In this guest feature, Mark offers his personal ranking of the St. Louis Cardinals' top 20 prospects. In part two, we will see how many of these players he placed in the top 300 and where they reside. Further, Mark will answer questions about those he ranked and why others missed out.
Look for it soon!
St. Louis Cardinals Top 20 Prospects - By Mark Anderson
1. Shelby Miller (RHP)
Far and away the number one guy in the system, Miller has legit front of the rotation potential. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s regularly and a curve that flashes plus at times, he has the two knockout pitches to be a top of the line starter. If his command comes around as some scouts believe it should, he could be poised to jump a couple of levels in 2011 and he could cement his projection as a future rotation monster for the Cardinals.
2. Zack Cox (3B)
Cox is the best hitters in the Cardinals system with at least a plus hit tool and a great understanding of the strike zone and approach. His ultimate power ceiling still has questions swirling around it with some scouts seeing 15-18 home runs annually at his peak, and other seeing a few more than that. He can handle third base but it isn't always pretty. One scout I spoke with wondered if he was all that much different than Astros prospect Brett Wallace, but admitted he had a better chance to stay at the hot corner, helping his value.
Incredibly athletic and oozing projection, Jenkins offers some outstanding raw tools but he has plenty of refinement remaining having never focused purely on baseball. He already shows an above-average fastball that can get to plus at times, and his quick arm makes scouts downright giddy. He has some feel for a power curveball, but that and his presently non-existent change-up both need plenty of work. Given how raw he is, it is really tough to nail down any future role for Jenkins, but his ceiling is as high as anyone in the system not named Miller.
4. Seth Blair (RHP)
As a big time college product, Blair might not seem like the type that still has projection remaining, but some scouts still believe he could turn his raw stuff into something more impressive than he's showed to date. He can work his fastball in the 92-93 range consistently with more in the tank if he needs it. His curveball has swing-and-miss potential but he needs to locate it better. If he can tighten up his command in the zone and make improvements with his change-up he could move quickly and hit his ceiling of a number three starter.
5. Bryan Martinez (RHP)
A guy I'm admittedly much higher on than most prospect watchers, Martinez had his share of fans in the DSL and GCL in 2010. His fastball already sits in the low-90s and there is plenty of projection remaining in his thin 6-foot-3 frame. His slider drew future 55 and 60 grades from scouts in the Dominican last summer, and he has shown some feel for a curveball and change-up. Martinez has an advanced feel for his craft and he projects for plus command, which could help his stuff play up even more.
6. Daniel Bibona (LHP)
An aggressive ranking for a guy who some believe his stuff doesn't match his scouting report. Bibona's best assets are his command, pitchability, and his curveball, which all allow him to compete despite a fastball that only sits at 87-89 and scrapes 90. He mixes his pitches and changes speeds well, and his arsenal plays up because of his uncanny ability to locate. He doesn't have much room for error, but the scouts that like him think he could be a solid number three or four for a long time.
7. Mark Hamilton (1B)
Though he's completely blocked in St. Louis (assuming Albert Pujols is re-signed), Hamilton still has the profile of a second division starter at first base. He has plus-plus power to the pull side and he can drive the ball with authority to the opposite field as well. His approach and solid hitting ability allows him to tap into his power in game situations. While he has been tried in left field, the reviews haven't been positive, and he is likely limited to playing a strong first base.
8. Daniel Descalso (2B)
He's not going to blow you away with tools or performance, but Descalso is going to do enough to be a regular at the big league level. He has a good hit tool and an ability to make contact on a variety of pitches throughout the strike zone. His power rates below-average but he does have enough strength to get the ball into the gaps and pile up some doubles. The skill set is nothing flashy, but for a guy to play hard, play solid defense, and hit, it doesn't need to be.
9. Carlos Martinez (RHP)
It may seem as though I got Bryan and Carlos confused here, but while the scouts I spoke with love the electric velocity he showed last summer, there was also some questions about what he was going to do with it. There is some effort to his delivery and he doesn't have the size that scouts prefer, but his arm has brilliant quickness and tons of velocity, getting into the upper-90s at times. He is far more a thrower than pitcher at this point in time. If his secondary pitches and command of his entire arsenal come together, his ceiling is huge, but there is a gaping hole between his raw tools and what he might do with them.
10. Lance Lynn (RHP)
Lynn is a much different pitcher now than he was this time last year, pumping above-average to plus velocity with ease instead of sitting 89-91 as he had previously. His huge frame lets him throw on a downward plane to the plate and can make him difficult to elevate when he is on. Neither his curveball nor change-up grade better than average and he needs to learn to use his new found velocity to help set them up better. He has back of the rotation innings eater potential.
11. Allen Craig (1B/OF)
Despite continuing to hit in the minor leagues, scouts have trouble projecting him as an MLB regular because he lacks capable defensive abilities and he doesn't hit enough to force his way into the lineup on his bat alone. He has above-average raw power and he has worked hard to make that power more useable in recent years. His best shot at a big league job is to hit enough to force the coaching staff to overlook his defensive misgivings in left field.
12. Eduardo Sanchez (RHP)
Sanchez could be a factor in St. Louis in 2011 with his mid- to upper-90s velocity and a slider that can occasionally show as a 60-grade pitch. His fastball comes in a little true at times and can be more hittable than it should be given the raw velocity. His control can escape him and even when he's throwing strikes he lacks the ability to consistently locate within the strike zone. Given the lack of projection in his command, his ceiling is that of a setup man.
The hit tool is the only real question for Longmire, as there are concerns that he won't hit enough to allow his plus power and above-average speed to become true offensive weapons. Some scouts believe they see some minor mechanical tweaks that could allow him to at least become a fringe-average hitter. He has the tools to handle any of the three outfield positions, including an above-average arm and good instincts.
14. Mikael Cleto (RHP)
Acquired in the deal that sent Brendan Ryan to Seattle, Cleto offers big time velocity, sitting in the 96-98 range in short stints. His fastball has explosive late life that makes it difficult to square up. For all his velocity, scouts have trouble profiling Cleto because he often struggles to throw strikes and lacks anything resembling a consistent secondary pitch.
15. Jordan Swagerty (RHP)
Like Sanchez, Swagerty profiles nicely as a setup reliever, though for a slightly different reason. Unlike Sanchez, he commands his 92-93 mph fastball very well, working to all four corners of the strike zone with ease. His curveball is a true hammer that is a premium swing-and-miss offering, and he can throw it for strikes or leave it out of the zone as a chase pitch. With the command of his fastball and the polish of his breaking ball, he could fly through the system.
16. Oscar Taveras (OF)
Still just 18-years old, Taveras has an advanced bat for his age, both in terms of hitting ability and power. He has a knack for barreling the ball and shows a feel for driving the ball where it's pitched. He needs to learn which pitches he can turn on and utilize his natural strength, but that should come with more experience. He'll never be a defensive stalwart, but he can hold his own and could hit enough to hold a left field profile in the future.
17. Matt Carpenter (3B)
Carpenter is a classic grinder in every phase of the game. He plays hard in the field though he lacks the raw defensive tools to really man the position. He has a plus hit tool with an outstanding ability to recognize pitches and make contact. He won't get himself out at the plate and he shows the intelligence to adjust his approach from at-bat to at-bat. He lacks the power expected of a third baseman, but he can make up for some of that with his on-base ability.
18. Joe Kelly (RHP)
Kelly can light up the radar gun with his fastball, particularly in shorter stints where he can approach triple digits at times. He shows good sink on his fastball when he doesn't overthrow it, and he is often more of a ground ball machine than a strikeout artist. None of his secondary pitches elicited real strong reviews from scouts in 2010 and he will need at least one pitch to step forward to have anything more than a relief profile.
19. Adron Chambers (OF)
An outstanding athlete, Chambers is just starting to turn raw physical tools to results on the baseball diamond. He regularly runs in the plus to plus-plus range from home to first, but he still hasn't learned how to use that speed to his offensive or defensive advantage. He makes solid contact and has worked hard to improve his approach. His power is well below-average. His defense will need to improve if he's going to be a big leaguer, but if it does he could be handy bench outfielder.
20. Tony Cruz (C)
Cruz is a defense-first catcher with a big time arm behind the dish. He has improved his receiving of the last two years and some scouts felt he was arguably the best defensive catcher in the system. He is a quiet leader that handles the staff well. Offensively he can get the ball into the gaps and makes enough contact to hit in the bottom third of a lineup. He may not be an everyday backstop, but he could be a nice time share option in the right situation.
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