Without a doubt this is a list in flux, and I presume that’s the case for more folks than just yours truly.
Last season’s list bore little resemblance to what it would’ve been in mid-July of this season, and neither of those would match with the list below. Even my late posting of this list has altered it, following the strange and ongoing Wagner Mateo ordeal.
It’s been a wild season for Cardinal prospect watchers. That said, here is our list of the Top 7 Cardinal Prospects.
1. Shelby Miller
Miller represents the highest ceiling starting pitcher the Cardinals have had in their minor league system since Adam Wainwright was recalled, and the first drafted by the club in a long time.
Miller showed remarkable poise for a high school draftee in a couple of short outings with Quad Cities at the end of this season, and he will start next season with the River Bandits.
Miller’s signing represented a strong statement by the club, indicating they continue to be serious about growing from within and that they feel they now have the organizational depth to start making a few more risky draft selections – the high-ceiling, high-risk guys.
2. Jaime Garcia
Coming back from Tommy John surgery in late season, Garcia certainly impressed in helping lead the Memphis Redbirds to the AAA Pacific Coast League title.
While Garcia still seems to have plenty of off-season work ahead of him to complete his return from the elbow surgery, he is the most likely candidate from this group to have a real impact on the 2010 Cardinals.
3. Daryl Jones
DJ Tools had a rough go in 2009, battling injury and continuing his adjustment to moving through the organization so quickly. With a couple spots possibly available in the St. Louis outfield as early as 2010, could a good spring land Jones with the big club? Organization continues to be very high on his raw athletic ability and potential as a multi-faceted outfielder (and the cost-controlled factor isn’t overlooked either).
4. David Freese
Folks, we have yet another example why major sports clubs include “activity clauses” in their contracts with big dollar investments and/or their key players. A car accident leading up to this season quickly shuffled Freese from perhaps the spring favorite to win the third base job to quickly forgotten in St. Louis. Freese toughed it out through spring and early season with the Cardinals, only to find himself battling back in Memphis for the remainder of the season. A September call-up can hopefully salvage this season as a learning experience for Freese, who is running out of time to be considered a “prospect”. Could again be the third base favorite in 2010 depending on what the team does with free agent Mark DeRosa.
5. Allen Craig
Craig, in my view, has become the organization’s new Brett Wallace. The guy can clearly mash, he put up big numbers in Memphis this season despite some rough patches. But where does he fit in the field? He’s certainly not going to unseat the incumbent at first base. Word is that the organization doesn’t consider him a third baseman. Does his bat play enough to stick him in left field and endure the learning curve out there? Maybe not having any relatives on the staff can buy him some time to get comfortable enough in the outfield that thirty home runs per season will make the rest go away. But maybe not.
6. Eduardo Sanchez
With rumors floating around in August that this guy should be called up to the big club straight from Springfield, how could he not make this list? Sanchez represents the “next big thing” on the right-handed relief sheet for the Cardinals, perhaps destined to take over the “Closer of the Future” role now that Chris Perez is gone and Jason Motte appears to be better suited in a different position in the ‘pen. Another season or two of fine tuning in the minors and one under the tutelage of Ryan Franklin during his final contract year could position Sanchez well to be the ninth inning guy come 2012.
7. Lance Lynn
What’s not to like about Lynn so far? Much was made of the lack of a potential “elite starting pitcher” in the Cards’ organization prior to the selection of Shelby Miller, but lest we forget that championships can often be won and lost with the guys who will quietly go 14-8 and throw 200-plus innings per season. There is nothing flashy about Lynn, but he is built – both body and mind – like a #4 to #5 type of starter that will chew up innings year in and year out without concern of overwork or injury. Time will tell with the former Ole Miss Rebel, but early returns are positive.
Despite the trade deadline moves and the loss of Mateo, I still see plenty to like about the Cardinal organization of the future. Jeff Luhnow and his team have positioned the club well to succeed both with trade capital and crucial pieces to the puzzle that won’t cost the big league club an arm and a leg contract-wise.
Lest I try to pass this off as gospel (particularly since I’m about two weeks late with this post), you should check out the other Top 7 lists at United Cardinal Bloggers.