St Louis Cardinals Rookie Leagues: Players to Watch

Oscar Mercado - Baseball America

From Johnson City to the GCL, here are the players to keep an eye on this summer at the rookie league level of the minors. I reserve the right to be wrong about 75% of these guys by the end of the year.

Rookie leagues are very much a scouting man's game: The competition usually sucks, stats don't mean a whole lot because the leagues are developmental in nature, and unless you can get your eyes on a player you're usually just stuck having to go by word of mouth and reputation.

Given that, here's a list of players that I've at least been able to find some interesting tidbits on that are worth of watching this year.

Johnson City

Oscar Mercado (SS)

Mercado was the Cardinals 2nd round pick in 2013 out of Florida high school and was considered the best pure defensive player in the entire draft. That was also enough to reserve him a spot in the VEB Top 20 prospects back in February based on just 42 games with the Gulf Coast League last year. He blistered the ball in minor league camp in March and all reports are that he's continued to do so in extended spring training. The hope is that his bat will catch up to his glove at some point and that he'll add a touch of power as his body fills out. Keep an eye out: If his offense comes around, he could move up pretty quickly through the Cardinals system.

Chris Rivera (2B)

If you missed it, Rivera was nice enough to swing by VEB back in April for an AMA and seems like a pretty good all around guy by the answers he gave. Another 2013 draftee, Rivera taken in the 7th round a year ago after falling considerably after a slightly sub-par senior season at El Dorado High School in California. Drafted as a SS, the club has since moved him to the keystone full time with the hope that he'll be a plus defender there as his bat develops a bit more power than his partner in crime Mercado. We've already seen some flashes of the power potential, with 7 home runs in his first 195 professional PA's.

Ian McKinney (SP)

McKinney was one of my picks to have a breakout season this year in the preseason, mainly because I like his mix of pitches and his above average command of them at just 19 years old. That will probably be enough to get him through the rookie leagues unscathed, so hopefully he takes this time to really work on his pitch arsenal and develop a few plus offerings. A 5th round selection out of high school a year ago, the lefty has thrown 45 innings so far in the minor leagues and given up just 6 runs with a 37/14 K/BB ratio.

Others:

Casey Turgeon (2B)

Jose Godoy (C)

Blake Drake (OF)

 

Gulf Coast Cardinals (GCL)

Edmundo Sosa (SS)

This will be the Panamanian's first summer stateside after playing very well in the DSL as a 17 year old last year. Sosa has all the makings of a special player, both in the field and with the bat. I've not seen many scouting reports on him thus far, but the general consensus seems to be that he can stick and SS and that he's got plus bat-to-ball tools that will translate into above average contact skills as he gets a bit older. The GCL will be a good test for him this season, and early returns look good, with a .371/.436/.429 in his first 8 games.

Malik Collymore (2B)

Collymore is the second player of the Cardinals Canadian Connection, the other being Rowan Wick, who is laying waste to the Penn League right now with the State College Spikes. If Collymore can develop into the hitter that Wick is and manage to stay at 2B while doing so....well, that would be pretty amazing. He's certainly got all the tools to make that happen, the question is how many he'll develop and whether he is destined for the outfield in the long term. Regardless, he's a player that has to be watched just due to the raw talent he possesses.

Elier Rodriguez (C)

First of all, switch hitting catchers don't come around often. Second, they're not usually 6'2" and 210 pounds at the age of 19. The key word around this kid is "projection" as he has few refined skills at this point but has shown good contact ability (.281 BA in 157 pro PA's) and approach (13 BB) so there's some real talent here to go with the raw tools.

Julio MateoFrederis Parra, Ronnie Williams (RHP)

Mateo and Parra caught the eyes of Jeff Moore over at Baseball Prospectus with their outings early last week, flashing good velocity and three pitches he thought were average or better. Both threw 6 innings in their starts and neither of them walked a batter, while striking out 8 and 6 respectively in their outings.

Williams was the second round pick of the Cardinals this year and was the only high school arm taken in the slew of right handed hurlers the birds selected at the top of the draft. Fast arm, good stuff, and some real upside as well.

It might be tough scoring runs on these guys this season with this trio starting games.

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