Will Lingo took your Cardinals questoins
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections
of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development
personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards
of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time)
are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Though the team fell short of its goal of a World Series title again
in 2005, the Cardinals also reached 100 wins and posted the best record
in the major leagues for the second year in a row. St. Louis led the
National League in ERA and finished third in scoring, showing once again
that the front office knows how to build a major league roster.
The Cardinals are built largely around players who came up through
other organizations, with such notable exceptions as Albert Pujols and
Matt Morris. Homegrown catcher Yadier Molina did seize the big league
job, and righthander Brad Thompson established himself as a reliable
set-up man in his rookie season. Otherwise, the big league team was
assembled through astute free-agent signings and savvy trades.
To bolster their minor league system, which Baseball America rated
the game’s worst entering 2005, the Cardinals have taken a hard
look at their scouting operation over the last two years. They have
made significant changes, both in the structure and responsibilities
of the scouting staff and in the use of sophisticated performance analysis
The new philosophy resulted in a heavy college approach in the 2004
draft, as St. Louis drafted just four high school players and signed
none. Club officials said they wanted players who could make quick contributions
at the higher levels of the system.
The team was also in the early stages of developing its system of statistical
analysis, which has become much more sophisticated and is now done almost
exclusively in-house, rather than by outside suppliers. St. Louis got
a golden opportunity to test its new approach with a draft windfall
in 2005, getting four extra picks for the loss of free agents Edgar
Renteria and Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals’ 2005 draft showed their willingness to look at
all types of players. There were sleepers who were picked based on their
college performance, such as outfielder Nick Stavinoha (seventh round).
But there were also college players whose performance has never seemed
to quite measure up to their tools, such as righthander Mark McCormick
There were toolsy high school players whose projection is based on
the judgments of scouts much more than their statistics, such as outfielder
Daryl Jones (third). St. Louis even spent a couple of early picks on
Tyler Herron (supplemental first) and Josh Wilson (second), a pair of
prep righthanders—considered the riskiest demographic in the draft.
The Cardinals have shown a willingness to blend all these approaches,
which could pay quick dividends for the farm system. The players mentioned
above and first-rounders Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene immediately stand
out in an organization lacking headline talent beyond top prospect Anthony
Fortunately for St. Louis, the major league team has few immediate
holes that need to be plugged by minor leaguers. But as the Cardinals
move into a new Busch Stadium, they have the hope of introducing new
homegrown talent in the coming years as well.
Southern California, 2003 (15th round) Signed by:
Background: Reyes is looking more and more like
the steal of the 2003 draft. Persistent injuries plagued him throughout
his career at Southern California, but the Cardinals bet he could return
to the dominant form he showed as a sophomore if he could get healthy.
They took him in the 15th round, and by and large they’ve been right.
Reyes has been bothered by occasional shoulder inflammation as a pro,
but he has suffered no major injuries and has moved quickly through the
system in just two seasons. In an organization that didn’t have
such a well-stocked major league pitching staff, Reyes could have been
pressed into service in 2005. But the Cardinals had five reliable starters
and were happy to keep him at Triple-A Memphis for more seasoning. He
did get a spot start in August and allowed just two hits in 61/3 shutout
innings against the Brewers, then returned to Memphis and struck out 15
in his next start. He was often dominant in the Pacific Coast League,
ranking first in baserunners per nine innings (10.0), second in strikeouts
per nine (9.5) and third in opponent average.
Strengths: While he’s probably not a No. 1 starter, Reyes
has the frame, stuff and command to pitch toward the front of a major
league rotation. He makes hitters put the ball in play, trusts his defense
and doesn’t beat himself. He pitches consistently at 92-93 mph
and occasionally reaches into the mid-90s, and his slider and changeup
are effective complements to his fastball. His changeup has late sink
and improved significantly as the season went on. He also worked on
getting more movement on his fastball and began using a two-seamer effectively
to get more sink. His command, which managers rated the best in the
PCL, makes all of his pitches more effective. He not only stays ahead
and avoids walks but also spots his pitches to both sides of the plate
and keeps hitters off balance.
Weaknesses: Reyes has no obvious flaws in his repertoire. He
continues to work on improving his durability, but until he stays completely
healthy for a full season that will remain a question. He worked 142
innings in 2005, but he missed three weeks after spraining a joint in
his shoulder in May and often took more than four days between starts.
The elbow problems that bothered him at Southern California haven’t
returned, but his shoulder has bothered him in each of his two pro seasons.
Some scouts worry that his arm action will always lead to injury problems.
The Future: If the Cardinals don’t re-sign Matt Morris
or opt not to bring back Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan, Reyes will be
the frontrunner for a spot in the big league rotation. If no opening
exists, he could compete for a bullpen job. He’s easily the next
pitcher in line for the St. Louis staff, and his combination of stuff
and aptitude should allow him to be a contributor right away.
HS—Phenix City, Ala., 2005 (1st round) Signed by:
Background: Rasmus has a baseball pedigree that
stacks up with just about anyone’s. His father Tony was a 10th-round
draft pick in January 1986 and now is the coach at Russell County High
(Seale, Ala.), which won the 2005 national championship behind Colby and
his younger brother Cory, a premium prospect for the 2006 draft. The Cardinals
took Colby 28th overall and signed him for $1 million.
Strengths: Rasmus’ tools are average or better across
the board, but it’s his baseball savvy and desire that make
him stand out. He has a sweet lefthanded swing and the ability
to put a charge in the ball. He has the arm and speed to play
center field, and he’s also a threat on the bases.
Weaknesses: Strikeouts were Rasmus’ biggest problem
in his pro debut as he struggled to recognize offspeed pitches,
though he also showed the willingness to take a walk. He also
needs to add strength to his rail-thin frame, which would boost
The Future: He’s the best all-around outfield prospect
St. Louis has brought into the system since J.D. Drew. Rasmus
will open his first full season at low Class A Quad Cities and
could progress quickly.
Georgia Tech, 2005 (1st round) Signed by: Roger Smith
Background: Greene had an up-and-down career
at Georgia Tech, alternating success with struggles on both offense and
defense. He showed better hitting aptitude with wood, batting a team-best
.431 for Team USA in 2003 and .296 in the Cape Cod League in 2004. His
junior season was delayed by a broken jaw, but he still went 30th overall
in the 2005 draft and earned a $1.1 million bonus.
When in a groove, Greene hits to all fields and shows pop. The
Cardinals regard him as a pure shortstop with a plus arm and good
range. He’s an impressive specimen with legs that look like
a sprinter’s, and an above-average runner who’s an
Greene’s ultimate value will be determined by what he does
with the bat. He tends to be streaky and needs to use his hands
better. He gets erratic with his defensive footwork at times,
leading to throwing errors.
The Future: Greene has impressive tools to go with great
makeup and a willingness to learn, so he should move quickly if
he hits. He’ll return to high Class A Palm Beach to start
Boston College, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Joe Rigoli
Background: Though he’s a college pitcher,
Lambert doesn’t have much experience on the mound. He comes from
cold-weather New England and concentrated more on hockey in high school.
He built on a solid first full season by pitching in the Arizona Fall
League and for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying tournament.
Strengths: After looking tired in his first pro summer,
Lambert looked stronger in 2005. He consistently worked at 91-94
mph and showed better movement with his fastball. He has a good
changeup and a potentially dominating curveball.
Weaknesses: Lambert’s curveball is inconsistent,
as are his control and his mechanics. There’s some effort
to his delivery, which affects his ability to repeat it and throw
strikes. After moving up to Double-A Springfield, he learned he
couldn’t just get hitters out with his fastball any longer.
The Future: Pitchers from the Northeast often struggle
with the adjustment to pro ball, but Lambert’s performance
in the early part of 2005 showed his potential. He’ll likely
return to Double-A to start 2006 but should finish the year in
the Triple-A rotation.
Baylor, 2005 (1st round supplemental) Signed by: Joe
Background: McCormick has been throwing in the
mid-90s since he was in high school, but he dropped to the Orioles in
the 11th round because of questions about his signability, immaturity
and complementary pitches. He went to Baylor and didn’t start to
shed that rap until 2005, when the Cardinals drafted him 43rd overall
and signed him for $800,000.
Strengths: McCormick had one of the best power arms in
the 2005 draft, pitching consistently at 92-95 mph and topping
out at 97-98 all year long. His hammer curveball can be a plus
pitch when it’s on and his changeup should be average.
Weaknesses: Because he still is working on his control,
McCormick doesn’t always dominate as his stuff would indicate.
His complementary pitches are inconsistent, and righthanders tee
off on his curveball when it’s not sharp. He worked on changeup
grips this summer.
The Future: Cardinals scouts loved McCormick’s arm,
and their stat analysis loved his college strikeout rates. If
his power package comes together, he could be a dominant starter.
He’ll open 2006 at one of St. Louis’ Class A stops.
HS—Brunswick, Ga., 2000 (1st round) Signed by:
Rob English (Braves)
Background: Wainwright came to the Cardinals
in the J.D. Drew trade before the 2004 season and continued his steady
ascent through the minors in 2005, earning a September callup. He led
the Pacific Coast League in innings, as well as hits allowed and wild
Strengths: After battling an elbow strain in 2004, Wainwright
was a workhorse in 2005 and dominated early in the season. His
fastball is solid-average and sometimes better than that, running
up to 93 mph with good sink. He has a good feel for a changeup,
and it may have become his second-best pitch ahead of his curveball
and slider. He did a better job of pitching downhill in 2005.
Weaknesses: Wainwright struggled when he got away from
working off his fastball. He has a hard time putting hitters away
when his breaking pitches aren’t on. His slider gets flat
and his curveball gets slow too often for his own good.
The Future: Wainwright is ready for a big league opportunity,
but it may have to come in the bullpen because Anthony Reyes is
ahead of him. He still projects as a starter down the road.
Portland, 2002 (9th round) Signed by: Dane Walker
Background: A broken ankle derailed Hanson in
2004, but he bounced back with his best pro season in 2005. He was the
Double-A Texas League’s all-star third baseman and led Cardinals
farmhands in RBIs and total bases (250). Like Chris Lambert, he finished
the year in the AFL and with Team USA in the Olympic qualifier.
Strengths: For the first time, Hanson showed power that
had only been potential in the past. His powerful swing generates
a lot of leverage off the back side, and the timing came together
in 2005, showing that he can be a run producer. Before he got
hurt in 2004, he was a slick fielder at third base and also had
seen time at second.
Weaknesses: In part because of his ankle injury, Hanson’s
footwork was poor when he returned in 2005. He led Texas League
third basemen with 36 errors, though he did look more like his
old self as the season went on.
The Future: With Hanson’s defensive struggles and
Scott Rolen’s presence in St. Louis, the Cardinals will
continue to try Hanson at other positions. His offensive performance
merits a move up to Triple-A, and he could break into the big
leagues as a utility player.
HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2002 (6th round) Signed
by: Steve Gossett
Background: Haerther was in the midst of a breakout
season in 2004 before getting derailed by a stress fracture in his left
leg. He got back on track in 2005, jumping to Double-A and playing in
the Arizona Fall League. His brother Casey is a top Southern California
high school prospect for the 2006 draft.
Strengths: In a system thin on impact bats, Haerther is
a lefthanded hitter with power potential, and he showed a lot
more of that potential in 2005. The ball jumps off his bat, and
he has a smooth stroke, a good approach and the ability to control
the strike zone. He has average speed and savvy on the basepaths.
Weaknesses: Haerther’s defense is a work in progress
and he went to instructional league in an effort to improve it.
He has the ability to play a passable left field if he continues
to improve, though he split time between left and DH in 2005.
The Future: Haerther has few roadblocks ahead of him in
the farm system, and even in the big leagues the Cardinals have
relied on aging veterans and marginal players. He’ll return
to Double-A to begin 2006.
2005 Club (Class)
Palm Beach (Hi A)
21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 210
Central Missouri State, 2005 (2nd round) Signed
by: Scott Melvin
Background: Central Missouri State is a powerhouse
NCAA Division II program that set a division record 16 shutouts in 2005,
with Webber serving as the Mules’ closer. The Cardinals used him
as a starter after signing him for $425,000, and he quickly jumped to
low Class A.
Strengths: Webber’s fastball is one of the best
in the organization, not just because of its 91-94 mph velocity
but more because it has heavy sink and unbelievable movement.
He relied almost exclusively on his fastball in college and had
similar success with it at short-season New Jersey.
Weaknesses: If Webber is to make it as a starter, he’ll
need to develop his slider and changeup. He had a hard time maintaining
his velocity during the summer, throwing in the high 80s in some
outings, and will need to sharpen his command as he moves up.
The Future: Webber has the one dominant pitch and makeup
to be a closer. Nevertheless, St. Louis will keep using him as
a starter in high Class A in 2006, because his value will be enhanced
if he shows an aptitude for it.
2005 Club (Class)
New Jersey (SS)
Quad Cities (Lo A)
21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 245
HS—Collierville, Tenn., 2003 (2nd round) Signed
by: Marty Denton
Background: Pomeranz pitched the entire 2005
season as a 20-year-old and earned a promotion to Double-A in May. He
didn’t post good numbers there but earned praise from some Texas
League observers as the best arm on the Springfield staff, ahead of Chris
Strengths: Pomeranz has the size and pitches to be an
innings-eater. He’s a solid 6-foot-7 with a fastball that
now sits in the low 90s, a knuckle-curve and a changeup. His fastball
has good sink and late movement that bores in on righthanders.
Weaknesses: Pomeranz needs to refine his command so he
can avoid getting behind hitters and start missing more bats.
He shows good arm speed with his changeup but still needs to improve
the pitch to make it an effective third option.
The Future: The Cardinals were impressed with Pomeranz’
aptitude, confidence and consistency in Double-A, though his numbers
weren’t impressive. He’ll probably go back to Springfield
to open 2006 but could see Triple-A by the end of the year. If
his changeup doesn’t come around, his future will be in
2005 Club (Class)
Palm Beach (Hi A)
Greene, Webber: Rich Abel
Reyes: Nikki Boertman
Hanson: Shawn Davis
Rasmus: Mike Janes
Pomeranz, Wainwright: Steve Moore
McCormick: Sports on Film
Haerther: David Stoner