Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

Deemed too expensive to be a reserve and not enough of a power hitter to remain the everyday left fielder, Bernard Gilkey no longer fit into the Cardinals’ plans.

bernard_gilkey3Looking to restock their farm system, the Cardinals were offered packages of prospects by the Mets, White Sox and Royals for Gilkey.

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 22, 1996, the Cardinals traded Gilkey, 29, to the Mets for three minor-league players: right-handed pitchers Eric Ludwick and Erik Hiljus and outfielder Yudith Ozorio.

In the short term, the deal had little impact on the Cardinals, even though Gilkey had a career year with the 1996 Mets. The Cardinals won the 1996 National League Central Division championship and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1987.

In the long term, the trade hurt the Cardinals because they didn’t get the pitching help they needed. Neither Ludwick nor Hiljus could help a staff whose team ERA increased each year from 1997 through 1999, contributing to the Cardinals missing the playoffs in those seasons.

Hometown regular

Gilkey, a St. Louis native, debuted with the Cardinals in 1990, replaced Vince Coleman as the starting left fielder in 1991 and held the position through 1995.

For those six years, he batted .282 with 602 hits in 593 games, with an on-base percentage of .354. In 1993, his best Cardinals season, Gilkey batted .305 with 170 hits in 137 games, including 40 doubles, 16 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .370 on-base percentage.

However, Gilkey never hit more than 17 home runs or produced more than 70 RBI in a season with St. Louis.

In December 1995, the Cardinals signed free-agent Ron Gant, 30, to a contract for five years and $25 million. Gant had three times hit 32 or more home runs with the Braves and twice had topped 100 RBI. He had driven in at least 80 in five consecutive seasons.

Money ball

Gilkey was paid $1.6 million in 1995, when he led NL left fielders in fielding percentage (.986) and batted .298 with 17 home runs, 69 RBI and a .358 on-base percentage.

Eligible for salary arbitration, Gilkey was seeking $3 million in 1996. The Cardinals offered $2.5 million. A settlement likely could be reached for $2.8 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Still, the Cardinals were looking to acquire a closer, either Dennis Eckersley of the Athletics or free-agent Gregg Olson. Trading Gilkey would help free up the money to make such a deal.

“The only reason we’d have to move Gilkey is because of money,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

It’s business

Projecting a 1996 outfield of Gant in left, Ray Lankford in center and Brian Jordan in right, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa discussed the possibility of moving Gilkey to first base. “We were saying that, but I didn’t see that as an alternative,” Jocketty said. “That probably would have hurt us defensively.”

On the day he was traded, Gilkey said, “I’m not bitter. I understand business.”

He was, however, hurt by the rejection.

“Once they signed Ron Gant, I knew the opportunity for me playing in St. Louis was slim,” Gilkey said. “It’s kind of shocking to know that you’ve played with the St. Louis Cardinals through all the down times and you did whatever you could to help. All of a sudden, they turn into contenders and they send me on my way.”

Of the players acquired by the Cardinals, Ludwick, 24, projected to be the most promising. He had a 13-6 record and 3.31 ERA in 27 games for Mets farm teams in 1995. “We have excellent reports on him,” Jocketty said.

Hiljus, 23, was 10-8 with a 3.94 ERA in the minors in 1995. Ozorio, 21, batted .217 with 40 stolen bases in Class A.

The aftermath

Joining a revamped Mets outfield that included another former Cardinal, Lance Johnson, in center, Gilkey had a sensational 1996 season. He batted .317 with 181 hits in 153 games, including 44 doubles, 30 home runs, 117 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a .393 on-base percentage.

Gant hit .246 with 103 hits in 122 games, including 14 doubles, 30 home runs, 82 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .359 on-base percentage for the 1996 Cardinals.

Though Gilkey outperformed Gant in 1996, the Cardinals finished 88-74 and reached the NL Championship Series. The Mets finished 71-91.

Neither Hiljus nor Ozorio would ever play for St. Louis. Both were out of the Cardinals’ organization after the 1997 season.

Ludwick, older brother of outfielder Ryan Ludwick, pitched well at Class AAA Louisville _ 2.83 ERA in 11 starts in 1996 and 2.92 ERA in 24 games in 1997 _ but flopped in two stints with the Cardinals. He was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in six games for the 1996 Cardinals and 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA in five appearances for the 1997 Cardinals.

On July 31, 1997, the Cardinals traded Ludwick and pitchers T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein to the Athletics for first baseman Mark McGwire.

Previously: How Bernard Gilkey foiled an opponent’s masterpiece

Previously: How Bernard Gilkey spoiled Frank Castillo’s big moment

Previously: How Cardinals struck it rich with 1995 free-agent haul

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As a longtime player, coach and manager in the Cardinals’ system, perhaps the most important contribution Bobby Dews made was helping Bob Forsch take a successful step in transforming from a third baseman into a pitcher.

bobby_dewsDews was manager of the Cardinals’ 1971 Class A club at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Forsch, a 26th-round draft choice who had flopped as a third-base prospect, was in his first full season as a starting pitcher. At 21, his playing career was at a crossroads.

With Dews as his manager, Forsch had a successful year, posting an 11-7 record and 3.13 ERA in 23 starts for Cedar Rapids. He ranked second on the team in both innings pitched (158) and strikeouts (134). That performance convinced the Cardinals Forsch had potential as a pitcher.

Three years later, Forsch debuted with the Cardinals and went on to a productive career with them. He ranks third all-time among Cardinals pitchers in wins (163) and innings pitched (2,658.2). In 2015, Forsch was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Bobby Dews helped him get there.

Dews was in the Cardinals’ organization from 1960 to 1974 before joining the Braves as a minor-league manager. He remained with the Braves in various roles, including big-league coach, until he retired in 2012.

When Dews died at age 76 on Dec. 26, 2015, his obituaries naturally focused on his 37 years of service to the Braves. Often overlooked was his Cardinals connection.

Shortstop prospect

Dews was a varsity baseball and basketball player at Georgia Tech. He launched his professional baseball career when signed by the Cardinals in 1960.

Shortstop was Dews’ primary position, though he also played at second base and in the outfield.

His best season as a player in the Cardinals’ system was with Class AA Tulsa in 1964. Dews batted .277 that year and established single-season career highs in games played (134), hits (138), RBI (40) and stolen bases (30). He had 14 hits in 28 at-bats in a stretch from July 20-25.

Dews was promoted to Class AAA Jacksonville in 1965. His progress was slowed, however, when he underwent surgery for a ruptured spleen on May 18, 1965.

For Dews, who had little power, the highlight of his 1965 season occurred when he hit home runs on consecutive nights (July 22-23) against Rochester.

The first of those home runs was hit off Darold Knowles, a future Cardinals reliever. “That was strictly a shot in the dark,” Dews told The Sporting News. “I didn’t know what he threw or where it was.”

The next night, Dews hit a home run off Bill Short, who had pitched for the 1960 American League champion Yankees. Said Dews: “Bill threw me a fastball and I think he thought I was going to take it. Instead, I hit it. Isn’t that real crazy?”

In 1966 with Class AA Arkansas, Dews played all nine positions in the Sept. 5 regular-season finale against Austin. Vern Rapp, Arkansas manager, pitched two hitless innings in the game and Hub Kittle, Austin manager, pitched a scoreless inning.

Dews was a player-coach in the Cardinals’ system in 1967 and 1968.

Learning to manage

At 30, Dews was named manager of the Cardinals’ 1969 Class A club in Lewiston, Idaho. One his players was Forsch, who, at 19, was in his second professional season as a third baseman. Forsch hit .203 in 26 games for Lewiston.

Dews was a coach for Tulsa manager Warren Spahn in 1970. After that, Dews was assigned to manage Cardinals farm clubs in each of the next four seasons: Cedar Rapids in 1971, Sarasota in 1972, Modesto in 1973 and Sarasota again in 1974.

Besides Forsch, two of the future big-leaguers Dews managed in the Cardinals’ system were outfielders Hector Cruz (23 home runs in 111 games for Cedar Rapids) and Mike Vail (31 doubles, 80 RBI in 134 games for Modesto).

Life after Cardinals

In 1975, Dews was named manager of the Braves’ Class A Greenwood team in the Western Carolinas League.

His most prominent roles with the Braves were as a big-league coach under manager Bobby Cox from 1979-81 and from 1997-2006.

In an interview with MLB.com, Cox said of Dews: “He was a special guy. He helped so much in getting this organization going.”

Dews also wrote books, the best-known of which was “Legends, Demons and Dreams,” a collection of short stories.

“My grandfather wanted me to be a lawyer and a writer,” Dews told Jim Wallace of WALB.com. “Of course, everybody else in town wanted me to be a baseball player. So I guess I tried to blend the two.”

Previously: The story of how Bob Forsch converted to pitching

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Enticed by the chance to add a left-hander to the starting rotation and a potential power hitter to the batting order, the Cardinals gave up a Gold Glove Award winner at third base.

ken_reitzThe deal didn’t work out the way either the Cardinals or Giants envisioned.

Forty years ago, on Dec. 8, 1975, the Cardinals traded third baseman Ken Reitz to the Giants for pitcher Pete Falcone.

Though Reitz had been awarded the National League Gold Glove for his defensive work at third base in 1975, the Cardinals thought he was expendable because of the availability of Hector Cruz, who had excelled as a slugging third baseman for manager Ken Boyer at Class AAA Tulsa.

When Boyer, a five-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time all-star as a Cardinals third baseman, endorsed Cruz, the Cardinals were confident in dealing Reitz.

“Boyer is very high on Cruz,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said to the Associated Press.

Carpet cleaner

Reitz debuted with the Cardinals in 1972 and was their everyday third baseman from 1973-75. He led NL third basemen in fielding percentage in 1973 and 1974.

Mike Shannon, a Cardinals broadcaster and former third baseman, dubbed Reitz “Zamboni” because, like the machine, he cleaned up everything in his path on the artificial turf carpet at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The Sporting News praised Reitz for having “quick hands, an extremely accurate arm, superb lateral movement.”

Reitz, 24, committed 23 errors in 1975. Noting that only eight of those errors allowed scoring or led to scoring, The Sporting News wrote that Reitz’s “great stops and throws helped save many a game” and he “has displayed the same knack shown by such former Cardinals as Ken Boyer, Julian Javier and Dal Maxvill. They rarely killed you with an error in a tight situation.”

Reitz hit .269 for the 1975 Cardinals, with five home runs and 63 RBI.

Top prospect

In contrast, Cruz, 22, batted .306 with 29 home runs and 116 RBI in 115 games for Tulsa in 1975. He made 17 errors in 289 chances at third base.

Cruz, whose brothers Jose and Tommy had been Cardinals outfielders, was named winner of the 1975 Most Valuable Player Award in the American Association and Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

“He has been the best ballplayer in the minor leagues the past two years,” said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst.

Said Devine to United Press International: “We feel he’s ready.”

Falcone fits

The Cardinals saw the Giants as an ideal trade partner. The Giants needed a third baseman and they had starting pitching depth.

Falcone, 22, debuted with the Giants in 1975, posting a 12-11 record and 4.17 ERA in 32 starts. He struck out 131 and issued a team-high 111 walks.

The Cardinals’ only other potential left-handed starter was John Curtis. The Cardinals envisioned Falcone joining a 1976 rotation with Bob Forsch, John Denny, Lynn McGlothen and either Eric Rasmussen or Curtis.

“We didn’t have any good left-hand pitching prospects in the minor leagues,” said Schoendienst. “We hope to start Falcone. That’s what we acquired him for.”

The Giants were seeking a defensive upgrade at third base. Their primary starter in 1975, Steve Ontiveros, hit .289 but committed 21 errors in 89 games at third base.

Jerry Donovan, assistant to Giants owner Horace Stoneham, said, “We haven’t had a third baseman since Jimmy Davenport retired (in 1970).”

Donovan, who engineered the trade with Devine, added, “We hated to give up Pete, but we needed a third baseman badly. The Cards insisted on Falcone if we were to make the deal.”

Giants fan

Reitz was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Daly City. As a youth, he would scale a fence to get into Giants games at Candlestick Park. He watched as many as 60 games a season there, according to the Oakland Tribune.

His favorite player was first baseman Willie McCovey. Like McCovey with the Giants, Reitz wore No. 44 with the Cardinals.

Still, Reitz was stunned and initially disappointed to be traded. He and his wife had bought a house in St. Louis.

“I thought they’d stick with me for a couple of more years at least,” said Reitz. “I thought there was maybe one chance in 100 that I’d be traded.”

Falcone was working an off-season job as a salesman in the New York garment center while staying with his parents in Brooklyn.

“When I first learned about (the trade), I was a little mad,” said Falcone. “It was a shock. Now that I’ve thought it all over, I kind of like the idea of going to St. Louis and getting out of the cold and fog.”

How they fared

In 1976, Falcone was 12-16 with a 3.23 ERA in 32 starts for St. Louis. He led the 1976 Cardinals in strikeouts (138) and innings pitched (212) and was second in wins.

After beating the Reds on a five-hitter on Aug. 24, he was 11-11 with a 3.29 ERA. He then lost five of his last six decisions while lowering his ERA to 3.23.

Cruz hit .228 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI with a team-high 119 strikeouts for the 1976 Cardinals. He made a NL-leading 26 errors at third base.

Reitz made 19 errors in 155 games at third base for the 1976 Giants. He hit .267 with five home runs and grounded into 24 double plays.

Return to sender

After the 1976 season, the Giants traded Reitz to the Cardinals for McGlothen.

The Cardinals moved Cruz to right field. He hit .236 with six home runs in 1977 and was traded after the season with catcher Dave Rader to the Cubs for outfielder Jerry Morales and catcher Steve Swisher.

Falcone had terrible second and third seasons with the Cardinals _ 4-8 with a 5.44 ERA in 1977 and 2-7 with a 5.76 ERA in 1978 _ and was traded to the Mets in December 1978 for outfielder Tom Grieve and pitcher Kim Seaman.

Reitz remained the Cardinals’ third baseman through 1980. He was traded with first baseman Leon Durham and third baseman Ty Waller to the Cubs for reliever Bruce Sutter in December 1980. Ken Oberkfell replaced Reitz at third base.

Previously: How Bake McBride and his mad dash led to 25-inning win

Previously: Like Johan Santana, Bob Forsch had disputed no-hitter

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After more than a decade with the Cubs as one of the premier shortstops in the National League, Don Kessinger joined the rival Cardinals and stabilized the position until a phenom was ready to take over.

don_kessingerForty years ago, on Oct. 28, 1975, the Cardinals acquired Kessinger from the Cubs for reliever Mike Garman and a player to be named (minor-league infielder Bobby Hrapmann.)

Shortstop had become a weakness since the Cardinals dealt Dal Maxvill to the Athletics in August 1972. The Cardinals had tried an array of shortstops, including Ray Busse, Mario Guerrero, Ed Brinkman and Mike Tyson, but none excelled.

The Cardinals had selected a high school shortstop, Garry Templeton, in the first round of the 1974 draft and saw him as the solution to their problem.

In the meantime, they hoped Kessinger, 33, could hold down the position while Templeton developed in the minor-league system.

Cardinals country

Kessinger, an Arkansas native, had been a baseball and basketball standout at the University of Mississippi. “I used to listen to (Cardinals) games on radio and (Stan) Musial was my favorite,” Kessinger told The Sporting News.

He signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964 and debuted with them that year. Kessinger, possessing a strong arm and wide range, was a six-time NL all-star with the Cubs and twice (1969 and ’70) was a winner of the NL Gold Glove Award.

By September 1975, though, the Cubs were looking to rebuild with younger players. Published speculation was the Cubs would trade Kessinger.

Teams expressing the most interest were the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves. The Yankees were reported to be offering reliever Sparky Lyle and the Cardinals were said to be offering pitcher John Curtis.

Before the season ended, Kessinger _ “acting for all the world like a displaced person,” The Sporting News wrote _ sold his house in suburban Chicago.

“I can do more to help a club now than ever before … I’ve taken care of myself and now is the time to reap the benefits from that,” Kessinger said. “I know that I’m still able to do anything on the field that I ever did. I don’t smoke, drink or run around.”

Infield shifts

Tyson had been the primary shortstop for the 1975 Cardinals. He replaced Brinkman, an American League veteran who couldn’t adjust to the artificial surface at Busch Stadium.

After acquiring Kessinger, the Cardinals traded second baseman Ted Sizemore to the Dodgers and decided to shift Tyson from shortstop to second.

During spring training in 1976, Cardinals instructor George Kissell helped Tyson adapt to his new role.

“We wanted Mike Tyson down early (in spring training) as the new second baseman so that he could get used to working with Kessinger,” Kissell said. “It’s easier for Kessinger to get used to Tyson than it is for Tyson to get used to Kessinger.”

Said manager Red Schoendienst: “If we can catch the ball, we can win.”

Fielding woes

Unfortunately for Schoendienst, the Cardinals fumbled a lot _ and lost.

Meanwhile, Templeton, 20, was establishing himself as a force. Like Kessinger, a switch-hitter, Templeton batted .321 for manager Ken Boyer at Class AAA Tulsa in 1976. He produced 142 hits in 106 games, with 24 doubles, 15 triples and 25 stolen bases.

On Aug. 9, 1976, the Cardinals called up Templeton from Tulsa and placed him in the starting lineup at shortstop. With Tyson injured, Kessinger moved to second base, a position he hadn’t played since college.

Boyer endorsed the promotion of Templeton. “I’d pay to see him play,” Boyer said.

The 1976 Cardinals committed 174 errors. Only the Giants had more errors that season among NL clubs. The Cardinals finished 72-90.

Hector Cruz, who had replaced the smooth-fielding Ken Reitz at third, had 26 errors for the 1976 Cardinals. Templetom made 24 errors in 53 games at shortstop.

Kessinger also committed 24 errors _ 18 in 113 games at shortstop and six in 31 games at second base.

Batting primarily in the No. 2 spot in the order, Kessinger hit .239 overall, with 22 doubles and 120 hits in 145 games. He was better as the No. 8 batter (.290 in 33 games) than he was in the No. 2 spot (.230 in 74 games).

Changes and transactions

After the 1976 season, Schoendienst was fired and replaced by Vern Rapp, who in 1977 started Templeton at shortstop, Tyson at second base and moved Kessinger to a utility role.

In 59 games, including 16 starts at second base and 13 starts at shortstop, Kessinger again hit .239 for the 1977 Cardinals before he was traded in August to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Steve Staniland.

Two years later, Kessinger was named player-manager of the 1979 White Sox. He was fired in August (with a 46-60 record) and replaced by a rookie big-league manager named Tony La Russa.

Previously: How Bee Bee Richard became Cards’ starting shortstop

Previously: Garry Templeton broke Cardinals string of poor top picks

Previously: Why Ed Brinkman wasn’t shortstop savior for Cardinals

Previously: Cardinals gambled, lost with Ray Busse at shortstop

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Randy Wiles was the pitcher the Cardinals traded to acquire Tony La Russa.

randy_wilesIn a deal made with the intention of jump-starting a pair of stalled minor-league careers, the Cardinals sent Wiles to the White Sox in exchange for La Russa on Dec. 15, 1976.

From there, the careers of the two players took different paths.

La Russa played one season as an infielder in the Cardinals system before beginning a long and successful second career as a manager, including 16 years (1996-2011) with St. Louis. His two World Series titles, three National League pennants and a franchise-leading 1,408 wins with the Cardinals helped get him elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wiles, a left-hander, pitched briefly with the White Sox in 1977, got traded back to the Cardinals after the season and was out of baseball by the end of 1978.

His death on Sept. 15, 2015, at age 64 prompted me to research his story and tell it here.

Good potential

Randy Wiles was selected by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1973 draft after earning all-Southeastern Conference honors at Louisiana State University.

He was drafted just ahead of another pitcher, LaMarr Hoyt, who went on to become a big-league all-star.

In his first two seasons in the Cardinals’ system, Wiles established himself as a prospect with big-league potential.

He spent 1973 with the Gulf Coast Cardinals (managed by Ken Boyer) and Class A St. Petersburg, posting a 2.81 ERA in 16 games.

In 1974, Wiles had one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Cardinals organization, with eight wins and a 2.56 ERA in 30 games at Class AA Arkansas. Wiles won seven of his last eight decisions, yielding two runs for the month of August.

“Everything just clicked,” Wiles told The Sporting News. “I was consistent every time out.”

Reverse course

Wiles opened the 1975 season at Class AAA Tulsa, playing again for Boyer. Instead of positioning himself for a promotion to the big leagues, Wiles took a step back, posting a 5.92 ERA in 11 games.

“I was so inconsistent … I couldn’t keep the ball down,” said Wiles.

The Cardinals demoted him to Arkansas. Dejected, Wiles was 4-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 12 games for the Class AA club.

“I probably had an attitude problem when I was sent down to Arkansas from Tulsa,” Wiles said. “I tried to shake it, but I couldn’t. I gained a lot of weight, too. I wasn’t in shape.”

At spring training in 1976, Wiles pitched well. “I had the best spring I’ve ever had,” he said. “I gave up only one run. Ken Boyer said I would be with him (at Tulsa).”

Instead, the Cardinals sent Wiles to Arkansas. The Cardinals had signed a batch of former big-league pitchers _ Lloyd Allen, Roric Harrison, Lerrin LaGrow and Harry Parker _ and assigned them to Tulsa, leaving no spots available for Wiles.

Relying primarily on a fastball and slider, Wiles rebounded, with a 2.72 ERA in 21 games for Arkansas. “He should be in Tulsa,” said Arkansas manager Jack Krol. “He just got caught up in the numbers game this year. The organization is still high on him. He’s a good pitcher.”

Wiles did get promoted to Tulsa during the 1976 season and, reunited with Boyer, had a 3.90 ERA in 12 games.

Minor deal

After the season, his fourth in the Cardinals system, Wiles, 25, was traded to the White Sox for La Russa, who had batted .259 at Class AAA Iowa in 1976.

La Russa, 32, no longer was considered a big-league prospect, but he appealed to the Cardinals as a player-coach who could mentor infielders such as Jim Riggleman and Ken Oberkfell at Class AAA New Orleans.

“He was kind of looking out for me a little bit,” Riggleman said in the book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission.” “He became like a big brother to me. He gave me a lot of advice and you knew there was a lot of respect for him among the players.”

The White Sox sent Wiles to Iowa for the 1977 season. In August, seeking a left-handed reliever, the White Sox promoted Wiles to the big leagues.

Wiles appeared in five games for Chicago, with a 1-1 record and 10.12 ERA. After two weeks with the White Sox, Wiles was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals, who sent him to join La Russa in New Orleans.

After the season, the Cardinals traded Wiles again _ to the Astros for minor-league pitcher Ron Selak, a former Cardinals prospect who had been selected by St. Louis three rounds ahead of Wiles in the 1973 draft.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals talked with La Russa about becoming manager of their rookie league club at Johnson City, Tenn. Though flattered, La Russa said he’d rather seek a position at a higher level of the minor leagues.

In 1978, Wiles, 27, pitched his final season of professional baseball, with the Astros’ Class AAA club in Charleston, W.Va. La Russa launched his career as a manager that season, with the Class AA Knoxville affiliate of the White Sox. A year later, La Russa, 34, became White Sox manager.

Previously: The story of how Tony La Russa got his 1st Cards win

Previously: Tony La Russa and the night he got to be No. 3

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Because of the rate at which he strikes out batters, Alex Reyes clearly is a special talent. That’s why he’s my choice as the top prospect in the Cardinals’ organization.

Members of the United Cardinal Bloggers were invited to rate the top seven Cardinals prospects. For this exercise, I define a prospect as a player who hasn’t appeared in the big leagues.

My selections:


alex_reyesIn 22 combined starts for Springfield, Palm Beach and the Gulf Coast Cardinals during 2015, Reyes, 21, struck out 151 in 101.1 innings pitched. The right-hander had a 2.49 ERA.

Reyes’ rise to the top among Cardinals prospects is a story of perseverance. He wasn’t selected by any team in the amateur draft. The Cardinals signed him as a free agent in 2012 after he was graduated from Elizabeth (N.J.) High School.


The right-handed pitcher was 8-5 with a 1.62 ERA in 19 starts for Palm Beach in 2015. Weaver, 22, allowed two home runs in 105.1 innings pitched.

Unlike Reyes, Weaver was highly touted. The Cardinals chose him in the first round of the 2014 draft after a stellar college career at Florida State.


The shortstop appears to be the heir apparent to Cardinals veteran Jhonny Peralta.

Diaz, 25, had 118 hits in 116 games combined for Springfield and Memphis in 2015. He produced 28 doubles and 13 home runs.

The native Cuban signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2014.


An outfielder and left-handed batter, Tilson, 22, has the potential to thrill fans and ignite an offense. At Springfield in 2015, Tilson batted .295 with 46 stolen bases. He had 159 hits in 134 games and an impressive .351 on-base percentage.

Tilson, a second-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2011 draft, also is a splendid defensive outfielder.


The left-handed pitcher was an ace for Peoria in 2015. In 22 starts, Gomber, 21, was 15-3 with a 2.67 ERA, striking out 140 in 135 innings.

The former Florida Atlantic University standout was a fourth-round choice of the Cardinals in the 2014 draft.


After being named Cardinals 2014 minor league player of the year, Sierra, 19, experienced some struggles at Johnson City and Peoria in 2015. Still, the outfielder produced 102 hits in 104 games, with 19 stolen bases.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Sierra was signed as a free agent by the Cardinals in 2012.


The infielder is an explosive base runner. With Peoria in 2015, Mercado, 20, had 120 hits in 117 games, with 50 stolen bases. He has 88 steals in three years in the St. Louis system since being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft.

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