We are breaking down the top five prospects for each organization for 2009, taking into consideration: games, at-bats, innings and major-league service time. We expect these players to have rookie status remaining heading into next year.
According to MLB rules: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list)."
Note: Statistics are those at each stop in the minors this season and age represents how old they will be on opening day 2009.
St. Louis Cardinals
It wasn't long ago we didn't see much coming out of the Cardinals farm system. Baseball America only last year finally had them in the upper half of baseball in their prospect rankings. Now, we are having a hard time picking among all the fruits of their organizational rebuilding labor. They are deep in the upper levels -- meaning a lot of potential help for the big club in 2009 -- and down lower, too. A team built around Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and a arguably the most talented coaching staff in baseball looks like it will be competitive for a long time.
1. OF Colby Rasmus, 22
Yours truly blew it last spring training. We saw a Cardinals outfielder with tremendous upside and a ridiculous swagger that was destined for greatness. We thought it was Rasmus. Instead, Ryan Ludwick slugged his way to Fantasy MVP status. Even Rick Ankiel and Skip Schumaker proved valuable at times. Rasmus? He was wallowing in Triple-A and hardly looking Fantasy worthy. Our eyes didn't deceive us, though. Rasmus might open the year in Triple-A again after his down campaign, but he is going to finish it in St. Louis and as an impact Fantasy outfielder in all leagues.
2. SP Jess Todd, 22
This Razorback product soared through the system this year and has put himself on pitching guru Dave Duncan's doorstep. Duncan usually does better with reclamation projects (see Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper) than prospects (i.e. Anthony Reyes), but Todd is arguably better than anyone in St. Louis already -- save for Adam Wainwright perhaps. Watch him for a spring training rotation spot or an in-season call-up. He could be a big winner immediately for the contending Cardinals.
|High A||3||0||1.65||7||4||0||0||1||27 1/3||18||7||5||0||7||35||1.33||.184|
3. 3B David Freese, 25
It was seemingly a veteran dumping when the Cardinals dealt Jim Edmonds to the Padres late last winter, picking up a decent but not great prospect in Freese. The Padres had Kevin Kouzmanoff in the majors and Chase Headley on the way, so Freese was expendable for what they thought was going to be a veteran defensive outfielder with pop. The Padres wound up releasing Edmonds and Freese went on to have a huge year in Triple-A. He is an ideal insurance policy for aging and oft-injured Troy Glaus and could prove to be a sleeper flier in NL-only leagues on Draft Day.
4. OF John Jay, 24
The Cardinals have a glut of outfielders, which is why Ludwick was rumored to have been included in a Matt Holliday package. Jay and his likely Triple-A teammates above (Rasmus) and below (see No. 5) are the next wave. Jay has speed and power and is developing more by the year after being picked in the second round out of Miami in 2006. Consider him a reserve option in 2009 but long term he profiles as a David DeJesus-like Fantasy option.
5. OF Daryl Jones, 21
Jones came into last season with less fanfare than Rasmus or Jay and had a better year than both. Considering the level he reached and the numbers he put up at his age, he is becoming a big-time Fantasy prospect. He will be stuck behind a glut of veterans and the two prospects above, but he is a must-stash in long-term keeper leagues right now.
Best of the rest: SP Mitchell Boggs, C Bryan Anderson, SP Jamie Garcia, SP Tyler Herron, SP Clayton Mortensen, SP Fernando Salas, OF Shane Peterson, SP Francisco Samuel, SP Kenny Maiques, SP Blake Hawksworth, 3B Brett Wallace, RP Jason Motte, SP P.J. Walters, SP Lance Lynn, SS Pete Kozma, 3B Allen Craig, SP Adam Reifer, SS Niko Vasquez, SS Jose Martinez, SP Brad Furnish, SP Mark McCormick, SP Blake King, 1B Mark Hamilton, 1B Curt Smith, SP Luke Gregerson, SS Tyler Greene, C Luis De La Cruz, OF Reid Gorecki, OF Amaury Cazana-Marti, OF Cody Haerther, 3B Travis Hanson, SP Stuart Pomeranz, SP Scott Gorgen, SP Adam Ottavino, 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir, RP Mark Worrell, 3B Brian Barden, OF Nick Stavinoha, 3B Rico Washington, RP Mike Parisi and RP Josh Kinney.
Last year's top five here: OF Rasmus, SP Walters, 2B Hoffpauir, SP Ottavino and OF Mather.
You can e-mail Emack your Fantasy Baseball prospect questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Cardinals prospects in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.