09/06/12 10:00 AM ET
Taveras, Miller lead Cardinals' prospect rankings
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Oscar Taveras has long turned heads in the Cardinals' organization, which has been enamored by his athleticism and raw hitting ability since Taveras signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2008.
This year, the outfielder gave fits to Texas League opponents. He earned league honors along the way, and was a highlight of the summer All-Star Futures Game.
Now, as Taveras tries to lead Double-A Springfield through a playoff run, he is being recognized in the rankings.
MLB.com unveiled its latest team prospect lists on Thursday, and the Cards' list begins with Taveras at the top. Taveras jumped over Shelby Miller (now No. 2) and Carlos Martinez (now No. 3) to earn the distinction as the organization's top prospect.
"His bat this year is kind of what the bat was last year. He's always hit," farm director John Vuch said of Taveras, who hit .321 with a .380 on-base percentage, 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in 124 Double-A games this year.
"It's really the fact that the rest of his game became more well-rounded. He's made a lot of strides defensivel, and as far as his baserunning goes. He's taken those aspects of his game more seriously now and realizes the importance of them."
Taveras also sprung toward the top of MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects in baseball. On that list, Taveras now checks in at No. 13.
"He's phenomenal," general manager John Mozeliak said of Taveras earlier this week. "He's an amazing player."
Not far behind Taveras are Miller (No. 20) and Martinez (No. 28), making the Cardinals one of only two teams to place three prospects in the Top 30. Arizona is the other.
St. Louis is also one of just seven clubs to place at least five prospects on MLB.com's Top 100 list. Joining Taveras as a newcomer on the chart are infielder Kolten Wong (No. 56) and pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (No. 68).
cardinals' top prospects
MLB.com assigned point values to each spot on the Top 100 list as part of its prospect points system, which is designed to determine which farm systems have the most impact talent on the way. The Cardinals entered the season ranked 17th on this list, but the strides made by Taveras, Wong and Rosenthal, in particular, pushed St. Louis up to No. 4 in these new rankings.
"We try not to get too wrapped up what third-party people say of us," Vuch said. "But I think it's a reflection of what's come through the system here the last couple of years."
Rounding out the first 10 prospects on the Cards' Top 20 list are first baseman Matt Adams and pitchers Michael Wacha, Tyrell Jenkins, John Gast and Maikel Cleto. Jenkins dropped four spots in these updated rankings, while Wacha is a new addition.
Wacha, who was taken with the 19th pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, is one of three members of the Cardinals' most recent Draft class to crack this list. The others are Carson Kelly (No. 11) and James Ramsey (No. 18).
Wacha's introduction into pro ball has gone exceptionally smoothly. After pitching 113 1/3 innings for Texas A&M this spring, Wacha has thrown a combined 21 innings at three Minor League levels. The 21-year-old is ending his season at Double-A Springfield.
"I definitely try to be conservative with guys moving them through [the system], but he's a guy who, so far, every time we bump him up, he can show that he can handle that level," Vuch said. "There's a realistic chance that he could start [in the rotation] next year in Springfield."
Of the players on the Cards' Top 20 list, five of them -- Miller, Rosenthal, Adams, Cleto and Ryan Jackson (No. 19) -- spent time on the club's Major League roster this season.
Aside from those who came off the Cardinals' preseason top prospect list due to promotion (Matt Carpenter and Joe Kelly) or trade (Zack Cox), the biggest drops were made by pitcher Jenkins (from No. 4 to No. 8) and Jordan Swagerty (from No. 7 to No. 15).
The 20-year-old Jenkins, who dealt with some injuries this year, finished 4-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 19 starts at low Class A. Swagerty missed the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this spring.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.