Looking at the St. Louis Cardinals Farm System, an Eric Clapton song comes to mind.
“It’s in the way that you use it/It comes and it goes.”
The Cardinals farm system continues to provide a depth that other teams badly covet and revere. Year after year, while other teams like the A’s mortgage the future and go all in, Cards general manager John Mozeliak plays the in house card and calls the farm for weapons. While I am sure no one will fault Billy Beane for sending young bodies across the league to make a huge run at the 2014 World Series(that is unless it doesn’t work), Mozeliak has to be sitting pretty as one of the best GM’s in baseball. He doesn’t cut great talent loose and his director of scouting Dan Kantrovitz fills the role of Hannibal in assembling the next A Team for the Cards.
Take a look at Tuesday’s loss. The Cards left 19 on base, got a poor outing from starter Michael Wacha and reliever Jason Motte, and lost 9-5 in Cincinnati. The Cards outhit the Reds and outplayed them for every inning except one and lost. No ground was lost as The Pirates and Brewers both lost. Inside a win, a couple young players had their debut. Future stars? Maybe. Big time talents to remain excited about? Indeed.
Sam Tuivailala was a pitcher in high school before patrolling the left side of the infield early in his minor league career. After short stints at shortstop and third base, Tuivailala is a pitcher and a hard throwing young man with poise. Looking at his stat line wouldn’t impress the baseball card mafia but if you saw the life on his 99 mph fastball and the hope in his 80 mph breaking pitch, one could sense something special out there. Sam is a 21 year old kid tasting the big leagues for the first time. He gave up his first hit, walked his first guy and struck out his first hitter. The swings against him were defenseless. Todd Frazier popped up and didn’t even know it yet. There’s a lot to like about Sam Tuivailala, who is much more than a kid who throws heat.
Tommy Pham made his debut as well with an at bat in the 9th inning. The one time shortstop converted to centerfielder for the Memphis Redbirds came up and worked a full count before striking out on an inside fastball. Pham is another outfielder with great defense and a bat that can hit for average and reach base. Think a better defensive run saving version of Jon Jay.
Xavier Scruggs was hitless in his first start on Thursday but collected an RBI double in the 9th inning. It was his first major league hit and RBI. The power hitting first baseman will spell Matt Adams for the reminder of the regular season.
Nick Greenwood and Marco Gonzales provided scoreless outings last night. Greg Garcia was hitless in a pinch hitting appearance. Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk each contributed a hit to the cause.
The youth on this team seems to grow every year. Instead of Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig in right field, it’s Taveras and Grichuk. Matheny favored the younger and more explosive Kolten Wong to the veteran class of Mark Ellis. Center field will get younger in 2015 and beyond. First base now belongs to Adams. Slowly but surely, Mozeliak is building an army of cost controlled playoff contenders.
The rotation is full of young ability. Shelby Miller only has 60 starts but seems to be utilizing his entire pitch arsenal on the bump the past two weeks. Wacha is recovering from an injury and still hasn’t had the opportunity to pitch a full season. Gonzales and Carlos Martinez are contenders for the 2015 rotation. Trevor Rosenthal is only in his second full season but has 43 saves on the season.
While other teams strive and overreach for expensive older talent, the Cardinals collect raw young toys and keep them stored until a need arises. These aren’t just talented baseball players. They are fine young gentlemen. Wacha carries the aura of a veteran in his second season even though he was pitching to aluminum bats less than two years ago. Gonzales came back up from Memphis looking more composed. Tuivailala seemed like he had been here before. These Baby Birds don’t look scared at all, so watch out when they gain confidence.
For the third season in a row, young players are help propel the Cards towards the playoffs. If the team makes it to the postseason, it will be the first time in franchise history that the Cards play October baseball four years in a row. At first glance, it seems odd that this is only the first four streak, due to the expectations that follow this team around daily.
Unlike the early Tony La Russa era, this current streak of playoff bound Cards are fueled by young guns and not older worn down bodies. They are hungry and eager to please. September baseball is exciting for a number of teams because of the meaningful baseball around the corner. For Cardinals fans, its the chance to see new faces.
The future is bright, folks.