Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 11/30/11

No one really needs to tell you how the St. Louis Cardinals ended 2011. With a sizzling end to the season, the Cardinals overcame their Spring Training loss of Adam Wainwright to take the World Series. As one might expect of a Tony La Russa-led team, the World Series champs didn’t have a lot of rookies on their team, but the bullpen did get quite a bit of help from the likes of Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez, who narrowly remain prospects. The more famous rookie, however, was probably Allen Craig, who came up with several clutch playoff hits, and he’ll likely receive more playing time last year after a rookie season of proving he could hit.

Moving on to the minor leagues, the Cardinals continue to quietly develop one of the better farm systems in baseball. At the top are 3 possible front-of-the-rotation starters in Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Tyrell Jenkins, and Trevor Rosenthal might be a fourth. Jordan Swagerty isn’t quite as good, but his improvements this past season are encouraging. And though they are not starters, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez, and Maikel Cleto (who could still be) are flame-throwing relievers that could make a nice, cheap back-end of the bullpen fairly soon.

The wealth of talent doesn’t end on the mound, either. Oscar Taveras became a top outfield prospect with a strong showing in Low-A, but he’ll obviously need to hit in a larger sample against better competition. The other top position player prospects are less likely for stardom, but they, nevertheless, have the potential to be solid regulars. Matt Carpenter is old for a prospect, but while that might shorten his career, it doesn’t mean he can’t start at third for someone. Matt Adams is large, but his bat is certainly in charge. Zach Cox can hit, but there are concerns about his ultimate ceiling. And Kolten Wong had a nice debut after being drafted, but whether he is a star or a solid regular is still up for debate.

The Cardinals currently have what most farm systems envy - high-impact talent and depth - and they even have that in pitching and position players. This is crucial as the Cardinals continue to stockpile large contracts without a top-shelf payroll. They need cheap talent to fill out the roster, and it always helps to have good cheap talent.

 

Elite

Shelby Miller      SP

Bats/Throws:      R/R

Height/Weight:       6’3/200

Age/Level (as of 4/2012):      21/AAA

Projection:       1/2

Starting the run of high-powered arms in the Cardinals system, Miller has all the stuff to be a top-notch starter. With a mid-90s fastball that can hit 98 and two secondary pitches (a 12-6 curve and change) that flash plus but are at least average or a tick above now, Miller has an ace’s repertoire, and considering his strong build, he can sustain that deep into games. Mechanically, I wouldn’t call him pretty, especially as he noticeably throws across his body, but the arm action is easy and repeatable. The one concern about Miller is his control, which continues to waver at times, but considering he just turned 21, I’m not terribly concerned.

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