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Seventeen Cardinals prospects to keep tabs on in 2017

Trey Nielsen had a fine year in 2016 and will be worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming season.
Trey Nielsen had a fine year in 2016 and will be worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming season.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the club’s top prospects, such as Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Carson Kelly, the Cardinals have several notable players layered throughout their organizational ladder that often go unrecognized. I sifted through the team’s levels and compiled a list of names in the Cardinals’ organization that will be worthy of keeping tabs on in 2017.

Ricardo Bautista, outfielder

Bautista inked with the Cardinals in June of 2013 as a seventeen-year-old out of Puerto Rico, and the left-handed-hitting outfielder got his work at the Rookie level until joining the State College Spikes last season. In 2016, Bautista garnered 260 plate appearances across 65 games, during which the 20-year-old notched nineteen extra-base hits (fourteen doubles, three triples, and two home runs) and managed a wOBA of .325.

Landon Beck, pitcher

Beck was drafted by the Cardinals in the 25th round of the 2014 MLB draft and has steadily climbed the Cardinals’ minor league ranks since beginning his professional career the same year. Across 44 appearances between Palm Beach (34) and Peoria (ten) in 2016, Beck logged 54 innings and pitched to a 3.33 ERA. The right-handed Beck walked nine more batters (24) than he did in the 2015 season, but his respectable LOB percentage of 73.4 drowned the increase out.

Chris Chinea, catcher/first baseman

Chinea was the 521st overall selection in the 2015 MLB draft, and last year was his first full professional season. Chinea, who was drafted as a catcher, caught in only 21 of his 99 games in 2016, a year that he played in 35 games at first base; the rest of Chinea’s playing time was spent in Peoria’s designated hitter’s role. To complement a .312/.350/.423 slash line over 409 plate appearances, the right-handed-hitting Chinea tallied 30 extra-base hits and achieved a 127 wRC+.

Carson Cross, pitcher

Cross, a right-handed hurler, was the club’s selection in the fourteenth round of the 2015 MLB draft, making 2016 his first full season as a professional. Cross made fourteen starts with the State College Spikes last year and pitched to a 3.24 ERA over 80 2/3 innings, during which he surrendered 23 extra-base hits, including just four home runs to account for a 0.45 HR/9.

Steven De La Cruz, pitcher

St. Louis signed De La Cruz in 2014 after he spent time at the New Mexico Military Institute, and, from his initial splash in the Cardinals’ organization on, he has solidly performed at each level he has reached. In 2016, De La Cruz reached Class-A Peoria, where he went 8-1 in 44 relief appearances out of the Chiefs’ bullpen. The right-hander flattered with his 8.55 K/9 and .215 OBA over 60 frames of work.

Casey Grayson, first baseman

Grayson was drafted in Round 21 of the 2014 MLB draft out of Houston University and reached the High-A level in 2016. The right-handed-hitting first baseman played in a career-high 123 games last year at Palm Beach and reached base at a staggering .391 clip, supported by his 94 walks.

Luke Harrison, pitcher

Harrison was the 1061st overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft and posted a 1.02 ERA in 35 1/3 innings over seventeen games the same year before advancing to Peoria, where he spent last year. With the Chiefs in 2016, Harrison appeared in 26 games, in which the right-hander punched out 43 batters across 44 2/3 innings and a superb LOB percentage of 83.

Ryan Helsley, pitcher

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB draft, Helsley dazzled in Rookie ball, forcing a promotion for 2016. Last year, the right-handed Helsley made seventeen starts at Peoria, where he pitched to a 2.22 FIP and a 10.33 K/9, a notable improvement upon the 7.81 rate he exhibited across 40 1/3 innings of work in 2015.

Vince Jackson, outfielder

St. Louis chose Jackson in the fourteenth round of the last year’s draft, and the left-handed-hitting outfielder spent the first 70 games of his professional career with the State College Spikes. With the Spikes, the 22-year-old Jackson maintained a .326 wOBA and successfully stole sixteen bases in 23 attempts.

John Kilichowski, pitcher

Kilichowski was the Cardinals’ eleventh pick of last year’s MLB draft, and the left-handed hurler pitched at two levels -- State College and Peoria -- before season’s end. Kilichowski pitched in eleven games (nine starts) in 2016 and combined to log 53 1/3 innings, across which the lefty held his opposition to a .237 OBA and managed a 1.16 WHIP and 2.70 ERA.

Dailyn Martinez, pitcher

The Cardinals signed Martinez out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, and the right-handed hurler has quietly held his own since debuting in 2012. In his age 23 season last year, Martinez logged a career-high 85 2/3 innings across fifteen starts, during which he punched out 85 batters and walked nineteen. Some of Martinez’ stats are inflated -- his OBA was .297 and ERA was 4.73; nevertheless, the 3.76 FIP he managed across his time with the Peoria Chiefs (twelve out of his fifteen starts) depicts a clearer representation of his season.

Jeremy Martinez, catcher

St. Louis chose Martinez as the 136th overall pick in last year’s draft, and the right-handed-hitting backstop spent the remainder of the year as a member of the State College Spikes. At State College, Martinez exhibited an excellent 157 wRC+ and a .341 BABIP over 235 plate appearances. Martinez also performed well in his fieldwork, as the 22-year-old maintained a 46 percent caught-stealing rate in 37 attempts over 400 innings.

Trey Nielsen, pitcher

Nielsen, a right-handed pitcher, was a 30th round selection of the Cardinals in the 2015 MLB draft. Nielsen advanced to as far as Triple-A Memphis in 2016, but he spent the majority of his time -- 23 of 24 games -- at Double-A Springfield. In his 24 games (20 starts) in 2016, Nielsen struck out 85 batters and managed a 3.75 ERA over 127 1/3 innings.

Daniel Poncedeleon, pitcher

Poncedeleon was the Cardinals’ ninth-round selection in the 2014 MLB draft, and the right-handed pitcher has passed through one rung of the club’s system each year since. In 2016, that rung was Springfield, where Poncedeleon made a team-high 27 starts and managed a 122:56 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .231 OBA.

Cody Schumacher, pitcher

Schumacher was the Cardinals’ 36th round selection in 2014, and, after his first full professional season in 2015, spent last year at High-A Palm Beach. In 2016, Schumacher logged 61 1/3 frames across 39 games and pitched to a 3.15 FIP and 55:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Dylan Tice, second baseman

After being drafted in the 36th round of the 2015 MLB draft, Tice breezed through two levels of the Cardinals’ farm system in 2016, his first full professional year. Between State College, Peoria, and Palm Beach last year, the switch-hitting second baseman slashed .296/.357/.396 and committed a mere six errors in 339 2/3 innings of fieldwork at second base.

Ronnie Williams, pitcher

Williams was the Cardinals’ second and 67th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, and the right-handed Williams made it to Class-A Peoria last year. In 2016, Williams -- between State College and Peoria -- logged 82 innings and punched out 69 batters while maintaining a respectable .221 OBA.