Jeff Luhnow chat transcript
Cardinals executive answers fans' questions about prospects
Luhnow: Thanks for joining us today and apologize for the difficulties on Wednesday. Let's get started. I'm looking forward to your questions.
Q: Who has been the biggest suprise (upside) in the 08 draft?
Luhnow: Overall, this draft class went out and performed very well, which is good news for us. If I had to single out a few players who surprised us in the positive direction, I'd have to say Curt Smith and Colt Sedbrook. Curt's numbers speak for themselves and while he's a first baseman, the bat is exciting. Colt played well both ways and continues to do so in Jupiter now.
Q: You have had great success in challenging prospects with exposure at higher levels. What do you look for to determine who can succeed at a higher level?
Luhnow: Success on the field as well as strong recommendations from the coaching staff and rovers. Sometimes it is a matter of the opportunity presenting itself. In the past, we might have looked outside the organization to fill open spots as players moved up or were injured. Over these past two years we've tried to let our own guys take those spots and in general they have responded well, so we continue to do that.
Q: You held sort of a pitching school before spring training. Who seemed to benefit most from that exposure?
Luhnow: It's hard to say how much a program like that impacted their seasons, but I will say that a guy who seemed to take away some positives was PJ Walters. He had some adjustments to make that we weren't sure he would want to or that his success would continue, but he did and he was able to have a good year.
Q: Thoughts on Chris Swauger, OF, played for Batavia Muckdogs
Luhnow: Chris was a real force on that Batavia team. He has big time power. When we drafted him out of the Citadel, we figured he would hit. After he got off to a slow start, some people were worried. He sure turned it around, and it's another example of why we look at the historical success players have had when we select them. He played a decent OF but his primary value is in the run production.
Q: Adam Ottavino never seemed to get on track this year. Could you explain his struggles?
Luhnow: He struggled early in the year, but if you look at his underlying numbers (walk%, K%, etc) he returned to his 2007 form in July and August of 2008. The jump from Palm Beach to Springfield for a pitcher is a difficult one because they go from a pitcher-friendly park in a pitcher-friendly league to a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league. Adam pitched in Jupiter for our instructional team yesterday and was 92-94. He will be in the fall league and I look forward to seeing him there.
Q: Jeff: Richard Castillo dominated the MWL at age 18 -- a very rare feat, obviously (Castillo was in fact the youngest starter in the entire league). Yet Baseball America omitted him from the league's top 20 prospect list. Any guess why?
Luhnow: Maybe because he's a six foot right hander... those guys don't tend to get a lot of love from the scouting community. Richard is a prospect and probably should have been on the list, but he hasn't received much publicity and isn't as high profile as many other players. I'm OK with that. The other player that should have been on the prospect list, this time for the NYPL, was Frederick Parejo. At 18, playing a premium position, an All-Star on the championship team? Come on...
Q: Thanks for the chat, Jeff! What can you tell me about the velocity/repertoire of Venezuelan southpaw sensation Moises Colorado?
Luhnow: I just saw him pitch the other day in Jupiter, and I saw him in Venezuela earlier in the year. He's a tall pitcher with long arms. His fastball is 88-89 but he still could throw harder and he's a left-hander. He has a curveball and a changeup, both of which are improving. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the US next year.
Q: How is Peter Kozma progressing and where would you expect him to be at the start of '09?
Luhnow: Pete had a terrific year in Quad Cities and was named one of the top prospects. His bat slowed down a bit when he got to Palm Beach, but he did pick it up at the end during the playoffs. He is exactly where I was hoping he would be after his first full season. He should start the year at PB and go from there. Defensively very solid and a sound approach at the plate. One of our top middle infield prospects for sure.
Q: Where do you see our big international signings starting next year? De La Cruz? Franco? Valera? Thanks.
Luhnow: Both De La Cruz and Valera came to our instructional program this year and have been impressive. DLC is currently banged up, but from what he showed, he's probably a Johnson City guy out of the gate next year. Valera is probably a GCL guy. Franco we are still working on paperwork issues so we haven't seen him yet.
Q: What is the status of the player the Cards drafted who has Navy service time to fulfill?
Luhnow: Mitch Harris. A very good pitcher and we were hoping to sign him. The problem is that he can't play... the Navy is keeping him very busy. We have until the close period next year, but I'm not optomisitic because he has a committment to the US Navy that he needs to fulfill.
Q: Is Bryan Anderson stuck in Memphis with Yadier Molina getting a long-term deal?
Luhnow: First, Yadi is a great catcher so we are lucky to have him. The options for Andy are to be a backup or play full time at AAA. We will evaluate the pros and cons of those choices in Spring Training and make a decision.
Q: With Daryl Jones break out this year, what position do you see him playing the in future with Rasmus also in center? Also, I have heard comps of Granderson with more plate discipline, what do you think of those? Thanks.
Luhnow: Jones had a great year. If you had to choose defensively between the two for CF, Raz gets the nod. But Jones can play left or center, so there is room for both of them.
Q: How much input do you have on which minor leaguers are included in major league trades?
Luhnow: Any trade would be discussed internally and if it involved a minor league players, we would get input from the player development staff as well as the scouts.
Q: Can you name a few hidden gems, future prospects we may not have heard much from yet?
Luhnow: Sam Freeman. Left handed pitcher up to 94 with good secondary pitches, and one of the best atheletes we have in our system. Watch out for him! Good timing, too, as we certainly aren't going to turn away any good lefties.
Luhnow: Also, Ryde Rodriguez is really coming on. He was finally recognized as an All-Star in the GCL. He has matured as a hitter and has big league tools, as well as big league makeup?
Q: Is Jess Todd the real deal?
Luhnow: I sure hope so... and I assure you we will find out! He's torn through our system and had success at every level. I don't see that stopping.
Q: Players don't typically rise through the minors as fast as Brett Wallace has. Will be start in Memphis next year?
Luhnow: People aren't typically as good as Brett Wallace! I suspect he will start in AA next year, but if he tears it up like he did at the end of this year, we will certianly have to think about the next level.
Q: What do you see as our overall weakness in the farm system?
Luhnow: We need more big league lefties... both as starter and relievers. We also need some more catching depth. The biggest challenge we have is sorting out all the players and making sure the right guys get the playing time.
Q: Is there any chance we see Bryan Anderson make a move to a new position during Spring Training ala Craig Biggio?
Luhnow: Bryan is a good catcher and has improved every year. He's also a left handed hitter with doubles power and I believe eventually some home run power as he gets older and stronger. He is very valuable to us a catcher, either as a backup, platoon, or starter.
Q: With the Cardinal system having so many prospects, will you consider taking higher risk, big tool players in the later rounds such as the Red Sox and Angels have done?
Luhnow: Last question... we do take some risks, and we will continue to search for guys with major league upside. Some of the big bonus late round players are not guys we feel are worth it, but we have and will continue to look for them.
Luhnow: Thanks everyone... these questions were fabulous. As always, I appreciate the interest in our system. Make sure you keep an eye out for many of these players in the AFL, Hawaii, and winter ball!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.