(BaseballStL) -- It’s one thing to have a team that can win right now. It’s another to be set up to win for a couple more seasons. But it’s quite another thing to be able to look not just 2-3 years down the road, but potentially 6-7 and still like what you see with your baseball club.
Everyone who follows baseball knows starting pitching rules. It’s a pitching dominated league and if you have it, it really doesn’t matter what the other team whips out at you at the plate. Good pitching beats good hitting now just as it always has (steroid era aside).
So when you check out what the Cardinals boast from a starting rotation standpoint in their system it’s awfully impressive. From AAA all the way down to rookie league, they possess elite arms that project as solid-to-impactful starters at the big league level.
And that’s not even counting those that are already in St. Louis
For a second, just forget the Adam Wainwrights, the Michael Wachas, the Carlos Martinezs, the Joe Kellys and the Shelby Millers of the world. Check out what they have down below working their way up.
Marco Gonzales (LHP, 1st round pick in 2013) – He was so good we’ve actually already seen him, however briefly in St. Louis. The lefty flew through Hi-A and AA with a 1.43 and 2.33 ERA, respectively. Gonzales was supposed to be a quick riser through the minor league system and that’s proven to be true given his exceptional change-up. Yes, he still has things to work on but it shouldn’t be too much longer (another year perhaps?) before the Colorado native is ready to compete for a full time gig in St. Louis.
Tim Cooney (LHP, 3rd round pick in 2012) – Cooney’s a guy who was highly thought of in the organization after getting drafted out of Wake Forest but wasn’t on too many prospect rankings right out of the gate. That’s changed now. The lefty from Pennsylvania had a mid-3 ERA last year between Palm Beach and Springfield and walked just 22 guys in 154.1 innings between the two levels and once again has a mid to upper 3 ERA this year for AAA. He’s a pitch maker who doesn’t overwhelm you with stuff, but he gets out. Cooney doesn’t quite have the upside of some of the others, but he has a good upside nonetheless.
The Cardinals don’t have any starting pitchers of note in Springfield at the moment.
Tyrell Jenkins (RHP, 1st round pick in 2010) – Now here’s someone who has reestablished himself as a legitimate prospect. The Texas native is a dynamic athlete (he was recruited to play QB at Baylor out of high school) that battled injuries late last year. Jenkins has come back with a vengeance in 2014. He’s 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings thus far for Palm Beach. Opponents are hitting just .200 against the righty. Prospect rankings had him well within their top 100 as recently as last year but the lat muscle injury he sustained kind of derailed that. The arm is still there as is the athleticism. Now the results are starting to match. Keep an eye on this guy.
Rob Kaminsky (LHP, 1st round pick in 2013) – The guy the Cards took with their second 1st-rounder after Marco Gonzales a year ago. He possesses a curveball that rivals Gonzales’ change-up. From the moment he was drafted, Kaminsky was labeled as someone who was extremely polished and could move relatively quickly through the minor league system. Well, in his first full year of pro ball he’s 4-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 56.1 innings. Opponents are hitting just .177 against him this year which shows just unbelievable dominance. Kaminsky’s also struck out 48 batters which is nearly a strike out per inning. At some point the Cards may want to give this guy more of a challenge and move him up to Palm Beach. He can’t possibly be more than a couple years away from the big leagues.
Alex Reyes (RHP, International free agent) – Reyes is a force on the mound but projects more as a reliever at this time. Think Trevor Rosenthal 2.0.
Ian McKinney (LHP, 5th round pick in 2013) – A very surprising name to appear on a list like this. No one talks about him but thus far in his young pro career all McKinney has done is get people out. Period. Starting in the GCL last year after getting selected out of high school in Orlando the lefty threw 30.1 innings and gave up just three earned runs. That’s it. This year he’s largely pitched for Johnson City but did make one start for State College. He’s been on the mound for 30 innings this year as well. Guess how many earned runs he’s surrendered. Three. Again. That’s a .90 ERA. I haven’t seen too many scouting reports on McKinney but numbers like that are hard to ignore – regardless of the level you’re in. He needs more of a challenge.
Gulf Coast League
Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty (RHPs, 1st round picks in 2014) – These are the two guys the Cards picked this year in the 1st round of the draft. They have only thrown an inning each in the GCL as the Cards try and limit their work to save their arms for the future. Flaherty was a high school guy out of California while Weaver was a college pick from Florida State. Until they actually start pitching in pro ball and we get a sense of what they look like with the Cardinals training it’s hard to get a read on them. But the Cards have high hopes for both in the future.