Pre-2005 it probably wouldn’t have been much fun to cover the minor league farm system on a daily basis. Part of the success that we’ve had here at FR, besides the dashing good looks of our avatars and lyrical prose*, is that the minor leaguers have actually gotten good and people enjoy watching teams that don’t suck. There’s been one glaring change this year to tell us that the farm system is producing top to bottom but where would we hope to see the farm system head next?
It started this year with players like Rico Washington or Josh Phelps. It started as in there really are fewer grizzled minor league veterans occupying AAA roles. It’s obvious at places like the corner infield where the Cardinals have a plethora of options. It hasn’t yet made it’s way to the middle infield or left handed relief where the likes of Thurston, Oustland and Ring still reside.
This isn’t an advocacy to stop trying to pick up these guys all together. There’s value to be had in these types of near-replacement level players and the immediate depth they provide. No farm system in MLB can or does produce MLB-ready prospects on a yearly basis but the Cardinals haven’t had one that could provide any MLB-ready prospects until recently. The reality is that these are marginal players that, if they’re on your roster, aren’t going to do much more than not drag you down. They almost certainly not going to be significant win adders over the course of the season but you also don’t want them to be 2002 Neifi Perez.
If we acknowledge that the minor league veterans are going to be fewer and farther in between as we head into the future, what else should we expect. In erik’s interview with John Vuch, Mr. Vuch, speaking of Luis Perdomo said:
With the RH relievers we have ahead of him in the organization, it likely would be a couple years before he’d be in the majors with us, and saving an option year could turn out to be necessary down the road.
Now that’s a defensible (if somewhat misguided) justification for their decision. I don’t agree with it but they’ve couched it in some logic and I’m not going to argue that they made the decision for other reasons. There’s a corollary to this statement though. They’re saving an option year on Perdomo but they’re also burning an option year on someone else: Matt Scherer.
I’ve been on the record a couple times that Scherer isn’t a major league reliever. He’s in the mold of Andy Cavazos; someone who could throw a few innings at the MLB in a pinch but not someone who has the stuff to stick around for more than a few innings in the bigs. If you’re making a RH depth chart right now, Scherer comes in pretty far down the list and guys like Gregerson, Salas and Samuel aren’t going to give him any kind of a break. This is the transistion that the Cardinals are staving off for one more year but one that’s going to be necessary in the short term.
Players like Scherer and Stavinoha are fine to have around until they start taking innings from better prospects. These types of players aren’t going to be anything more than they are now and what they are now is fringe major leaguers at best. The Cardinals are going to have some serious decisions to make with regards to the Rule V draft as early as next year. Brian Walton does a great job breaking down the outlook and the players that will need to be protected. The first list of 14 are the players of note. Anyone after that is either a) not likely to be selected in the draft or b) not worth worrying about. That still leaves about 8-10 players of the first 14 that are going to have to be on the list or they will almost certainly be snapped up.
The release of players like Scherer and Stavinoha are coming. Players that we cover on a regular basis in Daily Farm Reports. Players we’re familiar with. Players that we may really like. They may head to other clubs where there are more opportunities or they may stick around as minor league free agents (although, 2009 shows those are dwindling). It’s the next step for the farm system. It’s inevitably where we’re headed and it’s a sign that things are going right.
*Humility at FR comes free of charge.