Spring Training is the perfect time to see a majority of an organization’s top prospects on display. Talented players get to show whether they have progressed or regressed during the offseason. Prospect talk becomes a hot topic around this time of the year with players from low levels given the potential chance to go up against Major League veterans.
Baseball America released its Top 100 prospect list last week, and this week MLB is releasing each organization’s Top 20 list through the MLB Pipeline. The list for the Cardinals was revealed on Tuesday and we offer more information below on those that we project to spend some part of the season with Triple-A Memphis.
No. 20 Sam Freeman: The southpaw has contributed in the St. Louis bullpen the past two seasons with a combined 4.21 ERA in 37 games. Delivering from the left side the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Freeman actually saw better success when dealing with right-handers, holding them to a .179 clip.
The former 32nd round draft pick has some room for improvement to become a sharp middle reliever. Two encouraging signs from Freeman is that his strikeout-to-walk ratio has increased and WHIP has decreased during his rise to higher levels of play.
No. 19 Mike O’Neill: Playing the outfield in every single game during his professional career, O’Neill has never had more strikeouts than walks at any level during his four year career. With a career .435 on-base percentage, he is a player that relies on speed and plate discipline to reach base. O’Neill has never hit more than five home runs in a season, but has yet to commit more than four errors also. The former USC Trojan hits for average and hustles in the field, but it may be tough for him to become a regular at the Major League level.
No. 18 Lee Stoppelman: The fourth left-handed pitcher on the list, Stoppelman is coming off a solid showing at the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings. Not known for blowing the competition away with velocity, he relies on pitch movement and location to keep hitters off balance. A season after holding hitters to a .150 average in 37 games at Double-A Springfield, Stoppelman will more than likely spend his first full season with Triple-A Memphis.
No. 17 Zach Petrick: Even through his college days, Petrick has been known for striking out hitters in excess. Named the 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the Cardinals’ organization, he posted a 1.99 ERA and 122 strikeouts through three different levels. The right-hander relies on location and using a three-pitch mix to keep hitters guessing. Still young, Petrick is entering only his third professional season and was one of eight pitchers that received a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training this year. His future seems bright with a likely landing spot at Triple-A Memphis.
No. 13 Jordan Swagerty: Unfortunately for Swagerty, the injury bug has plagued him much of the past two seasons. A victim of Tommy John surgery that made him miss the 2012 season and a majority of the 2013 season, the right-hander started as a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training this year, but was sent to minor league camp after experiencing inflammation in his elbow. Nonetheless, he notches the list because of plus stuff that includes a strong fastball with a solid curveball. He had an impressive run in 2011, spanning three levels of play and possessing a 1.83 ERA. With two plus pitches and past experience, Swagerty has the potential to turn heads if he can stay healthy.
No. 12 Randal Grichuk: Acquired from the Angels with Peter Boujos in the trade that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to Los Angeles, Grichuk may be best known for being picked one spot ahead of superstar outfielder Mike Trout. The 22-year old has put up sturdy power numbers the past two seasons that include 114 extra-base hits, 40 of those home runs. He may be better known for a good glove though after earning the 2013 Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award at right field. He committed two errors while throwing out 11 runners, five of those as part of double plays. If Grichuk can find plate discipline and hit for a higher average, he will have the tools needed to make an impact at the Major League level.
No. 11 Charlie Tilson: Known best for his speed, Tilson has the makeup of a quick outfielder that covers lots of ground and hustles around the base pads. The defense is there and as he progresses through higher levels of play, his offense hopes to remain strong as well.
No. 10 Tim Cooney: Selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, Cooney progressed to Double-A in only his second professional season in 2013. The lefty recorded 148 strikeouts last season, most of any St. Louis minor leaguer. His ability to strike batters out stem from his sinking changeup and strong location skills. He uses his fastball wisely, getting ahead of hitters through the ability to spot the pitch on both sides of the plate. Cooney received a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training this year and has already received buzz about the terrific job he has done. He will get the chance to prove his stuff at Triple-A this year, and could be a key starter from the left side for St. Louis down the road.
No. 7 James Ramsey: Playing at Florida State University, Ramsey hit above .360 in both his junior and senior seasons. He has struggled to repeat that success at the professional level though, posting a .253 mark through his first two seasons. While his average dipped in 2013, his power numbers surged, as he recorded 16 home runs and a total of 36 extra-base hits. One thing some overlook is Ramsey’s speed that allows him good range in the outfield and the ability to leg out infield hits.
No. 5 Marco Gonzalez: The second left-hander in the top 5, Gonzalez is known for coupling his quality control with steady off-speed pitches. While he continues to pitch, look for a good strikeout-to-walk ratio as he consistently pounds the zone. With velocity that will not blow any hitters away, Gonzalez never relies too much on one side of the plate and works in his secondary pitches smoothly. The former Gonzaga Bulldog is expected to make a rapid expansion through the minor leagues, with a chance of seeing action at Triple-A.
No. 3 Stephen Piscotty: The organization is high, and should be, on Piscotty after an excellent 2013 season that was followed up by a first-class showing in the Arizona Fall League. The now-outfielder began his career as a third baseman, but with past experience as a pitcher, the arm strength is not a problem. Even with the ability to get around on inside pitches, Piscotty is more of a line drive hitter that can crack a home run from time to time. The former Stanford Cardinal will look for another strong showing coming off an impressive year.
No. 2 Kolten Wong: At 5’9”, Wong has proved to be a perfect fit at second base. Combining quick bat speed, good baseball instincts and a swift agility running the bases and tracking balls down, the former University of Hawaii Warrior has the tools to be an everyday starter on the right side of the infield. Already acquiring big league experience in his third season during 2013 puts Wong a step ahead in trying to secure a job with St. Louis for the 2014 season. He has proven his ability at the minor league level and now things need to translate offensively with the big league club for Wong’s hope of earning a job in St. Louis.
No. 1 Oscar Taveras: Simply put, Taveras is the next superstar to come through the St. Louis organization. With a smooth swing, good speed, strong arm and a lot of potential, the outfielder should see time with the big league club at sometime this year.
For a complete list of the prospects, take a look here.
Spring Training is a few days old and all those invited to Major League camp have reported. Drills are in full swing and the team has started to take live batting practice. Here’s the weekly Twitter Talk update on word around camp.
Players make sure to have some fun before the season starts. Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter play a game of ping pong.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 13, 2014
Jason Motte appreciated the support after the Cardinals’ Twitter account posted a picture of his beard.
— Jason Motte (@JMotte30) February 13, 2014
Outfielder Randal Grichuk enjoyed his first day in Cardinals’ camp.
Good first early workout in Jupiter #Cardinals
— Randal Grichuk (@RGrich15) February 14, 2014
Mike O’Neill tried to get clever on Twitter during Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentines Day to my Valentine @taylorswift13
— Mike O'Neill (@MikeONeillUSC) February 14, 2014
Infielder Xavier Scruggs enjoys a good tune now and then.
The Radio is on point with the old school Jams this afternoon
— Xavier Scruggs (@Xavier_Scruggs) February 14, 2014
It’s not everyday you refer to a kitchen appliance as “the Bugatti of blenders.”
— Zach Petrick (@Zach_Petrick) February 17, 2014
The funny things that happen when pitchers get together.
— Jason Motte (@JMotte30) February 19, 2014
Even the players keep tabs on when ESPN shows up to camp.
— Jordan Swagerty (@JordanSwagerty) February 19, 2014
Director of Communications Kyle Parkinson is at Spring Training this week which means updates from Jupiter on Chirp Chatter all week. This is the first official non-Ben and Alex post on this blog and I promise I will not use awesomeness in any of the headlines this week.
The Redbirds traveling party arrived yesterday in time to catch the majority of the ‘Birds loss to New Orleans and have dinner with athletic trainer Chris Conroy. It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here for two days. And when I say we I mean myself, President of Baseball Operations/GM Dave Chase, President of Business Operations Bill Harter and Broadcaster Steve Selby. The two days we
have been here have been action packed, we’ve seen the ‘Birds lose a game, win a game, talked with our field staff, caught up with former Memphis manager Gaylen Pitts and pitching coach Dyar Miller, watched a few innings of the Marlins/Twins and I already have a pretty good tan going which is tantastic.
Today’s game against Springfield was a great chance to see players that are on our team and players that will likely be on our team at some point in the future. Normally, we don’t get much of a chance to see the players on the Springfield roster due to them playing on another field at the same time the Redbirds are playing. Mitchell Boggs and Clayton Mortensen were both strong in their three-inning efforts. Boggs pitched against the Redbirds which was a little weird to watch him head to the other dugout after the inning. The ‘Birds
infield had a new look to it with Jarrett Hoffpauir at third, Tyler Greene at shortstop, Casey Rowlett at second and Nick Stavinoha at first. Out of those four only Greene played the position he played today for the Redbirds last season. It looks like the word for this camp is versatility.