While CariocaCardinal's popular St. Louis Cardinals Monthly Prospect Rankings will be back for 2013, 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 our 2013 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 prospects such as Oscar Taveras and Michael Wacha 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, with the top-ranked farm system 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.
I have already gone on record taking exception to this approach and further, have not given any of the Cardinals non-roster invitees greater than a 10 percent chance of making the major league roster out of spring training. So I hope it is clear where I am coming from.
Still, that doesn't mean we can't 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.
The team remains in pretty good shape. Their record of 8-5-1 is the only winning record in the NL Central currently. After a three-game losing streak, the Cards have won their last four straight, through Saturday.
The pitching had a rough week as the team ERA increased from 3.63 to 4.34. The Cardinals opponents are at 6.11. The offense had a good week with the team batting average up 18 points to .301, with their opponents also improving to .283. St. Louis' run differential advantage is 99 to 71.
Of the 57 players originally invited to camp, the total is down to 52. Chris Carpenter did not come and Carlos Martinez is caught in the Dominican with a visa problem. Three non-roster invitees (NRIs) were cut this week: catchers Jesus Montero and Adam Ehrlich and second baseman Starlin Rodriguez. The latter two are among our Cardinals top 40 prospects.
|Dropped off||Top 40||Roster||Camp||Projection|
Of the 52 still in camp, 39 are on the 40-man roster and 13 are NRIs. They are all vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.
20 of the 52 are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 for 2013 – 12 pitchers and eight position players. This is the group about which I will be reporting.
They will be split by pitchers and position players. Within those groups, I rank each player based on his hype factor 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 "Projection" for where I think the player will start in April.
|Pitchers||Top 40||Roster||Camp||Projection||Hype meter|
|Trevor Rosenthal||#3||40-man||Majors||St. Louis||Low|
I made no changes to the pitcher hype ratings from last week to this. It remains Michael Wacha and the others.
Wacha has continued to impress in his first spring camp, having thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings this past week and 9 2/3 overall. However, he was taken out on Monday with two out and two on base, rather than allowed to work out the jam.
The big right-hander has a 13:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Despite still being listed among the starters, Wacha threw the eighth and ninth innings on Saturday, increasing speculation that he could be under consideration for a bullpen spot.
The sheer numbers of competitors seems to keep that unlikely. However, my projection of him opening the season in Springfield is weakening. If Wacha continues to get major league batters out this spring, starting at Memphis would not seem out of the question. Martinez' continued absence may also indirectly help.
Shelby Miller remains in the fifth starter derby. He received a lot of attention when he fanned the side last Saturday, but he allowed a solo home run the next frame. Long balls were a bit of a problem in 2012. Like a lot of hurlers, Miller had trouble with Bryce Harper on Friday, giving up a two-run triple after an 11-pitch at bat the first time.
Shelby's spring ERA is 5.40 over just five innings. His next turn to start would be this coming Friday – if the Cardinals continue with a six-man rotation. Joe Kelly's next turn should be Thursday. This clearly bears watching with Mike Matheny having stated he may name his fifth starter soon.
Seth Maness threw three more scoreless innings and may be the best under-the-radar spring pitcher in camp.
Eduardo Sanchez continues to quietly throw strikes, make hitters uncomfortable and get outs. There still seems no room for him on the major league roster to start the season, though.
With Marc Rzepczynski and Sam Freeman sidelined by minor injuries, Tyler Lyons may be the most effective healthy left-hander in camp (two ER in eight IP). Not being on the 40-man roster is a limiting factor.
Trevor Rosenthal was moved from the starting derby to the bullpen after three outings totaling seven innings. A good indication of his spring inconsistency is his strikeout to walk ratio of 2:3. Opposing hitters are batting .310 against him. Rosenthal is still expected to come north with the Cardinals as a reliever.
2012 Springfield closer Keith Butler was roughed up for six runs in 3 2/3 innings and could be among the next cuts. Opposing hitters are batting .467 against Jorge Rondon, another hurler who should not get too comfortable in the big-league clubhouse.
The position players
|Position Players||Top 40||Roster||Camp||Projection||Hype meter|
The enigma that is Oscar Taveras continues. The outfielder launched a two-run home run on Wednesday, then misplayed a double into a triple in the field. While Taveras will continue to get big league time with Carlos Beltran at the World Baseball Classic, Shane Robinson's strong play may ease any pressure to keep Taveras up to start the season.
During this past week, Matt Adams was in the headlines – mostly for something he did not have anything to do with. When Allen Craig's contract extension was announced, the misinformed assumed Adams' career in St. Louis was doomed as a result. The reality is that Adams is no more or less blocked based on Craig's contract. The burly first baseman is doing all he can, with a .435 batting average and 1.219 OPS. His two homers were both in a pinch-hit role, very relevant to his potential use with St. Louis.
A second baseman by trade, Greg Garcia was forced to play shortstop for Springfield last season because of his old Hawaii teammate, Kolten Wong. Possessing a potent bat, Garcia was mentioned by GM John Mozeliak as potentially passing up Ryan Jackson in the Memphis infield scrum. Garcia is just 2-for-11, both singles, in his first camp this spring.
The main beneficiary of Rafael Furcal's decision to have elbow surgery is last September's phenom, Pete Kozma. In his defense, Kozma continues to swing a nice bat. The shortstop is hitting .417 with two home runs. Unless Ronny Cedeno becomes someone else over the next three weeks, Kozma should be the Cardinals' seventh opening day shortstop in the last seven years.
Wong only had seven at-bats this past week as Matt Carpenter is seeing more time at second. Wong's time will come later this season.
Adron Chambers said he wanted to work on getting on base and his baserunning. On Saturday, he reached via a bunt single but was immediately picked off first. Robinson may send Chambers back to Memphis.
Jackson seems destined to be a utilityman this season. Moved all over the infield defensively, he has just two hits in 16 at-bats (.125), though he did contribute three RBI.
Among the minor leaguers not invited to camp who made cameo appearances with St. Louis this past week are Anthony Garcia, Carson Kelly, C.J. McElroy, Stephen Piscotty, James Ramsey, Xavier Scruggs, Charlie Tilson and Patrick Wisdom.
To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and 13 non-roster spring training invitees in camp, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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