As we make our way around the diamond in our look at the names to know in the minor league system, we land at second base today. There is at least one name in the following list to get really excited about, but the Cardinals actually have a lot of depth at second base. Not to mention, second has the ability to take on prospects from other positions in which they may be blocked. The presence of Matt Carpenter, for instance, has led to discussion of moving Zack Cox from second to third. A good defensive second baseman has started to become overlooked in favor of moving a good bat over and hoping he doesn’t embarrass himself. Instead of talking about all the guys that might be able to play second, though, I’m going to focus on the notable players that actually do.
Jermaine Curtis – Jermaine Curtis had a breakout showing at Springfield last year. With an increase in playing time, he put up a career best in batting average and the second highest OPS of his career. He doesn’t have a lot of pop in his bat, but belted five home runs in 276 at bats, so, with a full season, there is the possibility of double digit homers. He will start the year at AA and will need to continue on his momentum from last season if he hopes to make AAA at some point this season. Curtis isn’t a prospect with an incredibly high ceiling, but could be a decent utility infielder one day.
Starlin Rodriguez – Like Jermaine Curtis, Starlin improved his numbers a great deal last year with a promotion to high A ball. He continued to show good speed and baserunning ability and hit five home runs split between A and high A. He is another player who will need to show what he can do with a full season as he topped out at around 45 games at each level last year. He should be starting at high A this season.
Kolten Wong – This is the name everyone should know. With their first pick of 2011, the Cardinals selected the second baseman out of Hawaii. Wong doesn’t actually have a ton of upside simply because he is so polished as a hitter already that the expectation is fairly high. With 47 games at Quad Cities last season, Wong showed the contact ability, speed, and athleticism that made him a first round draft pick, but also showed a little bit of power. It will be interesting to see if Wong can follow up his performance with another strong showing in a full season of work or if he will fade away like Robert Stock.
Tyler Rahmatulla – Rahmatulla was also drafted in 2011 and put up strong numbers for the Johnson City Cardinals. In his short debut, he showed ability to hit for contact, hit for power, and play well defensively. The knock on Rahmatulla is his attitude and age. His bat is very similar to Wong’s, but Rahmatulla fell in the draft due to injuries and problems academically. He is 22 and will probably start at Johnson City again, but needs to ascend to new levels quickly otherwise his numbers can be brushed off as simply being too old for his league. If he works up through the system and keeps his producing offensively, he could give Wong a run for the future second baseman title.
The Cardinals have a lot of guys with something to prove this season. It will be interesting to see how the second base battle pans out. At the end of 2012, they could have a lot of quality depth at the position or a breadth of failed prospects. It all depends on the players themselves.
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