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Updates on the St. Louis Cardinals top ten prospects

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The Cardinals had the top farm system one year ago. The system is now downgraded a bit by the graduation of players like Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha. Still, the minor leagues feature a number of talented players who could contribute to the big league club soon. Below is a report on the team’s top prospects which includes statistics accumulated through games played yesterday. Links to the top scouting publications for each player are also provided.

Legend: BA = Baseball America, MLB = Major League Baseball Website, BP = Baseball Prospectus, KL = Keith Law of ESPN, JS = John Sickels, VEB = Viva El Birdos (outsider rankings are from the beginning of the season)

#1 - Oscar Taveras, OF (Rated #3 by BA, #3 by MLB, #3 by BP, #1 on Team by JS, #1 on Team by VEB)

Last Season: 46G, 186 PA, 5 HR, 25 R, 32 RBI, 5 SB, .306 AVG, .341 OBP, .462 SLUG (AAA)

This Season (April 10): 7 G, 28 PA, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 3.6% BB Rate, 21.4% K Rate, .192 AVG, .250 OBP, .462 SLUG (AAA)

This Season (Current): 18 G, 73 PA, 3 HR, 12 R, 12 RBI, 6.8% BB Rate, 13.7% K Rate, .299 AVG, .356 OBP, .493 SLUG (AAA)

Trending: Up. Taveras started the year rough as evidenced by his April 10 stats, but since then has returned to his normal hitting self. With the big league club struggling to create offense, Taveras could be not far off from a callup.

Notes: The only thing that has been able to slow down Oscar Taveras assension up the Cardinals’ system has been a high ankle sprain which has robbed him of most of last year. When he has played Taveras has put up excellent numbers for a 21 year-old at the AAA level. This year Taveras has struggled to make consistent contact, but when he has made contact the ball has gone far. Rumors of Stephen Piscotty taking over Taveras as the top prospect are overrated for now. Give him time and, assuming health, Taveras will hit.

#2 - Stephen Piscotty, 3B, OF (Rated #70 prospect by BA, #66 by BP, #57 by KL, #97 by MLB, #4 on Team by JS, #10 by BA, #3 by VEB)

Last Season: 49 G, 207 PA, 6 HR, 17 R, 24 RBI, 7 SB, 9.2% BB Rate, 9.2% K Rate, .299 AVG, .364 OBP, .446 SLUG (AA)

This Season (April 10): 6 G, 27 PA, 0 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 7.4% BB Rate, 18.5% K Rate, .375 AVG, .444 OBP, .458 SLUG (AAA)

This Season (Current): 17 G, 69 PA, 2 HR, 9 R, 10 RBI, 2 SB, 5.8% BB Rate, 14.5% K Rate, .328 AVG, .377 OBP, .484 SLUG (AAA)

Trending: Same. Piscotty's numbers were bound to go down after a red hot start, but he still has a very high OBP and has actually brought his SLUG up over the last two weeks.

Notes: Piscotty was drafted out of Stanford in the first round of the Cardinals 2012 draft. Piscotty was seen as an advanced hitter, but there were questions about the power. Piscotty displayed power in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, and earned a promotion to AA just a year after being drafted. He hit well at AA and then had an excellent Spring Training. Piscotty has raked so far in AAA this year, and it now is an open question as to which prospect will get the call should the big league club need some more offense.

#3 – Alexander Reyes – RHP (Rated #97 prospect by BP, #5 prospect on team by JS, #4 prospect on team by VEB)

Last Season: 6 W, 4 L, 12 G, 12 GS, 58.1 IP, 10.49 K/9 IP, 4.32 BB/9 IP, 3.39 ERA, 2.74 FIP (R)

This Season (April 10): 1 W, 0 L, 1 G, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 10.8 K/9 IP, 12.60 BB/9 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5.00 FIP (A)

This Season (Current): 1 W, 0 L, 3 G, 3 GS, 12.1 IP, 11.68 K/9 IP, 9.49 BB/9 IP, 2.19 ERA, 4.09 FIP (A)

Trending: Same. Reyes has demonstrated his dominant stuff with a high K-rate, but unfortunately it has been accompanied by an unacceptably high BB-rate.

Notes: Reyes could very well be the next “steal” of the Cardinals from the Dominican Republic. The Cardinals signed Reyes for $950,000 in December of 2012. Reyes grew up in the United States, but moved to the Dominican so he could sign at earlier age. The Cardinals took advantage by giving him the equivalent of first round money for a Dominican player. Reyes reportedly features a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and is well developed relative to other Dominican pitchers. His first four professional games have featured a very high strikeout rate, but also an unacceptably high walk rate. In his only start of this year Reyes managed to walk seven hitters, but also strike out six while giving up no runs. Despite the dearth of numbers, his potential gets him on this list.

#4 – Aledmys Diaz – SS (Unrated by an publications as he was just signed this Spring Training)

Last Season: No stats

This Season (April 10): 6 G, 19 PA, 0 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, 0.0% BB Rate, 26.3% K Rate, .412 AVG, .389 OBP, .647 SLUG (AA)

This Season (Current): 15 G, 59 PA, 2 HR, 5 R, 13 RBI, 2 SB, 1.7% BB Rate, 22.0% K Rate, .296 AVG, .316 OBP, .519 SLUG (AA)

Trending: Same. Diaz has demonstrated some power, but the BB-rate is too low accompanied by a fairly high K-rate to bring down his OBP. It will be good to see how Diaz responds as AA pitchers adjust to him in the coming month.

Notes: Yes, it is very early and the sample size is unbelievable small. Having said that, Diaz has done nothing but impress in his very short time in professional USA baseball. The Cuban defector was signed to a 4-year, $8 million contract in March by the team. Little was known of Diaz at the time of the signing. Some reports had him as a regular Major League player who would provide average to above-average offense at shortstop. Other reports had Diaz as utility player whose range would not play at shortstop and whose offense would be below average at other positions. Reports on his defense in Springfield have been positive, and he is clearly not struggling with AA pitching so far.

#5 – Robert Kaminsky, LHP (#100 by KL, #4 on team by MLB, #7 on team by JS, #7 on team by VEB)

Last Season: 0 W, 3 L, 8 G, 5 GS, 22.0 IP, 11.45 K/9 IP, 3.68 BB/9 IP, 3.68 ERA, 2.61 FIP

This Season: Has not played

Trending: Same. Kaminsky pitched well in his short time in pro ball last year. This year Kaminsky will try to push up the single-A levels. At his age (19) anything above A- will be a huge accomplishment for Kaminskyl

Notes: Kaminsky earns a spot on the top 10 thanks to reports on his repertoire, which includes a fastball which sits at around 92 MPH and the most developed breaking ball of all high school left-handers. If Kaminsky were three inches taller (he is 5’11”), he may have been a top 10 draft choice. Instead, the Cardinals drafted him in the first round, number 28 overall. Kaminskly does not have the floor of fellow first rounder Marcos Gonzales (see below), but he has a much higher ceiling. Stay tuned.

#6 – Marco Gonzales, LHP (#6 on team by JS, #6 on team by VEB, #5 on team by MLB)

Last Season: 0 W, 0 L, 4 G, 4 GS, 16.2 IP, 7.02 K/9 IP, 2.7 BB/9 IP, 1.62 ERA, 3.32 FIP (A+)

This Season (April 10): 1 W, 0 L, 5.0 IP, 12.6 K/9 IP, 0.00 BB/9 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 FIP (A+)

This Season (Current): 1 W, 1 L, 2 G, 2 GS, 11.2 IP, 9.26 K/9 IP, 2.31 BB/9 IP, 2.31 ERA, 1.95 FIP (A+)

Trending: Up. Reports on Gonzalez continue to be positive and if he has a nice month in Palm Beach he should be ready for a promotion to AA soon.

Notes: Gonzales does not have Kaminsky’s stuff, as his fastball reportedly sits in the high 80’s. Still, Gonzales features the best changeup from the 2013 draft, a pitch that reportedly has great arm action and moves like screwball. Some scouting reports said Gonzales was the most developed college arm in the draft. Gonzales does not have a high ceiling, but he is a good bet to be at least a back of rotation starter should he stay healthy.

#7 – Tim Cooney, LHP (Rated #10 prospect on team by MLB, #8 prospect on team by JS, #5 prospect on team by VEB)

Last Season: 7 W , 10 L, 20 G, 20 GS, 118.1 IP, 9.51 K/9 IP, 1.37 BB/9 IP, 3.80 ERA, 2.47 FIP (AA)

This Season (April 10): 1 W, 0 L, 1 G, 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 13.5 K/9 IP, 1.50 BB/9 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.20 FIP (AAA)

This Season (Current): 3 W, 0 L, 4 G, 3 GS, 23.2 IP, 7.61 K/9 IP, 2.66 BB/9 IP, 2.28 ERA, 4.33 FIP (AAA)

Trending: Slightly down. Since an outstandign start to the season Cooney has cooled down a bit lowering his K-rate while simultanesouly increasing his BB-rate. The ERA is still low, but his FIP suggests he is struggling more than it shows.

Notes: Cooney does not have the stuff of the pitchers ranked above him. His fastball reportedly sits in the 89-92 MPH range. He compliments that with a curveball, slider, and changeup, all of which are average to above average. The key to his success has been location and a great deal of skill in mixing up his pitches to keep hitter off balance. So far it is working, and if he continues to perform he will get a chance to prove it works at the highest level.

#8 – Randal Grichuk (#9 team prospect by JS, #8 team prospect by VEB)

Last Season: 128 G, 542 PA, 22 HR, 85 R, 64 RBI, 9 SB, 5.2% BB Rate, 17.0% K Rate, .256 AVG, .306 OBP, .474 SLUG (AA)

This Season (April 10): 6 G, 28 PA, 1 HR, 8 R, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 7.1% BB Rate, 21.4% K Rate, .308 AVG, .357 OBP, .500 SLUG

This Season (Current): 17 G, 77 PA, 3 HR, 15 R, 17 RBI, 1 SB, 7.8% BB Rate, 20.8% K Rate, .357 AVG, .403 OBP, .629 SLUG (AAA)

Trending: Way up. The question going into the season was whether Grichuk could display discipline and keep his average up since he struggled to make consistent contact before. So far so good in the young season as Grichuk is having the best season of the Memphis trio.

Notes: Grichuk was part of the compensation in exchange for sending David Freese to the Angels in the offseason. Many were surprised that the Angels were willing to part with Grichuk in addition to giving up Peter Bourjos. Grichuk has great power, but has struggled to make consistent contact through his career with an excessively high K rate. Following form, early this year Grichuk has shown off some power, but also struck out at a high rate which may eventually catch up with him.

#9 – James Ramsey (Rated #7 Team Prospect by MLB, #11 team prospect by JS, #11 team prospect by VEB)

Last Season: 93 G, 416 PA, 15 HR, 61 R, 44 RBI, 8 SB, 12.7% BB Rate, 26.0% K Rate, .251 AVG, .356 OBP, .424 SLUG

This Season (April 10): 6 G, 24 PA, 1 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 12.5% BB Rate, 12.5% K Rate, .476 AVG, .542 OBP, .762 SLUG (AA)

This Season (Current): 17 G, 74 PA, 5 HR, 14 R, 14 RBI, 1 SB, 9.5% BB Rate, 24.3% K Rate, .359 AVG, .446 OBP, .672 SLUG

Trending: Slightly down. Make no mistake Ramsey is hitting and hitting well, but the dramatic increase in his K-rate is a bit worrisome and suggests that his .359 AVG may not last long. Still, Ramsey seems deserving of a promotion, but there is no where to put in AAA right now.

Notes: Ramsey was a controversial pick among some Cardinals analysts when he was drafted in the first round in 2012. Many believed Ramsey, who was drafted as a senior out of college, had limited potential and at best projected as a Skip Schumaker type of player. While it is very early, Ramsey has thus far been a success, rising to the AA level. Ramsey best tools is likely his ability to hit and play centerfield, but it is believed his other tools (power, speed, arm) are just average to above-average for his position. The bad news for Ramsey is that he is blocked by the trio of Taveras, Grichuk, and Piscotty at the AAA level.

#10 - Carson Kelly, C (Rated #9 Team Prospect by MLB, #12 by JS, #9 by BA, #13 by FR)

Season: 43 G, 168 PA, 2 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI, 7.7% BB Rate, 14.9% K Rate, .219 AVG, .288 OBP, .301 SLUG (A)

This Season (April 10): 5 G, 22 PA, 0 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 9.1% BB Rate, 18.2% K Rate, .300 AVG, .364 OBP, .450 SLUG (A)

This Season (Current): 13 G, 59 PA, 2 HR, 11 R, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 8.5% BB Rate, 6.8% K Rate, .294 AVG, .356 OBP, .549 SLUG (A)

Trending: Way Up. Kelly was converted to catcher this year and so far has hit well at single-A. If he can stick at catcher and put up those numbers he will move up this list quickly.

Notes: Kelly was drafted as the player with perhaps the highest ceiling from a 2012 draft that included Michael Wacha. The team was thrilled to lure Kelly away from a commitment to Oregon with a $1.6 million signing bonus. Kelly was two-way player who featured a fastball in the low 90’s and impressive power as a hitter. Early on Kelly’s power has failed to show up, but he is still just 20 years old which is quite young for the single-A level he is playing at. This year the team converted Kelly to catcher and the reports on his receiving and throwing ability in Spring Training were positive. If he can hit at all this year Kelly could zoom up the list.

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