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, 2009.

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St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals had followed a tried and true pattern over the past decade, contending with veteran-laden teams and using their farm system to provide an occasional supplement or, more frequently, to bring back older players in trades.

Since 2005, St. Louis has pledged to restock and lean on its system to do what it long had counted on free agents and trades for. The initiative became more prominent—and more pressing—following the firing of general manager Walt Jocketty and the promotion of assistant GM John Mozeliak to replace him at the end of the 2007 season. At the same time, Jeff Luhnow became the overseer of both scouting and player development.

Mozeliak worked to break down the walls that had developed in the front office and get everyone pulling in the same direction. He determined to clear the way for prospects to get to the majors. If there was a need, a prospect was promoted. The same practice will be in place for 2009 as well, when the Cardinals expect the arrival of outfielder Colby Rasmus and a handful of nearly-ready pitchers.

They went into 2008 viewing it as a transition year and performed slightly better than expected, finishing 86-76, though they missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-99. More important to the organization's long-term plan, 11 Cardinals made their major league debuts, including the first members of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 draft classes to reach St. Louis.

Righthanders Clayton Mortensen (supplemental first round) and Jess Todd (second round), two of the team's first four picks in the 2007 draft, also made compelling bids for September callups, personifying the team's plan to push its prospects. What had been an internal suggestion to accelerate the development of prospects became a policy.

"We had to promote players more quickly than planned in 2007 because of injuries and, to be honest, I was surprised at how well our players played when they moved up," Luhnow said. "It gave me and us collectively more confidence that, hey, maybe we can push these guys faster. This year, we've seen guys respond."

Mortensen finished his first full pro season in Triple-A, as did Todd, who began 2008 in high Class A. Lefthander Jaime Garcia started the year in Double-A and ended it in the major league bullpen (though he had Tommy John surgery after the season). Third baseman David Freese (Triple-A) and outfielder Daryl Jones (high Class A) both started at a level considered a reach by some, and both blossomed.

Throughout the system, the Cardinals' prospect push resulted in their affiliates having among the youngest rosters in their league. And youth still served. Their top six affiliates all contended for playoff spots deep into August, and all six finished with winning records.

St. Louis' first-round pick in June, Brett Wallace, will be on the fast track, as he's expected to replace Troy Glaus at third base when Glaus becomes a free agent after the 2009 season. The Cardinals also showed a newfound aggression on the international market, handing out the three highest bonuses in franchise history for Latin American talents. Those investments were highlighted by a $1.1 million bonus for Dominican third baseman Roberto de la Cruz.

1.  Colby Rasmus, of   Born: Aug. 11, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Phenix City, Ala., 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Nichols
Colby RasmusBackground: The 28th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Rasmus signed for $1 million following a celebrated high school career. He broke Bo Jackson's Alabama state record with 24 homers that spring and led Russell County High to a No. 1 ranking in the final national poll. Rasmus' father Tony coached the team, which also featured Colby's brother Cory (a Braves sandwich pick in 2006) and Kasey Kiker (a Rangers first-rounder in 2006). After a breakout year in the Double-A Texas League in 2007, Rasmus came to spring training last year with an outside chance of making the big league team as a 21-year-old. He impressed the Cardinals, especially with his patience, but he wasn't able to dislodge any of the five outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart. His season quickly eroded into disappointment. He hit .214 in his first two months at Triple-A Memphis, and once he found his stroke he was slowed by a groin injury. Rasmus was starting to catch fire when he sprained his left knee when he checked a swing in late July. The injury all but ended his season and cost him a trip to the Olympics, where he would have started in center field for Team USA.

Strengths: Rasmus oozes big league talent and exhibits fluid athleticism at the plate and in the field. He has a balanced, potent swing from the left side and his young frame has filled out with strength, which has begun to turn some of his ropes into the gaps into shots launched over the wall. As he showed in big league camp, Rasmus has the plate discipline to be a leadoff man when he arrives in the majors and the extra-base thump to mature into a middle-of-the-order hitter. The same plus speed and instincts he shows on the bases are even more apparent in center field, where he's a defensive standout. His glove is good enough to keep him in the lineup even when he's scuffling at the plate. A standout pitcher in high school, he owns a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Rasmus called the environment at Memphis "weird" and he struggled to get comfortable with the demands and the competition brought on by his proximity to the majors. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa lauded his ability but worried that the burden of expectations could weigh down Rasmus' performance. Slow starts continue to be a signature, and when he slumps, he becomes pull-happy and hastens his swing, prolonging his difficulties. St. Louis would like him to have more structured off-field workouts, and the rehab for his knee forced that upon him. Rasmus' father drew attention when online comments attributed to him were critical of Cardinals coaches and irked some brass. (Tony Rasmus denies he made the comments.) Once his knee was healthy in September, St. Louis strongly urged him to play winter ball but he declined.

The Future: The Cardinals will make room for Rasmus the moment he shows he's ready. Since they drafted him, he has been the torchbearer for their initiative to renovate their farm system. He should be the first impact position player signed and developed by St. Louis since Albert Pujols.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Memphis (AAA)
.251
.346
.396
331
56
83
15
0
11
36
49
72
15
Cardinals (R)
.556
.667
1.000
9
1
5
1
0
1
2
3
2
0
Palm Beach (HiA)
.000
.182
.000
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
3
0
 
2.  Brett Wallace, 3b  Born: Aug. 26, 1986. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 245.
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Chuck Fick.
Brett WallaceBackground: The Cardinals pounced on the chance to draft Wallace, who won the Pacific-10 Conference triple crown as both a sophomore and a junior, with the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Less than two months after signing for $1.84 million, he was raking at Double-A Springfield.

Strengths: Already one of the best pure hitters in the minors, Wallace has an elegant and refined approach. His balanced, level swing creates consistent line drives, and he isn't easily fooled because of his keen eye and quick adjustments. Plenty of doubles and a fair amount of homers will be the byproduct of his strength and the charge he gets from his methodic, squared-up swings. He has an average arm and surprisingly  sound footwork at third base.

Weaknesses: Wallace has a thick lower body and has below-average athleticism, speed and agility. Some scouts say he's too stiff to stay at third for the long term, while his advocates say he makes the plays he can get to and could become an average defender with more coaching. He'll have to work hard to make sure his body doesn't go south on him.

The Future: One of four 2008 first-round draft picks to play in the Arizona Fall League, Wallace will spend this season in Triple-A. He should take over at third base for the Cardinals in 2010. Moving to first base isn't an option with Albert Pujols in St. Louis.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Quad Cities (LoA)
.327
.418
.490
153
28
50
8
1
5
25
17
32
0
Springfield (AA)
.367
.456
.653
49
13
18
5
0
3
11
2
7
0
 
3.  Chris Perez, rhpBorn: July 1, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. 
 Drafted: Miami, 2006 (1st round supplemental).
Chris PerezBackground: Since signing for $800,000 as a sandwich pick in 2006, Perez has been groomed to be the Cardinals' closer of the future. He got his first taste of the role in August, saving six games in six opportunities.

Strengths: Perez has a wicked fastball that delighted the Busch Stadium radar gun when he arrived. He can throw it consistently at 95 mph and dial up to 97-98 when necessary. His fastball has natural sink and he offsets it with a biting slider that hums in the high-80s. Perez has a gunslinger attitude and was unfazed by his hiccups at the big league level.

Weaknesses: Command and inexperience continue to block Perez from being dubbed St. Louis' closer. The wipeout slider he could get hitters to fish for in the minors isn't quite as effective in the majors, and he may revisit a curveball to give him a downshift pitch that complements his high-velocity duo. To finish games in the big leagues, he must develop a plus pitch other than his fastball that he can throw for a strike.

The Future: Manager Tony La Russa refused to anoint Perez his closer in August and won't be doing so to start 2009 either. Perez will open the season as a late-inning reliever, getting his seasoning in the seventh inning with the idea he'll ascend to the ninth once he improves his grip on his repertoire.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA)
1
1
3.20
26
0
0
11
25.1
18
3
12
38
.198
St. Louis
3
3
3.46
41
0
0
7
41.2
34
5
22
42
.227
 
4.  Jess Todd, rhp  Born: April 20, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 210.
 Drafted: Arkansas, 2007 (2nd round). Signed by: Roger Smith.
Jess ToddBackground: Todd had enough fastball to strike out 128 in 93 innings as a junior at Arkansas, including a Southeastern Conference tournament-record 17 in one start. But before 2008 a friend suggested he shift his grip and try a cutter. In the first two months of the season, Todd was an all-star at two levels; in the third, he pitched in the Futures Game; and in the fourth, he was in Triple-A.

Strengths: Todd augments an attack-dog mentality with tremendous control of three pitches—the cutter, an 88-91 mph sinker and a tight slider. He also can turn to a four-seamer that reaches 94 mph. He has a feel for when to shoot for a strikeout and when to entice contact. A typical outing for Todd was his seventh at Double-A: He needed 83 pitches to get 22 outs and 44 of his 63 fastballs were for strikes.

Weaknesses: To some, Todd profiles as a reliever because there's lingering concern his frame isn't built to handle the grind and innings of the long big league season. His repertoire also may be better suited for the bullpen until he refines a reliable changeup.

The Future: Skyrocketing to Triple-A last year puts Todd on the radar for the majors in 2009, though he'll start the year in the Memphis rotation. He'll prime his pitches for the moment there's an opening in the rotation or bullpen.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (HiA)
3
0
1.65
7
4
0
1
27.1
18
0
7
35
.184
Springfield (AA)
4
5
2.97
17
16
0
0
103
79
12
24
81
.216
Memphis (AAA)
1
1
3.97
4
4
0
0
22.2
19
4
11
20
.232
 
5.  Bryan Anderson, c   Born: Dec. 16, 1986. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: HS—Simi Valley, Calif., 2005 (4th round). Signed by: Jay North.
Bryan AndersonBackground: One of the youngest players in every league he's played in during his pro career, Anderson has hit at least .281 at every stop. He figured to spend a second year as an everyday catcher in Double-A in 2008, but hit .388 to force a promotion before the end of  April. He has played in the Futures Game and with Team USA.

Strengths: Anderson has a savvy approach at the plate and a fluid lefthanded swing with some elements of an uppercut. He's not flummoxed by southpaws, hitting .308/.384/.415 against them at Triple-A. Scouts still expect him to develop the gap power that hasn't manifested itself as quickly as hoped. Pitchers say he calls a good game.

Weaknesses: Anderson continues to improve as a catcher, becoming more adept at receiving and blocking balls. His throwing mechanics aren't traditional, costing him accuracy, but he has gotten quicker and caught 38 percent of basestealers in 2008. He tends to snatch at pitches. There's some concern he lacks the size to thrive through a full big league season.

The Future: If Anderson does shift positions—perhaps to second base—the Cardinals say it will because he's blocked by Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina, not his lack of ability. While he offers an intriguing long-term lefthanded complement to Molina, Anderson's immediate future is in Triple-A. He could be the best trade chip St. Louis has.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA)
.388
.412
.525
80
12
31
5
0
2
14
4
12
0
Memphis (AAA)
.281
.367
.379
235
27
66
13
2
2
27
32
46
2
 
6.  Clayton Mortensen, rhp  Born: April 10, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: Gonzaga, 2007 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jay North.
Clayton MortensenBackground: Mortensen became the first Cardinals pitcher to merit an invite to major league spring training the year after being drafted since Braden Looper in 1997. A 2007 sandwich pick who signed for $650,000, he made two spring starts and impressed the big league staff with his diving fastball and his promise. He skipped past high Class A and finished 2008 in the Triple-A rotation.

Strengths: Mortensen operates mainly with a 90-93 mph sinker and a hard slider. His sinker is good enough to induce strikeouts and grounders. He posted a 1.9 groundout/airout ratio in 2008, and righthanders hit .188 against him. He still has room to add more strength to his body and velocity to his fastball.

Weaknesses: Propelled to Triple-A in June, Mortensen was too fine around the strike zone and pitched himself into mechanical issues. Control and command troubles cost him late in his college career, and they returned at Memphis, where he gave up 42 walks and 12 homers in 80 innings. He needs to improve his changeup to handle lefties, who hit .354 against him last year.

The Future: Like Jess Todd, Mortensen has been promoted aggressively and will pitch in the Memphis rotation in 2009. The Cardinals believe the kinks in his delivery have been fixed and he'll return to big league camp.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Springfield (AA)
3
4
4.22
11
11
0
0
59.2
59
6
22
48
.257
Memphis (AAA)
5
6
5.51
15
14
0
0
80
87
12
42
57
.281
 
7.  Daryl Jones, of  Born: June 24, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: HS—Spring, Texas, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Joe Almaraz.
Daryl JonesBackground: Dripping with athleticism and tools when he chose pro baseball over college football, Jones hit just .221 in his first three seasons and could not get past low Class A. He regained his prospect status with a breakout 2008, when he was named Cardinals minor league player of the year after batting .316/.407/.483 and chipping in 13 home runs and 24 stolen bases.

Strengths: Jones rivals Colby Rasmus as the finest athlete in system, and he's certainly the speediest. His quickness serves him well at the plate, where he's able to turn line drives into doubles; on the bases, where he's improving as a thief; and in the outfield, where he's adept at all three positions. He had an epiphany at the plate, learning to be aggressive in the right counts instead of overanxiously getting himself out early in at-bats.

Weaknesses: While he finally has the stats to match his ability, Jones remains raw and his power is only beginning to develop. He's still prone to striking out and needs to emphasize getting on base so he can hit near the top of the order. He's good but not instinctive in the outfield, and his arm is fringy, so he could wind up in left field.

The Future: Still just 21, Jones will return to Double-A in 2009. A repeat performance could put him in line to compete for a starting job in St. Louis the following season.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Palm Beach (HiA)
.320
.399
.463
300
42
96
11
7
6
31
31
66
17
Springfield (AA)
.290
.409
.500
124
19
36
6
1
6
14
22
30
6
 
8.  Jason Motte, rhp  Born: June 22, 1982. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: Iona, 2003 (19th round). Signed by: Joe Rigoli.
Jason MotteBackground: Motte's rapid transformation from light-hitting catcher to lights-out reliever is complete. He was a superb defensive catcher, but a .188 average in his first three pro seasons forced him to the mound. He experienced almost immediate success and has gotten better each year, and he blew away big leaguers last September.

Strengths: Motte has the best fastball in the system, sitting at 95-96 mph with the ability to crank it up to 98 consistently. He's relentlessly aggressive on the mound, usually throwing strikes and daring hitters to catch up to his heat. His past life as a catcher adds deception to his delivery, as he cocks his hand near his ear before firing.

Weaknesses: Motte showed no effective second pitch during his big league stint. He has worked on a slider, cutter and splitter but none is reliable yet. His fastball is arrow straight, enhancing the need for something with a lower gear. He battles his command on occasion.

The Future: Spring training will be a laboratory of sorts for Motte to work on expanding his repertoire so he can be a late-inning reliever in St. Louis. Chris Perez may have the edge in experience, but there are some who see Motte as a viable contender for the long-term closer role.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA)
4
3
3.24
63
0
0
9
66.2
64
6
26
110
.245
St. Louis
0
0
0.82
12
0
0
1
11
5
0
3
16
.139
 
9.  David Freese, 3b  Born: April 28, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220.
 Drafted: South Alabama, 2006 (9th round). Signed by: Bob Filotei (Padres).
David FreeseBackground: In the deal that sent icon Jim Edmonds to the Padres last offseason, the Cardinals were willing to cover more of Edmonds' salary if the Padres parted with Freese. At the time, Freese filled a hole on the organization depth chart—a third baseman who could hit—and brought the added virtue of being a native, a graduate of suburban Lafayette High. St. Louis skipped Freese past Double-A and watched him lead the system in OPS (.911) and RBIs (91).

Strengths: Freese has hit for average throughout the minors and has the ability to drive the ball the opposite way with authority. Of his 26 homers last year, 20 went to center or right field. Billed as nothing special at third base, he impressed the Cardinals with steady play that was more superb that serviceable.

Weaknesses: Freese can tumble into stretches where he'll get himself out, as he did when striking out 59 times in his first 178 Triple-A at-bats. He's a below-average runner. Though he tried catching in instructional league with the Padres, he offers the most realistic value at third base—a problem with Brett Wallace in the organization.

The Future: The clock is ticking on Freese, who will be 26 in 2009. Wallace is going to start at third base in Triple-A, so Freese will hope there's room on the big league club for a righthanded bat.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Memphis (AAA)
.306
.361
.550
464
83
142
29
3
26
91
39
111
5
 
10.  Pete Kozma, ss  Born: April 11, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
 Drafted: HS—Owasso, Okla., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Gossett.
Pete KozmaBackground: Kozma had just led Owasso High to an Oklahoma 6-A state title with a three-homer playoff game when the Cardinals selected him 18th overall in 2007. Signed for $1.395 million, he admits what scouts say about him—he's not a flashy talent. But he's a well-rounded middle infielder who has no glaring weakness and should advance steadily through the system.

Strengths: Kozma has a good feel for hitting and a line-drive swing. The best defensive shortstop in the system, he's a nimble fielder with soft hands and fluid actions. He has an average arm and enhances it with a quick, accurate release. His solid-average speed and fine instincts could allow him to develop into a basestealer.

Weaknesses: Ideally, Kozma would thrive as a No. 2 hitter, but his bat hasn't progressed as rapidly as hoped. There's no indication he'll generate the bat speed to hit for much power. He struggles to drive the ball to the opposite field and was overmatched following a late-season promotion to high Class A Palm Beach.

The Future: Kozma will take another crack at high Class A in 2009. How he fares at the plate will dictate how rapidly he makes the next leap.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Quad Cities (LoA)
.284
.363
.398
377
58
107
20
4
5
40
45
69
12
Palm Beach (HiA)
.130
.231
.182
77
4
10
4
0
0
10
10
27
0

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Photo Credits: Rasmus (John Williamson).