It wasn't that long ago that the Cardinals farm system drew low marks for developing future major league talent. But Redbirds dot the landscape at several positions in mlb.com's rankings of the top prospects in baseball.
Pitching prospect Shelby Miller ranks second in future right-handed starters, outdone only by Braves hurler Julio Teheran.
According to mlb.com:
"They say the jump Double-A is the toughest one to make. But Miller didn't have any trouble with that leap in 2011. With the gloves off, Miller dominated in the Texas League and went to his second futures game. Still armed with a plus fastball, he's learned to be a more complete pitcher, improving his breaking ball, his change-up and his knowledge of how to use all his weapons. Miller has also proven to be more durable and able to pitch efficiently and deeply into games, even while missing plenty of bats. He'll have to continue to do that as he moves up and prepares for what could be his major league debut in 2012."
Miller ranked seventh on the same list in 2010.
Cardinals prospect Kolten Wong ranks third amongst future second basemen, according to mlb.com's prospect watch.
Only Corey Spangenberg of the Padres and Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles fared better.
This is what mlb.com had to say about Wong:
"The University of Hawaii product made a seamless transition to the pro game in 2011, going straight from the draft to the full-season Midwest league and continuing to hit for average, get on basebal and show more power than one would expect for a guy who is 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. He has very good speed and should be a threat on the bases. And while most thing of a player who is already a second baseman in college as a defensive failure, Wong is quite adept at the position. He's already on the fast track and might not need more than a year to be ready to help out in St. Louis."
It would sure be nice to see the Cardinals find some stability in the middle infield for years to come. Second base and shortstop have been a revolving door for the Cardinals since Edgar Renteria and Fernando Vina split.
Middle infield spots are positions where youth should rule. So it pays to be able to draft wisely there and keep the payroll hit low so the Redbirds can free up more payroll for corner outfield and corner infield positions where high-priced sluggers hang out.
Speaking of the corners of the infield... Cardinals first base prospect Matt Adams ranks sixth amongst prospects at his position.
mlb.com had this to say:
"Simply put, Adams can flat-out hit. With a career .316/.365/.552 line, he's produced wherever he's been. The big jump came in 2011, when Adams moved up to Double-A and was named the Texas League Player of the Year. Few doubt now that he'll hit for average and power at the highest level. Adams is fine defensively at first, and now with Albert Pujols in Anaheim, the Cards don't have to experiment with Adams in an outfield corner. Give him some time in Triple A and he'll be ready to contribute in St. Louis soon."
Zack Cox was ranked 10th amongst third base prospects:
"As the best college hitter in the 2010 draft class, Cox pretty much did what the Cards hopes he would in his first full season, hitting for average and jumping on the fast track by reaching Double-A. He looks like the type who will continue to hit over .300, maybe even compete for batting titles. Cox did hit 10 homers after his promotion, but it is unclear just how much power he'll have long term. Without a clear defensive home initially, it looks like he should be OK at third. Cox's bat could have him ready for St. Louis within a year."
The bad news with Cox is that he doesn't really seem to have a place in field for the Cardinals. He's a bad defensive third baseman -- and David Freese is at the height of his career at the hot corner. First base probably isn't an option with Adams in the mix -- especially when Cox doesn't have the power one would like to see at that position. Ideally, his bat profiles Cox as a second baseman. If his glove agreed, he still would be behind Wong on the depth chart.