Ed. Note: This is a guest post from GForce. We’re always open to talented writers sharing their thoughts here at FR.
Thanks to Erik for this opportunity and I hope my writing skills aren’t too rusty. I have been thinking of a series to tie in the gap between the end of the minor league seasons and when the AFL and other winter ball starts. My thoughts lately have been drifting to next year and how the newly found depth of true prospects fits in throughout the higher levels of the organization. Using the criteria below, I give my top three at each position.
1. Age – I only looked at players 25 and under because I wanted each to have plenty of time to make their mark as a Cardinal.
2. Level – I used Palm Beach as the benchmark for this exercise due to some of the aggressive moves used more frequently the last few years. I also didn’t include anyone that has made the jump to St. Louis, no matter how long or short the stay.
3. Potential – I chose the last category because it really opens up discussion as to what is important to the team and the various holes needing filled along the way.
Since most top-prospect lists are open for debate, I took the easy way out and elected to start with the least difficult position, at least for me. Obviously the catcher spot is not one that the big club will be looking to address this off season and hopefully not for some time with Yadi behind the plate.
1. Anderson (21) Springfield/Memphis – All-Star
He has grown up fast with increasing responsibility through the ranks, and AAA this year was no different. His strengths and weaknesses have been discussed at length on this site, and honestly, Anderson looks to be ready for the next challenge. With La Russa signed for one more year, this winter will prove to be a strong indicator on how much defense plays into the decision. A spot on the 40-man roster looks to be a given, but with what franchise? Anderson is a mighty large trade chip, especially for most of the AL East.
09 Outlook – Yadi’s apprentice, works with Oquendo on learning some Biggio-like infield skills
2. Tony Cruz (22) Palm Beach – Super Utility
The man on the move last year found stability in more ways than one in 2008. After playing all over the field for four different clubs following the 07 Draft, Cruz stuck mainly behind the plate for one team this year. He is playing winter ball in Hawaii after injuries limited his season to 89 games. Cruz continues to turn heads, and I hope the Cardinals are ready to test him some more.
09 Outlook – Starting catcher for Palm Beach, promoted to Springfield in June
3. Brandon Yarbrough (23) Springfield – Serviceable back-up
Another lefty-hitting back stop, Yarbrough’s offense will not be confused with Anderson. He struggled in his first AA season but has steadily moved up the ladder since being drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 03. Split time with Matt Pagnozzi, who was the better defensive catcher. No reason to rush him unless injuries say otherwise.
09 Outlook – Starting catcher in Springfield, promoted to Memphis in June
Honorable mentions – Steven Hill and Ismael Cardona
Hill and Cruz should save money and go halves on baseball equipment. Maybe next year the Cards will decide where they want Hill to play, but he does add some pop from the right side. If nothing else he could make for an interesting Spring Training fill-in, playing three different positions in three games. Cardona is young, as in not 20 yet young. He qualifies here with his one game at PB but is an interesting one to watch after playing at four levels in 08.