Editor’s note: As those who followed our Top 40 Prospects countdown over the last month and a half know, the selection of the master list was a melding of the individual views from four of us here at The Birdhouse, stlcardinals.scout.com.
As a result, a handful of deserving players on each of our personal lists did not make the consolidated Top 40. This is the third of four articles where each of us will highlight those prospects – our “Best of the Rest”.
After Leonda kicked it off, maybe I can slam dunk my way through my best of the rest. (Sorry, but if Leonda can use a football reference, then I can use a basketball term). I had four total players not make the Birdhouse Top 40; two from this year’s draft, a 2006 draft pick, and a player the Cardinals picked up off of waivers.
Three of my four selections were selected due to their high upside while one is a player whose ceiling may be limited but could be ready to contribute in 2008. Here is the overall Top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list.
My highest rated pick not to make the list was my number 23-ranked prospect, pitcher Brett Zawacki.
I rated the Illinois high school pitcher just one spot behind the top prep pitcher the Cardinals’ selected in 2007, Deryk Hooker. Even though they were selected five rounds apart, they are both high upside right-handers with mid-nineties fastballs. Zawacki was selected in the twelfth round of the 2007 draft and the Cardinals gave him a $215,000 signing bonus to keep from attending Arizona State (of note, Hooker received a $100,000 signing bonus).
The Illinois native works with a low-90s fastball (that can touch 95) with good sink and movement. His secondary pitches, a curveball and changeup, are improving but fall behind his fastball at this time. Zawacki was signed just before the deadline so he appeared in only two games totaling three innings. The 18-year-old did get some work during the instructional league while showing off that superb fastball.
These are the kind of picks I wish the Cardinals would select a little more often, high risk, high reward high schoolers. His delivery does need some refinement as he does put a bit of stress on his arm with the way he comes across his body with the pitch. Also, getting his delivery cleaned up could add a little more velocity to his fastball.
Tyler Henley, a leader on the highly touted Rice Owls, was my number 29 ranked prospect.
Projected to be selected in the top three rounds going into the 2007 season, Henley, as did his Rice team, struggled in the early going before he found his stroke late in the season. The leadoff man for the Owls, Henley hit only .310 and five home runs and saw his draft stock fall and the Cardinals were able to scoop him up in the eighth round.
Even though upside is not always talked about when it comes to 22-year-old college players, I feel Henley is an exception to this rule. Blessed with solid tools across the board, the Cardinals paid him above slot, $150,000, to keep him from returning to Rice. Henley showed great plate discipline in his first professional assignment at Batavia, reaching base at almost a .400 clip. The 22-year-old was then promoted to the Quad Cities where he struggled but showed good power. Of his five hits for the Swing, four went for extra bases, two doubles and two home runs.
Henley has shown he could hit with wood; during the 2006 Cape Cod League he finished with a line of .286/.397/.552 to go along with seven home runs and six steals. That .552 slugging percentage was second in the league while 2007 first round selections Matt Wieters, Matt LaPorta, and Matt Mangini were also in the league that summer. Henley shows above average range in centerfield with a knack for making the spectacular play. Even though he does not possess a projectable frame, 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, some scouts believe he could hit for more power if he put more emphasis on that part of his game.
To me, Henley is the prototypical Cardinal player: hard nosed, good baseball intelligence, and willing to do what it takes to win. With Henley’s experience in big games during his days at Rice, I could see him moving through the system quickly and it would not surprise me to see him in Double A at some point during 2008.
Brian Barden is a player that could help the Cardinals in 2008 and is why I ranked him at number 32.
I may have overrated Barden being that he profiles as a utility man. But he is a player that just really impresses when you see him regularly. Barden is a superb defensive third baseman with a great work ethic and baseball IQ. Baseball America did a poll of Triple A managers and Barden was named the best defensive third baseman in the Pacific Coast League; he also won the award in 2005.
A former walk-on at Oregon State University, Barden was picked up off of waivers by the Cardinals from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2007 season. Making the Diamondbacks out of Spring Training in 2007, Barden struggled and was sent down after only 12 at bats. Arizona found him expendable and the Cardinals picked him up and sent him to Triple-A Memphis.
The 26-year-old struggled offensively during all his stops in 2007, but with so much bouncing between teams and organizations, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has shown the ability to hit as he posted a line of .298/.356/.478 as recently as 2006 for Triple A Tuscon. With the ability to play all the infield positions, Barden could be a valuable utility player for the Cardinals in 2008.
Tommy Pham could be the best athlete in the whole Cardinals’ system and why I rated him as the number 39 prospect.
A highly-touted high school short stop out of Las Vegas, the Cardinals gave Pham third round money after selecting him in the 16th round of 2006 draft. Assigned to Johnson City, Pham got off to a hot start, hitting .345 after his first nine games. Some hand problems started to affect him and he finished hitting only .231/.340/.324.
During extended Spring Training in 2007, the Cardinals moved Pham to the outfield. The 19-year-old then was sent to the Quad Cities and struggled, hitting only .063/.189/.063 in 32 at bats. When the short season began, Pham was sent to Batavia where he finished with a line of .205/.283/.305. He has above average tools across the board while possessing well above average speed and arm strength.
Pham’s arm strength may steer the Cardinals to redirect Pham’s future. In high school, Pham rarely pitched but touched 93 on the gun and worked 89-91 on the showcase circuit. Pham also showed the makings of a very good slider that caused many scouts to feel he may be better suited for the mound. With the recent success of Jason Motte, the Cardinals may get a better return on its investment with Pham on the bump.
Look for the final companion articles to this one the next two days from Ray Mileur and Brian Walton. We really enjoyed bringing our top prospects list to you again this off-season and hope you found our reports informative, too.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2008 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.
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