Top 50 Draft Prospects: April Update
Two months out from the draft, scouts and club officials are just glad they still have two months to evaluate players. Between poor weather that has scrambled schedules and injuries […]
Cardinals Prospects 2-10
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Illinois, 1999. Signed by: Scott Melvin.
Background: Journell bounced back from Tommy John surgery just before the draft in 1999, becoming the organizations pitcher of the year and top prospect a year ago. He opened the 2002 season in extended spring after having bone chips removed from his elbow, then missed time at Triple-A Memphis because of weakness in the back of his shoulder.
Strengths: Journell still has the great arm that made him a prospect: an electric fastball that was 91-94 mph last year, a hard slider and an improved changeup. He goes after hitters and showed good command before his shoulder started bothering him.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals just want to see consistency from Journell. His arm slot has moved between where hes comfortable (low three-quarters) and where the organization would like him (a bit higher). When the old mechanics caused him pain and the new ones didnt, he went back where the Cardinals moved him.
The Future: The organization doesnt want to rush Journell and would like him to dominate at Triple-A for a season. But if he pitches well early and theres a need in St. Louis, he could be the first pitcher called.
3. Chris Narveson, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSSkyland, N.C., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Randy Benson.
Background: Narveson had Tommy John surgery in August 2001 but was back in action by June, starting in short stints in the Appalachian League and stretching out as he moved up to Peoria. He pitched 12 innings in the Midwest League playoffs and allowed just two earned runs.
Strengths: Narveson has three pitches that are major league average to slightly above. His fastball touches 90 mph and he works to both sides of the plate with it, and his slider has good bite. He needs to get more consistent with his changeup, but some in the organization say its his best pitch. He can command all three pitches.
Weaknesses: Narvesons mechanics were a mess at times last year, as he pushed the ball more than before his injury, when he had a free and easy delivery. The organization attributes the problems to the layoff and says he shows no other ill effects.
The Future: Last year was promising for a pitcher less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Narveson was letting the ball go at the end of the season, so the Cardinals will send him to high Class A Palm Beach and see if he can get back on the fast track.
4. Justin Pope, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Central Florida, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Turco.
Background: Pope is a product of Wellington (Fla.) High, which has produced several pro prospects including Pirates lefthander Sean Burnett, and his father Walt is the pitching coach there. He missed more than two months last season after having a bone spur removed from his elbow, but was lights-out when he pitched and ended the season with three 10-strikeout games in his last five starts.
Strengths: Pope has average stuff but is a prospect because of his bulldog mentality and advanced approach. His fastball was 88-89 mph after his injury, though the Cardinals expect it to improve by spring. He has good control of his slider and changeup and really goes after hitters.
Weaknesses: What you see is what you get with Pope. Hes not going to get much better than he is right now and hes a bit undersized. He needs to continue to polish his overall package and vary the speed on his changeup more.
The Future: Pope dominated the Midwest League, but at his age and experience level he should have. Hell move up to Palm Beach, where the Cardinals would like to see him dominate again and possibly move up to Double-A during the season.
5. Blake Hawksworth, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Bellevue (Wash.) CC, D/F 2001 (28th round). Signed by: Dane Walker.
Background: Hawksworth fell in the 2001 draft because of his commitment to Cal State Fullerton. Then he decided to stay close to home and go to junior college instead. He improved significantly and the Cardinals gave him a $1.475 million bonus to keep him from going back into the draft, where he was a likely first-round pick.
Strengths: The Cardinals call Hawksworth a potentially special pitcher. He has a power arm and already has command of three potentially plus pitches, including a fastball that ranges from 90-92 mph and a developing curveball. Hes mature for his age, both physically and mentally, has a good feel for pitching and accepts instruction well.
Weaknesses: Hawksworths changeup is off the charts, but its so good that it causes him to pitch backward. Cardinals scouts saw him throw 75 pitches in one amateur start, and 55 of the pitches were offspeed. With his arm, hes better off establishing his fastball first.
The Future: Its not clear what Hawksworths ceiling might be. Hell open his first full season at Peoria but could move fast. He should make up for the Cardinals lack of a first- or second-round pick last year.
6. Shaun Boyd, 2b
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSOceanside, Calif., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Dan Ontiveros.
Background: Boyd lingered on the fringes of prospectdom for his first two years in the organization, based more on draft status and potential than anything he did on the field. After a pitch broke his jaw and ended his 2001 season early, Boyd went back to the Midwest League and broke out, finishing among the league leaders in several offensive categories.
Strengths: With his speed and quick bat, Boyd is an exciting offensive prospect. He has good bat discipline and uses the whole field, rarely getting pull-happy. He profiles as a No. 2 hitter and could hit from the three hole if his power develops.
Weaknesses: The only category Boyd led outright in the MWL was errors by a second baseman, with 40. He moved from the outfield after signing, and though the Cardinals think hell stay there, he needs work. He was OK on bang-bang plays, but on others his throwing mechanics got out of whack. He also needs work on turning the double play.
The Future: Boyd doesnt profile nearly as well as an outfielder, but if he stays at second base he could be a premium player. The Cardinals will give him plenty of time to work out those bugs if he keeps hitting. Hell move up a step to Palm Beach in 2003.
7. Rhett Parrott, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2001 (9th round). Signed by: Roger Smith.
Background: Like Boyd, Parrott had gotten attention more for his promise than performance before last year. He had a disappointing career at Georgia Tech and a mediocre debut but put together a strong season in 2002, making the Carolina League all-star team before earning a promotion to New Haven.
Strengths: Parrott is a smart pitcher with great makeup and an aggressive, competitive approach. He isnt afraid to pitch inside and works to both sides of the plate. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph, and his curveball started to come on last year. His changeup is improving. Parrott had a good slider in college but hasnt used it much as a pro.
Weaknesses: Parrott must work ahead in the count to be successful. A mechanical adjustment after the 2001 season helped his command, and hell have to continue to work on it to get better hitters out.
The Future: Already someone who competes hard, Parrott seemed to work even harder after getting promoted to Double-A. Hell return to that level to open the season (at the Cardinals new Tennessee affiliate) and see if he can earn another midseason promotion.
8. John Nelson, ss
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Kansas, 2001 (8th round). Signed by: Dave Karaff.
Background: Because of visa problems with several Latin American prospects in spring training, the Cardinals needed an extra shortstop for Peoria. Nelson played the position at Kansas and scout Dave Karaff said he could play there, so Nelson went to a side field and worked with organization guru George Kissell, who gave him the thumbs-up. He ended the year as the Midwest Leagues all-star at short.
Strengths: Nelsons tools actually profile well at shortstop, but the Cardinals thought of him as a poor-mans Larry Walker in right field because of his arm, which rates a 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale. He turned out to be fearless around the bag and got better at short as the year wore on. At the plate, he hits to all fields and can sting the ball.
Weaknesses: Nelson needs work on both offense and defense, but showed the ability to make adjustments last year. He raised his average nearly 100 points from the beginning of May and improved his hands and footwork at short, though he still committed 33 errors.
The Future: His approach and makeup mean Nelson is real easy to like. His stock jumped exponentially last year, so the Cardinals will challenge him with a jump to Double-A.
9. Tyler Johnson, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Moorpark (Calif.) JC, D/F 2000 (34th round). Signed by: Chuck Fick.
Background: Johnson earned a scholarship to Washington State out of high school, but academic problems kept him off the field there and later at Moorpark. National crosschecker Chuck Fick stayed on him, though, and Steve Gossett, a Cardinals scout who had been the pitching coach at Cal State Northridge, worked with Johnson while he was ineligible in junior college. It paid off in a breakthrough year at Peoria, as Johnson was among the minor league leaders in wins and ERA.
Strengths: Johnsons true 12-to-6 curveball is the best breaking pitch in the organization, and when its on its unhittable. He also throws an 87-88 mph fastball that touches 91 and has great life, with natural lefthanded tail. He has a loose arm and already knows how to beat hitters from either side of the plate.
Weaknesses: Something you might expect to be a weaknessmaturityno longer is. Johnson wants to pitch in the big leagues. He needs to improve his changeup, especially his arm speed.
The Future: Johnson is just learning to pitch, but the early returns are exciting. He at least looks like the next Steve Kline, but he might be much more than that. The next step is to Palm Beach.
10. Yadier Molina, c
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 187. Drafted: HSVega Alta, P.R., 2000 (4th round). Signed by: Michael Crespo.
Background: How loaded was Peoria in 2002? Just three players among the Cardinals top 10 didnt play there. Molina, the brother of Angels catchers Benji and Jose Molina, handled a strong pitching staff that led the Midwest League in ERA.
Strengths: Molina has the catch-and-throw skills to join his brothers in the big leagues. He receives, throws and blocks the ball well, and he handles pitchers well for his age. He threw out 52 percent (49 of 94) of basestealers and turned nine double plays, showing the strength of his arm.
Weaknesses: Molinas ceiling depends on his offensive development. The Cardinals are preaching patience and were encouraged by his progress last year. He needs better plate discipline, must keep his strikeouts down and use the whole field. His swing still tends to get long. He doesnt run well.
The Future: With defensive skills this good, Molina needs to be merely adequate on offense to be an everyday major league catcher. He was close to that last year, but now needs to prove it against better pitching at Palm Beach.
Best of the Rest
The strength of the St. Louis farm system is, as it seemingly always has been, pitching. Over the past decade, only J.D. Drew has broken the run of pitchers at the No. 1 spot of the organizations prospect lists, and arms continue to dominate this year. Beyond those in the top 10 are a group of young arms relatively new to the organization who could move up fast if they stay healthy and develop pitches beyond their fastballs.
Righthander Shane Reedy, a draft-and-follow out of Utah Valley State JC who signed last May, has the best fastball velocity in the system, though he was bothered by a pulled ribcage muscle in the Appalachian League last summer. In one amateur outing the Cardinals scouted, Reedy was up to 96-97 mph and didnt throw anything below 94.
Righthander Tyler Adamczyk threw almost that hard as an amateur, but he was at 88-90 mph last summer in the Appy League. At 6-foot-6, hes lanky and needs to get stronger and more confident in his offspeed stuff.
Lefthander David Williamson may be the best pitcher the Cardinals got in last Junes draft, after signing Reedy and Blake Hawksworth as draft-and-follows. His fastball is average but his curveball is a potential plus pitch. He was shut down at the end of the summer because of a shoulder strain but should be ready to make his full-season debut in 2003.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on 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 Opening Day 2003.