While our popular St. Louis Cardinals Monthly Prospect Rankings will be back for 2014, its first edition will not come out until real baseball begins – in April. In the meantime, I am going to step in with a weekly look at how the members of The Cardinal Nation's 2014 top 40 prospect list are doing in major league camp.
I could have chosen a more mundane title for these articles, but to be honest, I am playing off a segment of people who have become over-heated about certain prospects based on just a few February games. I sense they didn't know about these guys before and are star-struck upon discovering them.
The good news-bad news story this year is that the Cardinals, continuing with one the top-ranked farm systems in baseball, have a batch of prospects close to the majors. Some who are overly zealous are calling out for these players to be put onto the major league roster before it may make good sense for the prospect or the team.
As camp opened, I went on record with my predictions of which players I thought would make the major league roster out of spring training. I did the same for all four of the full-season minor league clubs. Click here to be taken to the Peoria article, as links to the other four articles are included at the end.
I am using those predictions in the tables below despite the reality that since then, on-going injuries to Jaime Garcia and Oscar Taveras may have changed the picture. That is expected, as the roster targets are constantly moving throughout camp. That is why they have it – figure out who best fits where.
The start of real games offers a great opportunity to regularly check in on how the youngsters are doing. Of course, the usual small sample size warnings are relevant. Think of this as a hot-warm-cold look from a seven-day period that could change entirely from one week to next.
Despite a 1-2 record, the team appears to be in pretty good shape, all things considered. The pitching has a collective ERA of 3.71 while the Cardinals opponents are at 4.85. The team batting average is .288, with their opponents at just .208. That was helped by a long stretch of hitless ball thrown at the Mets on Sunday, from the first until the eighth inning. St. Louis' run differential advantage is 15 to 11. After two initial losses to Miami, the Cards came back to spank the Mets on Sunday. All three games were held at familiar Roger Dean Stadium.
|Injured Swagerty reassigned|
The Cardinals opened big-league camp with 60 players invited. Of the 58 currently in camp, 39 are on the 40-man roster and 19 are non-roster invitees. They are all vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.
20 of the 58 are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 for 2014 – a symmetric representation of 10 pitchers and 10 position players. Another 10 prospects in total are in camp, either as members of the 40-man or as NRIs, but did not place among our top 40.
This group of is those about whom I will be reporting. Of course, the list of 30 will decline each week as camp continues.
They are split by pitchers and position players and within each by 40-man and NRI status. Within those groups, I rank each player based on his momentum this past week – high/medium/low. I want to be clear that is NOT how I assess their chances of making the team – see the column I call "Prediction" for where I thought the player will start in April as camp opened.
In this first installment, with just three games about which to report, most players will remain "medium," unless I see as a clear reason to shift them.
|Carlos Martinez||#2||40-man||Majors||St. Louis|
|Kurt Heyer||NRI||Majors||Palm Beach|
|Marco Gonzales||#6||NRI||Majors||Palm Beach||Low|
|this week||Top 40||Roster||Camp||Prediction||Mo|
Underrated Tyler Lyons, no longer prospect list eligible, retired six of the seven batters he faced. Lyons offers an interesting lefty alternative if the club feels the need to replace Garcia with another port-sider.
2013 first-rounder Marco Gonzales made his St. Louis spring debut, but didn't throw enough strikes, walking three in 1 2/3. When he did find the plate, they were hit hard for an RBI double and triple.
Keith Butler came in with two on and two out and escaped Gonzales' jam. On Sunday, Butler became the first pitcher to appear in two spring games as he relieved Michael Wacha and fanned two in 1 1/3 innings.
In game two, Sam Gaviglio relieved in an identical situation to Butler's first outing and also secured a fly out. The right-hander allowed two runners in his only full inning of work, but neither scored. His pitches had a good downward plane.
Lefty Sam Freeman, a kind of forgotten man by some, pitched an effective 1-2-3 on Saturday. So did a more-hyped lefty, Lee Stoppelman, who almost had his head taken off by screamer hit by his first Marlins batter faced.
On Sunday, another lefty, Tim Cooney, drew rave reviews. He fanned four of six in two perfect innings, showing good control and a sharp breaking pitch. 2013 Cards minors Pitcher of the Year Zach Petrick followed with two scoreless frames of his own, including a walk.
Reliever Eric Fornataro, coming off an injury-slowed 2013 at Memphis, got into trouble in the Mets' eighth. He allowed just one run on two hits, a walk and a wild pitch, and was helped by a great defensive play noted below.
The position players
|Position Players||Top 40||Roster||Camp||Prediction||Mo|
|Kolten Wong||#3||40-man||Majors||St. Louis||Low|
|Oscar Taveras||#1||40-man||Majors||St. Louis||Low|
Outfielder Randal Grichuk, the "second" outfielder acquired from the Angels in the Peter Bourjos trade, is the talk of early camp. It began with two home runs in a coach-pitch scrimmage, continued with a one-handed swing for an RBI triple to center in game two and was punctuated by a ground rule double, again to deep center, in game three.
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom drew notice for his off-season training with Allen Craig and hit a walkoff home run in the aforementioned coach-pitch game. Wisdom followed with a two-run home run to center in the ninth inning of the opener against Miami. It was his only hit in five at-bats – a mini summary of his career to date.
Greg Garcia had a good news-bad news day on Saturday. The infielder singled to left against Marlins closer Steve Cishek, but was later hit by a pitch and then suffered a hamstring injury as he slid into second base.
Luis Mateo may receive more playing time as a result of Garcia being slowed and showed a take-charge attitude at shortstop, especially in game three. Mateo also has two singles and two runs scored in four at-bats with an RBI.
In game two, Stephen Piscotty had a sacrifice fly and a gift infield single, his only hit in six at-bats so far. The right-fielder does have the defensive play of the spring to-date. To end the eighth inning of game three, Piscotty uncorked a laser beam throw from deep right to nail a Mets runner at the plate.
Coming off his late-summer ankle surgery, top prospect Oscar Taveras is not yet ready for game action. Newly-minted catcher Carson Kelly is soaking in the big-league camp environment, but it is hard to envision him seeing action in the field. He did pinch hit and fanned, but should be among the earlier groups sent to minor league camp for more daily work.
To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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