One would assume the Cardinals would get the first choice as in 2008 when then-Double-A reliever Fernando Salas replaced left-hander Jaime Garcia on the World squad when the latter was called up to St. Louis.
While the Cardinals drafting and player development have received heaping amounts of praise from outsiders, could the current prominence of Taveras and Carlos Martinez be masking an area of weakness?
Who is the next-best international player in the system behind those two?
A number of such once-highly-touted players have either fizzled out or have been given up on in recent years. In fact, relievers Francisco Samuel (2009 Futures Game) and Eduardo Sanchez (2010 Futures Game) immediately come to mind. The former was released during spring training 2012 and the latter was recently claimed off outright waivers by the Chicago Cubs.
Though he never appeared in the Futures Game, second baseman Donovan Solano was once one of the most prominent middle infield prospects in the Cardinals system. However, when it came time to place Solano on the 40-man roster, the Cards let him walk away as a free agent instead. Solano had been the starting second baseman for the Miami Marlins for much of 2012 and is currently in Triple-A.
So, who remains?
Putting aside Salas, who was on the upswing when he played in the Futures Game five years ago, and 32-year-old Victor Marte, the Memphis Redbirds have just one other candidate. 40-man roster pitcher Jorge Rondon seems on the Samuel/Sanchez career path – a hard-thrower unable to consistently throw strikes. (30 walks in 35 2/3 innings this season)
The Springfield roster features two pitching candidates – Haitian reliever Jose Almarante and Venezuelan pitcher Richard Castillo. With a 5.25 ERA this season, Almarante lacks the success of Castillo, who has participated in international competitions for Spain.
Yet short of a brief trial at Memphis earlier this season, Castillo has been stalled at Springfield for almost four seasons. Further, in his most recent start on Wednesday night, Castillo was pounded for 10 runs in just 2 2/3 innings, inflating his Springfield ERA from 2.93 to 4.28.
At Palm Beach, second baseman Starlin Rodriguez would have been a good candidate had he not just been demoted from Springfield. Catcher Juan Castillo and shortstop Ronny Gil are other World potentials, but not 2013 standouts.
Perhaps the two best A-Advanced candidates would be outfielder Anthony Garcia and first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez. The latter is a 2013 Florida State League All-Star while the former has been ranked among the better hitting prospects in the system before hitting a bump in performance in the first half. Garcia has been coming on lately, however, with a 1.392 OPS in June.
Faced with making the decision, my top candidates in priority order to replace Taveras (after Martinez) would be Richard Castillo, Garcia than Rodriguez.
What do you think?