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Seeing snow for the third time in his life wasn't the rarest event Rasmus weathered at the start of his first full season in pro baseball. The player with the best blend of tools, upside and instincts in the system opened the year in a bona fide slump. Through his first seven games with low Class A Quad Cities, Rasmus was 2-for-28. But he quickly snapped the cold spell, muscled his way into a promotion and affirmed his reputation as the highest-watt position prospect the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols. Rasmus has been an elite player for his age group since winning a U.S. championship at the 1999 Little League World Series. His father Tony was an Angels 10th-round pick in January 1986, and coached Russell County High (Seale, Ala.) and Colby, brother Cory (a Braves supplemental first-rounder in 2006) and Kaser Kiker (the Rangers' first-round pick in June) to the national high school title in 2005. After switching from pitching to hitting in high school, Rasmus broke Bo Jackson's Alabama state single-season record with 24 homers. St. Louis drafted Rasmus 28th overall in 2005 and signed him for $1 million. After shaking off his early slump, Rasmus earned a promotion to high Class A Palm Beach and led Cardinals farmhands with 85 RBIs. Rasmus has a balanced, disciplined approach and a loose swing--all signs of burgeoning power potential in his wiry strong frame. Even with quick hands and a penchant for pulling the ball, he has become adept at hitting to all fields. With his speed and instincts on the basepaths, he should be at least a 20-20 threat once he gets to the majors. One of the most athletic players in the system, he's a quality defender. He gets good jumps and covers enough ground to play center field, and his arm is strong enough for right. He was clocked at 91 mph off the mound in high school. At both stops this past season, Rasmus got off to slow starts. The Cardinals weren't alarmed, but they'd like to see him make quicker adjustments. He sometimes hurries his throws, costing him accuracy. He still has plenty of room to grow into his body, and certainly more strength will be required for him to reach his power potential. Coaches have tried to impress upon him the importance of developing and adhering to a pregame routine. The two-year contract Jim Edmonds signed in November was a bridge, connecting the end of his era to the beginning of another. Rasmus should continue the tradition of center field being the franchise's most stable position, as Willie McGee, Ray Lankford and Edmonds have patrolled the middle garden in St. Louis for most of the last 25 years. Rasmus should continue to move steadily through the system, reaching Double-A Springfield at some point in 2007.
First noticed as a two-way player on the Mexican junior national team, Garcia fell to the Orioles in the 30th round in 2004, mostly because of confusion about his eligibility for the draft. He didn't sign and hurt his prospect stock by falling out of shape. Joe Almaraz, the area scout who covered him for the Orioles in 2004, joined the Cardinals for 2005 and talked St. Louis into drafting Garcia. He made his pro debut in 2006, reaching high Class A and representing St. Louis at the Futures Game. Garcia fools hitters with a wicked downward-breaking curveball he lands for strikes. His fastball features natural sinking life and consistently reaches the low 90s and tops out at 94. He operates with a clean, easy arm action and repeats his delivery, allowing him to fill the zone with strikes. He shows an advanced touch with his changeup. While he throws strikes, Garcia still is refining his command and learning how to set hitters up. He tends to fall in love with his curveball and needs to do a better job of varying his pitch sequences. He's a fiery competitor who has to keep his emotions in check. Garcia is on the fast track. He should move up to Double-A this year, and he could crack the big league rotation by 2008.
After brief dalliance as a starter, Perez spent his final two years in college as Miami's closer and had 12 saves to go with a 1.88 ERA last spring. The Cardinals took him 42nd overall in June and signed him for $800,000, earmarking him for a click climb through the system by send him to low Class A to close for a playoff-bound team. Perez has one of the best fastballs in the organization, throwing it consistently at 92-95 mph. His best pitch, however, is a devilish 83-87 mph slider that overmatches righthanders. They hit just .159 against him last summer. Perez' biggest challenge is harnessing his stuff. He walks too many batters, especially lefthanders, against whom his slider is less effective. He gets good life on his fastball when he locates it down in the zone, but he can't do that consistently yet. With his stuff and experience, Perez should rush through the system. St. Louis will continue to bring him along as a closer and believes he eventually can inherit that role in the majors. He'll open 2007 in high Class A.
After signing for $1.475 million as a draft-and-follow in 2002, Hawksworth ranked as the Cardinals' top prospect heading into 2004 before serious injuries knocked him off track. He totaled just 25 innings in 2004-05 because of bone spurs in his right ankle and a partially torn labrum. He returned to work 163 innings last year after totaling 188 in his first four pro seasons. Hawksworth's velocity has returned to the low 90s. He also regained the touch on his changeup, which has graded as one of the best in the system for years. He uses both a curveball and a slider, with the curve the more consistent of his breaking pitches. He retained his control and savvy after his convalescence, and he finished the season strong. Before he got hurt, Hawksworth had the potential to be a frontline starter. To get there, he needs to develop a stronger breaking ball that he can rely on. He had occasional issues with fastball command in the past, and they cropped up again after his promotion to Double-A. His durability is still somewhat a question, though everything went well last year. Hawksworth went a long way to make up for lost time in 2006. Now he'll join the Triple-A Memphis rotation and be just one step from the majors.
Jay consistently produced as a collegian for both Miami and Team USA, but many teams saw him as a tweener who didn't profile as a regular. As a result, the Cardinals were able to land him in the second round of the 2006 draft and sign him for $480,000. He had a spectacular pro debut, batting .342 in low Class A. Jay has an unorthodox approach but he consistently shows the ability to hit pitches in all parts of the zone. His game is built around hitting line drives and making the most of his solid-average speed. Some Cardinals coaches already are predicting that he'll win a major league batting title. While he doesn't have a standout tool, he's pretty solid across the board. He's a capable center fielder with an accurate arm. He pumps his hands and uses a wide stance at the plate, quirky habits that scared off some scouts but haven't hurt him yet. He does have some length to his swing. He doesn't hit for much power, so he'll have to stay in center field to profile as a regular. It's possible he'll leapfrog Colby Rasmus and beat him to the majors. They also could wind up playing alongside each other in the Springfield outfield this season.
Anderson had a disappointing performance as a high school senior in 2005, but he has done nothing but produce since signing as a fourth-round pick that June. He parlayed a strong pro debut into an invitation to big league camp last spring; he was the youngest player in attendance at age 19. Anderson is a rare commodity, a lefty-hitting catcher with the potential to produce for average and gap power. He controls the strike zone very well for someone his age. He draws raves for his leadership skills and is a good receiver. He has an average, accurate arm and threw out 36 percent of basestealers last year. While he polices the run game effectively, Anderson's throwing mechanics aren't smooth and it's uncertain whether his success throwing out runners will carry over to the upper levels. He's also working on improving his blocking skills. He's a below-average runner. Ticketed for high Class A in 2007, Anderson will present the Cardinals with an interesting dilemma if he continues to hit. Yadier Molina is one of the better defensive catchers in the majors, but his offensive potential is far less than Anderson's.
Ottavino caught scouts' attention with several notable performances during the spring. He held his own against the Red Sox in an exhibition game, no-hit Georgia Tech for six innings and later completed a 14- strikeout no-hitter against James Madison. He broke the Northeastern single-season strikeout record in each of the last two years before going 30th overall in the 2006 draft and signing for $950,000. He didn't allow an earned run in his first four pro starts. He can maintain mid-90s velocity on a four-seam fastball throughout a game, but Ottavino downshifted to a low-90s twoseamer at the Cardinals' request and excelled. He can get strikeouts with his slider and also mixes in a changeup and slurvy curveball. Ottavino tends to tilt back in his delivery, causing him to get under his pitches and leave them in the strike zone. He's still figuring out how to harness his stuff on a consistent basis. His changeup will need to improve if he's going to remain in the rotation. Ottavino will continue to start for now, moving up to high Class A. But his fastball/slider combination could make him a dynamic reliever.
McCormick has been a top prospect since high school. In his first full pro season, he earned a promotion after 11 starts in low Class A, but pitched just four more innings because of shoulder inflammation. McCormick consistently brings power stuff to the mound. He was blowing mid- to upper-90s fastballs as a prep phenom and continues to throw in that range as a starter when he's mechanically sound. His hard curveball is one of the best breaking pitches in the system. Despite his electric stuff, McCormick never has consistently dominated opponents. He walks too many hitters and runs up high pitch counts. He's still trying to find a comfortable grip for a changeup. McCormick should be 100 percent for spring training after resting in the offseason. The Cardinals will use him as a starter in high Class A this year, but he long has been considered a possible closer candidate. In that role, he could flourish with just two pitches.
Kinney had accepted a job as a fly-fishing tour guide, packed his car and was driving away from baseball when the Cardinals signed him off an independent Frontier League team in suburban St. Louis. Five years later, he got six key outs in the National League Division Series, 10 more in the NL Championship Series and three more in the World Series. He didn't allow any runs in the postseason. Pitching coach Dave Duncan lauds Kinney's fearless approach and his ability to generate strikeouts and grounders. He works with an 89-90 mph sinker and a sweeping slider. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone. But he is what he is: a short reliever who's not overpowering and has little margin for error. He'll continue to succeed as long as he locates his pitches well, and he'll be in trouble if he can't. The Cardinals are counting on him to be a key cog in their bullpen again this year, capable of getting a clutch whiff or groundout when needed.
Jones caught 20 touchdown passes in his final two seasons of high school football, and he was coveted by NCAA Division I-A programs as a wide receiver because of his speed and agility. He opted instead for a baseball scholarship to Rice, and the Cardinals wooed him into pro ball with a $450,000 bonus. He spent most of his first two seasons at Rookie-level Johnson City, making good progress from 2005 to 2006. Jones is the fastest player and best athlete in the system, drawing comparisons to a young Kenny Lofton. Focusing on baseball for the first time in his life, he has started to hit to all fields and develop power in his stroke. He can cover a lot of ground in center field. He's still raw in most phases of the game. Jones still can get pull-happy and overaggressive at the plate, and needs to realize his main goal should be getting on base. His instincts on the bases and in the outfield need improvement. His arm is a tick below-average. Jones missed time last year with hamstring problems, and St. Louis is eager to see what he can do over a full season when he's healthy. He should spend all or most of 2006 in low Class A.
Coming out of high school as a dual-sport star, Boggs committed to play baseball at Georgia, then had regrets and transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga (which doesn't have a baseball team) to play football in the fall of his sophomore year. After playing in three games as a quarterback (he rushed three times for nine yards), he returned to Georgia as a sophomore to focus again on baseball. He finished his college career with a 5.62 ERA, but his raw ability attracted scouts. He began to establish himself as one of the organization's better young arms last summer. He ranked second in the Florida State League in strikeouts and took a perfect game into the ninth inning of a game in June, finishing with a one-hit shutout. His fastball runs consistently in the low 90s, though it can touch 94-95 mph. He mixes in an average slider with sharp break and a workable changeup. It's the hard, boring sink on his fastball that further adds to his reputation within the organization. He'll head to Double-A in 2007, and while he'll remain in a starting role for now he may eventually require a move to the bullpen to reach the big leagues.
Ryan missed more than four months of the season because of ligament injuries to his ring finger and wrist on his left hand, after missing time with hamstring injuries in 2005. He had a barnstorm rehab through four levels of the organization that also gave him his first look at Triple-A. Just two years removed from being considered the club's top position prospect, he saved what was almost a lost season by leading the Arizona Fall League in hits. An athletic player with solid tools, Ryan was smoothing out his rough edges as a fielder and a hitter before his injury, showing a better approach at the plate. He has good speed but his quickness plays better in the field than on the bases, where his steals have dwindled from 30 in 2004. He has an average arm. Ryan can be unsettled at the plate, and his unbridled play in the field leads to unnecessary errors. He led AFL shortstops with eight. He has matured on and off the field but needs to remain focused to continue his improvement. Injuries have cost him significant time in consecutive seasons. The Cardinals have a need for an infielder to emerge from the minors ready to play in the middle of the diamond. Ryan is headed back to Triple-A and hopes to emerge in that role by September, but if he doesn't hit better he could end up as a utility player.
Hamilton swatted 20 home runs last spring for Tulane and finished second in Conference USA with a .461 on-base percentage. He got the Cardinals' attention when he hit balls to the train tracks in left field at Minute Maid Park in Houston during a February tournament. He signed quickly for $465,000, then tied for the New York-Penn League home run title with eight (despite leaving State College after just 30 games). Hamilton has been a known commodity to scouts since his junior year of high school, but despite his power production at Tulane, some scouts have never warmed up to him, questioning how his power would translate as a pro and where he'd play on defense. Hamilton has a seasoned approach to go with his muscular frame and powerful lefthanded swing. He's willing to work deep into a count to find a pitch to drive, and he has tremendous power, though he could add more by using his whole body when he swings. He can drive anything on the inner half, but his swing has holes. His other tools don't measure up. He has settled in at first base, but even in college moved around the field to keep his bat in the lineup. He's a marginal defender at first and needs work there. His arm and speed are below-average. A lack of a position won't hold him out of high Class A this year, though he may find himself pigeonholed as a future DH--a problem for a National League club.
Since getting his career off to a promising start, Lambert hasn't adjusted to the upper levels and has struggled to maintain the stuff he showed in college. He has 41 Double-A starts on his resume and an ERA that hasn't yet dipped below 5.00, and as he was getting on a bit of a roll last year he missed time in August with a pulled muscle in his right biceps. Consistency has been the biggest obstacle in his advancement. Lambert was still somewhat raw after three years at Boston College, but he still has the attributes that led to him being a first-round pick: a big, sturdy frame, a low-90s fastball, an improving curveball and a big league changeup. He also throws a slider now, and in fact sometimes relies on it too much instead of working off his fastball. He has made progress with his delivery, reducing his effort, but still needs work on his command and the consistency of all his pitches. He has never shown dominant stuff as a pro. Lambert would have been a tough call for the 40-man roster if the new labor agreement hadn't changed the rules, so he needs to use his extra year to prove something to the Cardinals. They'd like him to win a job in the Triple-A rotation in spring training.
In the time between being lauded as one of the organization's golden prospects and making his major league debut with the Cardinals, Narveson was traded twice, had shoulder surgery, was plucked off waivers and finally landed back in St. Louis. He was riding the fast track before being dealt to the Rockies in the Larry Walker deal in 2004. Narveson was shipped to the Red Sox in 2005, and he returned to the Cardinals in 2005 via waivers. He spent most of last season on the shelf, recovering from offseason labrum surgery. It was the second major operation of his career. Tommy John surgery knocked him off track in 2001- 2002. Narveson made encouraging progress upon his return last season, allowing two or fewer runs in eight of his final 10 Triple-A starts, earning a look in St. Louis in September. He operates with a fringe-average 87-89 mph fastball, though it's not quite as firm as it was prior to the shoulder troubles. His fastball sometimes starts out in the mid-80s before reaching as high as the low 90s in later innings. He also has a sharp cutter, a curveball and a solid changeup with fading action. His curve is too slow and hangs at times. He isn't overpowering and lacks a plus pitch, but he throws strikes and has reliable secondary offerings that he mixes well. He will vie for a job in St. Louis in spring training, be it in the revamped rotation or in an apprentice season as a reliever.
Haerther started his career with three consecutive .300-plus seasons, but fell short last year after slumping to a .222 clip in the first half. He reclaimed his reputation as one of the best hitting prospects in the organization by hitting .322 after the all-star break His younger brother Casey was drafted by the Padres in 2006, but didn't sign and is likely to start as a freshman at UCLA. Until the last two drafts infused the system with outfield talent, Haerther was the top prospect at the position, and by far the best hitter. He has sharp strength to his swing, with an ear-catching pop when he connects (41 extra-base hits last year) and a fluid stroke to go with his keen approach. He has yet to strike out 60 times in a season, and in 2006 he drew a career-high 37 walks. A former third baseman, he has adapted well to the outfield and plays a capable left field. He will be rewarded with an invitation to big league camp this spring, and a strong spring training performance will put him in Triple-A and on the verge of the big leagues, though he's unlikely to be considered for a major league role until 2008.
Greene capped his uneven college career by batting .372 as a junior at Georgia Tech in 2005, yet questions still surrounded his bat and future profile in the scouting community. After a solid pro debut, he seemed primed to take off, but stumbled in his return to Palm Beach last year. Greene was erratic in the field and wasn't producing at the plate when he was demoted to low Class A. He turned 23 at the end of the season, so the organization is anxious to see some returns on his $1.1 million bonus. One of the organization's top athletes, he may be its swiftest basestealer, with a sprinter's legs and a pickpocket's timing. He made adjustments at the plate after his demotion and learned to use the middle of the field and stop chasing pitches. He showed power potential at Quad Cities, but scouts wonder if he'll be able to handle better pitching. He has the strongest infield arm in the system, though he committed 23 errors in 71 games before his demotion because of poor footwork. Some scouts project him as a third baseman, where he thrived while playing for USA Baseball's college national team in 2003. Greene will give Palm Beach another try to open the season.
The Cardinals are taking their second stab at a pitcher from Florida's Wellington High, though when they took Justin Pope in the first round in 2001, it was after Pope had spent three seasons at Central Florida. Herron is moving slowly, as he bombed in his pro debut in the Appy League over 50 innings. His return trip began in similar fashion until he picked up his first pro win in late July, a prelude to going 4-1, 2.67 in five August starts. Better command of his low-90s sinker helped Herron get going, as he was able to locate the pitch to minimize hard contact. He also began mixing in his changeup up to 20 times a game with success. The Cardinals believe his curveball can become a plus pitch. Herron impressed Johnson City manager Dan Radison with his maturity, taking sloppy defensive play behind him in stride.
Johnson was in spring training with the A's in 2005 as a major league Rule 5 pick, but he failed to make the team and was returned to the Cardinals. A year later, he emerged as a critical piece in the team's postseason run. Of the eight outs he got in the National League Division Series, six were strikeouts. He finished with 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 playoff innings. After he baffled the Padres with his breaking ball, some hitters called it one of the best in the majors. The hard, late-biting pitch has been called both a slider and a curveball, and it has a natural loopy break to it. The pitch is hard to pick up and harder to hit by lefties, who hit .221 against him. He throws an average fastball that peaks in the high 80s. Johnson, sporting the clubhouse's most colorful tattoos, was labeled as loopy as his breaking ball before he returned to the Cardinals from the A's with his laid-back vibe still intact, but tempered by focus. The organization has learned how to handle his personality and believes his attitude keeps him from dwelling on bad outing. He had his bouts with wildness and was erratic late in the season, even against lefties. St. Louis has Randy Flores and Ricardo Rincon with more experience in the same role, but neither has as good a pitch as Johnson's, so he will continue to share the specialist job and may branch out to a less lefty-specific role.
Stavinoha has proven to be a bargain since the Cardinals signed him as a fifth-year senior for $15,000 in 2005. Heâ€˜s come a long way from his freshman year at Houston, where he was a linebacker recruit and long snapper on the football team, before opting to attend San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College to pursue his baseball career. He ultimately ended up at Louisiana State for his final two years of eligibility. He jumped to Double-A in his first full season, though he missed time with an ankle injury and then with inflammation in his right elbow. His .218 average in 78 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League was really his first hiccup as a hitter. He has a sound approach at the plate and above-average power. A former catcher in junior college, Stavinoha played both corner outfield slots last year, spending the majority of his time in right field. He has the arm to play there but is a slightly below-average runner. Regardless of which corner he plays on, Stavinoha will go where his bat takes him. He'll advance to Triple-A this season and try to show he can hit against top-level pitching.
A darling of the Cardinals results-oriented evaluation, Hearne doesn't have a fastball that lights up radar guns or a breaking pitch that buckles knees. He has unblinking control and uncanny performance, though, and he continues to have success. An academic all-American at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, he established the school's season record with 116 strikeouts in 2005. He's the seven-year-old program's winningest pitcher, and his 16-5 mark as a pro is a testament to his savvy. He bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in low Class A last year. At one point he retired 21 consecutive batters as a reliever before returning to the rotation. He works with a sneaky-fast fastball that explodes out of his smooth delivery and has late movement. At his best, he tops out at 88-89 mph, but his pitches are difficult to square. He uses his changeup as a chase pitch and can throw his curveball while behind in the count. Control is his best asset, and he keeps the ball down and works both sides of the zone. Hearn understands his abilities and is ready to prove himself at a higher level. He profiles as a middle reliever but could keep surprising people.
Pham was the consensus pick as the best draft-eligible high school player in Nevada in 2006. Though he pitched fewer than 10 innings in high school, Pham attracted attention on the mound in short stints on the showcase circuit by showing a 90-92 mph fastball and surprising feel for a slider. Scouts and college coaches were split on which position suited him best, but Pham was clear that he wanted to hit. The Cardinals hinted at taking him in the third round, but Pham's agent (since fired) priced him out of the first five rounds. The Cardinals took a flier on him in the 16th round and signed him for $325,000, the same bonus they gave to third-rounder Gary Daley. Pham has the tools to stay at shortstop in pro ball with a plus arm and good footwork. His indifference to improving defensively turned off some area scouts, but his bat should allow him to profile for second base or third if he needs to move. Offensively, he has good bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat. He's an above-average runner who can cover 60 yards in 6.7 seconds. He had four hits in his first game but didn't make many adjustments in his debut and struggled with sprained fingers on his right hand. He still has a higher ceiling than many of the more polished college hitters in the Cardinals system and should anchor the infield at Quad Cities this year.
Furnish began his college career at Nebraska, then transferred to Texas Christian and helped the Horned Frogs to a pair of regional appearances. A polished lefthander, Furnish has shown flashes of dominance as an amateur despite average stuff. He had a seven-inning no-hitter with 13 strikeouts against Texas-Pan American in February 2006 and pitched his way into second round. His fastball sat in the 88-92 mph range in college, and he liked to work up and out of the strike zone with it after setting hitters up with his overhand curveball, a solid average offering. Furnish gets good extension in his delivery and has good control of both pitches, which helps them both play up. His approach makes Furnish a flyball pitcher and leaves him susceptible to home runs when he isn't precise. His velocity was down a tick after signing, natural after throwing 100 innings at TCU (with four of his 20 appearances coming in relief) and another 75 for State College. A fresh Furnish could skip a level and start his first full season at Palm Beach. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation southpaw.
Worrell recorded a minors-best 35 saves in 2005, and he followed that performance up with a Texas League-leading 27 saves last season. It's his quirky, unique delivery, however, that continues to attract all the attention. "It's unorthodox," Worrell has said of his self-taught mechanics. "But it works to my advantage." He never throws from a windup. His front shoulder stays closed to the hitter until his right arm forces it open. He throws from a variety of arm angles and uses a different fastball for righthanders than he does for lefties. Both cruise in the low 90s, offset by a wily slider. He also has a changeup with down and in action to lefties. He held righthanded hitters to a .198 average and struck out more than a third of the righties he faced. Lefties had more success, hitting six home runs while recording a .263 average. Worrell doesn't have overpowering stuff but has perfect makeup for relief and a resilient arm. He will close again in Triple-A this season, and his deception could help present him with an opportunity in the major league bullpen, which is ever dependent on situational matchups under Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.
Dove needed some kind of jump-start to his career after making 42 starts, none above Class A, in two and a half seasons. He shifted to the bullpen last year and advanced to Double-A in the second half. With one plus pitch, he finally began to blossom in relief. Dove has long sported one of the best fastballs in the organization, a lively hopper he can run up to 96-97 mph at times. He consistently is able to pump 92-94 mph heat with a funky, max-effort delivery that gives him some deception. He hadn't learned to harness his stuff as a starter, and poor control plagued him. He works almost exclusively with fastballs, mixing in an occasional slider that doesn't feature the same type of power you'd expect from a pitcher with his arm strength. He also largely scrapped the changeup he tried as a starter. He was more aggressive in relief, and his control showed marked improvement. He built upon his breakthrough season with a promising stint in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0, 1.93 over nine innings. The Cardinals added him to the 40-man roster after the season, and he'll get a chance to garner attention in major league spring training while also auditioning for the Triple-A bullpen.
Inheriting the role that Mark Worrell used as a launching pad to the organization's pitcher of the year award in 2005, Sillman found similar success as Palm Beach's closer and his 35 saves were second in the minors. Sillman attacks hitters from a sidearm, almost submarine delivery that's funky and deceptive to hitters. He dropped his arm slot prior to his junior year at Nebraska at the urging of his coaches. He surrendered just two home runs in 2006 and can be death to righthanded hitters, who managed a meager .142 average against him last year. He hides the ball well and his fastball ranges from 89-91 mph with late life down in the zone. When he throws his slider, it's usually too late for hitters to pick up, and it features hard, darting action down and in on lefties. He can spin it for strikes or use it as a swing-and-miss chase pitch, running out of the zone or in the dirt. Sandwiched by Worrell above and Chris Perez below, Sillman will close in Double-A this season.
Because he was ineligible for half his senior season in high school, Edwards dropped to the 14th round in June and signed for $100,000. He already looks like a steal after ranking among the Top 10 Prospects in the Appalachian League despite being hampered by a sore wrist and hamstring. At a hulking 6-foot-5, 230 pounds he presents plus raw power, both pulling the ball and to straightaway center, and is cast in the mold of a prototypical right fielder. He has plus arm strength but below-average range. He moves well for his size but struggled on balls hit right at him. Edwards has a long swing, but it's not unwieldy, and he has better pitch recognition than most young hitters. He struck out 33 times to 20 walks in 154 at-bats, showing good discipline. He should step into the middle of the Quad Cities lineup as a 19-year-old this summer.
Evaluations of Robinson entering the draft varied. Some scouts saw him as a valuable, onbase pest with an ability to play center field, while others had little interest, seeing him as a righthanded-hitting version of former Athletics minor leaguer Steve Stanley, without Stanley's speed. As a sophomore at Florida State in 2005, Robinson had a school-record 40- game hitting streak and became the only college player that year with 100 hits and 40 stolen bases, finishing with 122 hits, a .427 average and .532 on-base percentage. He was less productive as a junior (his OPS dropped nearly 200 points), fell to the fifth round and signed for $175,000. He had three hits in his pro debut in low Class A. Robinson is a slap hitter who tries to push the ball around the diamond. His lack of physical strength leaves him with below-average bat speed and well-below-average power. He has good plate discipline and works counts well. He handles the bat well and bunts effectively. He's a solid-average runner, with good instincts on the bases and in center field, where he's an average defender with fringy range. His arm is below-average but accurate. His slight frame lends little room for projection, and his best profile is as a second-hole hitter and center fielder. He'll have to prove he can hit power pitching at higher levels, starting in 2007 at Palm Beach.
One of the lone bright spots in a sour season at Triple-A Memphis was Schumaker overcoming the club's struggles and hitting a team-best .306/.348/.382. Then he really broke out after leaving the Redbirds early to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament with Team USA. He was the leadoff hitter and center fielder and hit .405 in the tournament and scored 15 runs. USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler called him the MVP of the club that beat Cuba, won the tournament and qualified the U.S. for the 2008 Games. The swift fielder was on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster and for most of the first month of the regular season, he had the only home run by a Cardinals starting left fielder. Center fielder Jim Edmonds took a shine to Schumaker in 2005 and continued promoting him during spring training last year. He was stellar, making some of the spring's most dynamic defensive plays. He has the defensive ability to play all three outfield positions well, and has enough arm for those spots too. Few players in the entire organization get better jumps and have the closing speed that Schumaker has. He has found a way to channel his line-drive approach into a .300 average, though he could make better use of his running ability on the bases. He has minimal power, so he has to get on base. He is slated to join the major league club as an extra outfielder in 2007 and will become the first glove off the bench late in games, and that's his long-term role as well.
The day the Cardinals took the Cuban defector in the 18th round, they believed he was 27. Around the time he jumped to Double-A his age leapt, too--up to 32 by the time he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League. At either age, Marti has to move fast to keep the Cardinals interested. His teammates at Palm Beach nicknamed him "God" for his muscular Rickey Henderson-like physique. Marti first came to the Cardinals' attention during spring training, when they thought he was a pitcher. After some research, they found out he was an outfielder signed to an independent league contract (he played in the Can-Am League in 2005), and thus eligible for the draft. Marti displayed his raw power early, launching what some say is the longest home run hit at Palm Beach's home park. He regularly hit light-tower shots during batting practice, but his susceptibility to breaking balls didn't allow his power to fully manifest in games. He has plus bat speed, with an over-aggressive approach at times. He often expands the strike zone early in the count. He hit lefties at a .455 clip with an .848 slugging percentage in Double-A. Defensively, he is athletic enough to play anywhere in the outfield, and he has average arm strength. He doesn't take great routes to the ball. Though he's a good runner under way, his speed doesn't translate to stealing bases and he gets down the line slow because of his big swing. No matter his age, if he doesn't hit, he won't have any value. He'll try to earn a spot in the Memphis outfield in spring training.