Taveras, Wong, Wacha among Cards' 16 NRIs

ST. LOUIS -- Outfielder Oscar Taveras and a pair of recent first-round Draft picks -- second baseman Kolten Wong and right-hander Michael Wacha -- highlight the group of 16 non-roster players that the Cardinals have invited to participate in big league Spring Training.

Taveras, a 20-year-old who was just ranked by MLB.com as baseball's top outfield prospect heading into 2013, made periodic appearances in Grapefruit League games last spring, but this will be his first time participating in workouts alongside Major Leaguers. The reigning Texas League Player of the Year is likely to begin the season in Triple-A, though he could be ready to ascend to the Majors before the end of the year.

Wong, the team's top pick from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and ranked by MLB.com as the No. 4 prospect in the Cardinals' system, is in a similar spot. He, too, is slotted in to begin 2013 with Triple-A Memphis but is not seen as needing too much more seasoning before ascending to St. Louis.

Wacha (ranked No. 7 in the Cards' system) is one of three highly touted young right-handers on this list of non-roster invitees. Joining him in big league camp will be Carlos Martinez (No. 3) and Seth Maness, the organization's pitcher of the year in 2012. All three ended the season with Double-A Springfield, which captured the Texas League championship.

During his stops in high-A and Double-A, Martinez, 21, posted a 2.93 ERA in 22 games. Maness went 14-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 27 starts. He led the Cardinals' farm system with 169 2/3 innings pitched.

The Cardinals kept Wacha's Minor League exposure brief since he pitched a full year at Texas A&M University before being drafted, but Wacha still dazzled in his first 21 professional innings. He struck out 40, while walking only four.

The full list of 16 non-roster invitees includes the following players:

Pitchers: John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Maness, Martinez, Wacha
Catchers: Adam Ehrlich, Rob Johnson, Jesus Montero, Audry Perez, Cody Stanley, J.R. Towles
Infielders: Greg Garcia, Starlin Rodriguez, Wong
Outfielders: Justin Christian, Taveras

Johnson, Christian and Towles all signed Minor League contracts with the Cardinals earlier this offseason.

The Cardinals' report date for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 11, with the first team workout in Jupiter, Fla., scheduled for the following day. The organization's first full-squad workout will take place on Feb. 15.