The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)
School: University of California at Los Angeles
Selected 2011 stats
CariocaCardinal (40): Jermaine Curtis's breakout year in 2011 is the type that leaves fans wondering whether he has really turned the corner or whether he is just another product of the hitter-friendly confines of Hammons Field in Springfield. Highly touted for his quick bat after being drafted, Curtis has been somewhat of a disappointment as a hitter until this past season. Despite that, Curtis has risen steadily through the ranks at about a level a year.
The one distinct skill Curtis has shown is plate discipline and the ability to draw a walk. His career OBP+ is over 100 and over the last two years, he has walked more than he has struck out. The skill Curtis had not shown much of until this year was the ability to hit for power. His ISO SLG% was a measly .059 and .053 in 2009 and 2010. (In comparison, the weak-hitting Dal Maxvill had a career ISO SLG% of .076.) However, Curtis upped that to .120 in 2011. The Hammons Field effect? Possibly, but his home and away power stats were not appreciably different.
Curtis will almost certainly move up to Memphis after a year and half in Double-A and a breakout year in 2011. There, he needs to continue to show at least a small amount of pop in his bat and he also needs to learn how to exploit his high OBP. (He had zero steals in 2011). Defensively, Curtis has never been known to be either outstanding or mediocre but he has shown the ability to play multiple positions which should help him receive playing time in Memphis as well as serve him well if he ever makes it to St. Louis.
Message board community (29): Curtis was not in the community's top 50 last year, but was discussed as early as the 24th prospect this fall, settling in at 29th. He was the Cardinals' fifth-round pick back in 2008.
I see two most notable characteristics. First, Curtis has gotten on base at a number of levels. He posted a .383 OBP at Batavia in 2008, .426 at Quad Cities in 2009 (though only .301 at Palm Beach that year), .390 at Palm Beach in 2010 (though only .344 in 55 Texas League AB's that year), and .414 at Springfield this year.
Second, Curtis plays all over. He has mostly been a third baseman and a second baseman, but has also spent 31 games in the outfield corners. And this winter, he is roaming center field. He doesn't show a great deal of power, having not slugged above .439 in any minor league year. Though he swiped bases in the double digits at both Palm Beach (spread over two years) and Quad Cities, he has yet to steal a base in Double-A.
A right-handed hitter, he nonetheless hit righties better than lefties last year (OPS of .929 and .728, respectively). Perhaps as he faces more lefties, he will get better against them. A player could have a lot worse career than being a utility infielder/outfielder in MLB. - Gagliano
Brian Walton (31): With the exception of Lance Lynn and the traded Brett Wallace, the 2008 draft has not yet been particularly fruitful for the Cardinals. Or perhaps it will just be a later-blooming class. On the heels of his best season in his four in the system, Curtis joins this top 40 list for the first time, following in the footsteps of our number 34 pick, Sam Freeman.
In Freeman's case, his prospect list debut was delayed by injury and recovery time. Despite having been a fifth-round selection from a major collegiate program at UCLA, Curtis has no such ready explanation for his lack of perceived progress as a professional. In all honesty, it had looked like a pick that wasn't going to pan out.
Then came 2011. Curtis' Springfield campaign was certainly a dramatic change for the positive. Over his first three seasons, his OPS had been a paltry .681, but last summer, it jumped to .849. While he batted .315 in Double-A, his BABIP was slightly higher at .339.
One scout to whom I asked about the possible staying power of Curtis' emergence articulated my feelings better than I could myself. "I want to like him, but ultimately, I feel he is more of a reserve due to his lack of power," the scout explained. Still, becoming a major league reserve is a ceiling no one would dare suggest for Curtis as recently as 12 months ago.
The power questions continue this off-season. Curtis has been working in winter ball in Mexico, so he seems focused on trying to carry his recent success ahead. While he is batting .300 and getting on base at a clip over .400, his SLG is only in the .340s, however.
It will be very interesting to see how playing time is doled out in Memphis this season. If Ryan Jackson is at short, will Curtis, Jose Garcia or Pete Kozma start at second? Though Curtis can also play third, he certainly isn't going to unseat Matt Carpenter or Zack Cox. Perhaps Curtis and Carpenter will see time in the outfield, but what about the Matt Adams – Mark Hamilton logjam?
At-bats may be hard to come by for slow starters, with a return to Springfield quite possible for a few players that might otherwise be deemed ready for the step up. Demonstrating true defensive versatility (versus just playing out of position) may be Curtis' best hope in 2012 and beyond.
Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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