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 second of four articles where each of us will highlight those prospects – our “Best of the Rest”.
Here is the overall Top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list.
||Brett Wallace |
||Niko Vasquez |
||Lance Lynn |
||Scott Gorgen |
||Roberto De La Cruz
||Roberto De La Cruz|
||Aaron Luna |
||Curt Smith |
For once at least, our group voting on top 40 St. Louis Cardinals minor league prospects pretty much mirrored mine. Only two of the players that made my top 40 were not among those that made the final cut.
That these two didn’t make it didn’t crush me, as they were down in my final five. I guess what did bother me however, was that neither Tony Cruz nor Aaron Luna received even a second vote.
Tony Cruz. Not that I needed it, but I still felt slightly vindicated in my selection when Cruz received a coveted invitation to major league spring training camp. Yes, I know he is just an extra catcher and will be among the earliest cuts, but he will still be there.
The 22-year-old, taken in the 26th round in 2007, is not unlike higher-ranked Steven Hill, in that he is a hitter being tried behind the plate. Though he can play third and first, Cruz’ ceiling is considerably higher if he can also be a credible catcher.
Prior to his 2008 regular season ending in July due to a hand injury suffered in late June, Cruz was the best run producer on the Palm Beach Cardinals, leading the club in doubles and RBI. In fact, despite playing hurt in July and missing all of August, he still led the entire Palm Beach team in runs batted in for the season and tied for tops in total bases.
The club’s #3 hitter was named a Florida State League All-Star and scored an invite to the league’s Home Run Derby. I don’t think it is a coincidence that following Daryl Jones’ promotion and Cruz’ injury, the Palm Beach offense, good enough to take the first-half FSL East crown, was not the same the rest of the way.
Overall, Cruz batted .279 with eight home runs and 58 RBIs for the club before heading to Hawaii for winter ball. There, he continued to get part-time work behind the plate while impressing with the bat. The right-handed hitter’s line was .323/.363/.452, placing him among the league leaders.
Aaron Luna. Drafted in the ninth round this past summer, the wild swings in Luna’s first professional season can be measured by the months.
June brought the excitement of the draft, signing and assignment to Quad Cities of the Midwest League. July brought a strong start with six home runs and 12 RBI in just 64 Midwest League at-bats. He posted an exceptional OPS of .980 despite just a .234 batting average prior to his August 6 promotion to Palm Beach.
August was another story entirely. Luna’s hot start didn’t carry over to the Florida State League. His playing time was sporadic at best, receiving just six at-bats after the 15th. Though he was hitting just 2-for-25 and fanned a third of the time, Luna still managed a .303 OBP.
Cards farm director Jeff Luhnow wanted to see Luna play and sent him to the instructional league in September where the Texan was asked to spend time at second base. Luna had played there at Rice and would help organizational depth in a needed area while increasing his value if he can handle the position as a pro. I am betting he can.
Next in our series will be “The Final Tally”, which lists all the four voters’ results side by side with some analysis sprinkled in by yours truly. The 2009 Top 40 Prospects series will officially come to a close next Monday with “The 2009 Scout.com All-Prospect Team”, the best prospects by position. Both are free. Don’t miss them!
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.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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