St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
By Will Lingo
1. Jimmy Journell, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Illinois, 1999 (4th round). Signed by: Scott Melvin.
Background: Like a lot of organizations before the 1999 draft, the Cardinals loved Journells arm but didnt know what to make of the Tommy John surgery he had a week before the draft. Before that, he had been a dominant closer at Illinois. They took him in the fourth round, signed him for $250,000 and tried to be patient. He didnt pitch at all in 1999 and worked out of the bullpen in 2000, in what has become an organization practice for pitchers in Tommy John recovery. His breakout came in 2001, as his stuff was back and he lit up the high Class A Carolina League before earning a promotion to Double-A New Haven, where he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in his only start. He ended up as the CL player of the year, the organizations minor league pitcher of the year, and Baseball Americas Class A Player of the Year.
Strengths: Journell has everything you could ask for in a big league pitcher. He throws an electric fastball that can touch 97 mph and sits at 93-94. He has good command of it and works it inside and out on hitters. He has a hard slider thats sharp when he stays on top of it, and he made great strides with his changeup in 2001. His arm problems actually helped his development of those two pitches and helped him become more of a pitcher, rather than just trying to blow hitters away with his fastball. Journell has big league makeup, and hes not afraid to go after hitters.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals raised Journells arm slot from low three-quarters to keep him on top of his breaking ball and reduce the stress on his elbow. He went back to a lower slot, where hes more comfortable, during the season. The hope is that Journell and the Cardinals have found a happy medium. Beyond that, he needs to continue his evolution from thrower to pitcher. He can be stubborn at times.
The Future: Its possible Journell could show up in St. Louis in 2002, but the organization really just wants to see another healthy, successful year. The larger question is whether hes a starter or closer. He has the mentality to close, but he was so successful starting in 2001 the Cardinals will leave him in the role for now. The bet here is hell end up in the bullpen eventually.
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