Cards Take Erik Komatsu, 2 Others in Rule 5

St. Louis adds three players while losing three minor leaguers in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. We have all the in-depth information on the newest Cardinals!

Anxious to increase their depth, the St. Louis Cardinals added an outfielder and two pitchers in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. Outfielder Erik Komatsu was selected from the Washington Nationals in the major league phase with pitchers Barret Browning and Shooter Hunt added in the Triple-A phase, from the Angels and Minnesota, respectively. The annual draft was held on Thursday morning during baseball's Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas.

Three minor leaguers not protected by the Cardinals were taken by other organizations in the Triple-A phase. Right-hander Javier Avendano was selected by Toronto, shortstop Domnit Bolivar was lost to Milwaukee and catcher Charlie Cutler is moving to the Pirates system.

Komatsu
Komatsu (pronounced ko-MAHT-su), 24, may appeal to the Cardinals because he has something they need – excellent on-base skills, with the capability to lead-off and play all three outfield positions. His weakness was an inability to remain healthy, especially during 2009, when he was slowed by wrist and hamstring problems and suffered a concussion.

Originally selected by Milwaukee in the eighth round of the 2008 draft from Cal-State Fullerton, the left-handed hitter moved to the Nationals in the Jerry Hairston trade this past summer. Komatsu has yet to play in Triple-A, but over his four-year minor league career has a line of .302/.389/.434/.823. He has stolen a total of 57 bases with a 70 percent success rate.

His .323 average in the Florida State League in 2010 was among the league leaders. He was named the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year that fall. Baseball America placed him at number 14 among Milwaukee prospects heading into 2011, while we here at Scout.com had Komatsu ranked third.

Komatsu logged an .809 OPS through 93 games in Double-A this summer prior to the trade, but lost his momentum afterward. With the Nationals' Double-A Harrisburg club, Komatsu dropped to a mediocre .595 OPS over his final 31 games in 2011.

The line-drive hitter lacks enough power to be considered a starting corner outfield candidate, with his centerfield defense the key to his potential value with St. Louis. Being a left-handed hitter would seem to put him in direct competition with Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker. A right-handed hitter would seem to have been a better fit.

Hunt
Hunt, 24, was the Twins' 1st-round selection in the 2008 draft, taken 31st overall. The former Tulane player had pitched in the Cape Cod League in 2007. At the time, our own Frankie Piliere offered this scouting report.

Physical Description – Tall, wiry, proportioned body with decent projection. Looks thinner than his listed weight. Thin legs, long lower half with room to grow. Looks very, very young. Very strong, and a complete, all-around athlete. Looks like Jensen Lewis.

Fastball – True power arm, fastball sits at 92-94, touches 96. Attacks hitters with heat and loves to work inside. Knocks hitters down to setup the outer half. Command of the fastball comes and goes, very, very inconsistent. The command is a major concern. Fastball moves late and hard in on righties, breaks a lot of bats. Enough movement to cause his control problems. Electric fastball.

Curveball – Hammer curveball at 78-82 MPH, seems to spot this pitch better than any other. Doesn't throw many bad ones and works it on both sides of the plate. Plus pitch. Breaks late and just drops off the table. 12-6 break with tight, hard spin. Great feel for this pitch and throws it with conviction. Big swing and miss pitch, just needs to stay ahead in the count to use it. Still some issues with his command of this pitch.

Changeup – Power changeup, throws at 84-87 MPH. Very straight with very little movement or action. True straight changeup, and is surprisingly very effective with hitters sitting on his heat. Definitely his third pitch and doesn't use much. When he uses it he shows a decent feel, its a fringy pitch but a good change of pace.

Mechanics – High leg kick, throws right over the top. A little big herky jerky and can get out of sync in a hurry. Smooth, very quick arm action but will need to tighten up the rest of his mechanics. Has trouble repeating his delivery, perhaps should trying simplifying his delivery. Too many moving parts. Shoulders flies open occassionally. Delivery is very similar to Mark Melancon.

Notes – Power pitcher but struggles with command in spurts. Sometimes spots his pitches as well as anyone but can fall out of his groove incredibly quickly. Lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. When on, he's got frontline potential. Plus makeup, plays to win, great competitive attitude. Must learn to pitch, not throw. Huge upside.

Since that glowing report, Hunt has yet to reach Double-A, logging a 6.85 ERA and walking more batters (236) than he struck out (219). Notice that walk total was accrued in just 193 innings. In other words, major work is required.

Browning
Browning, 26, has special appeal as a left-handed reliever and a small bonus is that he is from Adam Wainwright's hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. Signed by the Angels after being taken in the 28th round in 2006 out of Florida State, he sports a 90 mph fastball and sharp-breaking curveball.

It was his fourth time through the draft, having been previously selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 6th round in 2002, the Cubs in the 26th round in 2003 and the Rockies in the 38th round in 2005.

The Cardinals have seen plenty of Browning in recent seasons, first with Double-A Arkansas in 2008-10 and then in Triple-A with Salt Lake in each of the last two seasons. Primarily in a relief role, he has a career 4.22 ERA and only a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Browning has fanned 392 but walked 193 in 426 1/3 career innings.

Browning's immediate assignment is likely to shore up the left side of the Triple-A Memphis bullpen for 2012.

The business side

The Cardinals, with three players lost, tied for the third most players selected by other organizations. Of the 37 players changing addresses Thursday, the Angels led the way with five lost, while the Phillies lost four.

The Cardinals spent $50,000 in return for Komatsu as he becomes the 37th player on their 40-man roster. He will need to make the Cards' 25-man roster in the spring or be placed on waivers. If claimed by another organization, he would be required to remain on their roster. If he clears, the Nationals can take him back for $25,000.

There are no roster restrictions on how the Cardinals use Hunt and Browning in 2012, so they should remain in the organization. Where they start the season will depend on how they perform in spring training. The same shoe is on the other foot in terms of the futures of Avendano, Bolivar and Cutler. They are almost surely not coming back to the Cardinals.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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