Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revisiting the Cardinals Top 10 Prospects from 1990

Its good to be a Cardinals fan.  Not only is the team poised to make another run at the NL Pennant, but a recent report from Derrick Goold indicates that Baseball America will unveil the Cardinals as having the #1 ranked farm system in all of baseball when their annual 2013 Prospect Handbook comes out next month.

I've already given you a flavor of the Cardinals Top Prospects and how they rank amongst the Top 100 Prospects in baseball, but what intrigued me about Goold's article is that he mentioned that the Cardinals previous high ranking by Baseball America was #5 way back in 1990. 

Here are Baseball America's Cardinals Top 10 prospects for 1990:
  1. Todd Zeile, c
  2. Ray Lankford, of
  3. Geronimo Pena, 2b
  4. John Ericks, rhp
  5. Brian Jordan, of
  6. Mike Milchin, lhp
  7. Alex Cole, of
  8. Rheal Cormier, lhp
  9. Mark Clark, rhp
  10. Bernard Gilkey, of
Since it was so long ago, all of the above players have finished their careers, so we can now look back and and see exactly how they panned out.

Todd Zeile

Zeile was probably one of the most hyped Cardinals prospects that I can remember (I think I owned about 10 of his rookie baseball cards) and, although he had a fine career, he never really lived up to those lofty expectations (to be fair, how many highly touted prospects do?).

Zeile hit .267/.349/.415 in 7 seasons with the Cards.  Although he was the Cardinals primary catcher in 1990, he was shifted to third late in the year to make room for Tom Pagnozzi, who was much better defensively.

He was traded to the Cubs in 1995 for Mike Morgan and a couple minor leaguers who never reached the majors.

He enjoyed his best season in 1997, when he hit .268/.365/.459 with 31 homers for the Dodgers.  He finished his career with 253 homers and an OBP+ of 104.  Oh and he married former Olympic gymnastic champion Julianne McNamara.  Not too shabby.

Ray Lankford

Lankford had the best career of all of the Cardinals Top 10 prospects from 1990.  Ray was a fixture in center field for the Cardinals for 10 years from 1991 to 2000, before being traded to the San Diego Padres for Woody Williams in 2001.  He then made a brief return to the Cards in 2004 before retiring.

With the Cardinals, Lankford hit .273/.365/.481 with 228 homers and 250 stolen bases. His best season was (arguably) his 1997 season in which he hit .295/.411/.585 with 31 home runs and 21 stolen bases.  He also had 98 RBI's and 95 runs scored to go with a 159 OBP+.  He then followed that up with an almost identical .293/.391/.540 season in 1998 with 31 homers, 105 RBI's, 94 runs and 143 OBP+.

He posted five 20 homer/20 stolen base seasons and finished with a career 123 OBP+ and 35.7 WAR.

Geronimo Pena

Another guy with some speed (he stole 80 bases in the minors in 1987) and some pop, Pena was mentioned as part of the Cardinals youth movement in 1991.  However, he could never take hold of the second base position.

During his 6 seasons with the Cardinals, he split time at second with Jose Oquendo and Luis Alicea.  He never saw more than 254 at bats in any one season, with his best season coming in 1992 when he hit .305/.386/.478 in 203 at bats.

A career .264/.346/.427 hitter with the Cardinals, Pena finished his career in Cleveland with a 1 for 9 performance (with the one hit being a homer), giving him a career .262/.345/.427 line.  He finished his career with 30 homeruns and 54 stolen bases. 

John Ericks

A first round pick out of the University of Illinois in 1988, Ericks had a blazing fastball that sat around 98 mph.  However, he also had control issues.

He was all over the prospect lists after posting a 2.04 ERA and 211 K's, while only allowing 90 hits and 4 homeruns in 167.1 IP at low A Savannah in 1989.  However, he also had 101 walks.

After bouncing around in the Cards minor league system for a few years, he was released in September 1992 and missed all of 1993 with an injury.

He latched on with the Pittsburgh Pirates and entered the 1997 season as the Pirates closer.  Then, according to Ericks, "my agent was working on a deal with the Pirates for two years and $3.5 million,” said Ericks, now 42. “Then I got hurt.”

Two major shoulder surgeries ensued, and just like that, Ericks’ once-promising career was over.

He finished his major league career with an 8-14 record, 14 saves and a 4.78 ERA in 162 IP.

Brian Jordan

Another first round pick, Jordan split time between the Cardinals minor leagues and the Atlanta Falcons from 1989-1991 before the Cardinals convinced him to give up football in June 1992.

Jordan spent 7 seasons with the Cardinals, starting in 1992, and compiled a .291/.339/.474 line to go along with 84 homeruns and 86 stolen bases.

He went on to play 8 more seasons in the majors, retiring at the age of 39 with a career line of .282/.333/.455 with an OBP+ of 105.  He also finished with 184 homers and 119 stolen bases in his career.

Mike Milchin

Selected in the second round of the 1989 draft, Milchin was on the fast track in the Cardinals system reaching AA in 1990 before toe and shoulder injuries slowed him down in 1991.

He battled more injuries in 1992 and, after another mediocre season in 1993, the Cardinals waived him in October.

He was picked up by the Dodgers, but missed all of 1994 after reconstructive elbow surgery.  He pitched fairly well for the Dodgers AAA affiliate in 1995, including a 7 inning no-hitter, and signed with the Twins as a free agent.

In 1996, he finally got his first (and only) taste of the big leagues, posting a 7.44 ERA in 32.2 IP with the Twins and Orioles before hanging up the cleats for good.

Alex Cole

After spending 6 years in the minors with the Cardinals without setting foot in the majors, Cole was traded to the Padres in February 1990 and then traded again to the Indians in July 1990.  He was promoted to the majors shortly thereafter and became the Indians real-life version of Willie Mays Hayes from Major League.

A small, lightning fast slap hitter, he hit .300/.379/.357 with 40 stolen bases in just 63 games for the Indians in 1990.  He then hit .295/.386/.354 in 1991 with 27 stolen bases as the Indians primary leadoff hitter.

After hitting just .206 in 41 games to start the 1992 season, Cleveland shipped him off to the Pirates.  He finished the 1992 season strong (.278/.334/.361 in 64 games with the Pirates) and had a couple more decent seasons in the majors before his career tailed off.

He never played in the majors again after the 1996 season and finished his career with a .280/.360/.351 line and 148 stolen bases.

Rheal Cormier

The Canadian born Cormier made the Cardinals top 10 prospects on the strength of his 1989 season at high A St. Petersburg in which he went 12-7 with a 2.23 ERA.  He reached the majors in 1991 and had a decent 4 year run with the Cards (24-23 with a 4.12 ERA before being traded to Boston.

Cormier started 40 more games in the majors before being converted to a reliever full time in 1999. 

His best season as a starter came in 1992 (with the Cardinals) when he went 10-10 with a 3.68 ERA.

His best season as a reliever came in 2003 when he went 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA for the Phillies.

Overall, he finished with a career 71-64 record and 4.03 ERA.

Mark Clark

A 9th round pick in the 1988 draft, Clark made his big league debut in 1991 with the Cardinals.  He pitched 27 games (22 starts) with the Cardinals, posting a 4-11 record and 4.38 ERA before being traded to Cleveland after the 1992 season.

He pitched 8 more seasons in the majors with 4 different teams.  His best season was 1996 with the Mets when he posted a 14-11 record and a 3.43 ERA.

For his career, he finished with a 74-71 record and a 4.61 ERA. 

Bernard Gilkey

A local kid who made good, Gilkey was born in St. Louis in 1966 and signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 1984.

After making his big league debut in 1990, Gilkey spent 6 years with the Cardinals hitting .282/.354/.431 with 52 home runs and 80 stolen bases.

He was traded to the Mets prior to the 1996 season and proceeded to have his career year in which he hit .317/.392/.562 with 30 homers, 17 stolen bases and an OBP+ of 155.  He topped it off with a cameo in the 1997 film Men In Black.

From there it was all downhill and he finished his career with a .275/.352/.434 line across 12 seasons.  He amassed 118 homers and 115 stolen bases in his career along with a 110 OBP+.


Although the Cardinals 1990 Top 10 Prospects did not have any Hall of Famers or even any perennial All Stars, one can still see why the Cardinals system was rated so high.  Its rare that all of a team's top 10 prospects make it to the majors.  The list of can't miss prospects who do just that is pretty long.  In addition, 6 of the top 10 played 10 or more seasons in the majors and 8 lasted 5 or more seasons.  A pretty good track record anyway you look at it.

Here's hoping that the 2013 class can live up to (or even surpass) those standards.

Cardinals sign Ronny Cedeno. Can a World Series title be far behind?

OK, obviously that title is tongue-in-cheek, but have the Cardinals really resorted to this?  Ronny Cedeno?  Is that the best they can do?

Despite all the concerns the Cardinals have about their shortstop position, signing Ronny Cedeno to a $1.15 million contract is not the answer.  He may be a decent fielder and has some versatility, with the ability to play second and third as well as short, but he has a career OPS of .647.  If he gets over 250 at bats for the Cards this season, they are in trouble.
I would rather the Cardinals give Ryan Jackson a shot as Rafael Furcal's backup.  Jackson is generally regarded as a good defensive shortstop.  He may not hit much better than Cedeno, but at least he comes at a lower price.

Its obvious that the Cardinals are not looking for a long-term answer to their shortstop position this year.  But, they certainly need to address it before the 2014 season.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MLB investigating age of Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz

Baseball America is reporting the Major League Baseball is investigating the age of Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz.  Diaz is stating that he was born on January 8, 1990, which would make him 23.  A report on Cuba's official baseball website from December 2007 has him being born on August 1, 1990, while a roster from the Haarlem Baseball Week lists his birthdate as August 1, 1991.

The significance of all this is that, if Diaz is 23, as he says, he would be exempt from the 2012-2013 international bonus pools, which would make him more attractive to MLB teams.  In addition, if MLB finds out that he has falsified his age, he could be subject to a penalty of being ineligible to sign for one year.

The Cardinals showed some interest in Diaz earlier this year, but given his age issues and the modest scouting reports on him, I think its best for the Cardinals to take a pass on him. 

For their part, the Cardinals may already be showing signs of doing just that, as they have recently shown interest in Ronny Cedeno.

In any case, its obvious the Cardinals are still looking for infield depth, with questions surrounding Rafael Furcal's health to start the season. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Remembering "The Man"

I wish I could say I knew Stan Musial, but I did not.

He played in an era before I was born and I was never fortunate enough to meet him. 

My father never told me stories about watching Musial play when he was young, because he never saw him play.  Although my dad lived in Clayton, Missouri for a while when he was young and got to see Dizzy Dean pitch against Carl Hubbell, his family moved to Central Illinois during his formative years and they never ventured down to St. Louis to take in a game.

But if there is one thing I do know about The Man, its his stats.  And boy did he put up some fantastic stats.

As a Cardinal fan and a Strat-o-Matic fanatic in the late 70's and throughout the 1980's, I made it my goal to own every Cardinal team set that Strat-o-Matic put out.  I was thrilled when they issued the 1946 Cardinals team, so I could get my hands on Stan's incredible .365/.434/.487 season (with 16 HR's).  Put that card into one of my Cardinals All-Star Strat teams and I could give those Yankees juggernaut All-Star Strat teams a run for the money.

I was disappointed that Stan's best year, 1948, in which he hit .376/.450/.702 with 39 HR's (just missing the triple crown by one HR) was only available through Strat's Hall of Fame set.  (I just couldn't justify to myself paying that kind of money to get one card). 

But it went beyond Strat-o-matic.  I can remember pouring through the Baseball Encyclopedia to see his year to year stats and his career stats.  The one thing that sticks out to this day is his lack of strikeouts.  In 10,972 at bats, Musial only struck out 696 times or just over 6%. 

One can truly say that Stan Musial was a HITTER first and foremost.  It was only after his stellar 1948 season that he became a hitter with power.

During his first 5 seasons, he never hit more than 19 homeruns and, despite 475 career homeruns, Musial only average 25 per 162 games.  Compared to some of the power hitters of his time--Ralph Kiner (41HR/162 games), Hank Greenberg (38), Ted Williams (37), Willie Mays (36) and Mickey Mantle (36)-- all had higher 162 game homerun averages.  But only Williams had a higher career batting average.

Looking at all his amazing stats, I often wished that I was born much earlier so I could have seen him play.  To see him smack the ball all over the field with his unusual corkscrew swing.  I can only imagine what it would have been like and the buzz that would go around the ballpark when he came up to bat. 

Like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial will live on through his stats and the stories of others.  And, like many of you, I will spend this week reading all I can about "The Man" from other writers who knew him or saw him play.

But, if they ever invent the time machine, I'm going back to 1948 and getting season tickets to the Cardinals so I can watch the master at work.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stan "The Man" Musial passes away at age 92

It is a sad night for Cardinals fan everywhere as it was reported earlier that Stan Musial passed away today at the age of 92Many fans gathered at his statue outside of Busch Stadium to remember him. 

Musial is one of the greatest hitters of all time and a true Cardinals legend.  In his 22 year career, he compiled 475 HR's and a .331/.417/.559 line.

He spent his entire career with the Cardinals and remained a part of the organization after he retired.

He is survived by his four children.

2013 MLB Composite Top 100 Prospect List

If you are a fantasy baseball player like me, you are always looking for an edge in your league.  Several years ago, I started putting together a composite prospect list by taking the top prospect list from around the web and assigning points to each player ranked (100 for 1st, 99 for 2nd and so on).  I then total up the points and sort highest to lowest to give me a Composite Top Prospect list.

Last year I created a website, MLB Composite Prospect Index, to house all these lists that I've put together over the years and today I just posted the preliminary 2013 Composite Top Prospect List.

Its always an interesting exercise to go through this process each year, because each site has a different view as to what is considered a top prospect.  Sure, a lot of the top 10-20 prospects are the same across the various sites (just in different order), but once you get past that, its anybody's guess who might show up.

For the Cardinals, it should come as no surprise that Oscar Taveras is their top ranking prospect at #4.  Shelby Miller, despite a subpar year, also cracked the top 10.  After that, you see some of the usual suspects in Carlos Martinez (#28), Kolten Wong (#56), Trevor Rosenthal (#59) and Michael Wacha (#96).

If you saw my 2013 Composite Cardinals Top Prospect list, you'll recognize these guys as they were Cardinals top 6 prospects on that list (with Wong #6 after Rosenthal and Wacha).  Matt Adams, the #7 Cardinals prospect, was #123 on the Composite list.

As a Cardinal fan, you've got to be excited about our minor league talent.  This is the first time I can remember having so many Cardinals prospects in the top 100.  I am certainly looking forward to seeing these guys (especially Taveras) wearing the Birds on the Bat in the near future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Can the Cardinals afford to sign Adam Wainwright to an extension?

Sometime around the start of Spring Training, the Cardinals will be approached by agent Steve Hammond about an extension for pitcher Adam Wainwright.  Here's my analysis of some of the factors that could come into play in the Cardinals decision on Wainwright:


First and foremost is money.  Based on recent signings by Matt Cain (6 years/$127.5 million), Zack Greinke (6 years/$147 million) and Cole Hamels (6 years/$144 million), one can expect that Wainwright will command an annual salary in the $22 to $25 million range (probably closer to $25 million).  Even if you take away the signing bonuses of $5 million for Cain, $12 million for Greinke and $6 million for Hamels, you're still looking at an average annual salary of $20.5 to $23 million.  A pretty hefty sum.

Do the Cardinals have the money to afford that kind of contract?  Well, the Cardinals have 3 players who could become free agents after the 2013 season: Chris Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Jake Westbrook.  These 3 players are making $12.5 million, $13 million and $8.75 million, respectively.  If the Cards let them walk and replace them with cheaper rookies, such as Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, then they would have freed up around $33 million of salary.

In addition, Wainwright is making $12 million for 2013, so to get him to $25 million would only take an additional $13 million, leaving the Cards with around $10-15 million to use to fill other holes (after taking into consideration arbitration raises).

So to answer the question in the title of this article, yes the Cardinals can afford to sign Waino to an extension.  However, there is more to the question than just money.

Another thing the Cardinals need to look at is...

Contract Length

Of the 3 pitchers I listed above as comparable contracts, Greinke and Hamels are both 29 and Cain is 28. Wainwright, on the other hand, is 32 and just 2 years removed from Tommy John surgery.  So, although the standard contract length with all three is a 6 year deal, do the Cardinals want to go that long for Wainwright?

If the Cardinals need an example of the risk of signing a 30+ year old to a long term deal, they need to look no further than Chris Carpenter.  Back in December 2006, the Cardinals signed Carpenter to a 5 year extension at the age of 31.  Carpenter promptly missed most of the next two seasons due to injury.

Then, as if they hadn't learned their lesson, the Cardinals signed Carpenter to another extension in September 2011, this time for 2 years, and he promptly missed most of 2012 with a shoulder injury.  

Thus, given his age and his recent Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals will need to be cautious when discussing the length of any contract extension with Wainwright.  Four years would probably be my limit.  If the Cardinals go beyond 4 years, they could be stuck with a hefty contract for an injured or ineffective pitcher, which would likely hamper their ability to compete (see the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano).

Pitching Depth

With both Carpenter and Westbrook potentially leaving as free agents after the season, the Cardinals need someone to help bridge the gap between them and the new wave of pitchers coming up through the system.  In addition, with questions surrounding Jaime Garcia and his shoulder, the Cardinals need an anchor on top of the staff.

For those reasons, the Cardinals will probably do what they can to try to get an extension done with Wainwright.  Of course, they could always go out and sign a free agent pitcher or trade for a starter to give themselves and experienced pitcher to lead their staff, but Wainwright has one other thing going for him....


Who can forget the image of Wainwright, arms raised, after striking out Brandon Inge to end the 2006 World Series.  That image alone makes Wainwright an icon is Cardinals history.  Fans would obviously be upset if the Cardinals couldn't get an extension done, especially so soon after losing another fan favorite, Albert Pujols

However, as we learned with Albert Pujols, no one is irreplacable.

The Cardinals have moved on from Pujols and certainly won't think twice about moving on from Wainwright if the asking price or the length of the contract gets to be too much.  We aren't the Yankees and there are limits to the amount of money the team can spend.

Overall, I think it would benefit the Cardinals to sign Wainwright to an extension.  However, I wouldn't go beyond 4 years.  It may take a little more on a per year basis to get him to agree to a shorter deal.  I'm thinking that 4 years and $105 million (which includes a $5-10 million bonus) should do the trick.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Should we worry about the Cardinals inactivity this offseason?

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch recently wrote an article about the Cardinals inactivity and failure to address concerns.  The two biggest concerns that he raises are the shortstop position, namely do we have a backup plan for Rafael Furcal, and starting pitching.

I can understand the concerns regarding Furcal.  His skills are deteriorating and he has not shown the ability to stay healthy for a full season.  The current backup plan appears to be Pete Kozma, who, despite his strong September and postseason, does not have a strong minor league track record and may be better suited as a utility infielder.  The two of them should be able to hold down the position for this season, but the Cardinals still need to find a long-term solution.

As for the starting pitching, I do not see what all the fuss is about.

Sure, the Cardinals lost their de facto ace in Kyle Lohse.  However, Chris Carpenter should be healthy for the entire season and Adam Wainwright will be one year further removed from his Tommy John surgery and therefore that much closer to returning to his 2010 form.

The main questions are whether Jaime Garcia will be healthy and if Lance Lynn has the proper conditioning to hold up for an entire season in the rotation.  But, even if they are not capable of holding on to their rotation spots for the entire season, its not like the Cardinals are lacking in pitching depth.

Joe Kelly filled in admirably while Lynn was going through a rough patch last season and the Cardinals have top prospects Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha all waiting in the wings.

The Cardinals do not need to go out and sign a free agent pitcher.  As long as they continue to develop their young arms (and sign Wainwright to an extension), their rotation should be set for years to come

Remember, this is basically the same team that came within one game of the World Series last year.  Wholesale changes were not necessary.  Given reasonably good health and the minor league depth that the Cardinals have developed, the Cardinals are in good position to contend for the title again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Cardinals Top 10 Composite Prospect List

Each year I like to compile a composite prospect list, taking the top prospects lists from across the web, assigning points to each ranking and then using these points to create a composite ranking.  I do this each February for the top 100 prospects in baseball, which can be found at my MLB Composite Prospect Index site and I also do it for my favorite team, the Cardinals.

Below is the first annual Cardinals Top 10 Composite Prospect listing.  I have also added a separate page with a link to the spreadsheet as well as links to the expert sites that I used for the composite prospect list.

2013 Cardinals Top 10 Composite Prospect List (Preliminary)

1.  Oscar Taveras (70 points)

4 Seasons126321040691234024329115190.321.381.525
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Taveras was ranked #1 on all 7 top 10 lists and deservedly so.

2.  Shelby Miller (62 points)

4 Seasons29213.73383.2352180159351384721.277
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Despite his sub par year, Miller was stilled named the #2 prospect on 6 of the 7 lists, with 1 list ranking him 3rd.

3.  Carlos Martinez (54 points)

3 Seasons15122.76248.0195887610902681.149
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Still trying to catch up with the higher ranked Miller, Martinez could make his major league debut in 2013.

4.  Trevor Rosenthal (45 points)

2012 AA-AAA 8 6 2.97 109.0 78 40 36 7 42 104 1.101
4 Seasons 22 14 3.53 285.1 237 129 112 15 98 293 1.174
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

A bit of a sleeper prospect last year, Rosenthal is certainly on everyone's top prospect lists this year after impressing in his big league debut.

5.  Michael Wacha (43 points)
1 Season000.8621.082214400.571
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

After being drafted 19th overall this past June, Wacha spent time at three different levels in 2012, dominating at all 3.

6.  Kolten Wong (39 points)
2 Seasons717118215388147730166598.300.363.434.797
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

The Cardinals second baseman of the future had a fine season at AA and could battle for the starting job in Spring Training.

7.  Matt Adams (25 points)

4 Seasons14302234551032822918108266.318.365.565.930
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Injuries ruined his chance to show his power at the major league level and now he is blocked by Allen Craig.

8.  Tyrell Jenkins (22 points)

3 Seasons864.52141.114986718511371.415
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Another power arm, Jenkins struggled in his first taste of full season ball, but still has plenty of time to figure things out.

9.  Stephen Piscotty (9 points)
2012 A 210 29 62 18 1 4 27 3 18 25 .295 .376 .448 .823
1 Season 210 29 62 18 1 4 27 3 18 25 .295 .376 .448 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

Projects to hit for average, but is not expected to develop much power.

10.  Carson Kelly (6 points)
1 Season213244810092501033.225.263.399.662
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2013.

A second round pick in 2012, Kelly has a strong arm (he also pitched in high school), a nice line-drive stroke and power potential.

Others receiving points:
Anthony Garcia (4), John Gast (2), Mike O'Neill (2), Maikel Cleto (1), Victor De Leon (1) 

As noted above, this is the preliminary list as I still expect to see 5 or more lists published in the near future, so expect an update in lat January or early February.