|St. Louis Cardinals Top 5|
|1||Colby Rasmus||CF||After posting .397 wOBA in AA in '07, fell to .324 in AAA in '08; missed time w/ sprained knee||22.2||AAA|
|2||Brett Wallace||3B||08 No. 13 pick had .419 wOBA between A+, AA (234 PA); went .309/.381/.585 in AFL||22.1||AA|
|3||Daryl Jones||LF||After putting up .275 wOBA in '07, had breakout year in '08 (.383 between A+, AA); 10.9% BB||21.3||AA|
|4||Lance Lynn||RHP||39th pick of '08 showed strikeout ability (27.1%), control (5.6% BB) in pro debut; think No. 2-3 SP
|5||Chris Perez||RHP||Chance to be St. Louis' fulltime closer in '09; strikeout threat (23.7%), lots of walks (12.4%)
|Honorables: Bryan Anderson (C), Richard Castillo (RHP), Jess Todd (RHP), Jason Motte (RHP), Pete Kozma (SS) and Jaime Garcia (LHP).|
|* Our rankings combine a player's ceiling with the odds that he'll reach it and favor recent production|
|** Ages are as of November 1st, 2008|
|*** Level is the highest level the player has reached|
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Colby Rasmus -- This time last year, Rasmus was jockeying with Jay Bruce for the rights to the No. 1 slot on our Top 150 prospect list. This year, things are different. The No. 28 overall pick in the 2005 draft, Rasmus missed a good chunk of the 2008 season due to injury (knee, groin). When he wasn't hurt, he was struggling, posting a .251/345/.396 vital in 386 Triple-A plate appearances. That said, Rasmus did have a .397 wOBA in Double-A as a 21-year-old a year prior and has always displayed excellent plate discipline (12% walk rate or higher in High-A, Double-A and Triple-A). He also projects as a solid defensive center fielder. If he can stay healthy and regain some of his power (.276 IsoP in '07 vs. .145 in '08), his stock could return to its '08 preseason form.
Brett Wallace -- Someone forgot to tell Wallace there's supposed to be a learning curve between playing college ball and the professional ranks. Selected No. 13 overall in June's draft, Wallace went .337/.427/.530 in his first 234 plate appearances, splitting time between Low-A and Double-A. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder out of Arizona State then returned to the state where he played collegiately to go .309/.381/.585 in 103 Arizona Fall League plate appearances. Speed, however, will never be Wallace's ally. He's Billy Butler slow, meaning he'll probably have a .290-.315 BABIP in the majors; he was at .387 in the minors. While his glove at third base may raise questions, his bat alone could be enough to earn him a trip to the big leagues by season's end.
Daryl Jones -- Jones wasn't much of a prospect entering the 2008 season. By the end of it, he was on everyone's radar. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder followed up a lackluster 2007 campaign (.275 wOBA in 479 Low-A PA) with an impressive '08 showing (.383 wOBA in 503 PA between High-A, Double-A). A 2005 third-rounder, Jones maintained a strong 10.9% walk ratio go along with his adequate power display (.167 IsoP; .210 in 151 Double-A PA). He has a chance of becoming an above-average corner outfielder.
Lance Lynn -- If size really does matter, then Lynn's covered. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 260 pounds, Lynn was a sandwich round selection (No. 39 overall) in June's draft. The hefty righty threw 26.2 innings between Short-Season and Low-A, displaying good control (5.6% BB rate) and the ability to strike hitters out (27.1% K rate). Lynn has good sink on his fastball, but that didn't equate to ground balls last season (40% GB). Although he doesn't bring dominating stuff with him to the hill, Lynn has the kind of command necessary to be a middle-of-the-rotation-type starter.
Chris Perez -- It looks like St. Louis' closer of the future is being given a chance to become its closer of the present. After saving seven big league games in 11 tries last season, Perez will likely be the Cardinals' fulltime stopper in 2009. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder can rack up the strikeouts; he had a 23.7% strikeout rate in the bigs (41.2 IP) after putting up a 36.2% rate in Triple-A (25.1 IP). He's had control problems, though, posting a walk rate of 11.4% or higher at each level as a professional.
Bryan Anderson (12/16/86) -- Anderson has always had youth on his side. So while his .324 wOBA from a season ago doesn't look too impressive, the fact that he was guiding a pitching staff as one of the youngest players in Triple-A is. A 2005 fourth-rounder, Anderson showed solid on base ability last year (11.7% BB), but very little power (.098 IsoP). If Anderson, who played the entirety of the 2008 season as a 21-year-old, can develop a bit more power with age, he could develop into a league-average catcher.
Richard Castillo (10/11/89) -- Signed as an international free agent last February, Castillo has started his professional career off on the right foot. A native of Venezuela, Castillo showed strikeout potential (23.3%) while displaying solid control (7.4% BB rate) in 95.0 innings between Low-A and High-A in 2008 -- as an 18-year-old (he skipped rookie ball entirely). The 5-foot-11, 165-pound righty can throw both his fastball and curveball for strikes, and will go to his curve regardless of the count.
Jess Todd (4/20/86) -- When you break down Todd's numbers, it's hard to look at them without thinking middle-of-the-rotation starter. A 6-foot, 210-pound righty, Todd showed decent strikeout (20.0%) and ground ball (53%) ability while maintaining an impressive 5.9% walk rate in 103.0 Double-A innings. His control dropped noticeably in Triple-A (11.5%), but that was in a very small sample (22.2 IP). Todd's numbers could taper off a bit in 2009, though, as he had a .247 BABIP in Double-A. It's possible Todd could find his way to St. Louis by the end of the season, although he'll likely spend a the majority of his 2009 campaign in Triple-A Memphis.
Jason Motte (6/22/82) -- Motte is old by prospect standards. That doesn't mean you should overlook him. A former catcher, Motte has only been pitching professionally for three years. He was dominant in Triple-A last year, recording an overpowering 110 strikeouts versus 26 walks in just 66.2 innings (37.9% K, 9.0% BB). He then went on to throw 11.0 spectacular September innings with the Cardinals (40.0% K, 7.5% BB, 40 TBF)). With Perez and Motte, it looks like the end of the St. Louis bullpen could be in good shape for years to come.
Pete Kozma (4/11/88) -- Kozma numbers from his first full professional season don't jump off the page at you, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Kozma posted a solid .339 wOBA to go along with a 10.4% walk rate in 434 Low-A plate appearances. He finished out the season with a lackluster showing in a limited High-A sample (.195 wOBA in 94 PA). The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is said to have surprising pop for someone his size, but had a hard time showing it in 2008 (.103 IsoP). If he can develop some power to go along with his on base ability and adequate defense, there's a chance Kozma could become an above-average major league shortstop.
Jaime Garcia (7/8/86) -- Garcia has always picked up a ton of ground balls. It's everything else he's had trouble being consistent with. The lefty has posted a ground ball rate of at least 55% at every level he's pitched, and finds himself in the 60+% range more often than not. Garcia's strikeout rates, however, have been all over the map, ranging from 16.0% to 28.3% -- the 28.3% came in Double-A last year, before he fell back to 19.0% and 11.6% in Triple-A and the majors, respectively. Additionally, his commond has gotten worse as he's ascended through the minors; his walk rate was at 5.3% in Low-A and High-A, but increased to 9.5% across three levels last season. In short, Garcia has the potential to be a No. 3 starter, possibly even a No. 2. Whether he can learn to manage his inconsistencies and live up to that potential, though, remains to be seen. He'll miss much or all of the 2009 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Adam Loberstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.