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Top 25 Future Redbirds for 2015: Pitchers that are juuuuust a bit outside

These guys just missed inclusion in the Future Redbirds Top 25 prospects for 2015 for various reasons, but mostly due to organizational depth.

Daniel Poncedeleon
Daniel Poncedeleon
Centre Daily

If you've been following any of the prospect talk surrounding the Cardinals organization this offseason, the phrase you'll notice most often is "No stars". That's especially true of the position players who competed in a full season league in 2014 and while I'm a bit more bullish on the pitching in the system, the lack of any big bat anywhere above A ball is what most of the conversation is focused on.

What this system does have, however, is a ton of depth.  When I started piecing together all the Evernote notebooks from last summer's game watches on the web, my live notes, and all the other scouting information I could find on the web, narrowing down the list to 20 was really, really hard.

So I expanded the list to 25 this year. I figured I did the work already, Mike Matheny gets 25 men from which to choose 22 players from, so why can't I take advantage of it?

Even that didn't help me much: There's just a lot of good B-/C+, 45/55 talent in this system that either has some upside and youth, is a maturing player who missed development time, or is a mature player that does enough things well to probably slice out a role for himself on the right MLB team, whether that's the Cardinals or not.

Here's a list of the pitchers that just missed the 25 man cutoff this season, and I'm sure you'll quickly see why these final cuts were so hard.

Nick Petree, 24, RHP

Acquired: Draft (2013), 9th Round (275th overall) out of Missouri State (Senior)

2014: Peoria (A), Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA)

Totals: 128 IP, 2.58/3.08 ERA/FIP, 20.0% K, 6.2% BB

Petree is among my favorite prospects in the Cardinals system and it kills me to leave him out of the top 25, but it's just hard to see a right handed pitcher that tops out a 87-88 mph with his fastball being a truly impactful big league pitcher. Even Seth Maness threw in the low-90's as a starter before moving to the bullpen in the big leagues.

Dominant in the low minors due to his excellent command, pitchability, and plus changeup, Petree's stuff plays up despite the below average velocity due to his ability to keep hitters off balance while throwing strikes with all four of his pitches.  Termed the "Maddux of the Midwest" in college at Missouri State, his academic approach to getting hitters out more than lives up to that moniker -- I'm just not sure it's going to matter all that much once he starts seeing better hitters.  Add to that the fact that Petree had Tommy John surgery back in college and you can see why I'm more than a little skeptical of his ability to make it as a big league pitcher.

Upside: Remember Bob Tewksbury?  Never walked anyone, threw 87 mph from the right side, and was dominant in a fashion in which nobody was really sure how he was doing it?  That's Petree's ceiling.

2015 Outlook:

Getting his bearings against hitters with real talent and plate discipline at AA will give some better insight to what's ahead. If there's a rash of injuries ahead of him, he could see a promotion to Memphis early in the year, but not likely making that transition until late in the season, if at all.

Mike Mayers, 23, RHP

Acquired: Draft (2013), 3rd Round (#93 overall) from Ole Miss (junior)

2014: Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA), Memphis (AAA)

Totals: 154 IP, 3.39/3.28 ERA/FIP, 17.9% K, 5.6% BB

First, let's get to know Mike Mayers:

...and we wonder why local news is dying a slow death.

Jeff took a look at Mayers at the time he was drafted and not a whole lot has changed since then other than improved command and enhanced pitchability.  Here's some video of him from the Cape Cod League in 2012:

Mayers is still a three pitch pitcher and all three pitches rate around average, 45/55 on a 20/80 scale. He has a fast arm and his fastball sits in the 90-92 range, giving him a bit more velocity to play with than teammate Nick Petree. That fastball/slider combo likely makes Mayers a better fit than Petree for the bullpen, which would seem to be his path to the big leagues given the pitching riches in the Cardinals farm system.

2015 Outlook:

Mayers will likely start the year in the Memphis Redbird rotation, but a lot of that depends on how things shake out with the big league rotation and bullpen (i.e. Where does Marco Gonzales end up?) as well as whether Zach Petrick's move to the bullpen at the end of 2014 was permanent or not. Either way, the Cardinals have to push Mayers in 2015 given his success at AA last season.

Daniel Poncedeleon, 23, RHP

Acquired: Draft (2014), 9th Round (285th overall), Embry-Riddle College, NAIA (Senior)

2014: State College (SS-A)

Totals: 44 IP, 2.44/1.87 ERA/FIP, 28.4% K, 7.7% BB

I covered Poncedeleon's long road to professional baseball in the State College wrap-up back in November. A favorite of recently departed scout Charlie Gonzalez and former scouting director Dan Kantrovitz, Poncedeleon has similar upside to the pitchers mentioned above, but has probably the best overall stuff of any of them.  With a heavy sinking fastball sitting in 93-95 paired with an excellent cutter, slider, and developing changeup, it's easy to see why Poncedeleon has been selected in the draft four different times by four different clubs since 2010.

He failed a physical due to an elbow ailment in 2013, but showed no ill effects of it last year while pitching over 120 innings combined between college and the pros. At worst, he's a middle relief candidate. At best, he's a version of Joe Kelly with slightly better offspeed offerings and the ability to rack up more strikeouts.

2015 Outlook:

Likely starting the year with Peoria, but I'd be shocked if he wasn't pitching in Springfield by the end of the season.

*************

All three of these pitchers, if healthy, have a big league talent...and they couldn't even make the Future Redbirds Top 25 prospects for the coming season. That ought to tell you how deep the Cardinals farm system is, while having just a couple of MiLB Top 100 candidates in the fold.