September brings about the end of the minor league baseball season each year, as well as the annual Top 7 Prospects project for the United Cardinal Bloggers.
The three of us do get to our fair share of minor league games — Miranda in Memphis to see the Redbirds and Tara and I in the Quad Cities for the River Bandits. And Tara is particularly knowledgeable about our (now, sadly, former) Midwest League team from her work on our Bandits Buzz series this season.
With that, here’s our list of the Cardinals Top 7 prospects.
1. Oscar Taveras
He impressed us here in the Quad Cities during 2011, and didn’t stop impressing everyone as he moved up to Double A this season. And all he did after skipping ahead a level was hit .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI, which was more than enough to be named Texas League Player of the Year. In addition, he has the distinction of having earned championship rings in his first three years in the Cardinals system: in 2010 with the Johnson City Cardinals, last year with the River Bandits and this year in Springfield. We’re anxiously looking forward to seeing how he does in spring training next year — and of course to seeing him in St. Louis.
2. Shelby Miller
A River Bandit in 2010, Tara and I also had the good fortune to watch his first season professional season here in the Quad Cities. And now, this September, everyone is getting the opportunity to see what we did since he’s made his major league debut. He’s appeared in five games for the Cardinals and is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He spent the season with the Memphis Redbirds and finished there with an 11-10 record and 4.74 ERA, but he turned things around in the second half and had 160 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings pitched. Is he now in St. Louis to stay?
3. Trevor Rosenthal
He’s made quite the jump in less than a year, from pitching for the River Bandits in the Midwest League Championship game in September 2011 to the majors on July 18 — with just 17 games at Springfield in between. He had a brief trip to Memphis but has been back with the big Cards since mid-August. Rosenthal has an 0-2 record with a 3.15 ERA after he went 8-6 with a 2.78 ERA in Springfield this season.
4. Kolten Wong
You’ve read this plenty already, but Wong too is a former River Bandit (and you’ll read it a couple more times also). Last year’s No. 1 draft pick, he made his pro debut for the River Bandits in late June 2011 and was part of the Midwest League Champions with Taveras and Rosenthal. And now he too is a back-to-back champion after being a Springfield Cardinal this year. A second baseman — hmmmm, do you think his services could be useful for the big league team next year? — Wong hit .287 with nine homers and 52 RBI. And hopefully we’ll add him to our list of “current Cardinals we saw play in the Quad Cities” (which is a rather long list, in case you couldn’t guess that already).
5. Carlos Martinez
Guess where he pitched last year — briefly, anyway? Yes, his time with the River Bandits was short — only eight games — but he struck out 50 in the 38 2/3 innings he was in the Quad Cities before moving up to Palm Beach. His time there wasn’t an easy, as he compiled a 5.28 ERA and began this year there also before moving up to Double A. His record in Springfield was 4-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
6. Matt Adams
Elbow surgery in August cut short his season and likely kept him from being called up to the Cardinals again, but Adams had a great year at Triple A. He hit .329 with 22 doubles, 18 homers and 50 RBI, plus made his major league debut on May 20. With the Cardinals, he hit .244 with six doubles, two homers and 13 RBI in 27 games. He also became the first of the 2010 River Bandits to make his major league debut, beating out Joe Kelly by a couple of weeks. (We considered Kelly for our list but decided he spent too much time in the big leagues this season to still be considered a prospect.)
7. Michael Wacha
This year’s top draft pick, he’s the one and only guy on our list none of us have had the opportunity to see play. He started his pro career this summer in the Gulf Coast League for three games before moving up to the Palm Beach Cardinals at High A where he didn’t allow a run in eight innings pitched and struck out 16. He finished the year with four games for Springfield, striking out 17 in eight innings pitched and allowing just one earned run. We are greatly looking forward to seeing what this 6’6 righty from Texas A&M can do in a full season.