Cards prospects make quick impact

Cards prospects make quick impact

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

Sometimes the success of an entire organization is tied to how its top prospect performs, particularly when that prospect is one of the best in the Minors.

So the fact that Colby Rasmus had a disappointing, injury-interrupted campaign could unfairly color the assessment of the St. Louis Cardinals system. That would be a shame because there's a lot for Cardinals fans to hang their hat on other than Rasmus, who, by the way, still is uber-talented and will show it when he's 100 percent healthy.

Every Cardinals affiliate finished over .500 during the 2008 season. The Batavia Muckdogs won the New York-Penn League title, and the Palm Beach Cardinals made it to the Florida State League playoffs. Several of the strong-armed pitchers in the system moved up, and many made contributions in St. Louis.

Once a system without impact prospects other than Rasmus, the 2008 Draft brought in Brett Wallace, who made it to Double-A in his first summer and should join Rasmus and those arms in a line to St. Louis soon.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com Preseason Picks

Allen Craig, 3B: We predicted a higher average and more power from Craig in his second full season. We weren't quite right, though Craig did have a very productive year with Double-A Springfield. He hit .304 -- 11 points lower than the previous season -- and his 22 homers were two off from his 2007 total. Still, we don't think anyone was complaining.
Craig rips an RBI double

Clayton Mortensen, RHP: We thought the Gonzaga product would spend time at multiple levels and be knocking at the big-league door in his first full season of pro ball. He did indeed reach Triple-A, making 15 appearances there. The bad news is he had a 5.51 ERA in that span and went 8-10 with a 4.96 ERA for the season.
Mortensen strikes out his eighth batter


•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

MLB.com Postseason Picks

David Freese, 3B: It seemed like a blip on the transaction wire at the time, when the unknown Minor Leaguer came to the organization for veteran Jim Edmonds last December. He was 24 and hadn't played above A-ball. The Cards jumped him over Double-A to Triple-A Memphis at age 25 and he took off, hitting .306 and slugging .550 with 26 homers and 91 RBIs. Suddenly the senior who was taken in the ninth round of 2006 is a legitimate prospect knocking on the door.
Freese cranks a two-run homer

Jess Todd, RHP: What a first full season for the second rounder. He began the season in the Florida State League and ended it two levels up with Triple-A Memphis. Along the way, he was named to the Texas League All-Star team and Futures Game, finished second in the organization in ERA (2.88) and strikeouts (136) while holding hitters to a .213 average.
Todd takes a one-hitter through seven innings

Climbed the Ladder

Mitchell Boggs, RHP: The durable right-hander took the next step up the ladder in the system, spending most of the season with Memphis. The Georgia product went 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 21 Triple-A starts, between making eight appearances -- six starts -- with St. Louis. That was an uneven experience, at best, but he should get a shot to crack the Cardinals rotation in 2009.
Boggs racks up his 10th K

Daryl Jones, OF: Who saw this coming? Clearly the Cardinals did. The 2005 third-rounder had struggled mightily in 2007 with Quad Cities, hitting .217. The organization moved him up to Palm Beach and things started clicking. Jones hit .326 over 87 games in the FSL, making the All-Star team in the process. He got moved up to Double-A in July and, after taking some time to adjust, hit .319 in August. For the year, he hit .316 with 13 homers, 24 steals and a .407 OBP. He's just 21, so who knows what the ceiling is here.
Jones hits a three-run blast

Joe Mather, OF: Mather proved that his 2007 breakout was no fluke. He hit .303 with a 1.041 OPS in 59 games for Triple-A Memphis and spent much of the season riding the shuttle between there and St. Louis. He never really got it going as a big-league outfielder, though he did hit eight homers in 133 at-bats.
Mather cranks a walk-off homer

Jason Motte, RHP: Score one for conversions. A couple of years ago he was a catcher with a strong arm. Now he's a reliever with an upper-90s fastball and a slider. He used it to strike out 110 Triple-A hitters while walking only 26 in 66 2/3 innings. It worked even better for him in 11 big-league innings, where he gave up just five hits and one earned run while striking out 16. Could a job as a big-league closer come soon?
Motte strikes out the side for the save

Jess Todd, RHP: After seven outings in the Florida State League, Todd spent most of the season in the supposedly hitter-friendly Texas League and had a 2.97 ERA in 103 innings. That led to four starts in Triple-A and a 3.97 ERA there. Add it all together and the Cardinals have a starter who appears poised to contribute in the big leagues in 2009.

Kept Their Footing

Bryan Anderson, C: Anderson had to go back to Double-A to start the year, but after hitting .388 in 19 games, he moved up to Triple-A, where he hit .281 over 235 at-bats, allowing him to finish at .308 for the year while being named to his second straight Futures Game. And he did it all at age 21. Why, then, isn't he in "Climbed the Ladder?" Perhaps he should be, but he's rarely mentioned as a top catching prospect and in many ways, fairly or not, has maintained his status. He'll have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
Anderson hits his third single of the night

Tyler Herron, RHP: Things started off well enough for Herron as he had a 3.00 April ERA in a swing role in Palm Beach. Then he got moved up to Double-A and things didn't go as well. The right-hander went 5-5 with a 5.20 ERA and ended up back in Palm Beach. To his credit, he pitched well there, with a 2.43 ERA in five August starts. He'll be just 22 for most of the 2009 season, plenty of time for him to give Double-A another try.

Pete Kozma, SS: The No. 18 overall pick in the 2007 Draft, Kozma got off to a fast start, hitting .341 in April. He then slumped badly in May before righting himself. He made the Midwest League All-Star team, hitting .284 with a respectable .363 OBP and 12 steals in 99 games. He earned a late promotion to Palm Beach, which was a real challenge, and Kozma struggled hitting .130 over 24 games. The other parts of his offensive game will have to develop, but for a high schooler after his first full season, he's about where he should be.
Kozma singles in the Midwest League All-Star Game

Colby Rasmus, OF: A player with less talent may have been placed in "Slipped a Rung," but Rasmus stays here with the faith that when healthy, he'll bounce back. The 2005 first-rounder struggled with a sprained knee this past season, enabling him to get just 331 at-bats in Triple-A (and 18 more rehabbing). He hit .252 in 96 total games with 12 homers. He stole 15 bases even with the knee trouble. He'll play all year at age 22 and, if healthy, he'll start putting up the big numbers again.
Rasmus blasts a solo shot

Slipped a Rung

Jaime Garcia, LHP: This one may not seem all that fair. After all, he came back from elbow soreness that shut him down in 2007, started off strong in Springfield, got bumped up to Memphis and pitched well enough to get up to the big leagues just after his 22nd birthday. But -- there's always a but, isn't there? -- Garcia got shut down at the end of August, again with an elbow problem. This time, he couldn't rehab it and had Tommy John surgery in early September. He'll miss the 2009 season as a result.

Mark Hamilton, 1B: Hamilton's season ended early with a broken wrist after 70 games. Before he got hurt, though, his production dropped in just about every area. He hit .241 over 245 at-bats with just a .722 OPS. Now he'll have to see how he can bounce back from a wrist injury when his best tool is his power.

Adam Ottavino, RHP: After jumping on the fast track by going straight to Palm Beach in his first full season -- and pitching well there -- the move up to Double-A wasn't as big of a success. The big right-hander posted a 5.23 ERA in 24 starts. He did perform better in the second half (4.09 ERA vs. 7.17 in the first half), but those aren't the numbers you hope to see from a first-round pick. Perhaps some work in the Arizona Fall League will help him figure some things out and have him headed back in the right direction in 2009.

On the Radar

Nick Additon, LHP: The 20-year-old draft-and-follow showed that a strong first pro summer wasn't a fluke. Spending most of the year with Quad Cities, but making three outstanding starts at the end of the year up in Palm Beach, the lefty was a legitimate Organizational Pitcher of the Year candidate after going 11-5 with a 2.23 ERA. Over 137 innings, he gave up just 103 hits (.208 average against) while striking out 121 and walking 40.
Additon takes a one-hitter through seven frames

David Freese, 3B: The Pacific Coast League is known to be a good one for hitters, and Freese was one of the best in 2008. He was decent in the first half of the season (.277/.338/.493), then just went off in the second, hitting .360 over 164 at-bats to go along with a .403 OBP and .652 SLG.

Jon Jay, OF: The 2006 second-rounder had a tough first full season, hitting just .265 in 59 games. The University of Miami product bounced back big-time in 2008, hitting .312 in 112 games across two levels, making the Texas League All-Star team and finishing in Triple-A. He hit a somewhat surprising 12 homers and had a .382 OBP to put himself back on the map.
Jay plates five runs

Nick Stavinoha, OF: Taken as a senior out of LSU back in 2005, Stavinoha really put it all together in his second season with Memphis. The 26-year-old hit .337 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs, finishing with a .518 SLG and getting his first call-up to the bigs. Granted, he hit just .193 in 57 ABs there, but he may have worked himself into the Cardinals' outfield picture for 2009.
Stavinoha rips a bases-clearing single

2008 Draft Recap

1. Brett Wallace, 3B: Talk about fast track. The ASU product went straight to Quad Cities and hit .327 over 41 games there. Then he got jumped up to Double-A and hit .367 in 13 games with Springfield. Combined, Wallace hit .337 with a .427 OBP and .530 SLG in 202 at-bats. He headed to the Arizona Fall League largely to work on his defense at the hot corner, but there's little doubt his bat will get him to the bigs quickly.
Wallace wallpos a three-run homer

2. Lance Lynn, RHP: Lynn got off to a good start in his pro debut, allowing just two earned runs over 18 2/3 innings with Batavia in the NY-Penn League. He made two outings up a level with Quad Cities before being shut down with forearm tightness in August. Combined, the Ole Miss right-hander taken in the sandwich round had a 1.35 ERA, a .204 average against and 29 Ks in 26 2/3 innings.
Lynn strikes out the side

3. Shane Peterson, OF: The second-rounder out of Long Beach State hit .291 with a .400 OBP for Batavia, finishing third in the league in on-base percentage. He was a NY-Penn League All-Star who helped the Muckdogs win the league title by going 9-for-22 (.409) in the postseason.
Peterson puts a two-run shot over the wall

Others of Note: The Cards signed 29 of their first 30 selections. ... SS Niko Vazquez (third round) enjoyed the Appalachian League, hitting .317 with Johnson City over 208 at-bats. A bump up to Quad Cities was tough for the teenager, as he hit .128 in 11 games there. ... RHP Scott Gorgen had a 2.32 ERA with 60 Ks in 54 1/3 IP for Batavia. ... OF Jermaine Curtis (fifth round) was a NY-Penn League All-Star, hitting .305 in 43 games for Batavia. ... RHP Eric Fornataro (sixth round) had a 1.89 ERA and held hitters to a .216 average in 38 innings between the GCL and Appy League. ... IF Alex Castellanos (10th round) hit .298 and slugged .536 for Johnson City, then moved up to Batavia and went 7-for-26 there. ... C Charles Cutler (14th round) made the NY-Penn League All-Star team by hitting .303 in 40 games. He then went 9-for-19 (.474) during Batavia's playoff run. ... RHP Miguel Flores (16th round) was outstanding in the GCL and briefly in the Appy League, posting a 2.66 ERA over 44 IP. ... IF Colt Sedbrook (22nd round) was also a NY-Penn League All-Star, hitting .305 and stealing 13 bases in 71 games for Batavia. ... 2B Brett Lilley hit .312 with a .429 OBP in 51 games between Johnson City and Batavia. ... C Jack Cawley (34th round) hit .330 with a .426 OBP in 33 games for Johnson City. ... 1B Curt Smith (39th round) hit .378 with eight homers and a .585 SLG in 47 games for Johnson City.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.