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Top Ten Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Will Lingo
December 5, 2005

Chat Wrap: Will Lingo took your Cardinals questoins
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, 2006.

Though the team fell short of its goal of a World Series title again in 2005, the Cardinals also reached 100 wins and posted the best record in the major leagues for the second year in a row. St. Louis led the National League in ERA and finished third in scoring, showing once again that the front office knows how to build a major league roster.

The Cardinals are built largely around players who came up through other organizations, with such notable exceptions as Albert Pujols and Matt Morris. Homegrown catcher Yadier Molina did seize the big league job, and righthander Brad Thompson established himself as a reliable set-up man in his rookie season. Otherwise, the big league team was assembled through astute free-agent signings and savvy trades.

To bolster their minor league system, which Baseball America rated the game’s worst entering 2005, the Cardinals have taken a hard look at their scouting operation over the last two years. They have made significant changes, both in the structure and responsibilities of the scouting staff and in the use of sophisticated performance analysis through statistics.

The new philosophy resulted in a heavy college approach in the 2004 draft, as St. Louis drafted just four high school players and signed none. Club officials said they wanted players who could make quick contributions at the higher levels of the system.

The team was also in the early stages of developing its system of statistical analysis, which has become much more sophisticated and is now done almost exclusively in-house, rather than by outside suppliers. St. Louis got a golden opportunity to test its new approach with a draft windfall in 2005, getting four extra picks for the loss of free agents Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny.

The Cardinals’ 2005 draft showed their willingness to look at all types of players. There were sleepers who were picked based on their college performance, such as outfielder Nick Stavinoha (seventh round). But there were also college players whose performance has never seemed to quite measure up to their tools, such as righthander Mark McCormick (supplemental first).

There were toolsy high school players whose projection is based on the judgments of scouts much more than their statistics, such as outfielder Daryl Jones (third). St. Louis even spent a couple of early picks on Tyler Herron (supplemental first) and Josh Wilson (second), a pair of prep righthanders—considered the riskiest demographic in the draft.

The Cardinals have shown a willingness to blend all these approaches, which could pay quick dividends for the farm system. The players mentioned above and first-rounders Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene immediately stand out in an organization lacking headline talent beyond top prospect Anthony Reyes.

Fortunately for St. Louis, the major league team has few immediate holes that need to be plugged by minor leaguers. But as the Cardinals move into a new Busch Stadium, they have the hope of introducing new homegrown talent in the coming years as well.

1. ANTHONY REYES , rhp      Age: 24 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 215 B-T: R-R
Drafted: Southern California, 2003 (15th round)   Signed by: Nakia Hill

Background: Reyes is looking more and more like the steal of the 2003 draft. Persistent injuries plagued him throughout his career at Southern California, but the Cardinals bet he could return to the dominant form he showed as a sophomore if he could get healthy. They took him in the 15th round, and by and large they’ve been right. Reyes has been bothered by occasional shoulder inflammation as a pro, but he has suffered no major injuries and has moved quickly through the system in just two seasons. In an organization that didn’t have such a well-stocked major league pitching staff, Reyes could have been pressed into service in 2005. But the Cardinals had five reliable starters and were happy to keep him at Triple-A Memphis for more seasoning. He did get a spot start in August and allowed just two hits in 61/3 shutout innings against the Brewers, then returned to Memphis and struck out 15 in his next start. He was often dominant in the Pacific Coast League, ranking first in baserunners per nine innings (10.0), second in strikeouts per nine (9.5) and third in opponent average.

Strengths: While he’s probably not a No. 1 starter, Reyes has the frame, stuff and command to pitch toward the front of a major league rotation. He makes hitters put the ball in play, trusts his defense and doesn’t beat himself. He pitches consistently at 92-93 mph and occasionally reaches into the mid-90s, and his slider and changeup are effective complements to his fastball. His changeup has late sink and improved significantly as the season went on. He also worked on getting more movement on his fastball and began using a two-seamer effectively to get more sink. His command, which managers rated the best in the PCL, makes all of his pitches more effective. He not only stays ahead and avoids walks but also spots his pitches to both sides of the plate and keeps hitters off balance.

Weaknesses: Reyes has no obvious flaws in his repertoire. He continues to work on improving his durability, but until he stays completely healthy for a full season that will remain a question. He worked 142 innings in 2005, but he missed three weeks after spraining a joint in his shoulder in May and often took more than four days between starts. The elbow problems that bothered him at Southern California haven’t returned, but his shoulder has bothered him in each of his two pro seasons. Some scouts worry that his arm action will always lead to injury problems.

The Future: If the Cardinals don’t re-sign Matt Morris or opt not to bring back Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan, Reyes will be the frontrunner for a spot in the big league rotation. If no opening exists, he could compete for a bullpen job. He’s easily the next pitcher in line for the St. Louis staff, and his combination of stuff and aptitude should allow him to be a contributor right away.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA) 7 6 3.64 23 23 2 1 129 105 13 34 136 .222
St. Louis 1 1 2.70 4 1 0 0 13 6 2 4 12 .133

2. COLBY RASMUS, of        Age: 19 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 175
Drafted: HS—Phenix City, Ala., 2005 (1st round)  Signed by: Scott Nichols

Background: Rasmus has a baseball pedigree that stacks up with just about anyone’s. His father Tony was a 10th-round draft pick in January 1986 and now is the coach at Russell County High (Seale, Ala.), which won the 2005 national championship behind Colby and his younger brother Cory, a premium prospect for the 2006 draft. The Cardinals took Colby 28th overall and signed him for $1 million.

Rasmus’ tools are average or better across the board, but it’s his baseball savvy and desire that make him stand out. He has a sweet lefthanded swing and the ability to put a charge in the ball. He has the arm and speed to play center field, and he’s also a threat on the bases.


Strikeouts were Rasmus’ biggest problem in his pro debut as he struggled to recognize offspeed pitches, though he also showed the willingness to take a walk. He also needs to add strength to his rail-thin frame, which would boost his power.


The Future:
He’s the best all-around outfield prospect St. Louis has brought into the system since J.D. Drew. Rasmus will open his first full season at low Class A Quad Cities and could progress quickly.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Johnson City (R) .296 .362 .514 216 47 64 16 5 7 27 21 73 13 3

3. TYLER GREENE, ss        Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 185
Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2005 (1st round)  Signed by: Roger Smith

Background: Greene had an up-and-down career at Georgia Tech, alternating success with struggles on both offense and defense. He showed better hitting aptitude with wood, batting a team-best .431 for Team USA in 2003 and .296 in the Cape Cod League in 2004. His junior season was delayed by a broken jaw, but he still went 30th overall in the 2005 draft and earned a $1.1 million bonus.

When in a groove, Greene hits to all fields and shows pop. The Cardinals regard him as a pure shortstop with a plus arm and good range. He’s an impressive specimen with legs that look like a sprinter’s, and an above-average runner who’s an efficient basestealer.


Greene’s ultimate value will be determined by what he does with the bat. He tends to be streaky and needs to use his hands better. He gets erratic with his defensive footwork at times, leading to throwing errors.


The Future:
Greene has impressive tools to go with great makeup and a willingness to learn, so he should move quickly if he hits. He’ll return to high Class A Palm Beach to start 2006.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
New Jersey (SS) .261 .352 .370 138 28 36 12 0 1 18 15 37 13 1
Palm Beach (Hi A) .271 .326 .388 85 17 23 4 0 2 5 5 28 6 0

4. CHRIS LAMBERT, rhp        Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 205
Drafted: Boston College, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Joe Rigoli

Background: Though he’s a college pitcher, Lambert doesn’t have much experience on the mound. He comes from cold-weather New England and concentrated more on hockey in high school. He built on a solid first full season by pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying tournament.

After looking tired in his first pro summer, Lambert looked stronger in 2005. He consistently worked at 91-94 mph and showed better movement with his fastball. He has a good changeup and a potentially dominating curveball.


Lambert’s curveball is inconsistent, as are his control and his mechanics. There’s some effort to his delivery, which affects his ability to repeat it and throw strikes. After moving up to Double-A Springfield, he learned he couldn’t just get hitters out with his fastball any longer.


The Future:
Pitchers from the Northeast often struggle with the adjustment to pro ball, but Lambert’s performance in the early part of 2005 showed his potential. He’ll likely return to Double-A to start 2006 but should finish the year in the Triple-A rotation.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 7 1 2.63 10 10 0 0 55 53 4 15 46 .255
Springfield (AA) 3 8 6.35 18 18 0 0 85 97 10 48 69 .291

5. MARK McCORMICK, rhp        Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Baylor, 2005 (1st round supplemental)  Signed by: Joe Almarez

Background: McCormick has been throwing in the mid-90s since he was in high school, but he dropped to the Orioles in the 11th round because of questions about his signability, immaturity and complementary pitches. He went to Baylor and didn’t start to shed that rap until 2005, when the Cardinals drafted him 43rd overall and signed him for $800,000.

McCormick had one of the best power arms in the 2005 draft, pitching consistently at 92-95 mph and topping out at 97-98 all year long. His hammer curveball can be a plus pitch when it’s on and his changeup should be average.


Because he still is working on his control, McCormick doesn’t always dominate as his stuff would indicate. His complementary pitches are inconsistent, and righthanders tee off on his curveball when it’s not sharp. He worked on changeup grips this summer.


The Future:
Cardinals scouts loved McCormick’s arm, and their stat analysis loved his college strikeout rates. If his power package comes together, he could be a dominant starter. He’ll open 2006 at one of St. Louis’ Class A stops.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
New Jersey (SS) 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 6 1 0 3 10 .053
Quad Cities (Lo A) 1 2 5.48 9 9 0 0 43 41 4 28 45 .253

6. ADAM WAINWRIGHT, rhp        Age: 24 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 205
Drafted: HS—Brunswick, Ga., 2000 (1st round)  Signed by: Rob English (Braves)

Background: Wainwright came to the Cardinals in the J.D. Drew trade before the 2004 season and continued his steady ascent through the minors in 2005, earning a September callup. He led the Pacific Coast League in innings, as well as hits allowed and wild pitches (12).

After battling an elbow strain in 2004, Wainwright was a workhorse in 2005 and dominated early in the season. His fastball is solid-average and sometimes better than that, running up to 93 mph with good sink. He has a good feel for a changeup, and it may have become his second-best pitch ahead of his curveball and slider. He did a better job of pitching downhill in 2005.


Wainwright struggled when he got away from working off his fastball. He has a hard time putting hitters away when his breaking pitches aren’t on. His slider gets flat and his curveball gets slow too often for his own good.


The Future:
Wainwright is ready for a big league opportunity, but it may have to come in the bullpen because Anthony Reyes is ahead of him. He still projects as a starter down the road.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA) 10 10 4.40 29 29 0 0 182 204 18 51 147


St. Louis 0 0 13.50 2 0 0 0 2 2 1 1 0 .250

7. TRAVIS HANSON, 30b       Age: 25 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 197
Drafted: Portland, 2002 (9th round)   Signed by: Dane Walker

Background: A broken ankle derailed Hanson in 2004, but he bounced back with his best pro season in 2005. He was the Double-A Texas League’s all-star third baseman and led Cardinals farmhands in RBIs and total bases (250). Like Chris Lambert, he finished the year in the AFL and with Team USA in the Olympic qualifier.

For the first time, Hanson showed power that had only been potential in the past. His powerful swing generates a lot of leverage off the back side, and the timing came together in 2005, showing that he can be a run producer. Before he got hurt in 2004, he was a slick fielder at third base and also had seen time at second.


In part because of his ankle injury, Hanson’s footwork was poor when he returned in 2005. He led Texas League third basemen with 36 errors, though he did look more like his old self as the season went on.


The Future:
With Hanson’s defensive struggles and Scott Rolen’s presence in St. Louis, the Cardinals will continue to try Hanson at other positions. His offensive performance merits a move up to Triple-A, and he could break into the big leagues as a utility player.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Springfield (AA) .284 .347 .458 546 82 155 29 3 20 97 54 99 2 2

8. CODY HAERTHER, of      Age: 22 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 198
Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2002 (6th round)  Signed by: Steve Gossett

Background: Haerther was in the midst of a breakout season in 2004 before getting derailed by a stress fracture in his left leg. He got back on track in 2005, jumping to Double-A and playing in the Arizona Fall League. His brother Casey is a top Southern California high school prospect for the 2006 draft.

In a system thin on impact bats, Haerther is a lefthanded hitter with power potential, and he showed a lot more of that potential in 2005. The ball jumps off his bat, and he has a smooth stroke, a good approach and the ability to control the strike zone. He has average speed and savvy on the basepaths.


Haerther’s defense is a work in progress and he went to instructional league in an effort to improve it. He has the ability to play a passable left field if he continues to improve, though he split time between left and DH in 2005.


The Future:
Haerther has few roadblocks ahead of him in the farm system, and even in the big leagues the Cardinals have relied on aging veterans and marginal players. He’ll return to Double-A to begin 2006.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Palm Beach (Hi A) .318 .380 .584 173 29 55 8 7 8 30 17 31 8 3
Springfield (AA) .298 .333 .500 208 62 104 10 1 10 37 9 44 0 1

9. NICK WEBBER, rhp       Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Central Missouri State, 2005 (2nd round)   Signed by: Scott Melvin

Background: Central Missouri State is a powerhouse NCAA Division II program that set a division record 16 shutouts in 2005, with Webber serving as the Mules’ closer. The Cardinals used him as a starter after signing him for $425,000, and he quickly jumped to low Class A.

Webber’s fastball is one of the best in the organization, not just because of its 91-94 mph velocity but more because it has heavy sink and unbelievable movement. He relied almost exclusively on his fastball in college and had similar success with it at short-season New Jersey.


If Webber is to make it as a starter, he’ll need to develop his slider and changeup. He had a hard time maintaining his velocity during the summer, throwing in the high 80s in some outings, and will need to sharpen his command as he moves up.


The Future:
Webber has the one dominant pitch and makeup to be a closer. Nevertheless, St. Louis will keep using him as a starter in high Class A in 2006, because his value will be enhanced if he shows an aptitude for it.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
New Jersey (SS) 5 2 1.87 10 9 0 0 53 35 2 15 43 .179
Quad Cities (Lo A) 0 4 3.41 5 5 1 0 29 28 1 9 11 .250

10. STUART POMERANZ, rhp       Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 245
Drafted: HS—Collierville, Tenn., 2003 (2nd round)   Signed by: Marty Denton

Background: Pomeranz pitched the entire 2005 season as a 20-year-old and earned a promotion to Double-A in May. He didn’t post good numbers there but earned praise from some Texas League observers as the best arm on the Springfield staff, ahead of Chris Lambert.

Pomeranz has the size and pitches to be an innings-eater. He’s a solid 6-foot-7 with a fastball that now sits in the low 90s, a knuckle-curve and a changeup. His fastball has good sink and late movement that bores in on righthanders.


Pomeranz needs to refine his command so he can avoid getting behind hitters and start missing more bats. He shows good arm speed with his changeup but still needs to improve the pitch to make it an effective third option.


The Future:
The Cardinals were impressed with Pomeranz’ aptitude, confidence and consistency in Double-A, though his numbers weren’t impressive. He’ll probably go back to Springfield to open 2006 but could see Triple-A by the end of the year. If his changeup doesn’t come around, his future will be in the bullpen.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 2 5 3.35 8 8 0 0 48 56 1 10 29 .296
Springfield (AA) 5 6 5.29 18 18 0 0 99 110 12 40 66 .278

Photo Credits:
Greene, Webber: Rich Abel
Reyes: Nikki Boertman
Hanson: Shawn Davis
Rasmus: Mike Janes
Pomeranz, Wainwright: Steve Moore
McCormick: Sports on Film
Haerther: David Stoner

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