A Minor Review of ’09: St. Louis Cardinals

Prospect ranking season is here. Top 10 lists will be arriving shortly and in preparation for that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The series is back for a second year.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Graduate: Colby Rasmus, CF
It wasn’t the hugely successful rookie debut that many fans had hoped for, but Rasmus laid the groundwork for an excellent MLB career. In his rookie season in ’09, he hit .251/.307/.407 with an ISO of .156 in 474 at-bats. His walk rate was lower than he averaged in his minor league career at 7.1 BB%, but he kept the strikeouts in line at 20.0 K%. He was hurt by a .284 BABIP. Although Rasmus had a negative offensive value in ’09, he more than made up for that with his glove and ended up with a WAR of 2.3.

The Riser: Adron Chambers, OF
The speedy outfielder had a nice year in high-A ball by hitting .283/.370/.400 with 16 triples in 448 at-bats. The left-handed hitter needs to improve his base running after getting gunned down 12 times in 33 attempts. He showed a reasonable walk rate at 9.5 BB% but the strikeout rate was a little high (21.4%) for someone with an ISO .116. Chambers also posted a .600 OPS versus southpaws, compared to .830 versus right-handers. He’s raw, but Chambers has potential as a former 38th round draft pick (2007) out of Pensacola Junior College.

The Tumbler: Adam Ottavino, RHP
A former first round draft pick (2006) out of Northeastern University, Ottavino has had back-to-back disappointing seasons. The right-hander pitched in triple-A in ’09 and allowed 141 hits in 144.0 innings of work. His walk rate rose from 4.06 in ’08 to 5.13 BB/9 in ’09. On the plus side, his batting-average-against dropped from .290 to .258. Ottavino’s fastball ranges from 88-93 mph and he also utilizes a slider, curveball and change-up. His best bet for success in the Majors may be in the bullpen.

The ’10 Sleeper: Tyler Henley, OF
The 24-year-old Henley had some success at double-A in ’09 and he has shown solid overall numbers as a pro. The outfielder hit .303/.367/.482 in 423 at-bats. He also posted a .180 ISO and his strikeout rate was just 15.1 K%. If Henley can start putting a few more fly balls over the fence, then he could potentially see a few years as a Major League starting right fielder. More likely, he’ll be a solid fourth outfielder who can play center well enough to occasionally spell Colby Rasmus.

Bonus: Nick Additon, LHP
Additon was the Cardinals’ sleeper prospect during the ’08 series and he responded with a solid, albeit unspectacular, season. The southpaw allowed 69 hits in 79.1 high-A innings and 36 hits in 48.0 double-A innings. After his promotion, his strikeout rate dropped from 7.49 to 4.88 K/9, but his walk rate improved from 4.20 to 3.94 BB/9. Additon’s control had always been a plus prior to ’09, but it’s risen with each season. His repertoire is modest with an 86-88 mph fastball, slider and change-up.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

7 Responses to “A Minor Review of ’09: St. Louis Cardinals”

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  1. jjray says:

    If one just looks at Ottavino’s full year line for 2009, then you have to say it was a poor year. However, he really sucked bad to start out the year. Hangover from the WBC in which he was stellar for Italy? No one can say. However, he had some very good outings during the middle of the season. For the year, 7.44 k per 9, about equal with what he posted in AA the year before. I see a power pitcher with good stuff who can potentially put it all together in 2010 … or fall off the map as a prospect. Ottavino pitched winter ball in 2008, then the WBC, then the major league spring training (last pitcher sent back to minor league camp), then AAA playoffs. Might help explain the inconsistency. I’m glad he’s taking the winter off this season. Shall be interesting to see if Otto can right he ship.

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    • tom s. says:

      i agree that otto’s second half probably helped him salvage a weak season.

      i like adron chambers, although both additon’s stuff and peripherals are not expected to translate well to the majors. i would have suggested 3b matt carpenter (jumping three levels after his draft mid-season), as either a bonus or a riser (and making chambers the bonus).

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  2. cpebbles says:

    I don’t see how the riser can be anyone but Eduardo Sanchez. Yeah, minor league reliever, but he’s a minor league reliever who sits mid 90s, can throw even harder, and dominated in a great hitters’ park in AA at 20. He probably should’ve been shoring up the back of the big league bullpen for the postseason.

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    • tom s. says:

      sanchez is probably a top 10 talent, which runs afoul of the guidelines for the exercise.

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      • cpebbles says:

        I guess that makes sense. Probably would’ve just been in the top 10 discussion before the mid-season trades due to the reliever thing, but with a thinned-out system he’s obviously in.

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  3. Bob says:

    Well, if not Sanchez, how about Casey Francis Mulligan as the Riser? Just 21, Mulligan zipped from low-A to high-A to AA, posting a Texas League ERA of 2.21 with 12K’s per 9 IP, and an aggregate 97 whiffs in 68 innings.

    Or maybe first baseman Xavier Scruggs, who’s also 21, and didn’t do much in ’08 short-season ball, but in 2009 had a Midwest League line of .295/.409/.527. (Davenport Peak projection of a .302 EqA.)

    Perhaps Aaron Luna would be a better choice, though. Based on his FSL performance, Luna (position undetermined) projects to a Peak .291 EqA, good enough for corner outfield, and terrific if he can stick at 2nd base.

    Nothin wrong with 20-year-old (was 19 Opening Day) starter Arquimedes Nieto, either. Very nice K/BB numbers (116/35) across low and high-A, with FIPs in the low-mid 3’s.

    Does it seem a little bit like StL prospects get systematically underrated?Greatest hitter of his generation couldn’t crack BA’s top 40. One of the majors’ top 4 or 5 starters of the past half-decade Dan Haren: never top 100. Yadier Molina, never top 100, Placido Polanco, never top 100.

    Just sayin’. ;)

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