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Haren came out of Pepperdine in 2001 with teammate Noah Lowry, a lefthander who was drafted ahead of him but endured a season of shoulder problems in 2002. Haren, meanwhile, led the minor leagues in innings and jumped up the Cardinals' prospect list. He was West Coast Conference player of the year his junior season at Pepperdine, where he also was a DH. Haren showed flashes in his first professional summer but wore down, losing 15-20 pounds in the process. There was no such problem last season. Haren was a workhorse and finished the year with 22 quality starts in 28 games. He opened as the ace of the staff at Peoria, which featured many of the organization's most promising prospects and won the Midwest League title. But he quickly earned a promotion to high Class A Potomac, where he held his own for a mediocre team. Haren's biggest strength is that he has no glaring weakness. At 6-foot-4 he has the frame of a workhorse and clean mechanics. He has three solid pitches and can command them all, and his big body allows him to generate a good downward plane on his pitches. His fastball is 88-92 mph, with a lot of 90s and 91s, and he can occasionally touch the mid-90s. He got better tilt on his slider last season and used his changeup more. He also throws a splitter that was one of his better pitches in college, though the Cardinals asked him to keep it in his back pocket for now. If he brings it back, it would be another effective weapon. Haren works quickly and pitches inside, going after hitters with a good understanding of how to attack their weaknesses. He also has a little bit of funk in his delivery, which creates deception. Haren tired at the end of the season, understandable under a 194-inning workload. The organization says its goal is to protect arms while getting pitchers to the big leagues, and that Haren's frame and mechanics allowed him to pile up more innings than another pitcher might. Given the organization's injury history, though, that bears watching. Otherwise, he just needs experience against more advanced hitters. He still projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but now it looks like Haren will reach the big leagues more quickly than expected. He'll open the season in Double-A and could move up if he pitches well there.
Journell bounced back beautifully from Tommy John surgery just before the draft in 1999, becoming the organization's pitcher of the year in 2001 and top prospect a year ago. He took a small step back last year, opening the season in extended spring after having bone chips removed from his elbow, then getting shut down at Triple-A Memphis because of weakness in the back of his shoulder. Journell still has the great arm and pitches that made him a prospect: an electric fastball that was 91-94 mph last year, a hard slider and an improved changeup. He goes after hitters and showed good command in Double-A before his shoulder started bothering him. The Cardinals just want to see consistency from Journell. His arm slot has moved between where he's comfortable (low three-quarters) and where the organization would like him (a bit higher). When the old mechanics caused him pain and the new ones didn't, he went back where the Cardinals moved him. The higher arm slot also keeps Journell on top of his slider. The organization doesn't want to rush Journell and would like to see him stay healthy and dominate at Triple-A for a season before he breaks into the big leagues. But if he pitches well early and there's a need, he could be the first pitcher called. It's still possible he could end up in the bullpen if his arm doesn't hold up to starting, but that's on the back burner for now.
Narveson had Tommy John surgery in August 2001 but was back in game action by last June, starting in short stints in the Appalachian League and gradually stretching out as he moved up to Peoria. He pitched 12 innings in the Midwest League playoffs and allowed just two earned runs. At full strength, Narveson has three pitches that are major league average to slightly above-average. His fastball touches 90 mph and he works to both sides of the plate with it, and his slider has good bite. He needs to get more consistent with his changeup, but some in the organization say it's his best pitch. He can command all three pitches. Narveson's mechanics were a mess at times last year, as he pushed the ball more than before his injury, when he had a free and easy delivery. The organization attributes the problems to the layoff but says he shows no other ill effects. The numbers don't show it, but last year was promising for a pitcher less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Narveson was letting the ball go at the end of the season, so the Cardinals will send him to high Class A Palm Beach and see if he can get back on the fast track.
Pope is a product of Wellington (Fla.) High, which has produced several pro prospects including Pirates lefthander Sean Burnett, and his father Walt is the pitching coach there. He missed more than two months last season after having a bone spur removed from his elbow, but was lights-out whenever he pitched and ended the season with three 10-strikeout games in his last five starts. Pope has average stuff but is a prospect because of his bulldog mentality and advanced approach to pitching. His fastball was 88-89 mph after his injury, though the Cardinals expect it to improve by spring training. He has good control of his slider and changeup and really goes after hitters. What you see is what you get with Pope. He's not going to get much better than he is right now and he's a bit undersized. He needs to continue to polish his overall package and vary the speed on his changeup more. Pope dominated the Midwest League, but at his age and experience level he should have. He'll move up to Palm Beach, where the Cardinals would like to see him dominate again and possibly move up to Double-A during the season.
A high school teammate of Cubs pitching prospect Andy Sisco in Sammamish, Wash., Hawksworth fell in the 2001 draft because of his commitment to Cal State Fullerton. But he decided to stay close to home and go to junior college instead. He improved significantly and the Cardinals gave him a $1.475 million bonus to keep him from going back into the draft, where he was a likely first-round pick. The Cardinals call Hawksworth a potentially special pitcher. He has a power arm and already has command of three potentially plus pitches, including a fastball that ranges from 90-92 mph and a developing curveball. He's mature for his age, both physically and mentally, and he has a good feel for pitching and accepts instruction well. Hawksworth's changeup is off the charts, but it's so good that it causes him to pitch backward. Cardinals scouts saw him throw 75 pitches in one amateur start, and they estimated 55 of the pitches were offspeed. With his arm, he's clearly better off establishing his fastball first. It's not clear yet what Hawksworth's ceiling might be. He'll open his first full season at Peoria but could move fast. He should make up for the Cardinals' lack of a first- or second-round pick last year.
Boyd lingered on the fringes of prospect status for his first two years in the organization based more on draft status and potential than anything he did on the field. After a pitch broke his jaw and ended his 2001 season early, Boyd went back to the Midwest League and had a breakout season, finishing among the league leaders in several offensive categories. With his speed and quick bat, Boyd is an exciting offensive prospect. He has good bat discipline and uses the whole field, rarely getting pull-happy. He profiles as a No. 2 hitter and could even hit from the three hole if his power continues to develop. The only category Boyd led outright in the MWL was errors by a second baseman, with 40. He moved from the outfield after signing, and though the Cardinals think he'll stay there, he needs a lot of work. He was usually OK on bang-bang plays, but on other plays his throwing mechanics got out of whack. He also needs work on turning the double play. Boyd doesn't profile nearly as well as an outfielder, but if he stays at second base he could be a premium player. The Cardinals will give him plenty of time to work out those bugs if he keeps hitting. He'll move up a step to Palm Beach in 2003.
Like Shaun Boyd, Parrott had gotten attention more for his promise than performance before last year. He had a disappointing career at Georgia Tech and a mediocre debut but put together a strong season in 2002, making the Carolina League all-star team before earning a promotion to New Haven. Parrott is a smart pitcher with great makeup and an aggressive, competitive approach. He isn't afraid to pitch inside and works to both sides of the plate. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph, and his curveball started to come on last year. His changeup is improving. Parrott had a good slider in college but hasn't used it much as a pro. Parrott must work ahead in the count to be successful. A mechanical adjustment after the 2001 season helped his command, and he'll have to continue to work on it to get better hitters out. Already someone who competes hard, Parrott seemed to work even harder after getting promoted to Double-A. He'll return to that level to open the season (at the Cardinals' new Tennessee affiliate) and see if he can earn another midseason promotion.
Because of visa problems with several Latin American prospects during spring training, the Cardinals needed an extra shortstop for the Peoria team. Nelson played the position at Kansas and scout Dave Karaff said he could play there, so Nelson went to a side field and worked with organization guru George Kissell, who gave him the thumbs-up. He ended the year as the Midwest League's all-star at short. Nelson's tools actually profile well at shortstop, but the Cardinals thought of him more as a poor-man's Larry Walker in right field because of his arm, which rates a 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale. He turned out to be fearless around the bag and got better at short as the year wore on. At the plate, he hits to all fields and can sting the ball. Nelson needs work on both offense and defense, but showed the ability to make adjustments last year. He raised his average nearly 100 points from the beginning of May and improved his hands and footwork at short, though he still committed 33 errors. His approach and makeup mean Nelson is real easy to like. His stock jumped exponentially last year, so the Cardinals will challenge him with a jump to Double-A.
Johnson earned a scholarship to Washington State out of high school, but academic problems kept him off the field there and later at Moorpark. National crosschecker Chuck Fick stayed on him, though, and Steve Gossett, a Cardinals scout who had been the pitching coach at Cal State Northridge, worked with Johnson while he was ineligible in junior college. It paid off in a breakthrough year at Peoria, as Johnson was among the minor league leaders in wins and ERA. Johnson's true 12-to-6 curveball is the best breaking pitch in the organization, and when it's on it's unhittable. He also throws an 87-88 mph fastball that touches 91 mph and has great life, with natural lefthanded tail. He has a loose arm and already knows how to beat hitters from either side of the plate. Something you might expect to be a weakness--maturity--no longer is. Johnson wants to pitch in the big leagues. He needs to improve his changeup, especially his arm speed when he throws it. He missed a few starts last year with biceps tendinitis, but it's not a long-term problem. Johnson is just learning to pitch, but the early returns are exciting. He at least looks like the next Steve Kline, but he might be much more than that. The next step is to Palm Beach.
How loaded was Peoria in 2002? Just three players among the Cardinals' top 10 didn't play there. Molina, the brother of Angels catchers Benji and Jose Molina, handled a strong pitching staff that led the Midwest League in ERA. Molina has the catch-and-throw skills to join his brothers in the big leagues. He receives, throws and blocks the ball well, and he handles pitchers well for his age. He threw out 52 percent (49 of 94) of basestealers and turned nine double plays, showing the strength of his arm. Molina's ceiling depends on his offensive development. The Cardinals are preaching patience and were encouraged by his progress last year. He needs better plate discipline, must keep his strikeouts down and use the whole field. His swing still tends to get long. He doesn't run well. With defensive skills this good, Molina needs to be merely adequate on offense to be an everyday major league catcher. He was close to that last year, but now needs to prove it against better pitching at Palm Beach.
Layfield emerged in 2001 and earned a spot on the 40-man roster, and he solidified his spot in 2002, getting hitters out consistently in his first experience above Class A. In spite of battling a little tendinitis, Layfield led the Eastern League in appearances and games finished and dominated at times. Layfield has been a reliever almost from the time he signed with the Cardinals, and he appears born to the role. He loves to challenge hitters with his fastball and slider and wants the ball with the game on the line. His fastball ranges from 90-94 mph, and his hard, sharp-breaking slider is his best pitch. He can throw it from two different angles. He occasionally mixes in a changeup or splitter but is essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He's still working on a way to attack lefthanded hitters, who hit .284 against him last year (as opposed to .197 for righties). Layfield is such a physical specimen that he could be featured in a muscle magazine, but the Cardinals would like him to stay out of the weight room now. He has been working on his flexibility. Layfield should be the closer at Memphis this year, with a big league bullpen job just a phone call away.
It took awhile, but the Cardinals finally got their man. They drafted Boyer out of high school in 1998, but he decided to attend Kansas State instead. He left there after the 1999 season and went on a two-year Mormon mission. When he returned, he played the 2002 college season at Dixie JC in Utah. The Cardinals drafted him again and didn't let him get away. Because of a broken bone in his hand, he couldn't play until July, but he still made an impression. He showed an ability to turn on balls and is a plus-plus runner who also has a good arm. He showed surprising strength with the bat and should be an offensive middle infielder. Whether that's at short or second remains to be seen. His hands improved last year and he has enough arm for short, but he has holes. The Cardinals will wait to see him play more before they decide where he's better suited. Boyer has a lot of tools and just needs to play. He'll fit at one of Peoria's middle-infield positions this year and could move fast if he plays well.
Gall has been hitting for years, and set Pacific-10 Conference records for at-bats (1,027), hits (368) and doubles (80) at Stanford, where his name is all over the record book. He's been nearly as consistent since signing with the Cardinals, and his latest accomplishment was making the Eastern League all-star team at New Haven and hitting 20 home runs, double the number he had hit in his first season and a half in the organization. The people of New Haven will remember him for something else, though: the Gall Mobile, a 1989 Cadillac El Dorado. Gall bought it in New Haven but didn't want to drive it back home to California after the season, so he and the team sold foam baseballs for $2 and once each game, someone drove the car around the park. People tried to throw the balls in the car, and those who got one in got a chance to win the car. Gall got a cut of the money and used his share to buy an engagement ring for his fiancée after the season. On the field, Gall improved his profile again by adding power, which had been the missing part of his offensive game. He'll need power because he'll probably have to play first base. He can't play third and probably couldn't play in left field either, and he still needs work at first. Gall's bat will have to carry him as far as he goes, and he'll get a chance to win a job in Triple-A in spring training.
Hanson was more decorated as a student than a baseball player coming out of South Kitsap High in Port Orchard, Wash., just across Puget Sound from Seattle. He was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1999 and won numerous academic honors, including German student of the year, at the largest secondary school in the Pacific Northwest. He was a three-year starter at Portland and figures to start earning baseball honors now. He started slowly at New Jersey but came on strong to become the all-star third baseman in the New York- Penn League in his professional debut. He moved to third after playing shortstop as an amateur and profiles well there, with the arm, actions and instincts to play defense and the frame and swing to provide enough offense. He showed he could be a run producer at New Jersey, and the Cardinals expect him to add power. He's a work in progress and a below-average runner. His upside would probably make him comparable to former Cardinals farmhand Adam Kennedy. He'll spend his first full season as the third baseman at Peoria.
Williamson was an all-state soccer player in high school in New Hampshire and the captain of his high school basketball team in addition to being an all-state baseball player. He went to the University of Massachusetts out of high school but transferred to Division II UMass-Lowell after his sophomore season. He helped the River Hawks to the D-II College World Series in 2001 and 2002 and played center field when he wasn't pitching. He threw seven complete games as a senior, including a 154-pitch effort in a 7-2 win against Florida Southern in the CWS. So it wasn't a surprise when the Cardinals shut Williamson down after 24 innings at New Jersey with a shoulder strain. He was impressive in the short time people got to see him, though. He throws an 87-89 mph fastball with good sink, and his slider looks like a good pitch. He's gritty and has a good approach to pitching, and he's obviously a good athlete. He should open the season with one of the Cardinals' Class A clubs.
Johnson played shortstop, but the Cardinals tried to make him a catcher after drafting him. He was making progress on defense, but he was struggling on offense, so the organization moved him to third base part-time in 2000 and full-time by 2001. He opened 2001 in high Class A and was sent down after striking out 113 times in 281 at-bats. The Cardinals were left with a player whose confidence was shattered, so they sent him back to Peoria in 2002 and decided to keep him there all year. He showed good power and got his career back on track. Johnson isn't huge but is a strong, well-proportioned athlete. His bat profiles at third base if he can cut down on his strikeouts and make more consistent contact. As his background shows, he has the tools to play just about anywhere. To succeed at third, he'll have to improve his range and footwork. He has plenty of arm for the position, as well as quick feet and good hands. Johnson is ready to move forward again after getting behind in his progress. He'll move to Palm Beach and try to catch up.
Gorecki completed a strong career at Delaware with a standout junior season, as he batted .414-12-50 and stole 34 bases for the Blue Hens. He was team MVP and an all-Colonial Athletic Association outfielder, but he still wasn't a premium draft pick. The Cardinals think he could blossom into a premium player, though. He led the New York-Penn League in triples and tied for the league lead in runs. Gorecki has a nice swing and showed the ability to drive the ball to the gaps with occasional home run power. He's got good speed and an aggressive approach to the game, with a competitive drive matched by few players in the organization. He has the tools to play center field, and he goes back on the ball well and gets good jumps. If Gorecki can improve his approach at the plate and take more walks, he could be a legitimate leadoff hitter. He also needs to get stronger and better channel his aggression on the basepaths. After stealing 76 bases in 87 attempts in three college seasons, Gorecki was caught 11 times in 33 attempts in his first pro experience. He'll be the center fielder in Peoria this season.
Reedy emerged as a prospect at Utah Valley State, where he worked out of the bullpen and had a 1.31 ERA as a sophomore. He had the organization's best fastball from the moment he signed, after working at 92-95 mph most times in college. In one outing the Cardinals scouted, though, Reedy pitched 11⁄3 innings and didn't throw a pitch below 94 mph, touching 96-97 much of the time. He didn't pitch much after signing as a draft-and-follow because he pulled a ribcage muscle after reporting to extended spring camp in Florida. He was impressive on the side, though, and got into three games late in the season at Johnson City and pitched well even though the muscle bothered him all summer. A hard slider is Reedy's only other pitch at this point, and he'll have a lot of refinements to make. He may work as a starter to get more innings, but Reedy projects as a reliever long-term.
Santor was a diamond in the rough, a late-round pick in 2000 who just looked rough in his first season and a half in the organization. But he added a lot of strength to a good frame and established himself as one of the better hitters in the lower levels of the organization in 2002. He led the New York-Penn League with 62 RBIs and earned a late promotion to Peoria for the Midwest League playoffs. In one stretch of the season he drove in 39 runs in 26 games. Santor is a switch-hitter with a nice swing, good balance and good hands from both sides of the plate. He understands how to hit and should be a run producer. The ball jumps off his bat. He should be an average first baseman, with good agility around the bag. Befitting his role as an underdog, Santor plays hard. In a best case, Santor would have a similar profile as Sean Casey, with good defense and a great hitting approach. He'll need to prove himself in full-season ball first, starting at Peoria.
Novinsky was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in his junior season at Iona, going 8-1, 1.86 to establish himself as the best draft prospect in New York in 2000. After the Cardinals drafted him, Novinsky went to pitch in the Cape Cod League and put together a 3.11 ERA at Yarmouth-Dennis before signing in September for $70,000. After a mediocre debut in 2001, Novinsky got off to a great start last season before an inflamed ulnar never knocked him out for seven weeks. When he came back, the Cardinals made him the closer at Potomac, with promising results. He pitched very well in August, though his numbers were marred by one disastrous appearance when he gave up five runs and recorded just one out. Novinsky has an average fastball that ranges from 90-92 mph with good movement, as well as a slider and changeup that are solid pitches. He needs to work on his command and there are questions about his durability. In addition to last year's injury, he had Tommy John surgery when he was in high school. That could keep him in the bullpen, where he seemed to thrive last year, but the Cardinals have not made that decision yet.
Pearce's shoulder finally broke down from years of heavy use last year. The Cardinals figured out that he had pitched nearly 300 innings from college fall ball in 1998 through instructional league in 1999. Yet he still threw 160 innings in 2000 and 185 in 2001. Perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Pearce broke down early last season with a torn labrum. He had surgery in May and is expected to be ready for spring training. A true gamer, he tried to pitch for Memphis early last season but clearly was hurt, giving up four home runs in four innings in his first start. When he finally went down in May, it was the first time he had missed a professional start. When healthy, Pearce throws his fastball in the 88- 91 mph range with a slurve and changeup. He doesn't have anything electric but "competes his ass off," in the words of one Cardinals official, and has an advanced approach. He'll open the season at Memphis and if his shoulder is sound he could provide help in St. Louis at some point in 2003. Long term, he projects as a back-end starter or long man.
Haynes was a relative unknown, even in his own organization, before he broke out in Double-A last season. He did so on the strength of one scorching month in particular: Haynes hit .367-9-34 in May, accounting for more than one-third of his production for the year. Haynes has big-time power potential with a stroke that should produce plenty of doubles as well as home runs. He's quite muscular, though he has to work on his flexibility. He's a liability on defense now, though the move from right field to left field helped him last year and he has improved. He still needs to work on his jumps and his overall range. Haynes also has to improve his pitch recognition and learn how to take pitches and handle breaking balls. After his hot start, pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking stuff when he showed he couldn't handle it. If Haynes' defense improves, he could be a big league regular and have similarities to Dante Bichette, albeit with an average arm. If not, he'd still be a good bat off the bench. He'll try to prove himself at Memphis this year.
Schumaker transferred to UC Santa Barbara after spending his freshman year at Loyola Marymount, then he missed the 2000 season with a dislocated shoulder that required surgery. Some teams liked him as a pitcher in the 2001 draft, and he hit 92 mph in limited action with the Gauchos. The Cardinals wanted him strictly as an outfielder, though, and have been pleased with the early results. Schumaker has a nice stroke from the left side of the plate and has above-average speed. He should have doubles power with a good approach at the plate and profiles as a No. 1 or 2 hitter. He's an aggressive player and a good defender. He spent some time in center field but most of his time in right last season, though he hasn't shown the power for that position yet. He clearly has the arm for right, and it's no surprise managers rated his outfield arm the best in the Carolina League. Schumaker needs to draw more walks and improve his approach against lefthanders, who held him to a .219 average last season. A player with his speed should also be more successful as a basestealer; he stole 26 bases but was caught 16 times last year. He'll move up to Double-A this season.
Adamczyk was one of the more intriguing arms in the 2001 draft, drawing interest for the first two rounds but ultimately falling to the seventh because of his reported price tag and a commitment to the University of California. The Cardinals signed him late in 2001 for $700,000 and were impressed with him in instructional league. He was less impressive in his professional debut. Adamczyk has a potential power arm, and he touched 95 mph as an amateur. But he was at 88-90 mph last year, and sometimes not even that good. The Cardinals attribute it to growing pains and expect his velocity to return as he improves his mechanics and adds strength to a lanky, 6-foot-6 frame. Adamczyk's slider is a potential plus pitch but needs work, and his changeup is in the rudimentary stages. He doesn't have confidence in his offspeed stuff at this point and overthrows his fastball, which straightens it out and takes away from its usual sink. Adamczyk was also inconsistent as a high school senior, so the Cardinals would like to see a solid year out of him at Peoria.
Hard to believe, but Axelson's 4.09 ERA was a career best and was even better than the ERAs he posted in three seasons at Michigan State. He opened the 2002 season in the Potomac rotation but got sent to the bullpen at midseason before working his way back into a starting role. He finished strong, going 4-2, 3.12 in August, and ended up as Potomac's player of the year for his performance on and off the field. He worked as an instructor at community baseball clinics throughout the local area last season. On the field, the Cardinals say the proverbial light finally came on for Axelson. Pitching coordinator Mark Riggins made a small mechanical adjustment, taking Axelson back to an over-the-top delivery after he had slipped to a three-quarters arm slot. Axelson also started to compete harder and got his confidence back, after he was promoted too quickly in 2001 and regressed. Axelson doesn't throw anything electric, with a fastball at 89-91 mph, a hard slider and a changeup that he's just starting to make good use of. When he has his mechanics and command in hand, though, he gets hitters out. Axelson can take a big step forward in the organization's plans with a good season in Double-A.
Asadoorian came to the organization after the 2001 season after signing with the Red Sox for a club-record $1.7255 million bonus in 1999. In his first season with the Cardinals, he showed about what the Red Sox had seen: outstanding defensive tools and a suspect bat. Asadoorian could find a spot on many major league rosters now as a defensive replacement in the outfield. He has the best outfield tools in the organization, with a plus arm. He gets great jumps, has soft hands, takes charge from center field and runs balls down in the gaps. His tools haven't translated at the plate yet, however. In his second season in low-A ball, Asadoorian improved marginally. The Cardinals like his line-drive stroke but want him to keep his swing short and try to hit the ball the other way. He still hasn't refined his approach at the plate and developed a good idea of the strike zone. Asadoorian also is a hard-nosed player who can be tough on himself. With his cold-weather background, the Cardinals are trying to exercise patience with him. He'll move up to high Class A to work on his hitting.
Stocks is the classic case of a pitcher with an exciting arm who can't stay healthy enough to actually get anyone excited. He had Tommy John surgery as an amateur with Florida State but still was a supplemental first-round pick. He has endured a series of back and shoulder woes since signing. His latest operations came in December 2001, on his shoulder, and in April, on his knee after a spring training injury. He rehabbed in Florida and didn't join an affiliate until July, pitching briefly in New Jersey before getting moved up to Peoria. He threw eight shutout innings in an August start and jokingly referred to himself as a finesse pitcher after he averaged 83 mph with his fastball for the night. At his best, Stocks is the opposite of a finesse pitcher, with a hard fastball that reaches 94-95 mph and a hammer curve. Rarely has he been seen at his best, though. He never got comfortable in 2002 but told the organization he felt great heading into spring training 2003. The Cardinals expect his velocity to return this year and hope it's a breakout season for Stocks. It's definitely an important season. You can only live on reputation for so long.
Caple no doubt finds bitter irony in the fact that his first name is Chance. Because so far in his professional career, Caple has had no chance. He pitched in pain for some time before finally having Tommy John surgery in April 2001, which knocked him out for the entire season. He rehabbed in extended spring camp last year and was assigned to Peoria in May. He made two starts and was sitting in the dugout when a line drive broke a finger on his right hand, knocking him out for six weeks. When he came back, he was bothered by tendinitis and a possible strain in his elbow. So needless to say, Caple has had a hard time getting into a rhythm. He has a lot of ability, with an 89-93 mph fastball, a potentially above-average slider and a changeup that needs work. So his injuries have been frustrating for him and the organization. He's expected to be healthy for spring training, so he'll get a shot at a job in Palm Beach.
Duncan, the son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave and brother of Yankees prospect Shelley, may finally have solved low Class A in his third trip. For the second year in a row, he finished with a flourish after a slow start, this time closing with an 11-game hitting streak that included four homers and 13 RBIs on a strong Peoria team. Duncan made great strides in his hitting approach last year, starting to use the whole field instead of trying to yank everything. He has legitimate above-average power and will naturally hit home runs if he just puts the bat on the ball. He's a hard-nosed player and a hard worker. His strikezone judgment still leaves a lot to be desired, a problem he recognizes but has struggled to improve on. His defense at first is spotty, as he committed 19 errors last year. His hands got better, but his footwork needs work. He's not a good runner. Duncan will still be just 21 on Opening Day, so the Cardinals will continue to be patient with him. He'll open 2003 at Palm Beach.
Taguchi was the Cardinals' first sign from the Far East, and the early returns weren't positive. Taguchi had a .277 average in 10 seasons in Japan's Pacific League and was known more for his defense. St. Louis signed him to a three-year deal and hoped he would compete for at least a backup outfield job, but he was clearly overmatched from the beginning of spring training. He spent most of the season at Memphis, getting acclimated to American culture and baseball. Taguchi is about as sound fundamentally as a ballplayer can be, especially on defense. But he'll have to improve at the plate to be more than a footnote to the history of Japanese players in the major leagues. He gets overmatched by good fastballs and seemed to have trouble adjusting to the mindset of American pitchers, who attack hitters with pure stuff more than Japanese pitchers do. The Cardinals are chalking up last year as a learning experience and will give Taguchi a close look in spring training, in hopes he can win a backup job in St. Louis.