2014 Top 10 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

A strong crop of rookie performers in 2013 and a so-so amateur draft has hurt the organization’s minor league depth. However, the club still has some intriguing prospects on the way.


#1 Oscar Taveras | 70/AAA (OF)

21 188 54 13 5 10 22 5 .310 .348 .471 .361

The Year in Review: Taveras got off to a quick start at the Triple-A level in 2013 but his season was wiped out after 47 games due to a serious ankle injury. He spent much of the season in Triple-A as a 20 year old and hit .306 with an .803 OPS.

The Scouting Report: Taveras has an advanced feel for hitting and could eventually win a batting crown — while also producing 20+ home run power. The young outfielder has an uncanny ability to make contact even if his approach is a little unorthodox. The Cardinals have increased his value by playing him in centre field, where he’s average, but he’ll eventually settle into right field where his plus arm would be a massive weapon.

The Year Ahead: Taveras is expected to enter spring training with zero restrictions from the ankle injury. If healthy, he could reach the Majors by mid-season assuming the Cardinals can find a way to get him into the lineup.

The Career Outlook: He has all the makings of a future all-star outfielder and at just 21 years of age Taveras has many years ahead of him as perhaps the next face of the franchise.


#2 Kolten Wong | 55/MLB (2B)

22 62 4.8 % 19.4 % .153 .194 .169 .168 -1 -5.9 1.5 -0.3

The Year in Review: Wong opened his third pro season at the Triple-A level and hit more than .300 in 107 games. He also showed some improved pop at the plate and nabbed 20 bases in 21 attempts. The strong play earned him a promotion to the Majors where he posted an OPS of just .363 in 32 games.

The Scouting Report: Wong is a pure, left-handed hitter who should produce a strong batting average as a pro but the remainder of his tools grade out as average. He offers gap power and has enough speed and base-running savvy to nab 15-20 bases a season. He could develop into a solid No. 2 hole hitter. Defensively, he’s improved to the point where he’s average or a tick better but he has modest arm strength.

The Year Ahead: Wong will fight veteran Mark Ellis for the opening day starting gig at second base. If he loses the battle he may head back to Triple-A to continue improving his attack against southpaws and to further polish his defense.

The Career Outlook: Wong has a chance to be a solid, offensive-minded second baseman with some base running value.


#3 Stephen Piscotty | 60/AA (OF)

22 571 159 26 16 46 60 18 .308 .368 .471 .379

The Year in Review: The Stanford University alum split 2013 between High-A and Double-A. He compiled a .295 batting average along with an .810 OPS in 112 games and struck out just 46 times. Piscotty hit even better when he attended the Arizona Fall League and produced a .936 OPS in 23 games.

The Scouting Report: A college third baseman, Piscotty shifted to right field as a pro. He’s still learning the nuances of the position but he showed a strong arm and should be average or better in time. At the plate, he has an advanced approach and uses the whole field, which allows him to produce a strong batting average. Piscotty makes a lot of contact but doesn’t walk a ton. He has a large frame that suggests he should eventually hit for power but he doesn’t tap into it on a consistent basis at this point in his career.

The Year Ahead: With just 49 games under his belt at Double-A, Piscotty will likely return to the level for some additional seasoning. With that said, he could receive a quick promotion to Triple-A and/or the Majors — although Oscar Taveras is ahead of him on the promotion depth chart.

The Career Outlook: If Piscotty produces enough power, he could develop into an everyday corner outfielder. If it doesn’t develop as hoped, though, he might end up as an offensive-minded back-up capable of playing both infield and outfield positions.


#4 Alexander Reyes | 60/R (P)

18 12 12 58.1 54 1 10.49 4.32 3.39 2.74

The Year in Review: Reyes enjoyed his first professional season in Rookie ball and struck out 68 batters in 58.1 innings. He also allowed just one home runs despite having a fly-ball-happy approach. Left-handed batters hit .328 against him compared to righties at .216.

The Scouting Report: Just 19, Reyes flashes tantalizing stuff. His fastball works in that the 93-97 mph range and he has a potentially-plus curveball that just needs more consistency. He also has a changeup that has improved significantly since signing. Reyes has a strong frame and should be capable of acting as a workhorse starter for the Cardinals. It would be nice to see him take advantage of his height a little more to create a better plane on his heater to induce a higher rate of ground-ball outs.

The Year Ahead: Reyes showed enough to earn a promotion to full season ball in 2014 although the Cardinals will likely be protective of his young, talented arm. Expect him to spend a full season in Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: Reyes has the chance to develop two plus pitches and a third average-or-better pitch. As a result, he has the raw talent necessary to develop into a No. 2 starter.


#5 Rob Kaminsky | 55/R (P)

18 8 5 22.0 23 1 11.45 3.68 3.68 2.61

The Year in Review: I wasn’t a huge fan of the Cardinals’ 2013 draft but Kaminsky definitely bears watching. Selected 28th overall out of a New Jersey high school, he immediately settled into pro ball and made eight appearances (five starts). In 22.0 innings, he struck out 28 batters and produced a solid ground-ball rate despite his height disadvantage. Kaminsky held left-handed batters to a .190 average.

The Scouting Report: An undersized southpaw, Kaminsky has an average fastball in the 88-92 mph range but his secondary stuff has a chance to be special. His curveball already flashes plus and just needs a little more consistency. His changeup should also be an above-average offering, if not plus. The left-hander needs to trust his fastball more and be aggressive with it early in the count. He’ll have to work hard to stay on top of the ball and generate a solid downward plane on his fastball in an effort to produce more ground-ball than fly-ball outs.

The Year Ahead: Because he comes from a cold weather state and has a little less experience than pitchers from warmer states, Kaminsky may be held back in extended spring training for a bit. A hot spring, though, could force the Cardinals’ hand and result in an assignment to Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: Kaminsky, right now, looks like a future No. 3 starter if he continues to develop as expected.


#6 Marco Gonzales | 55/A+ (P)

25 49 0 67.1 78 5 3.21 4.28 4.95 5.01

The Year in Review: Selected 19th overall in the 2013 draft, Gonzales split his debut between Rookie ball and High-A ball. In total, he pitched just 23.1 innings and struck out 23 batters with eight walks. He was actually much more effective once he reached A-ball. The Gonzaga University grad allowed just one home run during his debut despite a fly-ball-heavy approach in the Florida State League.

The Scouting Report: Gonzales doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he’s expected to be a quick mover through the system. The southpaw’s best pitch is a plus changeup that works off his fringe-average fastball in the 87-91 mph range. He also has both a curveball and slider — which project as average offerings.

The Year Ahead: After already making four starts at the level in 2013, Gonzales will probably open 2014 in High-A ball. A good performance in the spring could convince the organization to push him with an opening day assignment to Double-A.

The Career Outlook: Gonzales has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.


#7 James Ramsey | 50/AAA (OF)

23 582 126 23 18 81 141 13 .263 .375 .440 .370

The Year in Review: It was a busy year for Ramsey, who opened the year in High-A ball but was promoted to Double-A after just 18 games. He spent the majority of the season there and posted a .780 OPS in 93 games but earned a one-game promotion to Triple-A to cap off his season. He then spent his “off-season” in the Arizona Fall League where he produced an .819 OPS in 22 games.

The Scouting Report: Ramsey has off-the-charts makeup. He’s also an above-average center-fielder but is far from flashy. At the plate, he strikes out too much but shows a patient approach that helps boost his on-base percentage. Ramsey has good speed but isn’t much of a base stealer and his double-digit homer total in 2013 was a bit of a surprise.

The Year Ahead: Ramsey is probably ticketed to open the year in Triple-A. He has a few outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart but he has a shot at making his MLB debut perhaps in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: Ramsey has the tools to develop into an average big league outfielder who will have an additional impact to the team based on his leadership abilities.


#8 Carson Kelly | 50/A- (3B)

18 467 107 22 6 33 56 1 .257 .322 .357 .322

The Year in Review: Kelly received an aggressive assignment at the beginning of the 2013 season and opened the year as a teenager in Low-A ball. After 43 games, though, he was demoted to short-season ball where his OPS jumped from .590 to .728. Even with his struggles in the Midwest League, Kelly still struck out just 56 times in 113 games.

The Scouting Report: A solid defensive third baseman with a good arm but limited range, Kelly was moved behind the plate in the offseason and showed enough potential to open the year behind the dish. Offensively, he’s still raw and projectable but shows the potential to hit for some power while making solid contact and taking his fair share of walks.

The Year Ahead: Kelly will receive another shot at Low-A ball and is a year wiser. He’ll look to continue making strides at the plate while learning to catch behind it.

The Career Outlook: If the catching role sticks, it significantly boosts Kelly’s stock because it remains to be seen if he’ll develop the in-game power to be an impact player at third base.


#9 Tim Cooney | 50/AA (P)

22 26 26 154.1 170 9 8.63 1.28 3.56 2.60

The Year in Review: A Wake Forest University alum, Cooney has turned himself into a solid pitching prospect. He opened 2013, his first full professional season, in High-A ball but earned a promotion to Double-A after just six starts. Cooney made another 20 starts in Double-A where he struck out 125 batters with just 18 walks in 118.1 innings. In total, though, he allowed 170 hits.

The Scouting Report: Cooney is your stereotypical southpaw who survives due to above-average control and command with a four-pitch repertoire. His fastball hits the low 90s and his second-best offering is a changeup. He also utilizes a curveball and cutter. He was too hittable at times in 2013 and needs to utilize his height to create a better plane to his fastball and induce more ground-ball outs. The young pitcher needs to command the ball better in the strike zone.

The Year Ahead: Cooney should move up to Triple-A and could be one of the first pitchers promoted to the Majors in the even of an injury — although his lack of a 40-man roster spot could hurt his chances (He doesn’t have to be added until after the 2015 season).

The Career Outlook: Cooney is a solid but unspectacular hurler who has the ceiling of a No. 4 starter.


#10 Randal Grichuk | 50/AA (OF)

21 542 128 27 22 28 92 9 .256 .306 .474 .341

The Year in Review: After a strong 2012 season, Grichuk maintained his footing despite a promotion from High-A to Double-A ball. In the Texas League, the young outfielder hit a career high 22 home runs but was streaky. His 28 walks in 128 games lead to a paltry on-base percentage of .306.

The Scouting Report: Grichuk has good power — as witnessed by his 40 home runs over the past two seasons — but an overly-aggressive approach keeps him from realizing his full potential. He’s a streaky hitter who disappears for weeks on end only to come back and light the world on fire for an extended period of time. Grichuk is especially good against southpaws and may eventually find himself in a platoon situation.

The Year Ahead: A change in scenario was probably the best thing that could happen to Grichuk’s career. He was one of two first round picks that the Angels had in 2009 and he was selected one spot ahead of fellow prep outfielder Mike Trout. Grichuk finally reached Double-A in 2013, his fifth pro season, while Trout was challenging for the MVP award. The newly relocated Cardinals farmhand will likely open 2014 in Triple-A and could see some big league action before the year is out.

The Career Outlook: I’m not sold that Grichuk is anything more than a quad-A slugger but he’s still young and has intriguing power.

The Next Five:

11. Charlie Tilson, OF: Tilson is an exceptional athlete with above-average speed but injuries have slowed his ascent through the system and he missed a full year’s worth of development in 2012. He hit more than .300 in 2013 but he needs to show a little more pop as he moves up through the system and he walked just 30 times in 109 games; he’ll need to get on base on a better rate to take advantage of his good speed. Defensively, he’s a strong fielder in centre.

12. Sam Tuivailala, RHP: Tuivailala hasn’t been focusing on pitching for very long so his numbers were understandably rough in 2013 but he still showed the ability to sling premium velocity while inducing strong ground-ball rates and keeping the ball in the yard. His control and command both need a fair bit of polish but he’s still young and could eventually develop into a high-leverage reliever.

13. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP: Jenkins is an ultra-athletic pitcher that flashes a ton of raw potential but a shoulder injury held him to just 13 appearances in A-ball. When healthy, he shows a good, low-90s fastball that can touch the mid-90s, as well as a potentially-plus curveball and developing changeup. He also takes advantage of his 6-4 height to induce above-average ground-ball rates.

14. Seth Blair, RHP: If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a quitter… and I’ve been banging the drum in the Seth Blair fan club since he was drafted, so, here we go again. Predominantly a starter in pro ball, the right-hander would likely find more success in the ‘pen where his lack of a reliable changeup and inconsistent fastball command issues would be a little less of a challenge to overcome.

15. Mike O’Neill, OF: O’Neill is an on-base machine who rarely strikes out (91 walks to 37 strikeouts in 2013) but the rest of his game is only so-so. He hits for a high batting average because he uses the whole field and isn’t worried about trying to yank the ball over the fence. He’s going to have to show a little more pop, though, or big league pitchers will challenge him and quite possibly overpower him. Defensively, O’Neill is anchored to left field with modest range and a weak arm.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago

By the innings threshold, Carlos Martinez is still considered a rookie. I’m sure he exceeds the “time of major league service” threshold, but no other prospect hound goes by that because of how laborious that would be to track.

10 years ago

I would prefer that all rankers did that as well, but I’m pretty sure that Law excluded Martinez as well for this reason.

10 years ago

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. He lost his rookie eligibility, hence he’s no longer a prospect. All the major lists follow that.

Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I guess Baseball America is not major enough for you…

Martinez has pitched 28 innings in the majors. The universal threshold is 50 IP.

10 years ago

He was on the 25-man roster for 1 day longer than allowed, September excluded, so he’s not technically a rookie. It’s 50 IP OR 45 days on the active roster I believe.

Marc Hulet
10 years ago

I debated whether or not to include but went with the rules (service time)

10 years ago

What is the threshold for service time?