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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Keith Law Releases New Prospect Rankings; Two Cardinals Make the List

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Keith Law, ESPN's prospect guru, released his updated rankings of the top 25 minor league prospects Tuesday, and the first couple names on the list aren't really all that surprising. The Angels' Mike Trout, who began the year atop virtually every prospect list in creation, is still there, followed by Bryce Harper, the barely-old-enough-to-buy-cigarettes phenom who made the cover of Sports Illustrated as Baseball's Chosen One long before he was even drafted. 

After that, though, things begin to get a bit interesting, particularly if you just happen to be a Cardinals fan who has become used to hearing over the past decade how barren a wasteland the St. Louis farm system is. 

Law's article is subscriber-only, but I'm sure he won't mind me discussing the Cardinal-centric portion of his list while simultaneously pointing out to you there is quite a bit of excellent material behind the pay wall at ESPN, more than enough to make it worth the price of subscription. 
Shelby Miller, the Cards' consensus top prospect, checks in at No. 4 on the list after dominating the Florida State League for the early part of the season. (And by dominate I mean he's currently sporting an 81/20 K/BB ratio, with 7 of those walks coming in one bizarre, 10:30 a.m. start. That's pretty damned dominating.) He also just happens to be the highest-ranked pitcher on the list, narrowly edging out Atlanta's Julio Teheran, who made his much-hyped major league debut just last month before being sent back to Triple A for further seasoning. 

The other name for the Cardinals to pop up on Law's list is that of Carlos Martinez, the Dominican fireballer who recently made a start at Busch Stadium, which yours truly was lucky enough to be on hand for

Both Miller and Martinez made sizable jumps up the list, with Miller moving from ninth to fourth (though, in fairness, that movement was due to graduations as much as anything), and Martinez making a huge leap up from No. 52. 

Also gaining a mention was Zack Cox, the Cards' first-round pick from last year's draft. The third baseman was promoted to Double A Springfield recently after tearing up the FSL for much of the previous month. Cox made Law's 'names to watch' section. 

This is all a welcome change for the Cardinal farm system, which, even in recent years, while producing useful major league players, has been criticised and largely panned for a severe lack of high-ceiling, impact talent. Miller is the brightest star on the horizon the Cards have had coming through their system since Rick Ankiel was destroying the minors back in the late 90s. And Martinez, while not quite as far advanced as Miller on the learning curve, may actually have an even higher ceiling. 

It's not exactly a referendum on the Jeff Luhnow years, of course, but considering that since Luhnow officially took over the draft in 2005 the Cardinals have produced current big leaguers Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, the recently (and confusingly), demoted Mitchell Boggs, and international signees (which Luhnow is also in charge of), Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas to go along with the guys on Law's list, it's tough to argue the Cards' farm system hasn't been remarkably productive. 

Up next for Miller is his first Double A start on Friday, when he'll take his new crown of Best Pitching Prospect in Baseball to the mound against the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Astros' Texas League affiliate. 

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