Wednesday was the deadline for major league teams to set their 40-man rosters prior to the December 12th Rule 5 draft. As such, the Cardinals made a series of moves to protect their key prospects.
First, they tried to clear some extra space by putting Ryan Jackson on waivers, however he was claimed by the Houston Astros. Despite the Cardinals struggles with Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at short, Jackson never seemed to be an option, at least in the minds of Cardinals management, thus clearing him off the roster makes sense.
Second, the Cardinals removed pitcher John Gast and infielder Jermaine Curtis from the 40-man roster. Gast is a question mark for 2014 after undergoing shoulder surgery and Curtis is not in the Cards long range plans.
Finally, the Cardinals added Oscar Taveras, outfielder Mike O'Neill and infielder Greg Garcia to their 40-man roster.
Taveras was a no-brainer. The Cardinals would have never left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.
O'Neill has been proving critics wrong for years, by his ability to hit for average and get on base (career .328/.435/.405 line in the minors). He has little power or speed, but if his skills translate to the majors, he can be at least a quality 4th or 5th outfielder.
Garcia is a quality middle infield prospect who started getting some work at third this year. He has a career .281/.386/.403 line in the minors and should prove to be at least a good utility infielder in the majors.
Yesterday, Derrick Goold provided a pretty comprehensive list of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the Cardinals organization, based on that and the above moves, here are the players I think could potentially be drafted next month.
I was a bit surprised that the Cardinals dropped Gast from the 40-man roster. Although he underwent surgery to repair a torn lat in July, he still is a quality prospect and any team that drafts him can stash him on the DL until he's healthy. In my mind, he's the most likely Cardinal to get selected next month.
An 18th round pick in 2010, Whiting has decent minor league numbers (3.13 ERA in 345 innings) despite the lack of overpowering stuff. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range, but he has a quality slider to go with it. Some team could select him as a bullpen arm.
A first round pick (46th overall) in 2010, Blair has dealt with control issues, inconsistency and injuries in his minor league career. He posted a 5.07 ERA at AA this year and still has a mid-90's fastball, but may be better suited for relief.
A second round pick in 2010, Swagerty has a nice minor league debut in 2011, posting a 1.83 ERA in 93.2 innings. However, he had Tommy John surgery in April 2012 and pitched just 10.2 innings in 2013.
He has a mid-90's fastball and an excellent curve and could be another guy that a team could select and stash on the D.L. while he works his way back.
Stock was drafted as a catcher but was converted to a pitcher in 2012. He pitched for USC in college and flashed a low-to-mid-90's fastball and an average slider. He's still pretty raw (4.20 ERA in 109.1 innings in the minors), but could be stashed in a major league bullpen.
Overall, you will notice that all of the above players are pitchers, mainly because teams usually select pitching in the Rule 5 draft, as its easier to stash a pitcher in a major league bullpen, and because the hitters the Cardinals left unprotected are not so special.
I think that Gast is likely to be chosen and possibly even Whiting, which will greatly hurt the Cardinals depth.