A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers

Welcome to the annual series: ‘A Minor (League) Review of 20__.” This series is a great way to receive a quick recap of the 2014 minor league season for your favorite club(s), while also receiving a brief look toward the 2015 season and beyond. It can also be a handy feature for fantasy baseball players in keeper and Dynasty leagues.

Previous Pieces:
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Yankees and Orioles
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Indians and Tigers
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: White Sox, Royals, Twins
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Angels and A’s
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Astros, Angels, Mariners

A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Braves and Phillies
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Marlins, Mets, Nationals
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Reds and Cubs

A Minor Review of 2014: Cardinals

The Graduate: Oscar Taveras, OF: Taveras appeared in 80 big league games in 2014 but he never truly earned the trust of his manager. As a result, he didn’t receive the most ideal usage — but he also didn’t perform when given the opportunity. The best thing for both the Cardinals and Taveras would be for the club to give him a guaranteed everyday job in 2015 to let his natural talent shine.

The Riser: Alexander Reyes, RHP: I was fairly aggressive with my ranking of Reyes in the Cardinals system prior to the 2014 season (4th overall). He more than justified that faith, though, by holding his own in Low-A ball as a teenager. He struck out 137 batters with just 82 hits allowed in 109.1 innings. This hard-thrower has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation contributor.

The Tumbler: Patrick Wisdom, 3B: Wisdom has a chance to be a very good defensive third baseman with raw pop at the plate but he’s proven time and again that he can’t hit. His approach lends itself to lots of swings and misses, as witnessed by his 149 strikeouts in 128 games. He’ll need to repeat Double-A in 2015 and some major adjustments need to be made.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Jack Flaherty, RHP: I wasn’t a huge fan of the Cardinals’ first pick (Luke Weaver, a fringe first rounder) but they more than made up for it with the selection of Flaherty with the 34th overall selection. The young right-hander has solid stuff and an advanced feel for pitching that should allow him to hold his own in Low-A ball as a teenager in 2015.

The Lottery Ticket: Rowan Wick, OF: A former prep catcher, Wick was a ninth round pick out of high school in 2012. He looked about ready to wash out prior to the ’14 season when a move to the outfield helped resuscitate his career. Splitting the year between short-season ball and Low-A, Wick his 20 home runs in just 74 games. If he can learn to make more contact, he could see his value continue to rise.

A Minor Review of 2014: Brewers

The Graduate: Jimmy Nelson, RHP: Nelson would likely have been in the Majors much sooner in 2014 if he had been in numerous other organizations. He didn’t get a full shot in Milwaukee until the second half of the year due to their rotation’s depth. He had an uneven rookie season that saw him allow 82 hits in 69.1 innings. He issued just 19 walks. It was a solid start to his big league career.

The Riser: Orlando Arcia, SS: A defensive whiz, Arcia is a potentially plus MLB defender and diminished offensive expectations around the league mean his average-at-best hit tool won’t be so out of place. With that said, he made some improvements in 2014 and seems to understand his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter. Just 20, he’s ready for the challenge of Double-A.

The Tumbler: Victor Roache, OF: A potential high first round draft pick in 2012 based on his power potential, Roache slipped to the back end of the round after a serious wrist injury. He was healthy in 2014 but showed disturbing swing-and-miss tendencies. He racked up 138 strikeouts with just 37 walks. He hit just .226 and went deep 18 times in 122 games.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Monte Harrison, OF: With picks 12, 41 and 50 at the top of the draft, the Brewers were destined to get some intriguing talents. The final pick of that trio had an intriguing debut. Harrison hit just .261 but he posted a .402 on-base percentage thanks to 31 walks in 50 games. Those free passes allowed him to steal 32 bases.

The Lottery Ticket: Nicolas Pierre, OF: How’s this for deep sleeper. Pierre spent the 2014 season in the Dominican Summer League and flashed some excellent power with six home runs in a league where two or three is good. He’ll need to tighten his approach at the plate but he’s just 17 and was the club’s top international signee back in 2013. Also keep an eye on catcher Johel Atencio, who shows solid offensive potential but needs a lot of polish on defense.

A Minor Review of 2014: Pirates

The Graduate: Gregory Polanco, OF: Polanco, 23, appeared in 89 games with the Pirates. He showed flashes of his immense talent but struggled with consistency at the big league level. With more polish, the outfielder has a chance to provide both power and speed while playing above-average outfield defense.

The Riser: Josh Bell, OF: Bell hit just nine home runs in 108 games in 2014 but he showed significant advancements as a hitter. He hit .325 on the season and struck out less than 12% of the time. The power will come as he continues to make adjustments and taps into his raw pop. With the Pirates’ outfield set with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Polanco, Bell may see time at first base but he could be a solid right-fielder. He might be ready for the Majors in the second half of 2015.

The Tumbler: Luis Heredia, RHP: Just 20, Heredia was a big-dollar international signee but his development has been slowed by injuries and poor conditioning. As a result, his stuff and results have been inconsistent. If he can rediscover his above-average heater, Heredia has a chance to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Cole Tucker, SS: Tucker was selected by the Pirates with the 24th selection in the first round and they may have gotten a steal. This teen-aged shortstop plays solid defense, shows an aptitude for hitting, has some speed and showed surprising patience in his debut (26 walks in 48 games). A switch-hitter, Tucker needs to trim his strikeouts (38) but that should come with experience.

The Lottery Ticket: Connor Joe, C: It might see strange to see a 22-year-old college product listed as a “lottery ticket” — especially one that was selected 39th overall but defensive questions cloud Joe’s ultimate potential. He has experience at catcher, first base and in the outfield but his ability to stick behind the plate could significantly increase his value. The bad news is that it would slow his ascent through the minors. The good news is that there would be less pressure for him to provide above-average offense.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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