St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

St. Louis Cardinals: Scouting Reports

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.

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The Cardinals didn't view their series of win-now trades in 2009 as a jarring change of direction. Rather, they presented the spree-spending of prospects as an offshoot of a deeper design.

For nearly five seasons, starting with the drafting of Colby Rasmus 28th overall in 2005, the St. Louis front office followed an ownership mandate to restock a threadbare farm system and become more self-sufficient. The payback from the investment was supposed to be a flow of players like Rasmus, who debuted as a big league regular in 2009. But the Cardinals also eyed an alternative return on their emphasis on gathering minor league talent: the depth to pull off bigger deals.

That's the same formula that former general manager Walt Jocketty used to build seven playoff clubs and one World Series champion in 13 seasons in St. Louis. Now it's GM John Mozeliak pulling the trigger.

In moves for Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals traded five prospects, four of whom were expected to be major league contributors as early as 2010. To land Holliday from Oakland, they dealt third baseman Brett Wallace, as well as righthander Clayton Mortensen and outfielder Shane Peterson. It cost them future closer Chris Perez and righty Jess Todd to get DeRosa from Cleveland.

Rasmus' promotion and those two trades stripped this list of five of its top six prospects from a year ago. The sixth, catcher Bryan Anderson, missed most of the last two months of the season with shoulder problems.

In other words, it's time to restock a radically altered and diluted farm system again.

The impact of St. Louis' moves was immediate as Holliday gave the lineup a second legitimate threat after Albert Pujols, and DeRosa solidified third base, even if he didn't play up to his previous standards. After a two-year absence, the Cardinals returned to the playoffs with a 91-71 record.

Despite having its roster plundered for trades and for filling holes in the majors, Triple-A Memphis won the Pacific Coast League championship. The return of lefty Jaime Garcia and third baseman David Freese from surgeries spurred the Redbirds' success, and both players will be counted on at the big league level in 2010, possibly as starters.

While the Cardinals remain confident they can lean on their system to produce in-house contributors such as Rasmus and Brendan Ryan, some fissures appeared during 2009. Pitching coach Dave Duncan acknowledged his simmering frustrations with a disconnect between his major league staff and minor league development. Mozeliak insisted there would be changes to increase Duncan's influence and strengthen the overall bond between the big league club and rising young players, because more are on the way.

St. Louis hopes that international signees will start to join the organization's influx of talent, though they had a major setback in that area last summer. After making a statement by giving Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo a franchise-record $3.1 million bonus in July, they voided the contract two months later because of concerns about his vision. The Cardinals acknowledge they'll have to repair their image in Latin America, hopefully starting by showcasing the development of international players already in the system, such as Venezuelan righthander Eduardo Sanchez.

1.  Shelby Miller, rhp   Born: Oct. 10, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Brownwood, Texas, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Ralph Garr Jr.
Shelby MillerBackground: The Cardinals hadn't taken a high school pitcher in the first five rounds of the draft since 2005, when they took righthander Tyler Herron 46th overall. The perception that they were unduly leery of high school pitchers stung them when they bypassed Rick Porcello in the 2007 draft, and they didn't let history repeat itself when another elite prep arm slipped in 2009. St. Louis took Miller with the 19th overall pick, making him the first high school pitcher taken by the franchise in the first round since Brian Barber in 1991. Cardinals officials knew it would take an above-slot bonus to land the Texas fireballer, and he signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for $2.875 million. Miller profiles as the possible No. 1 starter that had been obviously absent in the Cardinals' farm system, making him worth the risk St. Louis cited for avoiding Porcello's price tag two years earlier. For his part, Miller doesn't shrink from the expectations. He moved to Houston, five hours from his home in Brownwood, Texas, so he could work out at a baseball-specific facility and improve his conditioning while waiting for a deal with the Cardinals. Miller, who had committed to Texas A&M, worked out for the major league staff at Busch Stadium and made two brief appearances at low Class A Quad Cities after signing.

Strengths: True to his Lone Star State roots, Miller describes himself as gleefully chucking Texas heat in the tradition of his heroes Nolan Ryan and Josh Beckett. He embraces the comparisons. Miller has a fastball that sits easily at 92-93 mph and touches 97. He has a power attitude and a muscular delivery that hints he'll veer into the mid-90s as he matures. His height, reach and deception increase the perceived velocity of his fastball, and it has heavy life that keeps it low in the zone. Taking in all those factors, some scouts thought he had the best fastball of any high school pitcher in the 2009 draft. Miller also snaps off a 12-to-6 curveball that has the potential to be a plus pitch. He has made significant improvements with his changeup over the last year. He's a quality athlete who made the Texas 3-A all-state second team in football last fall as a tight end and punter. His mechanics and durability also bode well for his durability.

Weaknesses: Harnessing his stuff is Miller's top priority. His command comes and goes, and the Cardinals believe he'll more easily repeat his delivery and be more consistent from pitch to pitch with some fine-tuning of his mechanics. His curveball and especially his changeup need more work to become reliable secondary pitches. Learning how to exploit and not just use his stuff will come with experience.

The Future: Because of his work in Houston, Miller was ready to dip his toe into pro ball with three innings at Quad Cities in August. The cameo was calculated, as St. Louis wants him to start 2010 in low Class A. Despite his age, he could speed through the lower levels of the minors. With his pyrotechnic stuff, frame and confidence, Miller cuts the image of a top-of-the-rotation starter. This system hasn't seen a young gun with this much potential since Rick Ankiel.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Quad Cities (Lo A) 0 0 6.00 2 2 0 0 3 5 0 2 2 .357
2.  Jaime Garcia, lhp   Born: July 8, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 230
 Drafted: Mission, Texas, 2005 (22nd round)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Jaime GarciaBackground: Garcia missed most of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but returned to become the ace for Triple-A Memphis as the team won the Pacific Coast League championship. His postseason performance included a scoreless six-inning, six-strikeout start in the first round of the playoffs, which manager Chris Maloney described as good enough "to pitch anywhere that night, at any level."

Strengths: Garcia commands a biting 12-to-6 curveball that's a genuine swing-and-miss pitch. He sets it up with an 88-92 mph fastball that has late, downward movement. He used his rehab to add a pitch that's a cross between a cutter and slider. His minor league playoff performance validated his reputation for being unflappable

Weaknesses: After his 2007 and 2008 seasons ended early because of elbow soreness, and he pitched just 38 innings last season, Garcia still has to prove his durability. He has battled his command at times, and those problems may be related to endurance as well.

The Future: The Cardinals want to fill a spot in their 2010 rotation from within, and Garcia is a leading candidate to do so. He left a favorable impression in a brief callup in 2008, and should make the club if he has a strong spring. He projects as a No. 3 starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Cardinals (R) 0 1 4.50 2 2 0 0 4 4 0 1 3 .250
Palm Beach (Hi A) 0 1 0.71 3 2 0 0 13 4 0 4 16 .105
Memphis (AAA) 2 0 3.86 4 4 0 0 21 17 5 9 22 .250
3.  Lance Lynn, rhp   Born: May 12, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 250
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2008 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jay Catalano
Lance LynnBackground: The Cardinals favor college pitchers with a track record of production and durability. Lynn aced those traits, and his sinker clinched St. Louis' decision to draft him 39th overall and sign him for $938,000 in 2008. In his first full season of pro ball, he was a Double-A Texas League all-star and the Cardinals' minor league pitcher of the year.

Strengths: Lynn throws a 90-92 mph fastball with sink, and he complements it with control of three other pitches. The rest of his arsenal consists of a sharp slider, workable curveball and improved changeup. Consistency is the bedrock of his game, and he relies on his defense with about half of the balls put in play against him going on the ground.

Weaknesses: Being able to rely on his breaking pitches and developing a second pitch that will miss bats will be crucial as Lynn nears the majors. He can't overpower batters with velocity, which makes command all the more important and limits his ceiling. He's viewed less as a dominant starter than an innings-gobbler.

The Future: Lynn will continue a steady climb with a move to Triple-A. He should slide into the back of St. Louis rotation by mid-2011, if not sooner.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 0 0 2.30 5 2 0 0 16 16 0 3 17 .276
Springfield (AA) 11 4 2.92 22 22 0 0 126 117 5 51 98 .251
Memphis (AAA) 0 0 2.70 1 1 0 0 7 5 0 3 9 .200
4.  Daryl Jones, of   Born: June 25, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 5-11Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Spring, Texas, 2005 (3rd round)Signed by: Joe Almaraz
Daryl JonesBackground: A raw athlete with intriguing tools coming out of high school, Jones turned down a football scholarship to play wide receiver at Rice. He has become a more refined ballplayer with far more than just the speed and hope that fueled his first few seasons. After a breakout season in 2008, he played in the Futures Game in 2009.

Strengths: Jones is the finest all-around athlete in the organization. His feel for the strike zone has matured, eliminating the anxiousness that sabotaged him early in his career and replacing it with a keen eye fit for a spot high in the order. His speed allows him to turn line-drive singles into doubles and gap doubles in triples, and it gives him the range to play center field.

Weaknesses: With his lack of arm strength, Jones fits best defensively in left field. His lack of power (26 homers in 1,475 pro at-bats) doesn't profile for the position, however. He still has a lot to learn as a baserunner and basestealer. Tendinitis in both knees hampered him in 2009, as did a strain in his quadriceps, and reinforced how essential his legs are to his success.

The Future: The logjam of outfielders in the system has relaxed enough that Jones is primed for Triple-A. He's on pace to make his big league debut in September, though how exactly he fits in St. Louis' future isn't clear.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA) .279 .360 .378 294 50 82 14 3 3 29 33 69 7
5.  David Freese, 3b/1b   Born: April 28, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 220
 Drafted: South Alabama, 2006 (9th round)Signed by: Bob Filotei (Padres)
David FreeseBackground: Freese made the Cardinals' 2009 Opening Day roster, but his stay was fleeting. An ankle injury from a January car accident caught up with him in the spring, prevented him from seizing the wide-open third-base job and led to surgery in May. The Cards acquired the St. Louis native from the Padres in a December 2007 trade for Jim Edmonds, and the club picked up more of Edmonds' salary to pry Freese away.

Strengths: Freese has been a consistent .300 hitter, while also showing the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. His short swing and good bat speed already have translated well in a few major league at-bats. When healthy, he has been more than serviceable at third base, where he shows solid arm strength.

Weaknesses: Freese can bury himself in whiffs at times, such as when he struck out 24 times in 85 at-bats last August. It's not clear his power will translate immediately in the majors, though he figures to keep his average up. He's a below-average athlete and runner.

The Future: Encouraged by Freese's production after his foot surgery, St. Louis will give him every chance to start at third base. He'll be 27, so he needs to seize the opportunity.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
St. Louis .323 .353 .484 31 3 10 2 0 1 7 2 7 0
Memphis (AAA) .300 .369 .525 200 34 60 15 0 10 37 22 51 1
GCL Cardinals (R) .455 .500 .909 11 2 5 2 0 1 6 1 3 0
Springfield (AA) .375 .444 .625 16 3 6 1 0 1 5 2 2 0
6.  Eduardo Sanchez, rhp   Born: Feb. 16, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 155
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005Signed by: Enrique Brito
Eduardo SanchezBackground: An unheralded acquisition from the Cardinals' expanding presence in Latin America, Sanchez wasn't big and his mechanics were raw when the Cardinals signed him. He threw 92-93 mph when he joined their Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League affiliate in 2006. Three years later, he was the system's breakout prospect of 2009. After Double-A Springfield made him a full-time closer at the end of July, he had a 2.25 ERA and converted eight of 11 save opportunities.

Strengths: Despite his size, Sanchez is a true fireballer. His fastball consistently sits at 95 mph and reaches 97. Unlike several other Cardinals relief prospects, he has the makings of good command to go with his velocity. His sharp slider gives him a second strikeout pitch and is especially tough on righthanders. He has the poise to handle the closer's role.

Weaknesses: Sanchez's build is a concern for some scouts, who wonder if he can hold up over the long grind of a season. He was able to maintain his velocity through 60 appearances last season, however. His control was an issue at times in Double-A.

The Future: Sanchez is a candidate for a nonroster invitation to big league camp. While he may open the 2010 season by returning to Double-A, he could make the leap to the big leagues during the summer.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 0 1 1.44 19 0 0 3 25 12 2 5 26 .146
Springfield (AA) 2 0 2.70 41 0 0 10 50 32 4 20 56 .187
7.  Allen Craig, of/1b/3b   Born: July 18, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: California, 2006 (8th round)Signed by: Dane Walker
Allen CraigBackground: A defensive hot potato since his days in college, Craig played shortstop, left field and first base for California and has seen time at all four infield positions and both outfield corners as a pro. In big league camp last spring, he hit well in exhibition games but didn't get a single inning at third base despite the position being wide open. He ranked third in the Pacific Coast League in homers (26) and fourth in hitting (.322) last season.

Strengths: Craig has a level swing with good torque and bat speed. He generates the best and most consistent power, and he has hit at least .304 with at least 22 homers in each of his three full seasons. Scouts say his bat is major league ready.

Weaknesses: The Cardinals aren't sure where to play Craig and don't consider him an option to fill their hole at third base. His lack of range and arm strength, plus a quirky throwing motion, work against him at the hot corner. First base isn't an option with Albert Pujols in St. Louis, so Craig played mostly left field in 2009. His below-average speed and arm make him an adequate defender at best, but he works hard and his bat does profile for the position.

The Future: Craig's hitting has forced the Cardinals to consider him for at least a big league bench role, even if they haven't figured out his position. He's also an option in case they don't re-sign Matt Holliday and don't find a more established left fielder.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Memphis (AAA) .322 .374 .547 472 78 152 26 1 26 83 37 95 3
8.  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: Hawksworth signed for $1.475 million in May 2002, the third-highest bonus ever as part of the now-extinct draft-and-follow process, and ranked No. 1 on this list two years later. Then ankle and shoulder problems ruined his 2004 and '05 seasons and required surgery, and he missed time in '07 (toe) and '08 (knee) with other ailments. He stayed healthy in 2009 and emerged as a surprise boost for the big league bullpen.

Strengths: Hawksworth's fastball can still cook in the low 90s with late movement. His changeup gives him a second plus pitch. He has a hard-won and battle-tested poise along with a quick, consistent delivery.

Weaknesses: Hawksworth is best when he's aggressive, though he has lapses of confidence as a starter that lead to command trouble. Because he doesn't have a reliable breaking ball, he becomes changeup-happy when he decides he can't trust his fastball. He'll need a third pitch if he's going to make it as a starter.

The Future: Though the Cardinals need a starter and may give Hawksworth a look in that role in spring training, some club officials believe he should remain in the role in which he blossomed. As one coach said, "We never saw him this good as a starter."
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Memphis (AAA) 5 4 3.58 12 12 1 0 73 61 3 20 57 .222
St. Louis 4 0 2.03 30 0 0 0 40 29 2 15 20 .209
9.  Daniel Descalso, 2b   Born: Oct. 19, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 5-10Wt: 190
 Drafted: UC Davis, 2007 (3rd round)Signed by: Jay North
Daniel DescalsoBackground: Descalso hit a soft .258 in his first two years of pro ball before breaking out when he reached Double-A in 2009. He hit .385 in April and was leading the Texas League in total bases (153) when he was promoted to Triple-A in early July. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Cup in September.

Strengths: Descalso's quick, level swing is built for gap power and the occasional home run.  He has good feel for the strike zone, which heightens his ability to get on base when he's not hitting. His average speed plays up on the bases because he has good instincts. He has a very strong arm for a second baseman, enhancing his ability to turn the double play. He also has reliable range and soft hands.

Weaknesses: His pop wasn't as evident once Descalso reached Triple-A. If he can't produce a steady supply of doubles, he's unlikely to be a regular. He's limited in a utility role because he doesn't cover enough ground to play much at shortstop.

The Future: The Cardinals lost Jarrett Hoffpauir on waivers, marking Descalso's arrival at the top of the system's depth chart at second base. After his first trip to big league camp, he'll return to Memphis and hope his bat gets going again.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Springfield (AA) .323 .396 .531 288 46 93 26 5 8 51 31 41 0
Memphis (AAA) .253 .327 .320 150 23 38 4 0 2 17 16 21 3
10.  Robert Stock, c   Born: Nov. 21, 1989B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 175
 Drafted: Southern California, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Jamal Strong
Robert StockBackground: Stock was Baseball America's Youth Player of the Year in 2005, and a year later he graduated high school early so he could enroll at Southern California. His bat and defense tailed off after his freshman year with the Trojans, and scouts got more interested in him as a pitcher last spring. But he prefers to catch, and the Cardinals are giving him a chance to do that after drafting him as a 19-year-old junior. He signed for $525,000.

Strengths: Stock has a cannon for a right arm, and his fastball hit 95 mph in college. He has a quick transfer and makes accurate throws, nailing 29 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. He has good lefthanded power, makes consistent contact and had no problems hitting with wood in his first pro summer.

Weaknesses: Stock batted just .263 in college and still has to prove he can hit enough to be an everyday player. His supporters think his age mitigated his college performance, while his detractors think he'll wind up as a pitcher. His biggest need defensively is to improve his receiving. He has below-average speed but isn't bad for a catcher.

The Future: St. Louis hopes to advance Stock and 2009 first-rounder Shelby Miller together through the minors, and they'll begin their first full pro season in low Class A.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Johnson City (R) .322 .386 .550 149 25 48 9 2 7 24 11 28 0
Quad Cities (Lo A) .095 .208 .095 21 1 2 0 0 0 0 2 5 0

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Photo Credits: Paul Gierhardt (Miller)
Rodger Wood (Stock)