Most St. Louis Cardinals fans know about big name prospects such as Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller, but often it is the underrated players who end up having the biggest impact. For instance, Allen Craig was generally regarded as “only” a three or even two-star prospect before he made his big splash late in the 2011 season. Here are five prospects that Cardinals fans may not know, but who may end up making a real difference for the big league club in the future.
#5 – Jordan Swagerty
Swagerty was drafted in the second round in 2010 as a reliever out of Arizona State with a 93-95 MPH sinking fastball to go along with a plus curveball and plus changeup. He proceeded to dominate single A in 2011 with a sub 2.00 ERA and nearly a strikeout per-inning with a sub 2.00 ERA. Swagerty eventually moved up to AA where he produced a sub 3.00 ERA over 9 innings pitched.
The only reason Swagerty is underrated is because of injury. Many have forgotten altogether about Swagerty after he had to undergo Tommy John surgery at the end of last year. Had he not been injured Swagerty may very well have made to the big leagues as a reliever last year.
Recovery from Tommy John is no sure thing, but if Swagerty can come close to regaining his old form he will be a top prospect for the organization once again and start getting the recognition he deserves.
#4 – Starlin Rodriguez
Rodriguez is a switch-hitting second baseman who hit .298 in high A ball last year with a .371 OBP and .440 SLUG. Normally, those sort of numbers for second baseman would get more attention, but Rodriguez is likely overlooked because of his size (he is listed at 5’9” 160 pounds), his age (23), and, most importantly, the emergence of Kolten Wong Still, if Rodriguez can come close to reproducing that OPS in Springfield he will, at the very least, become nice trade bait if Wong is the long-term answer for the Cardinals at second base. Oh, and by the way Rodriguez can also run a bit, with 16 stolen bases last year.
#3 – Greg Garcia
Garcia is middle infielder who had a very impressive .408 OBP in AA last year along with 10 homeruns, 51 runs batted in, and 10 stolen bases. Given the dearth the middle infield prospects outside of Kolten Wong one would think that Garcia would get more attention, but Garcia is limited by a number of factors.
First and foremost, early scouting reports suggest Garcia is more of a second baseman than a shortstop, which greatly limits his value to the Cardinals organization if Wong takes over second base in the long term.
Secondly Garcia overall SLUG percentage (.420) was not that impressive last year, particularly when one considers the hitter friendly ballpark he played in.
Still, a .828 OPS from a middle infielder is nothing to scoff at, and Garcia deserves more prospect buzz than he currently is receiving.
#2 - Tyler Lyons
Lyons often gets looked over because he has never produced an ERA below 3.90 in his three minor league seasons. However, Lyons FIP (a statistical adjustment to ERA that more accurately reflects a pitcher’s performance) was 3.19 over 88 IP last year, much better than his 4.28 ERA. Lyons also struck out over a batter per-inning in AAA while reducing his walk rate from 2.66 per 9 IP to 1.83 per 9 IP.
What really distinguishes Lyons is that he is left-handed and he actually has decent stuff according to scouting reports. Lyons does not get much publicity because he is not as highly regarded as other elite prospects like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez. However, if Lyons can continue his late 2012 upsurge in 2013 he may get to the Major Leagues sooner than prospects like Martinez.
#1 – Anthony Garcia
Garcia is another prospect who would probably garner more attention if he was not shadowed by a more highly rated prospect.
All Garcia did last year in single A was hit 19 homeruns while batting .280 with a .354 OBP and a .525 SLUG. Garcia is also young for his level (just turning 21 this January). In many organizations Garcia would be the top outfield prospect, but in the Cardinals organization Garcia gets lost behind elite prospect Oscar Taveras.
Many Cardinals fans already know Taveras well, but three or four years from now they may also see Garcia playing on the other opposite in end of the outfield from Taveras providing more than adequate offensive production.