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Smith didn't come out of nowhere--he was No. 13 on the Cardinals prospect list last year--but his degree of success in 2000 was a surprise to everyone. He opened the season at Double-A Arkansas and was dominant in the Texas League, earning a promotion to Memphis and serving as the Redbirds' ace at age 20 as the team went to the Triple-A World Series. Smith pitched two seven-inning no-hitters in Arkansas, finished tied for the minor league lead in wins with 17 and was the Texas League pitcher of the year. Double-A batters had just a .213 average against him, and Triple-A batters fared even worse, hitting .206. Smith was a good outfielder at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, Calif., where he broke some of Nomar Garciaparra's batting records. He became strictly a pitcher when he went to Los Angeles Harbor Junior College. To say Smith is poised doesn't do him justice. He's unflappable on the mound and always thinks a step ahead of batters. He's like Rick Ankiel with his advanced approach, good curveball and excellent changeup, though his fastball is a few ticks slower. But he might have a better feel for pitching, which earns the inevitable comparison to Tom Glavine. The Cardinals weren't even sure they'd put Smith in the Arkansas rotation last year, but he showed in spring training he was ready to do something special. As his 2000 walk numbers show, he also has developed plus command. He's a good athlete and a good fielder. On pure velocity, Smith's fastball is below average, though he worked out in the offseason in hopes of adding to it. His listed height and weight are generous, and he'll never be at the front of a rotation. But he knows his limitations and pitches to his strengths. The Cardinals plan to start Smith back in Triple-A to open the season, though they have opened their minds to let him move at whatever pace he dictates. They hope he'll become something of a cross between Ankiel and Jamie Moyer and occupy a spot in the middle of their rotation for years. It would be a surprise if he doesn't contribute in St. Louis at some point in 2001.
The Cardinals offered Pujols $10,000 to sign in 1999, so he went to the summer amateur Jayhawk League instead and hit .343-5-17, good enough to earn a bonus close to $60,000. Then he proved to be a bargain, with a monster pro debut in which he was the MVP of the Class A Midwest League and the Pacific Coast League playoffs. He followed up by hitting .323 in the Arizona Fall League. Pujols started hitting in instructional league just after he signed and hasn't stopped. He uses the whole field and has great strike-zone discipline. He goes the other way well and should add power as he moves up. He's still young, but he has the approach of a veteran. He has a strong arm at third base. Pujols wasn't a more notable amateur prospect because he was much heavier and didn't move well. He's in good shape now, but the Cardinals aren't sure about his defense. He's passable at third, but he already has played a few games in the outfield and could wind up there. Pujols must have been sad to see 2000 end. The Cardinals are trying to temper expectations after just one pro season, but he could be in the big leagues by 2002, especially with the void at third base created by the Fernando Tatis trade. He likely will start 2001 at Double-A New Haven.
Before Joe Borchard, Hutchinson was the Stanford quarterback getting the big bucks. As a 1998 second-round pick, he signed a major league deal with a $2.3 million bonus. After a promising spring in 2000, he got shelled in Triple-A before returning to Double-A and righting himself. Then he missed much of the second half of with elbow tendinitis. Hutchinson's numbers haven't been impressive in college or pro ball, but scouts remain agog over his stuff. He's a horse with a 94-mph fastball, but his breaking ball is his out pitch. Whether you call it a curve or a slurve, it gives him a second hard offering. His changeup showed progress in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the league in strikeouts. Command of the fastball is everything for Hutchinson. He lost it at Memphis last year and blew up. A little of the problem is mental and a little of it is mechanical. There's also debate about his future role. The Cardinals want him to remain in the rotation for now because frontline starters are so hard to find. The Cardinals think Hutchinson is ready to compete for a big league job, but he would be better served by Triple-A success. Their larger point is that when he's on, he can get hitters out at any level.
Caple was an eighth-round pick out of high school, but went to Texas A&M instead and became a first-round pick three years later. He struggled in his first pro experience in 1999, then didn't pitch until May in 2000 because of a ribcage injury. His brother Kyle was a minor league catcher for three seasons. Caple has all the tools of a frontline starter. He has a big frame that's still filling out and should make him a workhorse. He has whiplike arm action and throws around 92 mph, and he could add more velocity. His slider is probably his best pitch right now. He's a great competitor and very willing to learn. Caple didn't have any problems once he got started last year, but he still has to prove he'll be durable. He needs to learn to keep the ball down, but he may not have a good enough feel for his mechanics to know how yet. He also needs to improve his changeup. Success has eluded Caple so far in the minors, but the Cardinals still like his potential. He has the all-around package and just needs to refine it to have success. He'll take the next step to Double-A in 2001.
Another in the growing legion of Tommy John surgery survivors, Stocks missed his freshman year at Florida State after his elbow ligament popped off the bone. Like so many, he came back stronger than ever after the operation, and the Cardinals took him with a supplemental first-round pick they got for losing Brian Jordan. Stocks touched 90-91 mph before his surgery, and now he pitches comfortably at 92-93 and reaches 94-95. He also has a major league curveball and makeup that's off the charts. He has the heart of a lion and refuses to give in to hitters. Stocks probably isn't quite as big as he's listed, which raises questions about his durability. With just one professional season under his belt, he still has work to do on his changeup and on his command. Even with the good Tommy John track record, Stocks' health will always be a concern. The early returns on Stocks are overwhelmingly positive, especially the innings he piled up at Class A Peoria with no injury problems. The next step is high Class A Potomac, but he'll probably finish this season in Double-A.
Williams wasn't the first player the Cardinals drafted in 2000, but he was the most impressive. He came with the team's second pick in the first round, which they received for losing Darren Oliver to the Rangers. St. Louis has taken a college pitcher in the first round of nine of the last 11 drafts. Williams added 15 pounds of muscle before his junior season and 5-6 mph to his fastball, taking it to the mid-90s. His best pitch may be his slurvy curve. He's a big kid who carries himself well and has good mound presence. He has a solid pitcher's body and mechanics, as well as an idea about how to work in the strike zone. The Cardinals haven't seen much they don't like yet. Williams needs to work on his changeup and refine his command, but that should come with innings. After his strong debut at short-season New Jersey and an impressive instructional league, Williams has the organization excited about seeing him in spring training. He could take a jump to high Class A with a good performance.
A Cuban defector, Ortega signed with the Cardinals in 1997 but didn't look comfortable until last year, when he became a Texas League all-star. His season ended early, though, when he collided with an umpire and broke his wrist. He's expected to be healthy for spring training. Ortega was projected as a power hitter when he signed, and he showed it last season. He scorched the ball and hit it all over the park, and when he pulled the ball he showed real juice. He has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs a season if he keeps developing. While Ortega's defense in right field has improved, the Cardinals were a little surprised when a survey of Texas League managers named him as the league's best defensive outfielder. They think he'll be an adequate left fielder, and he definitely has a left-field arm. His reluctance to draw walks could be exploited by more experienced pitchers. His bat will take him as far as he's going to go, so the Cardinals will move Ortega up to Memphis and see if he keeps hitting. He's a bit old for a prospect, so he could move quickly.
Stechschulte wasn't drafted out of Ashland (Ohio) University, where he spent most of his career as a first baseman. He hadn't pitched for several years when the Cardinals signed him, and worked in middle relief in his first season in the short-season New York-Penn League. By 1999, he was a Double-A all-star. Biceps tendinitis ended that season early, but he showed no signs of the trouble in 2000. A nondrafted free agent pitcher works his way into an organization's plans by throwing hard and getting people out. Stechsculte has a plus fastball that can reach the mid-90s and a good slider. More important, he has the makeup for late-inning work. He has pitched out of the bullpen throughout his career, and he knows the role and how to prepare. Stechschulte is strictly a two-pitch pitcher, but because his role in the organization is so clearly defined, that's not as much of a concern. He pitched two tentatively in the majors in 2000, repeatedly falling behind in the count and allowing six homers in 26 innings. Against the odds, Stechschulte is ready to compete for a spot in the big league bullpen. He has closer stuff if he can get big league hitters out consistently.
Saturria has teased the Cardinals with his athletic ability since he signed. But every step forward is followed by a step back. He played in the Dominican League this winter to get more experience against good pitching and hit just .194. Scouts love Saturria because the tools are all there. He has power and speed and is an exciting player when he's on his game. He has a good arm and is a solid defensive outfielder. When he plays with confidence, his athleticism shines. "Enigmatic" is the best word for Saturria. He never has established consistency in his career and hasn't been able to make the adjustments necessary to get out of slumps. He remains undisciplined at the plate and still strikes out too much. Despite of all of his experience, St. Louis thinks he needs more at-bats. The Cardinals would like to lock Saturria in a room with Albert Pujols in hopes of making him the same kind of hitter. This will be a big year for him. He needs to start strong and perform well in Triple-A because time and patience are running out.
Pearce put together a solid pro debut in 1999, followed by an instructional league performance that was among the best in the organization. Then the Cardinals figured out that between college fall ball in 1998 and instructional league in 1999, Pearce had thrown almost 300 innings. They promptly shut him down for the winter, and he showed no ill effects last year. Pearce is a strong, workmanlike, competitive pitcher whose best pitch is a hard breaking ball that has been called both a curve and a slider. His fastball is on the high side of average and has good sink. As he has shown so far, he's durable. To be effective at higher levels, Pearce needs to improve his changeup. He would get hit a lot less with an effective third pitch and improved command in the strike zone. Huge workloads at an early age are always worrisome. Pearce is moving at a good rate, jumping to Double-A in his first full season. He may return there to start 2001. If his changeup improves, he'll be an innings-eater in a rotation. If not, he'll take his two good pitches to the bullpen.
Weibl pitched in the powerful Miami program in college but was a draft afterthought and looked like nothing more than an organization player until 2000. Called up for an emergency start at Memphis, he took off and pitched himself into the Cardinals' plans. Weibl is a player-development poster boy. He has added velocity and now has a solid average fastball, as well as a good slider and changeup. His command is also above-average, and his newfound success came from a more aggressive approach. He forgot about finesse and started going after hitters. After four uninspiring seasons, he'll have to prove the fifth wasn't a fluke. He has made mental and mechanical adjustments to become more successful, though he still pitches with a smaller margin for error than many pitchers. He still has room for improvement with his changeup. Weibl has made himself a legitimate part of the Cardinals' future plans. He'll go to his first big league camp this spring and try to surprise people again. More than likely, though, he'll head back to Memphis to start the season.
Journell is another Tommy John surgery survivor. The Cardinals drafted him knowing he had arm problems but took a chance that his stuff would return. He didn't throw a professional pitch until the 2000 season, and even then he was limited to three innings every four days in the New York-Penn League. The organization was happy with his progress. Journell was the most intimidating closer in college baseball at Illinois in 1999, and when healthy he has explosive velocity. He reaches the mid-90s with his fastball. He threw from a low three-quarters slot in college, which made his fastball almost frightening for righthanders, but the arm angle flattened out his slider and put strain on his arm. The Cardinals moved his arm slot up and saw positive results, especially with the slider. They're excited about seeing Journell in spring training, and he could move fast if his arm is all the way back.
Snead set a new high Class A Carolina League standard with 109 stolen bases last year, breaking the record of 105 set by Lenny Dykstra. Almost as amazing, Snead was caught 35 times. So much for the element of surprise. Snead is a true speedster. He's a go-getter and a hard worker who loves to play, and he's a strong defender who can really go get the ball in center field. Unless he improves his hitting and gets on base more, though, he won't make an impact in the big leagues. He's relatively inexperienced and still doesn't have much of a hitting approach. He could probably add 30 points to his average if he just bunted effectively. His real problem is that he's not strong enough to hit the ball with authority. Opposing teams realize it and cheat in on him, making it harder for him to get leg hits. Snead's speed makes him intriguing, though, and the Cardinals will give him every chance to succeed. He didn't fare any better in the Arizona Fall League, so hitting against Double-A pitchers could provide a real challenge.
Hackman was the only minor leaguer the Cardinals got in the seven-player deal with the Rockies last offseason that brought in Darryl Kile and Dave Veres, who were keys to the club's National League Central title. Hackman has been on the fringe of the majors for the past couple of seasons and had big league stints in 1999 and 2000. He's a big, strong pitcher who has been compared to Jim Bibby. He can bring his fastball in the mid-90s and has a good slider. His changeup is a decent third pitch. His command has improved significantly over the course of his career. But Hackman is a question mark for St. Louis because he hasn't proven he's ready to make the jump to the big leagues. He has been hit hard in brief auditions but could be more effective coming out of the bullpen, allowing him to rely on just his fastball and slider. Hackman will go to spring training with a chance to win a big league job, but he'll probably wind up back in Memphis, where he makes his offseason home.
Narveson reminds the Cardinals of Bud Smith a couple of years ago. They have similar skills, so the team hopes Narveson's come together as effectively. His draft status rose dramatically in his senior year of high school, as he added velocity to his fastball and compiled a 10-0, 0.71 record for one of North Carolina's best prep teams. He was an outstanding student but turned down a scholarship to Wake Forest to sign with the Cardinals for $675,000. With his improving fastball, which he consistently throws in the low 90s, he has better raw stuff than Smith. Narveson also has more of a bulldog approach. He throws both a slider and curveball, though the Cardinals will direct him more in the slider direction. His changeup is strictly a third pitch now but shows potential. He has solid mechanics and should have good command with more experience. He'll move up to low Class A for 2001.
Boyd was a UCLA recruit, and many people thought he would fall in the draft and head to college after a disappointing senior season in high school. The Cardinals took him in the first round, though, because of his athleticism. He had a solid debut at Rookie-level Johnson City playing in the outfield, where he moved during his senior year because of defensive struggles at shortstop. He was bothered by nagging hamstring and groin injuries. When he came to instructional league, Boyd told the Cardinals he wanted to move back to shortstop. The organization doesn't think he's suited for the position but said it would try him at second base. He also is going to become a switch-hitter, which may work because he has a nice hitting stroke. He has a quick bat and potential leadoff skills. All in all, it should be a busy spring as Boyd tries to find his niche. The organization still isn't sure where he fits best, but will try to put him where he's comfortable and where he can get to the big leagues the quickest.
Karnuth has shown potential but little else since a standout season in Class A in 1998. He could find new life in the organization as a reliever. Karnuth is a sinker/slider pitcher, and his sinker is a major league-quality pitch already. His slider has improved to become a good complement. He has plus command of both pitches as well. His changeup never has come along, though, and he tended to tire as a starter. The organization thinks that's why he floundered in Double-A and Triple-A in spite of his stuff. So they put him in the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, with promising results. His control and sinker should make him effective in the role, without the burden of trying to stretch himself. The Cardinals plan to keep him in the bullpen and send him back to Memphis, where he could close if Gene Stechschulte makes the big league team.
Voshell was a fourth-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 1997 but decided to attend Wake Forest, where he was a three-year starter at shortstop for a team that won two Atlantic Coast Conference championships. His family has a Cardinals heritage. His grandfather Les played in the system and his brother Key is an assistant coach at Wake Forest who played at Peoria last season. Chase made tremendous improvements in the field and especially at the plate in college, but he won't make his professional debut until this spring. He had shoulder problems last summer and was getting examined by doctors, who found a strange infection in his leg that was caused by an ingrown hair. He had minor surgery to fix the problem and should be healthy for spring training. He has an athletic body, and the Cardinals expect him to be a productive hitter, albeit without much home run power. He's the type of player who's solid in all areas of the game but not spectacular in any. He should debut in a full-season league.
The Cardinals are woefully thin at a couple of positions, and first base is one of them. They'll give Haas the opportunity to become the heir apparent to Mark McGwire this season, as he has proven that he isn't suited to play third. Haas is a former member of the organization's Top 10 Prospects list, but he hasn't been able to hit Triple-A pitching in the last couple of seasons and his stock has dropped. He has light-tower power--and that's his only tool. He's willing to take a walk and has cut down on his strikeouts, but again that won't mean much until he can do it at Triple-A. He has great makeup and won't ever stop working to get better. But St. Louis finally had to give up on making him a third baseman. He just didn't have the tools for the position, as he's a below-average runner. So he'll be at first base for good now, and the organization hopes settling him there will allow his bat to take off again. He'll go back to Memphis, and the organization considers this a make-or-break year.
Walrond was more of an outfielder in college at Kansas, until a scout told him he had more potential as a pitcher. He turned to the mound after that and has made himself into a prospect. He ranked among the Carolina League ERA leaders in 2000 and had a stretch of 21 innings without giving up an earned run. He's a workmanlike pitcher who doesn't overwhelm hitters. The Cardinals jokingly say Walrond has the kind of stuff that puts you to sleep, meaning that he doesn't have spectacular pitches but finds a way to get people out. His fastball velocity is average at best, but he has a good curveball and an improving changeup. He's effective because he throws his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, curve and change from the same release point and with the same arm speed, giving him great deception. He also has the good movement typical of all lefthanders, and he has become adept at working hitters. He has little margin for error because of his average stuff, and he still could stand to improve his command. He'll continue his quiet progression through the organization at Double-A in 2001.
Cook wasn't drafted out of high school after helping take his Salem, Ore., team to the American Legion World Series in 1995 as a high school junior. He won his start against Chino, Calif., the eventual national runner-up, allowing just one run in 8 1/3 innings of work. He was considered a potential first-round pick after he pitched a one-hitter against Oklahoma State early in his junior year at Oregon State, but he tailed off and went in the third round in 1998. The same thing that held back Cook's draft status has held back his prospect status: He has electric stuff at times but is inconsistent with it. For instance, he was the organization's pitcher of the month last April, with an ERA of 0.38 in four Peoria starts. His ERA soared after that, and he wasn't effective at Potomac. When he's on, Cook throws his fastball in the mid-90s and has a plus curveball. He's a bulldog on the mound and goes right after hitters. He needs to work on his changeup and his consistency, and his command also is not where it should be. As a college pitcher, Cook needs to graduate from Class A. He'll try to make the Double-A rotation in spring training.
As if Esix Snead weren't enough, Lemon is another speedy, athletic outfielder in the organization who has no clue at the plate. The organization is actually more disappointed in Lemon because more was expected of his bat and it hasn't happened yet. He's the nephew of former big leaguer Chet, which makes his slow adaptation to baseball even more mysterious. He had limited baseball experience in high school and turned down a Washington State football scholarship to sign with St. Louis, and his case illustrates the risk of taking raw athletes. But teams hate to give up on tools like these. Lemon has the potential for good power, and his athleticism, speed and arm make him a good outfielder. But he doesn't bring his full talent to the field every day, and as his statistics show, he hasn't given any sign that he's learning anything about hitting. The Cardinals hope Lemon sees his friends and teammates passing him in the organization, and that he's ready to do something about it.
If it weren't for bad luck, Woolf wouldn't have any luck at all. Since the Cardinals drafted him, he has put together just one full, healthy season. Strained groin, dislocated finger, migraine headaches, sprained elbow, strained hamstring, back spasms--Woolf has seen it all. Or almost all. He blew out his knee at the end of the 2000 season and had ACL surgery, and he's not expected back until June. On pure talent, Woolf is a Top 10 player. But he's the organization's biggest enigma, not only because of his continual injuries but also because he doesn't always seem to give his best effort. His arm and power are both plus tools, and he's not lacking in any area. He has an athletic body when healthy. He tends to be lackadaisical on defense, and the organization also has tried him at third base and in the outfield. Woolf needs to come back strong from his injury and make an impression at Memphis because he'll be a free agent after the season.
The Cardinals' numerous trades in the last few years have clearly taken a lot of talent out of the system. But for the players who remain, the trades have created opportunity that might not have existed before. Bowers, a Pennsylvania high school product who went to junior college before the Cardinals drafted him, was clearly behind Jack Wilson in the organization before Wilson was traded to the Pirates. Now Bowers is one of the organization's more advanced infield prospects. He has played mostly shortstop throughout his career but profiles better as a second baseman. He has limited range, leading to 13 errors last year, but should be able to handle second. He'll have to hit to continue his advance through the system, though. He has a good approach and is willing to take a walk. He'll never hit for much power. The Cardinals will let Bowers take the next step to Double-A, hoping he continues his offensive development and holds his own on defense.
As a late-round college pick, Farnsworth knew he would have to prove himself on the field to get the organization's attention. What better way to do that than to go out and lead the Carolina League in home runs and RBIs last year--and winning the RBI race by 26. He's a professional hitter and has the knack for hitting with men on base (.321 in 2000, compared to .154 with the bases empty). He does strike out a lot, however, and he was old for his league, so he'll have to prove himself against better pitching. He has holes defensively and made 17 errors splitting time between first and third last year. Because he doesn't run well, first is probably his long-term position. Farnsworth is the kind of player organizations draft to fill spots in the minor leagues, and not the kind of player they project to make it to the majors. But every now and then a player like that breaks through, and Farnsworth hit enough last year to earn a longer look. If he can post similar numbers in Double-A, he'll put himself in the Cardinals' plans.
A college teammate of Chance Caple at Texas A&M, Schumacher is the Cardinals' best prospect at catcher, which may be the organization's thinnest position. Another catcher who has a chance to join the list in future years is Dan Moylan, a 2000 eighth-round pick out of North Carolina who swings a good bat but will have to prove himself on defense. Schumacher attended Panola (Texas) Junior College and went to Texas as a junior in 1998 before transferring to Texas A&M for his senior year. The Pirates picked him in the 18th round of the 1997 draft but couldn't sign him. Schumacher missed all but 13 games last year with a broken leg, but the Cardinals like his all-around package and his lefthanded bat from the catcher's spot. He has solid catch-and-throw skills and is athletic enough to play third base. The organization likes his hitting skills, though they haven't translated into professional success yet. Schumacher probably will jump to Potomac in 2001 in an attempt to accelerate his path toward the big leagues.
The Cardinals are counting on the 2000 draft to restock the farm system, as shown by the presence of the first four players they drafted--Shaun Boyd, Blake Williams, Chris Narveson, Chase Voshell--ranking high on this list. Schmitt could be the sleeper of the group. Playing for powerful Green Valley High, he was overshadowed by more heralded prospects like outfielder David Krynzel, a first-round pick of the Brewers. Schmitt had a scholarship to Kansas but decided to sign instead as a 22nd-round pick. After struggling initially, he got comfortable and put together a 10-game hitting streak in August to finish third in the Rookie-level Appalachian League batting race. His tools are solid across the board and he should develop a little pop as he matures. He has a good approach at the plate and already can hit the ball to all fields with alley power. He worked out to add muscle over the winter. Schmitt has the physical skills to be a solid defensive third baseman, though he left a lot to be desired there last year. He committed 11 errors in just 29 games and spent most of his time as a DH. He has a bad throwing motion and will need work. With a good spring, Schmitt could jump to full-season ball at Peoria in 2001.
From the organization that developed utilityman Joe McEwing comes Maier, who has one of the most interesting backgrounds in the minors. It's a good bet that he's the only player in the Prospect Handbook who was born in Tehran, Iran, though he grew up in California. His father was in the Army and stationed in Iran when he was born. His mother is from Thailand. Maier played shortstop at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the same school that produced Ozzie Smith, but his tools are far more pedestrian. He's the type of player who appeals more to managers than scouts, especially after they see him play for a while. He moved to second base right away as a pro and has played at third as well. Maier will make it to the big leagues on his bat, though. He walks more than he strikes out and is working on driving the ball and getting full extension with every swing so he can become more than just a contact hitter. He should be able to take the next step to Memphis in 2001.
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