Thursday, February 28, 2013

Could Michael Wacha be a darkhorse for the 5th starter job?

"I think that guy, right now, can pitch in the big leagues," Yadier Molina on Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha.

And with that, the hype begins...

Selected 19th overall in the June 2012 draft, Wacha pitched primarily out of the bullpen last year while reaching AA.  He posted an impressive 0.86 ERA in 21 IP, while striking out 40 and allowing only 12 baserunners.

He has carried over that success to Spring Training, allowing just one unearned run in 5 IP, while striking out 8 and allowing just 2 hits.  His command has been impeccable so far, with no walks allowed this spring after posting a 40/4 K/BB ratio last year.

After yesterday's 3 inning, 5 K performance, Wacha is creating quite a buzz in Cardinals Nation.  

But could he really win the 5th starter job?

Short answer:  No, and here's why.

Despite all his polish and his early dominance of mostly minor league players, Wacha is still a work in progress.  As Joe Strauss says, he breaking pitch needs refinement and the safest place to work on that is in the minors.  Baseball history is littered with stories of pitchers who were rushed to the majors only to get pummeled, lose their confidence and never be the same again.

The Cardinals should exercise some patience with Wacha, no matter how good he looks this spring.  Give him some time to develop that third pitch and then see what he can do at the major league level. 

With Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly ahead of him, both on the depth chart and in terms of major league experience, the Cardinals are best served letting Wacha develop. 

However, if the early results are any indication, its very possible that we will see Wacha before the 2013 season is over.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

For Cardinals Top Prospect Oscar Taveras, how soon in now?

OK, you'll have to forgive the lame Smiths reference, but many Cardinals fans, including myself, are wondering when will Oscar Taveras make it to the big leagues.

Could he pull an Albert Pujols and force his way into the Cardinals lineup this year? 

If you recall, Pujols was not expected to make the roster in 2001.  He only had 14 at bats above high A ball and was ticketed for Memphis (AAA) to start the season.

However, Pujols impressed the Cardinals brass so much during Spring Training that they were forced to find a spot for him.  Then when Bobby Bonilla got hurt, the Cardinals used his roster spot for Pujols and the rest is history.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Cardinals could face a similar situation.

Taveras is expected to start the season at AAA, but could potentially force his way into the Cardinals plans for 2013.  According to Derrick Goold, Taveras will get a good look this spring.  With Carlos Beltran playing in the World Baseball Classic and Matt Holliday not expected to play everyday during the spring, Taveras will get ample at bats.  How he performs could go a long way towards making his case for a roster spot.

In the spring of 2001, Pujols, primarily a third baseman at the time, was also practicing in the outfield and at first, giving him more positional flexibility.  Thus, although the 2001 Cardinals had a set lineup at each position, Pujols wound up playing 55 games at third, 42 at first, 39 in left and 39 in right in his rookie year, allowing him to amass 590 at bats.

For Taveras, while he is limited to the outfield,  he can play all 3 spots.  Thus, while the Cardinals appear to have a set lineup, Brian Feldman suggests that the Cardinals could find at bats for Taveras by having him platoon with Beltran in right, play one game a week to spell Jay, fill in occasionally for Holliday and DH in interleague games.

The Cardinals could possibly trade one of their outfielders to make room for Taveras, but they may want to see how he performs at the major league level first before doing so, which makes Feldman's suggestion even more plausible.

Its easy to look at Taveras' minor league stats and get excited about his future with the Cardinals.  Take a look at the stats for Pujols' 2000 minor league season (his only season in the minors) compared to Taveras' 2012 minor league season:

Albert Pujols
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2013.
Oscar Taveras
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2013.
They are eerily similar, with Taveras showing slightly more power, while Pujols' contact rate of 90.4% was slightly better than Taveras' 88.3%. 

Looking at those stats, I have little doubt that Taveras will succeed in the majors.  The only remaining question is: How soon?

UCB Roundtable - Day 7: Putting together the Cardinals 2014 lineup and starting rotation

Its day 7 of the United Cardinals Blogger annual spring roundtable, which means its my turn to pose the topic for discussion.  Below is the transcript.

Cardinals Fan in Cubs Land

With the World's best minor league system and some big contracts coming off the books after the 2013 season (notably Chris Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Jake Westbrook), the Cardinals will find themselves in the enviable position of having the young talent to fill some lineup holes as well as the payroll flexibility to fill others.

Given the Cardinals current crop of prospects and assuming that the Cardinals have in the neighborhood of $25 million to spend next year, put yourself in Mo's shoes and put together the Cardinals 2014 starting lineup and starting rotation.  (Note: You can also assume trades, if reasonable, and any free agent signings must be actual free agents after the 2013 season).

Daniel Shoptaw - C70 At The Bat

Some part of this are pretty easy, some a little tougher.
C Yadier Molina
1B Allen Craig
2B Kolten Wong
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3B David Freese
LF Oscar Taveras
CF Jon Jay
RF Matt Holliday

Adam Wainwright
Jaime Garcia
Lance Lynn
Shelby Miller
Michael Wacha

I think that if the Rockies have an off year, they will be likely to move Tulo and the Cardinals will be the ones most likely to be able to swing the deal.  Shortstop has to be addressed and with no obvious up and comers in the system (depending on what you think of Ryan Jackson and Greg Garcia, I guess), I think they'd make that splash.

Obviously, I'm also counting on the Wainwright extension to get done.

CFCL - So, who are you trading for Tulo?

Daniel Shoptaw - C70 At The Bat

Oh, man, I've got to do all of Mo's job for him?  :)
It's obviously going to have to come from pitching.  Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez would likely be the brunt of the package, assuming the Cards don't take on much salary, which they can afford to do.
Daniel Solzman - Redbird Rants
Wouldn’t Carlos need his visa issue taken care of first?
Daniel Shoptaw - C70 At The Bat
I think we can safely assume that will be cleared up.  We're talking 2014, not what the lineup will look like for the next home game.  If it's not, Martinez has bigger issues to deal with than a trade.

Bob Netherton - On The Outside Corner

This is a fascinating scenario - one that has been discussed many times. Clearly, the Cardinals don't have anything in the system like the old Rockies version of Tulowitzki. I think we should keep an eye on him this year to see if he returns to form after a rough injury year in 2012.

One look at his home/away splits is enough to give you to willies though. That's not a lot of return for more than a half a decade of $20M/yr.  I'd almost rather have Jackson/Garcia and a guarantee of extending Wainwright for a
ridiculous sum and still being able to afford Wong/Rosenthal/Miller/Wacha/Taveras/Craig (or Adams) beyond their first arbitration year than put that much forward money on Tulowitzki.

But I like the way you think, Dr. Moneybags 
Tom Knuppel - Cardinals GM
I didn't check these for accuracy but found this on another site...If correct, Tulo doesn't look too bad away from Coors Field...

(Away from Coors Field)

.275/.347/.467, .814 OPS

.292/.362/.519, .881 OPS

.291/.358/.504, .863 OPS
Bob Netherton - On The Outside Corner
Those look about right.  And they are a good 100 points (OPS) lower away than in
Colorado. Is that worth 6/118M (which is Matt Holliday money) ?  
Tom Knuppel - Cardinals GM
I am sure they are lower than Coors but look good at Busch.

As far as the money dealings, I don't get too wrapped up in them much. So I can't really say.

The Cardinals have done well for almost my entire life... 70's and 90's were bad... so I let them sort out what they want to spend.

I go with the flow. 

Tom Knuppel - Cardinals GM
C Yadier Molina
1B Matt Adams
2B Kolten Wong
SS Troy Tulowitzki acquired in exchange for Allen Craig and John Gast
3B David Freese
LF Matt Holliday
CF Oscar Taveras
RF Ben Zobrist signed as free agent

Trevor Rosenthal
Jaime Garcia 
Phil Hughes  signed as free agent
Shelby Miller
Michael Wacha

Wainwright goes the Pujols route. John Jay gets traded somewhere in there.

Matt Whitener - Cheap Seats Please

This is a tough one, because there is going to be a lot of change
coming to this club over the next year. They're in the middle of what
I've come to see as a "competitive rebuilding" process, sticking in
the prospects, while having the luxury of not having to rush any of

So to that extent, I don't think we see Michael Wacha or Carlos
Martinez next year. Wacha will get time at Triple A, while they'll
make a decision on whether it's early or late innings for Martinez. As
for trades, I'm going to stay away from that, too many variables in
play there, and it makes virtually the entire MLB available for

But based on what's here, in the system and on the 2014 free agent
market, this is what I see it looking like:

C: Yadier Molina
1B: Allen Craig
2B: Kolten Wong
3B: David Freese
SS: Willie Bloomquist (FA)
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Jon Jay
RF: Oscar Tavaras

SP: Adam Wainwright
SP: Shelby Miller
SP: Jaime Garcia
SP: Lance Lynn
SP: Jason Hammel (FA)

RP: Trevor Rosenthal
RP: Edward Mujica
RP: Mitchell Boggs
CL: Jason Motte 
Daniel Solzman - Redbird Rants
2014 Starting Lineup
C Yadier Molina
1B Allen Craig
2B Koten Wong
3B David Freese
SS Greg Garcia, barring a trade
LF Matt Holliday (he’s played LF his entire career so there is no need to move him to RF)
CF Jon Jay
RF Oscar Taveras
SPs: Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, and Joe Kelly/Lance Lynn
If there is a trade for a short stop, I can see Lance or another starter being moved in the deal.
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Trevor Rosenthal
3. Lance Lynn
4. Shelby Miller
5. Michael Wacha
Cards bring back Wainwright, Rockies ask for too much for TT.  Mo stays smart and doesn't deal young pitching.

Wow, this is fun (and dangerous)!!

A couple of moves highlighted:

1. Mozeliak let's Wainwright walk (which makes my heart hurt)

2. Trade for Elvis Andrus. I think Rosenthal alone and some mid-tier pitching prospects gets this done (maybe Maness). Texas will always need pitching and they have Profar ready. I prefer Andrus over Tulo because I think he will cost less in a long term deal, can be a top of the order guy, gets hurt less, and is younger.

3. To replace Wainwright, Mo will bring home innings horse Dan Haren, who is in a one year deal with Washington right now. Something like 3 years, $42 million could get this done, considering Haren is making $13 mil this year and would come at a big discount compared to Wainwright.

2b Wong
SS Andrus
LF Holliday
1b Craig
RF Taveras
C Molina
3b Freese
CF Jay

M. Carpenter
D. Descalso
T. Wigginton

Starting rotation:
1. Haren
2. Lynn
3. Garcia
4. Miller
5. Wacha/Martinez

Also, since it hasn't been pointed out yet, guys like Jay, Craig, Freese again, and Boggs are all gong to be do decent arbitration raises this winter, so we will likely not have as much money to play around.

Also, I left off a seventh in my Bully, which will be Salas, who also will be arbitration eligible soon enough.

Matt Whitener - Cheap Seats Please

GREAT call on Dan Haren. He's said before he wouldn't mind coming back
to St. Louis, and with or without Wainwright, I think he's a smart
play for next year. The rotation needs more experience still, and I'm
not counting Jaime as that veteran guy. 
Bob Netherton - On The Outside Corner
Count me in on Dan Haren.  He could be the new Jake Westbrook and would be a
great addition to the rotation.  We might get a Woody  Williams kind of
performance out of him, and that would be just fine with me :-)   Doesn't change
the need to resign Wainwright, but he would be a fantastic addition to the rotation. 
Wes Keene - Keene on Baseball
I'm going against the grain here. Young, club-controlled talent is great but I need veterans, too. I'm keeping Waino. I'm also moving Beltran's money to SS. We'll put some of our young talent in the outfield (Oscar), and put up the old Beltran dollars as trade enhancement to get Tulo or Andrus (whoever wants to make a deal happen). That will also enable us to deal one of our middle infielders now. At this point, I'm looking at Descalso, I don't want to lose M Carp.  

Matt Whitener - Cheap Seats Please

The middle infield market is so much stronger next season, and while
I'm pretry sure the Cardinals won't come roaring out the gates after
Robinson Cano, there's plenty of upgrade worthy talent out there. I
don't think it's too far out of a possibility that Mo goes after
another short-term veteran at Shortstop. Especially if Greg Garcia
shows some promise.

A utility infielder, that can start as well would have some value, and
not at an overpay rate like the Red Sox did for Stephen Drew this year
($10 M, 1 yr). 
Mark Tomasik - RetroSimba

Lineup: Molina, catcher; Craig, first base; Wong, second base; Tulowitzki, shortstop; Freese, third base; Holliday, Jay, Taveras, outfield.

Rotation: Wainwright, Garcia, Lynn, Miller, Wacha.

For more of these roundtable discussions, be sure to check out the links at United Cardinals Bloggers

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Cardinals Composite Top Prospect List (Final)

Each year I like to compile a composite prospect list, taking the top prospects lists from across the web, assigning points to each ranking and then using these points to create a composite ranking.  I do this each February for the top 100 prospects in baseball, which can be found at my MLB Composite Prospect Index site and I also do it for each team, including my favorite, the Cardinals.

Below is my final Cardinals Top 10 Composite Prospect listing.  My preliminary list was posted on January 12th and I have since doubled the number of sites included in the list.  I have also added a separate page with a link to the spreadsheet as well as links to the expert sites that I used for the composite prospect list.

2013 Cardinals Top 10 Composite Prospect List (FINAL)

1.  Oscar Taveras (140 points)

4 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Taveras was ranked #1 on all 7 top 10 lists and deservedly so.

2.  Shelby Miller (123 points)

4 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Despite his sub par year, Miller was stilled named the #2 prospect on 6 of the 7 lists, with 1 list ranking him 3rd.

3.  Carlos Martinez (106 points)

3 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Still trying to catch up with the higher ranked Miller, Martinez could make his major league debut in 2013.

4.  Trevor Rosenthal (99 points)

2012 AA-AAA 8 6 2.97 109.0 78 40 36 7 42 104 1.101
4 Seasons
22 14 3.53 285.1 237 129 112 15 98 293 1.174
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

A bit of a sleeper prospect last year, Rosenthal is certainly on everyone's top prospect lists this year after impressing in his big league debut.

5.  Michael Wacha (86 points)
1 Season
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

After being drafted 19th overall this past June, Wacha spent time at three different levels in 2012, dominating at all 3.

6.  Kolten Wong (71 points)
2 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

The Cardinals second baseman of the future had a fine season at AA and could battle for the starting job in Spring Training. 

7Tyrell Jenkins (42 points)

3 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Another power arm, Jenkins struggled in his first taste of full season ball, but still has plenty of time to figure things out.

8Matt Adams (41 points)

4 Seasons
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Injuries ruined his chance to show his power at the major league level and now he is blocked by Allen Craig

 9Carson Kelly (19 points)

1 Season
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

A second round pick in 2012, Kelly has a strong arm (he also pitched in high school), a nice line-drive stroke and power potential.

10Stephen Piscotty (17 points)
2012 A 210 29 62 18 1 4 27 3 18 25 .295 .376 .448 .823
1 Season
210 29 62 18 1 4 27 3 18 25 .295 .376 .448 .823
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Projects to hit for average, but is not expected to develop much power.

Others receiving points:
Anthony Garcia (6), Patrick Wisdom (6), Tyler Lyons (5), Steve Bean (4),  Mike O'Neill (2), John Gast (1), Victor De Leon (1), Charlie Tilson (1)

Overall, there were just a couple changes from the preliminary list as Tyrell Jenkins and Matt Adams switched places, as did Carson Kelly and Stephen Piscotty.  There were also a few more additions to the other players receiving points, notably Patrick Wisdom, Tyler Lyons, Steve Bean and Charlie Tilson.