Because it’s a New Year and people like lists.
1). Shelby Miller lives up to the expectation – Miller may not be the unanimous number 1 prospect within the system (I expect a few Daryl Jones and Jaime Garcia’s to appear) but he’s undoubtedly the player with the most upside. Bringing a Texas-sized fastball and some questionable secondary stuff, the organization pinned it’s hopes on Miller as their first true ace pitching prospect selected under Jeff Luhnow. If Miller has a wretched 2010, or his fastball turns out to be more Iowa-sized, it’s a real blow to the farm system.
2). Daryl Jones breaks out – 2008 was a great year for Jones. 2009 was not so great. Jones is one of the few high level hitting prospects in the Cardinals system that still has a chance of being an impact player. He’s part of a crowded field of contenders right now including names like Tyler Henley, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, etc. If Jones doesn’t put up some impressive numbers at Memphis this year (regardless of where he starts 2010), it will be a huge blow to the perception as him as a player.
3). The Cardinals learn how to teach command – The Cardinals seem to have an ongoing problem with taming some of the more talented arms in the system. Guys like Adam Ottavino, Francisco Samuel, Adam Reifer, etc consistently flash above average stuff with sometimes wretched command. If the respective coaching staffs can find that magic bullet for even just one of those players it would be a huge success.
4). Eduardo Sanchez turns into what Chris Perez was supposed to be – Sanchez appears to be the one glimmer of hope internally should the big league bullpen fail. The options from AAA can plug in some little leaks (Pete Parise, Fernando Salas) but should the boat capsize, i.e. Jason Motte or Ryan Franklin go belly up, Eduardo Sanchez is the only arm the Cardinals have that fits that role. He displayed a superb strikeout-to-walk ratio built on not only a high-K rate but also a low-BB rate. His pure stuff isn’t what Chris Perez’s was but his command is better and he’s our last, best hope at the moment to be a stopper.
5). A big draft budget – The Cardinals will have some significant opportunities to add talent via the draft this year. With the failed signing of Wagner Mateo ($3 million) and the additional supplemental draft picks that come from Mark DeRosa and Joel Pineiro, the Cardinals will likely have 4 of the top 75 picks in 2010. While they won’t have an exceptionally early pick (25th overall), they’ll have a lot of mid round picks clustered together. The Cardinals signed the most picks in 2009 (43) with just the 17th largest draft budget*. Given the continued turnover in the system as the team more aggresively releases players not performing and promoting players quickly up the ladder, the Cardinals are likely to continue this pattern of signing a high volume of players. Combine that approach with additional first round picks and the Cardinals will need more dollars to acquire the kind of impact talent required to revitalize the system.
*Wagner Mateo skews this evaluation of the teams overall “draft” money spent.