How do Cards' top prospects fit St. Louis' needs?
This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the St. Louis Cardinals:
As I look over the Major League landscape, the Cardinals may have the best balance and overall organizational depth among all clubs. Astute offseason trades for Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos responded to perceived needs at shortstop and in the outfield.
That means only two prospects will likely figure prominently in the Cards' defense of their National League championship.
PROJECTED 2016 CARDS LINEUP
Kolten Wong will likely have the opportunity to assume the role as the club's second baseman. A first-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Wong, at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, is a solidly built, scrappy player with a line-drive bat. He has the ability to dump the ball short of the outfielders as well as hit the gaps for extra-base hits.
Wong, a left-handed hitter, seems to favor his pull side, but he is capable of taking an outside pitch to the opposite field. He has a compact swing and a good feel for the game in general, and hitting in particular.
In a brief 32-game stint for the parent Cardinals last season, Wong hit .153 in 62 plate appearances. But a batting average of .301 over his three Minor League seasons has shown his ability to spray the ball and get on base.
Not known for his power, Wong can flash some pop on occasion. This past season, he hit 10 home runs at Triple-A Memphis in 463 trips to the plate.
Right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez is another among a lengthy list of Cards pitching prospects with sound mechanics, good arm action and the potential to become successful at the Major League level. He has the ability to pitch out of the rotation or the bullpen.
Given St. Louis' dominant rotation -- with the presence of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn -- there may be no room for Martinez. Injury issues may crop up, especially with Garcia, who has been battling shoulder issues, so Martinez may ultimately find his way to the rotation.
At 6-foot and 185 pounds, the 22-year-old Martinez has an electric arm. He can throw his sinker in the mid 90s and has a four-seam rising fastball that also hits 95 mph with ease. Martinez's curveball and changeup are good enough to change the batter's eye level and keep him off balance. When he uses his entire arsenal and doesn't favor one pitch over another, Martinez can be very tough to hit.
If anything happens to a Cardinals outfielder or if the team wants to make a change at first base, Oscar Taveras will be waiting in the wings. With Taveras coming off an ankle injury, it is likely the Cards will give him time to regain his footing and renew his stroke at the plate.
Due to his five-tool ability, I have personally ranked Taveras my No. 1 Major League prospect for the past two seasons. That's how powerful and successful I think he will be.
Taveras can hit majestic home runs with little to no effort. At 6-foot-2 and 200 solid pounds, Taveras packs a punch, and he can punish pitchers. The left-handed-hitting and throwing Taveras has speed to complement his power, and he's a good enough defender to play anywhere in the outfield.
And Taveras isn't the only outfielder who can help if needed.
Right-handed-hitting Stephen Piscotty has enough raw tools to develop into a fine hitting right fielder. He is a career .295 hitter after two Minor League seasons. Piscotty was a standout player in this year's Arizona Fall League, hitting a whopping .371 that included three triples, three doubles and a homer. He really raised some eyebrows, including mine.
Left-handed-hitting James Ramsey doesn't have the same hitting tools or as great an upside as Piscotty, but he could be a future factor. He hit .246 in the Arizona Fall League and has a career .253 Minor League average over two seasons.
Left-handed pitchers Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Rob Kaminsky could also figure prominently in the future of the Cardinals' starting pitching staff. Right-hander Alexander Reyes has the potential to be heard from as well.
The Cards are so strong and so deep, it is difficult for prospects to crack the code and make the club. But some will. Time will tell.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.