A Look to the Future: St. Louis Cardinals Top 7 Prospects

taveras

1. Oscar Taveras, OF (AAA)

2013: .306 BA, .341 OBP, 12 2B, HR, 32 RBI, 5/6 SB’s

His nagging ankle injury that ultimately led to season-ending surgery slowed down Taveras’ development in 2013. When healthy, he proved that his bat was AAA-ready. Had he not gotten injured, he would likely be up with the big league squad by now. His future position for the Cardinals still remains unclear–though he is capable of playing centerfield, he will likely end up as a rightfielder long-term.

Also, according to Keith Law of ESPN, Taveras is the second best prospect in all of baseball, so this tells me that he deserves the top spot for the Cardinals. Because of the extent of his injury, I expect him to start 2014 in AAA, but he will likely be in St. Louis soon thereafter.
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cmart

2. Carlos Martinez, RHP (AA/AAA/MLB)
2013 Minors: 6-3, 2.49 ERA, 79.2 IP, 72 K’s, 28 BB’s
2013 Majors: 2-1, 5.27 ERA, 27.1 IP, 24 K’s, 9 BB’s

Is Martinez’s future in the starting rotation or at the back-end of the bullpen? This is yet to be seen, but the 22-year-old fireballer has a bright future. The future is now, though, because he will likely play an integral role in the playoffs this season.

Of all the Cardinals’ pitching prospects, he has the most electric stuff. If he is able to develop a secondary pitch that he can consistently throw for strikes, he will become nearly unhittable for years to come. Considering the amount of arms competing for the rotation next season, he will likely start 2014 out of the ‘pen.
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wong

3. Kolten Wong, 2B (AAA/MLB)
2013: .286 BA, .341 OBP, 22 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 23/24 SB’s

Wong was an All-Star second baseman in AAA this season. He is the complete package–hitting for average and some pop, fielding his position, and a threat to run on the basepaths.

He was called up to be a spark-plug for the St. Louis offense during a rut but has yet to see consistent playing time. He has struggled at the plate in the big leagues, hitting just .148 in 54 at-bats. The off-season will do him well because to me, his swing looks a little out-of-whack right now. Wong is the future at second base and will likely be the team’s lead-off hitter for years to come.
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carson

4. Carson Kelly, 3B (A/SS-A)
2013: .257 BA, .322 OBP, 22 2B, 6 HR, 45 RBI

Kelly, just 18 years old at the time, started out the season on the Peoria Chiefs. He struggled mightily, hitting just .219 and was demoted to the Short-Season State College Spikes. His bat heated up for State College and helped lead the team to the championship series.

Now 19 years old, look for Kelly to get a second shot with Peoria in 2014. He may be a lot further away from the big leagues than the other members on this list, but in my opinion, only Taveras has a higher ceiling than his. He was one of the most highly touted draft picks in 2012 and has the skills to be an impact third baseman for the Cardinals someday. I look forward to seeing his sweet swing in St. Louis in the future.
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photo 2

5. James Ramsey, OF (A+/AA/AAA)

2013: .265 BA, .373 OBP, 16 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 51 RBI

I have been a fan of Ramsey’s since he was drafted in 2012. Yet, he only had one home run after being drafted, so I was worried that his power was not going to translate to professional baseball. He put my doubt to rest this season by clubbing 16 home runs (15 of them for Springfield).

He is an above average defender in centerfield with one of the better outfield arms in the entire organization. To top it all off, he is a great guy and will surely be a fan favorite in St. Louis someday. I think he will start 2014 in Memphis but will likely make the trip to St. Louis by the end of the season.
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piscotty

6. Stephen Piscotty, OF (A+/AA)

2013: .295 BA, .346 OBP, 23 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 11/19 SB’s

Piscotty started out with High-A Palm Beach and earned the promotion to AA Springfield half-way through the season. The 2012 first-round draft pick out of Stanford did not disappoint at either level in 2013.

He was drafted as a third baseman, but he has been able to make the transition to outfield pretty well so far in his young career. Based on his success in Springfield, I see him starting out next season with Memphis. If he continues to develop, he could possibly be a member of the 2014 September call-ups to provide bench depth for the stretch run.
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marco

7. Marco Gonzales, LHP (Rk/A+)

2013: 8 games (6 starts), 0-0 record, 2.70 ERA, 23.1 IP, 23 K’s, 8 BB’s

Gonzales is the only member of this year’s draft class to make my list. He is a polished college arm that will likely jump a few levels in 2014. I do not think it is too far-fetched to see him make it all the way to Memphis next year.

The young lefty has a bright future, and his rise throughout the minors might resemble that of Michael Wacha‘s next year. He is a name to keep an eye on because he will likely make it to St. Louis a lot sooner than many would think.
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Just Short of Making the List:

Tyrell Jenkins, RHP: He injured his shoulder multiple times in 2013, and ultimately, he needed season-ending surgery. If the rehabilitation process goes well, he should be ready for 2014. His stuff is amazing but very unpolished. Because of his inability to remain healthy and the fact that shoulder injuries can be scary, I just could not put him in my top 7.

Zach Petrick, RHP: Petrick had an amazing 2013–one that even got Keith Law’s attention. Law said that he could see him being a back-end of the rotation guy in the future. However, Petrick struggled a little bit in Springfield and at the age of 24, he fell just short of making my list.

John Gast, LHP: Gast saw time in the big leagues this season and was pretty successful. Yet, he, like Jenkins, required season-ending shoulder surgery. Unlike Jenkins, however, his surgery was on his lat muscle which is not part of the shoulder joint so he should be able to recover completely from the injury. Yet, until he can prove that he has fully recovered, I could not put him on the list either.

Rob Kaminsky, LHP: This 19-year-old lefty has a very bright future for the Cardinals. However, since he is still 19 and has a long way to go, I could not put him on my list. After a full season in 2014, we will be able to get a grasp at what he truly has to offer. I could see him starting off next season in Peoria or even Palm Beach.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Special thanks goes out to Matt Sebek and the Rookies App for providing me with a platform to make the virtual baseball cards for each player on my list. Make sure to check out the App in the AppStore!

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Looking Back at James Ramsey, Jordan Swagerty, Kurt Heyer, Carson Kelly

As most of you already know, I picked up sports blogging for the first time this summer. I enjoyed providing you with my take on various topics, but my favorite part had to be the interviews I had with a handful of Cardinal prospects.

All four of the players I interviewed can be considered top prospects for the organization, yet they were more than happy to help me out with my blog. This speaks volumes about the players that the Cardinals draft. It shows that the organization is not only drafting high quality players, but high quality men as well.

Now that the 2013 minor league regular seasons are over, let’s take a look back at the seasons of the four players that I was lucky enough to interview this summer.

James Ramsey

Photo Credit: Picasa

Photo Credit: Picasa

Final Stat Line: .265 batting average, .373 OBP, 16 doubles, 4 triples, 16 home runs, 51 RBI

In 2013, Ramsey proved that his future is bright for the Cardinals. He started in High-A (Palm Beach), saw the majority of his time in Double-A (Springfield), and even played in a game for Triple-A (Memphis) late in the season. One thing that was a pleasant surprise for me was his power. I always knew he had gap-to-gap power, but I never envisioned him hitting 16 home runs in a season. It will be nice to have a bat with a little bit of pop in the outfield in the future because Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran aren’t getting any younger.

The most incredible statistic for Ramsey in 2013 was his on-base percentage. At .373 and the fact that he drew 51 walks this season, it shows that he has a really good grasp of the strikezone–something fans will enjoy when he gets the call to the big league level. Also, for those wondering, his defense was above-average in center field, and his arm is one of the better outfield arms in the entire organization.

Look for the 2012 first-round draft pick to be playing for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds next season, and if things go well there, he could see time in the big leagues by the end of 2014.

Link to my article on Ramsey here.
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Jordan Swagerty

Photo Credit: Swagerty's blog

Photo Credit: Swagerty’s blog

Final Stat Line: 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 10.2 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 8 walks

Sure, Swagerty’s statistics don’t look very promising, but that is not the most important part of this season for him. The fact of the matter is that a lot of his work was done outside of the game. He had Tommy John surgery on an injured elbow/forearm in 2012, and he spent the majority of the season working his way back into throwing form.

He saw limited game action in July, but the organization wanted to be cautious with their 2010 second-round draft pick. Thus, look for Swagerty, who was considered the Cardinals #7 prospect when healthy, to have a much better 2014 if he is able to fully recover by then. He has the stuff to make the big leagues, it is just a question whether or not his health will cooperate.

Link to my article on Swagerty here.
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Kurt Heyer

Photo Credit: Dennis, Chiefs Photographer

Photo Credit: Dennis, Chiefs Photographer

Final Stat Line: 9-7, 3.41 ERA, 124.0 innings pitched, 96 strikeouts, 34 walks, .258 batting average against

Heyer was probably my favorite prospect to follow this season. He started out with the Peoria Chiefs but was quickly promoted to High-A Palm Beach. Once in High-A, Heyer had some struggles, and the former NCAA Champion (while at the University of Arizona) was not pitching up to his true ability.

Yet, this did not last long. He was able to turn it around–culminating in a 1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings pitched in August. My buddy, @CardinalsFarm, was able to interview with Farm Director, John Vuch, and this is what he had to say, “Heyer has done well as a starter, and I’ve also seen times where his velocity will spike in short bursts, so it’s not far-fetched to also see him being a guy who might throw even harder coming out of the ‘pen.”

Thus, expect to see Heyer start out next season for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. However, it would not be far-fetched to see him in Triple-A by the end of 2014. Also, depending on needs at the big league level, one cannot predict just when a minor league pitcher might be needed. I’m not saying he will be in the big leagues next season, but the way this season as gone, no one can really be too sure about this (See: Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Keith Butler, etc.)

Link to my article on Heyer here.
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Carson Kelly

Photo Credit: Abby Drey (CDT Photos)

Photo Credit: Abby Drey (CDT Photos)

Final Stat Line: .257 batting average, .322 OBP, 22 doubles, 6 home runs, 45 RBI

Kelly, just 19 years old, started out 2013 on the Peoria Chiefs. He struggled to find his groove there, which is not entirely unexpected considering he was still 18 years old at the time. Thus, the Cardinals assigned him to the Class A Short-Season State College Spikes to finish out 2013.

The 2012 second-round pick took his lackluster performance in Peoria as a learning experience and developed into a more comfortable player for State College. As the season went along, his confidence kept growing as shown by his .301 batting average in July and August.

Kelly, a top third-base prospect, has a bright future, and I could see him starting 2014 back in Peoria or possibly even Palm Beach. Either way, he is still just 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop his skills in the minor leagues. He is a prospect to watch who has that sweet swing that will likely make some noise in St. Louis someday.

Link to my article on Kelly here.
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Lastly, thank you so much to Ramsey, Swagerty, Heyer, and Kelly for answering my questions this season. I look forward to seeing their progress next season as they take the next steps towards St. Louis.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Getting to Know James Ramsey

Photo Credit: gatewayredbirds.com

Photo Credit: gatewayredbirds.com

In the 2012 MLB draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected James Ramsey, a left-handed hitting outfielder from Florida State University, with the 23rd pick in the first round. He is a 23 year old graduate from the school and looks to further develop his skills to one day suit up for the Cardinals in the outfield of Busch Stadium.

Background

Ramsey is the type of player that is hard not to like. He was named the team captain of the FSU baseball team for the first time program history. He went on a week-long mission trip to the Domincan Republic in December 2012 and described it as an “unbelievable experience” that opened not only his eyes but his heart as well. You can check out his experience in his personal blog here.

In his senior season at FSU, he was awarded the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award is given to a college senior based on four characteristics: community, classroom, character, and competition. Thus, it is a prestigious award that helps describe who Ramsey is as a player, a teammate, and a person.

College/Minor League Statistics

2012 for Florida State: .385 batting average, 72 runs, 13 home runs, 55 runs batted in. He won the ACC Player of the Year for this performance.

2013 for Palm Beach (A+): .361 batting average, .481 on-base percentage, 1 home run, 7 RBI, 1/1 on stolen bases in 18 games

2013 for Springfield (AA): .240 batting average, .359 on-base percentage, 3 home runs, 7 RBI, 5/6 on stolen bases in 34 games

His Tools

1. Leadership: As shown by being named FSU team captain and being awarded the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. This is something that cannot be taught to a player, so when someone has it like Ramsey does, it cannot be undervalued. This had to be one of the selling points for the Cardinals organization on draft day.

2. Getting On Base: In the wise words of Billy Beane, he “just gets on base.” Despite having a .240 batting average so far in AA, he has been able to maintain a solid .359 on-base percentage. This is a testament to his eye for the strike zone–he has been walked 23 times in just 34 games.

3. Hitting: Although his hitting is not where he would like right now in AA, he has shown flashes of regaining the consistency that he has had throughout his baseball career. According to a scout, he “has a direct, line drive bat path with some strength and bat speed, but most importantly he has an innate ability to square up pitches.”

4. Foot Speed: He has good running speed which he makes the most of by utilizing his unbelievable mental awareness. In my opinion, he will be able to average 15-20 stolen bases per season at the big league level while being able to patrol either corner outfield position with ease. He could manage at center field as well, but that spot is most likely reserved for Oscar Taveras for the long haul.

Big League Comparison

Ramsey’s build is almost an exact replica of Nick Swisher, but that’s not the comparison I am going to go with here. He is more like Matt Carpenter or Skip Schumaker in my eyes. He, like those two, is a gritty, hard-nosed player who makes solid contact and just has a knack for getting on base.

When Skip was here, he was a fan favorite, and now, Carpenter is quickly becoming a fan favorite himself. I believe that when Ramsey reaches the big league level, fans will fall in love with his style of play, and he will soon be a fan favorite as well. Like I said, Ramsey is the type of player that is hard not to like.

And FINALLY, the part you have all been waiting for…

In His Own Words

I was fortunate enough to ask him a few questions last night for the end of this post. The conversation was brief and took place on Twitter so some abbreviations were used to fit the 140 character limit. Take that into account when reading his responses. Thanks!

Me: What player(s) did you look up to as a kid?
Ramsey: Cal Ripken Jr. was my favorite, such a model of consistency. Ken Griffey Jr. also as a left handed hitter with such a smooth swing.

Me: When you found out the Cards drafted you in 1st rd, what was your first thoughts?
Ramsey: Glad I was entering an organization with such a rich tradition, & an org. that takes pride in developing players that know how to win.

Me: I know you are a man of faith, so how do you balance it with the busy schedule and being on the road a lot?
Ramsey: It’s all about relationships. I stay close with my pastor from college, friends, former teammates that are believers. Stay in the word & read some books by different pastors.

Me: Back to baseball, what has been the hardest part about acclimating to the professional game?
Ramsey: It’s all about forming a process that works. A North Star that you can fall back on when things aren’t going as well. I’m learning a lot and feel like being in AA in my first full year is exactly where I need to be. I’m holding my own & am excited about each day going forward.

Me: What is your biggest strong point and area for improvement?
Ramsey: My biggest strong point is the ability to be at my best when my team needs me–offensively, defensively, and on the bases. My area of improvement is to continue to hit for both power & average, reaching my potential while competing every day in AA.

Me: Final question, what is your favorite food of all time?
Ramsey: Ahi Tuna steak, sweet potato fries, fried okra. Chocolate chip cookies with milk for dessert.

If you aren’t already following him on Twitter, I hope this post has convinced you to now. Check him out at @JamesRamsey23

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)