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October 14, 2005
It's hard to fathom a mid-market team that plays well into October and whose season can still be classified a disappointment, but the Padres stepped up to the task in 2005.
It wasn't a disappointment in the dismal, pathetic sense like the Dodgers, nor in the fusspot, perfectionist sense like Steinbrenner. San Diego was an enigmatic, underachieving team that would have finished well under .500 in a different division. And, of course, they lucked into a playoff berth and were fish-slapped back into reality by the St. Louis Cardinals. As with any team drifting around the .500 mark, there was a fairly even balance of ups and downs.
First, three things that went right:
What went wrong:
Towers has a lot on his plate this winter, vowing to improve the offense while there's a very good chance he may lose his lone excellent hitter in Giles. Hernandez, Joe Randa, Mark Sweeney, Hoffman and several others are also facing free agency.
At some point this team has to get younger--they're the third oldest roster in baseball, according to ESPN--so look for younger players like Tim Stauffer, Hensley, Josh Barfield, Ben Johnson and Paul McAnulty to be integrated into the team's plans as many of these free agents move on.
The Cardinals entered Wednesday with the best chance to win the World Series. However, while the big club marches toward a second consecutive World Series berth, let's take a break to look at an often-overlooked part of their organization: the farm system. What follows is a two part look at the Cardinals farm system. The first part will look at players we visited on in BP 2005, followed by those players taken in the 2005 draft.
The gem of the St. Louis farm system is Anthony Reyes, and he did not disappoint this season. He did not maintain his gaudy peripheral statistics from 2004, but they were nonetheless in the solid to spectacular range. As a Memphis Redbird he piled up a K/9 of 9.5. Though he only had a G/F ratio of .60, he had a solid HR/9 score of .91. Reyes did well in his sport start for the big club in August, and figures to compete for a spot in the rotation, and perhaps even slot in if the Cardinals lose Matt Morris via free agency.
Another Cardinal farmhand who had a good season was Cody Haerther. Haerther slugged .500 or better at both of his stops, earning a pre-draft promotion to AA. For the season he amassed a line of .307/.355/.538, which is a pretty good line for a 21-year old. He is currently down in Arizona, playing for the Surprise Scorpions. With Larry Walker likely to retire, and Reggie Sanders and John Mabry set for free agency, a strong AFL showing might put Haerther in the running for a job in the show.
Unfortunately, looking at some of the other Cardinals farmhands written up in BP 2005, we don't get that same special feeling. Shaun Boyd still can't hit enough for an outfield corner. Chris Duncan was able to maintain his decent power, but it did not spike, and his OBP dropped from his 2004 peak of .393. Reid Gorecki did not do much with his first shot at AA, hitting .182/.264/.277 at Springfield. In the comment for John Nelson, it was noted that the excellent power he flashed in '04 was an aberration, and his '05 stats support that hypothesis. With 30 walks versus 39 strikeouts across two levels, Brendan Ryan improved his plate discipline, and was again near flawless in SB attempts. However, his batting average dropped, and he hit far fewer doubles than he had in the past. Lastly, there is Rick Ankiel, who probably deserves more time before he is seriously evaluated as a hitter (Ankiel also may just retire).
For other returning pitchers, the story is largely the same. Carmen Cali spent the season at AAA Memphis, where he piled up awful hit and K/BB numbers. His 5.40 ERA looks bad enough without adding in the 12 unearned runs he allowed, which gives him a 7.25 RA. Blake Hawksworth once again battled shoulder problems, not debuting until July. Stuart Pomeranz is still very tall and very young, but he didn't really take to Springfield. In 18 starts spanning 98.2 IP, his H/9 clocked in at an underwhelming 10.03, which was coupled with a 3.65 BB/9 rate. Given that he was promoted in late May, it appears that he will continue to get every opportunity to succeed, but when you have average stuff and your control regresses, that isn't a great sign. Adam Wainwright managed a September call-up, but his 2005 in Memphis wasn't terribly special. Still Wainwright is only 23, and playing behind a superior Cardinals defense could help some of his weaker peripherals look a bit better. If nothing else, he is "not needing to vastly overpay for Matt Morris insurance." Lastly, we have the latest candidate to be Brendan Donnelly. Mark Nussbeck, in the minors since '96, put up some pretty good peripheral stats this season, including a silly 5.21 K/BB.
In brighter news, the Cardinals draft class got off to a great start. When Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny departed for decidedly less greener pastures, the Cards reaped the benefits. The result was the Cards having six of the first 78 picks in the June draft. Four of the six landed on Baseball America's end of season prospect lists. Chief among them was OF Colby Rasmus, who was rated the #2 prospect in the Appalaichian League. While Rasmus struck out quite a bit (73 SO's in 216 AB's), he did have good OBP and SLG marks, and was successful on 13 of 16 stolen base attempts. 2nd round pick Nick Webber did well enough to warrant a late season promotion. Catcher Bryan Anderson became the highest drafted Cardinals catcher (4th round) since Daric Barton in 2003, and he did not disappoint, displaying a decent batting eye and excellent power. The two Tyler's, Greene and Herron, were impressive in some areas, but not in all. However, Greene only racked up 85 AB's, and Herron's 8.87 K/9 is reason enough for optimism.
Overall, the Cards farm system would look a lot better were Barton (.317/.426/.478, reached AA at 19) still in it. There isn't a ton of talent, but Reyes and Wainwright are likely to graduate, and this year's draft haul should signal brighter days ahead. It will be very interesting to see if their free agent machinations allow them to keep building the system's depth or if they lose draft picks in an off-season shopping spree.