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Staring Straight Ahead: the Cardinals Farm System

The St. Louis Cardinals have had ten different players make their Major League debuts this season. That was the plan way back in March: see what the future holds. The only logical way to do that is to have the rookies play a big role in the team.

These rookies are known to Cardinals fans by their names: Jaime Garcia, Kyle McClellan, Mark Worrell, Chris Perez, Mike Parisi, Mitchell Boggs, Nick Stavinoha, Joe Mather, Brian Barton, and Rico Washington.

Of course, they’re also known by another name: the Memphis Mafia.

What this mafia has proven is that the Cardinals farm system is definitely improved and will soon be providing dividends for years to come.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the young players that will be making a name for themselves in the coming years. The way this will work, is I’ll name some players. Next to the players, I’ll put a year by their name, which is the year I guess they will make their debuts. There will also be a short description of the player.

Any player that has made their Major League debut in 2008 will not be included. And, there will be a special surprise at the end of the article.

Colby Rasmus OF 2008 (2009)

There can’t be an article on Cardinals prospects without this young man being included. Rasmus is the top prospect of the organization, and could make his debut with a September call-up. More than likely, he’ll open 2009 as a starting outfielder for the Cardinals.

Rasmus hits from the left side and is a superb defender. He hits for average and power (25 home run threat), plus he’ll steal about 15 bases a year.

Brett Wallace 3B 2010

Wallace was drafted this past June and is already at Double A Springfield. He certainly is on the fast track to the Majors. With his emergence in the system and his ability to play third base well, he has officially made Allen Craig and David Freese expandable.

Wallace hits for a very good average, for a lot of power (30 home run threat), and is an Albert Pujols type player when it comes to patience. He’ll get a ton of walks, while striking out little. The 2010 season looks like a reasonable time for him to arrive at The Show, given Troy Glaus’ pending free agency at the end of 2009.

Darryl Jones OF 2011

Jones is drawing rave reviews from everyone you talk to. Drafted out of high school in 2005, Jones never really found his stride. He was trying to get acclimated to professional life in 2005, and in 2006 he had a hamstring issue and was limited to 46 games.

In 2008, he has emerged as a top flight prospect. One, who I might add, have people wondering if in fact Rasmus is the Cardinals top prospect.

Jones has been compared to a left handed Rickey Henderson, with his above average power (10-15 home run threat) and blazing speed. Just how fast is he? He is rated as the fastest prospect the Cardinals have and is 23 out of 29 in steal attempts this season.

He currently is the left fielder for the Springfield Cardinals, but that could soon change. He’s looking at a 2011 debut due to several things. He’ll need to spend another half season at Springfield before moving up to Memphis. He could certainly see time in 2010, but 2011 is more likely due to seasoning he’ll need.

Jess Todd RHP 2010

Todd is one amazing talent. He was drafted in the second round of last year’s draft, and was thought to be a relief pitcher in the making. Well, we all know about those experts who predict anything with the Cardinals…

Todd was named an All-Star for the Palm Beach Cardinals, and then again with the Springfield Cardinals. That’s right, two All-Star selections at two levels in the same year. That’s almost unheard of. He also earned himself a Futures Game selection.

Spread apart three levels this season (High Class A, Class AA, and Class AAA), Todd has posted some amazing numbers. He is 8-5 with a 2.66 earned run average (ERA) in 27 games (23 starts). He has thrown 149 innings, while walking 38 versus 132 strikeouts. Now, those are numbers.

Did I mention he’s at Memphis right now at the age of 22? With his 2.41 ERA in three Class AAA starts, he’s looking more and more like a future ace in the making.

Clayton Mortenson RHP 2010

Mortenson has the best sinker you will see in your life. He is definitely going to be one of Dave Duncan’s favorite pitchers. Mortenson throws the sinker for strikes and gets the groundball outs.

The problem? He’s gone through the system a little too quickly. At 23, you would think he’s right about where he should be in a system, but he, like Todd, was drafted last year.

Mortenson will be an intriguing prospect. If he can turn it around in Spring Training this year, he’ll be one of the young guns you want to watch.

Nick Addition LHP 2011

Drafted out of high school in 2006, Addition is a Tom Glavine in the making…though no one expects him to be as good. Addition doesn’t throw hard at all. In fact, his fastball tops out at about 88 or 89 miles per hour (MPH).

How is he a top prospect? He has some of the nastiest off-speed stuff you will ever see. He changes speeds extremely well and keeps the batters off balanced with his curveball and changeup. He’ll be one of the prospects you have to watch and could be a break out candidate in 2009.

Jason Motte RHP 2008 (2009)

Motte is a converted catcher. He couldn’t hit a lick, but he was very good defensively. Now? He’s a can’t-miss relief prospect with a 97 MPH fastball. He also has a slider, though it is a work in process. He’s on the 40 man roster and could be added as a September call-up.

Mix Motte with Tyler Johnson and Perez in the back end of the bullpen, and the Cardinals won’t have to worry about the end of the game anymore. Johnson has one of the sickest sliders known to man, which will come in very handy. Throw Motte out there and his 97 MPH gas, he’ll keep the batters off balance. Switching from a slider to gas, and you can’t get your timing.

In comes Perez, and he’ll throw 97 MPH at you as well. Plus, he’ll throw his sick slider on you too. Talk about lights out. That has some true possibilities.

Jon Jay OF 2009

Jay is a real talent. Not only is he super quick on the base paths, he hits for above average power (10-15 home runs). He’ll hit over .300 and be a more than adequate leadoff man. Don’t be surprised if Jay has a breakout spring in 2009 and breaks camp with the big league team.

David Freese 3B 2009

Freese came over from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jim Edmonds (bet the Padres really hate that trade now). He has hit 25 home runs already for the Memphis Redbirds and proves to be a viable power hitter in the Majors.

He’s good on the defense side of life and should be an above-average third baseman. Like I said earlier, Wallace has made Freese expandable. He’s too big to play second, so it should be interesting to see what the Cardinals do in the offseason with Freese.

Shaun Graceau RHP 2011

Graceau has a funky last name, but don’t let that fool you, he’s a good talent. He started year at Class A Quad Cities, and is going to finish the year at High Class A Palm Beach. He’s a right handed starter and looks to be a back end starter in his future. Don’t let this guy sleep on you, as he could be a prime candidate for a breakout season.

Pete Kozma SS 2011

Kozma started the year at Quad Cities and was bumped up to Palm Beach at the start of August. He hit .284 at Quad Cities and had good defense. He’s gotten off to a rocky start at Palm Beach, but if he finishes strong and has a good showing in Spring Training, he could start 2009 at Springfield.

Though Kozma was the first round pick of the Cardinals in 2007, he looks to be moving to second base in the future. It’s not that he can’t play short, don’t get the wrong idea. He’ll move because the Cardinals have some young shortstops in the Rookie League that look good and have high ceilings. Plus, his numbers look more second base like.

Lance Lynn RHP 2010

Lynn was a first round pick in 2008 (compensation round) and has proven to be a good pickup. So far, he is 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in eight games (six starts). He has thrown 26 2/3 innings and has walked six, compared to, get this, 29 strikeouts. Yeah, he’s really that good.

Though he’s being stretched out as a starter, his best bet will probably be in the bullpen, as the Cardinals have a lot of good looking starters coming through the system. Another reason why he should go to the ‘pen is because he has very good stuff. He could be a very reliable setup man in the near future, or a #3 starter a year later.

 

Ok, now it’s time for that special treat I said I’d give you. The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals roster:

LF - Darryl Jones
SS - Tyler Greene
1B - Albert Pujols
3B – Brett Wallace
CF – Colby Rasmus
C – Yadier Molina
2B – Pete Kozma
RF – Jon Jay

Bench: C Bryan Anderson, OF Joe Mather, OF Shane Robinson, IF Brendan Ryan, INF Donovan Solano

SP – Adam Wainwright
SP – Kyle McClellan
SP – Jaime Garcia
SP – Jess Todd
SP – Clay Mortenson

LHP – Nick Addition
LHP – Tyler Johnson
RHP – Lance Lynn
RHP – Mark Worrell
RHP – Luis Perdomo
SU – Jason Motte
CL – Chris Perez

That looks pretty good, in my opinion. The 2008 season has been a good start on the long and winding road of rebuilding the farm system, but there’s still a long way to go. The 2009 season should be a better season than 2008 by a mile, and 2010 will be even better.

It’s been a long and difficult journey, but it’s paying off big time now. As you can see in my 2012 roster, it’ll be well worth it in a matter of a few years.

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