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Future Redbirds 2014 Top 20 Prospects in Review

Before we jump into the expanded 2015 list, a look back.

Rest in peace, sweet prince.
Rest in peace, sweet prince.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A few graduates, a few injuries, and one notable tragedy headline this list from last year.  Looking back in hindsight at what we got right and what we missed:

  • I had a hard time not second guessing how much depth I thought this system had a year ago when we were compiling this top 20 list.  I just seemed like there were skilled players everywhere and tons of guys who could contribute, but only a few guarantees at the top.  A year later, it looks like we were spot on with the amount of potential contributors the Cardinals had. Depth, depth, depth...and more depth.
  • Both of us thought Wong had the potential to be a regular for a long time at second base, neither of us expected a .240 average and a .125 ISO would be his first splash in the big leagues. Stay tuned, but this looks pretty good.
  • Pham finally broke out. Bryan didn't make the leap we thought he would and fell out of this year's top 25 as a result. Cory Jones had a disappointing April and then lost a year to Tommy John Surgery.  Mike O'Neill's perfect snowflake finally melted a bit. Pham is the only riser here, with everyone else falling back a few paces.

Here's the state of our list a year later and a few comments on each player after a year's time.

1. Oscar Taveras

(fourstick: 1; Cardinals645: 1)

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around Taveras’ absence from prospect lists and roster projections this year after tracking his meteoric rise through the minors the last few seasons. Oscar mostly struggled in the majors, after thrashing PCL pitching, but we did see a few notable glimpses of his talent as he homered in his first and last big league games. I think we’d still be talking about him as a top talent. RIP El Fenomeno.


2. Kolten Wong

(fourstick: 2; Cardinals645: 3)

Wong had a middling year with the bat, striking out a bit more and walking less than I would have expected. He did surprise with some power though, clubbing 15 HR in 121 games through the regular season and playoffs. That and his positive contributions in the field and on the basepaths (he lead the team with 20 SBs -- 11 more than runner up Peter Bourjos) gave him 2 WAR for the year in an injury/playing time/Matheny shortened season. Altogether he more than earned the #2 spot on last year’s list.


3. Stephen Piscotty

(fourstick: 5 ; Cardinals645: 2)

The power bat certainly didn't emerge in his first taste of AAA, but Piscotty's defense in RF is average and all the ancillary skills (contact rate, approach, line drive/gap power) in the batter's box are present. While he was only average offensively in AAA last year there's more here than meets the stat line.

--Eric M. Johnson

4. Alex Reyes

(fourstick: 3; Cardinals645: 4)

Everything is right on track with Reyes a year later. Two plus pitches, a changeup that's average and trending towards plus and command that got a lot better as the year wore on last year.  I think we had him pegged just about right last year and Reyes did nothing but get better, demonstrating he can miss plenty of bats in his first taste of a full season league.

--Eric M. Johnson

5. Tim Cooney

(fourstick: 4; Cardinals645: 7)

Was a workhorse for Memphis in 2014, but a few chinks in the armor as his walk rate climbed considerably as the strikeouts dipped a bit. Cooney was the same up-and-down pitcher he was the year before: Dominant when everything is working but can get hit hard when he doesn't have his best stuff.  With no overwhelming offerings, Cooney's edge on the mound is razor thin.

--Eric M. Johnson

6. Marco Gonzales

(fourstick: 7; Cardinals645: 5)

Ryan was far higher on Marco than I was a year ago and he turned out to be right when Gonzales got the call midsummer to make a couple of starts for the injury plagued Cardinals rotation. We always knew the changeup was elite, but Gonzales' curveball also turned out to be a plus offering at times, which was a bit of a surprise.  It's not as quality an offering as the Jersey kid behind him has, but when it's sharp its a very effective pitch to righthanders.  I'm still uncertain that his fastball is good enough to make him a #3 starter, but everything else is there.

--Eric M. Johnson

7. Rob Kaminsky

(fourstick: 6; Cardinals645: 6)

I was a bit bullish on Kaminsky last season, projecting him as having the potential to reach the #2 spot on the list in 2015. Kaminsky did pitch quite well though, if not quite as well as his 1.88 ERA would indicate. You could argue he deserved to be a spot higher on the list, but for the most part I think we had him in the right spot.


8. Randal Grichuk

(fourstick: 9; Cardinals645: 9)

Grichuk was certainly fun to watch in Memphis, hitting a boatload of homers for the best OF in the minors for the first two months of the year and he certainly proved me wrong with his ability to handle CF duties. Not sure he's a regular out there, but being able to play there makes him quite an asset with right handed power hitters becoming fairly scarce within the game.

--Eric M. Johnson

9. Carson Kelly

(fourstick: 8; Cardinals645: 12)

I personally had Kelly a bit lower (12th) on my list, after a disappointing season in 2013 and an inconsistent batting profile. After mashing 9 homers in <60 games in Rookie Ball in 2012, Kelly’s HR swing had vanished, and that trend continued in 2014. Over the last two seasons he has belted just 12 homers in 211 games. While his strikeout rate has improved during this period, his overall offensive performance has been below average. On the plus side, his conversion to catcher seems to have been successful. Kelly may still be on this list thanks to his new position, and various departures further up the list, but make no mistake: his stock is down. This is one we definitely missed on.


10. Charlie Tilson

(fourstick: 13; Cardinals645: 12)

Tilson continued to make up for lost time last season and after getting promoted mid-season even managed to show a bit of a power stroke that up to now hadn't been seen from him. Imagine Jon Jay, but with plus speed and a better glove and you'll have a good idea of what Tilson's upside looks like.

--Eric M. Johnson

11. James Ramsey

(fourstick: 16; Cardinals645: 10)

Ramsey crushed AA last year before getting dealt for Justin Masterson at the deadline. Going to Cleveland isn't likely going to speed his path to the majors any, but all of us here at F-R wish him well.  A harder worker you will not find in the entire minor leagues.

--Eric M. Johnson

12. Greg Garcia

(fourstick: 10; Cardinals645: 13)

The community left him off half the ballots last year and they appear to have the same feelings about Garcia as the front office does, as Mozeliak and company signed Dean Anna and traded for Ty Kelly to ostensibly do exactly what Garcia was being groomed to do at the big league level: Take over for Corporal Descalso when he got to expensive. His first half swoon and ballooning strikeout rate in 2014 probably didn't help his case any.

--Eric M. Johnson

13. Boone Whiting

(fourstick: 16; Cardinals645: 15)

Whiting came into last season as a low-ceiling guy without much to prove at AAA, hoping for a shot at the back end of the bullpen or a spot start in the majors. He enters 2015 in very much the same position. While his K% and BB% rates both rose a bit, his overall effectiveness at Memphis remained about the same with his FIP rising from 4.21 to 4.26. Where you rank a potential back-end pitcher like this is debatable, but Boone Whiting remains who we thought he was.


14. Tommy Pham

(fourstick: 15; Cardinals645: 16)

We finally got to see what a healthy Tommy Pham can do, and Tommy Pham probably has former AA teammate Allen Craig's struggles to thank for most of it.  Hard to see how Pham gets any PA's in AAA without both Grichuk and Taveras being called up numerous times to fill in for the scuffling Craig.

--Eric M. Johnson

15. Cory Jones

(fourstick: NR; Cardinals645: 11)

There’s not two ways about this -- Jones’ season was bad. After returning from an injury that ended his 2013 season, Jones struggled in 2014, walking 17.7% of batters before getting shelved with tommy john. The positive spin is that his subpar performance could be injury-related and he might bounce back once he has recovered. That’s the thing about high-ceiling prospects with injury histories, you can always choose to still believe they’ll be great when they have that healthy season. Believe it or not though, Jones was ranked too high here. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery, retains his velocity, and regains his prospect status!


16. Anthony Garcia

(fourstick: 12; Cardinals645: NR)

Prospects will break your heart, as Jason Parks was fond of saying. Garcia was just starting to turn the corner before getting dinged up and never getting back on track the rest of the season, breaking the heart of this evaluator, who really thought this was going to be his year.  Thankfully, he turned in a stellar performance in winterball, winning the league's MVP race. This isn't over yet, and with the lack of big bats in the Cardinal minors, it's hard to see how he's not going to get the opportunity to turn things around

--Eric M. Johnson

17. Vaughn Bryan

(fourstick: 13; Cardinals645: NR)

I said I liked Charlie Tilson a lot more than Bryan heading into last season, and that really hasn't changed.  What's changed is that Bryan is looking much more like a trust or bust type: You either think that he's going to refine all the raw tools at some point, or you don't.  I'm leaning towards the latter after seeing him a number of times in 2014.

--Eric M. Johnson

18. Mike O'Neill

(fourstick: 20; Cardinals645: 19)

Balls in play fell off a cliff and pitchers really began challenging O'Neill by knocking the bat out of his hands. Consequently he struggled mightily in 2014 and, considering his age, he won't be returning to the list in 2015.

--Eric M. Johnson

19. Zach Petrick

(fourstick: NR; Cardinals645: 14)

Given how quickly Petrick rose in 2013, it was easy to forget that he was already 24 entering last season, and that pitching well at AA at 23/24 is not that overwhelmingly impressive. Still, Petrick did pitch particularly well in Springfield to start 2014 (2.32 FIP in three starts). Unfortunately he pitched rather poorly at Memphis, and low upside guys with poor performances don’t merit spots on prospect lists. His 2nd half numbers offer some hope for improvement, but 35 IP is not a strong sample size.


20. Edmundo Sosa

(fourstick: 19; Cardinals645: NR)

Other than being upstaged by 2013 teammate Magneuris Sierra, Sosa turned a lot of heads in the talent heavy Gulf Coast League. Most of the praise was heaped on his bat and a good deal of that was based on the fact that most who saw him believe in his glove a lot more too.  He's making some Top 10 lists so far this offseason at various publications or just missing in the 11th or 12th spots. Either way, it appears we got this one right.

--Eric M. Johnson