Editor’s note: Check back here through November 25 as our local writers call out the top players – starter, reliever and position player - at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. We’ll conclude the series with the top three players across the entire organization – our 2007 Scout.com Cardinals Players of the Year.
Gulf Coast League
Who better to ask than Cardinals Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow as to his picks as the organization’s top players in their initial season in the Gulf Coast League? After all, he and his staff saw these players in action frequently, much more so than any of us.
“(Outfielder) D’Marcus Ingram probably deserves some consideration, but there were several good performances. The Gonzalez duo (Carlos and Reynier) deserve some consideration among the pitchers,” Luhnow offered.
So, there you have it! Those three are our 2007 GCL Cardinals Position Player, Starting Pitcher and Reliever of the Year.
The speedster Ingram, 19, led the club in several categories, including stolen bases with 17 (in 22 attempts), batting average at .325 and OBP at .430. Most impressively, he walked more often than striking out (19 vs. 15).
On the downside, 35 of his 39 hits were singles, with the others doubles. Ingram had been taken in the 25th round of the 2006 draft and was signed this May after attending Pensacola Junior College as one of the final draft-and-follows before the rules changes went into effect.
The slight of build (6-foot-3, 145 pound) Carlos Gonzalez posted a 2.94 ERA in 49 innings-pitched. The then-18-year-old Panamanian right-hander’s walks-and-hits-per-inning-pitched (WHIP) was a stellar 1.12. Carlos struck out 47 and walked just 16 and opposing hitters managed to hit just .217 against him.
Reynier Gonzalez, who was promoted to Johnson City for his final three games, allowed just four earned runs in 35 2/3 GCL innings for a 1.01 ERA. The then-18-year-old right-hander’s WHIP was a solid 1.26 and he fanned 34 and walked 14. Opponents batted .238 against the Venezuelan native.
Among the other GCL players whose results caught my eye are first baseman Osvaldo Morales, catcher Luis De La Cruz, outfielder Edgar Lara and pitcher Deryk Hooker.
“This is a good list,” Luhnow agreed, but he also included others. “I would definitely add Andres Rosales, Pablo Ortiz, Braulio Torribio, Michael Blazek and Hector Cardenas, though.”
Luhnow added two more who may not have remained at any level long enough to be called out otherwise. “Some players who didn’t stay too long but had success were Joey Hage and Tony Cruz,” he offered.
The outfielder Hage started hot in limited GCL action, but cooled with the bat dramatically at Johnson City (.203). Third baseman Cruz hit a combined .299 at four levels, with the most action seen with Quad Cities.
Note: Scout.com subscribers can click on the link below to read more of Jeff Luhnow’s comments about the 2007 Gulf Coast League Cardinals in our 2007 season recap here.
Dominican Summer League
Luhnow acknowledged several of his standout hitters as contenders for the team’s top position player. “Juan Mosquera (SS), Edwin Gomez (OF/IF), and Juan Castillo (C) all deserve consideration for the MVP among position players,” he explained.
Luhnow discusses our winner, Juan Mosquera. “Mosquera is from Panama and he works for everything he gets. He is a high energy player who doesn’t wow you with his tools but he gets the job done. From the day I tried him out on a dusty, hot field in Panama City to now he has progressed.
“He communicates via email with (director of college scouting) Dan Kantrovitz regularly as they formed a special bond when Dan went over to the DR to coach last summer. Every time I see him he asks me about Dan,” the farm director explained.
Mosquera, 19, led his club in stolen bases with 18 (though he was also caught ten times), walks with 51 (second-most in the DSL), average at .299 and OBP at .484 –best in the entire league. It was quite an improvement over the switch-hitter’s 2006 line with the same club of .152/.271/.174 (BA/OBP/SLG).
Luhnow makes his call on the top arms. “For the best pitcher, it is between the four guys we sent to the Instructional League - Angel Tapia, Randy Santos, Arquimedes Nieto and Ramon Urena.
“I’d give the nod to Nieto (another Panamanian) due to his strikeout to walk ratio (which is my favorite pitching stat). The staff there considers Tapia to be the best prospect. All figure to be in the US for extended spring training (in 2008),” Luhnow forecasted.
Nieto receives our award as top DSL starter with Tapia the reliever of the year.
Nieto fanned 56 in 59 1/3 innings and walked just 13. His ERA was 2.73 and WHIP 1.16. The 18-year-old right-hander held opponents to a .247 batting average.
The 19-year-old Tapia led the club with seven saves and finished 15 games. The Dominican right-hander struck out one more batter than Nieto in the same number of innings, however he walked 29 hitters. Opposing hitters managed just a .233 average against him.
Note: Scout.com subscribers can click on the link below to read more of Jeff Luhnow’s comments about the 2007 Dominican Summer League Cardinals in our 2007 season recap here.
Venezuelan Summer League
Luhnow did not hesitate singling out one hitter from Venezuela this past summer. “Ismael Cardona was the top position player. He is a catcher who was also used at first base and as a designated hitter.”
Cardona’s 38 RBI led the team and cracked the top ten in the league. His home runs (three) and batting average (.300) also paced a team that hit just 11 home runs in total and averaged .226 in aggregate. The 18-year-old’s 48 strikeouts also were the most on the club, however.
The farm director called out four other position players on the 2007 VSL roster.
“Kleininger Teran did well enough to merit a trip to Jupiter for the instructional program. He played third base in many of the games and handled it well. The middle infielder Gerardo Mannbel performed well in his first professional season and I’m especially encouraged by his walks (41 in 218 at-bats). The staff considers Yorbel Alcala a prospect as a catcher and believes his bat will come around (he hit .146/.270/.185).
“Ted Obregon is a very interesting player. His grandfather was a well-known ballplayer in Venezuela decades ago, and Ted is an exciting shortstop prospect. When Mosquera (the Panamanian shortstop who was in the DSL) was hurt and the team there needed a replacement, the staff in Venezuela didn’t hesitate in recommending Obregon.
“Richard Castillo was the top pitcher. He had an outstanding year and he impressed all the coaches here in Jupiter (during the fall instructional league),” Luhnow said.
Our VSL pitcher of the year for 2007, Castillo was only 17 years old during the season. The right-hander registered a stellar 1.72 ERA over 62 2/3 innings. He fanned 60 and walked just 22, posting a superb WHIP of 0.99. Opposing hitters batted just .183 against the 5-foot-11, 165 pound pitcher.
Luhnow mentioned several other starting pitchers, too.
“Despite pedestrian numbers (1-6, 4.74 ERA), Jorge Rondon is an exciting talent that has opened some eyes, and Omar Diaz put up good numbers and showed decent stuff, too. Jose Calero is a young pitcher that we signed last July 2nd who still has a lot of potential – great pitchers body, good makeup, and tools that should continue to develop,” Luhnow said.
Selecting a top reliever among the VSL staff proved to be a difficult job as from the stat-sheet at least, no player was an obvious leader. Ultimately, we selected Carlos Oraa as our VSL reliever of the year.
Oraa, also just 17 during the 2007 campaign, managed a 1.20 WHIP and 3.44 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-3, 170 pound righty struck out eight but walked nine. Oraa did a good job avoiding hits, with an opposing batting average against of just .188.
Note: Scout.com subscribers can click on the link below to read more of Jeff Luhnow’s comments about the 2007 Venezuelan Summer League Cardinals in our 2007 season recap here.
|of the Year
|Palm Beach (A+)
|Quad Cities (A)
|Johnson City (SS)
|Gulf Coast (SS)
(click on team name in the table above to be taken to that team’s article in this series)
Next up: Springfield Cardinals of the Double-A Texas League.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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