St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Top 21 Prospects List


We’re back with a look at the St. Louis Cardinals. We were high on the system a year ago and little has changed except some of the prospects had break out seasons as we expected. The system had its main prospects move even higher into the upper echelon of prospects and more followed up the ladder behind them. This is a system we have a close connection to and a fan base that runs deep, both at the stadium and on the inter-webs.

So let’s take a deeper Baseball Instinct look at one of the best systems in all of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals.


Oscar Taveras Sterling1. Oscar Taveras, OF 6/19/1992 H:6’2″ W:180 – It couldn’t have been a bigger breakout season than the one Taveras put up in 2012. Our expectations of him running through the FSL and then having his power develop in Double-A midseason was  aggressive. And he blew that away by forcing the Cards to start him in Double-A where he stood up to the challenge and the power developed to the tune of a .252 IsoP. An elite level and improvement over the 2011 .198 IsoP, a number that was impressive in and of itself.

Taveras K rate is elite at 10% proving that his 15% rates in prior seasons were legit. I would expect his K rate to regress some back to the 15% rate as he makes it closer to STL, but that rate is excellent as it is. Especially when you take into account his solid walk rate.

Our Instinct: Taveras has a pure hitting skill despite being a free swinger and should be a high contact hitter long term. His 67 XBH were a glut of doubles and more of those should turn into HR and make his power output a possible 30 HR annually in his prime with .300 AVG seasons, while he playing solid corner OF defense. He should make his debut some time in 2013 after opening the season in Triple-A. ETA 2013

2012 by the numbers: .307/.380/.572, 67 XBH(23 HR), 10 SB, .327 BABIP, 56/42 K/BB ratio in 477 ab’s at AA.  2008 International free agent, Dominican Republic.


2. Shelby Miller, RHP 10/10/1990 H:6’3″ W:215 – Miller falls to the #2 in the organization despite having an excellent season as a 21 year old in Triple-A and making his debut. He’s a high strikeout pitcher with an elite talent and the ability to become the Ace of this staff inside of the next 3 years. He’s going to need some tutelage from vets like Carpenter and Wainwright, but in time he should fit into that same mold.

Our Instinct: Many were down on him midway through the 2012 season based on a high ERA and reports of attitude issues, but the fact is that the numbers tell a different story. At 21, in Triple-A, his K rate improved to 26% while his walk rate improved as well. He’s clearly becoming more dominant despite the higher level competition and he only has additional maturity ahead of him. With that he should settle into a 20%+ K rate and improve his walk rate as well. The Cardinals have no immediate need for him to move to the front of the rotation and he could settle into the mid level for the next couple of years and then emerge as their Ace in his mid 20s. ETA: 2013

2012 by the numbers: 11-10, 4.74 ERA, 4.24 FIP, .335 BABIP, 160/50 K/BB ratio in 136.2 innings at AAA.  2009 1st round draft pick, 19th overall.


3. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP 5/29/1990 H:6’2″ W:190 – We were told prior to the 2012 season that Rosenthal was a “different animal”, Dennis Martinez. That insight proved correct and our high ranking of Rosenthal in the Baseball Instinct 360° looks like a gem as Rosenthal has now creeped into all Top 100 lists for 2013. He has a plus fastball, touchinig triple digits in short stints and working in the mid to upper 90s deep into games. He throws a curve in the mid 80s and slider that is a hard biting pitch in the in the upper 80s with plus potential.

The changeup was the pitch that needed the most development and remains a work in progress, but is average and rotation ready pitch. His two seam fastball is a ground ball offering and will be key to his long term success. For a pitcher with elite velocity, Rosenthal is not a strikeout pitcher in the mold of an Ace. His K rates in 2012 we good at 21%+ in Double-A and then a jump to 34% in Triple-A before his MLB debut had him with a high K rate coming out of the bullpen. Rosenthal flashed triple digit heat in his debut with the Cards this year. His minor league ERA dipped as we expected. His FIP normalized the ERA and he struck out more than a batter per in his debut.

Our Instinct – The Cards are going to give Rosenthal every opportunity to remain a  starter and it could be out of Spring Training. He has the potential upside of a #2 starter but more likely will be a very good #3 in the middle of the rotation. We were very high on this kid last year and he’s done nothing but excel. So he remains in our opinion an excellent part of the Cardinals future. ETA: 2013

2012 by the numbers: 8-6, 2.97 ERA, 3.28 FIP, .259 BABIP, 104/42 K/BB ratio in 109 innings between AA and AAA.  2009 21st round draft pick, 639th overall.


Michael Wacha Blue4. Michael Wacha, RHP 7/1/1991 H:6’6″ W:195 – The top pick for the Cards in 2013 and was our #15 talent in the Draft Preview:

15. Michael Wacha RHP Texas A&M – Wacha works in the low to mid 90s, 89-93 range most often with good sink when he’s mechanically in time. The fastball plays up due to a short landing in his delivery. His second best pitch is his changeup which works more based on his arm speed and deception than it does movement. It could become a plus pitch with some work on different grips and finger pressures until he finds controlled movement. He lacks a true breaking pitch and currently uses a slider on occasion.

Our Instinct – Wacha has clean mechanics outside of the short landing. Though the flaw causes him to drag his arm at times which causes command issues. The lack of a true breaking ball puts him in a position of needing time to develop and leaves him open to being rushed through his development. He has mid rotation upside if the breaking pitch becomes average or better.

In his short debut he went through 3 levels including the FSL where he moved to the bullpen and utterly dominated and then to Double-A Springfield where he helped the team in the stretch run to the championship. Out of the bullpen in short stints, Wacha’s velocity played up and his slider worked well.

Our Instinct: In 2013 it seems more logical that he will step back, possibly to High-A in order to begin working as a starter again. How much velocity he holds will be a key to him remaining a starter or being fast tracked through the system as a RP. He has the stuff to be a mid rotation starter or better and if he can refine the slider and the changeup becomes the plus offering I project it to be, he’s a high end #3 type. ETA: 2014

2012 by the numbers: 0-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.58 FIP, .267 BABIP, 40/4 K/BB ratio in 21 innings between Rookie-A, High-A and AA.  2012 1st round draft pick, 19th overall.


5. Carlos Martinez, RHP 9/21/1991 H:6’0″ W:195 – Martinez is took steps in maturity in 2012. Where his talent was obvious his future was uncertain. But he took his 2011 FSL debut numbers and bettered them across the board by upping his K rate to 24.1% and nearly cutting his walk rate in half down to 7.1%. Injuries kept his innings total down to just 104.1 IP His ERA in Double-A was a stellar 2.90 but his FIP tells a different story at 3.84. A slight K rate drop in Double-A shows that he may need a little time there in 2013 to uptick his DOM again, but he kept the walk rate steady at 7.5% which is a huge indicator of a young thrower becoming a pitcher.

Our Instinct – I think Martinez will see a little time in Double-A in 2013 to find some of that dominance before moving into the Triple-A rotation. A full season of innings building would be a huge benefit to his career as a SP. If the Cardinals are in the hunt again at the end of the summer it wouldn’t shock me to see Martinez get the same treatment as Rosenthal. Although in Martinez case, I would recommend against it. At least in 2013. In 2014 the gloves should come off. ETA: 2014

2012 by the numbers: 6-5, 2.93 ERA, 3.10 FIP, .297 BABIP, 92/32 K/BB ratio in 104.1 innings between High-A and AA.  2010 International free agent, Dominican Republic.


6. Kolten Wong, 2B 10/10/1990 H:5’9″ W:190 – Expectations were high for Wong in 2012 and while his seasons was passable, his BABIP normalized and it dragged his AVG down to .287. First full season at Double-A and his .287 is a disappointment. That speaks volumes of the expectations. I would expect a little bit of a bounce in 2013, but a .285 hitter is what Wong looks like at the next level at least until he comes into his own with what power that he has. The power though was non-existent in AFL play this fall. But in Double-A he did hit 9 HRs and his fair share of doubles.

Our Instinct: Despite his K rate moving in the wrong direction, it was only 12.7% and stands at an elite level, which points to a well above average skill at the major league level. He’ll need to draw more walks to take advantage of his speed and there is more power in his bat than he showed in the AFL. After a very long first season, his lackluster AFL showing isn’t something to worry about. Even a talent like Mike Trout scuffled through his AFL season after a long season last year. We expect a solid bounce back and Wong’s 1st half of 2012 is where we are going to gauge his production. He should start at Triple-A and with a solid 1st half in 2013 he may very well make his major league debut in the 2nd half of the season. ETA: 2013

2012 by the numbers: .287/.348/.405, 38 XBH(9 HR), 21 SB, .320 BABIP, 74/44 K/BB ratio in 523 ab’s at AA.  2011 1st round draft pick, 22nd overall.


7. Matt Adams, 1B 8/31/1988 H:6’3″ W:230 – In a weaker system, Adams bat is one that would get him a very high ranking. He was the Texas League player of the year in 2011 and then exploded with a .295 IsoP in 2012 in PCL. His .362 AVG was a by-product of a high BABIP at .360, but he’s a hitter that will hit for average at the major league level.

He had elbow surgery in August after making his debut in STL. A debut which was over before it started. With the emergence of Allen Craig it may have cost Adams the 1B job in 2013.

Our Instinct: While he’s not a classic HR, OBP, lower AVG slugger, Adams is going to hit for more AVG than most expect and could be a .300 hitter with 30 HR power. But the fact is that he’s a 1B and unless the Cardinals shift Allen Craig to the OF to make room for Adams then Adams will be spending time in Triple-A and would be better off getting traded to, let’s say, Houston. A place where he can play 1B and DH. ETA: 2013

2012 by the numbers: .329/.362/.624, 40 XBH(18 HR), 3 SB, .366 BABIP, 57/15 K/BB ratio in 258 ab’s at AAA.  2009 23rd round draft pick, 699th overall.


8. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP 7/20/1992 H:6’4″ W:195 – Jenkins had a season to forget on the surface.He wasn’t able to build up his innings. His command went south. Both are by-products of shoulder injuries though and he’s still an immense talent with an ultra high ceiling and a floor to go with it. He’s going to have to prove himself and his ability to stay healthy. There aren’t any reports of lingering shoulder issues, but it’s obviously scary anyway.

Our Instinct: Though there are many who are down on him right now, he’s still lingering in every Cards Top 10 and rightfully so. I wouldn’t expect him to throw more than 130 innings this year and it will probably come between Peoria and Palm Beach. I’m expecting a big bounce back for Jenkins and dominance in Low-A Peoria before he moves onto the FSL. He still has plenty of refinement needed and 2013 is a big year for his development. Injury would be devastating to his timeline and may put the nail in his RP coffin. But right now I still see a pitcher with Front of the Rotation upside. But 3+ years of development time is still in the cards. ETA: 2016

2012 by the numbers: 4-4, 2.86 ERA, 3.36 FIP, .343 BABIP, 80/36 K/BB ratio in 82.1 innings at Low-A.  2010 1st round draft pick, 50th overall.


Anthony Garcia Green9. Anthony Garcia, OF 1/4/1992 H:6’0″ W:180 – At 6′ and 180, Garcia doesn’t have a classic power hitters frame, but take his back to back .200+ IsoP seasons, capped by an elite .245 IsoP last season and you a power hitter. His K rate did jump to troubling territory in 2012 though. The 24.7% range is dangerous territory in the lower levels and the fact that his walk also declined. But he did hit .280 with 56 XBH in just 396 AB. Serious hitting ability.

Our Instinct: He’s going to start the season in the FSL and his power may take a hit. If he can learn to work deeper into counts and bring his walk rate and K rate just a little closer, we could be looking at more than just a 4th OF. I wouldn’t expect a .200+ IsoP in Palm Beach next year, but if he can come close, he’s going to explode in Double-A when he gets there. He’s just 21 this year and already has 4 seasons under his belt. So a full season in the FSL wouldn’t surprise me. ETA: 2015

2012 by the numbers: .280/.354/.525, 56 XBH(19 HR), 3 SB, .341 BABIP, 107/34 K/BB ratio in 396 ab’s at A-ball.  2009 18th round draft pick, 549th overall.


10. Victor De Leon, RHP 4/19/1992 H:6’2″ W:190 – A Rookie ball starter and 3 seasons in at just 20 years old. De Leon is projection at this point still with a solid frame, mid 90s fastball and a power slider in the mid 80s. He threw just 44 innings last year so there is still a lot of development here. But the Cardinals are high on him and an invitation to Spring Training with some mentoring from the big clubs pitchers, has once again been extended.

Our Instinct: De Leon will likely make his full season debut in 2013, by-passing the new State College squad. He’ll be on an innings limit and probably pitch up near 100 innings. He’ll be forced to work on his changeup and if he can hold his 22%+ K rate while learning to trust his stuff and pound the zone, he’s going to quickly become a household name. His frame says SP and he has two offerings to keep him on that path long term. He has #3 starter upside right now and could be more with an average or better changeup. ETA: 2016

2012 by the numbers: 3-0, 3.25 ERA, 2.95 FIP, .316 BABIP, 42/20 K/BB ratio in 44.1 innings at Rookie-A.  2010 International free agent, Dominican Republic.


11. Tyler Lyons, LHP 2/21/1988 H:6’2″ W:195 – After seeing Lyons in Palm Beach in 2011, I pegged him with the LOOGY tag and didn’t expect his K rate to continue to climb as he climbed the ladder. But I’m becoming a believer that he’s going to make some starts for a major league team at some point. He’s not a burner but works in the 90 mph range with a solid curve and changeup. His mechanics point to a starter that can handle both lefties and righties and his splits support it.

Our Instinct: He’ll start back in Triple-A and despite a high ERA there in 2012, his FIP says he handled it fine. He’ll need to maintain the high K rate to be successful as a pro. But the lower end velocity may become an issue the 2nd time through lineups. So while I think he could be a solid back end of the rotation starter he also could be successful as a lefty arm out of the pen.He’ll be 25 this season. So the time is now. ETA: 2013

2012 by the numbers: 9-13, 4.13 ERA, 3.33 FIP, .330 BABIP, 143/37 K/BB ratio in 152.2 innings between AA and AAA.  2010 9th round draft pick, 289th overall.


12. Carson Kelly, 3B 7/14/1994 H:6’2″ W:200 – Here’s what we had to say about the 2012 draftee in our Draft Preview:

36. Carson Kelly 3B/RHP Westview HS, Portland – Kelly is a two way player with a plus arm and an all fields line drive approach. His 6’2″ 200 lbs frame says that there is some power waiting to come out. There is debate as to whether he can stick at 3B or if he’ll be moved to catcher.

Our Instinct – I’m usually a proponent of transitioning the right type of player to behind the plate, but with Kelly I think he has the arm and glove to handle 3B at the professional level. His bat hasn’t shown the power that he should eventually develop. But he has 5 HR in 80 AB this spring. He knows how to drive the ball and once he starts turning doubles in HR his stock should rise.

Well he flashed the power in his pro debut with a .174 IsoP and 9 HR. His low AVG was a by-product of a very low BAPIP, so there isn’t an issue there just yet. His walk rate was low but came with a solid K rate under 15% as well.

Our Instinct: There is a long road ahead for Kelly. We think he’ll stick at 3B and if the power continues to develop, he ‘ll have 25+ HR power. He was one of the youngest players in the entire draft and has experience already. He’ll probably start in Rookie ball in the summer. ETA: 2017

2012 by the numbers: .225/.263/.399, 19 XBH(9 HR), 0 SB, .222 BABIP, 33/10 K/BB ratio in 213 ab’s at Rookie-ball.  2012 2nd round draft pick, 89th overall.


13. John Gast, LHP 

14. Stephen Piscotty, OF 

15. Maikel Cleto, RHP 

16. Jordan Swagerty, RHP

17. Greg Garcia, SS/2B 

18.  Charlie Tilson, OF 

19. Starlin Rodriguez, 2B 

20. Boone Whiting, RHP 

21. Ryan Jackson, SS 

For a complete list of the Top 21′s visit the 2013 Top 21′s Page

Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our top 360 prospects from 2012, and we will be updating it for 2013 soon. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at And while you’re at it head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page.  You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.

I was born and raised in NYC. My father was a diehard Yankees fan but not biased and raised me to love the game more than any one team. For that I'm truly thankful to him. My love for the game runs deep, and after crunching numbers all day long, I tend to spend my nights at the FSL ballparks.


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