St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Derrick Goold

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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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.

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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? Thanks!

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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? Thanks!

Derrick Goold: 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 expectations before.

    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?

Derrick Goold: 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 Mateo contract>

Derrick Goold: 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.

Derrick Goold: 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 check back.

    T-Bone (FL): What can you tell us about Matt Adams? Is he on your radar? Thanks, Derrick.

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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.

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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 rankings?

Derrick Goold: 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 low 20s.

    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.

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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 ?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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 environment.

    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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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.

Derrick Goold: 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 ? thanks

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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?

Derrick Goold: 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, dgoold@post-dispatch.com, and at the blog that I write there, http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/bird-land/. 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.