We move forward with our farm system review series this afternoon with the St. Louis Cardinals. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season grades and rankings. This is a review of 2014, not a preview for 2015.
1) Oscar Taveras, OF, Grade A: Hit .318/.370/.502 in 239 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis, but has been unable to carry this to St. Louis yet, hitting .247/.285/.326 in 215 at-bats. Given the entirety of his track record and the fact that his strikeout rate remains acceptably low in the majors even without much production, I think he will figure it out eventually. But this is admittedly disappointing. Age 22.
2) Carlos Martinez, RHP, Grade A-: 4.25 ERA in 83 major league innings, 78/33 K/BB, 84 hits. Results non-terrific but the stuff remains highly impressive. Age 22, I still expect a successful career as long as he avoids injuries.
3) Kolten Wong, 2B, Grade B+: Hitting .251/.288/.392 with 11 homers, 20 steals, 17 walks, 65 strikeouts in 375 major league at-bats at age 23. Combination of home runs and steals is nice to see and I think he’ll grow from here.
4) Stephen Piscotty, OF, Grade B+: Hit .288/.355/.406 with nine homers, 32 doubles, 43 walks, 61 strikeouts in 500 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis. Issue here remains future home run production. Age 23.
5) Alex Reyes, RHP, Grade B+: 3.62 ERA in 109 innings for Low-A Peoria in the Midwest League, 137/61 K/BB, 82 hits. Excellent K/IP ratio and low hit rate stand out and confirm reports of plus stuff. Needs tighter command. Age 20.
6) Marco Gonzales, LHP, Grade B: Rapid riser from 2013 draft, pitched at four levels including the majors. Combined minor league stats: 2.43 ERA, 117/27 K/BB in 122 innings, 110 hits. In the Show, 4.34 ERA in 29 innings, 27/19 K/BB, 30 hits. Age 22, projects well as mid-rotation starter.
7) Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. 1.88 ERA with 79/31 K/BB in 101 innings for Peoria, 71 hits. Reports are very positive and the stats are strong, though I’d like to see more strikeouts. Into the B+ range I think. Age 20.
8) Tim Cooney, LHP, Grade B-: Effective season for Triple-A Memphis, 14-6, 3.47 ERA with 119/47 K/BB in 158 innings, 158 hits. Classic efficiency strike-throwing southpaw and potential fourth starter, age 23, ready for a trial.
9) Randal Grichuk, OF, Grade B-: Hit .259/.311/.493 with 25 homers, 28 walks, 108 strikeouts in 436 at-bats for Memphis. In the majors, .228/.265/.329 with 23 whiffs in 79 at-bats. Obvious issues with contact but stands out for power, age 23.
10) Carson Kelly, C-3B, Grade B-: Grade C+: Hit .248/.326/.366 with six homers, 37 walks, 54 strikeouts in 363 at-bats for Peoria. Second-straight disappointing season with the bat, still just 20 years old. Stock flat.
11) James Ramsey, OF, Grade C+: Traded to Cleveland Indians for right-hander Justin Masterson, hit .295/.382/.509 combined between Double-A and Triple-A, age 25.
12) Aledmys Diaz, SS, Grade C+: Cuban defector, age 24, slowed by injuries, hit .291/.311/.453 with two walks, 24 strikeouts in 117 at-bats for Double-A Springfield. Hard to tell much given small sample size and circumstances.
13) Zach Petrick, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, posted 4.62 ERA with 82/36 K/BB in 115 innings for Memphis, 119 hits. Not outstanding by any means, but he’s come a long way as an undrafted free agent. Could contribute in back of rotation or in bullpen.
14) Cory Jones, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, went on DL in May after posting 7.00 ERA with 13/15 K/BB in 18 innings for High-A Palm Beach. Tommy John surgery.
15) Patrick Wisdom, 3B, Grade C+: Age 23, weak season in Double-A, hit .215/.277/.367 with 14 homers, 39 walks, 149 strikeouts in 452 at-bats for Springfield. Obvious contact problems, still raw on defense as well.
16) Lee Stoppelman, LHP, Grade C+ Difficult season due to control issues, 5.47 ERA with 57/26 K/BB in 49 innings combined between Memphis and Springfield. Age 24, still effective against lefties and could slot into LOOGY role if command firms up.
17) Breyvic Valera, INF-OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Sometimes you just like a guy. I still do. Hit .333/.385/.388 in 94 at-bats for Palm Beach, then .286/.329/.339 in 227 at-bats for Springfield, combined for 17 steals, 40 walks, 35 strikeouts in 521 at-bats. I’m attracted to the very low whiff rate. No power yet, age 22.
18) Oscar Mercado, SS, Grade C: Borderline C+. Age 19, hit .224/.303/.306 in 245 at-bats for Johnson City in the Appalachian League, 26 steals. Fast and makes contact, good glove reputation, but a weak hitter at this point.
19) Vaughn Bryan, OF, Grade C: Borderline C+. Hit .262/.326/.382 with one homer, 11 steals, 27 walks, 73 strikeouts in 317 at-bats for Peoria. Scouts praise his tools but unrefined in most ways, age 21.
20) Edmundo Sosa, SS, Grade C: Hit .275/.341/.377 with 18 walks, 29 strikeouts in 207 at-bats for Gulf Coast League Cardinals. Age 18, from Panama, too early to know much at this point.
A season of transition for the Cardinals prospect list: the 2015 rankings will look considerably different from this pre-season group. Wong, Martinez, and Taveras will graduate. None have quite met expectations, Taveras in particular, but given their track records we should sustain faith in all three. Much of the major league roster is home-grown of course, and the Cardinals also got some useful work out of rookie lefties Sam Freeman, Marco Gonzales, and Nick Greenwood, the latter a 14th round pick from 2009 who turned himself into a workable bullpen guy. Right-hander Sam Tuivaiala is another emerging arm.
Sam Freeman photo by Ronald C. Modra, Getty Images
The system reloads pitching for 2015 with the development of Reyes and Kaminsky at the top. The 2014 draft brings in advanced right-hander Luke Weaver from Florida State and extremely promising right-hander Jack Flaherty (who ran up 1.59 ERA and 28/4 K/BB in rookie ball). Other arms to watch include former first round pick Tyrell Jenkins, who bounced back successfully from a shoulder injury, and ultra-command right-hander Nick Petree, who makes hitters look dumb despite an 88 MPH fastball.
Holdover prospects with rising stock on the hitting side include outfielder Rowan Wick and his 20 homers in 74 games between State College and Peoria, outfielder Charlie Tilson (.289/.333/.389 between High-A and Double-A) infielder Jacob Wilson (.305/.366/.519 at Springfield before going down with a knee injury), and infielder Juan Herrera (.274/.320/.364 with 27 steals for Peoria). Also keep track of right-hander Mike Mayers and reliever Dixon Llorens.
The Cardinals ranked sixth among farm systems pre-season. With some turnover and churning they will move down a few notches, but given their track record I imagine they will recover the stock value quickly.