The United Cardinal Bloggers are putting together lists of the top seven Cards prospects for the September project. I have participated in a few projects in the past and it’s always a great way to get a ton of information from different perspectives. The Cardinals blogosphere is one of the most active and talented on the internet and one of the few that has all of the top blogs under one umbrella. Check out my list after the jump. Find the rest of the UCB rankings at the official site.
The Cardinals farm system has taken some heat in recent years for being weak. The club focused on revamping the minors in recent years and put together a solid draft in 2010 built on adding depth in key areas. St. Louis landed some talented pieces that could make an impact in the big leagues in the near future. The rededication to the farm system is all the more important considering the Cardinals current state. They need some fresh new faces at Busch Stadium who can make a difference on the field and in the clubhouse. St. Louis had too many holes to hide this year and the organization will likely turn to its top prospects to help retake the division in 2011. Here are some of the top prospects that will make up the future St. Louis clubs. Some could be regulars next year and some have a longer path to travel. All are talented.
1. Shelby Miller, RHP
Miller is the crown jewel of the Cards farm system and has been hyped since the Cardinals took him with their first round pick in the 2009 amateur draft. He created quite a buzz at spring training this year with his live arm and youthful energy. The kid’s only only turning 20 in a few weeks after all. The excitement was tempered by a puzzling start to the year that had him rumored as trade bait for a big-time arm. But he settled in after the All-Star break, putting up a 2.86 ERA in 13 starts and all was right with the world again — at least in the minors. Miller is said to have a strong work ethic and good attitude. His fastball is in the range of 92 mph and 97 mph with an average of 94 and he has good control of that pitch. His curveball is a solid major league pitch and his changeup needs work before it sends top hitters back to the dugout. The future is bright for this kid and he’ll likely top this list until he makes the jump to the majors or injuries derail his career.
2. Zack Cox, 3B
Cox was touted as the best pure hitter in college baseball during the 2010 season. He led Arkansas to a brilliant season behind his .429 batting average. Cox is a competitive and relentless worker who has been described as a throwback and baseball rat. Music to baseball fans ears. This kid is special and he’ll be in the major leagues sooner rather than later. He signed a major league contract as a part of the Cards plans to lure him from college. It worked and St. Louis has a future infielder who can hit. The Cards could use some of that to help out Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. In a very small sample (4 games) at rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, Cox hit .400 and drove in one run. A full season in the minors in 2011 and he could be primed for the hot corner in St. Louis as a 23-year-old in 2012.
3. Matt Carpenter, 3B
Everything I just said about Cox applies to Matt Carpenter. Everything except one thing. Carpenter will be 25 in November. Unfortunately, with every tick of the clock, he is losing value. The 2011 season is a make or break year for the TCU product. He plays the same position as Cox, so he needs to prove his value to the club. Personally, I would have liked to see Carpenter get the call when rosters expanded in favor of say, Mark Hamilton who plays first base (Cards are pretty set there). Third base has been a black hole for St. Louis and Carpenter performed well enough to warrant a look. It would have been more logical than bringing in Pedro Feliz while the team dealt with Felipe Lopez’s antics behind the scenes. Carpenter hit .316 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 105 games for Double-A Springfield. Some question his lack of power, but as with Cox, the Cardinals just need guys who can hit and get on base. He led the Cards farm system with a .418 on base percentage too. He plays hard, he’s a disciplined hitter, and he plays a solid third base. What else does he have to do to get a look?
4. Daniel Descalso, IF
Daniel Descalso is getting a look and some say he is the best prepared position player in the farm system to take the next step. He has certainly lived up to that billing thus far in St. Louis with a four-hit performance Thursday. He has also played well at third base and he just looks comfortable even if it has only been a few games. Descalso is seizing an opportunity and his versatility makes him a leading candidate to make the team out of spring training. He played most of the season in Memphis at second base, a sore spot in St. Louis this year after Skip Schumaker failed to produce. Right now, he’s filling the gap at third nicely. The 23-year-old batted .282 with nine home runs and 71 RBIs in 116 games for Triple-A Memphis.
5. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
He’s 5’11” and 155 pounds. And he’s fearless. Gotta love the little guys who go against the stereotypes. Sanchez is projected as a reliever who has some excited about him as the closer of the future. That future could be sooner than you’d think if Ryan Franklin and the rest of the bullpen can’t fill the shoes anymore. Sanchez was dynamite in the minors this season, throwing 53 innings in relief and saving 14 games. He had a 2.38 ERA and 58 batters (a rate of 9.8K/9). He gets it done with a fastball that can hit 97 mph on the gun and a slider. Right now, he’ll be a middle reliever in the big leagues. His arsenal makes him exciting, maybe in the mold of Carlos Marmol of the Cubs.
6. Carlos Matias, RHP
Some have him higher, but there’s not much out there about him. He’s something of a myth in baseball circles at this point. But what a story it is. Apparently, he can fire. According to Baseball America, Matias consistently throws his fastball at 97-99 mph. The pitch is called “electric” and has life to it with cutting action. As if that’s not enough, he has good control too. His other pitches need work, but with a heater like that he’s destined to do great things in the ‘pen.
7. Seth Blair
I’m going to go against the grain a little here and round out my list with the Cards other first round draft pick. His minor league numbers are unavailable but he is likely participating in the 2010 Arizona Fall League. Blair was the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and the ace for powerhouse Arizona State this year. I’m going with a gut feeling that Blair will put it all together based on his experience in college. He followed Mike Leake as the top gun at ASU and Leake was a top rookie in 2010 for Cincinnati. Blair has the same makeup and maturity and I like that experience over a raw talent like Tyrell Jenkins.