Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Reyes is looking more and more like the steal of the 2003 draft. Persistent injuries plagued him throughout his career at Southern California, but the Cardinals bet he could return to the dominant form he showed as a sophomore if he could get healthy. They took him in the 15th round, and by and large they've been right. Reyes has been bothered by occasional shoulder inflammation as a pro, but he has suffered no major injuries and has moved quickly through the system in just two seasons. In an organization that didn't have such a well-stocked major league pitching staff, Reyes could have been pressed into service in 2005. But the Cardinals had five reliable starters and were happy to keep him at Triple-A Memphis for more seasoning. He did get a spot start in August and allowed just two hits in 61⁄3 shutout innings against the Brewers, then returned to Memphis and struck out 15 in his next start. He was often dominant in the Pacific Coast League, ranking first in baserunners per nine innings (10.0), second in strikeouts per nine (9.5) and third in opponent average. While he's probably not a No. 1 starter, Reyes has the frame, stuff and command to pitch toward the front of a major league rotation. He makes hitters put the ball in play, trusts his defense and doesn't beat himself. He pitches consistently at 92-93 mph and occasionally reaches into the mid-90s, and his slider and changeup are effective complements to his fastball. His changeup has late sink and improved significantly as the season went on. He also worked on getting more movement on his fastball and began using a two-seamer effectively to get more sink. His command, which managers rated the best in the PCL, makes all of his pitches more effective. He not only stays ahead and avoids walks but also spots his pitches to both sides of the plate and keeps hitters off balance. Reyes has no obvious flaws in his repertoire. He continues to work on improving his durability, but until he stays completely healthy for a full season that will remain a question. He worked 142 innings in 2005, but he missed three weeks after spraining a joint in his shoulder in May and often took more than four days between starts. The elbow problems that bothered him at Southern California haven't returned, but his shoulder has bothered him in each of his two pro seasons. Some scouts worry that his arm action will always lead to injury problems. With the Cardinals losing free agent Matt Morris to the Giants, Reyes will be the frontrunner for a spot in the big league rotation. If no opening exists, he could compete for a bullpen job. He's easily the next pitcher in line for the St. Louis staff, and his combination of stuff and aptitude should allow him to be a contributor right away.
Rasmus has a baseball pedigree that stacks up with just about anyone's. His father Tony was a 10th-round draft pick in January 1986 and now is the coach at Russell County High in Alabama, which won the 2005 national championship behind Colby and his younger brother Cory, a premium prospect for the 2006 draft. The Cardinals took Colby 28th overall and signed him for $1 million. Rasmus' tools are average or better across the board, but it's his baseball savvy and desire that make him stand out. He has a sweet lefthanded swing and the ability to put a charge in the ball. He has the arm and speed to play center field, and he's a threat on the bases. Strikeouts were Rasmus' biggest problem in his pro debut as he struggled to recognize offspeed pitches, though he showed the willingness to take a walk. He needs to add strength to his rail-thin frame. He's the best all-around outfield prospect St. Louis has brought in since J.D. Drew. Rasmus will open his first full season at low Class A Quad Cities and could progress quickly.
Greene had an up-and-down career at Georgia Tech, alternating success with struggles on both offense and defense. He showed better hitting aptitude with wood, batting a team-best .431 for Team USA in 2003 and .296 in the Cape Cod League in 2004. His junior season was delayed by a broken jaw, but he still went 30th overall in the 2005 draft and earned a $1.1 million bonus. When in a groove, Greene hits to all fields and shows pop. The Cardinals regard him as a pure shortstop with a plus arm and good range. He's an impressive specimen with legs that look like a sprinter's, and an above-average runner who's an efficient basestealer. Greene's ultimate value will be determined by what he does with the bat. He tends to be streaky and needs to use his hands better. He gets erratic with his defensive footwork at times, leading to throwing errors. Greene has impressive tools to go with great makeup and a willingness to learn, so he should move quickly if he hits. He'll return to high Class A Palm Beach to start 2006.
Though he's a college pitcher, Lambert doesn't have much experience on the mound. He comes from cold-weather New England and concentrated more on hockey in high school. He built on a solid first full season by pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying tournament. After looking tired in his first pro summer, Lambert was stronger in 2005. He consistently worked at 91-94 mph and showed better movement with his fastball. He has a good changeup and a potentially dominating curveball. Lambert's curveball is inconsistent, as are his control and his mechanics. There's some effort to his delivery, which affects his ability to repeat it and throw strikes. After moving up to Double-A Springfield, he learned he couldn't just get hitters out with his fastball. Pitchers from the Northeast often struggle with the adjustment to pro ball, but Lambert's performance in the early part of 2005 showed his potential. He'll return to Double-A to start 2006 but should finish the year in the Triple-A rotation.
McCormick has been throwing in the mid-90s since he was in high school, but he dropped to the Orioles in the 11th round because of questions about his signability, immaturity and complementary pitches. He went to Baylor and didn't start to shed that rap until 2005, when the Cardinals drafted him 43rd overall and signed him for $800,000. McCormick had one of the best power arms in the 2005 draft, pitching consistently at 92-95 mph and topping out at 97-98 all year long. His hammer curveball can be a plus pitch when it's on and his changeup should be average. Because he still is working on his control, McCormick doesn't always dominate as his stuff would indicate. His complementary pitches are inconsistent, and righthanders tee off on his curveball when it's not sharp. He worked on changeup grips last summer. Cardinals scouts loved McCormick's arm, and their stat analysis loved his college strikeout rates. If his power package comes together, he could be a dominant starter. He'll open 2006 at one of St. Louis' Class A stops.
Wainwright came to the Cardinals in the J.D. Drew trade before the 2004 season and continued his steady ascent through the minors in 2005, earning a September callup. He led the Pacific Coast League in innings, as well as hits allowed and wild pitches (12). After battling an elbow strain in 2004, Wainwright was a workhorse in 2005 and dominated early in the season. His fastball is solid-average and sometimes better than that, running up to 93 mph with good sink. He has a good feel for a changeup, and it may have become his second-best pitch ahead of his curveball and slider. He did a better job of pitching downhill in 2005. Wainwright struggled when he got away from working off his fastball. He has a hard time putting hitters away when his breaking pitches aren't on. His slider gets flat and his curveball gets slow too often for his own good. Wainwright is ready for a big league opportunity, but it may have to come in the bullpen because Anthony Reyes is ahead of him. He still projects as a starter down the road.
A broken ankle derailed Hanson in 2004, but he bounced back with his best pro season in 2005. He was the Double-A Texas League's all-star third baseman and led Cardinals farmhands in RBIs and total bases (250). Like Chris Lambert, he finished the year in the AFL and with Team USA in the Olympic qualifier. For the first time, Hanson showed power that had only been potential in the past. His powerful swing generates a lot of leverage off the back side, and the timing came together in 2005, showing that he can be a run producer. Before he got hurt in 2004, he was a slick fielder at third base and had seen time at second. In part because of his injury, Hanson's footwork was poor when he returned. He led Texas League third basemen with 36 errors, though he did look better as the season went on. With Hanson's defensive struggles and Scott Rolen's presence in St. Louis, the Cardinals will continue to try him at other positions. His offensive performance merits a move up to Triple-A, and he could break into the big leagues as a utility player.
Haerther was in the midst of a breakout season in 2004 before getting derailed by a stress fracture in his left leg. He got back on track in 2005, jumping to Double-A and playing in the Arizona Fall League. His brother Casey is a top Southern California high school prospect for the 2006 draft. In a system thin on impact bats, Haerther is a lefthanded hitter with power potential, and he showed a lot more of that potential in 2005. The ball jumps off his bat, and he has a smooth stroke, a good approach and the ability to control the strike zone. He has average speed and savvy on the basepaths. Haerther's defense is a work in progress and he went to instructional league in an effort to improve it. He has the ability to play a passable left field if he continues to improve, though he split time between left and DH in 2005. Haerther has few roadblocks ahead of him in the farm system, and even in the big leagues the Cardinals have relied on aging veterans and marginal players. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2006.
Central Missouri State is a powerhouse NCAA Division II program that set a division record 16 shutouts in 2005, with Webber serving as the Mules' closer. The Cardinals used him as a starter after signing him for $425,000, and he quickly jumped to low Class A. Webber's fastball is one of the best in the organization, not just because of its 91-94 mph velocity but more because it has heavy sink and unbelievable movement. He relied almost exclusively on his fastball in college and had similar success with it at short-season New Jersey. If Webber is to make it as a starter, he'll need to develop his slider and changeup. He had a hard time maintaining his velocity, throwing in the high 80s in some outings, and will need to sharpen his command. Webber has the one dominant pitch and makeup to be a closer. Nevertheless, St. Louis will keep using him as a starter in high Class A in 2006, because his value will be enhanced if he shows an aptitude for it.
Pomeranz pitched the entire 2005 season as a 20-year-old and earned a promotion to Double-A in May. He didn't post good numbers there but earned praise from some Texas League observers as the best arm on the Springfield staff, ahead of Chris Lambert. Pomeranz has the size and pitches to be an innings-eater. He's a solid 6-foot-7 with a fastball that now sits in the low 90s, a knuckle-curve and a changeup. His fastball has good sink and late movement that bores in on righthanders. Pomeranz needs to refine his command so he can avoid getting behind hitters and start missing more bats. He shows good arm speed with his changeup but still needs to improve the pitch to make it an effective third option. The Cardinals were impressed with Pomeranz' aptitude, confidence and consistency in Double-A, though his numbers weren't impressive. He'll probably go back to Springfield to open 2006 but could see Triple-A by the end of the year. If his changeup doesn't come around, his future will be in the bullpen.
A third-round pick in June, Jones didn't make a strong impression in his pro debut. He's raw as a baseball player and was overmatched even in the advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League, the lowest rung on the Cardinals' minor league ladder. But he has as much speed and athletic ability as anyone in the system, as well as a passion for baseball. As a wide receiver in high school, he caught 20 touchdown passes over his last two seasons, and his 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash attracted NCAA Division I-A football scholarship offers. He turned those down to accept a baseball ride from Rice. Most clubs thought it would be nearly impossible to get him into pro ball, but area scout Joe Almaraz got a good read on Jones and the Cardinals signed him quickly for $450,000. His most notable tool is his speed, but he also shows intriguing raw power. He needs to refine both to put them into use in games, however. His speed and frame prompted scouts to compare him to Kenny Lofton, though he has more power potential than Lofton. He definitely has the range to play center field, but slid over to right field at Johnson City because St. Louis wanted to play Colby Rasmus in center. Jones' arm fit fine in right. He has a lot of work to do, particularly with his hitting approach, but he has the aptitude to make fast improvement now that he's focusing on baseball. He'll start the year in extended spring training before heading to one of the Cardinals' short-season affiliates in June.
Herron comes out of one of Florida's cradles of pitching, Wellington High, which produced Pirates first-rounders Bobby Bradley (1999) and Sean Burnett (2000), as well as Justin Pope, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2001 after he spent three years at Central Florida. Herron grabbed attention last spring with two duels against Chris Volstad, who went 16th overall to the Marlins, and the Cardinals took him 30 picks later and signed him for $675,000. Herron shows a good feel for pitching, and the stuff and intensity to pitch at the front of a rotation. His fastball touched 94 mph during his high school season but sat more at 87-91 during his debut. He should eventually settle into the low 90s. His curveball is consistent, thought at times it rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He showed advanced aptitude for a changeup. As a former shortstop, he's athletic with a projectable frame. Herron needs to refine all his pitches, and especially improve his fastball command to set up his secondary pitches. He should jump to low Class A this year.
Rated as the top position prospect in the organization going into last season, Ryan has been passed by 2005 draft picks with more upside and some holdovers who had better seasons. Ryan still has plenty of potential, however, and held his own after a midseason promotion to Double-A. He put together a positive season despite the death of his father just before spring training. He said he knew his father would want him on the field, so he reported to camp on time. Ryan remains one of the best athletes in the organization, and he's still trying to harness his tools to make himself a consistently productive player. He has a nice swing and is willing to take a walk. He's also a plus runner, though he didn't run much in 2005 because of a sore hamstring. He hustles all the time and plays with energy and enthusiasm that's contagious. Ryan also has the tools to remain at shortstop, though he committed 29 errors last season because of ill-advised throws and bad footwork. He still has to show more than just flashes of brilliance, but the Cardinals were encouraged by his progress in 2005. He'll go back to Double-A to open 2006.
The Cardinals gambled that Johnson wouldn't be able to stick in the big leagues by leaving him off their 40-man roster after the 2004 season, and the gamble paid off. The Athletics took him in the major league Rule 5 draft but couldn't keep him, so he came back to St. Louis after spring training and made his big league debut in September. Johnson's goofy, carefree attitude has always made him a hard player for coaches and managers to figure out. It makes them wonder if he's focused, yet it also means he won't wilt in pressure situations and can put bad outings behind him quickly. He has the stuff to be an effective lefty reliever, with a natural, loopy curveball that grades as a plus-plus pitch when he locates it well. He complements the curve with an 88-91 mph fastball with late tail, and he throws both pitches with a natural, effortless motion. The Cardinals didn't gamble by leaving Johnson off the big league roster again, and with Ray King gone he'll have a golden opportunity to win a bullpen job in spring training.
People could have argued that Duncan, whose father Dave is the Cardinals' longtime pitching coach, was a nepotism pick before the last two seasons, when he started to realize his power potential. He made his major league debut in September, homering off Brandon Claussen on the final day of the season and making for a proud father in the dugout. Duncan's power is clearly his best tool, and he has gotten shorter and quicker to the ball in the last couple of years. He led Memphis in both homers and RBIs last season. His adjustments have also helped his overall hitting approach, though he'll always have high strikeout numbers and hit no better than .260-.270. Defense remains his biggest weakness. He has worked hard to get better at first base but still committed 17 errors in 2005. He got some time in left field in Triple-A and in the Mexican Pacific League, but he'll have to work hard to be adequate there. There are opportunities in the outfield, however, so if he can hold his own on defense he could get a long look there during spring training. If not, he won't beat out Albert Pujols at first base, so he'll either become trade bait or head back to Triple-A.
Though they're going to contend again in 2006, the Cardinals decided Mateo was too tempting to pass up in the major league Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. They'll have to keep him on their active big league roster all season, or else they'll have to put him on waivers and offer him back to the Cubs for half his $50,000 draft price. Mateo may have the most upside of the 12 players taken in the big league Rule 5 draft. He throws strikes with a 91-94 mph fastball, an improving slider and a rudimentary changeup. Mostly a reliever for his first three seasons in the Chicago system, Mateo moved to the rotation last May. After taking a few starts to adapt, he went 4-1, 1.79 over his final 10 outings. He'll pitch out of the bullpen in 2006 for the Cardinals, who should be able to find him enough innings so it won't be a totally wasted year of development.
Lucena is one of the few legitimate Latin American prospects in the system, a shortcoming that should change as the team makes a renewed commitment to international scouting under scouting director Jeff Luhnow. The Cardinals opened a new academy in the Dominican Republic over the winter and have several Latin American players at the lowest levels of the system that they'll monitor closely this year. The most advanced Latin prospect is Lucena, who won the Appalachian League batting title in his 2004 U.S. debut and handled the jump to low Class A last year. He has a simple line-drive swing that allows him to make contact almost at will. He struck out just once every 32.7 plate appearances in 2005, a rate that would have topped the minors if he had enough playing time to qualify. However, he needs to take more pitches and draw more walks because he'll never show much power. Lucena is a solid shortstop and the best defensive infielder in the system. He has sure hands and average arm strength, as well as the versatility to play other positions in case he has to become a utilityman. Lucena will take the next step to high Class A in 2006.
With four extra picks at the top of the 2005 draft, the Cardinals had to save money in the middle rounds and found a bargain in Stavinoha. A seventh-round college senior who signed for $15,000, he jumped right to low Class A and led the system in hitting. Stavinoha began his college career as a linebacker recruit at Houston, and he became a long snapper in order to get playing time. After his freshman year he decided he wanted to play baseball, and he spent two seasons as a catcher at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College before moving to Louisiana State. He was a DH for his junior season but moved into the outfield as a senior last spring, when he was the Tigers' top hitter at .370-18-65. Stavinoha is a polished hitter who should be able to hit for power and average. The major questions about Stavinoha are his age--because of his extended college career he'll play most of 2006 at 24--and his position. He doesn't have the tools to be a pro catcher, so St. Louis will try him at both outfield corners. He already is one of the most advanced hitting prospects in the organization and could jump to Double-A to start the season.
A two-way player at UC Santa Barbara, Schumaker hit 92 mph off the mound for the Gauchos before becoming a full-time outfielder as a pro. It took a few years for his swing to get dialed in, but once it did in 2004 he moved quickly, making his major league debut last year and playing his way into the big league club's plans. Schumaker is a plus runner and the best defensive outfielder in the organization, and he'd have the best outfield arm if former pitcher Rick Ankiel also weren't in the outfield now. Schumaker started to make leaps when hitting coach Steve Balboni changed the position of his hands and his hitting approach when he was in Double-A, and he has been a more consistent offensive performer ever since. He even showed a small dose of pop last season, though his game will be putting the ball in play. To make himself a legitimate top-of-the-order hitter, Schumaker must continue to develop his plate discipline and draw more walks. He's also learning to make the best use of his speed, as he doesn't steal bases often enough and isn't efficient when he does run. Schumaker had surgery to repair the bursa sac in his right knee after the season, but he's expected to be healthy for spring training. He could win a reserve outfield job solely with his defense, but he'd be best served by going back to Triple-A to refine his offensive game.
If Ankiel can make it back to the big leagues as an outfielder, it would be a heartwarming story. He had two-way ability in high school, but his arm was so good that it was clear he would be a pitcher after he signed for $2.5 million as a second-round pick in 1997. He made his big league debut in 1999, held the No. 1 spot on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list that offseason and spent all of 2000 in St. Louis. He went 11-7, 3.50 and was dominant at times during the regular season, but his control suddenly deserted him in the playoffs-- he had 11 walks and nine wild pitches in four innings--never to return. (He qualifies for this prospect list because he hasn't exceeded the rookie limit of 130 major league at-bats.) Ankiel was a terrific hitter as an amateur, and he starred as a two-way player for the U.S. junior national team for two summers. Teammates and scouts who saw him take batting practice even when he was pitching said he could have been one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. Once he committed to hitting full-time again in 2005, it didn't take him long to knock off the rust. He showed the same smooth swing and power potential he had as an amateur, and his 21 homers tied for the system lead even though he missed the first month recovering from a strained back he suffered in spring training. Ankiel opened his season by going 1-for-20 in Double-A, then was demoted to low Class A so he could have success and find a groove. When he returned to Double-A, he hit 10 homers and drove in 30 runs in his final 28 games. His speed is close to average and he's still learning the nuances of outfield play, but he clearly has an outstanding arm. Scouts who saw him last year said he had a chance to become a platoon outfielder in the majors. Age is his biggest negative at this point, and at 26 he'll get a long look in spring training. The Cardinals obviously saw something last year, because they restored him to the 40-man roster after removing him in spring training. He'll probably open 2006 in Triple-A, but if he hits he'll be back in St. Louis soon.
Worrell led the minors with 35 saves in 2005 and helped propel Palm Beach to the high Class A Florida State League championship, but any discussion about his ability always starts with his unorthodox delivery. Concerns about his mechanics depressed his draft stock coming out of high school and college, though he has thrown in the low 90s since he was a teenager. Worrell never throws from a windup, barely has a leg kick and keeps his upper body back until the moment his arm forces it to open to the plate. He also slings the ball from several sidearm angles and tends to pull off toward first base after he throws. But he has been durable as a reliever and his delivery deceives hitters, so the Cardinals have no plans to mess with it. He developed it himself with little instruction, so it's natural for him and doesn't create stress on his arm. He's also able to bounce back quickly from outing to outing. Worrell throws his fastball at 91-92 mph, using a sidearm version against righthanders and a more conventional two-seamer against lefties. He also throws a slider and occasionally mixes in a changeup against lefties. He has the makeup to be a closer and was nails in crucial situations for Palm Beach, doubling the franchise save record and adding three more in the playoffs. He needs to refine his command, but otherwise he should move quickly through the system, opening 2006 as the closer in Double-A.
If Southern Illinois hadn't been in desperate need of a starter in 2004, St. Louis might not have found one of its most intriguing starting pitching prospects. Haberer had pitched in relief before that season, and his one-pitch repertoire would have driven him straight to the bullpen as a pro. But like the Salukis, the Cardinals gave him a shot to start and he has taken to it. Haberer always has had an effective fastball, throwing it around 90 mph with heavy sink and late life that induces a lot of groundballs. Improved fastball command was the first step to his success, as he delivers quality strikes now instead of just throwing it down the middle. He has also shown aptitude for a changeup and curveball. The changeup is his second- best pitch, while his curveball is currently below average now but showed significant improvement as the season went on. To remain a starter, Haberer will have to refine his command of his secondary pitches as he has with his fastball. He could be an effective lefty specialist if starting doesn't work out, but the early returns are promising. He'll try to win a job in the Double-A rotation during spring training.
Wilson was regarded as a potential first- or second-round pick coming off his Area Code Games performance in the summer of 2004. When his stuff dropped off a bit late last spring, he was seen as a third- or fourth-rounder. But Cardinals scouts always regarded him as a first-round talent, so they were happy to grab him with the second-rounder they received from the Giants for free agent Mike Matheny. Signed for $515,000, Wilson has long arms that generate good downward plane on his pitches, and his 90-92 mph fastball explodes out of his hand and shows good late movement. He already has good control of his two-seamer, which is unusual for a high school pitcher, though he needs to improve the command of all his pitches. His curveball has the potential to be an above-average pitch, but he needs to get more bite on it. He showed good aptitude for a changeup, which he rarely threw in high school, and made noticeable improvement with it over the spring and summer. He has some effort in his delivery, but not enough to create injury concerns. Wilson should make his full-season debut in low Class A this year.
A two-way star in both high school and college who played third base and shortstop, Michael has dealt with injuries and inconsistency since focusing on the mound as a pro. He came down with shoulder problems in 2004 and had minor surgery to repair fraying in his rotator cuff and a small ligament tear. He worked with a physical therapist in the offseason to get stronger and improve his range of motion, and said he felt better than ever in spring training. Still, he came down with shoulder tendinitis that kept him out for nearly two months in the middle of the season. Michael has very good stuff, working around 93 mph and touching 95 with his lively fastball. He considers his changeup to be his best pitch, though it remains inconsistent, and has an effective curveball. He's athletic, fields his position well and owns a strong pickoff move. Most of his problems are the result of mechanical breakdowns, when he doesn't stay on top of the ball in his delivery. That causes control difficulties--which persisted last year as he had 10 wild pitches and hit 14 batters in 82 innings--and puts stress on his shoulder. Michael showed at the end of 2005 that he was healthy again, so now he needs to put in a full year to work on his delivery and move forward in his development. He'll likely return to high Class A to start the season.
Little has gone right for Hawksworth since he was rated as the Cardinals' best prospect before the 2004 season. Signed as a draft-and-follow in May 2002 for $1.475 million, he started off quickly before injuries derailed him. He had bone spurs in his ankle in 2003, but a more serious problem cropped up in 2004 when a shoulder injury limited him to 11 innings. He had surgery that July to repair a partially torn labrum and remove loose cartilage. The Cardinals were cautious with him and brought him along slowly, and his arm strength never came around in 2005. He kept breaking down with nagging injuries and struggled to put consistent starts together, finally getting shut down after 15 innings in the short-season New York-Penn League. The Cardinals put him on a throwing program and encouraged him to rest because they thought he tried to do too much in his rehab. When healthy, Hawksworth had a fastball that sat in the low 90, one of the best changeups in the system and a good curveball. He had the stuff to pitch at the top of a rotation, but whether he can recover that stuff is now a huge question. He'll get a fresh start in spring training and just try to prove he's healthy enough to break camp with a full-season club.
Parisi was noted for his strikeouts during his college career, as he twice broke the Manhattan record for strikeouts in a season and set the school's career mark as well (272 in 244 innings). However, he doesn't have the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher as a professional. What he does have is a determined approach and a good feel for pitching that could allow him to pitch in the middle of a rotation. Parisi consistently throws his fastball at 92-93 mph with good movement, and his curveball is also a potentially above-average pitch if he becomes more consistent with it. His changeup shows potential, but he still doesn't use it enough. He has a bulldog makeup on the mound and won't give in to hitters. That works to his detriment at times, as he gives up too many hits. He needs to sharpen his command to keep the ball out of the hitting zone. Parisi also has to focus on staying on top of the ball and throwing downhill. He pitched better last season after a midseason promotion to high Class A, so he'll move up to Double-A to open 2006.
Doyne always has had a premium arm, but it took him awhile to grow up and find his niche. He went to four high schools in four years and had off-field issues that pushed him to the eighth round of the 2000 draft despite a fastball that touched 95 mph. The Astros released him after three unimpressive seasons, and the Padres had him for about a year before cutting him loose in June 2004. The Cardinals signed him, and by the end of the 2005 season he was their Double-A closer after never getting above low Class A in five previous seasons. The proverbial light seemed to go on for Doyne, who realized he was squandering his ability, got in shape and harnessed his explosive fastball. He still touches 95 mph and complements his heater with a hard slider. He has the fearless makeup of a closer and is effectively wild. He has toned down his delivery but still has effort in it, though that's not as much of a concern out of the bullpen. Doyne's newfound maturity put him on the fast track, and if he builds on it this season he could pitch in the big leagues after opening in Triple-A.
Martinez is another example of the Cardinals' renewed push into Latin America. They hope to open an academy in Venezuela in 2006, and in the meantime they signed Martinez in December 2004 and sent him straight to the United States, where he had a terrific debut in the Appalachian League. Martinez is one of the best athletes in the organization, with the innate ability to make contact and the bat speed to hit with a little pop. He also showed surprising plate discipline, walking more than he struck out in his pro debut. Martinez has the tools to play solid defense at either middle-infield spot, and while he probably has enough arm for shortstop, his range and actions suggest he'd be better at second base. He has good speed and should learn to steal more bases as he advances. Martinez will have to get stronger and needs polish in every phase, but he was one of the organization's most pleasant surprises in 2005. He'll compete for a job in the Quad Cities infield in spring training.
Ferris seemingly came out of nowhere as a Miami (Ohio) junior to bat .361-21-62, earn first team All-America honors and get consideration as a mid-first-round pick before St. Louis grabbed him in the second. His first season and a half as a professional have the Cardinals wondering what they can do to get that hitter back. He had trouble handling low Class A pitching and stayed in Quad Cities all season, and he has struggled to find a consistent hitting approach since signing. The encouraging signs were that he grasped how to use the whole field rather than trying to pull everything by the end of the year, and he showed renewed plate discipline. Ferris has tremendous power potential, but like everything else about his game, he must get more consistent with it. He had a quick, powerful stroke in college but has struggled to adjust to hitting with wood. He's a below-average runner but has been fine defensively at first base. Ferris will move up to high Class A to open 2006 and needs to start producing.
Maiques started his college career at Long Beach State, but with pitchers like Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas and Cesar Ramos ahead of him, he made just 12 appearances as a freshman in 2004. He went to the Alaska League and showed a 95 mph fastball, then decided to enroll at Rio Hondo (Calif.) JC to get more innings and become eligible for the 2005 draft. It looked like a great decision as Maiques became the most dominant juco pitcher in the nation--pitching two seven-inning perfect games and going 49 innings without giving up an earned run--but then he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals had considered taking him with one of their extra picks in the supplemental first round before he was injured, but instead grabbed him in the 37th round and signed him for $80,000. When healthy, Maiques has two plus pitches: a 91-94 mph fastball and a power slider. He's strong and keeps himself in excellent condition, but his size is a concern, so the Cardinals will watch him carefully when he returns. They expect him to be ready to pitch in spring training, though he'll probably spend most of the year in extended spring training before getting his feet wet with a short-season club.