Cards #1 farm system continues to be tested

The Cards made an interesting roster move this morning, calling up Victor Marte and sending down Carlos Martinez.  Marte is probably only up until Thursday, and then the Cards have to move someone into the rotation to start for John Gast.  We all know that Marte is the true definition of a 4A player, but it’s only for a few days, at least I think.  Martinez going down makes sense.  With the loss of Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Gast and the recent setback once again of Chris Carpenter, the Cards need to stretch Martinez out and bring him back as a starter.  It looks like Westbrook’s injury may be more serious than originally thought, so the Cards need to prepare for the worst.

Michael Blazek got the call up from AA after the Gast injury.  I’m curious to see what he can do from the BP.  Blazek is another one of those diamonds in the rough, a 35th round pick from the 2007 draft.  The Cards tried him as a starter for his first 6 years in the minors, but recently moved him into the BP this year.  The results are hard to ignore.  As the closer in Memphis, Blazek has a 0.92 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.  He has 25 K’s in 19.2 IP and 7 saves.  I think we’ll see Blazek in close games right away, mixing him in with Seth Maness in close situations in the middle innings.

Tyler Lyons was impressive in his first start with the big club.  Completely off the radar, Lyons came up currently ranked somewhere between the 30th-36th best prospect in the Cards farm system at the time, depending on which prospect list you pick from.  Lyons was a 9th round pick in 2010.  At the time, it appeared he would make a spot start or two, but as the Westbrook injury appears to worsen, Lyons might be here for a while.  Another SP that lives on location, I actually like what I’ve seen from Lyons more than I have from Gast.  Lyons provides a bit more deception and uses his 6’4” frame to get maximum effort without appearing to do so.  He sets up his pitches well with his 4-seam fastball, even though he maxes out at 91 MPH.

The Cards have a decision to make on Thursday as to who will start for Gast.  I think it will be Joe Kelly as the team doesn’t want to start the clock on Michael Wacha yet.  What should be noted though is that Wacha was scratched from his start in Memphis yesterday, so the possibility is there.  If the Cards can tread water without rushing Wacha for the injured Gast, I would be on board.  Rushing someone as talented as Wacha when he’s still learning to pitch in a 5 man rotation could be a costly mistake, but sending Martinez back to the minors might mean he is on the way, with Martinez being down as the extra insurance for a future injury. 

The Cards clearly won’t have the #1 farm system in 2014.  They’ll fall out of the top 10 with all of the promotions and we’re not even out of the month of May yet.  This is what the minors are for though.  Gone are the days when Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty saw these kids as nothing more than trade chips.  This system is deeper than any that Tony and Walt ever had, but I still don’t think we would see these kinds of promotions from within under the old regime.  John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny are on the same page, which is to exhaust all internal options before looking to make a trade using these youngsters.  This is how the Cards will contend for years to come going forward, and it’s why they made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the best organization in baseball now and for the future.

The Cardinals are a MLB best 32-17 and have lost 2 series this year.  Without the stockpiling of young talent in recent years, this season would be over.  I hate to say something as cliché as it’s as simple as that, but it is.  The Cards will be tested, and are sure to go through some rough stretches as the season wears on, but I’m looking forward to the young kids getting a chance to take their lumps and learn from it rather than dumpster diving for has been or never had been veterans.  The Cards are doing things the right way and are now the model organization for every team in MLB when it comes to planning ahead.  With the right key veterans surrounding the kids, the transition is all that much easier for them.  I’m not saying the Cards should never trade for a Matt Holliday type player ever again, I’m not saying that at all.  What I am saying and have been saying for years now is that you make sure you trade the kids for the right players like Holliday, sign a few key veterans here and there, and keep a good balance.

No team in MLB is going to win without a good mix of talent, grinders, veterans, rookies and everything in between.  The Cards have a great mix of that.  What the Cards do have that no other team does is a player like Yadier Molina, who makes these young pitchers feel at ease by calling a good game every night and getting the most out of guys who have a limited arsenal of weapons.  I’m not sure there’s another team in baseball that has a player they absolutely can’t lose as the Cards do with Molina.  He’s the foundation for this team, and he alone allows the Cards to make some of the decisions they’re making with the farm system.  Mozeliak and Matheny know this, and they won’t be hesitant to try anybody at any time on the mound from the minors.

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