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February 24, 2010

Future Shock

Cardinals Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Shelby Miller, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
2. Jaime Garcia, LHP
3. David Freese, 3B
4. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
5. Daryl Jones, OF
6. Lance Lynn, RHP
7. Allen Craig, OF
8. Robert Stock, C
Two-Star Prospects
9. Daniel Descalso, 2B
10. Adron Chambers, OF
11. Mark Hamilton, 1B

Four More:
12. Jon Jay, OF: Jay is a classic 'tweener with a center-field bat but a corner outfield skill set.
13. Blake Hawksworth, RHP: He has put up great numbers out of the bullpen, but it's unsustainable with that strikeout rate.
14. Adam Ottavino, RHP: Don't give up on him; Ottavino still has the ability to miss bats, but his control has gone backwards.
15. Peter Kozma, SS: He has solid tools across the board... except for the bat.

1. Shelby Miller, RHP
DOB: 10/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Brownwood HS (TX)
2009 Stats: 6.00 ERA (3.0-5-2-2) at Low-A (2 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: The top Texas arm stayed at the top of draft lists all spring but fell to 19th overall due to a perceived high price tag. He signed at the deadline for a relatively reasonable bonus of just under $3 million.
The Good: Miller is a prototypical Texas high school righty. With a nearly perfect pitching frame and tremendous leg drive, he doesn't just touch 93-95 mph, he sits there, while ramping up to 98 when he reaches back for something extra. He'll flash a plus curveball that is surprisingly a slow, looping breaker as opposed to a pure power pitch, and he's an aggressive pitcher who takes the mound with no fear.
The Bad: Miller comes with some rawness to his game. His curve can flatten at times when he gets over it, and his changeup is a rudimentary pitch that wasn't needed in high school. He lost the strike zone at times last spring, but he also had times when he filled the strike zone, so many believe he just needs innings to gain the much-needed consistency.
Ephemera: While Brownwood has produced its share of baseball players, including former big-league reliever Jerry Don Gleaton, its most famous alumnus is Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame.
Perfect World Projection: Miller will be a frontline big-league starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Patience, Cardinals fans. Patience.
Timetable: Miller made a pair of appearances at the end of the year at Low-A Quad Cities, where he'll begin his season. He's likely to spend all of 2010 there.

2. Jaime Garcia, LHP
DOB: 7/8/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 22nd round, 2005, Sharyland HS (TX)
2009 Stats: 4.50 ERA (4.0-4-1-3) at Rookie-level (2 G); 0.71 ERA (12.2-4-4-16) at High-A (3 G); 3.86 ERA (21.0-17-9-22) at Triple-A (4 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: This lefty sinkerballer made an impressive return from Tommy John surgery, putting himself on the brink of the majors.
The Good: Garcia is a ground-ball machine, with a 90-92 mph sinker that offers as much hard, late break as any in the minor leagues. He adds a good curveball and tends to stay ahead of hitters. His changeup is an average, usable pitch that he has confidence in, and he has a good understanding for how to set up hitters.
The Bad: Even before the surgery, Garcia had a history of elbow issues, and scouts saw little change in his crossfire delivery upon his return. He has also yet to prove he can handle a starter's full workload. He needs to gain more consistency with his secondary offerings.
Ephemera: Right-handers facing Garcia during his three rehab starts at High-A Palm Beach went 3-for-31 with 15 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good ground-ball pitcher with third starter possibilities.
Path to the Big Leagues: It could be over.
Timetable: Garcia enters spring training with a legitimate shot at opening the year as the big-league club's fifth starter.

3. David Freese, 3B
DOB: 4/28/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 9th round, 2006, South Alabama (Cardinals)
2009 Stats: .455/.500/.909 at Rookie-level (4 G); .375/.444/.625 at Double-A (4 G); .300/.369/.525 at Triple-A (56 G); .323/.353/.484 at MLB (17 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Freese, a slowly developing prospect, was waylaid in 2009 by ankle surgery, but now he could finally be the big-league third baseman.
The Good: Freese's career minor-league line of .308/.384/.532 is a testament to his abilities as a hitter. He has a solid approach, above-average power, uses all fields, and has hit at every level. His arm is a plus tool, and his defensive fundamentals are sound.
The Bad: Freese's future value is wrapped up in his bat. He was a below-average runner before the surgery and now borders on slow. He pressed in the big leagues last year, and he needs to slow the game down and wait for his pitch. His range at third is questionable. At 27, he's not a traditional prospect with upside-he simply is what he is.
Ephemera: Freese hit .423 against minor-league left-handers last year, but went just 3-for-17 against the big-league models.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a solid everyday third baseman, but not a star.
Path to the Big Leagues: Freese has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.
Timetable: The third base job in St. Louis is Freese's to lose this spring.

4. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
DOB: 2/16/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/155
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2005
2009 Stats: 1.44 ERA (25.0-12-5-26) at High-A (19 G); 2.70 ERA (50.0-32-20-56) at Double-A (41 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This power arm missed plenty of bats at both High- and Double-A in 2009.
The Good: Sanchez has one of the best arms in the system, with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 mph and features above-average control and command. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch, and his delivery is clean, simple, and easily repeatable.
The Bad: Sanchez is short, leaving his fastball a bit straight and his profile firmly in the bullpen. He can overthrow his slider at times, giving it a sweeping action across the plate as opposed to two-plane bite.
Ephemera: From July 6-Aug. 17 last season, over a series of 16 appearances, Sanchez fired 19 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just eight hits and striking out 20.
Perfect World Projection: Sanchez is a late-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he continues to throw strikes, he shouldn't be in the minor leagues much longer.
Timetable: Sanchez could begin 2010 as high as Triple-A Memphis, and he should make his big-league debut by September.

5. Daryl Jones, OF
DOB: 6/25/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2005, Spring HS (TX)
2009 Stats: .279/.360/.378 at Double-A (80 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: A breakout player in 2008, Jones slipped a bit in 2009 in his first exposure to upper-level pitching.
The Good: Jones has impressive tools, including above-average speed and gap power that some project as close to average down the road. His plate discipline is sound, and he's a solid outfielder who has made considerable improvements in his jumps and routes while earning high praise for his work ethic.
The Bad: There are questions about Jones' ultimate upside, as neither his power nor speed are impact-level tools, and his arm is well below average. Tough left-handers give him trouble, and he's prone to strikeouts.
Ephemera: Jones would need four big-league home runs to pass Red Sox righty Josh Beckett as the all-time big-league homer leader for players drafted out of Spring High.
Perfect World Projection: Jones could be a second-division starter or a good bench outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: There is no clear role for Jones in the near future, other than a bench one.
Timetable: Jones will begin the year at Triple-A, and he could get a September look, but his position on the depth chart could also make him an intriguing trade piece for a team that likes the tools.

6. Lance Lynn, RHP
DOB: 5/12/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Mississippi
2009 Stats: 2.30 ERA (15.2-16-3-17) at High-A (5 G); 2.70 ERA (6.2-5-3-9) at Triple-A (1 G); 2.92 ERA (126.1-117-51-98) at Double-A (22 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: Lynn was a supplemental first-round pick who reached Double-A in his full-season debut.
The Good: Lynn is a classic finesse pitcher, only with an extra three or four inches and 50 pounds. He has four average pitches, and he'll throw his slider, curveball, and 88-91 mph sinking fastball at any point in the count while mixing in a solid changeup. He's built for stamina, is consistent from start-to-start, and rarely gets rattled.
The Bad: Nothing about Lynn's game is dominant, and scouts see little projection in him. He doesn't have quite the command and control that most pitchers of his type show, and there are questions as to how well his stuff will work as he moves up the ladder. He's big, but physically bordering on soft for some.
Ephemera: With 121 career wins, Jeff Fassero accounts for 85 percent of the major-league wins for pitchers drafted out of the University of Mississippi. Former Astros and Phillies reliever Jeff Calhoun is second with seven.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lynn likely doesn't need much more than another 20-30 minor-league starts.
Timetable: Lynn will begin the year at Memphis, and if he proves that his combination of guile and average stuff still plays, he'll get a September audition.

7. Allen Craig, OF
DOB: 7/18/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2006, University of California
2009 Stats: .322/.374/.547 at Triple-A (126 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A polished college product, Craig had a massive year at Triple-A, batting a whopping .405/.449/.764 after the All-Star break.
The Good: Craig is the best pure hitter in the Cardinals' system, as scouts have little problem projecting him to hit for both average and power in the big leagues. He has a quick bat, makes all of the right adjustments, and crushes mistakes.
The Bad: Craig's values is completely in his bat, and his bat alone. Originally a third baseman, Craig just doesn't have the hands for the position, is questionable even at first base, and his limited time in left field has been nothing short of an adventure. He's a below-average runner, and his arm is also below average.
Ephemera: Craig also struggled at the plate when playing first base for Memphis, hitting just .266 there with five home runs in 154 at-bats. At any other position, he hit a robust .349 with 21 home runs in just 318 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: Craig projects to be a big-league hitter, but he may be better suited for an American League team.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Cardinals' two superstar position players occupy the only defensive slots Craig can play.
Timetable: If Craig doesn't open the year as in inflexible bench bat for the Cardinals, he'll return to Triple-A. His best bet for getting a big-league career going is via trade.

8. Robert Stock, C
DOB: 11/21/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, University of Southern California
2009 Stats: .322/.386/.550 at Rookie-level (41 G); .095/.208/.095 at Low-A (5 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Seen as a potential top 10 pick after enrolling at Southern California a year early, Stock had a disappointing college career, but his pro debut was nothing short of stunning.
The Good: Stock has all of the tools to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He's athletic for the position, with a tick above-average power and an almost shockingly adept hitting technique that was rarely seen during his days as a Trojan. His arm is so strong than many teams preferred him as a pitcher, and he gets high marks for his makeup.
The Bad: Despite Stock's numbers in the Appalachian League, there are still plenty of questions about his bat based on his sub-par performances in college, although he was younger than the competition while playing in one of college baseball's friendliest pitcher's parks. While his arm is strong, his other catching skills need refinement.
Ephemera: Splitting between a relief and starting role for the Trojans last year, Stock struck out 86 over 77 2/3 innings while limiting hitters to a .223 batting average.
Perfect World Projection: He's a solid everyday catcher if it all works out, and a move to the mound is always available as a backup plan.
Path to the Big Leagues: Yadier Molina likely has the job for at least the next three years, but Stock could need that long in the minors.
Timetable: Stock will make his full-season debut at Low-A Quad Cities, and we'll have a much better feel for his future a year from now.

9. Daniel Descalso, 2B
DOB: 10/19/86
Height/Weight: 5-10/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2007, UC Davis
2009 Stats: .323/.396/.531 at Double-A (73 G); .253/.327/.320 at Triple-A (46 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This gritty middle infielder looked like the organization's breakout player of the year before hitting a wall at Triple-A.
The Good: Descalso is an aggressive hitter with a quick bat and an innate feel for contact. He makes excellent in-swing adjustments, uses all fields, and shows few weaknesses by pitch hand or type. He's a grinder who gets the most out of his tools, and his defensive fundamentals are outstanding.
The Bad: Descalso is a line-drive hitter with little power, and Triple-A pitchers retired him consistently by simply challenging him in the strike zone. He doesn't offer much in the way of tools beyond his bat, as he's an average runner at best.
Ephemera: There have been 35 players drafted out of UC Davis, but they're still looking for their first big-leaguer.
Perfect World Projection: Descalso could be a second-divison starter at second base.
Path to the Big Leagues: Descalso is limited athletically to second base, and Skip Schumaker is signed through 2011.
Timetable: Descalso will begin the year at Memphis, but like many St. Louis prospects at the upper levels, there's no clear opening for him in the big leagues.

10. Adron Chambers, OF
DOB: 10/8/86
Height/Weight: 5-10/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 38th round, 2007, Pensacola JC (FL)
2009 Stats: .283/.370/.400 at High-A (122 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: An athletic yet inexperienced outfielder, Chambers took a massive step forward by improving both his on-base percentage and slugging by more than 50 points despite playing in the offensive black hole of the Florida State League.
The Good: Chambers passes the scouting sniff test with flying colors. He's a 65-70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale who hit 16 triples last year, and he has developed a patient approach at the plate that has more scouts convinced that he could develop into a leadoff hitter down the road.
The Bad: Chambers is still quite raw, especially for a 23-year-old who has yet to play at the upper levels. His strikeout rate is far too high for someone without power, and he needs to learn how to use his speed on the basepaths, as he's stolen just 40 bases in his career at a 62-percent success rate. His arm is poor, and he might only work in center field in a pinch due to poor routes and jumps.
Ephemera: Chambers hit .363 when playing left field for Palm Beach with eight extra-base hits in 80 at-bats; all of them triples.
Perfect World Projection: If you crook your head and squint your eyes, he just might be a future second-division starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Because of his age, nearly every year from here on out could be a make-or-break season.
Timetable: Chambers will face a big test with a 2010 assignment to Double-A Springfield.

11. Mark Hamilton, 1B
DOB: 7/29/84
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2006, Tulane University
2009 Stats: .307/.421/.521 at Double-A (48 G); .308/.375/.531 at Triple-A (46 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Hamilton's a slugging first baseman who mashed when healthy.
The Good: Power is Hamilton's calling card, as he offers plus-plus raw pop from the left side to go with a good approach that often puts him into hitter's counts. He's a solid first baseman who the Cardinals are hoping can play left field, where he played this past winter in the Dominican.
The Bad: Hamilton has been injury prone throughout his career, with minor dings here and there limiting him to just 164 games over the past two years. At 25, he's nearly reached his potential, and as a pure power hitter, he'll always be prone to strikeouts. He's a slow runner who, like many Cardinals prospects, is limited to few positional options. His power shows up far more against righties than lefties.
Ephemera: Mark's grandfather was an All-America basketball player at Indiana who also played in the NBA with the Fort Wayne Pistons.
Perfect World Projection: He's a second-division starter or nice left-handed power source off the bench.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Cardinals have some Pujols guy at first base, and word on the street is that he's pretty good.
Timetable: Hamilton will begin 2010 back at Triple-A, and if he has a big-league future, it's certainly not with the Cardinals.

The Sleeper: While he'll likely never hit for average, former first-round pick Tyler Greene brings power and speed to the table as well as the ability to play multiple positions, which leaves many thinking he could carve out an excellent career as a utility man.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Colby Rasmus, OF
2. Shelby Miller, RHP
3. Jaime Garcia, LHP
4. Kyle McClellan, RHP
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
7. Daryl Jones, OF
8. Lance Lynn, RHP
9. Allen Craig, OF
10. Robert Stock, C

Obviously, Rasmus didn't have an especially good rookie year, but you'd be a fool not to still see the potential there. He's still going to be a star. Superstar? The jury is still out. McClellan is a solid relief pitcher and no more, but on this list, that ranks highly.

Summary: The Cardinals system wasn't especially strong in the first place, and while the constant trades to keep them in the playoffs have served them quite well, it has also left the minors bereft of talent.


Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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