St. Louis Cardinals Top-15 Prospects of 2009, No’s 1 – 5
For an overview of the process used to grade players, the factors used to determine where a player ranks, and other frequently asked questions, please click here. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the start of the season. If you disagree, you can make your case by contacting me or you can make a comment below at the bottom of the page.
You can find a full listing of each team’s top prospect list in the Top Prospect List Archive Page. Also, each team will have their Team Page published when their top prospect list becomes available. Team pages include team rosters, stats, payroll and front office information, past Baseball-Intellect articles related to that team, and links to some of the team’s best fan sites. Moving onto the St. Louis Cardinals…
*Note – Chris Perez is not eligible for this list under my own cut off points. The cut off limit for relievers is 25 MLB innings and Perez has over 40.
Also See: St. Louis Cardinals, Prospects 6 – 15
1. Colby Rasmus | CF | B – L | Triple-A Memphis | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 1 (28), 2005
Body Type – lean and athletic with the potential for more muscle
Rasmus is a true 5-tool player with a unique blend of power, speed, patience, and defense. He’s got a pretty swing in which the ball jumps off his bat when contact is made. His instincts and speed allow him to track down balls many center fielders can’t get to and even if he doesn’t hit, his defense will almost certainly give him value at the major league level.
Rasmus is not without weaknesses, however. He really battled himself last year as he got off to a terrible start in Triple-A. Just as he was getting out of his slump, injury struck and his season was lost.
Rasmus is known to be a slow starter, but he struggles against lefties and is vulnerable against good breaking stuff where he doesn’t make hard contact even though he does an OK job of recognizing those pitches.
Rasmus made an adjustment to his set up during the middle of last year. He started in a more upright position, appearing taller in the box. I know Aubrey Huff used a similar adjustment and he said he was able to see the ball better…when he got his pitch to hit, he had a much easier time driving the ball. One difference was that Huff also moved his hands higher, while Rasmus essentially maintained the same hand position.
Rasmus went back to the set up up with more bend at the knees, but he’s employing a smaller leg kick this year. The Spring Training Rasmus is on the left, while the 2008 Rasmus is on the right:
*Credit to MLB Advanced Media
One thing I want to point out in regards to Rasmus’ swing…take note of how long he stays closed for. The best hitters are able to wait until the last possible moment to unload on the ball, indicating an elite level of bat speed. Rasmus displays this type of ability.
Rasmus will look to avoid the slow start that has plagued him in the past. With Rink Ankiel manning center, Rasmus will get time at the corner spots (though it makes more sense to put Rasmus in center where he offers more range than Ankiel). Still, St. Louis will have a dynamic defensive outfield for fans to look forward to next year.
Best Case Outcome – Top-3 center fielder
More Likely Outcome – Top-10 center fielder
2. Brett Wallace | 3b | B – L | Springfield (AA) | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 1 (13), 2008
I compiled a scouting report on Wallace last Summer, which you can read here. He blew through the Midwest League and then put up a gaudy 1.109 OPS in just 43 ABs in Double-A. Wallace definitely knows how to handle the bat. He should hit for average, post high OBPs, and while he probably won’t have upper level power, it should be solidly above average.
Defense is still a big question mark and many think he’ll have to move off third eventually, but for now he stays at third, where his bat holds the most value.
Best Case Outcome – Top-10 first baseman or top-5 third baseman
More Likely Outcome – Top-15 first baseman or top-10 third baseman
3. Daryl Jones | OF | B – L | Double-A Springfield | Age – 21 | Drafted – Round 3, 2005
Body Type – pretty small, but an excellent athlete…after Rasmus, Jones is the best athlete in the system
Jones has always been viewed on what he could become rather than on what he is. He flashed his potential in 2006 and I’m sure the expectations were high heading into 2007. However, Jones bombed in his first try at full-season ball. He posted a .599 OPS with just an .079 ISO-power.
The other peripherals looked OK for Jones, however. His K% was high, but not high enough to warrant major concern. He also walked a solid amount and his BABIP of .271 definitely indicated a lack of luck.
Despite his struggles, the Cardinals promoted Jones to A+ Palm Beach in 2008 and he thrived. His power almost doubled in output and his luck went a completely different direction. He posted a .399 BABIP, which is almost certainly unsustainable. It wasn’t all luck, however. A lot of the ground balls he hit in 06′ turned into line drives. He also increased his walks slightly, while essentially maintaing the same K%. Even better, when Jones was promoted to Double-A, he saw both his power and BB% again jump another level.
Jones’ power is still developing. I haven’t been able to track down any recent video of Jones to determine if there were any changes to his swing mechanics that helped him transform into a better hitter, but we do know Jones improved his plate discipline by waiting on pitches that he would be better able to drive.
Jones still has some kinks to work out…he needs to make more contact, work on his pitch selection, and in the process, hopefully increase his power production.
Jones has above average speed and good range in center though he needs to work on his reads. He can play all three outfield spots. His future in St. Louis will almost certainly be relegated to a corner outfield spot with Rasmus ahead of him on the depth chart, which lowers his overall value.
Best Case Outcome – Top-10 center fielder or above average corner outfielder
More Likely Outcome – Above average center fielder or average offensive corner outfielder
4. David Freese | 3b | B – R | Triple-A Memphis | Age – 26 | Drafted – Round 9, 2006
Freese was able to improve his production in 2008 even after jumping two levels of competition. His walks took a hit and his strikeouts rose, but he improved his power output significantly. Freese was able to lift the ball a bit more than he had in the past and he was able to turn what were a few doubles and triples in 2007 into homeruns in 2008.
The Cardinals are rich in third base prospects, but Freese is the best defensive player of the bunch. He has great hands, a strong arm, and good anticipation to make over for solid, but not great range. According to the system used by Minor League Splits, Freese saved 25 runs per 150 games on defense the past two years. Saving 25 runs is roughly equal to about 2.5 wins, which is no insignificant amount.
Freese missed over a month of Spring Training because of an Achilles’ tendon injury, but raked upon his return while his competition, Joe Mather, tanked. As a result, Freese won the Cardinals’ third base job viewed as Troy Glaus recovers from shoulder surgery.
I do think Freese can be an everyday player at third base…a line of .280/.330/460/.790 isn’t unreasonable and if you combine that with very good defense, that makes Freese an average everyday third baseman…maybe even a little above average. However, the pressure is on for Freese to produce. The team has plenty of talent behind him and as an older prospect, he’s not going to get much of a chance to breakout of an extended slump.
Best Case Outcome – Average, maybe slightly above average everyday third baseman
More Likely Outcome – Very good four-corner bench player…he’ll probably provide the Cardinals the most value in this position.
5. Jason Motte | RHP | Triple-A Memphis | Age – 26 | Drafted – Round 19, 2003
For a scouting report on Motte, please click here to read the piece I published for Future Redbirds…
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Also See: St. Louis Cardinals Team Page
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