave from that when Albert left really saved Mozeliak. Had the Rasmus trade not worked out AND we lost Albert, I think Mozeliak would have been looking for a job. Transactions will always be questioned, but one thing people have to remember is that a GM uses the information at hand, from the past, to determine a move's viability (scouting reports, statistics, sabremetrics). When we look back on a trade, for instance, Mulder/Haren, and call it crazy, we're basing that opinion on what happened AFTER the trade. How could we know Mulder would fall on his face? We knew Haren had potential, but in two seasons at St. Louis he went 6-10 with a 4.85 ERA. I know many did, but I didn't think he had the potential to come as far as he has. To make Mozeliak a legend, he will have to do something huge like bring in a new franchise cornerstone player (ie. Jocketty getting Edmonds for Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield) and I think that day may come, but it's too early to tell.

I think this will be the first year we will really see what Mozeliak is made of. I personally believe that Tony La Russa's input and prescence were vital in most if not all the decisions that were made the last couple of years. Dumping Brendan Ryan and Colby Rasmus were huge addition by subtraction moves, and the fact Dotel and Rzp.... contributed down the stretch was a pleasant bonus. Many veteran players sought out the Cardinals due to the respect they had for the way Tony ran his ball clubs, and now they don't have that luxury. Mike Matheny may be a fabulous manager, but he will have to prove himself in order to gain the reputation Tony had. This will no doubt put more stress on Mo to convince guys to come or stay in St. Louis. Prospects are what they are, prospective talent. But for every prospect that has delivered on the hype there is one who busted. Often times there is no way to tell which fate a prospect will face. One thing for sure is that Mozeliak has about 3 years to show the organization was spot on in letting Pujols walk, and if they consistentaly make the playoffs and perhaps even win another title, Mozeliak will cement himself as one of if not the best front office guys in the game. If the Cards fall down to mediocrity, then I think it would be fair to say Mozeliak rode La Russa's wave of success.

-- Posted by 6+4+3=2 on Thu, Jan 5, 2012, at 8:39 AM


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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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