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St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects

Posted By Marc Hulet On November 19, 2009 @ 2:00 pm In Minor Leagues | 10 Comments

General Manager: John Mozeliak
Farm Director: Mike Girsch
Scouting Director: Jeff Luhnow

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

Honestly, this is a pretty barren system, in terms of can’t-miss, impact talent… but it does have its fair share of intriguing names. The organization’s minor-league talented has been gutted by trades, as well as the graduation of 2009 top prospect Colby Rasmus. The organization did select three very interesting names at the top of the draft in ’09, which helps provide a lifeline to the system.

1. Lance Lynn, RHP, double-A
DOB: May 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 supplemental 1st round – U of Mississippi
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Lynn doesn’t light up the radar gun, but he has a solid repertoire that he commands well, he does a relatively nice job of pounding the strike zone (this slipped a bit in double-A) and he’s a big, strong, durable guy. The right-hander doesn’t really project as a top-of-the-rotation starter, but he should be a solid No. 3 guy who could pitch a few years at the level of a No. 2. Lynn has had few problems with minor-league hitters in his career and he posted a 3.47 FIP in 126.1 double-A innings. He also does a great job of keeping the ball in the park; he allowed five homers in ’09 (0.30 HR/9). His ground-ball rate was just shy of 50%. Lynn has had some nicer strikeout numbers in the lower minors in small-sample sizes but the 6.98 K/9 in double-A is a little worrisome; he’s had success putting a lot of balls in play, but he’s also been helped by some lower BABIPs.

2. Jaime Garcia, LHP, triple-A
DOB: June 1986 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 22nd round – Texas HS
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

A number of top pitching prospects in the system have been derailed by injuries and Garcia has been no different. Bothered by elbow problems for the past few years, Garcia finally had elbow surgery and missed a good portion of the ’09 season. He returned in time to make nine appearances and he actually pitched quite well. In 21 triple-A innings, the left-hander struck out 22 batters in 21.0 innings of work. In the small-sample size, his control was improved over the previous few seasons, which was nice to see since a lot of pitchers struggle with their control after a long layoff. On the downside, Garcia allowed five homers at triple-A (2.14 HR/9). Along with his solid repertoire, the southpaw is also an extreme ground-ball pitcher and that continued in ’09 as he posted a 62.4 GB% in 51.0 combined innings. At the very latest, Garcia should be helping out the Cardinals by mid-2010.

3. Daryl Jones, OF, double-A
DOB: June 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 3rd round – Texas HS
MLB ETA: late-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

After teasing the organization with his potential in both 2006 and ’07, Jones broke out in ’08. His growth hit a bit of a wall in double-A in ’09 but he appeared in just 80 games due to injury. The outfielder hit .279/.360/.378 in 294 at-bats. His ISO fell by almost half to just .099 in ’09 his wOBA dropped from .410 to .343. After stealing 20+ bases in both ’07 and ’08, Jones managed just seven this past year in 11 attempts – and was on pace for fewer than 20 even without the missed time. Still just 22, Jones could head back to double-A in 2010 for the third time, or the organization could be aggressive with him and bump him up to triple-A. Because he hits left-handers well and should avoid the dreaded platoon, Jones has the potential to be an impact outfielder – especially if he can find his power stroke again.

4. Allen Craig, 3B/LF, triple-A
DOB: July 1984 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 8th round – U of California
MLB ETA: early-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

The hot corner has been a bit of an issue for St. Louis in recent years but the organization has a few prospects on the cusp of the Majors that are capable of playing third base. Craig is often overlooked but the 25-year-old infielder has quietly slugged 20+ homers in three straight seasons, while hitting above .300. In ’09 at triple-A, Craig hit .322/.374/.547 with an ISO of .225 in 472 at-bats. He was aided by a healthy .359 BABIP. If you want to nitpick on Craig’s stats, he could do a better job of getting on base if he took a few more free passes; he posted a walk rate of 7.3% in ’09. For a slugger, he does a nice job of limiting strikeouts and typically keeps his strikeout rate below 20.0%. After spending the majority of his minor-league career at the hot corner, Craig spent more time (71 games) in left field at triple-A. He also played 42 games at first base and just 13 at third base. He could be given consideration at third in the spring, but his value to the club may lie in his versatility.

5. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP, double-A
DOB: March 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted amateur free agent
MLB ETA: late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 91-96 mph fastball, curveball

Sanchez burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way in ’09. The formerly obscure relief prospect missed a lot of bats in both high-A and double-A by posting a strikeout rate just shy of 10.0%. He also showed improved control, although it did slip at times. The 20-year-old right-hander could see his fastball velocity jump even higher if he adds a little more bulk to his slender frame. Sanchez allowed just 32 hits in 50 double-A innings, but he posted a very low BABIP at .248, which is something he’s done consistently throughout his minor-league career. The right-hander dominates right-handed batters (.170 in ’09) but he also holds his own against left-handers (.202). For a hard-throwing reliever, Sanchez does a respectable job of keeping the ball on the ground with a ground-ball rate right around 50.0%.

6. Dan Descalso, IF, triple-A
DOB: October 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2007 3rd round – U of California-Davis
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Descalso, like Craig, could offer a lot of roster flexibility with his ability to play multiple positions. Mainly a second baseman, the left-handed hitter split ’09 between double-A and triple-A. At the lower level, he hit .323/.396/.531 (.356 BABIP) in 288 at-bats. At triple-A, he slipped to .253/.327/.320 (.283 BABIP) in 150 at-bats. Descalso’s numbers have been pretty inconsistent over his career; he’s shown flashes of hitting for average, as well as flashes of hitting for power. Because he’s done neither consistently, he could end up as a utility player. If the 23-year-old infielder can improve, though, he could be the long-term answer at second base, as he hits both left-handers and right-handers equally well.

7. Adam Reifer, RHP, high-A
DOB: June 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 11th round – U.C. Riverside
MLB ETA: mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 92-97 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Reifer is a step behind Sanchez in the race to provide late-inning support in St. Louis. The 23-year-old right-hander can hit the high-90s with his fastball and he had a solid year in high-A ball despite the misleading 4.47 ERA. Reifer posted a 3.53 FIP and had a strikeout rate of 9.31 K/9. He put a lot of men on base with a 4.47 BB/9 and with 51 hits allowed in 48.1, but he was victimized by a high BABIP at .362, as well as a poor LOB rate at 67.8%. If he can sharpen up his control, Reifer should settle into an eighth- or ninth-inning role in the Majors. To be a closer, he’ll need to improve his control when facing left-handed batters after posting a walk rate of 6.35 BB/9 against them in ’09.

8. David Freese, 3B, triple-A
DOB: April 1983 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 9th round – University of South Alabama (Drafted by San Diego)
MLB ETA: early 2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Freese is getting a little long-in-the-tooth for a prospect, but he signed out of college as a senior so he had a late start to his career. Injuries prevented him from seeing more time in the Majors in ’09 (31 at-bats) but he hit above .300 at every level that he played at this past season (including rehab time). At triple-A, Freese hit .300/.369/.525 in 200 at-bats. He posted a .225 ISO and has 20-25 home run potential. The right-handed hitter has shown a consistent ability to hit .300 in the minors, but he’s also been aided by some solid BABIPs. He might not be so lucky in the Majors, but that remains to be seen. All signs point to Freese being given the first shot at the third-base job in St. Louis in 2010, although Mark DeRosa could end up back with the Cardinals.

9. Bryan Anderson, C, triple-A
DOB: December 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2005 4th round – California HS
MLB ETA: late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It was an off-year for Anderson, who battled through injuries and did not hit as well as he had in the past. However, the catcher is still just 22 years old and he has a ton of potential. After showing consistent ability to hit .280-.300 in ’06 to ’08. Anderson slipped to .245/.293/.399 in 163 triple-A at-bats. His walk rate was also a disappointing 5.8% and he struck out at a rate of 25.8%, despite typically sitting below 20.0%. His defense has improved over the past few seasons but Anderson is not going to unseat Yadier Molina any time soon. He could end up backing up the incumbent, or Anderson could shift to another position, thanks to solid athleticism. He could also be used as trade bait once he’s shown he’s fully healthy.

10. Pete Kozma, 2B, double-A
DOB: April 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – Oklahoma HS
MLB ETA: mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Kozma barely hangs on as a Top 10 prospect, thanks to the exclusion of 2009 draft picks in this series. The former first round draft pick is currently living on reputation right now after hitting just .216/.288/.312 in 407 at-bats. After posting an .096 ISO and stealing just four bases, he needs to start doing something well if he’s going to avoid the dreaded utility label. Kozma was hurt by a low .262 BABIP in ’09. Just 21, 2010 will be a big year for Kozma who will likely repeat double-A in the hopes of finding his batting stroke; the 21.4% line-drive rate is encouraging.

A special thanks to both Erik Manning and Dan Budreika for their input on the Top 10 list.

Up Next: The Detroit Tigers


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