Like last year, five of my personal picks failed to make the overall Top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospect list. With the lack of game-changing talent especially on the pitching side, I valued a couple of relievers a little more than I would have in years past.
Like I mentioned, the Cardinals have a couple of pitchers that I could see coming out of the bullpen at Busch Stadium if the stars align. Both have multiple chinks in the armor but have the tools to be important pieces in the future.
One is a once rising star that an unfortunate misstep that threw doubt into his future. The remaining two are products of the organization’s dedication to Latin America. Both are green but show a lot of promise and intriguing tools.
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 would have ranked below where we drew the line, after number 40.
||Jaime Garcia |
||Roberto de la Cruz
||Roberto De La Cruz|
Samuel Freeman. I think it is a testament to the state of the system that I ranked a middle reliever in the team’s top 40. But looking at the ability that Freeman possesses, I am convinced that he will likely take to the mound in the big leagues.
The southpaw has a fastball that reaches 94 and a cut fastball that is a true swing and miss pitch. One of the top athletes in the system, Freeman reached Double-A in his first full season of professional baseball. He will need to refine his command and cut down on his walk rate but there is no reason to think he will not reach Triple-A Memphis at some point in 2010.
Deryk Hooker. After making four starts at the Quad Cities at the end of 2008, things looked very promising for the right-hander going into 2009. With the River Bandits, he posted a 1.61 ERA and registered 12 strikeouts in his final 11 2/3 innings. Looking like a return to the Midwest League would be in the cards for the 2009 season, he would instead serve a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
After returning from his suspension, the organization sent him to Batavia, where he put together a solid return. Though he struggled in the wins column, he did post a rate of 7.8 K/9 while struggling with his command. If his troubles are behind him, he represents one of the top pitching prospects the Cardinals have in the organization.
The California native commands his low nineties fastball on both sides of the plate. His curveball is a plus pitch while his changeup has the makings to be above average. Look for him to start 2009 at the Quad Cities with the possibility of playing at Palm Beach by season’s end.
Ryde Rodriguez. The first of the Cardinals’ big money international signings, the 21-year-old failed to make the rankings in 2010 after checking in at number 40 last year. The Cuban started the season at the Quad Cities but struggled before being sent to the New York-Penn League. At Batavia, he held his own against the similarly experienced competition.
For the Muckdogs, he hit over .300 while slugging .473. He needs to improve in the walk department, as he drew only six in 167 at bats. Rodriguez possesses above-average speed though he does not steal bases. His hit tool seems to be as good as reported but I would still like to see more power out of him, especially considering he projects to be a corner outfielder. He should start the season back at 2010 and he will need to show advancement in his skills.
Blake King. The great nephew of Mickey Mantle posted fantastic strikeout rates while reaching Double-A. King posted 11.4 K/9 at Palm Beach and an astounding mark of 16.2 K/9 in three appearances at Springfield. The right-hander won tied for the team lead with nine wins at Palm Beach while posting a 2.84 ERA.
With King, control has always been his biggest obstacle and 2009 was no different. At PB, he posted a mark of 6.9 BB/9 and a mark of 13.5 after he was promoted. The Cardinals could have a valuable bullpen commodity if they can simplify things enough for him to harness his control. He has one of the top arms in the organization and Baseball America says that his slider is the best in the Cardinals system. If, and it is a big if, he is able to cut down on his walk rates, he prove to be a top of the line setup man.
Yunier Castillo. If he is able to prove that he can hit, Castillo could be the team’s shortstop of the future. The 20-year-old with a long, lean frame caught a lot of eyes during spring training. His glove isn’t far from major league ready as he possesses soft, dependable hands and fantastic range. He has a quick first step and is very fluid in getting to the ball. He can go to his left or his right with equal ease. His arm is above average and is release is lightning quick.
At the plate, he has a quick bat and good balance. He needs to add bulk to his undersized frame. Right now his power is around a 25-30 on the scout’s 20-80 scale while his hit tool is only slightly better. If the bat comes around, Castillo should prove to be the best of the organization’s recent Latin signings.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2010 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 two voters highlight the players on their personal 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dustin on Twitter.
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