Top Ten Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Will Lingo
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
The offense was the most potent in the National League, leading the league in both average and runs. And a pitching staff that was considered a question mark when the season began finished behind only the Braves in the NL with a 3.75 ERA. The result was 105 wins and a runaway in the NL Central, as well as the team's first trip to the World Series since 1987.
Aside from Albert Pujols, St. Louis had few significant contributors to their pennant run who were produced by the farm system. Pujols and So Taguchi--a veteran player who was signed after playing several years in Japan--were the only everyday players originally signed by the organization. On the pitching staff, Dan Haren and Matt Morris were the only players with at least 45 innings who started their careers with the Cardinals.
While St. Louis hasn't incorporated homegrown talent into its major league roster, it has skillfully used prospects in deals to bolster the big league club. Key 2004 contributors such as Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, Scott Rolen and Woody Williams came over in trades. General manager Walt Jocketty made another blockbuster last summer, sending three minor leaguers (the best of whom was lefthander Chris Narveson) to the Rockies for Larry Walker.
Jocketty followed it up with an even bigger deal after the season, recognizing that the pitching staff, while solid, lacked an ace. So he sent the organization's best hitting prospect, catcher Daric Barton, along with Haren and Kiko Calero to the Athletics for Mark Mulder. Mulder clearly strengthens the pitching staff, but the trade took away another premium prospect from a system with precious few of them. The organization has also been hurt by injuries to its prospects over the years, particularly pitchers. Last year's top two prospects, Blake Hawksworth and Adam Wainwright, missed significant time in 2004.
Trades and injuries aren't the only reason the system is thin, however. The Cardinals haven't been satisfied with their production from the draft, so they overhauled the scouting department for 2004. Assistant GM John Mozeliak took leadership of the department, and St. Louis hired Jeff Luhnow as vice president of baseball development to assist their scouting efforts with improved technology.
The new approach was said to mimic the Athletics, but in truth the Cardinals have always leaned toward college players in the draft. The lean became even more pronounced in 2004, however, with St. Louis drafting just four high school players out of 47 picks and signing none of them.
Mozeliak said the Cardinals didn't exclude high school players from their scouting, but rather wanted advanced players who could add immediate depth. Early returns indicate they did get players who will patch holes in the minors, but few who could be significant big leaguers. Only first-rounder Chris Lambert cracked our St. Louis Top 10 Prospects list.
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