For the last couple of seasons, the second base narrative in the Cardinals minor league system was entirely focused on the young Rainbow Warrior, Kolten Wong, and his fast track through the Cardinals farm system on his way to future stardom with the big league club. As we've seen over the last month, both during his short demotion to Memphis and his last couple of weeks with the big league club, he can really rake and has flashed some of the gap power that he demonstrated in the minor leagues as well. Wong should be the starting 2B for at least the next 5 seasons with the Cardinals, meaning the club has some time to develop another regular player, provided they can find some depth to fill in at various stretches in case of injury.
Thankfully, the current crop of middle infielders is one of the better outfits I've seen in the organization in quite some time. There are a number of players who have "major league regular" as a potential ceiling, and when you're starting with that kind of talent it's far easier to develop a good base of utility players without having to go to the free agent well to find them.
<a href="http://imgur.com/4ydYLjk"><img src="http://i.imgur.com/4ydYLjk.png" title="Hosted by imgur.com"/></a>
Greg Garcia is a name most of Future Redbirds readers should be familiar with, most likely because I've beaten his name into your skulls for the better part of the last 5 months as the guy who should be filling Daniel Descalso's role on the major league roster. Garcia came up through the ranks playing mostly SS, which was due to his former Hawaii teammate Wong at a couple of stops but also because he really can play solid defense there -- enough that it's hard not to pencil him into the SS prospect list rather than with the other keystone players. What puts him on this list, in my mind, is that he's probably not a regular major league player at SS but could likely be one at 2B -- just not with this organization. Still, it's a pretty damn good thing to have a left handed hitting utility infielder who walks a lot (12% BB rate in his minor league career) and plays solid defense in your organization.
And the Cardinals have two of those guys.
The other one? Breyvic Valera, of course. Or, as he's been nicknamed in the daily DFR: "Mr. Consistent". Why? Because he plays every day, raps out one or two hits nearly every day, and has been the rock in an ever changing Palm Beach lineup this season. Valera didn't really have a solidified position coming into this season, he played pretty much everything in the Midwest League a year ago, but it seems the Cardinals are keen on developing him as a keystone as he's gotten most of his innings at that position this season (with the obligatory "we don't have a f***ing third basemen" innings that all the middle infielders in Palm Beach have taken this year). Valera's glove probably doesn't play at SS, but he can handle the other three infield positions as well as all the outfield positions, giving him the type of utility on a major league bench that would be pretty hard to ignore. Even more difficult when you're putting up a 126 wRC+ in the Florida State League. Should he continue to hit, I see Valera's brand of utility paired with speed and contact ability creeping up the midseason prospects lists, much like we've seen Mookie Betts climb up Boston's list this year.
Jacob Wilson came into this year off an excellent year in the Midwest League (15 homers, 128 wRC+) and some late seasons struggles at Palm Beach (73 wRC+ in 137 PA's). He righted the ship immediately in the Florida State League, nearly mirroring his April production from the year before before getting promoted to Springfield where he's formed a nice 1-2 punch with Mike O'Neill at the top of the Cardinal lineup. The Perfect Snowflake has seemingly rubbed off in a positive way on Wilson too, as his strikeout rate has dropped considerably (10.7%) since coming to Hammons Field. The real question for Wilson is whether that .208 ISO from a year ago is closer to his true talent or whether that was just a blip on the radar, never to be seen or heard from again. If it's the latter, I'm not sure if we're looking at a legit prospect: While he makes solid contact and has a good approach, his batting average has been very luck driven thus far in terms of balls in play, and without some pop it's going to be very hard to make the rest of his offensive skills play up.
Just as an aside: I'm not sure I'm ready for the run scoring environment that we're headed towards when Jacob Wilson's .265/.339/.408 line is good enough for a 114 wRC+ in the Texas League.
There's also some good talent in the low minors as well. Chris Rivera flashed some power in his initial few months of professional baseball last year and as I wrote in his Hatchlings profile, I really like his swing and his size -- as he fills out he could add some serious pop to what is already a plus glove for second base. I have reservations about whether Malik Collymore can stay on the infield, but for right now he's penciled into the second base rotation in short season ball -- I'd anticipate a move to the outfield (particularly center field) soon, but for now we'll leave him here. Mason Katz has 8 homers in 176 Peoria PA's. He also has only 31 hits (.204 batting average for those who don't care to do math this morning). Yes, that's with a .221 BABIP, but he hit only .245 last year with a .313 BABIP in short season ball. Maybe he's a three true outcomes type at second base, but he's 23, he's in A ball, and he went to college at LSU. No, that last bit doesn't probably mean a lot in terms of performance, but it sure makes it a lot easier for me to hate his guts when he doesn't perform well.
As I said before, this is as good a crop of second basemen as the Cardinals have had in a long time, especially if you include the recently graduated Kolten Wong to that mix. That means fewer contracts for veteran utility players (think Ty Wigginton and Mark Ellis) in the future and more depth coming from the farm system leaves more money to extend players to long term deals as well as sign players like Jhonny Peralta to fill gaping holes at the major league level.