St. Louis Cardinals:
1999 Top 10
St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Will Lingo
1. Rick Ankiel, LHP
Background: No minor leaguer faced greater expectations coming into the 1999 season. Coming off a great professional debut, Ankiel was regarded as the best prospect in the minors and he quickly became the best-known prospect in the game. Opening the season in Double-A was regarded as the first significant challenge of his professional career. He passed it with flying colors and would have shattered Texas League pitching records had he stayed there more than eight starts. He moved on to Triple-A, where he was merely good, and made his major league debut in August. He made five starts in St. Louis, but the Cardinals moved him to the bullpen to reduce the pressure on him and to make sure he didnt pitch too many innings. His combined total of 233 strikeouts in 1999 was actually better than the previous year, all spent in Class A, in about the same number of innings. It all was enough to make him Baseball Americas Minor League Player of the Year.
Strengths: As just about everyone knows by now, Ankiel has three major league pitches, with a solid average fastball and a plus curveball. What sets him apart are his command, composure and feel for pitching. Whenever and wherever he pitches, he looks the same, and he seems to be unflappable. He has a good idea of how to work hitters. He keeps the ball down and has the confidence to throw any pitchespecially his breaking pitchat any time.
Weaknesses: Its still hard to tell about Ankiels durability because the Cardinals have been so careful with him so far. He still has a few little things to work on. For instance, he tends to work too deep into counts at this point. More experienced hitters showed that he still needs to refine his command, especially with his breaking ball. None of this is considered a long-term concern.
The Future: Though Ankiel is still looking for his first major league win, the Cardinals were satisfied with his major league debut and expect him to win a rotation spot in spring training. Thanks to the veterans they acquired, they dont have to count on him at the top of the rotation and could even send him back to Triple-A if need be.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Arkansas (AA) 6 0 0.91 8 8 1 0 49 25 16 75 Memphis (AAA) 7 3 3.16 16 16 0 0 88 73 46 119 St. Louis 0 1 3.27 9 5 0 1 33 26 14 39
2. Chad Hutchinson, RHP
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 220
Drafted: Stanford, 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Jay North
Background: St. Louis planned to be conservative with Hutchinson, the former Stanford quarterback, but they pushed him to Double-A Arkansas after he had a strong spring. His numbers there were mediocre, but he shined in two Triple-A starts.
Strengths: When Hutchinson is on, hes nearly unhittable. He has an above-average fastball and a hard slider thats in the mid-80s but has almost a curveball break. Hes a hard worker with a great mental approach, which has helped him pick up what the Cardinals are teaching him.
Weaknesses: Most of Hutchinsons problems go back to command, which goes back to the consistency of his mechanics, which goes back to the time he spent playing football instead of baseballnot to mention the different motion throwing a football requires. The main aspects he needs to focus on are getting consistent with his windup and his release point.
The Future: Hutchinson will open at Triple-A Memphis with an eye toward getting in the big league rotation in 2001.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Arkansas (AA) 7 11 4.72 25 25 0 0 141 127 85 150 Memphis (AAA) 2 0 2.19 2 2 0 0 12 4 8 16
3. Adam Kennedy, 2B
Age: 24 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 180
Drafted: Cal State Northridge, 1997 (1st round) Signed by: Chuck Fick
Background: Kennedy was one of only two players selected to play in the Futures Game, a classification all-star game and the Pan American Games in 1999. He topped that off by making his major league debut in August and then hitting .282-5-18 in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Few doubters are left when it comes to Kennedys hitting ability. He has an unorthodox approach at the plate, with an open stance that closes as the pitcher winds up, but it works for him. He has great bat speed and puts the fat part of the bat on the ball.
Weaknesses: There are still doubts about Kennedys defense. He moved from shortstop to second this year and was decent, though he made 18 errors. He looks a little stiff in the field but always seems to make the routine plays.
The Future: The Cardinals hope Kennedy will win the major league second-base job. He could be an above-average player for the position if his defense holds up.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Memphis (AAA) .327 367 69 120 22 4 10 63 29 36 20 St. Louis .255 102 12 26 10 1 1 16 3 8 0
4. Ben Johnson, OF
Age: 18 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200
Drafted: HS--Germantown, Tenn., 1999 (4th round) Signed by: Randy Benson
Background: Johnson may have been the best high school athlete in Tennessee, playing both football and baseball in the prominent Germantown High program. The Cardinals brought him in for a predraft workout and were impressed. After they signed him and saw him in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, they were even more impressed.
Strengths: Hes not a five-tool player in the truest sense of the term, but there are no real holes in Johnsons game and he has a great work ethic. He has a simple approach at the plate and the potential for plus power. He can get to the ball and has plenty of arm for right field.
Weaknesses: Speed is Johnsons weakest tool, though hes an average runner under way. The Cardinals expect his strike zone knowledge to improve with maturity. He already showed the ability to adjust to breaking pitches.
The Future: Because he hadnt played a lot of baseball, Johnson surprised the organization with his polish. Hell move straight to full-season ball, probably starting at Class A Peoria.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Johnson City (R) .330 203 38 67 9 1 10 51 29 57 14
5. Nick Stocks, RHP
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185
Drafted: Florida State, 1999 (Supplemental 1st round) Signed by: Roger Smith
Background: Stocks was Mr. Baseball in Florida in 1996 after his senior year at perennial Tampa power Jesuit High. The Yankees took him in the 15th round and he went to Florida State instead. As the 36th overall pick in 1999, he signed for a $1.4 million bonus, but too late to play this year.
Strengths: Stocks has a quick arm and throws comfortably at 90-92 mph, reaching 95 on occasion, with a hammer curve that is a plus pitch. He already has a good idea of how to go after hitters and likes to work inside.
Weaknesses: He missed his freshman year with Tommy John surgery in 1997 but came back stronger than ever. With the success of the procedure these days, its not considered a long-term risk. Stocks is still developing a feel for his changeup, and overall he doesnt have a lot more room for improvement.
The Future: Stocks should debut at Class A Potomac, and the Cardinals hope that hell move quickly through the farm system.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Did Not PlaySigned 2000 Contract
6. Jack Wilson, SS
Age: 22 B-T: B-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 170
Drafted: Oxnard (Calif.) JC, 1998 (9th round) Signed by: Chuck Fick
Background: Wilson built on an all-star Appy League season in 1998 by playing well in two Class A stops. He tied a Peoria franchise record with a 21-game hitting streak.
Strengths: As one scout said, hes a guy you want on your team. Wilson is not long on tools, but hes a hard-nosed, scrappy player who does a lot of things well. Hes a good gap-to-gap hitter who knows his limitations and will get even better when he learns to take more walks.
Weaknesses: Wilson doesnt have much power and is an average runner, though a good baserunner. On defense, hes not spectacular but has pretty good range and plenty of arm. He has a much better chance to stay at shortstop than some others, such as Kennedy, who have come into the organization at the position and later moved.
The Future: Wilson is ahead of the timetable the Cardinals had for him even a year ago, and he should move up to Double-A Arkansas for the 2000 season.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Peoria (A) .343 251 47 86 22 4 3 28 15 23 11 Potomac (A) .296 257 44 76 10 1 2 18 19 31 7
7. Luis Saturria, OF
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 165
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1994 Signed by: Roberto Diaz
Background: Saturrias career took off after the Blue Jays took him in the major league Rule 5 draft in December 1997, then returned him to the Cardinals in spring training. He failed to build on that in 1999 with a disappointing season in Double-A. He did get a brief major league callup when Kent Bottenfield went on the disabled list, though he didnt appear in a game.
Strengths: Saturria has a live body and good tools, which explains why the Jays took a chance on him. His speed is above average and he has a plus arm, making him a strong defensive outfielder. He has some power potential and should hit for average.
Weaknesses: He should hit for average if he learns to hit breaking stuff, that is. Though he has shortened his swing, Saturria still isnt patient enough at the plate to hit breaking pitches consistently. He needs polish at the platetoo often it looks like hes guessing, and guessing wrong.
The Future: He didnt accomplish much at Arkansas, but Saturria still could avoid going back there with a strong spring.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Arkansas (AA) .244 484 66 118 30 4 16 61 35 134 16
8. Luther Hackman, RHP
Age: 25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200
Drafted: HS--Columbus, Miss., 1994 (6th round) Signed by: Mark Corey (Rockies)
Background: Hackman emerged after five disappointing seasons in the Rockies organization (21-43, 4.94 coming into the season). He was in the deal that also brought Darryl Kile and Dave Veres to the Cardinals.
Strengths: Hackman is your basic big, hard thrower and has drawn comparisons to Jim Bibby. He has a plus fastball and a short, hard slider, and he has learned to use his changeup as an effective weapon against lefthanded hitters.
Weaknesses: Hackman was a three-sport star in high school and is still refining his approach to pitching. The Rockies used him as a starter, though he could have a future in the bullpen. He looked tired in compiling a 6.40 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.
The Future: Hackman gave up fewer home runs per inning at Triple-A Colorado Springs than any pitcher in Rockies history with at least 100 innings except Curtis Leskanic. Hes ready for a shot at a big league staff.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Carolina (AA) 4 3 4.04 11 10 0 0 62 53 28 50 Colo. Spr. (AAA) 7 6 3.74 15 15 1 0 101 106 44 88 Colorado 1 2 10.69 5 3 0 0 16 26 12 10
9. Chance Caple, RHP
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-6 Wt: 215
Drafted: Texas A&M, 1999 (1st round) Signed by: Ben Galante
Background: Caple was the Cardinals first pick, the 30th overall with a selection they got from the Braves for losing Brian Jordan. He helped the Dallas Mustangs to the Connie Mack World Series title and was an eighth-round pick of the Padres in 1996.
Strengths: Caple threw up to 95 mph this spring, and he also has a good curveball. He added a cut fastball and changeup in the last year, though they need refinement. He has a great pitchers body and room to get better.
Weaknesses: Caple also threw in the mid-80s at times. The Cardinals think he got tired, but he also needs to adjust his mechanics. His arm gets behind him at times. He needs better command with all his pitches and has to mature a bit in his approach. He can be too hard on himself.
The Future: Stocks should move faster, but Caple has a higher ceiling. Hell go to a Class A team in 2000 and could take as many as three years to get to the big leagues.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO New Jersey (A) 0 4 4.38 7 7 0 0 37 35 18 36
10. Chris Haas, 3B
Age: 23 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 210
Drafted: HS--Paducah, Ky., 1995 (Supplemental 1st round) Signed by: Tom McCormack
Background: Haas had a disappointing year in his Triple-A debut, totaling more strikeouts than runs and hitscombined. He went to the Arizona Fall League for a second year and hit .274-5-17, though he struck out 37 times in 95 at-bats.
Strengths: Haas is strong as an ox and has legitimate plus power, and hes young enough that he could get stronger. He draws a good number of walks, so hes not a total free swinger. If makeup were a tool, Haas would grade out at 80 on the scouting scale.
Weaknesses: Haas has to prove hes more than a one-tool player. Hes a well below-average runner, though he has decent first-step quickness, and he wont be able to stay at third base long-term with his range. As a first baseman, his overall value is diminished.
The Future: Hell return to Memphis in 2000 and likely will play at first base more, which is what he did in the AFL. His path to St. Louis is clearly blocked, but until he cuts down on his strikeouts that wont be an issue.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Memphis (AAA) .229 397 63 91 19 2 18 73 66 155 4
Rest of the Best:
11. Josh Pearce, rhp
Copyright 1998-1999 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.