By COREY NOLES
With minor league baseball heating up across the country, the St. Louis Cardinals 10 best prospects are already back to working their way up the organizational depth charts.
From the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds all of the way down to extended spring training in Florida, the Cardinals system is packed with exciting young prospects at all levels of the organization.
For this look into the early season progress of the organization's top prospects, I chose the top 10 by adhering to a specific, yet simple, standard.
I did not include any prospect that has already made the jump to the majors. While some lists still include Kolten Wong or Carlos Martinez, for the purpose of this article we'll leave them out of the equation.
The goal is to look at the next wave of incoming talent, not the players who have already arrived.
Following is a look at the most recent performance of each of those players and an analysis of their stock within the organization.
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs and MILB.com.
10. Zach Petrick, RHP
Last week: 2 GS, 1-0, 0.66 ERA, 13.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
Zach Petrick's ride through the Cardinals minor league system has been a fast one. Showing solid command of his pitch repertoire throughout his climb, that same skill is showing at the Double-A level to start 2014. When the Cardinals start calling up pitchers to the home club, expect to see Petrick make the jump to Triple-A--most likely before the All-Star break. If he carries that same domination along with him, he could impact the home club as soon as September or early 2015.
2014 season stats: 2-0, 0.48 ERA, 18.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 BB, 15 K
9. Randal Grichuk, OF
Last week: .278/.350/.556, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K
Randal Grichuk is an exciting young talent. Acquired in the deal that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Grichuk was drafted before Mike Trout in 2009. He was a solid offensive player, slowly making his way through the Angels' farm system until he lit things up with 22 home runs and 68 RBI at Double-A Arkansas. He's well on the road to a similar start in the Cardinals organization.
There's a lot of outfield talent ahead of him, but don't think of him as blocked. He could be the cog that makes the Freese trade a lopsided bargain for the Cardinals.
2014 season stats: .295/.354/.523, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 9 K
8. Carson Kelly, C
Last week: .300/.429/.600, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 0 K
Only 19 years old, Carson Kelly is another young player who has impressed the higher-ups within the Cardinals organization during the spring. In addition to learning the position of catcher at the request of the team, Kelly has also found his swing in the process. After lackluster seasons in 2012-13, he's hitting the ball very well early this season. I'm curious to see his numbers at the season's midway point.
2014 season stats: .300/.389/.500, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K
7. Tim Cooney, LHP
Last week: 2-0, 3.09 ERA, 11.2 IP, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K
Left-hander Tim Cooney impressed in spring training and continues to do the same in Memphis. A third round draft pick in 2012, Cooney is a rising force in an organization thin of left-handed pitchers capable of joining the starting rotation. A virtual unknown to many Cardinals fans, Cooney is a player that could arrive in St. Louis as early as the first half of 2014.
2014 season stats: 3-0, 2.04 ERA, 17.2 IP, 4 ER, 17 K, 1.189 WHIP
6. James Ramsey, CF
Last week: .346/.393/.769, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 1 BB, 10 K
Another member of the much touted 2012 draft class that brought the Cardinals Michael Wacha, outfield prospect James Ramsey is seeing the ball well early on in 2014. While he's not as exciting as Stephen Piscotty or Oscar Taveras, he does have the ability to pan out as a fourth or fifth outfielder at the major league level. If he can keep on his current 2014 streak, he could land himself in Memphis sooner rather than later.
2014 season stats: .404/.462/.766, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 3 2B, 4 BB, 13 K
5. Rob Kaminsky, LHP
Last week: N/A
A first round pick from 2013, Rob Kaminsky is touted for his nasty curveball. Since his professional career is just now beginning, the Cardinals seem to be exercising caution with his arm to get him used to the professional workload. Only 19, Kaminsky is a pitcher there is no need to rush, so they can ensure that he develops at a pace that will benefit everyone involved. He's a key part of the Cardinals next generation of pitchers.
Extended Spring Training
2014 season stats: N/A
4. Alexander Reyes, RHP
Last week: ND, 3 IP, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
Only 19 years old, Alex Reyes is already turning heads in 2014. He's had decent outings in his first two starts of 2014, but seems to be struggling a bit with control. Reyes has given up 12 walks in only 8 innings pitched this year--a problem he will need to get under control early if he wants to advance to Springfield in the near future.
2014 season stats: 1-0, 1.12 ERA, 8 IP, 1 ER, 12 BB, 11 K
3. Marco Gonzales, LHP
Last week: 0-1, 6.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
A 2013 first round draft pick from Gonzaga University, Marco Gonzales is one of the most intriguing pitching prospects that remain in the Cardinals organization. He has a solid pitch catalog with off-speed stuff that is already capable of throwing major league hitters off balance. He struggled a big last week with a mediocre outing by his standards, but it's doubtful the Cardinals see any cause for concern.
High-A Palm Beach
2014 season stats: 1-1, 2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, 3 ER, 12 K, 3 BB
2. Stephen Piscotty, OF
Last week: .333/.368/.389, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Stephen Piscotty is picking up in Triple-A on about the same tear with which he finished the Arizona Fall League. While his early power numbers are a bit thin, he's hitting the ball extremely well--as is most of the Memphis roster. It's tough to pinpoint when it will happen, but expect to see him make an impact at the major league level some time in 2014.
2014 season stats: .357/.413/.429, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 15-for-42 overall, 1 SB, 3 BB, 7 K
1. Oscar Taveras, OF
Last week: .421/.476/.526, 0 HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
There's no need to talk a lot about Oscar Taveras because his rise has been no secret. With as much hype as Shelby Miller and Colby Rasmus, Taveras has a lot to live up to. This past week in Memphis he's done exactly that. He's hitting the ball hard and is getting on base nearly every other time he steps to the plate. A few weeks of that and he could find himself on the bench in St. Louis.
2014 season stats: .289/.347/.489, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 2B, 3 BB, 8 K