Results tagged ‘ St. Louis Cardinals ’

How they got here: The roster constructions of the Giants, Cardinals, Royals, Orioles

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By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

With the League Championship Series slated — and I use that word hesitantly, given the precarious weather forecasts in both Baltimore and St. Louis — to begin Friday, it’s an appropriate time to look at how the final four teams got here. No, not how they did in the LDS. (For the record, the Orioles and Royals swept the Tigers and Angels, respectively, and the Giants and Cardinals needed four games apiece to beat the Nationals and Dodgers.) Rather, it’s a good spot to look at how these franchises constructed the 25-man rosters they will use as they march toward the World Series.

Here are their rosters broken down by those acquired by trade, the Draft/international free agency and regular free agency.

TRADES

Orioles (12) — Brad Brach, Tommy Hunter, Andrew Miller, Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, Nick Hundley, J.J.Hardy, Kelly Johnson, Jimmy Paredes, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, David Lough

Royals (nine) — Tim Collins, Wade Davis, Jason Frasor, James Shields, Erik Kratz, Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, Josh Willingham

Cardinals (four) — John Lackey, Adam Wainwright, Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk

Giants (two) — Jake Peavy, Hunter Pence

This comes from the magic of Dan Duquette. Since he became Orioles general manager in November 2011, he’s acquired eight of the 12 players listed above via trade, and while some are bit players, like Johnson and Paredes, there are those that have major influence. Norris went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in his first full season after being acquired from the Astros in a deadline deal last year and tossed 6 1/3 scoreless frames in the Game 3 clincher against the Tigers. Similarly, Miller was acquired on July 31 and has continued to be one of the relievers in the game. The 29-year-old left-hander posted a 1.35 ERA with 34 strikeouts and four walks over 20 innings for the O’s after the deal and didn’t allow a hit across 3 1/3 frames in the ALDS, when manager Buck Showalter leaned on him in high-leverage situations. The above figure also isn’t counting slugging first baseman Steve Pearce, who was picked off waivers from the Yankees in late 2012 and posted a .293/.373/.556 line with 21 homers in 102 games this season.  (more…)

Progress report: Evaluating the graduates from MLB’s top 50

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

As it does before every season, MLB.com released its 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the game in March. As the season progressed, some of these players “graduated” from the ranking upon acquiring 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days in the Majors. This is a look back at which prospects graduated from MLB.com’s top 50 and how they’ve done in their first collective tastes of the Majors. If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder that Major League Baseball is incredibly hard.

All stats are through games of Sept. 9.bogaerts_544

2. Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): It’s been a rough first full season in the Majors for the talented shortstop, who had a career .862 OPS in the Minors. He’s slashed only .235/.300/.356  with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 129 games while being moved between shortstop (his life-long position) and third base for the Red Sox. To drive the point home, his OPS+ is 84 and is bWAR was 0.1, indicating that he did little to play above replacement level as a rookie. The good news: he’s still only 21. There’s plenty of time for him to develop, and that could happen once he’s settled on a position. One more quick note: Bogaerts’ OPS+ in 83 games as a shortstop was 116; in 44 games at the hot corner, it was just 43.  (more…)

Prospects who could be moved by the July 31 trade deadline

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

Yesterday, we covered which prospects shouldn’t be going anywhere this trade deadline season. Today, we turn our eyes toward which ones could very well be on the move as contenders try to bolster their Major League rosters. This is neither a guarantee nor a prediction that all or any of these Minor Leaguers will be moved before the July 31 deadline. Rather, they’re just some thoughts on players who are good candidates to be traded for a myriad of reasons.

Enough with the disclaimers, onto the potential movers:

Syracuse Chiefs

Syracuse Chiefs

Steven Souza Jr., outfielder, Washington Nationals

This trade is just begging to be made.

Souza, the Nats’ No. 14 prospect, is having an MVP-caliber season in the International League. He leads the Triple-A circuit in all three slash-line categories (.371/.449/.615) as well as RBIs (62) through 74 games with Syracuse.  The 25-year-old right-handed outfielder has also hit 14 homers and stolen 21 bases. With those numbers — which have gotten even better in July when he has a .458 average and 1.325 OPS in 12 games — it’s no surprise he was a starter and the IL’s No. 3 hitter in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game.  (more…)

Prospect Q&A: Cardinals LHP Marco Gonzales

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By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

On Monday, I caught up with Cardinals No. 5 prospect Marco Gonzales, who induced 15 groundouts over eight scoreless innings for Class A Advanced Palm Beach on Sunday. The 22-year-old left-hander is 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in his first five starts of the season and could be a candidate to move quickly through the St. Louis system. We talked about his latest gem, the Cardinals organization and what he thinks about climbing the ladder.

MiLB.com: What made you so effective Sunday?

Gonzales: Really, it was mostly just the location of my fastball. That’s something I work on and focus on every start. It helps everything else in my repertoire. I was able to throw my offspeed stuff for strikes too, just to keep guys off-balance. But I feel like if I’m going to be effective, I have to have my fastball command down.

MiLB.com: So was it your fastball that helped you get so many groundballs or did that come from the offspeed when they were off-balance? (more…)

Rounding the Bases: Top 100 talk, Part II

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

How’s everybody doing? Feeling like you’re in the best shape of your life? Optimistic about what’s to come? Are you reconnecting with old friends and making new ones at the same time?

If you said yes to the any of those questions, congratulations, you’re a professional baseball player who’s made his way down to Spring Training.

If no to all of the above, you probably live in the northeast corridor of the U.S., where the polar vortex has kept most indoors (read: away from the gym and friends) and pessimistic that winter will ever end.

If you’re a mix of yes and no, I hope the idea of Spring Training has at least brought out some optimism in you. Otherwise, you’re a physically fit friend to everyone you meet who is still somehow pessimistic.

All that aside, let’s round the bases …

A poll of polls of sorts

Baseball America released its list of top 100 prospects — its 25th edition of such a collection, it should be noted — on Thursday. Between that, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, we’ve got three major prospect rankings heading into the 2014 season.

I’ve already compared and contrasted the MLB.com and BP lists, so let’s look at this from another angle. What if we combined the three sets to see how the aggregated rankings would sort out? As with any set of data, the more points you have, the stronger the collection should be considered. Is three a big enough sample size? Not necessarily, but it’s better to take the average of three lists than the midpoint of two.

(Note: Normally I’d extend this to four and include Keith Law’s rankings for ESPN. However, those are behind an Insider paywall, and I’m not in the business of disrupting another business’ revenue stream. MLB.com, BP and BA all released their lists for free, although you have to pay the latter two if you want in-depth scouting reports.)

There are a few more caveats to this little experiment. It is not done to say that if the three groups got together in a room, this is what they’d devise. There would, of course, be a back-and-forth discussion over the merits of Prospect X over Prospect Y. Some could be swayed; others, not so much.

Nor is it done to belittle any of the lists on something as small as a data point. There are innumerable sources, opinions and just plain man hours that go into making each of these prospect rankings. There also are individual touches that make them unique to each outlet. We can look at the same things in the same way and come to different conclusions. It’s called subjectivity, and that’s why there’s such a wide-open market for prospect rankings in the first place.

Treat this more like a melting pot. It’s not any more “right” than any of the other lists. It is just an amalgamation of the three and provides yet another way of stacking up the game’s best prospects. No more, no less.

With that in mind, here’s how I came up with the aggregated ranking. It’s based on a point system in which the top spot in an individual ranking earns 100 points, the second spot gets 99, etc. You can’t just take the average ranking because there were several players who didn’t appear in all three sets. This controls for that. The first tiebreaker is appearing in the most polls, the second is highest top ranking. For example, Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon both have 256 points, but Polanco gets the nod because his highest ranking (No. 10) trumps Taillon’s (No. 16).

With that settled, here’s the top 25:

Aggregate Player Position Org MLB BP BA Points
1 Byron Buxton OF MIN 1 1 1 300
2 Xander Bogaerts SS BOS 2 2 2 297
3 Oscar Taveras OF STL 3 3 3 294
4 Javier Baez SS CHC 7 4 5 287
5 Carlos Correa SS HOU 8 5 7 283
6 Archie Bradley RHP ARI 5 9 9 280
7 Miguel Sano 3B MIN 4 14 6 279
8 Taijuan Walker RHP SEA 6 8 11 278
9 Francisco Lindor SS CLE 10 6 13 274
10 Addison Russell SS OAK 12 7 14 270
11 Kris Bryant 3B CHC 9 17 8 269
12 Noah Syndergaard RHP NYM 11 11 16 265
13 Jonathan Gray RHP COL 14 16 12 261
14 Gregory Polanco OF PIT 13 24 10 256
15 Jameson Taillon RHP PIT 16 19 22 256
16 Dylan Bundy RHP BAL 20 15 15 253
17 George Springer OF HOU 21 20 18 244
18 Robert Stephenson RHP CIN 19 22 19 243
19 Kevin Gausman RHP BAL 31 10 20 242
20 Austin Hedges C SD 24 18 27 234
21 Yordano Ventura RHP KC 35 12 26 230
22 Nick Castellanos 3B DET 15 37 25 226
23 Mark Appel RHP HOU 17 21 39 226
24 Lucas Giolito RHP WAS 44 13 21 225
25 Albert Almora OF CHC 18 25 36 224

Near-misses: Kyle Zimmer 221, Aaron Sanchez 217, Andrew Heaney 214, Eddie Butler 212, Maikel Franco 208

A few things to point out: There’s obviously agreement on the top three, and that shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given what we know about Buxton, Bogaerts and Taveras.

The dissension comes one spot later with Baez, and we’re off from there. That’s actually a good place to start because while most agree Baez has a monster ceiling — BP’s Jason Parks said in a chat last month one front office source believes the shortstop has “Hall of Fame potential” — there’s plenty of disagreement on whether he’ll reach it.

That being said, the widest gulf in opinion among the top 10 belongs to Sano, who is a top-six prospect, according to MLB.com and BA, but drops to 14 on BP’s list. The disagreement stems from how highly you view the Twins third baseman’s power — BP actually said Baez had a better power tool than Sano and ranked him 10 spots ahead — and whether his hit tool projects to be anything better than average.

Giolito is perhaps the most polarizing player in the top 25. So it goes when you’re talking about a right-handed prospect with lightning for a fastball, a tornado for a curveball — call it hyperbole if you want; Parks give both 80 potential grades — and a developing changeup who, by the way, is coming off Tommy John surgery and only has 38 2/3 innings under his belt.

Meanwhile, the pictures of consistency are Springer, who comes in between 18 and 21 in the three polls, and Stephenson, who is No. 19 for both MLB.com and BA and checks in at 22 for BP. The virtual agreement among the three sides helped the Astros outfielder and the Reds right-hander in this area, who moved up to Nos. 17 and 18 respectively, despite not being that high on any of the three lists.

Overall, there aren’t too many surprises in our aggregated poll. If nothing else, it illustrates the wide ranges of diverse opinion across the prospect ranking landscape and while hopefully ironing out some of those differences. After all, most agree on who should be in the conversation for top prospects — it’s the order that causes some haggling. We’ll revisit this at midseason when outlets come out with updated rankings to see who made the biggest across-the-boards leaps and falls.

Fried done for a bit

Not listed in the above top 25 but a top prospect in his own right — he came out an even 50 when you run the aggregate down that far — Padres left-hander Max Fried won’t be on a mound for at least another two weeks, according to news that broke Thursday afternoon.

First things first, it’s important to point out that everything seems very precautionary at this point. Although there’s a forearm issue bothering the southpaw, it’s only muscular in nature and doesn’t involve any ligament problems, which is good because that means you can stop thinking about the UCL and TJ acronyms right away.

Still, you hate to hear about throwing arm issues involving any prospect, especially this early in the year and especially given the year Fried was about to enter.

Barring any other issues and assuming he comes back healthy, the 20-year-old is likely to start his second full season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore with a good opportunity to move up to Double-A San Antonio by the end of the year. With age, his numbers were likely to actually improve as he harnessed his command, pegged as just a 50 on the scale by MLB.com, and racked up more strikeouts. (His 7.58 K/9 in 2013 wasn’t great on paper but was the fifth-highest in the Midwest League.) In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s a potential breakout candidate in 2014 as he grows into his 6-foot-4 frame.

All that could be lost if the problem gets any worse, and that’s what leads to worry (and even panic, among some) when the words “shut down” get thrown around. Again, it seems like the Padres are doing all the right things at the moment. It’s much easier to lose a few weeks in late February/March. But this is at the very least worth monitoring as Spring Training continues and the spring leagues pick up shortly.

A love letter to the Stars

I try to keep this feature as prospect-related as I can — “Mascot Item of the Week” discounted — but this particular story hit me good and hard.

Colleague Ben Hill put up a guest post on his blog from Huntsville Stars fan Gillian Richard, who wrote passionately about what it means to her that the local club is packing up and moving down to Biloxi in 2015. Relocation is part of the sporting world, moreso in the Minor Leagues, and we have a tendency of shrugging this kind of stuff off. That’s the business, is usually the go-to dismissive line.

But there are plenty of human stories left behind that deserve our attention. It doesn’t take much to get a Seattle native going on the loss of the Sonics. To bring it closer to home, personally, I grew up near Hartford, Conn. But by the time I grew into hockey, the Whalers were long gone. I know a lot of people who still clamor for the days of “Brass Bonanza” and Pucky the Whale.

So read Gillian’s account and put yourself in her shoes. Then read Ben’s Q&A with Stars GM Buck Rogers about the future of baseball in Huntsville, and hope that there is one. 

Mascot Item of the Week

Well, I did just mention hockey …

Quick Hits

Notable Quotables — Thoughts on the Top 100: 1-10

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By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

The Minor League season has come and gone and, sadly, that means Notable Quotables will be heading into hibernation until the games start up again next spring. We’ll still have plenty of regular content, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com, but to celebrate the end of the 2013 season and the temporary end of this column, we’re going to bring you a “Best Of” from this summer featuring each of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.

Below, you’ll find prospects 1-10 (also see: 11-2021-3031-4041-5051-6061-7071-8081-9091-100).

A quick note: Although we managed to feature just about every Top 100 prospect this season, there are a few who evaded our eyes/tape recorders for one reason or another. In that case, rather than leave you hanging, we’re going to drop in one fun fact or statistical quirk of note that hopefully reveals a little something about the player.

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz prior to Buxton’s promotion to the FSL: 

“I wanted him out of Spring Training, I kept at it at every meeting: ‘You know, he needs some humidity, he needs to come here first.’

“But he maybe spent 10 days with my team in Spring Training and I got to kind of know him on a personal level, a little better. Obviously, the tools are through the roof, but his parents would be proud at how he handles himself, a great kid. He still says, ‘Yes, sir’ and I get mad at him because I’m not that old yet.”

2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Taveras on the lingering ankle issues that eventually cut his season short:

“I have problems a little when I run on the bases. … I try to get better every day, putting the tape on my ankle and exercising in the training room. I try to get better because that’s hard to play that way. I just want to play. I want to help the team.”

Taveras added that the ankle caused a little manageable discomfort when he swings. “When I try to push too hard, just a little, not too much.”

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3. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Sano’s makeup: 

“He’s a phenomenal kid, wise beyond his years. He’s a great teammate, one thing he did was take guys underneath his wing. He was great to kids, great to fans, and the guys really responded to him. He’s a future team leader.

He wants to do really well. He doesn’t take at-bats off. He understands the importance of being a good teammate. Obviously, the talent speaks for itself, but it’s the other stuff that I was pleasantly surprised at, how well he treated everyone with the team.”

4. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Tacoma manager John Stearns after Walker’s Triple-A debut:

“To think he’s here doing this at age 20, at this level, you can really fantasize about what’s going to happen in the future with him.

“It was really one of the most incredible, really impressive performances and showed the maturity of him; his baseball IQ maturity at a young age was just tremendous.”

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5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Indians assistant director of player development Carter Hawkins on Lindor’s athleticism:

“He’s extremely well-rounded, instinctual as well. … He has outstanding hands, arms and agility. He’s one of the most agile guys in the organization in the last five to 10 years in terms of pure physical measurements. Given that, he’s able to make almost any play at the shortstop position, and his natural baseball intelligence on top of that makes him a valuable asset.

“His quick feet, decision-making, arm strength, quick hands, his knowledge of the game — all that allows him to lead the infield as a shortstop and be that field general.”

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina on his initial impressions of Bogaerts:

“I was around Mike Trout the past couple of years and it doesn’t amaze me what these 20-year-old kids can do these days. … He fits right in with this team and he plays with a lot of energy.

“He’s still learning the game, especially some of the intricacies of the position. He needs to do things better.

“He retains information and he applies it,” DiSarcina said. “You can tell he’s a quick learner and he doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He is driven by that. He wants to be successful.”

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7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona D-backs
Bradley on his Minor League experience to date:

“The one thing people have said coming into pro ball is enjoy the process, understand that what you’re learning here is all to prepare yourself for the big leagues. And that’s the approach I came in with. And with the help of our pitching coach here [in Mobile], Dan Carlson, he’s just helped me tremendously as far as the mental part. … Physically, I felt I was on my way, but mentally, the strides I’ve made are tremendous.

“You know that giving up a run is OK. You never want to give it up, but understanding that there are situations where it’s OK. Giving up one run in a certain situation won’t kill your outing. It’s how you pitch out of jams, do damage control, understanding how to go deeper and controlling the emotions, everything that’s mental about pitching.”

8. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
Quad Cities manager Omar Lopez in May on his instructions for Correa:

“It’s not that he’s chasing the ball or he’s got a bad approach or that he’s overmatched. … Sometimes he’s too anxious. He’s 18 and anxious. He needs to be more under control. I understand. He probably has high expectations and high goals for this season — we don’t.

“We told him, ‘You hit this, you hit this, you’re fine.’ We looked at shortstops in the big leagues and how was their first season in pro ball, and they were hitting .240, 36 errors, but now they’re superstars. It’s a process.”

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9. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Tennessee hitting coach Desi Wilson on Baez’s development from August 2012 through August 2013:

“Last year, I think everything was speeding up for him. Basically, he was just swinging at everything they threw up to him. Everything was going so fast. He was just trying to do too much. Him going to big league camp, going to Spring Training and the work he’s done, it obviously has paid off because his leg kick is not as high as it was last year.

“Last year, he wasn’t selective at all. He was swinging early in the count. Now, he’s not afraid to fall behind, 0-1, 0-2. That’s the difference I see in Javy. He’s not swinging as early in counts, being a lot more selective in his [at-bats] compared to last year.”

10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon on returning to Double-A after getting a taste of the level in 2012:

“Coming up here last year and having some success, even a small bit, gives me confidence that I can get guys out at this level. … My last couple of years, I started strong and hit a wall. I think I’ve gotten better with in-game adjustments.

“As a whole, the game is a little cleaner, a little faster [at Double-A]. The hitters don’t miss mistakes. That’s probably No. 1.”

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Five names to watch in the Rule 5 Draft

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

Wednesday was a big day in Minor League circles, and that was pretty evident on Twitter alone, as seen by the feeds of Adam DuvallStefen Romero and Tucker Barnhart. These were the reactions of players who had just been added to their parent club’s 40-man rosters before Wednesday’s deadline.

Of course, everyone didn’t enjoy the same fate, and for certain players (i.e. those who were signed when they were 19 or older and have been in pro ball for four years OR those who signed at 18 or under and have been in the game for five years), that means they’re eligible to be selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. You can read more about the Rule 5 Draft here, but these are the important points. Once a player is selected by another club in the Rule 5 Draft, they must stay on the team’s 25-man roster for the entire season. If he doesn’t (which is usually the case), he must be returned to his original organization.

In that vein, Rule 5 selections should be seen as second-chance tryouts with a different organization on the player side and low-risk, potentially high-reward moves on the team side.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players who weren’t placed on 40-man rosters Wednesday and are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Andy Wilkins, first baseman, White Sox – Since being taken in the fifth round out of the University of Arkansas in 2010, Wilkins’ prospect stock has gone on a bit of a roller-coaster ride. He was ranked among the White Sox top 20 prospects following a solid campaign (.278/.349/.485, 23 homers) in 2011, only to drop out after last year (.239/.335/.425, 17 homers). He rebounded a bit in 2013, slashing .277/.353/.452 with 17 homers  between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He could provide a team with some decent left-handed power off the bench, and there’s a chance someone takes a flyer on him for that purpose. (Think Mike Carp Lite with the Red Sox this season.)

Andy Wilkins

Brian Fletcher, outfielder, Royals – Like Wilkins, there’s lots of pop to Fletcher’s game that could catch a club’s eye. The 25-year-old left fielder battled injury issues last season but managed to hit 17 homers and put up a .505 slugging percentage in 78 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. The 2010 18th-rounder has hit 48 longballs in 305 Minor League games and owns a career .837 OPS. Considered a below-average defender, he spent a decent amount of time as a DH in 2013 and actually received most of his starts at first base at the Class A Advanced level in 2012 before the Royals decided to keep him in left. It’s likely that it’s his defense and low walk rates (5.4 percent in 2013) that kept the former Auburn slugger from being protected by the Royals, but another club might deem his big bat worthy of a look.

A.J. Schugel, right-handed pitcher, Angels – If you were to look at the back of Schugel’s baseball card, you probably wouldn’t like what you see from his time at Triple-A Salt Lake last season. A 4-6 record. A 7.05 ERA over 19 starts. A .324 batting average-against. That’s not particularly exciting. However, his peripherals look a little better. A 4.49 FIP. 7.66 K/9 (in line with career averages). 3.32 BB/9 (lowest for a full season in his career). And then there’s the .376 BABIP, which might suggest he wasn’t getting much help defensively. Since the college infielder made the move to the mound after being drafted in 2010, Schugel’s shown in flashes that he has dominant stuff, especially on the fastball side. That could be enough for a team to take him, although it’s likely that they’d do so with a relief role in mind.

Schugel

Tommy Kahnle, right-handed pitcher, Yankees – This seems like a cut-and-dry pick here. Known as a high-velocity hurler, Kahnle has been known to rack up strikeouts by the handful. He finished with 74 strikeouts in 60 innings last season — a K/9 rate of 11.1 — to go with a 2.85 ERA for Double-A Trenton. A 6.75 BB/9 — a number that was raised when issued two or more free passes in five of his final six appearances — is cause for concern, but he’s shown the stuff to be more than effective in extended outings of the bullpen. That’s perfect Rule 5 bait.

Seth Blair, right-handed pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals – This might be the definition of a flyer, but hear me out on this one. Like Schugel, Blair’s numbers weren’t all that great in 2013 — 3-9, 5.07 ERA, 18 homers in 129 2/3 innings. That came at Double-A Springfield and followed a year after a tumor in his knuckle caused him to miss most of 2012. All that against him, scouts still seem to like him, and indeed he is currently ranked No. 12 among Cardinals prospects. His fastball is average, but his curveball projects to be a 60 on the 20-80 scale. Command issues were the biggest concern entering this year, and his walk rate dropped from 6.83 BB/9 in 2011 (his last full season) to 3.33 in 2013. The Cardinals would probably prefer that he iron out his other issues in their system, even if they didn’t add him to their 40-man roster. But another organization might be willing to give him a shot (and a new opportunity) as a long reliever/emergency starter.

Seth Blair

Notable Quotables: Thoughts on the Top 100 – 11-20

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

The Minor League season has come and gone, and sadly, that means Notable Quotables will be heading into hibernation until the games start up against next spring. We’ll still have plenty of regular content, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com, but to celebrate the end of the 2013 season and the temporary end of this column, we’re going to bring you a “Best Of” from this summer featuring each of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.

Below, you’ll find prospects 11-20 (also see: 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90, 91-100). And over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you more thoughts and reflections from and about the best prospects in the game.

A quick note: Though we managed to feature just about every Top 100 prospect this season, there are a few who evaded our eyes/tape recorders for one reason or another. In that case, rather than leave you hanging, we’re going to drop in one fun fact or statistical quirk of note that hopefully reveals a little something about the player.

11. Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
Castellanos on the transition to playing outfield:

“It’s not like I used to play outfield when I was little — when I played my first game in the outfield for [Double-A] Erie, it was the first time I had ever played in the outfield in my life.

“I took an infield glove with me out there because I didn’t feel comfortable using the big glove. I had never used one before.”

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12. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan on Syndergaard’s development

“He’s really coming along well. I think he’s making a lot of strides. … He’s understanding a lot about pitching and he’s just a tremendous kid, soaks up knowledge and wants to learn. I think he’s done exceptionally well for his age and where he’s coming from. He’s not afraid, he goes right after [hitters, he’s] aggressive on the mound. I think he’s got confidence in himself, and that’s all part of it.”

480 Syndergaard Gordon Donovan Binghamton Mets

13. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Altoona manager Carlos Garcia on welcoming Polanco to Double-A

“Right now, at this point, I just want to sit and watch him play. He has a lot to offer and I want to make sure he feels comfortable, so he’s able to learn in every game. … And I want to make him understand it’s going to be a lot of competition up here, at this level. But I don’t think he cares about that too much, he just enjoys playing.

“We just want to keep him healthy, keep him playing the game the right way, which I don’t think is going to be a problem for him because that’s what he does.”

14. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Bundy’s agent, Jay Franklin, on Bundy’s reaction to having to undergo Tommy John surgery:

“He’s down, you can imagine. … That’s tough on anyone, especially someone with his level of competitiveness. [Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John] Wilckens and Dr. [James] Andrews are very qualified to make that recommendation, and to me it is the right decision.

“The good thing is, because of how young he is, he should be able to heal quickly. … Not many people are in better shape.”

15. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Memphis manager Pop Warner on his impressions of Wacha:

“Obviously he’s good enough to do it. … He’s just composed, the guy’s just mature beyond his years. This is the first time I saw him. He just carries himself right.

“[He’s] driven, competes really well and obviously he’s pretty polished with his stuff. Combine all that and you’ve got a pretty good player on your hands.”

Wacha

16. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Louisville manager Jim Riggleman on the aspects of Hamilton’s game beyond speed:

“He’s naturally a right-handed hitter, and from that side of the plate, he’s pretty accomplished. … The left-handed swing is more of a work in progress.”

17. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Dayton pitching coach Tony Fossas on Stephenson’s abilities and mentality:

“Robert has all the God-given talent to proceed. … He’s blessed. Now can he put everything to work and maintain his health? Can he maintain his endurance year after year? He’s willing to learn — he’s willing to try things. He does have a little stubbornness, but I like that. He has a great work ethic, and as a person, he’s off the charts.”

18. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
Russell on adjustments he made in the second half:

“The way I’m playing now is the way I think I should have been playing in the beginning of the year. … It’s a long year, my first year, and it’s just a learning curve. The good thing is that I think I struggled in the beginning and I learned how to come back from it, stay positive. Instead of trying to force it more when it was going bad, sit back, relax and let your ability and talent take over.”

480 Russell Kenny Karst MiLB

19. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Singleton on making his 2013 debut with Quad Cities after serving his suspension:

“I was pretty anxious. … I actually didn’t get too much sleep, but once I got to the ballpark today, I was calmed down a little bit. Once I got the uniform on, I was ready to go.”

20. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
d’Arnaud on his relationship with Syndergaard:

“What can I say about an outing like that? He had an absolutely electric fastball, his curveball was pretty devastating and his changeup — I didn’t even know he had a changeup like that. It just made his fastball look so much quicker and harder. The whole thing was effective.

“I think he threw it eight or 10 times today and used it pretty effectively each time. If he’s having any trouble with it, I couldn’t tell. It works really well with the fastball and the curveball.

“I think the pitcher-catcher relationship is actually one of the most important and most undervalued part of the game. If those two guys get along, you can work at a better pace and really get in that groove.”

Notable Quotables — Thoughts on the Top 100: 41-50

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

The Minor League season has come and gone, and sadly, that means Notable Quotables will be heading into hibernation until the games start up against next spring. We’ll still have plenty of regular content, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com, but to celebrate the end of the 2013 season and the temporary end of this column, we’re going to bring you a “Best Of” from this summer featuring each of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.

Below, you’ll find prospects 41-50 (also see: 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90, 91-100). And over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you more thoughts and reflections from and about the best prospects in the game.

A quick note: Though we managed to feature just about every Top 100 prospect this season, there are a few who evaded our eyes/tape recorders for one reason or another. In that case, rather than leave you hanging, we’re going to drop in one fun fact or statistical quirk of note that hopefully reveals a little something about the player.

Image41. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals –
Starling reviewing his disappointing first half in June:

“My average has not been the best. … Part of me thinks I’ve been late and that I’ve not been getting my foot down. Early in the season, I was too late and I was trying to do too much. I just tried to slow things down.

“I was not seeing the ball well. I just need to be consistent at the plate and get my pitch and put a good swing on it. I have to stay back on the ball. When I’m late, I try to hurry up and that’s when I’m early.”

42. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies –
Reading pitching coach David Lundquist on Biddle’s 16-strikeout performance in April:

“Tonight what I saw was maybe as dominant a start as I’ve seen in my career as a coach. … I mean, when you’re talking command-wise and his overall stuff, that’s probably as good as you’re ever going to see at this or any level of the game.

“He’s a one-of-a-kind kid. … He’s fun to be around and fun to work with all the same.”

Image43. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants –
Crick on his approach and improvements made in 2013:

“Lately, my curve is working well, but I usually go with whatever feels best before the game and what is working in the game. … I’m learning a lot more about pitching and how to get people out, instead of just throwing the ball. I’m more relaxed, and when I am behind in the count, I can throw a strike and get back into the counts.”

44. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers –
Chattanooga manager Jody Reed on Pederson’s intuition:

“He has a feel for the game that is rarely seen at that age. … He has incredible instincts. I played against Ken Griffey Jr. when he first came up, and he reminds me a little of Junior in that way. Only a few players have it. Look at Mike Trout and Bryce Harper today. I’m not comparing Joc to players like that, but he has that special feel for the game and it’s fun to watch.”

45. Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins –
Marisnick on his relationship with fellow Miami prospect Christian Yelich:

“There is a friendly competition. … We push each other, whether it’s in the weight room, on the field, wherever. I definitely think it is a good thing for both of us.”

Image46. Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox –

Opponents hit just .190 against Webster in 21 Triple-A starts this summer, marking the right-hander’s lowest batting average against at any stop in his Minor League career. He also struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings with Pawtucket.

47. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals –
Lexington manager Brian Buchanan on Mondesi’s defensive abilities:

“His instincts for a 17-year-old are incredible. … He’s smooth around shortstop. He can make plays on his backhand or forehand. He can do it all. The biggest thing for a shortstop is instincts, and his body control when he’s diving and making plays — it’s impressive for such a young kid.”

Image48. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers –
Dodgers vice president of player development De Jon Watson on Seager’s game:

“We also love the kid’s makeup and his work ethic. He has an unbelievable passion for the game. … We also like the way he plays — he understands the pace of the game. He has an internal clock of the actual flow of the game, which is really nice to see in young players. He has a very advanced approach to hitting. We’re excited to have him in the organization.

“Right now, he’s a shortstop. … We’ll let the game tell us when it’s time for a move. He could stay there. Right now, his first-step quickness is still good and he’s handling the position well. He understands how to play the position. We like what we’re seeing right now at shortstop, and we’re going to leave him there for the time being.”

Image49. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins –
Heaney on the process of recovering from a lat strain:

“I’ve never had to deal with an injury before. I’ve actually been pretty lucky with health before this. … But after getting back to throwing and lifting, I had to basically simulate Spring Training all over again while the other guys were playing.

“It was a long process, and you kind of get angry being across the street from those guys here in Jupiter, who are playing every night. I’d rehab during the day and then go over and watch from the stands. It’s tough. “

Image50. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals –
Wong on his experience in Triple-A this season:

“I’ve gotten the chance to face big league pitchers like [Chris] Capuano [on Friday]. Some guys who have been in this league for a long time, their one goal is to get you out. It’s been good, a really good learning experience here so far.”

A World Series prospect-related primer

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

No one gets to the World Series by accident. There are three* rounds of baseball taking up at least seven and at most 13 (counting Wild Card play-ins) combined games where teams get to prove that they are, in fact, superior to their American or National League cohorts, not to mention the 162 regular-season contests to earn a spot in the postseason.

But beyond even that, Fall Classic appearances can be earned in the preparation that goes in way beforehand. This year, both the Red Sox and Cardinals leaned on incredible organizational depth, especially this postseason, to earn their spots in this year’s Series. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given that the farm systems for both are consistently ranked among the top five in baseball.

With Game 1 coming this evening, let’s take a look at some prospects (or former prospects that played heavily in the Minors in 2013) from each squad that should influence this year’s World Series, in order of highest impact to lowest.

Wacha

1. Michael Wacha, Cardinals right-handed starter: Though 2013 is Wacha’s first full professional season, many believed entering the season that the 2012 first-rounder (19th overall) was the most advanced among his cohorts, especially after a strong first Spring Training. He carried that into an impressive introduction with Triple-A Memphis (4-0, 2.05 ERA in nine starts) before making his first Major League start in late May. After returning to the PCL in June, Wacha was back in the Majors for good in August as a reliever. He finished with a 2.65 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 15 starts for the Redbirds. He transitioned back to the starting role in August and showed dominant stuff that allowed him to be slotted into the postseason rotation for the NL Central champs.

You should know the rest. Armed with a plus fastball and a changeup that could very well be the best in the game, Wacha, who turned 22 on July 1, has been arguably the best pitcher of the postseason. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Pirates and didn’t allow a run in either of his starts against the Dodgers en route to MVP honors. In total, he’s 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 22-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 21 postseason innings. He’s slated to take the ball in Game 2 at Fenway Park and will likely take the hill again for Game 6, if the Series gets that far. At one time, you could have said Wacha is the next big thing in St. Louis baseball. Right now, I’d say he is the big thing.

Xander

2. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox left-side infielder: The 21-year-old wasn’t a lock to be on this list, never mind this high, a few weeks ago. After an excellent Minor League campaign in which he slashed .297/.388/.477 between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts was brought up to the big club in late August, receiving sporadic starts at shortstop and third base. In one of their bigger roster decisions, the Sox decided to keep him on for the postseason with the thought being his bat could help off the bench.

The Aruba native showed his worth with two walks and two runs scored in a 3-1, series-clinching win over the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS and provided some spark with a ninth-inning double and run in Game 4 against the Tigers. With Will Middlebrooks struggling, Red Sox manager John Farrell made the move to Bogaerts in Game 5 and 6, and Boston’s prospect took off from there, going 2-for-4 with two doubles, three walks and three runs scored while playing serviceable defense at the hot corner. The third base job will be his to lose in the World Series, and although the rookie shouldn’t be expected to maintain his ALCS production, Bogaerts, who is known for his calm demeanor, should be a serviceable bottom-of-the-lineup hitter. With Stephen Drew a free agent this winter, it is expected that Bogaerts will slide over to his natural spot at shortstop come Opening Day next year.

Carlos Martinez

3. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals right-handed reliever: This one has to sting a little for Red Sox fans. As told in this MLB.com story, Boston signed the right-hander when he was known as Carlos Matias, only to have the contract voided due to identity issues. The Cardinals scooped him up instead after things were cleared, and they are the ones who will enjoy his services in this year’s Fall Classic and beyond.

Like Wacha, Martinez yo-yoed a bit between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis this season, serving as an impressive starter (2.51 ERA in 13 starts) at the former and an at-times struggling reliever (5.08 ERA in 21 games) in the latter. Thanks to his plus fastball and better-than-average breaking stuff, he improved in September, when eight of his nine outings were scoreless, and the Cardinals felt comfortable enough to give him the setup role heading into the playoffs. In his seven postseason appearances (all of which have come in the seventh or eighth innings), he’s allowed only two runs on two hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings. Martinez’s future as either a starter or reliever is still to be determined, but either way, the Cardinals have yet another quality arm in their arsenal going forward.

Workman

4. Brandon Workman, Red Sox right-handed reliever: With bigger-named arms in the system like Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, Workman was admittedly overlooked entering the 2013 season as a right-hander whose ceiling didn’t appear to be as high as the others. The 6-foot-4 former Texas Longhorn proved plenty steady in the Minors, sporting a 3.21 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 101 innings for Pawtucket and Portland before moving up in July. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen from August onward and finished with a mediocre-at-best 4.97 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP along with a 47-to-15 K/BB ratio.

The numbers in the postseason have been another story, though. Workman hasn’t allowed a run in five appearances and has scattered four hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings. He tossed 1 2/3 big frames in Game 6 of the ALCS to keep the Sox within a run of the Tigers before exiting in the seventh (following his own error on Torii Hunter’s bunt attempt). Shane Victorino then hit his forever-famous grand slam in the eighth. The 25-year-old hurler is Boston’s third-best right-handed option out of the bullpen following Junichi Tazawa and the superlative Koji Uehara (and fourth-best overall behind southpaw Craig Breslow) and should be expected to see time in the middle innings when the Red Sox starters don’t last seven-plus innings.

(In a comical aside, Workman grabbed Bogaerts after Game 6 and said, “‘We’re a long way from Portland right now, aren’t we?’”)

5. Others: Cardinals left-hander Kevin Siegrist, who started the year in Double-A Springfield, has been a left-hander out of the bullpen for the NL champions who can also get righties out. He’s allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits in 2 2/3 innings. Only one of his five outings has lasted longer than two outs. … Second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Adron Chambers, both of whom spent most of the season in Memphis, have been used exclusively off the St. Louis bench. Neither has recorded a hit in 10 combined at-bats. … One can’t help but wonder what kind of impact top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras could have had if he hadn’t missed most of the season with an ankle injury.

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