Due to popular demand, I now present you Part 2 of the updated depth chart for the top position player in the Cardinals system for each respective position. In respect of cariocacardinal’s insistent pleadings to PLEEAAAAAASE define what I’m trying to do, each prospect I list represents who I believe to be the top prospect at each position who has the best shot to make the most impact in the major leagues.
I have only included one outfielder in interest of length, but I also welcome plenty of debate at who might make it in a top 3 listing, especially with the inclusion of Charlie Tilson to the system.
Zack Cox: Zack Cox is an interesting prospect in that he has his share of detractors and supports much in the same way of Kolten Wong. The Cardinals saw Cox fall to them in the first round of the 2010 Draft due to signing demands, but they snatched him up and ended up signing him to a major-league contract. Cox’s bat was touted as being the best in the draft and most MLB ready. The concerns with him stemmed from doubts about his ability to remain at third base, and while those doubts haven’t exactly been answered, all indications are that he’s been decent enough to be able to remain there in the future.
Cox has started off slow to each level so far in his career but has come back each time to post solid numbers. In around 100 more at-bats with Springfield than Palm Beach this season, Cox’s stats roughly mirror each other between both levels. He’s currently sitting 4th in wRC+ for third baseman who have 200+ plate appearances in the Texas League. His ISO of .124 leaves a lot to be desired and currently rests just 4 points away from being last in the league; however, Keith Law of ESPN still sees plenty of power potential in him. You’d also like to see more walks out of him, but his walk rate is good enough at this point as he maintains a .300+ average.
At the very least, Cox should post a .300+ average with solid gap power. He won’t become an All Star if he doesn’t develop 20 home run power, but if he plays average defense at third he’ll be a solid regular. The Cardinals currently have David Freese on the major league level and Matt Carpenter in AAA, so there’s also a chance that Cox becomes trade bait in the offseason should the Cardinals find a player that fills a specific need.
Ryan Jackson: When Ryan Jackson was taken by the Cardinals in the 5th round of the 2009 Draft, the scouting report on him read that his defense was major-league ready with good instincts and a plus arm, but he carried with him a below-average bat with little power. Jackson started to quiet the doubters somewhat with a slash line of .278/.359/.362 in 2010 between Quad Cities and Palm Beach in his 2nd year with the farm. A .359 slugging percentage in A-ball isn’t going to be enough to get anybody excited, but it was a definite improvement over what he was supposedly capable of doing. Jackson has followed that up this year hitting .279/.342/.426. The BB% has suffered a bit with the increased power, but anybody will take the tradeoff.
Some people have confused the internal excitement over Jackson in that he’s considered as a potential star. One thing to not get confused about is that Jackson does not rate above average in any category outside of his defense. He’s never going to be a star hitter. However, he has proved in the past couple years that his offensive potential may have increased to the point where he can rate average for a shortstop. If he can prove his offensive improvements are sustainable to the next two levels, the St. Louis Cardinals have a valuable prospect on their hands. He would give the Cardinals something that they haven’t been able to develop in a long time: a consistent regular starting shortstop.
Oscar Taveras: Oscar Taveras might be the most exciting position prospect the Cardinals have had since drafting Colby Rasmus. Taveras hits, and he hits a ton. His early season was marred by hamstring issues, but Taveras was finally able to push past that and post a line of .378/.426/.569. Gaining an increasing amount of national attention, Taveras hasn’t slowed down since getting consistent playing time in the past month and a half. His wRC+ of 176 for outfielders in the Midwest league who qualify with 200 at-bats rates first by 10 points. Despite posting a .378 average, his BABIP is a tantalizing .436 this season, which is obviously unsustainable over the long run. However, his line drive rate alone means it’s not all luck.
Taveras started to gain attention a year and a half after he was signed from the Dominican Republic when he posted a solid average with very good power numbers in rookie ball at Johnson City. He’s only increased those numbers this year after being promoted to Quad Cities. For the power and lack of experience that Taveras exhibits, his strike out rate is pretty impressive. His 16.4 K% is of the top 50 best strikeout rates in the Midwest League, and only two players in that range have cracked a slugging percentage above .500, while Taveras sits at .569. His BB% of 8.0 needs improvement, but that will come with experience for a player who recently just turned 19-years old.
If there’s one area that Taveras needs the most improvement it’s his defense. He should have enough speed to be at least average in centerfield or rightfield, but with average arm strength, he rates best in right. He’s also been known to take very bad routes on balls, but that could also get better with experience. Taveras has the bat speed, power, and line drive capability of being a solid regular in the majors. At 19-years old, Taveras is going to have to prove that he can stay healthy and maintain his numbers next year in high-A. That being said, Taveras represents a highly projectable outfielder that the Cardinals currently lack in their system.
Please note that all statistics were compiled on August 10th.