5 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects Set to Break out in 2014
With the end of a year comes the final chapter of the season that nearly was. For the second year in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals were inches away from their 12th world championship.
The arrival of 2014 means it is time to put the season fully in the past and move forward to the future of the organization.
The 2013 season brought to the forefront many new faces within the organization that made an impact on 2013 and will in all likelihood continue to do so next season.
Another exciting note that comes with a new season are the new faces and players who will become major parts of the team in 2014.
As always there is no guarantee with prospects. Some of them are typically lost due to injury, while many never become the player they have been hyped to be.
With that said, some players become more than was ever anticipated. Few predicted the rapid rise of Michael Wacha or Matt Carpenter to become the player he has developed into—even though in retrospect we likely should have expected such performance.
Following are five prospects I believe are set to break out in 2014 and make a name for themselves.
5. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
2013 peak: Single-A+
2013 stats: 4-4, 4.70 ERA, 59 IP, 13 GS
Despite his battles with injury in recent years, including an operation in August 2013 that ended his season, Tyrell Jenkins still has a shot to be the player many have hoped.
If he can stay healthy, the young right-hander has the ability to be a solid pitcher at the major league level.
When he returns to the mound this season he will likely be anxious to prove himself given his injury setbacks over two of the previous three seasons.
Look for him to stand out within the Cardinals' organization in 2014.
4. Stephen Piscotty, OF
2013 peak: Double -A
2013 stats: .295, 15 HR, 59 RBI, .355 OBP
Stephen Piscotty is a name which many Cardinals fans might not be familiar with—yet.
Piscotty put on quite the show in the Arizona Fall League this year, finishing the short season batting .371 with a .430 OBP. He led the league in triples (3) and fell in the top 10 of virtually every other offensive category.
While the Cardinals do have an abundance of outfield talent, if there is a need for bench depth (or an abundance of injuries) you could see him in St. Louis this year.
3. Kolten Wong, 2B
2013 peak: Majors
2013 stats: Minors —.303/.369/.466, 20 SB, 10 HR, 45 RBI
Majors—.153/.194/.169, 3 SB, 1 XBH
When Kolten Wong arrived in the majors in late 2013, he didn't make much of an impact. The Cardinals' future second baseman struggled with all aspects of his game at the MLB level.
Don't let his first month in St. Louis become a basis for your opinion of him. His performance at this level is not indicative of his ability.
Expect Wong to show up and make a difference for the Cardinals in 2014. He's fast, has a great glove and is dangerous with a bat.
There's a good chance that by the end of the 2014 season, many fans will find themselves much more excited about Wong's ascension through the ranks.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF
2013 peak: Triple-A
2013 stats: .310/.348/.471, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 47 games
Since arriving on the scene in 2009, Cardinals fans have been excited about Oscar Taveras—and with good reason.
Before the 2013 season, Taveras was ranked the No. 3 prospect in all of MLB, however his season was cut short by an ankle injury that eventually required an operation to repair.
If he's good to go for spring training, he could begin the season in St. Louis. If not he'll likely spend a brief stint at Triple-A Memphis to get on track. Either way, he should make a solid impact on the Cardinals roster in 2014.
1. Carlos Martinez, RHP
2013 peak: Majors
2013 stats: Minors—6-3, 2.49 ERA, 72 K, 28 BB, 16 starts
Majors—2-1, 5.08 ERA, 24 K, 28.1 IP
Postseason—0-1, 3.55 ERA, 11 K, 3 BB, 0.789 WHIP
The decision to rank Martinez above Taveras was a different one, but in the end it came down to the fact that there is little doubt he will begin his season in St. Louis.
If he starts the season in the bullpen, he will likely be the first pitcher promoted to the rotation when there is a need.
He struggled a bit during the regular season, but showed his dominance during the 2013 postseason. As the pressure increased, he seemed to improve.
If he comes into the Cardinals rotation in the No. 5 spot, he will arguably give the team the best starting rotation in all of MLB for 2014.
All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com and are current through Dec. 26, 2013.