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2014 Draft Preview, Farm Inventory: Shortstop

This is as talented a field of SS I've seen in the Cardinals organization in quite some time. There's no superstar talents in this mix, but there's certainly a couple of future MLB regulars at the very least, which would be a revelation coming from a Cardinals system that hasn't produced one since the 1970's.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals organization hasn't developed a major league regular at the SS position since before I was born, and as Joe is fond of pointing out on Twitter, I'm not a young man either. That's not to say that they haven't had any play for the big league club -- I grew up watching Ozzie Smith do backflips and dazzle us with incredible defensive play, the younger generation came of age with Edgar Renteria manning the position for the MV3 clubs of the early part of the millennium. Ozzie is a Hall Of Fame player, Edgar a Hall of Very Good one -- both came to the Cardinals via trade (the latter for Armando Almanza, Braden Looper, and Pablo Ozuna.  Talk about winning a trade: The only guy in the trade from your side who was ever worth anything at the big league level ended up doing it in your own organization! From 1996-2003, Walt Jocketty could have been arrested for highway robbery at least 4 times. It's too bad other teams got smarter).

Jhonny Peralta is another in the tradition of Cardinal short stops coming from outside the organization, replacing another failed in house option  Hopefully by the time his contract is up the Cardinals will have a few farmhands to choose from when selecting his replacement.

If you've been following this series of posts, you'll know that this is the last position on the infield to be covered, and also the first one with multiple B prospects associated with it.  As much as it is bad news for the other infield positions, it's certainly good news for the future of the organization at the most important defensive position behind the mound.

Aledmys Diaz was the talk of the spring: the Cuban wunderkind who defected in 2013, sat out nearly the entire season waiting to come to the United States, brought a bunch of comparisons to Derek Jeter (because he has his gimpy gait, I guess) and eventually signed a 4 year, $8 million contract with the Cardinals after flirting with a few other teams. That's about as cheap as you can get a former Serie Nacional player these days and there were plenty of critics of the deal at the time. I'm sure there still are today, but they're a might bit quieter after Diaz opened up at AA hitting .307/.321/.520 with 3 homers in his first 80 PA's of professional baseball and looking solid defensively as well.  He's been hurt since the end of April, but should be back in the lineup in the next week or so, per reports from Springfield manager Mike Schildt. The lack of walks are a bit of a concern, but this is a guy slugging .500 from the SS position -- let's just enjoy it for a while, shall we?

Greg Garcia is more of a utility type and has pretty much played exclusively at 2B this season for Memphis, but he can certainly play SS as was being groomed as one up until the last half season or so. I don't think the Cardinals view him as an everyday player there, but more of someone who could fill Daniel Descalso's role next season. Ditto for Pete Kozma, who might have seen his last extended stint in the big leagues for the Cardinals. If he continues to hit .234 in AAA it might be his last big league stint with any club. These two are less prospects than they are known commodities at this point.

Alex Mejia was a 2012 draftee out of Arizona, a big bodied SS that the team thought would develop some power as he grew into his 6'1" frame. Sadly, it hasn't happened, as Mejia has just 2 home runs to his credit in 784 PA's in the minors. He's solid defensively, but nowhere near as talented as the guys in the low minors behind him. Perhaps the Cardinals should stop drafting SS who they project to be power hitters in the future. That didn't work out so great with Pete Kozma either.

Juan Herrera came to the Cardinals in the more traditional manner -- via trade. Picked up in the Mark Rzepczynski trade in 2013, Herrera was well known as the best defender in the Penn league a year ago and has done nothing to tarnish that reputation so far this season at Peoria. He's also proven to be a solid offensive contributor, posting a 95 wRC+ and swiping 21 bases so far this season. His .282 batting average is pretty empty, just a .092 ISO, but you can make a living playing phenomenal defense, hitting .280, and stealing bases. You can even get to the HOF that way.  I don't think Herrera that good defensively, but he's considerably above average in that regard. It remains to be seen if he can hit enough to make the glove play at higher levels.

That's much the same story for Oscar Mercado, the Cardinals 2013 supplemental pick. Scouts claim the glove could play in the big leagues right now, at age 19. The bat is what's got some catching up to do. If his short season stint in the GCL is indicative of anything, the bat has a long way to go. Mercado hit much better in spring training this year and has been playing well at Extended Spring Training thus far in 2014. I would think Mercado would start the year in the Penn League and possibly be at Peoria by the end of the season if he hits well, but the projection may be too rosy.

Edmundo Sosa is the most intriguing of all the low minors guys, mostly because he's not played a single inning stateside in his pro career. He's certainly got the tools to be successful as a big league SS and a frame that could fill out and add some power projection to his bat. I've not seem him play one inning in an organized game, and statistics from the Dominican Summer League are difficult to parse, so I can't say much else about him until I see him play a game here. Hopefully his visa issues are worked out and he can start the year in the Gulf Coast League.