10 Cardinals prospects to watch
Motte, Rasmus among those that could impact St. Louis
With the 2009 season quickly approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Cardinals' most intriguing prospects to keep an eye on.
Bryan Anderson, C: Having already performed well in Triple-A at age 21, Anderson is solidly ahead of the curve. He's a left-handed hitting catcher with a career .306 average and .369 OBP. He hasn't shown much home-run power, but he's a contact hitter with some extra-base ability. He's improved his receiving skills each year and has shown the ability to throw runners out (37.6 percent in 2008). He just needs experience to handle a Major League pitching staff -- and with the luxury of having Yadier Molina in St. Louis, the Cards can afford to let Anderson get the seasoning he needs.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Mitchell Boggs, RHP: There's no question Boggs has the stuff to get big-league hitters out, with a fastball that sits comfortably in the 92-94 mph range and a good, slurvy-type curve he throws in the upper 70s to mid 80s. He's also developing his changeup to have a full repertoire. He led the Pacific Coast League in ERA, but that success didn't carry over to his Major League debut. For Boggs to have long-term success, the Georgia product will have to improve his consistency and command. He's shown he can start or relieve and that kind of flexibility can come in handy. He's also shown he can succeed for a full season in Triple-A. He may have to return to Memphis, but if he keeps having success at that level he should get another big-league shot soon.
Tyler Greene, SS: Some players take a little longer to develop. When you're a first-round pick out of a big college program, any delay can be seen as a disappointment, but it seems that Greene, a 2005 first-rounder out of Georgia Tech, turned a corner in 2008. He performed well in Double-A, learned a lot in Triple-A and then did well in the Arizona Fall League. Those experiences have benefited him in big-league camp this spring. His tools are impressive -- he's always shown power and speed -- but even more importantly, he's taking a much better approach at the plate. The Cardinals feel he's not far from being a regular middle infielder in the big leagues. For now, he's playing some third base in camp and could very well make the big-league club as a super-utilityman.
Daryl Jones, OF: The third-rounder from the 2005 Draft had a true breakthrough season in 2008, one the Cardinals knew would come eventually. That it came in the pitching-friendly Florida State League at the age of 21 was all the more impressive. An FSL All-Star, he earned a promotion to Double-A and kept on hitting -- finishing with a .316 average, .407 OBP, .483 SLG, 24 stolen bases and the organization's Player of the Year award. He has good speed which plays well on both sides of the ball, and while he has a below-average arm, it's accurate -- he could play center or left field at the next level. He's an exciting player who can make things happen and the Cards are hopeful he'll keep doing that, perhaps making it to Triple-A before the year is through.
Pete Kozma, SS: If it's possible for a first-round pick to be under the radar, Kozma does it. That's partially because the sum is greater than each of his individual parts. He doesn't have an outstanding single tool, but is a solid all-around performer at a premium position. An outstanding defender, he made all the plays at both of his stops in his first full season. He has good speed, decent range and enough arm for the position. Though he struggled offensively with the jump to Class A Advanced Palm Beach, he's shown he can be an offensive catalyst with a quiet approach at the plate. The Cardinals think he'll hit for average and extra-base hits, though not home-run power. That combination, plus his defense at a premium position, makes him an attractive prospect.
Clayton Mortensen, RHP: The supplemental first-round pick in 2007 was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A ahead of schedule when an injury created an opening. Though the senior signee out of Gonzaga had mixed results statistically, the organization feels the experience will benefit the right-hander tremendously. The stuff is clearly there, he just needs to learn how to pitch at the upper levels. He relies on an excellent sinking fastball, though he can throw it too much -- he'll need to throw his breaking ball and changeup more to get big-league hitters out. Spending another year in Triple-A could be good for him. As a senior, it was hoped that he would move quickly, but having reached Memphis in his first full season, he's still ahead of the curve as he turns 24 this April.
Jason Motte, RHP: There is little question that Motte, a converted catcher, will contribute out of the big-league bullpen in 2009. Just how much and in what role remains to be seen. His fastball, sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s, is as good as anyone's in the entire organization. He's also made big strides with his breaking ball and off-speed stuff, even if they are show-me pitches to keep hitters from sitting on the heater. He's got the makeup and attitude to be an effective late reliever. Even better, he takes nothing for granted -- something that should help him as he tries to make an impression in big-league camp. It's not out of the question to think he could be closing games in St. Louis in the near future.
Colby Rasmus, OF: For as long as everyone's been waiting for Rasmus' arrival in St. Louis, the fact remains that he'll be just 22 for most of the 2009 season. The center fielder seemed to learn a great deal from an up-and-down 2008. First, he came to big-league camp and learned that a good spring alone does not a team make. He had a slow start in his Triple-A debut, got hot and then got hurt, costing him a chance at the Olympic team. He still has all the tools, but now he's showing an even better ability to make adjustments. After a slow start in Spring Training, he has been heating up rapidly. If he continues to approach things the right way, there's a good chance he'll head north with the big-league club.
Jess Todd, RHP: To say Todd exceeded expectations in his first full season would be an understatement. The Arkansas product, taken in the second round of the 2007 Draft, pitched at three levels and ended the year in Triple-A. A Futures Game participant and Texas League All-Star, he finished second in the organization in both ERA and strikeouts. He has a lethal fastball-slider combination. Everything he throws cuts and he's extremely effective against right-handed hitters. He's working on becoming better against lefties. A maximum-effort pitcher, there's some debate over whether he'll be a starter or reliever in the long-term. The effort doesn't seem to affect his ability to carry his stuff deep into starts, so he'll remain in that role for now. Of course, that could all change depending on where the big-league opportunity is, something that could come fairly soon.
Brett Wallace, 3B: One thing is certain about the Cardinals' first-round pick from last June: he can flat-out hit the baseball. Coming off a ridiculous junior season at Arizona State, Wallace reached Double-A in his pro debut and batted a combined .337/.427/.530 in 54 games, then went on to hit .309 in the Arizona Fall League. While there are still things he can learn offensively, no one feels that will be an issue. The discussions about his future always surround his defense, but the Cardinals think he's shown enough thus far to continue at the hot corner. He's got plenty of arm strength and while he'll never win awards for his range, he's got enough instincts for the position and he's more athletic than it may seem. Nevertheless, it's his bat that will make him a big leaguer in the near future.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.