As those who have followed our Top 40 Prospects countdown over the last month and a half know, the selection of the master list was a melding of three varied points of view of us from here at The Cardinal Nation.
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 three articles where each of us will highlight those prospects – our “Best of the Rest”.
Following is the overall Top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted in black are the numbers of those unique to each list. It is worth noting that these bolded names may still be on the respective lists, but were ranked below where we drew the line, after number 40.
As you can see, there is significant difference in my list from the consolidated view. Six of the players that appear on my top 40 were not among those that made the final group cut. None received a second vote.
Four are infielders, three of whom play up the middle. One is pitcher while the other is a catcher. Two are barely in their 20’s, with the other four still teenagers. All six hail from Latin America, likely unknown to many. This article allows me to help change that.
Grabiel Hernandez. What is there not to like about an 18-year-old switch-hitting shortstop who posted an .840 OPS in his first professional season and even hit for the cycle? The July 2nd signing from 2008 earned the nod as our Dominican Summer League Cardinals Player of the Year after having been named a DSL all-star.
Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez had this to say. “Grabiel Hernandez is definitely a player that we really like and exceeded expectations offensively. When we signed him last July 2nd, his glove is what really caught our attention – what really stood out. He can swing the bat. We thought he could provide some offense later on, but arrived earlier than anticipated.”
Hernandez led the DSL Cardinals with ten triples and in stolen bases with 26 (in 30 attempts). Rodriguez comments. “Grabiel is a good all-around player. He is a smart player. He is not a lightning-quick kind of guy but he knows how to run the bases. He is a very smart baserunner and makes it a point to take every opportunity when presented with it.”
Deimer Bier (pronounced bee-AIR). The 18-year-old earned the nod as our Venezuelan Summer League Cardinals Pitcher of the Year after signing as a 16-year-old on the July 2nd signing date in 2007. The 6-foot-3 right-hander dropped his ERA from 2.80 his rookie season to 2.29 in 2009, fanning 72 in 63 innings of work. Bier exhibited good control, walking just 19, leading to a stellar 1.10 WHIP.
Rodriguez had this to say about Bier. “He is a tall, lanky kid with some room to fill out. He is a pitcher we can see competing for a spot in the GCL next year and is an exciting player to watch.”
The Cards’ international director places Bier squarely among a strong group of VSL starting pitchers he calls the “big four”, Carlos Oraa, Javier Avendano, Sergio Nieves and Bier. Avendano is another to watch as he has a bit of a head start, having been promoted to the Gulf Coast League after the 2009 VSL season ended.
Audry Perez. Perez, our 2008 Dominican Summer League Cardinals Player of the Year, batted just .258 on the season, but slugged a very robust .539 for an OPS of .841. Just over half of the catcher’s hits were for extra bases. As a 20-year-old in the Appalachian League, Perez finished fifth in the circuit with nine home runs.
2009 was his first appearance at the level after spending a majority of 2008 in the DSL before a quick cameo in the Gulf Coast League to finish the previous year. On the downside, Perez was 0-for-12 in steal attempts by the opposition and saw more time as the designated hitter than behind the plate. Hopefully, Perez will not become another Cardinals farmhand whose best position is hitter. Either way, I like his bat.
Luis Mateo. The Cardinals’ 20th round draft pick in 2008 from a Puerto Rican high school had a relatively quiet introduction to professional ball with a .682 OPS between the GCL and Johnson City of the Appalachian League.
It was entirely different story in 2009 as the 19-year-old shortstop/third baseman returned to Johnson City, where the right-handed hitter exploded with a .911 OPS, third-best on the team. Held to 100 plate appearances over 27 games due to lingering hamstring problems, Mateo still put up these impressive numbers: .344 average (second on the team), .374 OBP (third) and .538 SLG (fourth).
With a healthy season in 2010, Mateo is going to be a player to watch.
Hector Garcia. Our 2009 Player of the Year in the VSL and a league all-star led the way for his club with a .314 average and an .872 OPS. Garcia, a 19-year-old third baseman, also paced the club in doubles, RBI and total bases and tied for tops in extra-base hits and OBP.
Look for Garcia to be headed to the US this spring to participate in extended spring training and join a short-season club. The right-handed hitter appears ready and the international director agrees.
“Garcia was the top slugger on our team. We wanted to get him up here to the GCL but he got hung up at the consulate. He is one of those guys that should be invited to Extended Spring Training next year and we look forward to see how he does here,” Rodriguez told me.
Yunier Castillo. Having turned 20 in May, Castillo made my list because of his extraordinary defense at shortstop. Consistency has yet to become his friend however, as the benefits of his strong range and arm are sometimes undone by average hands and instincts and a seeming reluctance to dive for balls.
Castillo’s plate discipline, underlined by his unenviable record of playing in 50 games without drawing a walk with Johnson City is a problem that will have to be addressed as he prepares to advance. The switch-hitter’s .630 OPS will improve in the process, but even as is, was still up from his .550 mark in 2008.
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 message board community highlight the players on their list 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.
There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our “Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects” feature here at The Cardinal Nation?
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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