St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

St. Louis Cardinals: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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A disappointing season that revealed a divided Cardinals front office spurred a radical change that has placed a public emphasis on player development. After years of plucking key players from other organizations, the new leadership has been charged with producing them through the farm system.

Shortly after their first losing season since 1999, the Cardinals fired general manager Walt Jocketty. The highly regarded and trade-savvy Jocketty watched over one of the greatest eras of St. Louis baseball, building a World Series champion in 2006 to highlight a run that included two National League pennants and seven playoff berths in 13 years.

But behind the winning at the big league level, there was a threadbare minor league system. Ownership had instructed vice president of amateur scouting and player development Jeff Lunhow to restock the supply of young talent. He reports directly to chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., and a fissure developed between Jocketty's people and Lunhow's. By firing Jocketty, the Cardinals made it clear the direction they want to go in.

Other player-development changes followed Jocketty's dismissal. Field coordinator Jim Riggleman departed to become the Mariners' bench coach. Minor league pitching coordinator and former big league pitching coach Mark Riggins, who had spent 29 years in the organization, became the minor league pitching coordinator for the Cubs.

After assistant GMs Chris Antonetti (Indians) and Rick Hahn (White Sox) withdrew their names from consideration, St. Louis named John Mozeliak to replace Jocketty in November. Mozeliak had been Jocketty's assistant for five seasons and in the organization for 12, developing on the same track as a prospect. He began in amateur scouting and worked his way up to scouting director before making contributions at the major league level. He quickly integrated Luhnow's staff and their analytic and development work with the rest of the baseball operations department.

The pipeline Mozeliak and Lunhow started to build in 2005 is on the verge of producing players who should diminish the Cardinals' reliance on free agents and trades. The first five players on this prospect list, all products of the 2005 and 2006 drafts, should be contributing by 2009. Center fielder Colby Rasmus and closer-in-waiting Chris Perez are just about ready to take over for Jim Edmonds and Jason Isringhausen, while catcher Bryan Anderson will push Yadier Molina. Jaime Garcia and Adam Ottavino almost are set to reinforce a shaky rotation.

The 2007 draft holds promise as well. The Cardinals spent their first choice (18th overall) on Pete Kozma, the best all-around shortstop in the draft. Their next three picks were righthanders—Clayton Mortensen, David Kopp and Jess Todd—who could advance quickly through the system.

During spring training, St. Louis' minor league staff lobbied for a more aggressive approach to promotions. Triple-A Memphis remained a depot for spare parts, but the other three full-season clubs posted winning records. Double-A Springfield was one of the youngest teams in the Texas League, yet won first- and second-half division titles behind Rasmus, Perez and Anderson.

1.  Colby Rasmus, of   Born: August 11, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Phenix City, Ala., 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Nichols
Colby RasmusBackground: As a senior, Rasmus teamed with brother Cory (who became a Braves supplemental first-rounder in 2006) and Kasey Kiker (the Rangers' 2006 first-round pick) to lead Alabama's Russell County High to the national high school championship. Colby broke Bo Jackson's state record for homers with 24 that spring. St. Louis plucked Rasmus with the 28th pick in the 2005 draft and a $1 million signing bonus. When he arrived at his first big league camp in 2007, he found hype waiting for him. That's what comes with being an elite prospect for a franchise that, in the words of farm and scouting director Jeff Luhnow, has been lacking a true No. 1 prospect. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa privately wondered if the lofty expectations would hamper Rasmus, but that hasn't come close to happening. He blossomed as a bona fide five-tool star in 2007, leading the Double-A Texas League with 93 runs, 29 homers and 69 extra-base hits. Managers voted him the TL's most exciting player and he was the league's No. 1 prospect, and Team USA invited him to be its center fielder at the World Cup at November.

Strengths: Rasmus has the head-turning ability of a potential big league all-star, and the swagger too. He has a smooth, balanced lefthanded swing that packs plenty of punch. His wiry frame hints some of his doubles are going to be homers by the time he reaches the majors. Disciplined at the plate, he was able to hit in the middle of the Springfield lineup as a 20-year-old. He also excelled as the leadoff hitter for Team USA. His speed and savvy on the basepaths could mean 20-20 seasons for St. Louis. In center field, he jumped from capable to outstanding in 2007. Scouts who once wondered if he would move to a corner spot said he could be an everyday center fielder in the majors and possibly win Gold Gloves. Even when slumping at the plate, he changed games with his range, and he has the strong arm that made him a standout high school pitcher.

Weaknesses: Rasmus kicked his habit of slow starts in 2007, but he still tended to be streaky. Scouts and coaches see the same thing he does: that he goes through stretches where he becomes too pull-conscious. He has shown more willingness to hit to all fields, but he still can become more consistent. The Cardinals have prevailed upon Rasmus to refine a pregame routine that not only will sculpt his developing strength but help sustain it over a long season.

The Future: When Jim Edmonds signed a deal that takes him through 2008, it revealed the Cardinals' plans for connecting their current all-star to his heir apparent. Rasmus is keeping pace with the plan and may speed it up. He's scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Memphis but probably won't need another full season in the minors. "We can expect him to hold up to what everybody expects from him because he has the drive," Springfield manager Pop Warner said. "I know he's the kid who can handle it."
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA) .275 .381 .551 472 93 130 37 3 29 72 70 108 18
2.  Chris Perez, rhp   Born: July 1, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 225
 Drafted: Miami, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Steve Turco
Chris PerezBackground: When the Cardinals pulled Perez out of Miami with the 42nd pick of the 2006 draft, they earmarked him for a swift climb through the organization. He hasn't disappointed. He opened his first full season in Double-A and botched his first save opportunity, then converted his next 27 before a promotion to Triple-A.

Strengths: Perez has the best fastball in the system, rifling it consistently in the mid-90s with natural sink. Yet his best pitch may be an 85-87 mph slider with sudden bite that he's willing to throw in any count. The combination made him nearly unhittable, as he held righthanders to a .115 average and lefties to a .151 mark last season. He has the guts for the closer role.

Weaknesses: The only thing that could keep Perez from the majors in 2008 is his command. He also makes mistakes up in the strike zone, leaving him vulnerable to extra-base hits. St. Louis would like to see more consistent mechanics and increased dedication to conditioning.

The Future: Ticketed for the Triple-A bullpen after a tour with Team USA's World Cup team, Perez could pitch his way into the big league bullpen with a strong spring. Closer Jason Isringhausen is signed through 2008, and Perez could replace him as early as 2009.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Springfield (AA) 2 0 2.43 39 0 0 27 41 17 3 28 62 .126
Memphis (AAA) 0 1 4.50 15 0 0 8 14 6 2 13 15 .143
3.  Bryan Anderson, c   Born: Dec. 16, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Simi Valley, Calif., 2005 (4th round)Signed by: Jay North
Bryan AndersonBackground: Anderson leapfrogged high Class A and became the youngest all-star in the Texas League in 2007, edging Colby Rasmus by two months. He joined Rasmus at the Futures Game and narrowly missed hitting .300 for the third time in three pro seasons. He also played with Rasmus and Chris Perez on Team USA.

Strengths: Anderson has a mature approach at the plate and a keen sense of the strike zone to go with a smooth, uppercut lefthanded swing. He should be able to hit for average with gap power in the majors. Pitchers laud his ability to call and control a game behind the plate, while managers praise his leadership. His arm strength is average.

Weaknesses: The power Anderson is expected to develop hasn't arrived yet, as he cracked only 22 extra-base hits in 389 at-bats. He has odd throwing mechanics, which costs him accuracy and limited him to throwing out just 27 percent of basestealers in 2007. He's improving behind the plate, but needs work with his receiving and footwork. He has below-average speed but isn't a baseclogger.

The Future: Anderson will be 21 when he reports to his third big league camp this spring. He has a higher offensive ceiling than St. Louis incumbent Yadier Molina, though his defense isn't as stout. If Anderson can't take his job after time in Triple-A, he should make a nice complement to him.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA) .298 .350 .388 389 51 116 15 1 6 53 32 77 0
4.  Jaime Garcia, lhp   Born: June 2, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Mission, Texas, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Jaime GarciaBackground: Area scout Joe Almaraz felt so strongly about Garcia that he persuaded two teams to draft him: the Orioles (who didn't sign him) in 2004 and the Cardinals in 2005. Garcia starred as a two-way player on Mexico's junior national team and was set to play pro ball in his native country before St. Louis signed him. The only negative in two years of pro ball is an elbow injury that ended his 2007 season in mid-July.

Strengths: Garcia has two plus pitches and striking poise on the mound. His fastball hums in the low 90s and he has a down-breaking curveball that he can use as a knockout pitch. His delivery is consistent and smooth.

Weaknesses: Garcia had trouble with his command at times last season, though that could have been connected to his sore elbow. After several evaluations, he was diagnosed with a sprained ligament that didn't require surgery. Garcia leans on his curveball too much at times and needs to use his changeup more often so he can gain more consistency with it.

The Future: A potential No. 3 starter, Garcia is expected to be healthy for spring training and primed to continue his sprint from the 22nd round to the majors. Opening the season back in Double-A wouldn't be seen as a setback, and it's unlikely he would remain in Springfield for long.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Springfield (AA) 5 9 3.75 18 18 0 0 103 93 14 45 97 .245
5.  Adam Ottavino, rhp   Born: Nov. 22, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Drafted: Northeaster, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Kobe Perez
Adam OttavinoBackground: Ottavino broke the Northeastern single-season strikeout record as a sophomore and again as a junior before signing for $950,000 as the 30th overall pick in 2006. He has ditched the rose-colored sunglasses that were his signature in college, but he has continued to produce. Sent to high Class A Palm Beach for his first full season, he ranked second in the Florida State league with 12 wins and third with a 3.08 ERA and 128 strikeouts.

Strengths: Ottavino has a power mindset and a power build, and he blazed through college with a four-seam fastball that he can still fire in the mid-90s, reaching as high as 94 mph in the late innings. At the urging of the Cardinals, he also has dusted off a running two-seamer in the low 90s. He confidently works both sides of the plate. He has a tight slider and gained traction with his curveball in 2007.

Weaknesses: He can get carried away with his fastball and becomes too reliant on trying to overpower hitters up in the strike zone. His breaking ball is still slurvy, and his changeup is still a pitch in progress. He needs to become more efficient and cut down on his walks and high pitch counts.

The Future: Ottavino will begin 2008 in the Double-A rotation. There once was talk of turning him into a reliever, but those plans have shifted to the back burner.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 12 8 3.08 27 27 1 0 143 130 10 63 128 .239
6.  Pete Kozma, ss   Born: April 11, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 170
 Drafted: HS—Owasso, Olka., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Steve Gossett
Pete KozmaBackground: Picking 18th in 2007, the Cardinals had their highest draft choice since 2000, when they blew the 13th choice on Shaun Boyd, and took Kozma, the best shortstop available. He led Owasso High to the Oklahoma 6-A state championship with a three-homer game in one playoff contest and a solo shot that provided all the scoring in the title game, then signed for $1.395 million.

Strengths: Kozma has four average or better tools. He has good plate coverage and uses the whole field better than most teenage hitters. He has tremendous range and a smooth glide to his play at shortstop. He has a solid arm and enhances it with a quick transfer and release. He's a solid-average runner. His instincts and work ethic are exceptional.

Weaknesses: He hit just .233 in his debut, but the Cardinals believe Kozma will improve with experience. They like his swing, though with his size and line-drive approach, it's not clear how much power he'll develop.

The Future: A bone bruise near his right thumb limited Kozma offensively during instructional league, but St. Louis still has enough faith in his bat to send him to low Class A Quad Cities to start 2008. He'll need at least three years in the minors.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Cardinals (R) .154 .267 .154 13 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 0
Johnson City (R) .264 .350 .396 106 16 28 8 0 2 9 12 21 3
Batavia (SS) .148 .179 .222 27 1 4 0 1 0 2 1 7 1
7.  Clayton Mortensen, rhp   Born: April 10, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 180
 Drafted: Gonzaga, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jay North
Clayton MortensenBackground: After the Devil Rays drafted him in the 25th round in 2005, Mortensen opted to go from junior college to Gonzaga to boost his draft status. He flopped, going 6-8, 5.89 and undrafted as a junior. Mortensen recovered to win the West Coast Conference's pitcher of the year award as a senior. The Cardinals drafted him 36th overall in June, making him the highest June draft pick in school history, and signed him for $650,000.

Strengths: Mortensen has a biting 90-93 mph sinker and a hard slider. He had an outstanding 3.3 groundout/airout ratio and permitted just two homers in 60 pro innings. He throws with little effort and has ironed out his delivery, reducing the control woes that plagued him at Gonzaga in 2006. His gangly frame can handle increased strength.

Weaknesses: He had little difficulty throwing strikes in low Class A, but Mortensen still can improve his command. His changeup has some deception and projects as a solid third pitch, but it's a lot like he was until this spring—all promise and sparse effectiveness.

The Future: Mortensen could begin 2008 in Double-A and will be the quickest climber from his Cardinals draft class. As with Adam Ottavino, he could make an intriguing reliever but will be developed as a starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Batavia (SS) 1 1 1.77 6 4 0 0 20 13 0 11 23 .188
Quad Cities (Lo A) 0 2 3.12 10 10 0 0 40 44 2 8 45 .275
8.  Mitchell Boggs, rhp   Born: Feb. 15, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: Georgia, 2005 (5th round)Signed by: Roger Smith
Mitchell BoggsBackground: Boggs was a two-sport athlete who tried his hand as a quarterback at Tennessee-Chattanooga before transferring to Georgia and sticking with baseball. Primarily a set-up man with the Bulldogs, he became a starter after turning pro and has had no trouble adjusting. He was the glue of a Texas League division championship rotation in 2007.

Strengths: Boggs still can reach the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball, but his low-90s two-seamer with sink and bore is his ticket to quicker innings. He has ditched his curveball and developed a wipeout slider that ranks as one of the best in the system. Few Cardinals pitching prospects have been as consistent or durable.

Weaknesses: Boggs reported to the Arizona Fall League with the goals of improving his command and developing a changeup. Though he has a quality fastball/slider combination, he doesn't miss as many bats as he could because he doesn't locate his pitches with precision. One of his best assets is his competitiveness, but that sometimes leads to overthrowing.

The Future: The next step in Boggs' progression is Triple-A, but he's not far away from being able to plug a hole in St. Louis' leaky rotation. It's possible that in the long term he'll return to where he came from and become a lockdown reliever.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Springfield (AA) 11 7 3.84 26 26 0 0 152 167 15 62 117 .279
9.  Tyler Herron, rhp   Born: August 5, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Wellington, Fla., 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Steve Turco
Tyler HerronBackground: The 46th overall pick in 2005 out of the powerhouse Wellington High program in Florida, Herron went winless in his pro debut and couldn't advance past short-season ball in his first two seasons. He hinted at a breakout by going 4-1, 2.67 in his final five starts in 2006, then delivered by emerging as the best pitching prospect on a deep low Class A Quad Cities staff.

Strengths: Herron has three pitches that are or should be average or better. He throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s and can spot it anywhere he wants in the strike zone. His changeup has become a reliable second pitch and his curveball has good break. He's cool and athletic on the mound and has consistently won praise for his maturity.

Weaknesses: Herron needs more consistency with his pitches. His fastball can straighten out at times, and he'll also hang his curveball. He needs to add strength to his slender frame, though he did hold up well over his first year in full-season ball.

The Future: Herron will continue a slow and steady rise in the organization. He'll jump to high Class A, where he'll no longer be protected by the tandem rotation system that worked so well at Quad Cities. He has a ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Quad Cities (Lo A) 10 7 3.74 30 22 0 1 137 123 7 26 130 .240
10.  Jon Jay, of   Born: March 15, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 200
 Drafted: Miami, 2006, (2nd round)Signed by: Steve Turco
Jon JayBackground: Jay had the best debut among the Cardinals' 2006 draft picks, hitting .342 in low Class A, to earn a jump to Double-A for his first full season. But it became a lost year because of three trips to the disabled list, two for a shoulder injury and one for wrist pain, and he never got untracked at the plate.

Strengths: After watching him in his pro debut, some St. Louis coaches predicted Jay would win a major league batting title. He has a balanced, line-drive stroke and generally controls the strike zone well. He's a solid center fielder with a decent arm, and he runs well enough to steal a few bases.

Weaknesses: Jay doesn't have the power to profile as a corner outfielder, which is a problem with Colby Rasmus ahead of him. Scouts from other organizations focus on Jay's lack of a standout tool more than his lack of a glaring weakness. They question his quirky hand pumps and bat waggles at the plate and wonder whether he'll hit at the upper levels.

The Future: Jay likely will return to Double-A. He'll have to produce in all facets of the game to start for the Cardinals, because he can't approach the power of big league starters Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA) .235 .333 .373 102 17 24 4 2 2 11 11 19 4
GCL Cardinals (R) .500 .500 .500 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Palm Beach (Hi A) .286 .321 .397 126 19 36 8 0 2 10 5 25 5

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: John Williamson (Rasmus)
Steve Moore (Perez, Anderson, Garcia, Boggs, Jay)
David Stoner (Ottavino)
Sports on Film (Kozma)
Paul Gierhart (Mortensen, Herron)