The first base position is in great hands at the major league level. There are two major leaguers who could handle the position at a very high level. With Allen Craig and Matt Adams on the major league roster, there isn’t much need to rush any prospects or to have the next superstar ready. With that said, you will see that my top 5 is probably backwards of what it should be. It would make sense to have younger, more raw prospects in the system. In the Cardinals case, the strength of first base is in the upper minors.
Lets take a look at the top 5 first basemen in the Cardinals system
#5 – Xavier Scruggs
Scruggs is a very interesting prospect who has a couple of great tools, but can’t seem to put it all together. Scruggs will be 26 for the 2014 season, which is extremely old for a prospect to have never played above the Double-A level. Scruggs greatest tool is his power. Baseball America recently named Scruggs as the best power prospect in the Cardinals organization. In the last three years, Scruggs has home run totals of 29, 22, and 21. Another solid tool for Scruggs is the ability to get on base. He has a career 10.9% BB rate which is above average and an above average OBP of .346.
Scruggs negatives outweigh his positives so much, that I believe 2014 may be his last season in the Cardinals organization. The Cards’ 19th round pick in the 2008 draft has struggled with plate discipline. In his career, Scruggs has a career 29.18% K rate, which is well below average. The other two things working against him are his age and his lack of position flexibility. In his minor league career, Scruggs has played only one game at a position other than first base. 604 career starts in the field, and only one at a position other than first.
So what does the future hold for Scruggs? If the Cardinals don’t sign a free agent for first base at the Triple-A level, Scruggs should be the guy. Then again, I said the same thing last year. One thing is pretty close to certain, he will not be returning for a third full season at Double-A Springfield. If the Cards do sign a first baseman, Scruggs could be released. 2014 could be his last year in the Cardinals organization if he is not added to the 40-man roster, which is highly unlikely.
#4 – Jordan Walton
Walton was an undrafted free agent in 2012 out of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. For all of the power that Scruggs has, Walton doesn’t have it. In 153 career games, Walton has three home runs, but that is not the strength of his game. While the power may not be there, he did produce 24 doubles in over 100 games for the Low-A Peoria Chiefs to go along with 3 triples. Walton is a solid defender who can play both corner outfield positions along with first base. His position flexibility is probably the main reason he is ahead of Scruggs on this list.
What does the future hold for Walton? It will be tough to project an opening placement for him in 2014. I don’t see why a repeat of the Midwest League would be necessary, so we will probably project him to begin at High-A Palm Beach. Walton will probably not appear on our top 50 prospect list, and is an extremely long shot to make the major leagues, but is a solid organizational player.
#3 – David Washington
Washington, 23, may be the left-handed version of Xavier Scruggs in the Cardinals’ system. Granted he has had around 1,500 less at-bats, his strikeout rate is very similar to Scruggs. Washington’s K rate is at 28.60% which is extremely high. What concerns me is that I believe Washington was playing above his level in 2013 and still had issues with the strikeout. Also like Scruggs, the power numbers are there. In 72 games at the Short-Season level in 2013, Washington had 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in. Those numbers were good for 4th in the league in home runs and first in the league in runs batted in.
What does the future hold for Washington? A return to the Peoria Chiefs should be expected in 2014, if he is still with the Cardinals system. Washington was suspended for some time in 2013 for reasons found HERE. We never heard more of this and he went on to have a very solid season at State College. Hopefully this is resolved and he can continue his Cardinal career.
#2 – Jeremy Schaffer
This may be somewhat of a reach as Schaffer only has 137 minor league games under his belt and he will be 24 for the 2014 season, but he has put up some solid numbers in the short time he has been in the Cards’ system. In his rookie year of 2012, Schaffer started at rookie level Johnson City, a spot where he was supposed to excel due to his advanced playing age and ability. In that season, Schaffer hit 10 home runs in just 62 games and had a solid .842 OPS. For 2013, he was supposed to begin the season with Low-A Peoria, a spot probably more suitable, but a wrist injury late in spring training caused him to land on the disabled list to start the season. After missing two months, Schaffer made his season debut on June 3rd and would go on to play in 75 games for Peoria. While his average took a dip, .214 in 2013 down from .272 in 2012, his power numbers continued.
What does the future hold for Schaffer? The obvious next step is High-A Palm Beach for Schaffer with a chance to advance to Double-A Springfield late in the season. A lot of what happens to him depends on what happens to the first baseman at the top of our list.
#1 – Jonathan Rodriguez
This was an easy call for me, to put Rodriguez at the top of this list. After a very impressive 2011 with the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits, where Rodriguez hit 20 home runs and had an OPS of .861 which included an on base percentage of nearly .400, he was limited to just 64 games with the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals in 2012 and was shut down June 23rd for the season. Rodriguez had a great bounce-back season in 2013 where he hit 18 home runs and drove in 72 runs while swiping 21 bases. Rodriguez received several votes in our 2013 Player of the Year voting after a very impressive season.
What does the future hold for Rodriguez? I would expect him to bump up to Double-A Springfield with a possibility of seeing Memphis late in the season. Don’t be surprised if Rodriguez shows up on top 20 prospect lists late in the season if he continues on his 2013 tear.
- Ranking the top 5 catchers in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (cardinalsfarm.com)
- Ranking the top 5 shortstops in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (cardinalsfarm.com)
- Ranking the top 10 outfielders in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (cardinalsfarm.com)