5. Kolten Wong (2B)
Kolten Wong possessed more pop than his 5-foot-9 stature suggested, and the Cardinals were drawn to his gap-hitting ability when they picked him 22nd overall in 2011. He batted .303 with Memphis in 2013 and received a promotion to St. Louis late in the season, where he was overmatched, hitting just .153. In 2014, Wong started at second base for much of the season after a demotion to Memphis in April, and he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .249 with 12 home runs.
Wong improved in 2015, hitting .262, and before the 2016 season, he signed a five-year extension. That year, he hit only .240, but his 2017 was a rebound year, as he achieved a career-high .285 batting average despite hitting only four home runs. In 2018, Wong found a new facet to his game, becoming an elite defender and winning Gold Gloves in 2019 and 2020.
The Cardinals opted not to re-sign Wong after 2020, and he became the starting second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers. He rediscovered his power stroke with Milwaukee, hitting 14 home runs in 2021 and 15 in 2022. However, his defense suffered, and he was a below-average second baseman in the field. The Brewers traded Wong to the Seattle Mariners after the 2022 season.
4. Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)
The Cardinals grabbed Trevor Rosenthal in the 21st round of the 2009 draft. A starter from Low-A to Triple-A, Rosenthal was converted to relief when the Cardinals called him up in 2012, and despite only 22.2 innings, he was a key piece in the postseason bullpen in his first taste of the major leagues, going 8.2 innings and allowing two hits and no earned runs in the NLDS and NLCS.
Rosenthal fared well in 2013, where his fastball ranked sixth-fastest among MLB relief pitchers, and he secured the closer’s role in 2014, saving 45 games but walking 42 batters, a drastic uptick from 2013. His best season came in 2015, where he was named an All-Star and had a 2.10 ERA and 48 saves. Rosenthal was removed from the closer’s role in 2016 after an ERA that had risen to 5.63, although he briefly reacquired the job in 2017 before needing Tommy John surgery.
After missing 2018 because of the injury, Rosenthal endured a historically bad 2019 with the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers, walking an astronomical 26 batters in 15.1 innings and throwing nine wild pitches. He rejuvenated his career in 2020, pitching 13.2 innings for the Royals and walking seven while striking out 21. Rosenthal missed 2021 after tearing a labrum in his hip and pitched in three games for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A team in 2022 before being released.
3. Carlos Martinez (RHP)
Carlos Martinez had a devastating fastball and a sharp curveball that portended lengthy success at the major league level. Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistency plagued his career and kept him from reaching his lofty ceiling. His first full season in St. Louis in 2014 saw him make seven starts after injuries hit the rotation, and the next year, he made the All-Star team, finishing the season with a 3.01 ERA.
After another strong year in 2016, Martinez signed a five-year deal in 2017 and made the All-Star squad again. Injuries hit in 2018, where Martinez strained his latissimus and later his oblique. In 2019, he pitched out the bullpen after a strained rotator cuff knocked him out a starting job, and he became the closer, notching 24 saves in 27 chances. 2020 and 2021 saw Martinez struggle, combining for a 6.95 ERA in 21 starts, with a 4-12 record. He tore a ligament in his thumb in July and missed the rest of 2021.
Martinez signed with the San Francisco Giants before the 2022 season but was released just over a month later. The Boston Red Sox signed him soon after, but 10 earned runs in 4.1 innings with Triple-A Worcester led to a swift exit.
Legal issues likely ended Martinez’s career. In May 2022, he tested positive for a banned substance and received an 80-game suspension. In September, he received another suspension, this for 85 games, for violating the league’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.
2. Shelby Miller (RHP)
One of the Cardinals’ rare high school pitchers taken in the first round, Shelby Miller had a dynamic start to his career, earning the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2010 and 2011, and he was considered the team’s most talented arm since Rick Ankiel. On May 10, 2013, in his first full season with the Cardinals, Miller retired 27 consecutive batters after giving up a single to start the game. He placed third in National League Rookie of the Year voting after a 3.06 ERA.
After struggling to begin 2014, Miller finished the season with an ERA of 3.74, and the Cardinals sent him to the Atlanta Braves in the Jason Heyward deal. In his first season there, he had a league-leading 17 losses because of historically low run support, but he made the All-Star team and finished the season with a career-low 3.02 ERA.
Miller’s career quickly disintegrated from there. In three seasons after a trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Miller scuffled to a 6.35 ERA. It continued to spiral, as major league stints with the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants saw him put up an ERA of 8.48 with 80 hits in 63.2 innings from 2019 to 2022, although Miller opted out of the 2020 season. He signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Dec. 1, 2022.
1. Oscar Taveras (OF)
Oscar Taveras was a prodigious talent whose career was tragically cut short. In 2011, he won the Midwest League batting title, hitting an eye-popping .386. He possessed an otherworldly ability to get the barrel to the ball, and in 2012, his plate discipline improved after he skipped High-A. He was more than up to the Double-A challenge, hitting .321 with 23 homers.
An ankle sprain delayed his expected 2013 major league debut, and after his recovery, the only question was where in the outfield he would roam. He ended up playing 62 of his 65 games in right field and the other three in center when he reached the top level in 2014. For the first time in his career at any level, Taveras had his issues at the plate, hitting .239 and often swinging late at the major league fastball.
Taveras’ first hit was a critical home run that preceded a torrential cascade of rain and ended up as the game-winning run in a 2-0 victory against the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals demoted him to Memphis on June 19 but called him back up on June 30, where he showed an improvement, hitting .249 for the remainder of the year.
Taveras died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on Oct. 26, 2014, shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated in the NLCS.
The Cardinals’ 2013 top prospects certainly leaned toward those who underperformed relative to many fans’ expectations, and while players should receive a few chances before being written off as busts once they reach the major leagues, fans should refrain from the temptation to keep prospects too close to their chests.