Prospect Preacher

Cupboard for Cards far from Empty

A funny thing happened on the way to Washington for the Winter Meetings. Most avid fans such as myself really thought that St. Louis was in the catbird seat to acquire an outfielder via the trade market. Things may have played out differently had Boston not overwhelmed the field and snatched a certain ace lefty (deja vu anyone?) away from the Nationals. Now as everyone knows, a deal isn’t official until Twitter announces it for at least the third time so counting chickens and all that only leads to more frustration and questions.

(On a side note it’s okay – you can admit that you were starting to question Mo given the last 12 months have been a struggle.)

By the middle of the Winter Meetings, it honestly felt like the Cardinals were the only team NOT to make a deal. Even the Baby Bears picked up a replacement closer when the rumor mill kicked into high gear. First it was the Adam Eaton dance followed very soon after by a possible Kansas City Shuffle (watched Lucky Number Slevin last night and highly recommend). Both of those options had positives but the real smoke before the fire happened when Colorado did the unexpected. Instead of looking at the Rockies as potential trade partners, the NL West afterthoughts gave Ian Desmond a truck full of money.

The fact that the Cardinals had been linked to Desmond and also the interest in Charlie Blackmon did two things to the Winter Meetings. One, it revealed the estimated cost of doing business and two, actual news was going to be moving slowly for St. Louis thanks to one very large commitment by the front office. Teams inquiring on potential deals were not asking for the present but the future and that was thankfully a non-starter. Then the real bombshell dropped and basically no one outside of a chosen few knew which way to go.

Washington quickly overcame finishing second in the Sale Sweepstakes and went right back to the same well in dealing what appeared to be a blow to a certain National League rival under the Arch. Eaton is a very nice player on a great contract – those two things became even more important with the new CBA and going forward with the penalties for going over the luxury tax. With that being said, the prospect price made everyone scratch their heads as the White Sox pulled off the deal of the year for sure and possibly one that sets the bar for position players going into the next decade.

To properly put it into perspective, the Cardinals would have MAYBE had a shot at Eaton had they been willing to offer Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Carson Kelly since the catcher was said to be high on Chicago’s wish list. Let that sink in for a bit just to see how devastating that would be in say…2018. Not to mention both Weaver and Kelly were just named the St. Louis Minor League Players of the Year, but that deal could not have worked out well any way you look at it. Hey, good on the Nats for doing what they can to persuade potential $400 mill man Harper that the grass isn’t always greener.

The Cardinals can hardly afford to trade arguably the three most important prospects that will factor in for the next 4-5 years. The Fowler signing didn’t really block anybody given there was a need and the loss of one draft pick is minimal at best compared to the acquisition cost of any of the options on the board. Bravo once again to the management team as well as the owners for realizing the best plan of attack was the one of least resistance. Now Memphis will be the place for reinforcements instead of question marks, and that makes the Preacher look forward to April all the more.

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Wow, times they are a changing. Building from with-in has turned into a novelty, and all Cardinals fans should prepare for an interesting 24 hours. The fun began early this morning when the St. Louis front office made the big league club better and proved how much Harrison Bader has put himself on the map.

Charlie Tilson grew up in Chicago and may be returning very soon as he was dealt to the White Sox for LHP Zach Duke. This deal is a great move for both sides in my opinion, not unlike the move last summer for Brandon Moss. Duke comes with a year of control and extensive experience in the NL Central. The former Pirate phenom has donned the Cincy uniform as well as turned he career around while a member of the Brew Crew bullpen.

Tilson, on the other hand, was added to the 40-man roster last Winter but honestly needed this move to have a real chance at making his dent in the majors. He wasn’t having a bad season for Memphis but the depth chart was full ahead of him with Bader storming the gate. Would things have turned out differently had Tilson not lost a year due to injury? Well some things we will never know but wish him luck moving to the AL Central.

Duke can be used in a number of ways, and this might be the only deal made by the Cardinals. Bullpen help was a must, and now there are a trio of lefties Matheny can use to get past the Cubs. Of course since there is plenty more time left before tomorrow’s trade deadline, check back as the fireworks are far from over!

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UCB September Project: Super 7 + 1

By far the best time of the year for baseball, the next month never gets boring in my opinion. It does help that the Cardinals are probably the most hated club in the game, but that will happen when you make playing in October a yearly party. The biggest reason for the continued St. Louis success has been the continued development of one of the best farm systems in baseball.

Look no further than the 2015 campaign with the contributions of a number of rookies who have graduated from the minors into being mid-season saviors as the injury parade continued on under the arch. It is also true that this year’s Super 7 list could very well be the first to not feature a single player who will contribute in next calendar season. And you know what, I’m completely okay with that as the organization continues to reload.

Everyone has an idea of what counts as a prospect to them, but I use a unique approach as the Preacher. Any player who has already made an appearance wearing the Birds on the Bat is ineligible for my list, so this month’s UCB project is all about the future. It wasn’t as hard as expected to piece my seven names together, and I’m willing to bet most of the below players will show up in one way or another on the majority of any prospect lists.

That’s also why I give one bonus prospect who I fully expect to land in the Top 7 when we revisit this in another year. One thing is for certain, however, as the Cardinals continue searching for the hidden gems of the draft and all over the world. It may not matter where St. Louis finds the talent, because the system just keeps on producing.

Alexander Reyes slots at number one on every list, and he won’t be a disappointment if 2016 is spent mowing down the competition as the Memphis ace. Reyes could also serve an apprenticeship in the bullpen first since triple-digit readings on the radar gun work at any level. I was lucky enough to catch the RHP in person, and I was impressed with the poise of the young flamethrower. He is as close to untouchable as there is in the organization and will be fun to watch for years to come.

This is where things get more fun, though, as there is no wrong answer to this list. After the initial two months to the season, Magneuris Sierra was not having nearly as good a time as Jack Flaherty in Peoria. The Cardinals were aggressive in sending the reigning prospect of the year to full-season ball, and Sierra was quite frankly not ready. He rebounded quite nicely in Johnson City to place second on my list as well as fourth for Baseball America.

Sierra needed a hurdle to climb, and his trip back to Peoria next year should include a familiar face from the Appalachian League top-10 list. Edmundo Sosa continues to impress, and the shortstop gets high marks in the field as well as at the plate. He certainly could be in the discussion for best position player with a strong 2017, and he looks firmly entrenched in the top five.

Flaherty and another RHP will always be linked together in more ways than just my top five. Luke Weaver is only behind his fellow 2014 first-round pick due to age. Flaherty dominated the Midwest League and very well could have used a call-up to replace Weaver had the Texas League came calling. There is still plenty of time for the pair to share a rotation, as both front line starters will be highlighted with honors in the very near future.

Weaver left nothing to prove for Palm Beach and only a late start to his season prevented a promotion to Springfield. There he would have had the luxury of the next wave of stellar outfielder at his disposal. Charlie Tilson probably rates as the most underrated player in the system, and he also has the best chance on this list of spending all of next year at the highest level. Tilson missed a crucial season of development due to injury but has not let it stop him upon returning.

Kolten Wong may be the most remembered pick from the 2011 Draft, but I would argue Tilson should not be forgotten. He doesn’t turn 23 until December and crushed the always tough Texas League to the tune of 0ver 200 total bases and a whopping 46 steals. While no fault of his own, the current outfield depth makes a strong season at Memphis a priority for the Illinois native. He also presents the best-case scenario for the third center fielder on the list and the one most likely to be given plenty of time to develop.

Nick Plummer was a surprise choice for St. Louis in this year’s June draft, but he also represents what the Cardinals needed the most. Pitching has been a strength of the organization that has carried the major league club all year, but the lack of offense should be the bigger story. Injuries to position players are harder to overcome, and it was imperative that depth was added without having to break the bank since that will be coming soon enough.

Plummer and my bonus pick, Bryce Denton, are the first test subjects if you will of the new approach that is certain to be used going forward. The only way you can counter 100 on the gun is with the quickness at the plate that players such as Randall Grichuk have shown. Plummer and Denton possess the same skill set even if the results take a few years to witness the evolution. Any way you look at it, the next 5-10 seasons will need contributions from everyone on this list for the Birds on the Bat to remain atop their perch in the National League Central.

1. Reyes, RHP Springfield

2. Sierra, OF Johnson City

3. Flaherty, RHP Peoria

4. Sosa, SS Johnson City

5. Weaver, RHP Palm Beach

6. Tilson, OF Springfield

7. Plummer, OF GCL Cardinals

Bonus — Denton, 3B GCL Cards

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Thursday Trade Thoughts

Many St. Louis fans went to sleep last night wondering if Matt Holliday was going to be able to play again this season. For a select group of Cardinal insomniacs, however, one message on Twitter made resting impossible.

Now first of all, the term significant can mean many things to different people this time of year. The non-waiver trade deadline concludes tomorrow, but the insanity has been even more shocking this month in comparison to ever before. And that is saying something quite frankly, as there are still roughly 24 hours to withstand before taking a breath. It was this next message, though, that made any potential deal hard to figure out. When you are already on edge after another shutout and then hear a top prospect’s name being mentioned, well, it was best just to put down the phone and roll over.

Kaminsky has been overshadowed the past two seasons simply by being the second best pitching weapon in his team’s rotation. The southpaw mirrored Alex Reyes in Peoria and Palm Beach and appeared destined to make a late season move. Unfortunately, the address change will not be to Springfield as Kaminsky was dealt to Cleveland for Brandon Moss.

While typically trades are accomplished with the future in mind, this screams of desperation for the Cardinals. Kaminsky was recently rated by MLB as the 88th best prospect overall and 10th best LHP. Now he joins the Indians and becomes the 4th first-round pick to be dealt away in the last 12 months.

Ideally it is best to look at both sides of a deal, but this one is head-scratching. Giving away prospects for two-month rentals has always been a bitter pill to swallow, so this one still has a chance to work out in St. Louis. Moss comes with another year of control and if he hits bombs in October everyone will have this memory of Kaminsky to remember.

 

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On my drive back from Springfield, thoughts about what would happen if no trade was made were interrupted by another scary 9th inning for the St. Louis closer. With that in mind, Marco Gonzales may have plenty to say about how the Cardinals tackle the upcoming July 31st deadline. The sixth starter after March has had his share of adventures this season but had good control of everything but his change-up last night.

Given that his three inning performance was the longest since returning from a shoulder condition, Gonzales and his premier pitch will now stretch out on a regular turn either in the Springfield or Memphis rotation. The best part about that for me is that it gives the St. Louis Front Office more leverage in the upcoming weeks. As a number of experts have been pointing out for at least a month, starting pitching depth may never be more abundant or expensive for that matter.

The Cardinals are certainly dealing from a position of depth, as they have the best record in the game and can be picky with any potential trade partner. With that in mind, however, the past couple of days have highlighted just how the next month may play out as Gonzales, Stephen Piscotty, and Jordan Walden to name a few are thrown into the equation.

Piscotty was impressive as his transition to first base looked much closer to being big league ready than expected. Memphis played in Iowa on Thursday and was spotlighted as the Minor League game of the week for some cable providers. Piscotty struggled at the plate, but that was not the concern coming from my couch. He has hit at every level and can provide some much-needed pop from multiple positions now. The strongest sense for a time frame, though, remains up in the air as a spot on the 40-man as well as possible trades cloud the situation.

Because Piscotty is another right-handed option, that may limit the upside in the next couple of weeks as potential deals for lefty mashers are discussed by the Mozeliak brain-trust first. Will the St. Louis faithful get to see the debut of the next possible Craig or Carpenter or is a deal already in the works? That question and many more rest on the shoulders of a trio of lefty who are being counted on to soak up some innings and take some away from a pair of All-Stars.

Tim Cooney continues to impress after his rocky introduction and starts tomorrow in place of Jaime Garcia. Those southpaws as well as Gonzales factor into how the Cardinals prepare to decide which options to pursue in the volatile trade market. Many more posts will go up soon detailing all the different paths that St. Louis can utilize, but my question is why give in to the market? With Walden nearing a rehab stint and the possibility of shifting a starter to the pen if needed, how Mo chooses to navigate the choppy waters this month is fascinating.

Gonzales is the ace in the hole in my opinion, given his success last year coming out of the bullpen. He is even more untouchable than Piscotty, simply because he offers an impact arm that has already been a thorn in the side for big league competition. His change-up matches up with the best in the game when healthy, and that is the biggest question remaining. Do the Cardinals hold steady and wait for reinforcements or go all-in for an impact rental?

This time of year is always the most fun to follow as well as frustrating given the lack of real rumors. No one saw the deal with Boston coming last deadline day, and this year is shaping up to be just as crazy. Hold on for the ride, fellow Birds on the Bat faithful, as it is about to get bumpy!

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Last but not Least

After not taking teammates Jon Harris or Tate Matheny, the Cardinals went back to Missouri State for the 40th and final pick on the 2015 Draft. Joey Hawkins can play all over the infield, and the Senior can handle Shortstop which will certainly open up a spot this summer.

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Cardinals Win Round-Up

My apologies for missing a few picks, but the Cardinals needed that victory. Starting with the 35th Round pick, St. Louis went the college route to fill out some of the upcoming rosters. The pitcher of the group, Luke Harrison, has closing experience and then four more position players (Dylan Tice, Stephen Zavala, Orlando Olivera, & R.J. Dennard) all join the ranks!

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Brotherly Love

Carson Kelly was considered a tough sign but went high enough in the 2012 Draft to pass up on a chance to play at Oregon. His little brother has the same decision to make now as the Cardinals picked Parker Kelly in the 34th round. It is a great gesture especially since Parker and I share a birthday!

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Snagging Seniors

Where much of the buzz on day two of the draft was about saving money with senior signs, the Cardinals chose a different approach and have loaded up with experience today. Two more college seniors were selected in rounds 32 and 33, as CF Thomas Spitz and LHP Chandler Hawkins look to make their mark.

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Tough Trio to Sign

St. Louis is in the home stretch of the 50th Rule 4 Draft and has reached the why not section of picks. Starting with selection #29 (Ben Yokley), a SR RHP out of the Air Force Academy and then a couple of HS players, (Matt Vierling & Aaron Coates) the Cardinals are throwing darts at this point!

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Starting Five

The run on righties continues for the Cardinals. This time, however, the pair could be top picks for the offseason basketball squad. Two potential relievers in Greg Tomchick (27th) stands 6’4″ and Mitchell Traver (28th) is a towering 6’7″ for the CWS bound TCU Horned Frogs.

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Rotation Depth

Cards strike for another college hurler in the 26th round, grabbing Sacramento State RHP Brennan Leitao. He is not overpowering but out of 60 starts covering four years, the newest St. Louis pitcher walked only 78 batters.

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