St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Will Lingo
1. Jimmy Journell, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Illinois, 1999 (4th round). Signed by: Scott Melvin.
Background: Like a lot of organizations before the 1999 draft, the Cardinals loved Journells arm but didnt know what to make of the Tommy John surgery he had a week before the draft. Before that, he had been a dominant closer at Illinois. They took him in the fourth round, signed him for $250,000 and tried to be patient. He didnt pitch at all in 1999 and worked out of the bullpen in 2000, in what has become an organization practice for pitchers in Tommy John recovery. His breakout came in 2001, as his stuff was back and he lit up the high Class A Carolina League before earning a promotion to Double-A New Haven, where he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in his only start. He ended up as the CL player of the year, the organizations minor league pitcher of the year, and Baseball Americas Class A Player of the Year.
Strengths: Journell has everything you could ask for in a big league pitcher. He throws an electric fastball that can touch 97 mph and sits at 93-94. He has good command of it and works it inside and out on hitters. He has a hard slider thats sharp when he stays on top of it, and he made great strides with his changeup in 2001. His arm problems actually helped his development of those two pitches and helped him become more of a pitcher, rather than just trying to blow hitters away with his fastball. Journell has big league makeup, and hes not afraid to go after hitters.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals raised Journells arm slot from low three-quarters to keep him on top of his breaking ball and reduce the stress on his elbow. He went back to a lower slot, where hes more comfortable, during the season. The hope is that Journell and the Cardinals have found a happy medium. Beyond that, he needs to continue his evolution from thrower to pitcher. He can be stubborn at times.
The Future: Its possible Journell could show up in St. Louis in 2002, but the organization really just wants to see another healthy, successful year. The larger question is whether hes a starter or closer. He has the mentality to close, but he was so successful starting in 2001 the Cardinals will leave him in the role for now. The bet here is hell end up in the bullpen eventually.
2. Chris Narveson, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSArden, N.C., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Randy Benson.
Background: Narveson was in the midst of a breakthrough year when the affliction that has hit so many Cardinals pitchers hit himhe needed Tommy John surgery in August. He won a state championship in his senior year of high school in 2000, and he won a promotion to high Class A in 2001 after just eight starts in low Class A.
Strengths: Before his injury, Narveson earned comparisons to both Rick Ankiel and Bud Smith. He throws his fastball at 89-91 mph, and his changeup can be devastating. His best pitch is a big-breaking slider, but his best quality is his maturity and mound presence. He has good command of all of his pitches.
Weaknesses: Narvesons injury was a surprise because hes not a hard thrower and has solid mechanics and an effortless motion. The prognosis for Tommy John surgery is good now, but it still costs him a year of development and creates big questions about his future.
The Future: The Cardinals are optimistic Narveson can return to game action by July. When he does hell follow the organizations path of working in relief until his arm is judged completely sound.
3. Josh Pearce, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Arizona, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Manny Guerra.
Background: If nothing else, Pearce has proven hes a workhorse. The Cardinals determined he threw nearly 300 innings from college fall ball in 1998 to instructional league in 1999. In spite of that and an organizational epidemic of arm injuries, Pearce threw 185 innings in 28 minor league starts in 2001.
Strengths: As Pearce has shown, hes a bulldog whos always ready to take the ball. He hasnt missed a professional turn and gives his team confidence hell go six or seven innings every time out. His fastball is in the 88-91 mph range with good sink, and he has good command of it. His slurve and changeup are also effective pitches.
Weaknesses: Pearces stuff is just average. He succeeds with superior makeup and knowing how to make the pitches he needs. He has to keep the ball down to be effective. The Cardinals say because hes not a hard thrower, they dont think his arm has been overworked.
The Future: Hell likely start the 2002 season at Triple-A Memphis, but dont be surprised if Pearce shows up in St. Louis at some point. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
4. Justin Pope, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Central Florida, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Turco.
Background: Pope comes out of the Wellington (Fla.) High program that produced Pirates pitching prospects Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett, and employs his father Walt as pitching coach. Pope broke Roger Clemens NCAA Division I record with 38 straight scoreless innings at Central Florida last spring and was named TransAmerica Athletic Conference player of the year. He signed for $900,000, the lowest bonus in the first round.
Strengths: Befitting the son of a pitching coach, Pope has moxie and a great idea of how to attack hitters. He works inside with an 88-92 mph fastball that has good movement. His slider and changeup are also advanced.
Weaknesses: Pope was considered a fringe first-rounder because of his size and lack of overpowering stuff. He succeeds by spotting the ball around in the strike zone. After 123 innings at Central Florida, he worked another 69 innings at short-season New Jersey because he signed so quickly, raising more workload questions.
The Future: Pope will try to build on an impressive pro debut by getting more advanced hitters out at the Class A level. He was clearly tired by the end of last summer, so his stuff could improve in 2002.
5. Yadier Molina, c
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 187. Drafted: HSVega Alta, P.R., 2000 (4th round). Signed by: Michael Crespo.
Background: Not many Rookie-level Appalachian League catchers earn a mention in ESPN Magazine, but not many Appy catchers work with Rick Ankiel either. Molina is the younger brother of catchers Ben and Jose Molina, both of whom are with the Angels. He made his pro debut this year after signing late in 2000.
Strengths: Ankiel raved about Molinas work behind the plate, and defense is his calling card. He has a good frame and will be strong enough to catch every day. He has a plus-plus arm and recalls the defensive skills of Eli Marrero, though he blocks balls better at the same point of development.
Weaknesses: Molina has some pop but he has work to do with the bat. He has a good swing but it tends to get long, and he needs to work on finer points like his stance. When hes short and quick to the ball he shows power potential. He doesnt run well.
The Future: The Cardinals already project Molina as a big league catcher based solely on his defense. If his offense develops, he could be a standout. Hell face a significant test with his first full season, likely at low Class A Peoria.
6. Scotty Layfield, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Valdosta State (Ga.), 1999 (20th round). Signed by: Roger Smith.
Background: Layfield came to pitching late, going to Valdosta State as a corner infielder. After a couple of unimpressive seasons in the organization, Layfield broke out as a closer at high Class A Potomac in 2001. He missed time during the season with elbow tendinitis, but he was fine by the end of the year and was added to the 40-man roster.
Strengths: Layfield is a physical specimen who actually spent too much time in the weight room before 2001. He loosened up and went from throwing 86-88 mph in 2000 to 91-93 in 2001. Its a power fastball with sinker movement. With his hard slider, which is a swing-and-miss pitch, he has top-quality stuff for the bullpen.
Weaknesses: At 25, Layfield still hasnt proven he can get hitters out above Class A. He has a changeup but doesnt need it out of the bullpen, and the Cardinals are satisfied with that as his role.
The Future: The Cardinals now say they probably should have promoted Layfield from Potomac, but hell benefit from his first big league spring training and could skip Double-A. If his sinker-slider combination remains potent, he could move fast.
7. Dan Haren, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Gossett.
Background: Haren teamed with lefthander Noah Lowry, a first-round pick of the Giants, to give Pepperdine one of the best pitching tandems in college baseball in 2001. Haren also DHed for the Waves, hitting .308-5-47 in 224 at-bats, and was named West Coast Conference player of the year.
Strengths: Haren has a big body and a quick arm, and he could get bigger, giving him the potential to be a special pitcher. He threw at 89-93 mph after signing but touched 96 at Pepperdine. He has a good feel for a changeup and maintains consistent arm speed with it, and he works inside effectively with outstanding command.
Weaknesses: The long college and pro season wore Haren down, and he was at 195 pounds by the end of the summer with New Jersey, meaning he lost about 15-20 pounds. The Cardinals want to see him hold his weight so he can stay strong and durable for a full pro season. His curveball and splitter still need work.
The Future: Though Haren was tired, the Cardinals still loved what they saw and are excited about his potential. Hell move into a Class A league in 2002 and should become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
8. Chris Duncan, 1b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSTucson, 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Dan Ontiveros.
Background: Duncans father Dave is St. Louis pitching coach, and his older brother Shelley was a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2001 after setting numerous home run records at the University of Arizona. Chris committed to the Wildcats out of high school but ended up signing with the Cardinals for $900,000.
Strengths: Duncan has exceptional power potential. He hasnt learned to harness it yet but should get stronger and pull the ball more as he gets older. He was regarded as a better talent than his brother coming out of high school, when he showed flashes of athleticism.
Weaknesses: So far Duncan hasnt offered much besides his power potential. His hands and arms are decent, but hes rigid on defense and made 30 errors at first base. He also needs to control the strike zone better. Hes a below-average runner.
The Future: Duncan will get another shot at Potomac in 2002 after washing out there in 2001. He has worked to get a looser, more athletic body and even has worked out in the outfield in an effort to be more than a one-dimensional player.
9. Bill Ortega, of
Age: 26. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Signed: Cuba, 1997. Signed by: John DePuglia.
Background: Ortega is one of the many position players frustrating the Cardinals with his stalled development. A Cuban defector, he finally broke through in 2000 but hurt his wrist, an injury that seemed to affect his play most of the 2001 season. He was at his best again in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .387-2-20 in 93 at-bats to raise optimism in the organization again.
Strengths: Ortega is one of the best hitters in the organization. He uses the whole field, though Cardinals officials would like him to show more power. Hes big and strong, and he should add power if he gets more lift in his swing.
Weaknesses: Defense is Ortegas biggest bugaboo and it was dreadful at times in 2001. He needs to get better jumps, play smarter and show motivation to improve in the outfield. Even with all that, he doesnt project to be anything more than an average left fielder at best.
The Future: Ortega made his major league debut in 2001 and could see time in St. Louis again in 2002, though hell be hard-pressed to find any regular work there. The Cardinals will be pleased if he puts together a big year at Memphis.
10. Chad Hutchinson, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Stanford, 1998 (2nd round). Signed by: Jay North.
Background: After starting the year as a surprise inclusion on the big league roster, Hutchinson finished it by trying out with NFL teams as a quarterback. He was considered a potential football first-round pick at Stanford before St. Louis signed him to a major league deal with a $2.3 million bonus in 1998.
Strengths: Hutchinson is the kind of spectacular athlete who makes scouts ga-ga. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball. His out pitch is an 84-85 mph slider that looks like a curveball. Hes intelligent and intense, and he has been the Cardinals best pitcher in spring training the last couple of years.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals have always wondered when Hutchinson would figure it all out, and the football dalliance raises new questions. He lacks consistent command of all of his pitches, though it comes and goes, and he hasnt handled adversity on the mound well.
The Future: Hutchinson is a bigger wild card than ever, but his arm still demands attention. It might be to the Cardinals advantage if he pursues football in the offseason so he can get it out of his system.
Rest of the Best:
11. Blake Williams, rhp
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