As we work our way into the teens, we start to see more experienced players. When it comes to experience versus potential, I have a hard time going away from experience. For younger guys, the risk is much higher and I am not one to take that risk. With that said, the player with the biggest upside on this list is Jones, but he has the least amount of experience. He was very impressive for Peoria last season and could work his way up this list with more experience.
Swagerty and Gast are interesting prospects for 2014. Both have injury concerns, but very different concerns. Swagerty should be fully healthy after Tommy John surgery in March of 2012. Gast is coming off of shoulder surgery last season, but he should be ready by opening day, or very close to it.
I believe that Garcia has the greatest chance of seeing major league time of the five listed here. With the struggles of Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, Garcia could sneak in there and be a valuable bat and glove off of the bench.
20. Jordan Swagerty
I may be a little more optimistic than others on Swags, but he had a bright future just a couple of years ago before Tommy John hit. In his rookie professional season, Swagerty shot through the system, pitching at three levels ending up at Double-A Springfield. Swagerty had his surgery early in April of 2012 and his recovery has been long, painful. He didn’t hit the mound in an official game until June of 2013 and struggled to regain his feel. 2014 should provide a fresh start for the righty out of Arizona State.
Swagerty will be one of the toughest minor leaguers to project for 2014. I will probably project him to begin back at Palm Beach but if he returns to 2011 form, he will move quickly.
19. Greg Garcia
Garcia was rated the best ranked shortstop in the Cardinals system, and that was a tough call to make for us. With that said, this list is about impact players and shortstop at the major league level is locked up now with the signing of Jhonny Peralta. That leaves very little room for Garcia to make an impact barring an injury, and even if that happens he has to leapfrog Pete Kozma for playing time. As Joe told me, Garcia may be the new Ryan Jackson.
Personally, I would like to see Garcia make the major league roster next season because of his defensive flexibility. That may be a stretch but there is plenty of time this off-season for a move to be made.
18. Zach Petrick
The Cardinals’ 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year went from a relative unknown to a hot commodity in about five months in 2013. Petrick, and undrafted free-agent in 2012, started the year at Low-A Peoria as a reliever, and made his way all the way to Double-A Springfield as a starter. Petrick’s tools play at the major league level, a good fastball, above average change, and solid breaking pitch. Along with solid three pitches, he has excellent control, only issuing 27 walks in 113 innings. Petrick had sub-one ERA’s at Peoria and Palm Beach, to go along with a 3.99 ERA in Springfield, partially due to fatigue.
Petrick should start back at Double A, with a great chance of making it to Memphis by the end of the season. A crowded list of pitchers above him makes it tough to find a route to the big leagues, but he is definitely worthy.
17. John Gast
Gast is the senior member of this list as he will be 25 for the 2014 season. Gast made his Major League debut on May 14th after Jake Westbrook went on the disabled list. After two plus starts, Gast found himself on the DL with a shoulder strain. Later in the summer he would have surgery to repair his left lat. While he should be good for Opening Day, you never know with shoulder injuries. He is still someone to watch, and could see time in the major league rotation if/when injuries happen.
If Gast is ready for Opening Day, he should begin the season in the rotation of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. More time with the major league club is very possible in 2014 as Gast would be one of the early favorites to get a call when the injury bug hits, and you know it will.
16. Cory Jones
Jones is definitely on the radar after a very impressive 2013. He was the Cardinals’ 5th round pick in 2012 and make just 5 starts for the Johnson City Cards that year. He opened 2013 at extended spring but made his debut on May 29th for the Peoria Chiefs. In 11 starts, Jones won 8 and had a solid ERA of 2.00 with a .215 BAA. Jones has a pitchers body at 6’5″ and 225 lbs. He has a power arm but lacks consistency and a good feel for the strike zone. The potential is there and he should build nicely on his solid 2013 season.
Since Jones only started 11 games at Peoria in 2013, a return there is not out of the question, but I think he could get pushed to Palm Beach. There is a lot to like from this 22-year-old.
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