St. Louis Cardinals: Top minor league performers to date

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Mar 16, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Ben Paulsen (50) slides home safely as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly (71) is late on the tag during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Ben Paulsen (50) slides home safely as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly (71) is late on the tag during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the St. Louis Cardinals having a hectic and frustrating present day, sometimes it is nice to look to the future.

The St. Louis Cardinals farm system has some guys performing very well to this point in the Minor League season.  With the Cardinals season going at the rate it is, top performers may get a shot now more than ever.  If not with St. Louis, they could be traded to a team with more opportunity to succeed.

While some players in the minors are expected to play well, it is nice to see them actually doing it.  Predicting the future of a player is far from an exact science.  Sometimes the experts can get it wrong, such as number-four overall prospect in baseball from the Phillies organization JP Crawford who is hitting .193 this season.

For the St. Louis Cardinals, their farm system took a huge hit before the season even started when top prospect Alex Reyes suffered a torn UCL.  Reyes was slated to take on a large role this year with the big club, but unfortunately we have to wait another year to see how the young fireballer will pan out.

Even without Reyes, the Redbird prospects have done a good job creating excitement when given the chance this year.  Both Paul DeJong and Magneuris Sierra have taken advantage of their call ups to St. Louis.

Without further ado, here are the top performing minor league hitter and pitcher to this point in the season.

Carson Kelly-Catcher

No surprise here.  He made the jump to be the number-two prospect behind Reyes and he is proving his worth.  With an aging Yadier Molina, it is comforting to have this caliber of catcher waiting in the wings.

Kelly will be up to St. Louis sooner rather than later.  He is good enough to be the backup above Eric Fryer right now, but it is more beneficial for him to be playing every day in Memphis.  When a backstop, who is known for the glove more than the bat, is hitting .305, it cannot be ignored.

Not only does Kelly rank as the 34th prospect in all of baseball, he is the number one catcher.  This is a glimmer of hope for the future in St. Louis.

The biggest part of Kelly’s game that signals his worth for the future is his work ethic.  When he was drafted in 2012, he was a third baseman.  The organization decided he would fit best with a move to catcher.  At 22 years old, he has grown into a player that everyone has high hopes for.

He is following through, at least at the triple-A level.  To go along with his batting average he has slugged seven homers and nine doubles while driving in twenty-three runs.

The one number that is high is his twenty-three strikeouts through 151 at bats.  That is roughly one strikeout for every six at bats.  That is, however, pretty close to where Yadi is this year (thirty strikeouts through 194 at bats).  Yadi’s numbers are a little better that Kelly’s, but as Kelly gets older that number should fall as well.

Whenever we see Kelly break into the St. Louis Cardinals lineup for real there, it will be some real excitement for the future.  Though it is uncertain if he will live up to expectation.  I will say this about the young backstop: he will be able to run faster than his predecessor.

Zac Gallen-RHP

I know what you are probably thinking: who is this guy?  Don’t worry, I was wondering the same thing last year.  But his projection as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with room for improvement made me want to follow along with his stats to see if anything came of it.  So far, it has.

The disclaimer here is that nine of his ten starts to this point have come at the advanced-A level with the Palm Beach Cardinals.  He just recently received a promotion to double-A Springfield.  It was a well-deserved promotion.

Through nine starts with Palm Beach, Gallen posted a 1.62 ERA on his way to a 5-2 record.  He also averaged just over a strikeout an inning, setting down fifty-six batters through 55.2 innings.  He showed great control as well, walking only ten and boasting a 0.97 WHIP.

More from St Louis Cardinals Prospects

In his debut with Springfield, he picked up right where he left off, going 5.2 innings and getting the win.  He showed some nerves though as he struck out four batters and walked three. Overall though he is having a very good year in the minors.  It will be interesting to see how far he climbs.

Gallen is the 23rd-ranked prospect in the organization, but MLB Pipeline describes him as having a high floor.  This means he is pegged as a future rotation arm.  It is just too early, and at this point nearly impossible to tell his true potential.

The 21-year-old was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016, so his progress has been rapid.  He is expected in the majors by the year 2019, but if his ERA as a starter stays consistent to what it is now he will be seen much, much sooner.

Honorary Mentions and Closing Remarks

Both honorary mentions are pitchers.  Righties Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford.

Hudson dazzled last year in limited outings.  This year he is pitching in double-A with a 4-2 record and a 2.98 ERA.  He has worked his way to being the number nine prospect in the organization since being drafted 34th overall in 2016.

Woodford is another surprise.  He is the 17th prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He has grown a lot in the short time he has had since being drafted in 2015.  This season in advanced-A Palm Beach he holds a 3-3 record with a 2.89 ERA.

If nothing else, this year’s farm system is showing strong pitching for the future as well as the guy who will be handling the staff.  With other hitting prospects such as Harrison Bader and Delvin Perez still growing it will be exciting to see what happens.

Next: Hope Remains For The Cardinals

Some of these guys will not make it, some will get traded, and some will flourish in St. Louis.  That is the beauty of baseball.  It is a game of imperfection, passion, frustration, and uncertainty.  But in the end that is why we love it and why we love the St. Louis Cardinals.

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