2004 St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects Chat

Q:  Brian Walton from New Milford, CT asks:
What do you make of the executive changes in the Cardinal offices in terms of their potential impact on the minor league system?

Will Lingo: First of all, welcome to the long awaited Cardinals chat. Thanks for joining us. Sorry so many things have conspired to delay this, but here we are, together at last. Tip for BA readers: never renovate your house and bring home a new baby at the same time, especially around the holidays. Now back to baseball!

Will Lingo: The changes I assume you’re referring to are Marty Maier’s removal as scouting director and John Mozeliak taking over supervision of the scouting department. I think it just shows the Cardinals weren’t happy with what they were getting out of their drafts, and you’ll see a return to the college focus with early picks, after a couple of years where they went more with high school guys early.

 Q:  Sri from Toronto, Canada asks:
Hello, Who might the Cards lose in the rule 5 draft? Thanks.

Will Lingo: There’s almost no chance a Cardinals player will go in the major league phase of the draft, I would think. The Cardinals are more likely to be takers than givers, especially given the room they have on their 40-man roster. And when you look at how they’ve been filling holes in their farm system with independent leaguers and minor league veterans, it seems more likely that they would look for someone rather than worry about losing anyone. With all that said, however, there are still a few possible names. Shaun Boyd is the kind of high-ceiling player teams sometimes take chances on. A year of little playing time would be disastrous to his career, though. John Nelson also wasn’t protected and has some ability. And Kevin Witt, one of those veterans I referred to earlier, is a potentially useful bat off the bench for someone.

 Q:  Kris Arthur from Downers Grove, IL asks:
What chance does Hawkesworth have to make the Cardinals’ rotation this year? In two to three years what kind of starter do you think he could be? #1 or #5 or something in-between? Thanks!

Will Lingo: I think it would be a stretch to think he’ll be in St. Louis in 2004, but he should move quickly and if injuries strike as usual and he performs well in Double-A, who knows? More likely, though, you should look for him sometime in 2005. It’s tough to place the No. 1 tag on anybody, because there are so few true No. 1 starters. And Hawksworth hasn’t pitched above Class A yet. So while that’s a possibility for him, let’s just say front of the rotation for now. He’s certainly closer to No. 1 than No. 5, though.

 Q:  Nick from NY asks:
Blake Hawksworth has really moved up quite a bit in the past year. How would you rank him with other top pitching prospects like Angel Guzman, Greg Miller, Jeff Allison and Clint Everts? Thanks.

Will Lingo: I think he’s a legitimate premium pitching prospect. I would rank him in the middle of that group (, but aside from a particular order I would just say that in an organization that’s very thin on impact players, Hawksworth does have that potential.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
Does Jimmy Journell profile as a closer or a set-up man? Is there any starting prospects without questions except for Hawksworth?

Will Lingo: If Journell can stay healthy, his stuff does give him the chance to be a closer someday. So if you’re talking about ceiling, yes I think he has that potential. But let’s see him have big league success as a set-up man first. Moving from the rotation back to the bullpen really helped him this season, so this will be a big year for him. In response to your second question, the answer is no if you still regard Chris Narveson’s Tommy John surgery as a question mark. He carried a full workload last season, though his command still is coming back. Beyond Hawksworth and Narveson, the dropoff is steep.

 Q:  John from KC asks:
Will, the Cards have been able to manage and be successful without having the benefit of a fruitful farm system for the last few years. But now in this economic climate there seems to be a payroll pinch. Is there reason to be optimistic that some of the holes will be filled from within, or could this whole thing start to crumble a bit ?

Will Lingo: There is not a lot of hope for filling holes from within right now. You can probably plug in a few pitchers, but I can’t really think of a position player in the system who I would want to be starting a big league game for a winning team in the next year or so. It does seem the Cardinals are going through a lot of changes this offseason, both on and off the field. But talk about crumbling might be premature. Walt Jocketty is one of the best executives in the game, and if he can get the pitching staff in shape then the offense and defense should still be good enough to win.

 Q:  Rafferty from Niceville, FL asks:
Hey! What’s the potential upside for SP Rhett Parrott? He was a #2 starter at Georgia Tech until going pro, and looks to be a solid #3-4 starter for the Cardinals in coming years. Are they going to give him a shot as a starter, or will he be relegated to the bullpen in the next two to three years?

Will Lingo: Parrott is a middle-of-the-rotation starter at best, but he should definitely remain in a rotation rather than pitching out of the bullpen. He needs to develop a reliable breaking pitch to make the jump to the big leagues.

 Q:  Nick from NY asks:
Any chance that Jimmy Journell will emerge as the Cardinals closer within the next two years? If Izzy went down this year, would he have a realistic shot of taking the job? If not, what do you see for his role, both short-term (this year) and long-term? Thanks.

Will Lingo: Again, with some of the guys who come out of nowhere to close games for different teams in any given season, Journell is more likely to become a closer than most pitchers in the minors. But I think the Cardinals would like him to prove himself in a smaller role first. So if Izzy is not available, Journell probably could close, but I don’t think he would be your first choice. In the short term, he needs to win a spot in the big league bullpen, and then if everything goes right he can close for you someday.

 Q:  mystified from san francisco, ca asks:
a chat about the cardinals’ farm system? i hope you don’t run out of things to talk about…

Will Lingo: Wow. And this from someone in San Francisco. It’s interesting to me that the Giants and Cardinals operate with a similar approach of trading away prospects willingly if the right deal comes along. And for the most part, the deals have worked out for both franchises. But right now the Giants system is in better shape.

 Q:  dave from california asks:
if you were the cardinals who would you rather have haren or hawksworth? what is harens upside?

Will Lingo: That’s an interesting one. I guess because Haren has proved he can pitch in the big leagues, he’s the safer bet. But Hawksworth clearly has the higher ceiling. As we mentioned earlier, he’s a front of the rotation guy, while Haren is more middle of the rotation. So give me Hawksworth.

 Q:  Mike from Temple University asks:
Has Rick Asadoorian dropped off the face of the Earth? Also, will my man Rick Ankiel ever see Busch Stadium again?

Will Lingo: This just shows you the power of being a first-round pick, which Asadoorian was (by the Red Sox) in 1999. He has never hit a lick, and the Cardinals traded him to the Rangers in the ballyhooed Esteban Yan deal in May, but people still ask about him. He’s still in the Rangers organization and still hasn’t made it out of Class A. As for Ankiel, your guess is as good as mine. He’s still on the 40-man, so the Cardinals still see something that gives them hope. But at this point it would qualify as a miracle if he returns to his previous form.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Will: Do the Cardinals have a novel approach to roster management? It appears that they have only 28 players listed on the 40 roster on the mlb.com site. If true, why would they make so many players available to the Rule 5 draft? Surely they are not planning to draft and carry 12 Rule 5 drafts on the 2004 active roster. Thanks.

Will Lingo: I think it’s a similar approach to what the Red Sox did last year, when they had about the same number of guys on their 40-man. If you don’t think a guy deserves a spot on the roster, why put him on just because you have room? Based on all the rumors you see the Cardinals attached to so far this winter, you have to believe they’re going to be very active, so this just gives them maximum flexibility. As far as carrying Rule 5 players, you have to wonder if a contending team can use a roster spot on someone like that. In case you missed it, they did sign Steve Cox and Brent Butler yesterday, and they could provide help on the big league bench.

 Q:  Brian Walton from New Milford, CT asks:
With Scott Rolen entrenched at third, where do you see Travis Hanson’s future?

Will Lingo: Well, his defensive tools (and really his bat) profile at shortstop, where he played in college at Portland. Rolen is signed through 2010 and Renteria is signed through 2004, so if Hanson has a strong season and the budget is still tight next year, maybe the Cardinals would see him as a viable option there. But do you really want to wave goodbye to Renteria? So maybe you have more trade fodder to bring in pitching help.

 Q:  Nathan from Gainesville, FL asks:
Any “Bo Hart’s” in the system this year? Someone off the radar who can step up and produce when needed…

Will Lingo: Well, Hart wasn’t even in the top 30 last year, so for me to guess someone like that would be tough. But if you’re looking for someone who hasn’t been asked about in this chat who still has some ability, how about Nick Stocks? He’s pitching with less velocity than when he was drafted, but his injuries have actually taught him how to use movement and make adjustments, and his velocity is slowing getting back to the low 90s. Realistically it would be a stretch to think he can succeed in the big leagues now, but you asked for a longshot…

 Q:  cardfan from champaign asks:
What are the Cards’hopes for Delaware’s Mark Michael from their New York-Penn league club?

Will Lingo: He’s not quite a top 10 guy, but the organization likes his upside. His fastball’s about 91 mph now, but he’s projectable and his curveball and changeup both have potential. As usual, whatever depth the Cardinals have is with their pitching.

 Q:  Adam from Boonville, IN asks:
What’d you think of the Cardinals draft this year? Do any of the players really stand out to you?

Will Lingo: You have some potentially good bats in there, led by Barton, but I’m not sure why they took so many catchers. They have some live arms like Michael, mentioned above, but no one that immediately jumps out. The player to watch from deeper down in the draft is Anthony Reyes, a 15th-rounder who had a great early career at Southern California but got knocked down by injuries in the last couple of years. He looked healthy in instructional league and could end up being a steal.

 Q:  Bill from Dublin, GA. asks:
How is Tyler Johnson ranked 9th on the list, yet more then likely to end up in the big leagues this year? Will he be headed to the Futures game or do you see Hawksworth getting that call?

Will Lingo: Our list is based on much more than just who will be in the big leagues soon. For instance, I put Rick Ankiel at No. 1 in the organization after the 1997 season, when he hadn’t even thrown a regular season pitch. He had looked so impressive in instructional league, though, and had such a high ceiling that it was a relatively easy call. Similarly, if you compare Hawksworth and Johnson, we look more at who you would like to have five or 10 years down the road. Hawksworth’s overall potential makes him the choice for us.

 Q:  Jason from Kirksville asks:
Any news on Barton? When he was drafted I thought he was projected to move from behind the plate to the infield somewhere, now I see him listed as one of our better C prospects. Along those same lines, will Molina ever hit well enough for a full time gig in the majors?

Will Lingo: There are questions about whether Barton can stay behind the plate, but for now the Cardinals want to give him every opportunity to stay there. If his bat develops as expected, he would be much more valuable as a catcher. And as you allude to, the questions are opposite for Molina, though he did hold his own in Double-A this year. That’s encouraging, but defense is still Molina’s biggest strength.

Will Lingo: And I forgot to answer the question above about the Futures Game. Good to know you guys are already thinking about that. Yes, I would say Hawksworth would be your early choice for that role, though Molina might fill a position of need on the World team depending on how the rosters shake out.

 Q:  john bristor from birdsonthebat.com asks:
What is your overall evaluation of the Cards farm system and what needs to change? People at the top like Jocketty? Before the bell had rung on the offseason, 37 minor league free agents were signed and almost 13 of all Cardinal minor leaguers were bumped up a level. Is that the proper way to build a farm?

Will Lingo: My overall evalutation is that their talent is thin, but again a lot of it is because they’ve traded so many premium guys over the years. But they have had some disappointing performances and injury problems the last couple of years, as well as some drafts that didn’t pan out. So I think the main change they’re trying to make is in scouting, and I think that makes sense. With all the players they’re signing to fill holes in the farm system, it’s clearly not ideal, but it’s good that they’re bringing in new blood and not simply being satisfied with what they have.

 Q:  Jeremy from Nashville, Tn asks:
While the talent level in the minor’s for the cardinals is one of the worst, I think you could argue the way the cardinals utlize their farm system is one of the best, considering the guys they have been able to bring in via trading prospects(of which havent really excelled) and the development of Pujols. What are your thoughts?

Will Lingo: That’s a great point, and we touched on it earlier when talking about the Giants. If the goal of player development is to help produce a winning major league team, the Cardinals have done that. The trades for players like Renteria, Rolen and even McGwire to go back a few years, have worked out very well. And the players they hold on to generally turn out to be cornerstones, though Ankiel and Hutchinson were major disappointments and Drew continues to be an enigma.

 Q:  s.f. from San Francisco asks:
How much, if any, has the move from 2b to outfield diminished Boyd’s standing as a major league prospect?

Will Lingo: Clearly he would profile better as an offensive second baseman, but his defense there was so bad that it was affecting his offense and was not going to be acceptable as he moved up. Now he needs to be able to play center field because he doesn’t have the pop to fit the profile of a corner outfielder.

 Q:  John from KC asks:
Hey Will. is it as much ‘fun’ to be assigned to writing up a relatively barren system like the Cards compared other more talented systems ? I hope the changes in the scouting dept bring about some much needed infusion of young takent

Will Lingo: Well, it’s fun to write about any organization because it’s interesting to talk to the guys in the front office and to uncover the names of players that are on the horizon. But yes, it’s been hard to get excited about the Cardinals’ talent the last couple of years. All I can say is that I’ve always been impressed by the people I talk to with the organization, even if the talent in the system is low. So if I were a Cardinals fan, I would feel a lot better about my team and its future than many other teams out there.

Will Lingo: Thanks for joining us today. You’ll hear from me next when I write about the resurgent (no, I’m not making it up) Orioles system. Until then, enjoy all the great stuff here at BaseballAmerica.com and get ready for our coverage from the Winter Meetings in New Orleans.

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