Keith Law: St. Louis Cardinals

Trade: Cards go all-in, Braves get younger 

November, 17, 2014
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Jason Heyward Jason Getz/USA TODAY SportsSt. Louis-bound right fielder Jason Heyward quietly posted a career-high 6.4 WAR in 2014.
Monday's trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves indicates the Cardinals are going all-in for 2015.

Jason Heyward is just a year from free agency, but that one year will be a very valuable one, even if he just maintains the status quo. Getting away from the parade of dubious hitting coaches he worked with in Atlanta may help him unlock the still-untapped reserve of superstar potential in his bat.

Heyward consistently rates among the majors' best defensive outfielders in terms of both advanced defensive metrics and traditional evaluations. A decent center fielder in high school, he outgrew the position but maintains the athleticism and strong reads that allowed him to play there as an amateur. He's a smart, disciplined hitter who gets on base at a good clip and doesn't strike out excessively. He did have some trouble maintaining a consistent swing around some shoulder issues; he often cuts off his load, producing too many ground balls with a shorter swing path.

Oscar Taveras' death last month left the Cardinals without a clear right fielder for 2015, and this move locks down the position for just $7.8 million, making the team four or five wins better right away.

My predictions for the NLDS matchups 

October, 3, 2014
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Jake Peavy and Stephen StrasburgUSA TODAY SportsJake Peavy and Stephen Strasburg square off in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday afternoon.
I posted my thoughts on both American League Division Series yesterday, so here is the companion piece, predictions for both National League Division Series and with my rationales. My early guess at the World Series matchup and winner is below.

San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals

 
 

I think the Nationals are the best team in the postseason, and also the team best built for the postseason, which is not necessarily the same thing, but both are applicable in this case.

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Boston's return for Lackey merely OK 

July, 31, 2014
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John LackeyJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBoston traded John Lackey on Thursday to the Cardinals in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

With Michael Wacha potentially out for the season, the Cardinals needed a better starter than Justin Masterson to shore up their rotation. John Lackey fits the bill, especially because they didn't have to dip into their farm system to acquire him. To get Lackey, the Cardinals only had to trade

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The Cardinals needed another starter with Michael Wacha on the shelf for at least a few more weeks and possibly limited the rest of the way, but in adding Justin Masterson in a trade with the Cleveland Indians today, what they get is a low-end solution that doesn't figure to replace what they've lost. Cleveland probably lost a lot of value by choosing not to deal Masterson over the winter, but the return here is solid considering his current asset value.

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Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014
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With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.


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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Mookie BettsMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRed Sox second-base prospect Mookie Betts is currently blocked by All-Star Dustin Pedroia.
My annual ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball and the top 10 (or more) prospects in each organization is completely organization-neutral: I don't consider the makeup of the club each prospect plays for when evaluating his potential as a major leaguer.

Many prospects on the list each year will face some obstacles in reaching the majors with their current employers because they're blocked by more established players, or even other prospects higher up in the system, and I've outlined the six prospects most affected by this phenomenon below.

I didn't include pitchers here because the injury rate for starters is high enough that no starting pitching prospect is every truly blocked; Noah Syndergaard and Archie Bradley are one sore elbow away from reaching the majors, and you can bet that the Mets and Diamondbacks, respectively, will have such openings before the 2014 season is out.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox

Betts is the most-blocked prospect in baseball at this point. He's one of the top pure second-base prospects in the game, but he's blocked by Dustin Pedroia, who is among the majors' best second basemen and is under contract through 2021.

Betts is a great athlete and could probably play shortstop … at which he's currently blocked by uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts, and he could probably play center field, at which he's blocked by elite defender Jackie Bradley Jr.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Peralta helps Cardinals in short term 

November, 24, 2013
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Shortstop was a necrotic wound for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013; for all the success they had this year, they never upgraded on Pete Kozma, a fringy defender whose .217/.275/.273 line was the worst of any regular position player in the majors last season.

Now they've committed to Jhonny Peralta, who isn't any worse defensively at short than Kozma but offers far more upside with the bat, a great move in the short run, although he's not the kind of player I'd want to commit to for four years.

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Cards do better in Freese-Bourjos deal 

November, 22, 2013
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Two players who had been squeezed off their current rosters by better players find themselves in new homes with the promise of more playing time, as the St. Louis Cardinals dealt third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels Friday for outfielder Peter Bourjos and minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk.

The arrival of second-base prospect Kolten Wong in St. Louis meant that Freese was expendable as he headed into his second time through the arbitration process, with Matt Carpenter able to return to third base.

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Royals punished by CBA; LDS picks 

October, 3, 2013
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RoyalsOtto Geule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Royals get punished by the new CBA for being good but not making the playoffs.

By the standards of their own recent history, the Royals had a very successful season. The team won 86 games, their best record since 1989, and they outscored their opponents on a season for the first time since 1991. Their two biggest offseason acquisitions, Ervin Santana (in a dump trade with the Angels) and James Shields (in the Wil Myers trade with Tampa Bay), both pitched very well for the big club, helping the Royals allow the fewest runs of any team in the American League, 23 fewer than the division-winning Tigers. Some young players took strides: Eric Hosmer hit .317/.365/.492 after the team fired hitting coach Jack Maloof; catcher Salvador Perez had his first full, healthy season in the majors and performed well.

There were plenty of positives for the Royals, but because the season went well, some of the structural reasons that helped the team get to this point will now work against the team.

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Players who've exceeded my expectations 

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
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Paul GoldschmidtStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesPaul Goldschmidt has proven to be a much better player than Keith expected him to be.
I wrote last year about five players on whom I'd been wrong at some point, whether in an initial evaluation or even a second look in pro ball. In that spirit, here's the 2013 edition, looking at six more players who beat my expectations and who I now think will continue to do so.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B | Arizona Diamondbacks


I saw Goldschmidt only once as a prospect, at the Futures Game in Phoenix in 2011, and saw a strong guy who wasn't a great athlete and showed raw power in BP but didn't have more than average bat speed. I talked to a number of pro scouts and front-office guys after that and heard similar opinions, calling him a fringy regular or a platoon first baseman.

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