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February 19, 2008

Future Shock

Cardinals Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Colby Rasmus, CF
Four-Star Prospects
2. Chris Perez, RHP
3. Bryan Anderson, C
Three-Star Prospects
4. Adam Ottavino, RHP
5. Jaime Garcia, LHP
6. Tyler Herron, RHP
7. Jose Martinez, SS
8. Peter Kozma, SS
9. Clayton Mortensen, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Joe Mather, OF
11. Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B

Just Missing: David Freese, 3B; David Kopp, RHP; Jess Todd, RHP

1. Colby Rasmus, CF
DOB: 8/11/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Russell County HS (AL)
2007 Stats: .275/.381/.551 at Double-A (128 G)

Year In Review: The player with the highest upside in the system, exploded in 2007 by leading the Double-A Texas League in home runs with 29 despite not turning 21 until the latter part of the season.
The Good: On a pure tools level, Rasmus is an absolute monster. He added a good 10-15 pounds of solid muscle prior to the season, and it clearly paid off, as he added strength to what was already an extremely quick bat. He has excellent pitch recognition and a patient approach, and his plus speed makes him dangerous both on the basepaths and in the field, where he also has a very good arm.
The Bad: Rasmus played in a friendly home run park in 2007, and most see him as more of a 20-25 home run hitter in the majors as opposed to some future league-leading slugger. He can be guilty of cheating at times against lefties, and good southpaws were able to get him to chase breaking balls. He relies too much on his athleticism at times in the field, and needs to improve his reads and routes.
Fun Fact: Rasmus' younger brother Cory is a right-handed pitcher who was a first-round pick by the Braves in 2006. He missed all of last year recovering from shoulder surgery.
Perfect World Projection: An All-Star center fielder with the power and speed to hit leadoff or third.
Timetable: While there's been some talk of Rasmus replacing Jim Edmonds this year, he'll likely start the season at Triple-A while Rick Ankiel keeps his seat warm.

2. Chris Perez, RHP
DOB: 7/1/85
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of Miami (FL)
2007 Stats: 2.43 ERA at Double-A (40.2-17-28-62); 4.50 ERA at Triple-A (14-6-13-15)

Year In Review: Perez is a fast-moving closer who made up for control problems by limiting minor league hitters to a miniscule .130 batting average.
The Good: Perez has the stuff, demeanor, and intimidating physical presence to be a closer in the big leagues. His fastball sits at 93-95 mph and can touch 97 while featuring explosive late life. His slider is an absolute wipeout offering that he gets into the upper 80s and which features heavy two-plane break. He's cocky and fearless on the mound, and wants the ball at the end of the game.
The Bad: Perez simply needs to throw more strikes. His mechanics are violent and inconsistent, and when he's out of sync, he tends to work too high in the zone.
Fun Fact: Texas League left-handed hitters facing Perez had a bizarre .100/.357/.100 batting line, going 5-for-50 with 25 strikeouts and 15 walks.
Perfect World Projection: Perez should be a big-league closer, and if he harnesses his control, he could be a dominant one.
Timetable: With one more year on Jason Isringhausen's contract, Perez is lined up to begin the season at Triple-A, get his feet wet in the big leagues during the second half of the season, and assume the club's closing duties in 2009.

3. Bryan Anderson, C
DOB: 12/16/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 4th round, 2005, Simi Valley HS (CA)
2007 Stats: .298/.350/.388 at Double-A (103 G)

Year In Review: Like Rasmus, Anderson had no troubles at Double-A as a 20-year-old, keeping his average above .300 most of the year before a late-season slump.
The Good: Anderson is one of the better pure-hitting catchers in the minor leagues, with outstanding bat control and the ability to hit any type of pitch in any location. He gets lauded for his makeup, and the Cardinals had no issues with having him catch at the upper levels despite his age.
The Bad: Anderson employs a line-drive swing without much loft or backspin, which combined with his focus on contact gives him little juice in his bat. That plus a lack of walks leaves most of his value wrapped in his batting average. He's a below-average defensive catcher and his arm is no more than average.
Fun Fact: While he's too young to have caught either of them, Simi Valley High is also the school that graduated Jared and Jeff Weaver.
Perfect World Projection: The anti-Yadier Molina--a hit-first big-league catcher.
Timetable: With Molina signed through 2011 with a '12 option, Anderson's immediate future with the Cardinals is uncertain. He'll give St. Louis officials one more year to figure things out by spending 2008 in Triple-A.

4. Adam Ottavino, RHP
DOB: 11/22/85
Height/Weight: 6-5/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, Northeastern University
2007 Stats: 3.08 ERA at High-A (143.1-130-63-128)

Year In Review: The first-round pick from 2006 impressed in his full-season debut at High-A.
The Good: Ottavino is a big-bodied right-hander with a power repertoire. He has one of the best fastballs in the system--it routinely sits at 92-94 mph while touching 96 and featuring good movement. He has a decent slider and changeup, and excellent stamina.
The Bad: Scouts wish Ottavino had a second plus pitch that he could depend on as a go-to offering. While his mechanics are smooth, his size works against him at times, leading to an inconsistent release point and the inevitable control issues.
Fun Fact: No pitcher drafted out of Northeastern University has ever reached the majors, and the only position players to do so are Rays first baseman Carlos Pena and Mike Glavine, Tom's brother who received seven at-bats in 2003 and is now an assistant head coach at the school.
Perfect World Projection: A solid inning-eating mid-rotation starter good for 12-15 wins a year.
Timetable: The focus will be on Ottavino's secondary pitches when he begins the year in the Double-A rotation.

5. Jaime Garcia, LHP
DOB: 7/6/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 22nd round, 2005, No School; Mission, Texas
2007 Stats: 3.75 ERA at Double-A (103.1-93-45-97)

Year In Review: Seen by some as the steal of the 2005 draft, Garcia continued to succeed, posting a good showing at Double-A before getting shut down with elbow problems.
The Good: Garcia is a ground-ball machine, utilizing an outstanding low-90s sinker that he fills the bottom of the strike zone with. He also throws a plus curveball that he likes to start in the strike zone and break out of it. He has an average changeup, and a good mound demeanor.
The Bad: Garcia can get too fine with his pitches at times, and more patient hitters have found success against him by laying back early and putting themselves into hitters' counts. Any pitching prospect with elbow problems has some question marks attached to him, but the Cardinals stress that the injury was no more than a strain, and surgery was never a consideration.
Fun Fact: Of the 47 runs Garcia surrendered in 2007, more than half (25) were scored in the second or fourth innings.
Perfect World Projection: A solid No. 3 starter.
Timetable: Garcia is expected to be 100 percent for Opening Day, and will likely return to Double-A, at least for the first half of the season.

6. Tyler Herron, RHP
DOB: 8/5/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Wellington Community HS (FL)
2007 Stats: 3.74 ERA at Low-A (137.1-123-26-130)

Year In Review: A first-round pick from 2005, Herron handled himself quite well in his full-season debut.
The Good: While Herron's arsenal grades out as average across the board, all of his pitches are marked up because of his remarkable control. His height gives him a good downward plane on a 89-92 mph fastball, and he effectively mixes in a good curveball and a solid changeup, while effortlessly filling all four quadrants of the strike zone with any of his offerings.
The Bad: Herron lacks the stuff or projection for future stardom. Skinny to an extreme, there are some questions about his stamina, and he was clearly out of gas towards the end of last season.
Fun Fact: Herron certainly knows how to warm up properly, as he did not allow a single earned run in 22 first innings last year, and gave up just seven hits and two walks in those frames.
Perfect World Projection: A consistent mid-rotation to back-end starter.
Timetable: Herron is a one-step-at-a-time type of prospect, and the next step is the Florida State League.

7. Jose Martinez, SS
DOB: 1/24/86
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2004, Venezuela
2007 Stats: .248/.285/.323 at High-A (62 G); .300/.339/.472 at Double-A (66 G)

Year In Review: One of the very rare Latin talents in this system, Martinez struggled initially at High-A, but found his groove following a promotion to the Texas League.
The Good: Scouts like what they see in Martinez's bat. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination, rarely swings and misses, and shows surprising pop for his size. In the field, he has outstanding fundamentals, and makes the play on any ball he gets to.
The Bad: Despite his fielding acumen, Martinez is not more than an average runner, and lacks the first-step quickness to provide enough range to be a big-league shortstop. His feel for contact comes with an aggressive approach, and he needs to become a more selective hitter.
Fun Fact: In the eight games that Martinez hit leadoff for Double-A Springfield, he went 16-for-38 (.421) with four home runs.
Perfect World Projection: A solid everyday second baseman or outstanding utility player.
Timetable: Martinez's Opening Day assignment will depend on the Cardinals depth situation, but he might return to Double-A, at least to begin the season.

8. Peter Kozma, SS
DOB: 4/11/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Owassa HS (OK)
2007 Stats: .154/.267/.154 at Rookie-level GCL (4 G); .254/.350/.396 at Rookie-level Appalachian (30 G); .148/.179/.222 at Short-season (8 G)

Year In Review: The first true high school shortstop selected in June had an inconsistent pro debut.
The Good: Kozma is an outstanding defensive shortstop with great instincts, good range to both sides, and an above-average arm. He employs a mature approach at the plate and works the count well, while featuring a smooth, quick swing that uses all fields and projects for gap power.
The Bad: Offensively, Kozma lacks any one tool to wow anyone. He's not expected to develop much power as he moves up, and he's only a slightly above-average runner. He's more of a player whose total value is greater that the sum of his parts.
Fun Fact: During Kozma's eight New York-Penn League games, he went 4-for-10 in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, but 0-for-17 otherwise.
Perfect World Projection: An average big-league shortstop who likely has to hit in the lower half of a lineup.
Timetable: Kozma's talent and status as a first-rounder means he'll make his full-season debut in 2008, playing the year at Low-A Quad Cities.

9. Clayton Mortensen, RHP
DOB: 4/10/85
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Gonzaga
2007 Stats: 1.77 ERA at Short-season (20.1-13-11-23); 3.12 ERA at Low-A (40.1-44-8-45)

Year In Review: The year's fastest-rising college senior went from undrafted as a junior to the 36th overall pick after a breakout year at Gonzaga.
The Good: Following his pro debut, some Cardinals officials think Mortensen's sinker has already eclipsed Garcia's. The pitch sits at 89-93 mph, features heavy bite, and Mortensen commands it exceedingly well. His slider is a little on the soft side, but features nice two-plane break, and his delivery adds a bit of deception to both pitches.
The Bad: Mortensen's secondary pitches have issues. He has problems throwing his slider for strikes, using it too often as a chase pitch, and his changeup features little deception. Because he was drafted as a college senior, Mortensen turns 23 in April, and has just 60 2/3 innings of pro experience.
Fun Fact: Mortensen was born and raised in little Rexburg, Idaho, which strangely enough already has a native in the big leagues in Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom.
Perfect World Projection: Some like him as a starter, and some like him as a late-innings reliever.
Timetable: For now, Mortensen will remain in the rotation, and while he could start the year in the Florida State League, the goal is to have him finish the year in Double-A.

10. Joe Mather, OF
DOB: 7/23/82
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 3rd round, 2001, Mountain Point HS (AZ)
2007 Stats: .303/.387/.607 at Double-A (64 G); .241/.329/.443 at Triple-A (70 G)

Year In Review: All but written off after six years of sub-par performance, this 2001 third-round pick put himself back on the radar with 31 home runs.
The Good: Mather's raw power is the best in the system. He's huge, muscular, and capable of hitting majestic shots when he fully squares up on a ball. He has decent plate discipline and a good contact rate for a power hitter, as he focuses more on hard contact and letting his natural size and strength work for him rather than over-exerting on his swing. His arm in the outfield is above-average.
The Bad: Mather's value relies completely on his bat. He's a below-average outfielder who might be better suited for first base in the end. He struggled at Triple-A due to a steady diet of breaking balls, and will need to make more adjustments.
Fun Fact: Mather went a shocking 0-for-20 with the bases loaded in 2007.
Perfect World Projection: A borderline starter at first base or a corner, or a valuable power bat off the bench.
Timetable: Mather would be in line for a big-league look had he not struggled so much at Triple-A. Instead, he's destined to return there for now to begin the season.

11. Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B
DOB: 6/18/83
Height/Weight: 5-9/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 6th round, 2004, Southern Mississippi
2007 Stats: .345/.420/.527 at Double-A (61 G); .300/.394/.416 at Triple-A (55 G)

Year In Review: Like Mather, Hoffpauir surprised everyone with his 2007 performance, putting up excellent numbers at both of the Cardinals' upper-level affiliates.
The Good: Hoffpauir has plenty of ways to beat you at the plate. He has good plate discipline, makes consistent hard contact, and delivers gap power, with the hand-eye coordination to both pull balls and drive them the other way. The son of a coach, he's a baseball rat with outstanding makeup who uses a grinding style to get the most out of his tools.
The Bad: Hoffpauir's size gives him little projection, and he's never been much of a home run threat, while his average-at-best speed and short legs limit him somewhat defensively.
Fun Fact: While six position players drafted out of Southern Mississippi have reached the big leagues, only Kevin Young has played even the equivalent of a full season.
Perfect World Projection: There are a handful of small, scrappy players one could compare Hoffpauir to, but his ultimate ceiling is probably as a starter for a second-division club.
Timetable: Adam Kennedy's contract runs through 2009, and Hoffpauir's inability to play on the left side of the infield means it will be hard to break him in as a bench player. For now, it's back to Triple-A.

The Sleeper: Another talent coming out of the Cardinals' renewed efforts in Latin America, Dominican catcher Luis De La Cruz is an outstanding defender with a plus-plus arm and enough offensive ability to project as a starter in the big leagues.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Colby Rasmus, CF
2. Chris Perez, RHP
3. Bryan Anderson, C
4. Adam Ottavino, RHP
5. Jaime Garcia, LHP
6. Tyler Herron, RHP
7. Jose Martinez, SS
8. Peter Kozma, SS
9. Clayton Mortensen, RHP
10. Joe Mather, OF

It's simple enough--the Cardinals are a team going in the wrong direction, and to complicate matters, they don't have much in the way of young talent. While Colby Rasmus has impact potential, one man alone can't save the Cardinals' future.

Next: The San Diego Padres.

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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