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Background: The player who might be the best prospect in baseball is also the most well known, thanks to his eternal holdout after the Phillies drafted him out of Florida State in 1997. He was verbally attacked by players and writers across the nation, who held him out as just another greedy athlete. As almost every Baseball America reader knows by now, he didn't sign with the Phillies and played for the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, where he hit .341-18-50 and was the rookie of the year. His agent, Scott Boras, tried through various means to take Drew out of the draft process, but those efforts failed and Drew went back into the 1998 draft, where the Cardinals took him fifth overall. St. Louis, which signed Boras client and Cardinals prospect Rick Ankiel for big money a year earlier, made short work of the negotiations with Drew, signing him to a major league contract worth a guaranteed $7 million. Drew then finally got on the field and showed everybody what all the fuss was about, cruising all the way to the big leagues and making his debut the night Mark McGwire hit his 62nd homer. Strengths: As Drew showed after he signed, it doesn't take him long to make an impression. He's a legitimate five-tool player--the only 30-30 man in college baseball history--who combines great athletic ability with great baseball ability. Of all his tools, his power jumps out because he's not a hulking player yet the ball flies off his bat. He also has a great demeanor, combining a love and respect for the game with his uncommon ability. Cardinals officials were impressed with the way he carried himself in the minor league and major league clubhouses. In spite of all the controversy that surrounded his signing, he acted like just another player and meshed well with his teammates. Weaknesses: Drew has no glaring flaws. He was bothered by nagging injuries last season, probably a result of how little he had played in the previous year. The Cardinals want him on the field as much as possible. What potentially could have been a problem-acceptance by his teammates-seems to have been quickly defused. Of course, seeing a guy hit five home runs in his first 36 major league at-bats tends to make people forget minor disagreements. The Future: Drew showed in his St. Louis cameo that he is ready for the big leagues. He has the tools for any outfield spot, but the presence of Ray Lankford and Eric Davis means he'll be slotted for left field going into spring training. No one expects him to lose the job, and he's already the favorite for various rookie of the year honors.
Background: The No. 1 prospect before last season drops to No. 2 only because Drew came into the organization. His first professional season was outstanding, as he dominated Class A hitters and led the minor leagues in strikeouts. Strengths: Ankiel has three major league pitches now and knows what to do with them. He reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, and his big-breaking curveball is so good that minor league umpires get fooled by it. He's a student of the game who's anxious to learn all the finer points of pitching. Weaknesses: Ankiel is still mastering the art of setting up hitters and developing the confidence and precision command to throw any pitch at any time in the count. He has a big body and will have to watch his weight, which he has done well so far. The Future: The Cardinals will send Ankiel to Double-A Arkansas to start the season. If he dominates, he'll have a shot at the big league rotation in 2000. If not, push his schedule back a year.
Background: Though he was a Carolina League all-star at 20 and led his team in RBIs, Butler wasn't satisfied with his season. It was the first time in his young career that he didn't hit better than .300. Strengths: Everyone who has watched him for any length of time loves Butler because of the way he plays. None of his tools stands out, but he is fundamentally sound and competitive. His bat is his No. 1 asset. He's a proven run producer with a patient approach at the plate, and he should add power. Weaknesses: Because he lacks speed and range, people have been trying to move Butler off shortstop from the time he signed. He makes plays with his instincts and accurate arm, but he made 29 errors last year. The Future: Butler is penciled in as the Opening Day shortstop at Double-A, and the Cardinals will leave him there as long as they can. A move to second or third is still a strong possibility, though.
Background: After three years as a quarterback and pitcher at Stanford, Hutchinson was persuaded to give up football by the Cardinals' $3.4 million major league contract. He turned down a seven-figure offer from the Braves as their first-round pick in 1995. Strengths: The sky's the limit for Hutchinson, who has a dominating mid-90s fastball with great movement. He has a hard breaking ball that was described by one scout simply as "intense." His arm is fresh because his time on the mound has been limited by football. Weaknesses: Football also means that Hutchinson is behind other college pitchers in his development. He needs to work on his changeup and must improve the command of all his pitches. The Future: The Cardinals are going to be conservative with Hutchinson. They put him through a spring-like regimen before he pitched in a game last summer. When minor back problems limited him in instructional league, he probably put himself back at Class A Potomac to start the 1999 season.
Background: Kennedy signed for $650,000, the lowest bonus of any first-round pick in the 1997 draft, and many thought he wasn't a legitimate first-rounder. He went to the Arizona Fall League last fall but left after just 12 at-bats when he separated his left shoulder. Strengths: The Cardinals are excited about Kennedy's potential with the bat. He uses the whole field, makes adjustments quickly and has significantly improved his power. He's driven by those who doubt his potential. Weaknesses: Defense is a big question mark, at least at shortstop. But it's just a matter of when, not if, he makes a permanent move to second, where he'll be fine. The Future: Kennedy's shoulder is healthy, and he'll go to big league camp with an outside chance at winning the second-base job. He won't ride the big league bench, though, and it's more likely the Cardinals will send Kennedy back to Triple-A for a year.
Background: Saturria had moved slowly since the Cardinals signed him, spending two years in the Dominican Summer League. When the Blue Jays took him in the major league Rule 5 draft in December 1997, then returned him to the Cardinals in spring training, it jump-started his career. Strengths: Saturria has always had great tools, and last year the ability started to show itself on the field. He has a live body, above-average speed and an outstanding arm. The Cardinals know he'll have the defense and hope he'll have the power to be a standout right fielder. Weaknesses: Saturria is still inconsistent with the bat and is working on his plate discipline. He made big improvements last year, shortening his swing and starting to use the whole field. He also is learning how to translate his speed into more stolen bases. The Future: Though he is coming into his own, Saturria still needs a lot of polishing. He'll continue his step-by-step climb as the right fielder at Arkansas.
Background: The 1998 season was the first in which it looked like Woolf was approaching his potential. He missed several weeks with a dislocated right ring finger caused by a bad-hop grounder, but he made up some of the at-bats in the Arizona Fall League where hit .243 in 74 at-bats. Strengths: Woolf is the kind of player who makes scouts drool. He fits the prototype of the modern shortstop and is a physical specimen with a plus arm and speed approaching 80 on the scouts' scale. His swing looks awkward, but he usually puts the good part of the bat on the ball. Weaknesses: Woolf's adjustment to pro ball has been tougher than most, though he has matured greatly. Now he has to avoid the injury bug, get in a full season with 500 at-bats and allow his skills to blossom. The Future: The Cardinals want Woolf to play shortstop at Memphis, but it's not a slam dunk. He'll have to earn the job.
Background: Jimenez is another Dominican whom the Cardinals have moved slowly. He spent three years in the Dominican Summer League and was virtually unknown outside the organization--that is, until last year when he became the Texas League pitcher of the year and won his first three big league starts. Strengths: The ascent of Jimenez can be traced to the development of his sinker. It's heavy and hard, and batters can't help but knock it on the ground. He also has increased his velocity to 92 mph and has an effective slider when he keeps it down. Weaknesses: Jimenez is still working on changing speeds and developing something for lefthanded hitters. He's not a strikeout pitcher, so he must maintain good command. The Future: The major league staff was impressed by Jimenez, so he'll have a shot at the rotation this spring. He and Manny Aybar will compete for a spot, though Aybar might have the inside track because he's out of options.
Background: Haas finally started looking like a supplemental first-round pick in the last two seasons and has become the organization's best power prospect after Drew. He hit .252-6-20 in the Arizona Fall League, among the league's leaders in home runs. Strengths: Haas keeps getting bigger and stronger and will go as far as his power takes him. His is not a subtle game. He still strikes out a lot but has become more selective as he continues to learn his hitting zone. Weaknesses: The Cardinals tried Haas at catcher after he signed, but that didn't work. He's played mostly at third since then, where he has a good arm but limited range. He can't play in the outfield because he's a below-average runner. First base looks like his ultimate home. The Future: Haas played first in the AFL and looked good there, so he could move as soon as this season. The Cardinals plan to keep him in Triple-A all year.
Background: His 22-29, 4.49 career record isn't pretty, but DeWitt has improved each year and showed enough that he was added to the 40-man roster this winter. In the last two seasons, he has 239 strikeouts and 75 walks in 306 innings. Strengths: DeWitt came to the organization as a big kid with a soft body, but he has made himself into a workhorse. He has average velocity and a nice slider, but he has made his leap forward by showing great control and keeping the ball down. He listens to coaches and applies it on the mound. Weaknesses: DeWitt's offspeed stuff still needs work. With his control, he sometimes nibbles too much and works too deep into counts rather than going after hitters. The Future: Minor back problems slowed him down after a great start last year, but he's healthy and should take a spot in the Arkansas rotation. How he fares against Double-A hitters will show just how much progress he has made.