St. Louis Cardinals: Chat
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.
Ben (Leland Grove): Now that the Cards have
traded Wallace and voided Mateo's contract, about where would you
guesstimate their farm system would rank from 1-30 overall?
Welcome to the annual chat about the
St. Louis Cardinals minor-league system, and specifically the Top 10
list of prospects that went out with this week's edition of Baseball
America. Figured a good place to start is with the overall theme of the
system — that is, a pool of prospects thinned by a series of trades
and an overall depth chart that needs an infusion of talent.
Ben, your question cuts right to it. The Cardinals reveled in their
climb to No. 8 in last year's organizational rankings. It was the
highest yet for the franchise.
Expect a precipitous drop.
The Cardinals are now snugly in the lower third when it comes to
overall level of talent. While the amount of players who will appear in
the majors remains good, it's the lack of impact players and surefire
contributors that will sink the Cardinals into the 20s.
Jon Jay (My Computer): How far off the Top 10 did I fall this year, and how can I get back in your good graces?
Never fear, Jon Jay. You didn't fall
that far, and while your start to the season was cause for concern the
strong finish and a good turn in winter ball so far (.323/.418/.431)
has buoyed your place in the rankings. A spot on the 40-man roster says
it all. Follow Skip Schumaker's lead, save for that whole changing
positions to second base thing.
Eric (STL): In retrospect, was Pete Kozma an overdraft? Did he make your Top 30?
It was unless you buy into the
Cardinals' claim at the time that a) this was the guy they wanted (and
really they were hurting for a bona fide shortstop at the time) and b)
there was a team poised to take him before the Cardinals had another
chance. Whether b) is true or not may be academic because there were
members of the Cardinals' staff that believed it. This pick has been
over-analyzed and the Cardinals have changed some of the ways they
handle the draft as a result. It's important that none of that reflect
on Kozma who seems to take the bruising for decisions out of his
control. He didn't draft himself. And, yes, for his ability — not for
where he was taken in the draft — he is in the Top 30. He's in the
middle third of it.
Ben (Leland Grove): Assuming he's the real deal, when is the earliest we could possibly see Miller in the bigs?
I think he said something like three
years or less. The Cardinals have him set up for a tad more deliberate
climb through the system then that. Their hope is that he'll start the
season at Low-A Quad Cities. The Cardinals promote aggressively so it
wouldn't be a surprise if High-A is within reach of Miller. Expect him
to go more steadily through the two higher levels and give him three, 3
1/2 or (on the outside) four years. If he's the pitcher they hope he
is, that seems fair.
Wes (St Louis): Is Mark Hamilton a AAAA type of player? Is he trade bait?
Remains to be seen. There are times
when it seems like he's not quite a lefthanded John Gall without a
defensive position, and there are times when he hits well enough to
project as useful in the majors. He went to winter ball to work on
playing the outfield for the same reason that you are hinting about:
Albert Pujols. There's little hope for a first baseman in this system
unless he can hit like Mays, run like Hayes and maybe pitch like
Koufax. Hamilton recognized that and wanted to try and expand his
application, so to speak, by playing the outfield. Even if that does
take, his best route to the majors may be by auditioning for 29 other
clubs during spring training ...
Tyler (Denver): Was Craig's uncertain future
position the main reason why you ranked him where you did? I have a
hard time believing his 2009 season had anything to do with it, seeing
as how he had arguably the best campaign of any Cardinal farmhand.
I don't think there's an argument
against Craig having the best "campaign" at all. He did in 2009 what
Freese did in 2008. The biggest difference: Position. Freese is going
to play third base, and he plays it well. He's ready to handle the
position defensively at the big-league level. Craig is still a bat
without a home. He does well at first base and coaches expect him to be
at least average in left field. I ranked the bat, figuring the glove
will fit in somewhere.
Sam (Carbondale, IL): Do you still hold out hope for Adam Ottavino? Is he on your top 30?
Ask my editor. Ask some of my
colleagues. Yes, there is still hope for Adam Ottavino. I saw and heard
enough good things about him in the second half of last season that for
awhile I had him penciled in as a top 10 prospect. He's a
turn-the-corner candidate for 2010. He's got the arm. He seems to have
finally settled on some mechanics. And he's no longer in a taffy pull
of philosophies at the lower level. He can just pitch, and for the
first time in awhile it seems like he has confidence doing that.
Ottavino caught the major-league staff's eye with what he did for Team
Italy and it will be interesting to see how he does in a return
engagement with Class AAA Memphis — especially when he'll be expected
to pitch like the No. 1 or No. 2 member of that staff (depending on how
things sort out above him).
Robert Stock (Quad Cities): If I end up tanking behind the plate this year, would you encourage me to get back on the mound?
I won't need to. The Cardinals will do it first.
Derek (DC): Do the Cards still have high hopes for Bryan Anderson, or is he trade bait in waiting? Where did he land on your overall list?
It appears his turn in the Arizona Fall
League did Anderson some good with the organization and some good for
himself. Anderson did drop — rather substantially — in the overall
rankings. Part of that was because of a serious shoulder injury that he
sustained. But that shouldn't be seen as the only reason. His power
hasn't developed like scouts expected, and that really means he's got
to hit better than .300 to remain effective. His offense also looks a
lot different if he's not behind the plate. While every indication —
including a recommendation from Mike Matheny — is that Anderson is
solid and getting better at catcher, Matt Pagnozzi leapfrogged him on
the depth chart. (Folks within the Cardinals organization said even if
Anderson was healthy, Pagnozzi was going to get the September callup.)
Anderson is on the 40-man roster and there are still those who have
high expectations that his bat will lead him back onto the depth chart.
Jaybee (Evansville): Where would Shane Peterson have ranked in the top 30 if the trade not happened?
Great question. For kicks I tried to
put together a what-if top 30 that included all of the players traded
and Wagner Mateo. That obviously adds a flood of top-10 prospects and
pushes the ones who did the make the top 10 around a bit. In that
scenario, Peterson was in the high-teens, low 20s. Don't buy into the
spin that he was the "steal" of that trade. He's intriguing and there's
a lot to like about some of the things he brings at the plate — and in
the field — but Wallace was, is, will be the gem of that deal.
Larry (Fort Worth): Is Scott Bittle in your list? Closer- 8th inning guy- or starter?
He is on the list, yes. After much
debate between the editors who help construct the list and me, the
reporter that puts it all together. Bittle comes with a huge red flag
because of his health and to me that's a hurdle he's got to clear
before he can be ranked on his ability alone. That said, his ability
was enough for some to want him aggressively ranked because his "Thing"
pitch — that cut fastball he ripped through the SEC with — makes him
a reliever who can fly up the ranks.
Todd (Tosa): Bryan Anderson struggled mightily
this past season and looks as if he's been passed by Robert Stock. What
is Anderson's prognosis going forward?
Check above, and that's a good catch
about Stock and certainly grist for a good debate that asks who is best
catching prospect in the Cardinals system: Stock, Anderson, Pagnozzi
(the defensive specialist) and Steven Hill, who showed improvement
behind the plate but it's what he does at the plate that keeps him in
the lineup at whatever position he plays that day.
Andy (Iowa City): The Cards have 3 more
fireballers in Francisco Samuel, Adam Reifer, and Joe Kelly. How would
you rank these 3, and how close were they to the top 10?
Of those three, only Joe Kelly — who
is going to get some time as a starter, according to a few in the
organization — was not considered for the Top 10. All are ranked in
the Top 30, and in some ways they got their on the power of their arm
alone. Each is a flamethrower, as you mention, and each has a drawback.
For Samuel, it's control. For Reifer, it's consistency. For Kelly, it's
early, but there is some who want to see his shoulder stay healthy. How
I would rank these three, personally, is a tad different then how they
ultimately ranked in the Top 30. I stripped down the question to a
simpler one: Not who was the best prospect, but who was closest to
having the bigger role/impact with the major-league club. 1. Reifer. 2.
Samuel. 3. Kelly. A big thing for all three is, yeah, they throw hard.
But how hard do they throw a strike?
Darrin (Oxford, MS): Hi Derrick,
Did Scott Bittle crack your top top 30 list? Also, did his injury
toward the end of last year come into play with his ranking, and what
have you heard about his rehab? What type of ceiling does he have?
Some of this was asked and answered
above. Short answer: Yes, Bittle's injury played a large part in where
he was ranked in the Top 30. But since you asked that followup on his
rehab, here goes ... The Cardinals wanted to get him in the system and
get him ready to, in the words of VP Jeff Luhnow, "be ready to pitch by
the end of the year." He was set to get a few innings with Palm Beach,
but the Cardinals opted not to activate him at the end of the year.
Luhnow insists that wasn't because he wasn't able. Bittle was ready to
pitch, the farm director said. And all indications are he'll be ready
to pitch in spring training. He'll be in a rare position. He could
pitch himself into a number of levels during spring. It will be
interesting to see that first time he throws and just who gathers
around the cage to see it ...
Andy W. (Iowa City): After the top 5, the
Cards system appears full of relievers and bench players. What would
you say is the weakest position in their system?
Impact hitter. Can that be a position?
Paul (Springfield): I see you have Blake King as the best slider in the system. Can he be a closer/setup man at the major league level?
Let's see how he advances before
tagging him as a closer candidate. He's got the makeup of a setup guy,
and with that slider and a more consistent command of his fastball
he'll have the stuff of a mid- to late-inning minuteman.
Chad (Springfield): Who are some of the sleepers in the org. that may take off this year?
Already mentioned Ottavino, though he's
probably eliminated from the "sleeper" discussion because he was a
first-round pick. Some sleepers in no particular order: SS Yunier
Castillo (if he would just take a walk already) ... SS Ryan Jackson ...
OF Adron Chambers ... Can Steven Hill be a sleeper? And then there's
this one, a player who has attracted some fans within the organization
and few mentions from folks outside the organization: Michael Swinson.
This toolsy outfielder had a .338/.425/.541 line as a 19-year-old in
the Appy League. Want to see him do better at a higher level, but the
folks who have seen him talk about how he stands out as a raw baseball
athlete. There's room for one or more of those in this system.
Keith W (Jersey): Jaime Garcia, Has very good stuff... what are the chances he makes the rotation and what is his upside?
Pitching coach Dave Duncan slowed the
Garcia bandwagon a bit recently by telling me over at the Post-Dispatch
that having Garcia in the rotation would cause him and La Russa to
"change their philosophy a bit." Put down the torches, folks. His point
wasn't about Garcia's age, it was about Garcia's durability. A year
removed from TJ how many innings can Garcia handle? If he's cast as the
No. 5 starter does that mean the Cardinals would skip him every so
often to save his arm from the mileage? That's the philosophy Duncan
was talking about. There is hope within the front office that Garcia
will seize the opportunity he has to fill a spot in the rotation. He
has that ability. He projects as a No. 3 or 4, though he has exceeded
John (Oak Park): Should the Cards be worried that their No. 3 prospect is an "innings eater" and their No. 5 guy is 27 years old?
Depends. If that's what they need, then
they should be satisfied because the system is about to produce exactly
what they have asked for. Except, it's not all they need. Those two
examples you give aren't causes for worry. The lack of top-flight
impact prospects is.
Rick Mostak (Lowell, IN): Who do you and/or
the Cardinal front office consider to be sleepers in High A and below?
Have you talked to Luhnow or anyone as to whether they feel the Mateo
matter has/will hurt them in signing players from the Dominican? If I
am correct they have not signed any such players since terminating the
Mentioned a few of those players in an
answer above. Yunier Castillo is one to mention, and since you asked
about international players Cesar Valera is another low-level player to
keep an eye on. He's a shortstop and the Cardinals believe not only can
he stay at the position, he'll also hit. We've talked a lot about
whether or not the Mateo Quagmire will hurt the goodwill the Cardinals
have worked years to cultivate in the region. There is worry about that
within the Cardinals front office. One official told me that he isn't
sure how far the ripples of that decision will extend, but he does
believe that that Cardinals can quickly recreate some credibility with
solid offers in the future and, just as importantly, starting to see
some high-level production and development from the players who they
have pulled from that market.
Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Is Matt Adams
considered a legit prospect? He had a great year with the bat in Rookie
ball at 2 stops. Can he play anywhere else besides 1B? - because you
might say he's blocked there if he wants to play in St. Louis.
You might say? Nah, you can go ahead
and say it. Adams is a monster of a first baseman. The pride of Slipper
Rock U led the nation in hitting this past season and fits the profile
of the college player the Cardinals find under a Slippery Rock —
excuse me, it had to be done — by sifting through and normalizing a
cagillion stats from college baseball around the country. Adams can
hit. But he's got to hit above rookie ball to move onto the prospect
radar. It's too early in his career to start thinking that he's blocked
in this organization. See what he does at a higher level this year and
T-Bone (FL): What can you tell us about Matt Adams? Is he on your radar? Thanks, Derrick.
Check above. He's on my radar because
of his early production, but he wasn't in the mix for the Top 30 except
for at the very beginning of the conversation.
Chase (St. Louis): Did Scott Gorgen come close to the top 10?
Gorgen is a riddle. In the course of
gathering information for the Top 30, I heard all kinds of scouting
reports on him. Some raves. More cautions. Some doubts. All over the
spectrum. There's a lot to like and there's every reason to believe
he's a Top 30 prospect — probably middle third, not top 10 — but the
consistency has to be there.
tim (florissant,mo): is mark mccormick a prospect or suspect
also is p.j. walters still a prospect
The latter for McCormick. Health has
put him there. And yes, Walters is still eligible for the poll and he
is still ranked in the Top 30.
Rob (Hermosa Beach (CA)): Do you think Bryan Anderson get traded within the next calendar year?
Not as the centerpiece of a deal, no.
If the Cardinals put together a deal that involves other players,
Anderson makes sense as a complementary piece. But remember the
Cardinals are without a backup catcher right now and there is some
internal advocates for a more offensive option at No. 2 behind Molina.
Steve (Owltown): I'm curious how you see a
couple of Owls - Tyler Henley and Aaron Luna. What do you consider
their ceilings? Tyler hit over .300 in AA and AFL.
Besides Allen Craig, Tyler Henley may
have had the most impressive offensive season of any Cardinal
minor-leaguer. For me, Henley was right there with Daniel Descalso.
Henley did a lot of things this season to enhance his status with the
organization and cut through that thicket of lefthanded-hitting
outfielders who clogs the spots in the depth chart of above him. He's
in the mix. If he's able to generate some more power — a skill he's
been working on out in the Arizona Fall League by improving his swing
— then Henley becomes a very intriguing name for what he offers atop a
lineup and an ability to play three spots in the outfield.
Jon (Peoria): What happened to Niko Vasquez
this year? Is his bat not nearly as good as was expected or was there
another reason for his tough year?
Two things happened: He did not hit
anywhere near as well as he was expected to hit, and, as expected, he
wasn't able to stick at shortstop. A significant step back, though he
was ranked aggressively last season.
Rob (Alaska): I assume Colby would still be #1 if eligible? How does the team feel his first season went?
Sure, but he's not. That was only easy
part of putting together the ranking this year. Rasmus wasn't No. 1. I
started with that. ... Overall, it appears the Cardinals were pleased
with Rasmus first season, though I get the sense all parties wish he
didn't have to do so much learning-on-the-job. The seasons really took
a toll on Rasmus. He lost weight. He lost strength. He lost playing
time and production because of it. His eating habits were called into
question, and he had to modify his workouts to take into account the
fact that there were 100 more games to play. He could learn more from a
few of the players around him like Brendan Ryan (who has been there,
done that) and Skip Schumaker (who seems to have an innate sense of how
to survive and thrive). What shouldn't be lost in those lessons,
however, is that Rasmus was the Cardinals best hitter in the
postseason. That got the manager's attention, and that's not a bad way
at all to finish a season for next year's everyday center fielder.
brent (florissant,mo): where did shane robinson and tyler henley wind up in your
Henley found a home in the middle third
of the rankings. Robinson, despite making his major-league debut this
past season, missed the cut after appearing in some rough drafts in the
Hector (St. Louis): Is there cause to be
excited by Grabiel Hernandez? I know DSL stats should be taken with a
grain of salt, but I've also heard reports that he has an advanced
glove and plate approach.
Sure. He belongs with the list of
international players I mentioned earlier. you're right about the DSL
numbers, but Grabiel's approach and his instincts for the game drew
compliments as well. Word from scouts and coaches are more valuable
than the stats at this point in his career. Not the biggest of guys but
certainly one who is on the list to watch when he comes to the complex
in Jupiter and gets a dose of a tougher league.
Trey (St Louis MO): Where would Wallace and Mateo have ranked?
Wallace would have been No. 1. Mateo would have been top five.
brad (florissant,mo): Is Joe mather still a candidate to make the 25 man roster
or is he finished as far being with the cardinals
Nope, still a candidate. Mather has a
lot of fans in the clubhouse and, more importantly, in the offices
where decisions are made. An injury like he had is not going to be held
against him except for the time it cost him. If he can get his swing
back the way it was in 2008 then he's an righthanded bat for the bench
who can play multiple positions that significantly changes the
Cardinals need to add that kind of player this winter.
Kyle (Galesburg, IL): Who are the leading candidates to have a break out year in 2010?
You mean besides Shelby Miller?
David (Texarkana, TX): Hi Derrick,
Thanks for the great work. When do you think Scott Bittle will reach
the Cards? On the Draft Report Card, it says he is closest to the
majors. Could you foresee a September callup?
My sense on that statement is that
Bittle's pitch is the closest to being major-league ready of the recent
draft. As mentioned before, Bittle's got be healthy enough to throw an
inning in the minors before he can be considered closest to the majors.
Andy W. (Iowa City): Casey Mulligan had a nice year as a reliever after converting from catcher. What can you tell us about his scouting report?
Well, Mulligan sure can dance. (If you
haven't seen him do his Thriller routine, go to YouTube — no, no, no
in a second, after you've finished this chat, and do the search for
Mulligan doing his best Michael.) Here is a quick Mulligan scouting
report from an earlier Baseball America organization report: "Mulligan
doesn�t have the power of Motte, but his fastball does have some bite
to it and he further frustrates batters by dropping his arm angle every
so often. He�ll go beneath sidearm to fling his fastball in the right
counts. That�s how he threw before being urged to come over the top,
and he hasn�t lacked for command at either angle. He is still
developing a second pitch. 'The curveball is a work in progress,'
Mulligan said. 'I tend to baby it too much when I should just throw it
as hard as I can.'"
John (Oak Park): Where would Adam Reifer rank? He can hit the high 90s. Does he profile as a closer?
Reifer was in the No. 15 neighborhood.
If he can show this year that he can stick as a closer — handle both
the ninth innings, the responsibility, the stress, and the zero-defect
style pitching — then he's a top-10 talent. With a bullet.
Michael Bruce (Granite Bay, Ca.): Just how
good is Colby Rasmus. I see him as possibly a 35 double and 25 homer
guy with a .285 average, perhaps an offensive equal to Andy Van Slyke.
Your thoughts ?
I think that's a fair comparison when
you also throw in his ability to do that and play a superb center
field. The Van Slyke comparison comes up more and more. Early in his
career, Rasmus was likened to Steve Finley. Then as torched Class AA he
got tagged as a Grady Sizemore-type. The truth is somewhere inbetween.
As far as a back-of-the-napkin estimate goes, there is nothing wrong
with the stats you suggest, Michael.
Jim (St. Louis): Have scouts' perception of Roberto De La Cruz changed after his '09 showing?
They sure did initially when he showed
up, all size and frame and no bat during spring training, extended and
even early in his turn at GCL. The description was he looked lost. The
Cardinals quickly abandoned a plan to have him debut at Johnson City.
Sure, he had some ear-grabbing pop in the batting cage and man did he
have a frame that screamed hitter. Those first impressions (alarms)
faded eventually and word from the coaches around him later in the year
was that De La Cruz started looking more like the hitter they expected.
The numbers certainly back that up. Of the 37 hits he had in the GCL,
28 came in his final 94 at-bats. He hit .298/.327/.372 in August.
There's something to be said for an adjustment period to the
Eric (PA): I remember Robert Stock being the
next big thing when he left high school a year early. I also remember
him being a two-way player as a Catcher/Closer. Does he have a chance
to live up to those expectations from a few years ago?
Eric, I want to give you a straight
yes-no answer, a bold here-you-go statement ... but I can't. The more I
considered Stock and the more research and interviews I did about him,
the higher he climbed in the rankings. You see the result in today's
Top 10. He's No. 10, and he could have been a few ticks higher, and I'd
be lying if I didn't admit that I had him much lower at the start.
There was something about that Pac-10 batting average and a few of the
scouting reports I got that gave me pause. Will he match the hype he
had coming out of high school? Hard to say. Really, how many of us
have? Should expectations be high for him entering 2010. Absolutely.
He's a top-10 prospect and this coming season he'll get an extended
chance with Quad Cities to show why.
Josh G (Sacto, CA): Who is a better SS prospect Ryan Jackson or Pete Kozma?
Great question. Not quite who was a
better Bond — Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton — but certainly one
that could stir debate at any Cardinals Prospect Convention. It's a
simple question and for me it has a simple answer: He who hits best
first at Class AA is the better prospect.
steve (Chicago): Do you think Francisco Samuel could be a future closer??? His numbers have been good in that role in minors.
Eduardo Sanchez, who has been
shockingly absent from questions in this chat today, has leapfrogged
Samuel into that role. Samuel has the electricity, but he is either
wild or effectively wild. To be a closer he has to just be effective.
Raymond (New York): Hi,
the Cards signed most of their 2009 draft picks between rounds 40 and
50 ? Are they all just to fill a depleted minor league system or are
any sleeper prospects who slipped ?
I'd like to see more of Jesse Simpson,
the 40th round pick out of College of Charleston. As far as second-day
picks though the one who seemed to have the most intrigue as a sleeper
didn't sign: Bibona from UC-Irvine.
Tom Olson (St. Pete, FL): We've watched the
Palm Beach Cards (FSL-High A)roster grow weaker over the past two
years. Has the scouting system changed? Is there more emphasis on stats
and less on viewing the whole player?
The Cardinals are striving for a blend.
They once called it STOUT — as in STat and scOUT. (Get it?) There are
some criticism of the Cardinals' system that stem from this. The
Cardinals are widely viewed as "safe" in the draft, meaning they value
steady/predictable production (like that of a college pitcher) over the
mercurial talent of say a high school shortstop with a college football
scholarship waiting for him. There is some of that within the system,
too, as the Cardinals have a current crop of prospects that are good
with the glove but works-in-progress at the plate. The Cardinals have
recently said that in the wake of all the trades the "scouts have got
to get back to work." To me, there is also pressure on the coaches in
the system to develop what they have.
bill (bowling green): do you get the sense that the cardinals will try to restock
the system with extra draft picks they receive for holliday,
de rosa, pinerio and possibly glaus?
Bill, Thanks for offering a fitting
coda today's chat. I appreciate everyone who dropped in with a question
this afternoon and hope that I got to enough to make it worth your
time. If you have any further questions you can always reach me at the
paper, email@example.com, and at the blog that I write there,
The Cardinals are out to re-sign Holliday, of course, but they do see
the loss of some free agents as a chance to reclaim some of the lost
prospects by translating them into picks. It would be an upset if Glaus
is offered arbitration, but the other two are possibilities. The
Cardinals took an uncharacteristic gamble on Miller because they felt
their system was set to do that. With significant spots in the depth
chart to patch entering 2010, it will be a goal of the Cardinals to not
only fill out the system but also enhance the number of impact
prospects they have to fill next year's Top 10.
Thanks again for hanging out today. Happy Thanksgiving.