We continue our way around the infield with a look at the shortstops in the Cardinals system. As with second base, shortstop has been a weak spot in recent years – the last shortstop of any signifigance that came through the system was Jack Wilson, who made his major league debut in 2001 with the Pirates. Brendan Ryan was with the big league club for most of the season and many hoped that he could become the everyday shortstop for the Cardinals, but his performance this season has made that possibility seem remote.
Unlike the keystone, however, the minor league system currently has talent at the position sprinkled throughout the levels. We’ve got a minor league trade acquisition playing at a high level in AAA (and now the Olympics), a first round draftee that has regained some luster in AA (and hopefully will continue to do so at AAA), a recent first round draftee that has been proving that he deserved such a high pick in A ball, and a 2008 high school draftee that has been tearing up rookie ball. We’ll take a look at them all after the jump.
Brian Barden – Barden was an astute waiver wire pickup by the Cardinals during the 2007 season. He had always hit well as he came up through the Diamondbacks organization (except, actually for the 2007 season), but 2007 would have been his third full season at AAA and Arizona needed a spot on their 40 man roster (I could be wrong, but I think it was so that they could call up Justin Upton). For Arizona, Barden was mostly a third baseman, but once he came to the Cardinals he mainly played shortstop (although he did play all over) and this season at Memphis 91 of his 98 games played have been at shortstop. He has hit well this season, putting up a .293/.357/.434 line and was selected to play for the U.S. in the Olympics. I am not sold on Barden as an everyday shortstop in the major leagues, but he should see some time as a utility player with a little sock off the bench.
Tyler Greene – Greene was a Cardinals first round pick in the 2005 draft (taken two spots after Colby Rasmus). He has been very inconsistent in his minor league career, with only one really good stop along the way (223 at bats at Quad Cities in 2006). Otherwise he has been disappointing. He has shown some glimmers of the talent that led to him being picked in the first round, such as the .327/.364/.564 line he put up in July for Springfield. With Barden off at the Olympics, Greene has been called up to AAA, which I think is a good thing. He’s at that point in his career where he needs to be challenged at the highest level of the minor leagues to prove that he still deserves to be thought of as a prospect.
D’Angelo Jimenez – No, I’m just kidding, we aren’t really going to talk about him.
Casey Rowlett – I talked about Rowlett when we covered the second basemen. He isn’t really a prospect, but he is valuable to the organization because he can be shuffled around positions and levels to cover where there is a need on the infield.
Jose Martinez – He was also more prominently mentioned in the coverage of second basemen, but since Greene has been promoted to Memphis, Martinez has been the everyday shortstop at Springfield (we will see if that changes, though, since Donovan Solano has been promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach). I’m not any more of a fan of his at short than I was at second base. He just doesn’t take enough walks – and with the disappearance of his power this season (.090 ISO), he hasn’t really offered much in the way of offense.
Donovan Solano – Solano is a twenty year old that has spent this whole season at Palm Beach and has done well. His line on the year is .286/.346/.351. It would be nice to see a little more in the way of power, but the .351 mark is actually the highest of his career. Considering that he is still pretty young for the level and is holding his own, I feel pretty good about his performance at this point. He was just promoted to Springfield, which might be a little aggressive for a twenty-year-old that wasn’t exactly dominating at Palm Beach. With Kozma pressuring from below and Martinez/Greene/Barden/Ryan all holding steady above him, it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his progress.
Oliver Marmol – Marmol is a weak hitting, slick fielding twenty-two year old that has bounced between Quad Cities and Palm Beach this year. His ceiling is as a utility infielder, but he hasn’t shown any power at all or any offensive skills, for that matter, that will allow him to be even a utility guy much higher in the organization than he already is.
Pete Kozma – The criticisms of the Cardinal’s pick of Kozma in the 2007 draft were almost unanimous. Pete is one of those guys that does everything well, but nothing exceptionally. He is a solid fielding shortstop that hits for good average, gets on base at a good clip and hits for occassional power. His line this year at Quad Cities is .285/.362/.398. He will almost certainly never be an MVP candidate, but if he progresses through the system and remains above average in every facet of the game, he will be a very valuable major league player. He was recently promoted to Palm Beach as a reward for his solid play this year.
Domnit Bolivar – Bolivar is only nineteen and he’s been moved all over the infield in stops at Johnson City, Batavia and Quad Cities over the last two years. He hasn’t shown much with the bat at this point, but he’s also never really been given a chance to settle at one spot. It seems likely that he is being groomed for a utitility role unless he really breaks out with the bat (think Marmol minus three years).
Colt Sedbrook – Colt is more of a second baseman, but he has played 14 games at short this year, so he deserves mention. Having played four years of college makes him a bit old for his level (Batavia), but I like him quite a bit (as a second baseman, though).
Jose Garcia – Garcia is another in the mold of Marmol and Bolivar: he’s young (20 years old), has played all over the infield, and hasn’t shown much with the bat yet.
Nico Vasquez – Nico has been everything we hoped for as a draft pick and then some. Through 159 at bats his line is .321/.425/.478. The knock on him on draft day was that he has limited foot speed, but he has stolen five bases in seven attempts already, which is better than I would have guessed (although the defensive abilities of catchers at this level are wildly erratic). He is only nineteen years old and looks ready to prove himself at the next level. I would think that he would start 2009 at Quad Cities. Second base could be his position in the long run, especially if Kozma continues to advance, but that is a change that can be put off until it becomes necessary.
Guillermo Toribio – I like to call him Gino, even though that implies a completely different ethnicity and really doesn’t make sense. Gino seems to be another of the young, pliable, weak hitting group of infielders in the lower minor leagues for the Cardinals. I suppose there are worse strategies than grabbing a quantity of these guys and hoping that one or two improve enough with the stick to become useful.