St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

St. Louis Cardinals

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, 2007.

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St. Louis Cardinals

Several weeks after ownership shook up the player-development department, the Cardinals rode a sampling of players gathered and groomed by their system to a World Series title.

Seeking to bridge talent procurement with talent development, the Cardinals added farm director to scouting director Jeff Luhnow's titles in September. Three years into his career with St. Louis, Luhnow has run two drafts and has overseen the establishment of baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Luhnow said his joint responsibilities should eliminate what he called a natural tension between scouting and development.

The move irritated some members of the front office, because farm director Bruce Manno was reassigned as a major league scout and because Lunhow comes from a business background rather than a baseball background. The move came the same day that general manager Walt Jocketty's option for 2008 was exercised, prompting manager Tony La Russa to say, "Nothing wrong with our development. Just have to get the talent."

Though many of the players on the franchise's 10th World Series championship team were acquired via free agency and trades, the system did make some significant contributions.

Most notable, of course, is Albert Pujols, who went from 13th-round pick in 1999 to superstar seemingly overnight. Chris Duncan (supplemental first round, 1999) cranked 22 homers during the regular season to help St. Louis sneak into the playoffs. Yadier Molina (fourth round, 2000) surprisingly led the team in hits during the postseason.

On the mound, Anthony Reyes (15th round, 2003) pitched eight strong innings to win Game One of the World Series. Adam Wainwright (who developed for two years in Triple-A in the Cards system after coming from Atlanta in the J.D. Drew trade) got the final outs in the National League Championship Series and World Series after taking over for injured closer Jason Isringhausen. St. Louis might not have successfully negotiated the first two rounds of the playoffs without the bullpen work of Tyler Johnson (34th round, 2000) and Josh Kinney (signed out of the independent Frontier League in 2001).

Those are very real contributions from a system that has lacked depth in recent years. It remains thin at the upper levels, as evidenced by Triple-A Memphis' 58-86 record and 15th-place finish in the 16-team Pacific Coast League. The bulk of St. Louis' best prospects was concentrated in Class A, the result of an infusion of talent from the last two drafts, when it owned a total of 11 picks in the first two rounds.

Eight of the players on our Cardinals Top 10 list were drafted in either 2005 or 2006. No. 1-ranked outfielder Colby Rasmus was St. Louis' top pick in 2005, when the club also nabbed righthander Mark McCormick in the supplemental first round, outfielder Daryl Jones in the third, catcher Bryan Anderson in the fourth and lefty Jaime Garcia in the 22nd. Last June, the Cards added righthanders Adam Ottavino (first round) and Chris Perez (supplemental first), plus outfielder Jon Jay (second).

1. Colby Rasmus, of   Born: Aug. 11, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS--Phenix City, Ala., 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Nichols
Colby RasmusBackground: Seeing snow for the third time in his life wasn't the rarest event Rasmus weathered at the start of his first full season in pro baseball. The player with the best blend of tools, upside and instincts in the system opened the year in a bona fide slump. Through his first seven games with low Class A Quad Cities, Rasmus was 2-for-28. But he quickly snapped the cold spell, muscled his way into a promotion and affirmed his reputation as the highest-watt position prospect the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols. Rasmus has been an elite player for his age group since winning a U.S. championship at the 1999 Little League World Series. His father Tony was an Angels 10th-round pick in January 1986, and coached Russell County High (Seale, Ala.) and Colby, brother Cory (a Braves supplemental first-rounder in 2006) and Kaser Kiker (the Rangers' first-round pick in June) to the national high school title in 2005. After switching from pitching to hitting in high school, Rasmus broke Bo Jackson's Alabama state single-season record with 24 homers. St. Louis drafted Rasmus 28th overall in 2005 and signed him for $1 million. After shaking off his early slump, Rasmus earned a promotion to high Class A Palm Beach and led Cardinals farmhands with 85 RBIs.

Strengths: Rasmus has a balanced, disciplined approach and a loose swing--all signs of burgeoning power potential in his wiry strong frame. Even with quick hands and a penchant for pulling the ball, he has become adept at hitting to all fields. With his speed and instincts on the basepaths, he should be at least a 20-20 threat once he gets to the majors. One of the most athletic players in the system, he's a quality defender. He gets good jumps and covers enough ground to play center field, and his arm is strong enough for right. He was clocked at 91 mph off the mound in high school.

Weaknesses: At both stops this past season, Rasmus got off to slow starts. The Cardinals weren't alarmed, but they'd like to see him make quicker adjustments. He sometimes hurries his throws, costing him accuracy. He still has plenty of room to grow into his body, and certainly more strength will be required for him to reach his power potential. Coaches have tried to impress upon him the importance of developing and adhering to a pregame routine.

The Future: The two-year contract Jim Edmonds signed in November was a bridge, connecting the end of his era to the beginning of another. Rasmus should continue the tradition of center field being the franchise's most stable position, as Willie McGee, Ray Lankford and Edmonds have patrolled the middle garden in St. Louis for most of the last 25 years. Rasmus should continue to move steadily through the system, reaching Double-A Springfield at some point in 2007.
Palm Beach (Hi A).254.351.404193224945535273511
Quad Cities (Lo A).310.373.51230349942231150295517
2. Jaime Garcia, lhp   Born: July 8, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS--Mission, Texas, 2005 (22nd round)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Jaime GarciaBackground: First noticed as a two-way player on the Mexican junior national team, Garcia fell to the Orioles in the 30th round in 2004, mostly because of confusion about his eligibility for the draft. He didn't sign and hurt his prospect stock by falling out of shape. Joe Almaraz, the area scout who covered him for the Orioles in 2004, joined the Cardinals for 2005 and talked the team into drafting Garcia, then talked Garcia out of pursuing a contract in the Mexican League. Garcia made his pro debut in 2006, reaching high Class A and representing St. Louis at the Futures Game.

Strengths: Garcia fools hitters with a wicked downward-breaking curveball he lands for strikes. His fastball features natural sinking life, consistently reaches the low 90s and tops out at 94. He operates with a clean, easy arm action and repeats his delivery, allowing him to fill the zone with strikes. He shows an advanced touch with his changeup.

Weaknesses: While he throws strikes, Garcia is refining his command and learning how to set hitters up. He tends to fall in love with his curveball and needs to do a better job of varying his pitch sequences. He's a fiery competitor who has to keep his emotions in check.

The Future: The Cardinals haven't ushered a lefty starter through their system since Bud Smith in 2001, and Garcia is moving on the fast track. He should move up to Double-A this year, and he could crack the big league rotation by 2008.
Quad Cities (Lo A)542.90131310786711880.229
Palm Beach (Hi A)543.84121200778431651.282
3. Chris Perez, rhp   Born: July 1, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 225
 Drafted: Miami, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Steve Turco
Chris PerezBackground: After briefly working as a starter, Perez spent his final two years in college as Miami's closer and had 12 saves to go with a 1.88 ERA last spring. The Cardinals took him 42nd overall in June and signed him for $800,000, earmarking him for a quick climb through the system by sending him to low Class A to close for a playoff-bound team.

Strengths: Perez has one of the best fastballs in the organization, throwing it consistently at 92-95 mph. His best pitch, however, is a devilish 83-87 mph slider that overmatches righthanders. They hit just .159 against him last summer.

Weaknesses: Perez' biggest challenge is harnessing his stuff. He walks too many batters, especially lefthanders, and his slider is less effective against them. He gets good life on his fastball when he locates it down in the zone, but he can't do that consistently yet.

The Future: With his stuff and experience, Perez should peel through the system. St. Louis will continue to bring him along as a closer and believes he eventually can inherit that role in the majors. He'll open 2007 in high Class A.
Quad Cities (Lo A)201.84250012292001932.198
4. Blake Hawksworth, rhp   Born: March 1, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: Bellevue (Wash.) CC, D/F 2001 (28th round)Signed by: Dane Walker
Blake HawksworthBackground: After signing for $1.475 million as a draft-and-follow in 2002, Hawksworth ranked as the Cardinals' top prospect heading into the 2004 before serious injuries knocked him off track. He totaled just 25 innings in 2004-05 because of bone spurs in his right ankle and a partially torn labrum. He returned to work 163 innings last year after totaling 188 in his first four pro seasons.

Strengths: Hawksworth's velocity has returned to the low 90s. He also regained the touch on his changeup, which has graded as one of the best in the system for years. He uses both a curveball and a slider, with the curve the more consistent of his breaking pitches. His control and savvy showed no rust, and he finished the season strong.

Weaknesses: Before he got hurt, Hawksworth had the potential to be a frontline starter. To get there, he needs to develop a stronger breaking ball that he can rely on. He had occasional issues with fastball command in the past, and they cropped up again after his promotion to Double-A. His durability is still somewhat a question, though everything went well last year.

The Future: Hawksworth went a long way to make up for lost time in 2006. Now he'll join the Triple-A Memphis rotation and be just one step from the majors.
Palm Beach (Hi A)722.47141400847501955.247
Springfield (AA)423.39131300807283166.248
5. Jon Jay, of   Born: March 15, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 200
 Drafted: Miami, 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Steve Turco
Jon JayBackground: Jay consistently produced as a collegian for both Miami and Team USA, but many teams saw him as a tweener who didn't profile as a regular. As a result, the Cardinals were able to land him in the second round of the 2006 draft and sign him for $480,000. He had a spectacular pro debut, batting .342 in low Class A, and St. Louis thinks it has a steal.

Strengths: Jay has an unorthodox approach but he consistently shows the ability to hit pitches in all parts of the zone. His game is built around hitting line drives and making the most of his solid-average speed. Some Cardinals coaches already are predicting that he'll win a major league batting title. While he doesn't have a standout tool, he's pretty solid across the board. He's a capable center fielder with an accurate arm.

Weaknesses: Jay pumps his hands and uses a wide stance at the plate, quirky habits that scared off some scouts but haven't hurt him yet. He does have some length to his swing, which could create problems at higher levels. He doesn't hit for much power, so he'll have to stay in center field to profile as a regular.

The Future: It's possible that Jay will leapfrog Colby Rasmus and beat him to the majors. They also could wind up playing alongside each other in the Springfield outfield this season.
Quad Cities (Lo A).342.416.462234428013334528279
6. Bryan Anderson, c   Born: Dec. 16, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS--Simi Valley, Calif., 2005 (4th round)Signed by: Jay North
Bryan AndersonBackground: Anderson had a disappointing performance as a high school senior in 2005, but he has done nothing but produce since signing as a fourth-round pick that June. He parlayed a strong pro debut into an invitation to big league camp last spring, when he was the youngest player in attendance at age 19. He earned low Class A Midwest League all-star honors and finished sixth in the circuit in hitting.

Strengths: Anderson is a rare commodity, a lefty-hitting catcher with the potential to produce for average and gap power. He controls the strike zone very well for someone his age. He draws raves for his leadership skills and is a good receiver. He has an average, accurate arm and threw out 36 percent of basestealers last year.

Weaknesses: While he polices the run game effectively, Anderson's throwing mechanics aren't smooth and it's uncertain whether his success throwing out runners will carry over to the upper levels. He's also working on improving his blocking skills. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Ticketed for high Class A in 2007, Anderson will present the Cardinals with an interesting choice if he continues to hit. Yadier Molina is one of the better defensive catchers in the major leagues, but his offensive potential is far less than Anderson's.
Quad Cities (Lo A).302.377.4173815011529335142662
7. Adam Ottavino, rhp   Born: Nov. 22, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Drafted: Northeastern, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Kobe Perez
Adam OttavinoBackground: Ottavino caught scouts' attention with several notable performances during the spring. He held his own against the Red Sox in a spring exhibition game, no-hit Georgia Tech for the first six innings of his first official start and later completed a 14-strikeout no-hitter against high-scoring James Madison. He broke the Northeastern single-season strikeout record in each of the last two years before going 30th overall in the 2006 draft and signing for $950,000. He didn't allow an earned run in his first four pro starts.

Strengths: He can maintain mid-90s velocity on a four-seam fastball throughout a game, but Ottavino downshifted to a low-90s two-seamer at the Cardinals' request and excelled. He can get strikeouts with his slider and mixes in a changeup and slurvy curveball.

Weaknesses: Ottavino tends to tilt back in his delivery, causing him to get under his pitches and leave them in the strike zone. He's still figuring out how to harness his stuff on a consistent basis. His changeup will need to improve if he's going to remain in the rotation.

The Future: Ottavino will continue to start for now, moving up to high Class A. But his fastball/slider combination could make him a dynamic reliever if the Cardinals so choose.
State College (SS)223.146600292311326.211
Quad Cities (Lo A)233.448800372831938.211
8. Mark McCormick, rhp   Born: Oct. 15, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: Baylor, 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Mark McCormickBackground: McCormick has been a top prospect since high school, and he turned pro after three years at Baylor when the Cardinals made him a supplemental first-round pick in 2005. In his first full pro season, he earned a promotion after 11 starts in low Class A, but pitched just four more innings because he came down with shoulder inflammation.

Strengths: McCormick consistently brings power stuff to the mound. He was blowing mid- to upper-90s fastballs as a prep phenom and continues to throw in that range as a starter when he's mechanically sound. His hard curveball is one of the best breaking pitches in the system.

Weaknesses: Despite his electric stuff, McCormick has never consistently dominated opponents. He walks too many hitters and runs up high pitch counts. He's still trying to find a comfortable grip for a changeup.

The Future: McCormick should be 100 percent for spring training after resting in the offseason. The Cardinals will use him as a starter in high Class A this year, but he long has been considered a possible closer candidate. In that role, he could flourish with just two pitches.
Quad Cities (Lo A)243.78111100523833863.207
Palm Beach (Hi A)0011.25220045035.294
9. Josh Kinney, rhp   Born: March 31, 1979B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Signed: Frontier League (Independent), 2001Signed by: Scott Melvin
Josh KinneyBackground: Kinney had accepted a job as a fly-fishing tour guide, packed his car and was driving away from baseball when the Cardinals signed him off an independent Frontier League team in suburban St. Louis. Five years later, he got six key outs in the National League Division Series, 10 more in the NL Championship Series and three more in the World Series. He didn't allow any runs in the postseason.

Strengths: Pitching coach Dave Duncan lauds Kinney's fearless approach and his ability to generate strikeouts and grounders. He works with an 89-90 mph sinker and a sweeping slider. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone.

Weaknesses: Kinney is what he is. He's a righty short reliever who's not overpowering and has little margin for error. He'll continue to succeed as long as he locates his pitches well, and he'll be in trouble when he can't.

The Future: He gave up a homer to Ryan Langerhans on the first major league pitch he threw, but Kinney swiftly recovered. The Cardinals are counting on him to be a key cog in their bullpen again this year, capable of getting a clutch whiff or groundout when needed.
Memphis (AAA)221.5251003714622976.186
St. Louis 003.242100025173822.189
10. Darryl Jones, of   Born: June 25, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 5-11Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS--Spring Texas, 2005 (3rd round)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Darryl JonesBackground: Jones caught 20 touchdown passes in his final two seasons of high school football, and he was coveted by NCAA Division I programs as a wide receiver because of his speed and agility. He committed instead to play baseball at Rice, but the Cardinals wooed him into pro ball with a $450,000 bonus after other organizations wrote him off as unsignable. He spent most of his first two seasons at Rookie-level Johnson City.

Strengths: Jones is the fastest player and best athlete in the system, drawing comparisons to a young Kenny Lofton. Focusing on baseball for the first time in his life, he has started to hit to all fields and develop power in his stroke. He can cover a lot of ground in center field.

Weaknesses: He's still raw in most phases of the game. Jones still can get pull-happy and overaggressive at the plate, and needs to realize his main goal should be getting on base. His instincts on the bases and in the outfield need improvement. His arm is a tick below-average.

The Future: Jones missed time last year with hamstring problems, and St. Louis is eager to see what he can do over a full season when he's healthy. He should spend all or most of 2006 in low Class A.
Johnson City (R).265.367.47168151831313883
Quad Cities (Lo A).235.308.35881151951176232

Photo Credits:
Rasmus: Jerry Hale
Perez, Jay, Anderson: Paul Gierhart
Hawksworth: Steve Moore
Ottavino: Mike Janes
Jones: Tony Farlow