Hello fellow Redbird fans. Coming off a disappointing finish in last season's World Series loss, the St Louis Cardinals will be playing younger players this season with the loss of both Carlos Beltran and Chris Carpenter, among others. In this post, I'll highlight the top five prospects in the Cardinals farm system and their potential fantasy baseball impacts. While these players are ranked by their talent, this does not necessarily reflect which players will make it to the pros first. Why? As we all know, injuries happen in sports, and the of a baseball team dictate who gets the call. We've seen this year-in and year-out with the Cardinals. This is one of the beauties of how the Cardinals organization works-- they don't put young players on the roster if they don't think they are ready.
The Cardinals are writing the blueprint for other organizations on how to build a consistent winner, so how do they do it? They develop players within their farm system (the postseason roster last season had nine team-developed players), and this year it will not be a surprise that many more guys will come up to have an impact on the Cardinals as they look for another deep playoff run.
1. Oscar Taveras, OF
Last season, Oscar Taveras
was one of the top ranked prospects in all of baseball. Many expected him to be called up to the big leagues in September, but it didn't happen. Unfortunately for Taveras, he was battling a high-ankle sprain for the better part of the season, which ultimately ended up requiring surgery. With the injury behind him and a new season ahead, there will be many questions surrounding how he responds to the surgery. I expect to Cardinals to give Taveras plenty of opportunity in Spring Training to work out the rust and provide experience for him for the probable call up during the season. He'll likely start the season in Triple-A and could be called up when an opportunity arises... assuming he doesn't have an incredible spring and force the Cardinals to put him on the roster. Taveras is a powerful left-handed hitter who possesses enough power to go for 25+ home runs and be an All Star in the big leagues. So the question is: can he stay healthy?
Fantasy Prospects: in-season call up. If you are in a league with a deep bench, he is a worth a flier on a late-round draft spot. If you are in a shallow league, place him on your watch list and watch very closely. He plays all OF spots and most likely will be a corner OF in the big leagues.
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
If you watched the Cardinals in the postseason, you got a good glimpse of Carlos Martinez
. While he's still raw, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter and potential All Star. Last year, the Cardinals had him in some spot starts and discovered that he was not ready, so they decided to have him get experience in the bullpen. This season, I expect Martinez to make it to the big-league roster at the start of the season and be a bullpen arm who is placed in high pressure situations. Depending how things shake out, Martinez could be utilized as a starter later in the season if he continues to develop and injuries provide opportunities in the rotation.
Fantasy Prospects: Makes the 2014 season opening roster. He is not worth drafting this season, but he could be a player that will be a waiver wire pickup if the Cardinals have starting pitching injuries. He will be a bullpen arm this year.
3. Kolten Wong, 2B
In 2013, Kolten Wong
was a September call up who gained a lot of experience in the postseason that should help him develop as a player. This offseason, the Cardinals traded David Freese
, and it is expected that Matt Carpenter
, who was the starting 2B last year, will be moved to third base, opening up second for Wong. The Cardinals expect to give Wong a chance as the starter to make an impact on their team. While many are expecting Wong to be the outright starter, I have my doubts, and expect that Mark Ellis
, who was signed in the offseason, will get plenty of starting opportunities with Wong getting mixed in regularly.
Fantasy Prospects: Makes the 2014 season opening roster. There are not very many solid 2B options in fantasy baseball, so I would take a flier on him in the late rounds because of his talent and the lineup he plays in. Be cautious not to draft him in the higher rounds, as I expect a platoon with Ellis for much of this season. I am anticipating that 2015 will be a better outlook for Wong and his fantasy value.
4. Stephen Piscotty, OF
was drafted as a supplemental pick in 2012, and so far he has shown his abilities in Single-A and Double-A. Piscotty has a short, smooth swing, and projects to be a .275 hitter in the big leagues. He has a plus arm with great route running, but he hasn't shown much power thus far. I expect that he'll continue to hit in the minors, and he'll be called up to the big leagues in September. He will probably be a bench OF and defensive replacement.
Fantasy Prospects: Will start the season in AA or AAA. I expect he will be a September call up. Not worth drafting.
5. Marco Gonzales, LHP
Drafted last year in the first round, Gonzales has shown the potential to be a #3/#4 starter in the big leagues. I expect him to start the season in high-A and quickly get moved to AA. Gonzales is undersized at 6'0" 185 lbs., which makes him undersized for a big league starter and generally underrated. His fastball is in the low 90s with cutting and sinking action; his changeup is his plus pitch, and his greatest asset, his curveball is average or a bit better. His command is decent within the strike zone.
Fantasy Prospects: I don't anticipate Gonzales will make it to the big leagues this season. Do not draft unless you are in a deep dynasty league.