The St. Louis Cardinals came into the 2013 campaign with one of the best minor league systems in baseball. The pitching, in particular, was viewed as a huge strength, with Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha and Tyrell Jenkins leading the pack. However, the best pitcher in the minors in 2013 has been 24-year-old lefty John Gast. Despite being viewed by most scouts as a future reliever, Gast has allowed just one earned run in his first 34.2 innings at Triple-A Memphis. For those non-Mathematicians, that's an ERA of 0.26. Gast has also posted a 34:11 K:BB ratio while inducing a bevy of groundballs (2.05 GO:AO ratio). Gast doesn't have the pedigree of some of the other St. Louis prospects, but it's time to take notice of his accomplishments thus far in 2013.
Up next? More prospect talk in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE - The 19-year-old Lindor has been on fire at High-A over his last 10 contests, slashing .450/.500/.650 with one home run and seven RBI. Overall, Lindor is having a sensational start to the 2013 campaign after holding his own as an 18-year-old at Low-A last season. Overall, Lindor is batting .366/.427/.527 with one home run, 12 RBI and seven steals through 29 games. He continues to show plate discipline well beyond his years, drawing 11 walks while fanning just 13 times. Although he may not hit for much power, Lindor has the other tools to succeed at the higher levels.
Yordano Ventura, P, KC - Remember when the Royals farm system was stocked with top pitching prospects like Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery? Those days are long gone, but Ventura could fill the void for Kansas City. The 22-year-old righty has compiled a 2.31 ERA and 33:9 K:BB ratio through 23.1 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. His last start on April 30 was a gem, as he allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings. Ventura fanned 10 batters in that contest. The hard-throwing righty should see Triple-A before 2013 is through, with an eye toward the big-league rotation in 2014.
Kevin Gausman, P, BAL - The peripheral numbers for Gausman have been outstanding in his first full season in the minors. Through 35.2 innings at Double-A Bowie, the 22-year-old righty has a staggering 32:1 K:BB ratio. Yes, you read that correctly. He has also posted a stellar 1.74 GO:AO ratio, keeping the ball down for the most part. Gausman also has a 3.53 ERA, including three-straight starts having allowed two earned runs or less. In sum, Gausman has shown all the signs of becoming a frontline starts for the O's, possibly as early as this season.
Danny Salazar, P, CLE - Salazar missed parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Despite not being talked about much since his return, Salazar had a respectable 2012 campaign and has taken his game to another level this season. Over his last three starts, Salazar has not allowed a run for Double-A Akron. His last start Thursday was absolutely dominant, as the 23-year-old righty fanned 12 batters in six innings. Salazar allowed just one hit in that contest. Overall, Salazar has a 2.83 ERA and 43:9 K;BB ratio through 28.2 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .212 against him. With a few more superb starts, Salazar may be worth a look.
Zack Wheeler, P, NYM - Wheeler has been a tad inconsistent at Triple-A this season, allowing at least four runs in three of his seven starts to begin 2013. He has a 4.00 ERA and has waked 17 batters in 36 innings. However, Wheeler appears to have turned the corner recently. Over his last two starts, the 23-year-old righty has allowed just one run while posting a 12:2 K:BB ratio. Wheeler's MLB debut will come shortly, and he should slot nicely behind Matt Harvey in the future Mets rotation. The wait may be a little longer than expected due to the slow start, though. Also bear in mind that Wheeler will likely be on an innings limit this season.
Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA - Plate discipline remains Liddi's biggest obstacle to staying in the majors. The 24-year-old has had brief stints in the bigs since 2011 but has had difficulty putting the ball in play. Liddi fanned 49 times in 38 games with Seattle in 2012. To begin the 2013 season, Liddi has fanned 47 times in 31 games at Triple-A. He still has an above-average power stroke, though, as he has hit seven home runs and knocked in 28 runs in 2013. He hit 30 home runs in 2011. The power is there, but it remains to be seen if Liddi can hit for enough of an average to make a place for himself with the big club.
Sean Coyle, 2B, BOS - A third-round selection in 2010, Coyle has already slugged nine home runs in 18 games at High-A Salem. By contrast, the diminutive second-baseman hit nine dingers in all 2012, a span of 116 games at High-A. Coyle has shown more than just power, though, slashing .303/.349/.737 with six stolen bases in 2012. Nevertheless, he has fanned 20 times in those 18 games, and fanned 116 times in 2012 while drawing just 29 walks. These are signs that the hot start likely will not last. Add in that he is unlikely to suddenly develop into a 30-home run player with his size and contact rate. Be wary of buying into Coyle's scorching start.
Nolan Fontana, SS, HOU - Fontana's sizzling beginning, on the other hand, is worth taking into consideration. The 21-year-old shortstop is slashing .374/.504/.579 with three home runs, 22 RBI and five steals. Fontana's plate discipline has been particularly impressive; the former Florida Gator has more walks (28) than strikeouts (21). The reason why he's listed in this section? It is unclear how much power or speed he'll have at the higher levels, which could limit his fantasy value. Then again, at such a thin position, it looks like he'll have enough pop and quicks to make an impact. Fontana looks the part, but wait until he's out of the hitter-friendly California League and into the higher levels before becoming a firm believer.
Brian Goodwin, OF, WAS - Goodwin's peripheral stats do not bode well for his future success. In 71 games between 2012 and 2013 at Double-A, Goodwin has struck out 89 times. He has just seven home runs, 17 RBI and five steals over that span. Goodwin has decent speed and power, but hasn't shown the same approach at the dish since leaving Low-A. Perhaps having the 22-year-old skip Low-A altogether was a bit of a rash decision by the Nats? A first-round pick in 2011, Goodwin is still raw and appears to need some seasoning before attempting to make his mark for Washington.
Adam Conley, P, MIA - Conley lost his mojo over his last two starts. A second-round selection in 2011, Conley has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in his last eight innings at Double-A Jacksonville. The 23-year-old lefty has walked five batters while striking out five over that span. By contrast, Conley had allowed nine runs in his four previous starts. Likewise, he had walked three batters in 18 innings before his recent struggles. Conley's ERA has ballooned to 5.88. With Jose Fernandez in the big-leagues, Conley looked like the next top pitching prospect for the Fish until his recent hiccup. That designation may have to wait until he rights the ship.
Anthony Meo, P, ARI - Control continues to bedevil Meo, who has walked 16 batters in 26.2 innings at Double-A in 2013. He issued 71 free passes in 140 innings at High-A in 2012. It appears that Meo has little idea where the ball is headed. Meo has also been fairly hittable this season en route to a bloated 5.74 ERA. A second-round pick in 2011, Meo's K/9 ratio has also dipped significantly from a season ago. It's been a forgettable start for the 23-year-old righty, who also has to contend with several elite pitching prospects (including Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs) for future rotation slots.
Enny Romero, P, TB - Romero is another pitcher who has the physical tools but simply lacks control. He walked 76 batters in 126 innings at High-A in 2012, despite opposing batters hitting a putrid .201 against him. This season has been a similar story at Double-A; Romero has punched out 26 hitters in 26.2 innings, but issued 17 free passes. His wildness has led to a 5.06 ERA. Likewise, Romero has been snake-bitten by the long ball; normally a groundball pitcher, the 22-year-old lefty has surrendered six dingers in six starts. Romero needs to get his act together, and soon, before his prospect star fades for good.