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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, 2006.
Though the team fell short of its goal of a World Series title again in 2005, the Cardinals also reached 100 wins and posted the best record in the major leagues for the second year in a row. St. Louis led the National League in ERA and finished third in scoring, showing once again that the front office knows how to build a major league roster.
The Cardinals are built largely around players who came up through other organizations, with such notable exceptions as Albert Pujols and Matt Morris. Homegrown catcher Yadier Molina did seize the big league job, and righthander Brad Thompson established himself as a reliable set-up man in his rookie season. Otherwise, the big league team was assembled through astute free-agent signings and savvy trades.
To bolster their minor league system, which Baseball America rated the game’s worst entering 2005, the Cardinals have taken a hard look at their scouting operation over the last two years. They have made significant changes, both in the structure and responsibilities of the scouting staff and in the use of sophisticated performance analysis through statistics.
The new philosophy resulted in a heavy college approach in the 2004 draft, as St. Louis drafted just four high school players and signed none. Club officials said they wanted players who could make quick contributions at the higher levels of the system.
The team was also in the early stages of developing its system of statistical analysis, which has become much more sophisticated and is now done almost exclusively in-house, rather than by outside suppliers. St. Louis got a golden opportunity to test its new approach with a draft windfall in 2005, getting four extra picks for the loss of free agents Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals’ 2005 draft showed their willingness to look at all types of players. There were sleepers who were picked based on their college performance, such as outfielder Nick Stavinoha (seventh round). But there were also college players whose performance has never seemed to quite measure up to their tools, such as righthander Mark McCormick (supplemental first).
There were toolsy high school players whose projection is based on the judgments of scouts much more than their statistics, such as outfielder Daryl Jones (third). St. Louis even spent a couple of early picks on Tyler Herron (supplemental first) and Josh Wilson (second), a pair of prep righthanders—considered the riskiest demographic in the draft.
The Cardinals have shown a willingness to blend all these approaches, which could pay quick dividends for the farm system. The players mentioned above and first-rounders Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene immediately stand out in an organization lacking headline talent beyond top prospect Anthony Reyes.
Fortunately for St. Louis, the major league team has few immediate holes that need to be plugged by minor leaguers. But as the Cardinals move into a new Busch Stadium, they have the hope of introducing new homegrown talent in the coming years as well.
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