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Cardinals' farm system has grown to elite status

Club boasts six prospects in MLB.com's Top 100 list, four in the Top 50

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ST. LOUIS -- John Mozeliak, though he hadn't yet ascended into the role of general manager, purposefully made sure that he and other members of the front office weren't blinded by all the good things happening at the Major League level.

It was 2005, a year in which the Cardinals would make their fifth playoff appearance in six years. What Mozeliak and others noticed, though, was the dearth of impact talent in the pipeline. It was a concern, too, given the economics of the game and the inability for a team in this market size to spend flippantly in the free-agent market.

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And so there was a shift in vision, one the Cards deemed necessary in order to enjoy sustained success while working within their financial means.

where to watch
Where the Cards' Top 20 prospects are starting the season:
Rank Player Team Level
1 Oscar Taveras Memphis AAA
2 Shelby Miller St. Louis MLB
3 Carlos Martinez Springfield AA
4 Trevor Rosenthal St. Louis MLB
5 Kolten Wong Memphis AAA
6 Michael Wacha Memphis AAA
7 Tyrell Jenkins Peoria A
8 Matt Adams St. Louis MLB
9 Carson Kelly Extended ST TBD
10 John Gast Memphis AAA
11 Michael Blazek Springfield AA
12 Maikel Cleto Memphis AAA
13 Seth Blair Springfield AA
14 Eric Fornataro Memphis AAA
15 Jordan Swagerty DL  
16 Charlie Tilson Peoria A
17 James Ramsey Palm Beach A+
18 Stephen Piscotty Palm Beach A+
19 Patrick Wisdom Peoria A
20 Seth Maness Memphis AAA
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.

"We knew the only way to do that consistently is to have a strong player procurement and player development program," Mozeliak recalled. "We had excellent teams throughout that period, we sensed a weakness in our system and knew that someday those players would be moving on and we'd need to restore some youth to the organization. Over the past six or seven years, I think we've done an excellent job of living up to that vision."

The organization has done so well, in fact, that many outside evaluators consider the Cardinals' farm system to be the strongest in baseball entering 2013. St. Louis was one of just five teams to place six prospects in MLB.com's Top 100 list this past offseason. Four of the Cards to land on that list fell within the Top 50.

The Cardinals are already receiving contributions from this group, too, as Shelby Miller (St. Louis' No. 2 prospect), Trevor Rosenthal (No. 4) and Matt Adams (No. 8) dented their first big league Opening Day roster. As for the rest for the group, with the Minor League season now under way, you can keep track of the Redbirds' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Cards' Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/Cardinals.

Stacked squads
For those wanting to see the most talent saturated in one place, look no further than Triple-A Memphis. Seven of the organization's Top 20 prospects, as ranked by MLB.com, opened the season there. It's a level that five of those players had never previously reached.

Included in that group is the organization's top prospect, Oscar Taveras, who has won a league championship in each of his first three seasons in the Minors. The 20-year-old outfielder enters the year with a career .321 average, and he's projected to be in St. Louis before the end of the year.

Second baseman Kolten Wong (No. 5) and right-hander Michael Wacha (No. 6) are also on the squad, and they, too, could push their way into the Majors before season's end. Wacha was a standout during his first Spring Training and earned a spot in the Triple-A rotation after throwing only 21 professional innings.

Other players on MLB.com's top prospect list playing for Memphis include: John Gast (No. 10), Maikel Cleto (No. 12), Eric Fornataro (No. 14) and Seth Maness (No. 20). Maness was the organization's pitcher of the year in 2012.

The Cardinals also have some intriguing arms to keep an eye on a level lower in Springfield. Right-hander Carlos Martinez (No. 3) is expected to soon anchor that Double-A rotation. He'd be there already had visa problems not delayed his arrival to Spring Training. As it is, Martinez will remain in extended spring camp a while longer before leaving for Springfield.

Also on that Double-A roster are pitching prospects Michael Blazek (No. 11), Seth Blair (No. 13) and Jordan Swagerty (No. 15).

Debuts and Draftees
Because of the earlier Draft signing deadline last summer, the Cards were able to send their signed players out to various affiliates for their first taste of professional competition. This 2013 season, though, will be the first opportunity those players have to participate in a full Minor League season.

Wacha, the No. 19 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, is the only one of the 36 players drafted and signed last season to be assigned to an affiliate above Class A level. James Ramsey (No. 23 overall pick) and Stephen Piscotty (No. 36 overall) both highlight the high Class A Palm Beach roster.

Ramsey, who played 56 games with Palm Beach last summer, opened this season with six hits in his first 17 at-bats. Piscotty, who was drafted as a third baseman, was converted to a right fielder during spring. Also on that high Class A squad is Tim Cooney, a left-handed pitcher the Cardinals took in the third round.

Patrick Wisdom (supplemental first round) and Alex Mejia (fourth round) dot the roster in Peoria, the organization's new low Class A affiliate. Carson Kelly, ranked by MLB.com as the organization's ninth-best prospect, remains in extended spring camp. Kelly was a highly regarded high school player who the Cards lured away from a college commitment with an above-slot bonus last summer.

Teams on TV 
The Memphis Redbirds and Springfield Cardinals are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }