As has been the case in year’s past, I have five players that did not make the The Cardinal Nation top 40. Represented here is a possible late round find on the mound along with three examples of the Cardinals dedication to Latin America. The fifth is a superb athlete that is often overlooked by the team’s prospect watchers.
Reviewing my lists from years past, names like Tyler Henley, Tommy Pham, and Deryk Hooker stand out. All three of them were on this year’s site top 40 after only appearing in my personal top 40 in previous editions.
So who are some of the candidates? Those will be reviewed below along with a few players that I believe are sniffing around the perimeter of this list.
Following is the overall top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list. These bolded names may still be on the respective lists, but were ranked below where we drew the line, after number 40.
||Roberto De La Cruz
Alex Castellanos. Castellanos quietly put together an impressive season in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. In the final league stats, the former tenth round pick ranked in the top five in slugging, OPS, doubles, and home runs.
Originally drafted as an infielder, the 24-year-old has unfortunately moved to the outfield. Even so, his power potential and speed makes for an interesting tool set. At his age, he will have to put up a solid performance in 2011 or may get lost in the shuffle.
Amauris Capellan. The signing of Capellan might not have been as heralded as Roberto De La Cruz or Carlos Martinez but he offers quite a bit of power potential in a Raul Mondesi type frame.
A potential five-tool talent, the Dominican struggled in his first taste of professional baseball. But this ranking is based on potential. In a system barren of hitting prospects, Capellan should make his North American debut in 2011.
Kevin Thomas. Thomas will not overwhelm anyone on pure stuff but he will battle with good pitchability. The right-hander flourished after moving to the Palm Beach rotation and became one of the top starting pitchers in the Florida State League.
His fastball sits in the low nineties with two secondary pitches that have the potential to be above average. Thomas finished the season with a record of 10-2 and a 2.27 ERA. His win total was the fifth best in the Florida State League while his ERA would have been the top mark had he pitched enough innings to qualify.
Roberto De La Cruz. De La Cruz received a then team record $1.1 million bonus on July 2, 2008. Since that time, the Cardinals have brought along their prized third baseman slowly, something they knew they would have to do.
De La Cruz seemed to turn a corner in 2010 and finally began living up to his power potential. As an 18-year-old, he slugged .432 and led the Gulf Coast League with seven home runs.
There are still plenty of chinks in the armor, 46-to-7 strikeout-to walk ratio in 162 at bats but the organization knew he was rather raw. Considering this is only his second professional season, the Cardinals have to be happy with the early returns.
Javier Avendano. Avendano put together one of the most dominating performances in the Cardinals minor league system in 2010. Pitching as a 19-year-old, the only thing that slowed him down was an arm injury in mid-season. The Venezuelan struck out 52 in 40 innings while walking only 14.
Originally signed for $100,000, he throws in the high 80’s, low 90’s with developing secondary stuff. With a strong spring, I could see Avendano working himself into the plans at the Quad Cities.
2011 Breakout Candidates
A possible late round find in the 2009 draft, C.J. Beatty is an interesting prospect with above average speed and good baseball instincts. Beatty shows good polish at the plate and good pitch recognition. In his first full season in professional baseball, the 22-year-old posted an OPS of .778 in two pitcher friendly leagues, the Midwest and Florida State.
Coming off a shoulder injury, I am not sure how much was expected out of Jonathan Rodriguez, especially from a power standpoint. Playing most of the season as a 20-year-old, he showed exciting power potential at Batavia, slugging .500 and hitting 12 home runs, the third best total in the New York-Penn League.
Though he was promoted in July, Xavier Scruggs finished tied for fifth in the FSL in home runs. Add the eight home runs he hit in Springfield and Scruggs finished with an impressive 21 on the season. With the power does come the swing and miss, as the 23-year-old finished with 143 strikeouts in 120 games. In a system lacking in power prospects, Scruggs makes for the most interesting one at the higher levels.
Brett Zawacki has appeared on my lists in the past until injuries slowed down his progression. Drafted the same year as Deryk Hooker, the 21-year-old pitched admirably during his first exposure to the Florida State League. With solid average stuff that has the potential to grade out above average, the Illinois native should put up better numbers as his fastball command improves.
Cesar Valera reminds me of organizational shortstop Yunier Castillo but is much more toolsy. Though he might not have Castillo’s defensive prowess, Valera can handle himself at the plate.
Valera shows good pitch recognition and developing plate discipline. He should develop power as he adds bulk to his long lanky frame. He has a strong arm and should be able to stay at the shortstop development. Only 18, a repeat of Johnson City would be reasonable in 2011.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2011 and read about each individual player, click here. You can also learn more about each of the voters’ philosophies in making their selections and much more.
Next up: This article series continues as the other voters, Brian Walton and the message board community, highlight the players on their individual lists that did not make the combined top 40. We wrap it up with our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, and finally, a dive into the numbers behind the top 40.
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Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter.
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