St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Talk

History suggests the St. Louis Cardinals rarely go all-in during the offseason. After dealing starter Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden, rumor has it the Cardinals may be scripting another chapter in their offseason history book. By playing fact or fiction with the latest buzz surrounding the Cardinals, I will offer you a better understanding of what is possible and what remains pure fantasy based on the team’s biggest need—starting pitching.

It’s likely the Cardinals aren’t done wheeling and dealing. Facts are buried under the layers of smoke screens combined with how the free-agent market takes shape. Predicting general manager John Mozeliak’s next move would be like calling the weekly weather in the Midwest.

The tragic death of rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras rewrote the Cardinals’ offseason agenda. Suddenly, the Cardinals went from needing minor tweaks to being desperate for a big move.

Has Mozeliak locked himself in his office while pondering another big move? Will the GM throw a lucrative deal at a starting pitcher to aid the best rotation in the National League Central Division? 

The clock is ticking as Mozeliak digs in. 

 

Are the Cardinals plotting to offer Max Scherzer a contract?

Given the recent history of the Cardinals and acquiring free agents, it would be unwise to fathom Mozeliak and owner Bill DeWitt Jr. presenting Max Scherzer with a gaudy contract.

However, I believe this is purely a fantasy.  

The Cardinals need another starter after trading Miller. 

The 2015 projected rotation consists of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Martinez will enter spring training as a starter, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Wainwright and Lynn are staples. Lackey is on the back end of his career, and Wacha's health remains a mystery after dealing with a rare stress fracture in his right shoulder. Even if Martinez enters the regular season as a starter, he is inexperienced and will need time to adjust to pitching every fifth day. There’s also Jaime Garcia, who is an injury-plagued lefty that can never remain healthy for an entire season.

Back in March, Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski made a significant offer to Scherzer in an effort to keep him in Motown. The offer was worth north of $25 million per season and failed to match the contract Justin Verlander signed prior to the start of the 2013 season.

To no surprise, Scherzer rejected the offer and opted for free agency, where he can cash in. And he deserves that ability after winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2013 and reaching 18 wins last season.

The Cardinals haven’t publicly expressed interest in any free agent, which would be foolish to do. But Scherzer remains an attraction for multiple reasons. 

The Cardinals have the payroll flexibility to sign Scherzer if they choose to do so. Scherzer is from the area and stated the Cardinals were his dream team.

“It would be too cool,” Scherzer told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in March. “I grew up there. When you’re a little kid, you picture yourself putting on the [Cardinals] uniform.”

Indeed, that says a lot about Scherzer. But it’s just an idea for the time being.

The Cardinals could certainly use the services from the kid they originally drafted, and a substantial offer isn’t out of the picture. Still, the odds of the Scherzer coming home remain slim. 

 

Are the Cardinals in the running for Jon Lester?

According to ESPN, there is a fourth team bidding for Jon Lester. Though the ghost team has yet to be identified, the Cardinals are believed to be it.

And why not? The Cardinals have resources to invest in Lester. Mozeliak doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for his prospects to mature like he used to. 

Lester has taken his time deciding which organization he will pitch for in 2015. When you’re one of the top pitchers on the market, why wouldn’t you be patient and let GMs bid against each other while jacking up the price tag?

It's a good move by Lester and his camp.

At first, it didn’t seem likely the Cardinals would seek Lester.

It's funny how quickly things change.

At the July 31 trade deadline, the Boston Red Sox were 12 games under .500. The season was lost, and the focus shifted to the future. Boston shipped Lester to the Oakland Athletics at the trade deadline last season. In northern California, Lester helped the A’s reach the playoffs by winning six of his 11 starts.

For Lester, reaching the playoffs last season marked the fifth time he’s done so in his career.

In my opinion, Lester is the best option in terms of starters on the market. He’s a winner—and an experienced one. Lester has two World Series rings (2007, 2013). He’s a perfect 3-0 in his three World Series starts over his career.

The Cardinals would be wise to present Lester with a hefty contract, especially with the uncertainties regarding the health of Wainwright and Wacha

With a chance to reverse their current offseason trend, the Cardinals have an opportunity to make a big splash by signing one of the most attractive starters on the market. They won't get both, but I believe they will land one. 

And that man is named Lester. 

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Bargain Free Agents St. Louis Cardinals Should Keep on Their Radar

Over the last month the St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason agenda went from lacking substantial need to becoming shoppers for bargain free agents.

Big-game spending is out of the question. Throwing wads of cash at aging vets is both foolish and doesn’t fit the “Cardinal Way.” However, reeling in a few cost-friendly players to help shape the roster for 2015 is more probable.

True, general manager John Mozeliak needs to make a splash (likely by trade) over the next two months to bolster an offense that plated 619 runs and remarkably clawed their way to 90 wins.

Mozeliak is tasked with finding a big bopper to make the long ball relevant again for a club that totaled the fewest homers in the National League. A left-handed reliever is also a need, as is an outfielder who can also split time at first base. Assuming Matt Adams continues to struggle against left-handed pitching, a cushion would be nice.

Ryan Doumit isn’t a name that comes to mind without the help of Google. True, Doumit is 33 years old and hit .197 with Atlanta last season. His production tailed off after he was traded from Minnesota in December 2013.

The switch hitter is worthy of a look by Mozeliak. The most intriguing aspect of Doumit is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. In 2013, he hit .290 with a .346 on-base percentage. In 2012, his totals were lower (.247/.287/.403) but still decent.

Another important factor is versatility. The Cardinals need a super utility man to log innings at multiple positions. Doumit has played first base, catcher and the outfield.

Doumit won’t seek big dollars, but a fresh start to a career that began 10 years ago. 

Another bargain for Mozeliak would be lefty Zach Duke, who resurrected his career with Milwaukee last season.

A journeyman having been with four teams over the last four seasons, Duke carved a 5-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 74 appearances for Ron Roenicke. Duke held left-handed hitters to a .198 mark with a .267 on-base percentage. He also fared well against righties, holding them to a .242 mark.

Duke’s ground-ball rate (57.7 percent) was the highest of his career, according to FanGraphs.

The Cardinals could desperately use another reliever from the left side to accompany a shaky group of Kevin Siegrist, Randy Choate and Sam Freeman. Siegrist had a rough season and was slowed by injury, Choate self-destructed in the postseason and Freeman is still developing. 

Duke is coming off a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Brewers. He will be rewarded with his next contract, and deservedly so. The Cardinals are more than capable of meeting Duke’s needs. It would be a win-win for both sides.

The importance of keeping Yadier Molina healthy in 2015 is priority.

Molina missed seven weeks last season with a torn thumb ligament that required surgery. Without the best catcher in the world, the Cardinals kept afloat…barely.

Molina, who won his seventh consecutive Gold Glove as the best player at his position, is the heart and soul of this team. His ability to manage games, the pitching staff and gun down would-be base stealers is second to none.

However, Molina isn’t getting any younger. He will turn 33 next season. His health is beginning to betray him. That’s inevitable.

The Cardinals could use a more reliable backup than Tony Cruz or A. J. Pierzynski.

Perhaps Geovany Soto will draw interest from Mozeliak.

Soto, who spent last season with Texas and Oakland, is a free agent in a small pool of talent. He’s known for his defense, while having spurts of pop at the plate over his career. Soto posted a caught-stealing rate of .435 percent in 24 games last season. By comparison, Cruz threw out six of 24 stealers, and runners were 50 of 61 off Pierzynski.

Obviously, there’s always the X-factor to think about. The Cardinals would benefit from inking cheap talent (see: Pat Neshek, circa 2014). But Mozeliak could also go all in and trade for a power hitter.

The last month has turned the Cardinals' offseason plans upside down. The death of rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras has forced Mozeliak to shuffle his cards and reorganize his needs. 

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Cost-Effective Moves St. Louis Cardinals Can Make This Offseason

The St. Louis Cardinals were escorted into the offseason short of winning their 12th World Series championship. Looking ahead, the core of the team remains intact, and the Cardinals will need to make some cost-effective adjustments to their roster this winter.

Big spending is out of the question. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. hasn't operated like that since he took the reigns of the organization in 1996.

However, expect the Cardinals to make some low-key moves to patch up a few minor leaks. The Cardinals are responsible for just $82.8 million in contracts for next season, according to Baseball Reference. That leaves a good amount of wiggle room for the general manager John Mozeliak to work with. 

Re-signing reliever and former closer Jason Motte should be near the top of Mozeliak’s offseason to-do list. Motte spent the better part of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. The righty struggled this season with a gaudy 4.68 ERA. His velocity wasn’t there, nor his punch-out power.

In fairness to Motte, it is not unusual for pitchers to struggle after returning from reconstructive elbow surgery.

During spring training 2011, Adam Wainwright was lost for the season after blowing out his right elbow. Following surgery and extensive rehab, Wainwright returned to the mound in 2012 but was hardly the same. His compiled a 4.56 ERA in his first 17 starts. He finished the season with a record of 14-13 and a 3.94 ERA.

It’s also paramount to realize how big of a factor Motte was for the Cardinals in 2011-12. He was dominant in the 2011 postseason and saved five games, including Game 7 over Texas to clinch the Cardinals’ 11th title.

Motte followed that remarkable playoff run by tying Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel for the National League lead in saves with 42. The Cardinals rewarded him with a two-year, $12 million deal following the 2012 season.

Obviously Motte didn't live up to the contract because he was shelved. But the Cardinals shouldn’t give up on him. Instead, they should re-sign Motte to a short-term deal and see how he performs. 

A utility infielder is another area the Cardinals need.

The Cardinals received nothing from Mark Ellis, whom they signed to a one-year, $5 million deal last winter. Ellis was to provide insurance in case Kolten Wong struggled at second base.

Things didn’t go Ellis’ way. He dealt with an injury early in the season and never got going. Still, Ellis remains an above-average fielder with seven defensive runs saved, according to Fan Graphs.

Wong took off and became a staple of the lineup during the second half of the season. Ellis was excluded from the playoff roster in favor of Pete Kozma, who spent the majority of 2014 with Triple-A Memphis. Ellis is a classy guy, a grizzled veteran with poise and wisdom. He’s a good clubhouse presence. But the Cardinals can look elsewhere for another infielder.

One name that comes to mind—if the price is right—is Rickie Weeks, the longtime second baseman for Milwaukee. The Brewers declined Weeks’ $11.5 million option for 2015, making him a free agent.

Obviously, the interest in Weeks all depends on cost. It wouldn’t hurt to gauge the temperature on Weeks, who is in the downside of his career. 

Otherwise the Cardinals could opt to go with Kozma or another look outside the organization for infield help. Though, the market for middle infielders at a controlled price is rather slim. 

Elsewhere, Yadier Molina isn’t getting any younger. Additional off-days will be in order next season to avoid injury, and the Cardinals need to find a reliable and productive option to spell the future Hall of Famer.

A.J. Pierzynksi’s production as a member of the Cardinals was anything but convincing. In 95 plate appearances (including postseason), the veteran managed a skinny .239 average with a .295 on-base percentage and stranded 40 runners.

Defensively, Pierzynski was vulnerable. After joining the Cardinals, opponents were a perfect 13 of 13 in stolen-base attempts.

Pierzynski’s edgy personality never came into question while with the Cardinals. In fact, the club needed some flare and Pierzynski provided it.

But the Cardinals will be better off going a different route for next season.

Geovany Soto, who spent time with Texas and Oakland this season, is a free agent. Last season Soto posted a caught-stealing rate of .435 percent in 24 games. By comparison, stealers were 50 of 61 off Pierzynski last season. 

The sample size for Soto is small in terms of production last season but all isn’t lost on the veteran backstop. Also, Soto missed 10 weeks of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee. The Rangers traded Soto to Oakland for cash in late August. With the Athletics, Soto batted .262 in 42 at-bats. 

Finally, the Cardinals will look for left-handed relievers. Kevin Siegrist was injured during the postseason and stumbled a bit after a stellar rookie season in 2013. Internally, the Cardinals have Sam Freeman, the 27-year-old hard thrower. But Freeman will have to earn confidence from manager Mike Matheny in 2015.

Zach Duke appears to be a good fit for the Cardinals. Duke enjoyed a solid season with the Brewers. In 74 appearances, Duke crafted a 2.45 ERA while holding left-handed hitters to a .198 average. He also held right-handed hitters to a .242, which is impressive from a left-handed reliever. 

Mozeliak and his staff will be busy this offseason, and these are a few cost-effective moves the Cardinals can make as free agency begins.

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4 Prospects That Could Make St. Louis Cardinals’ 2015 Roster

St. Louis was booted into the offseason by Travis Ishikawa, who corked a walk-off three-run home run into the right field bleachers to send San Francisco to the World Series. 

Suddenly, Red October came to a crashing halt. But the Cardinals’ core will remain intact as we begin to peak into 2015. The Cardinals' brass doesn't figure to rattle the clubhouse by dealing any of their young marquee players. That said, there will be plenty of competition next season from up-and-coming prospects. Some almost certainly will make the roster. Others could be fashionably late and surprise everyone.

Here are four prospects that could make the 2015 roster:

 

Marco Gonzales, Pitcher

At first mention of Marco Gonzales, it would be almost criminal to leave him off the big league roster come Opening Day. General manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny will bring Gonzales into spring training as a starter.

But, would it be too far-fetched to believe Gonzales is a sure lock for 2015?

Gonzales dazzled this season, especially in the playoffs. Without the superb outings from the young lefty, the Cardinals might not have defeated the almighty Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series.

Gonzales was credited with wins in Games 1 and 4 over L.A. and presumed NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. (Let that sink in for a moment…)

In Game 1, the Cardinals were down 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth. Gonzales, making his postseason debut, relieved Seth Maness. Matt Kemp lined a 1-2 changeup for a base hit. Then Gonzales got Hanley Ramirez to line out to right field and induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Carl Crawford, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI ground-rule double at that point.

In Game 4, Gonzales sparked another Cardinals rally by getting out of a jam. The Cardinals trailed 2-0 in the top of the seventh. Gonzales relieved Maness and got two quick outs before allowing a walk and a hit. But he settled down and got Adrian Gonzalez to roll over on a pitch to Kolten Wong to end the inning.

Nobody saw this coming; a 22-year-old kid that bypassed Triple-A and landed in the majors and excelled from the onset.

Now to my point: How will Gonzales perform once the team reconvenes? Will he ride that confidence he gained from 2014 or will he build off it? It’s easy for a young player to get too high and lose focus. That’s an early concern of mine. Gonzales needs to remain humble and keep working during the offseason.

 

Randal Grichuk, Outfielder

Randal Grichuk appears to be a lock come Opening Day. And I largely agree. He showed why he belongs in the majors during the Cardinals’ memorable postseason run.

Grichuk flashed his leather time after time and unleashed his cannon of an arm from right field. He homered off Kershaw in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS. Grichuk has incredible power that we haven’t had the luxury to see just yet.

Matheny remains high on Grichuk. And rightly so. I believe Grichuk will blossom into a great player for this team. 

However, there’s always that chance of a young player struggling to have an impact in spring training. It would not surprise me if Grichuk had some ups and downs prior to the start of the regular season.

 

Stephen Piscotty, Outfielder

For me, Stephen Piscotty is on the bubble. He’s arguably the best outfielder in the Cardinals’ minor league system. But the Cardinals already have a crowded outfield. 

Despite the vast depth, the likelihood of the Cardinals hanging onto Peter Bourjos is slim, which could make room for Piscotty to become a role player. His most likely destination would be on the bench getting some spot starts and pinch-hit opportunities.

Piscotty is said to be a line-drive and home run hitter, which is something the Cardinals could use after hitting the fewest home runs in the NL in 2014. 

 

Carson Kelly, Catcher

Yadier Molina will turn 33 next July. His health will be a major factor in 2015, which is why the Cardinals will need to have an extra backstop on the roster.

Tony Cruz did a commendable job filling in for Molina when he was sidelined with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Cruz was considered a better defensive option than A.J. Pierzynski. His offense was average at very best.

It’s safe to say Pierzynski won’t be back next season, but Cruz likely will be. And that brings me to Carson Kelly, who made the switch to catcher a year ago. 

Kelly was a non-roster invitee to spring training last season. He managed a .248 mark with 27 extra-base hits and a .326 on-base percentage for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. 

His numbers weren’t outstanding, but the Cardinals should give Kelly a shot at making the roster. Yes, I realize it would take a lot to happen for Kelly to make the big league roster at just 20 years old. However, the Cardinals need to start the process of developing their next catcher.

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The 3 Biggest Decisions St. Louis Has to Make This Offseason

Red October has come to a crashing end. St. Louis fell short of reaching the World Series and a chance at the 12th title in franchise history. 

The Cardinals remain the model franchise of Major League Baseball, and 2014 should not be written off as a bust. The Cardinals captured their second straight division championship and advanced to their fourth consecutive league championship series. 

As the lights go off inside Busch Stadium for the winter, the Cardinals' brass will be faced with decisions that need to be addressed for the betterment of the club. 

Here are the three biggest decisions general manager John Mozeliak and his staff will have to make this offseason:

 

Oscar Taveras

Do the Cardinals use him as a trading chip this winter, or do they continue to wait for him to mature? That’s the biggest question surrounding coveted rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras.

Mozeliak shipped Allen Craig to Boston for a number of reasons, with the most important one being to give Taveras an opportunity to play every day.

The move by Mozeliak worked...sort of.

Taveras saw plenty of playing time and racked up 134 at-bats in August and September. However, the Cardinals weren’t getting the most out of Taveras, who hit a measly .244 in August. Taveras cranked it up in September, hitting .295 with a homer and two runs batted in.

But that production wasn’t enough to convince Matheny to start him over fellow rookie Randal Grichuk, who by the way is playing out of his mind. Taverasstreakiness isn’t the only thing keeping him from playing. His range in the outfield is a major concern, according to Mozeliak.

“He’s obviously not playing,” the Cards GM told David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat earlier this week. “When you look at his defense right now, it’s definitely different than what you’re seeing out of others who play (right field). We still believe he’s an offensive player, and given opportunities, I think he will hit. ... I think his focus needs to be on quickness.”

If Taveras is what the hype suggests, he needs to prove he’s all-in by devoting his attention to his conditioning and defense this winter. The Cardinals have never been high on Taveras’ defense. Mozeliak told Wilhelm he’s "an average defensive player."

It’s safe to say Taveras has slipped. Has he slipped too far from the good graces of his manager and GM? 

There's a guy down in South Florida by the name of Giancarlo Stanton. He's a popular name, 24 years old and already proven. Does Mozeliak pull the trigger and make a move that highly impacts the future of this organization one way or another? It would take more than Taveras alone to pull off such a deal, but Mozeliak has the resources. It would be foolish to overlook a possible trade. 

I still hold true to my opinion that Taveras is a cornerstone player for this franchise. You don’t know what you have in him yet. It’s still way too early to label him as a bust, which would be absolutely ludicrous considering he’s a rookie who’s been labeled as the best hitter in this organization since Albert Pujols. So, yeah, I expected Taveras to struggle in his first season in the big leagues. 

Who wouldn’t?

Bottom line: Oscar has to stay. 

 

Crowded Outfield

There’s no such thing as having too much depth. Just ask the Cardinals, who will have five players (Jon Jay, Grichuk, Peter Bourjos, Taveras and Stephen Piscotty) competing for two of the three outfield positions come spring training. 

Signed through 2016 with a club option for ’17, Matt Holliday remains a lock in left field unless Mozeliak does a 180 by trading him, which wouldn’t make much sense when you look at his value to this club over the past several years. 

What about center and right?

If I were to bet (I don’t), Grichuk will be in right field for the Cardinals come Opening Day 2015. Grichuk has blossomed in a roller-coaster season that saw him promoted and demoted numerous times. He’s proved he belongs on the parent club and in the lineup on a daily basis. It will be tough to beat him out.

Jay has a lot of upside in center, especially with his great range and instincts. We’ve seen him make dramatic improvements at the plate. He’s obviously seeing the ball much better.

Bourjos is likely reserved for the bench or possibly traded. I like Bourjos a lot. He’s a game-changer on the bases but has yet to do much at the plate. As a result, his at-bats and playing time declined, as they should. The Cardinals are paying Bourjos $1.2 million this season. Depending on the overall interest between both sides, I would like to see Bourjos remain a Cardinal. By the same token, this is a business driven by results. 

 

Patching up the Bullpen

Pitching was the biggest strength the Cardinals featured during the regular season. More importantly, the Cardinals had a group of relievers that combined for 55 saves, the most in baseball. The bullpen was part of a collective pitching staff that led all of baseball with 23 shutouts. 

On the flip side, the Cardinals’ 3.62 bullpen ERA ranked 17th in MLB and sixth in the NL.

Of higher concern to many is the status (confidence?) of Trevor Rosenthal, who always finds a way to get in a jam game after game. How much longer can Mozeliak and Matheny go with the hard-throwing righty?

Can he still be trusted next year and the year after that? Matheny has insisted nothing will change in the ninth inning with the game on the line. It belongs to Rosenthal.

I’m not sold on the Cards’ stopper. I'm not saying the Cardinals should trade Rosenthal, but something has to give. 

Speaking of stoppers, what to make of 2012 NL saves leader Jason Motte, who has battled injuries for the past two years? Motte will be a free agent this winter. Do the Cardinals offer him a short-term deal to provide insurance for the bullpen?

Either that or find another hurler with the same velocity capable of rescuing Rosenthal in the ninth.

You’d figure the Cardinals want to keep Pat Neshek around for a couple more years. He was their top reliever and pitched the best season of his career. Neshek represented the Cardinals in the All-Star Game and features the quirkiest, ridiculously effective delivery in the game. He’s the guy you want on the mound in late-game situations.

(By the way, remember Neshek was a non-roster invitee to spring training).

Are these the only decisions Mozeliak and his staff will have make this offseason? Of course not. Other predicaments will surface.

Does Marco Gonzales make the team out of spring training? Will Carlos Martinez begin 2015 in the rotation and remain there? What about Adam Wainwright’s health? Micheal Wacha and his shattered confidence?

The list goes on and on.

Obviously a lot can—and probably will—change over the next few months, but these three decisions top the Cardinals’ evaluation list heading into winter.

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Ranking St. Louis Cardinals’ Most Major League-Ready Prospects for Next Season

A prospect-churning player development system is a luxury every organization throughout Major League Baseball would like to have. In St. Louis, the pipeline begins in Palm Beach, Florida, and ends under the Arch in front of the best fans in baseball. The Cardinals are loaded with prospects. 

Ranking all of them would be impossible. However, ranking the most major league-ready prospects for 2015 is doable. Based on stats from this season coupled with raw talent and need, here are the Cardinals’ top five prospects that will compete for a roster spot in February.

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3 Things We’ve Learned About St. Louis Cardinals’ September Call-Ups

Baseball in September represents a time when teams on the outside looking in make one last effort to secure a playoff spot. Other clubs fight for positioning. And yet, roster spots for the playoffs remain up for grabs in St. Louis, where a few of the Cardinals’ call-ups are making their case.

Some of the late-season call-ups have already displayed the ability to provide this club with a spark. Starting pitcher Marco Gonzales heads the group. 

Here are three things we’ve learned about the Cardinals’ September call-ups:

Manager Mike Matheny has something special in Gonzales, the young left-hander with a filthy changeup. Since being recalled, Gonzales has made four appearances, including one start.

Two of his starts have come against Colorado, the team he grew up rooting for. It was his most recent start against the Rockies that carried more importance, and the 22-year-old delivered with an outstanding effort that earned him the win on Sept. 14. Gonzales pitched into the sixth inning, surrendered one run and struck out nine in the process.

“It was a terrific outing,” Matheny said, according to ESPN.com. “We needed that. He really came up big”

Gonzales will surely be a member of the roster when the playoffs begin.

There was a lot of optimism when the Cardinals promoted power-hitting first baseman Xavier Scruggs earlier this month. Scruggs, a minor leaguer for the majority of his playing career, finally earned his chance in the big leagues.

So far, Scruggs hasn’t done much at the plate to really impress (.231 average), but he’s certainly capable of making an impact off the bench.

Scruggs hit 27 home runs and tallied 87 runs batted in at Triple-A Memphis this season before being promoted. It was good to see Scruggs come through with an RBI single that tied the game 1-1 against the Reds Sunday night. That will do wonders for his confidence going forward.

While we haven’t been able to get a good read on Tommy Pham or Greg Garcia, left-handed reliever Tyler Lyons is trying to build confidence, while fellow reliever Nick Greenwood remains a long-relief option for Matheny. Greenwood worked 1.2 scoreless innings Sunday night against the Reds, which was an encouraging sign. 

Not so encouraging is the performances of right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala. He's is simply not ready for the big leagues, which comes as no surprise.

No disrespect to the kid, his stuff is nasty, and he has a lot of upside to his game. He’s a hard thrower (97 strikeouts in the minors this season) who needs to tune his mechanics and work on a secondary pitch to accommodate his heater. By the way, according to FanGraphs, Tuivailala’s fastball averages 96.9 mph.

His fastball lacks movement, which was evident Sunday night against the Reds. Tuivailala worked a third of an inning, allowed two runs off three hits, walked a man and watched his ERA soar to 36.00 in two combined relief appearances. 

The Cardinals will need the presence of Gonzales and Scruggs in the playoffs. They have the luxury of waiting on the development of their other September call-ups.

 

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St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 All-Prospect Team

The regular season came to a close for the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league affiliates earlier this month. Plenty of awards remain to be handed out, the most important of which is the 2014 All-Prospect Team.

The following prospects are recognized as the best players at their positions throughout the organization based on performance and overall statistics for the 2014 season.

On the mound is Memphis ace Tim Cooney, which should come as no surprise to any fan who has followed him and the organization this season. The Wake Forest product led the Pacific Coast League with 14 wins and finished in the top five in ERA (3.47) and innings pitched (158). Cooney also led the Redbirds with 119 strikeouts.

Ed Easley represents the other half of the battery. The 28-year-old backstop has been solid for Memphis this season, especially at the plate. He batted a healthy .296 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI. More notable is his .359 on-base percentage. Impressive would be an understatement for this seasoned player. 

At first base, you've got Xavier Scruggs, whom the Cardinals promoted on Sept. 9. Scruggs, a 26-year-old power hitter, launched 21 home runs for Memphis. Much of Scruggs’ success led to his call-up. His 87 RBI ranked fifth in the Pacific Coast League.

The middle infield belongs to Greg Garcia (second base) and Alex Mejia (shortstop). Both players had good success this season as they continue to progress in their careers.

Garcia managed a steady .272 mark at the plate. At just 190 pounds, Garcia he displayed flashes of power by hitting eight home runs and driving in 40. He also boasted a .358 on-base percentage. Garcia was recalled to the big leagues on Sept. 8.

Mejia, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Arizona, spent time in both the Florida State and Texas Leagues this season. While with Palm Beach, he hit .284. His success in the FSL had much to do with his promotion to Springfield, where he turned in a .270 average with three homers and 21 RBI.

Helping the State College Spikes to win their first-ever New York Penn League championship, third baseman Danny Diekroeger represents the final infielder on the squad. A 10th-round selection in this year's draft, Diekroeger led the Spikes with 111 total bases. Comfortable at the plate would be an understatement: The former Stanford product managed a .286 average with 22 extra-base hits. 

It's only fitting for the outfield to consist of three Memphis players. 

Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty round out this year’s All-Prospect Team.

Pham was promoted to the parent club on Sept. 8. As the primary left fielder for Memphis, Pham flourished at the plate. He hit .324 with 10 homers and 44 RBI for the Redbirds. Grichuk has been a machine this season despite being called up twice. The 23-year-old center fielder hit 25 homers and drove in 71 for Memphis. Piscotty has the potential to be a great player at the big league level. The right fielder hit .288 with a .355 on-base percentage.

The rest of baseball envies the Cardinals' player-development system. The Cardinals are the best example of a prospect-churning machine. A number of these players could either be starting or enjoying considerable playing time with another organization. That's a true testament to the wealth of this organization. 

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St. Louis Cardinals Players Who Must Be Let Go This Offseason

The St. Louis Cardinals are in a dogfight for the National League pennant and Central Division title. With October looming, let’s take a quick timeout to consider what needs to happen this offseason and who must be released.

What unfolds in September could lead to the 12th World Series championship in franchise history. It would be thrilling, considering the roller coaster season the Cardinals have had up until the past two weeks.

Hold that thought.

General manager John Mozeliak and his staff will have decisions to make this offseason. They must determine which players on the current 40-man roster are worthy of bringing back for another season, and which aren't.

For example, Pat Neshek has done an admirable job. He made the NL All-Star squad. There’s no doubt in my mind Neshek will be at the top of Mozeliak's offseason checklist.

However, which players will be deemed expendable? Better yet, which players must the Cardinals ultimately part ways with for the better good of both sides?

There are a few who come to mind.

The obvious of the minority is Justin Masterson, whom the Cardinals acquired from Cleveland on July 30 in exchange for minor league outfield prospect James Ramsey. The move was considered low-risk for Mozeliak.

The Cardinals have enough minor league outfielders to field a starting nine. More importantly, the Cardinals were in desperate need of starting pitchers because of injuries to Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia. They didn't want to go all-in for David Price, which would have been foolish. The move was understandable. 

However, this was one of a few moves in Mozeliak's tenure as GM that backfired. Masterson has been brutal. In six starts as a Cardinal, the 29-year-old has failed to last five innings three times. The opposition turned each one of Masterson’s starts into a nine-inning batting practice session, posting a .312 average off the right-hander.

Looking ahead to 2015, the Cardinals will have Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, a (healthy?) Michael Wacha and John Lackey to back ace Adam Wainwright.

Accompanying Masterson should be Mark Ellis, the current utility infielder. The Cardinals and Ellis agreed on a one-year contract last winter. To no one's surprise, Ellis' time as a Cardinal has been appreciated, but he's no longer capable of making an impact off the bench. He isn't getting any younger (37), either.

Signing Ellis was everything but a bust for Mozeliak. Sure, Ellis' numbers aren't great. But what did you expect from the 11-year veteran? Ellis is one of many calming presences in a relatively young clubhouse. He’s been around the block. He plays the game the right way. He’s got the intangibles every manager envies.

More importantly, there’s a pool of prospects who will be competing for a job as a utility player next season. (See: Greg Garcia, Jermaine Curtis and Luis Mateo).

Finally, I don’t see the Cardinals bringing back A.J. Pierzynski next season. The Cardinals claimed Pierzynski off waivers in late July. The Cardinals would have to pay Pierzynski more than they would like if they attempted to sign him. Pierzynski did a fine job sharing time behind the plate with Tony Cruz while Yadier Molina recovered from thumb ligament surgery.

Pierzynski provides more pop than Cruz, but the latter is cost-controlled.

As the Cardinals sprint toward October, these three players should enjoy the ride because they almost certainly won’t be donning the birds on the bat next season.

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5 Players St. Louis Cardinals Will Promote in September

With less than a week until rosters expand from 25 to 40 on September 1, the St. Louis Cardinals will welcome a handful of reinforcements as they enter the final month of the regular season in a jam-packed National League Central Division race. 

A club looking for an extra jolt will benefit from the added depth and talent when rosters expand. 

Manager Mike Matheny isn't going to balk at an opportunity to fortify his roster. 

"I think everybody is pretty clear in our system what the priorities are, and the priority is winning here," he told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "If we have need, we go get players who can come and help us. They do a great job of adapting in our system to fill holes."

The Cardinals certainly have need for players who can provide a spark of energy. The most glaring void is the bench, where Cardinals pinch hitters rank 13th in the majors (sixth in the NL) with their combined .234 average. 

That said, here are five players the Cardinals will promote come September based on their success at Triple-A Memphis this season: 

 

Randal Grichuk, Outfielder

Randal Grichuk spent nearly a month with the parent club and never found his groove at the plate. He hit just .136 in 19 games. However, the 23-year-old outfielder has made the most of his time in Memphis this season. He's hitting .259 with 71 RBI and a .311 on-base percentage in over 100 games with the Redbirds. More impressive is Grichuk's team-leading 25 home runs this season.

The Cardinals could use Grichuk's bat in late-game situations. Matheny could also utilize Grichuk by giving him a chance or two to keep starting outfielders Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos fresh. 

 

Pete Kozma, Shortstop  

With Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong eating up innings in the Cardinals infield, Pete Kozma was the odd man out. He eventually landing in Memphis. 

But with Mark Ellis on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, the Cardinals need depth in the infield. 

For the season, Kozma has 30 extra-base hits to his credit, including eight home runs. 

Kozma may only be hitting .253 at Memphis this season, but he brings playoff experience. And that's always a plus for any team. 

 

Stephen Piscotty, Outfielder

Stephen Piscotty is the most major league-ready outfielder in the Cardinals organization, and he's more than deserving of a promotion in September. 

The 23-year-old has a knack for getting on base with his .348 on-base percentage this season. He's also gone deep eight times and driven in 65. 

When it comes overall production at the plate, the Cardinals need Piscotty's presence on the bench, if not in occasionally in the lineup. 

 

Xavier Scruggs, First Base 

With Matt Adams the everyday Cardinals first baseman, Xavier Scruggs won't be called up permanently for the foreseeable future. However, his overall stats this season at Triple-A Memphis warrant a well-deserved promotion. At the very least, the Cardinals should give the 26-year-old minor leaguer a few at-bats in September.

Scruggs, who is hitting .280 for the Redbirds this season, has launched 20 homers and driven in 83. Moreover, over his last 10 games, Scruggs is hitting .297 with a pair of homers, four RBI and eight runs scored.

 

Tim Cooney, Pitcher  

You can never have enough pitching, which is why the Cardinals need to take a long look at 23-year-old lefty Tim Cooney.

Cooney (13-6, 3.55 ERA) is having a stellar season for Memphis. He leads the team in wins and innings pitched (152).

The Cardinals could utilize Cooney by putting him in the bullpen to eat up innings in order to keep the other relievers fresh. 

"We just push forward with the best that we have," Matheny told Langosch. And these five players will certainly help the Cardinals in the final month of the regular season. 

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3 Best St. Louis Cardinals Prospects No One Is Talking About

Promising talent has never been of concern for the St. Louis Cardinals. History backs it.

From pitchers Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, to sluggers Oscar Taveras and Matt Adams. The list goes on and on.

Developing prospects into future big leaguers is what the Cardinals stand for. It’s been that way for quite some time. Fans know it. Other organizations know it, too. The Cardinals are the best example of a well-run, prospect-churning machine.

But when big-name prospects get called up to begin what they hope to be a long and fruitful major league career, what happens to the ones who remain in the minors? They certainly aren’t forgotten. They just aren’t talked about. Heck, they could be having the best season of their young career, yet they aren't the topic at the local water cooler. 

As you can imagine, this happens a lot with the Cardinals. And it should. After all, when you have such a deep farm system, it’s hard to talk about everyone.

With that said, here are three prospects no one is talking about.

 

Juan Herrera, Shortstop

Jhonny Peralta is the shortstop of now, but the future of the Cardinals middle infield could belong to Juan Herrera if he keeps progressing the way he has. 

The Cleveland Indians signed the Dominican-born Herrera in 2010 and brought him over to the U.S. two years later. The Cardinals acquired him in a trade that sent left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to the Indians last summer.

Herrera is an up-and-coming talent with tremendous upside. According to Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals believe Herrera can become a “plus” fielder in their organization.

The 21-year-old is certainly on his way to becoming a plus player, if not a great one for the Cardinals. 

Herrera leads all Peoria starters with a .287 average. He has scored 46 runs and has 50 RBI this season for the Cardinals' Class-A Midwest League affiliate. More impressive is his .332 on-base percentage and his quickness on the bases. Herrera has 27 stolen bases. 

The promising shortstop has feasted off right-handed pitching this season, batting .294 with 40 RBI and 20 extra-base hits. He’s also hitting .314 with runners in scoring position.

The future is bright for Herrera.

 

Charlie Tilson, Outfielder

When talking about outfielders, the likes of Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk come to mind.

However, Charlie Tilson deserves a lot of credit for his impressive season.

Tilson, an outfielder for Double-A Springfield of the Texas League, began the season with High-A Palm Beach of the Florida State League. There, Tilson put on an offensive show. He hit .309, scored 53 runs and totaled 21 extra-base hits in 88 games. Because of his performance at the plate, Tilson was named a Florida State League All-Star. He was promoted to Springfield shortly after.

It’s taken Tilson a little while to adjust to Double-A ball. He’s hitting just .242 in 13 games, but that’s a rather small sample size, making it hard to give him a fair evaluation. 

No matter, Tilson will adjust and continue to strive in the minors.

 

Jacob Wilson, Second Base

Another middle-infielder that isn’t widely talked about is second baseman Jacob Wilson of Springfield. Perhaps Wilson isn’t in many discussions because he’s been injured since June and his season is likely over.

However, before landing on the disabled list, Wilson was having himself a stellar season.

Wilson began 2014 with Palm Beach where he hit .298 in 30 games. He was soon promoted to Springfield, where he managed a steady .305 mark with five home runs and 21 RBI.

A power-hitting second-baseman, Wilson could become a staple of the Cardinals infield in the future.

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Grading the St. Louis Cardinals’ Trade Deadline Performance

John Mozeliak sent a loud wake-up call to his club Thursday afternoon. His message was clear; his team was underperforming, and the current trend could not continue.

Change was in order.

Mere hours before the non-waiver trade deadline expired, the Cardinals general manager broke up a once tight-knit clubhouse by dealing veteran outfielder Allen Craig and starting pitcher Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for John Lackey

The deal was announced shortly before the Cardinals took the field against the Padres for the finale of a three-game series.

Like it or not, Mozeliak came out on top during this year’s player-swapping extravaganza, which is why the GM gets an “A.”

When Mozeliak prioritized his needs, starting pitching took precedent over everything else, including offense. A day before the deadline, Mozeliak acquired Cleveland righty Justin Masterson in exchange for outfield prospect James Ramsey.

This move addressed two problems: a clustered outfield and the rotation. The Cardinals did Ramsey a favor by allowing him to further his career. Despite being ranked high in the organization, Ramsey was still in Double-A Springfield, due to the overly crowded outfield at the Triple-A and major league levels.

With Masterson, the Cardinals get an established veteran pitcher to accommodate Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Masterson has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a knee injury, but he’ll start Saturday against division-leader Milwaukee. At 29 years old, Masterson will help shore up the backend of the rotation, steal some wins in the final two months of the regular season and keep the bullpen fresh.

The right-hander has emerged as a reliable starter over the last three seasons with a record of 41-41 and a 4.08 ERA.

In acquiring Lackey, the Cardinals receive a workhorse. Lackey, 35, is a proven winner. He got the win in Game 6 of last year’s World Series against the Cardinals. Moreover, Lackey won’t be a rental, and the Cardinals will exercise his option for next season at $500,000.

Along with Lackey, the Cardinals received more than $1.5 million in cash and minor league left-hander Corey Littrell.

Was the trade worth it? Absolutely.

I’m sure many fans have questioned this trade, considering the Cardinals gave up a so-called cornerstone player and a promising young pitcher.

However, I don’t label Craig as a cornerstone for the future of this team. Yes, he had three good seasons here. His most impressive one was last year when he posted a .315 average and a .373 on-base percentage in just 134 games. He led the league with an absurd .454 average with runners in scoring position.

By the same token, this season has been a nightmare for Craig, who hit .237. He never found his groove at the plate, never looked comfortable and became an easy out for opposing pitchers.

Mozeliak didn’t pull a fast one on Craig. He waited and waited and waited for Craig to get out of his funk. So too did manager Mike Matheny, who kept Craig in the lineup on a consistent basis until there was no realistic alternative.

Craig wasn’t going to play first base with Matt Adams hitting as well as has been. Moreover, Craig was platooning in the outfield with rookie Oscar Taveras, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos.

With Craig gone, Taveras will be cemented in the lineup for years to come.

The other part of the trade was Kelly, a talented starter in the early stages of his career. Kelly was a classy guy, a competitor and a good pitcher. But Mozeliak deemed Kelly expendable.

The Cardinals weren’t going to part ways with Shelby Miller or any of their other top pitching prospects because it’s too early to forecast what they will become.

The Lackey trade outrages many fans. The Masterson deal puzzles more. But these two pitchers have a combined 206 wins, the same number as the entire Cardinals’ Opening Day rotation prior to Thursday’s 6-2 win over the Padres.

Mozeliak has flexed his muscles. His message is clear. He wants to win now. His work is done. It’s up to the players now.

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MLB Trade Deadline: Starting Pitchers St. Louis Cardinals Should Target

Amidst all the ballyhoo in every general manager's office is a soft cadence:

Tick...tick...tick. 

Each strike of the clock heightens this thrill ride known as major league baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, set for 4 p.m. ET Thursday. 

In the middle of this drama sits St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, contemplating his next move(s), which could impact his club for years to come. 

Mozeliak's biggest priority is a starting pitcher to fill the fifth slot in the Cardinals' shaky rotation. And it's no secret what he's looking for. The Cardinals have not disclosed who will start Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers in what will be the biggest series to date. 

While the Cardinals continue on their current six-game road trip, Mozeliak must pull the trigger on a starter, preferably a marquee arm. 

Mozeliak added depth to his staff Wednesday afternoon by acquiring Justin Masterson in a trade with Cleveland. This minor deal surely comes as an appetizer to the main course. That's my thought process, anyway. 

Let's take a look at some top-name targets on the market.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Cardinals’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 17

It's no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals boast one of, if not the best, farm systems in all of baseball. Year in and year out, the Cardinals take in young prospects and develop them into superstars. (See: Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, etc...) 

This season is no different. The Cardinals' top 10 prospects are enjoying a fruitful 2014 season. Some are exceeding expectations, while others are even-keeled. A few of these young players are struggling to adapt and find a consistent rhythm in the minor leagues. 

Reaching the majors is a long, grueling process. Sometimes, it takes years to accomplish. Some players never do, while others are fast-tracked and have stellar careers. 

A number of the Cardinals' top 10 prospects are on their way to the show. 

Here's how they fared during Week 17 (July 13-20) of the 2014 season. 

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St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Holes Cards Must Address at the Deadline

As St. Louis gears up for the final 66 games of the regular season, a strong push for the playoffs is the main focus. The race for the National League Central Division is closer than it has been all season.

Having taken two of three from Milwaukee before heading into the All-Star break, St. Louis (52-44) sits a game behind the division leaders. The Cardinals are in a prime position for an epic battle for a spot in this year’s postseason tournament.

However, with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline two weeks out, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak will be a busy man for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t be surprised if he barricades himself in the office, crunching numbers and working the phones. I imagine sleep will be hard to come by for Mozeliak.

After all, there is plenty of work to do.

The Cardinals have plenty of needs as the trade deadline approaches. Most already know the offense has been a vast disappointment thus far. And the torn ligament in Yadier Molina’s thumb that required (possibly season-ending) surgery and sidelined him for eight to 12 weeks only further complicated matters.

Injuries to starting pitchers Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia have left the rotation hurting. And the power outage from sluggers Matt Holliday and Allen Craig has kept the offense in neutral.

So let’s take a deeper look into the biggest vacancies the Cardinals need to fill at the deadline.

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Scouting Reports for St. Louis Cardinals’ Prospects in the 2014 Futures Game

The St. Louis Cardinals will be represented in fashion in the annual Futures Game on Sunday. Starting pitcher Marco Gonzales of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and outfielder James Ramsey of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals will make the trip to Target Field in Minneapolis for this year’s game.

Based on their statistics, both Gonzales and Ramsey deserve to play in the exhibition contest. Gonzales has been stellar on the bump and Ramsey has blistered the ball all season.

As the Futures Game looms, let’s take a look at the scouting reports for both of the Cardinals' representatives:

 

Marco Gonzales

Gonzales won’t overpower anyone, nor will he serve as an intimidator on the hill. He’s not known for throwing smoke.

However, the 19th overall pick from a year ago prefers finesse to horsepower. Gonzales’ heater tops out at 90 mph. Once he gets ahead in the count, the 22-year-old will drop in a devastating changeup, his out pitch.

Game over.

Gonzales began the season with Palm Beach of the Florida State League. There, the lefty went an even 2-2 in a half-dozen starts. His 1.43 ERA was impressive over those outings, considering he didn’t receive much run support over that span.

The FSL proved too novice for Gonzales, who was soon promoted to Double-A Springfield of the Texas League. With Springfield, he went 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzales was named Texas League Pitcher of the Week for the week of June 15. The former first-round pick made one start that week, leading the Cardinals to a 2-1 triumph over Northwest Arkansas on June 13. Gonzales allowed just two hits—a pair of singles—in six innings of work. He struck out a career-high 10 and walked none.

When the parent club lost 40 percent of its rotation to injury (Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia), the Cardinals called up Gonzales, who bypassed Triple-A and joined the big league club.

Gonzales’ big league stay was brief, but memorable nonetheless.

The Fort Collins, Colorado, native made his major league debut at Coors Field back on June 25.

Making the leap from Double-A to the show is hard enough, but Gonzales was fearless on the hill in the Mile High City.

In the bottom of the first, Gonzales struck out Drew Stubbs and Troy Tulowitzki on a total of seven pitches. The rookie left Tulowitzki—the National League Home Run Derby captain—looking foolish on three straight changeups.

“The one against Tulo was pretty memorable,” Gonzales told Cody Ulm of MLB.com. “That’s my pitch and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Gonzales, who went 0-2 with an ERA over seven, was optioned to Memphis last week. While at the Triple-A level, he will need to work on his fastball and off-speed pitches to complement his changeup.

Whether or not Gonzales will pitch in the Futures Game remains up in the air because of his promotion to the big leagues. However, the left-hander is on track to become an established pitcher.

 

James Ramsey

If you like grit and determination, Ramsey has plenty of it.

Taken 23rd overall in the 2012 draft, Ramsey leads Springfield in nearly every major offensive category. The lefty batter uses every muscle of his 6-foot, 190-pound frame to lace extra-base hits, launch home runs, draw walks, drive in runs and get on base. In a nutshell, he does it all.

Ramsey, 24, was named Texas League Player of the Week for the week of April 14—a span in which he went on an offensive tear—going 16 for 39 (.410) with three doubles, a triple, four homers and 11 RBI.

Defensively, Ramsey is as sound as they come. He is the only Springfield starter without an error this season.

It would be easy to overlook Ramsey because of his short build, but that would be a grave mistake.

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Ranking St. Louis Cardinals’ Best All-Star Game Candidates

When it comes to the Midsummer Classic, the St. Louis Cardinals always represent the Gateway City in style. The annual mid-July contest features the best players from every team, and the Cardinals consistently produce some of the best talent in the National League year in and year out.

As the 2014 All-Star Game nears, three Cardinals will—more than likely—fly north to Minnesota, the site for this year’s contest. 

Starting pitcher and staff ace Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina are shoo-ins for the NL. Perhaps the most surprising candidate is reliever Pat Neshek, who, if chosen, would be the third member representing the Cardinals at Target Field on July 15.

Assuming Neshek is chosen, here’s how the Cardinals’ best All-Star Game candidates rank based on season statistics and overall performance in the NL. 

 

Yadier Molina

This is a given, and it should be.

Yadier Molina is the best catcher in the game. Period.

(Let the cries for Jonathan Lucroy continue.)

Molina ranks as the Cardinals’ best All-Star Game candidate for many reasons. Not only is he the best at his position, but the hours he puts in studying video, his ability to develop young pitchers, and his overall knowledge and instincts are second to none.

Yadi is hitting .280 this season with seven home runs and 28 RBI. He has yet to find his groove at the plate, but most fans won’t bother worrying about his average until the season is over.

Molina has thrown out 17 of 34 would-be baserunners for a caught-stealing percentage of .500, tops in baseball.

Moreover, Molina’s accomplishments speak for themselves: five-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Platinum Glove Award winner.

He’s the leader of this team, which is another reason why he’s the No. 1 All-Star Game candidate for the Cardinals.

 

Adam Wainwright

I’ve watched Adam Wainwright drop in a devastating curveball to hitters over his entire big league career, and I can’t help but feel bad for the guys at the plate. They’re helpless as their knees buckle. (See: Carlos Beltran circa 2006 NLCS.)

Wainwright, 32, is the ace of the pitching staff. His ability to turn in quality starts, steal a win for his team and take pressure off the bullpen by working deep into games is vital.

He leads the team in wins (10), ERA as a starter (2.01), innings pitched (116.1), strikeouts (105) and opponent average as a starter (.199).

The two-time Gold Glove Award winner leads the NL in wins above replacement (3.6) and is tied for the league lead in wins.

Wainwright's durability has been crucial to his team’s success over his career. He pitched the most innings in the NL in 2013 (241.2).

If Wainwright received more run support, he could potentially lead the league in wins.

Still, three years removed from elbow reconstruction surgery, Wainwright is having a dominant year for the Cardinals, which is why he comes in as the team's No. 2 All-Star Game candidate.

 

Pat Neshek

There couldn’t be a better story for a relief pitcher this season than that of Pat Neshek.

The veteran hurler and journeyman is having the best season of his eight-year big league career.

Neshek is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 37 appearances. He has the best ERA of any reliever on the club and is tied for the second-most relief appearances.

Molina and Wainwright have overshadowed him, but his story in 2014 has been nothing shy of stellar.

Neshek ranks as the third All-Star Game candidate for the Cardinals, and if he gets in, his teammates will be the first ones to congratulate him.

 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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3 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects Who Should Be Called Up in the Second Half

The second half of the regular season is underway, and the St. Louis Cardinals (44-39) are pressing to find an identity. Coined as the favorite to win the National League Central division, the Cardinals are struggling to score, string hits together and maintain any fashion of consistency at the plate. 

Trailing division-leading Milwaukee by 6.5 games as we turn the calendar to July, the Cardinals have yet to field their best 25-man roster. It’s crazy, considering how loaded this lineup and organization is. 

Reinforcements from Triple-A Memphis could benefit this struggling club in more ways than one.

Bringing fresh faces into the clubhouse could provide a spark to this dwindling lineup that has failed to meet expectations. They could also provide a positive and encouraging buzz to a clubhouse that could use a more relaxed atmosphere. 

Here are three players general manager John Mozeliak should promote in the second half of the season:

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