TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #29: Adam Ottavino

The right-hander is back on the 40-man roster and ready to try to claim a bullpen role in St. Louis.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
32 RHS 11/22/1985 6-5 230 R R 2006 1st

School: Northeastern

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 7 8 4.85 26 25 0 141 154 85 14 71 120 1.42 0.284

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (28): I personally have been all over the map in the last year regarding Adam Ottavino's status as a prospect. I was down on him at the start of the season as he was coming back from injury, optimistic when he started the season healthy and pitched well the first half of the season, down on him again after a bad second half, and looking at the brighter side after the Cardinals added him to their 40-man roster this off season. In retrospect, the ups and downs of my view of him as well as the ups and downs of his season most likely all stem back to his 2010 shoulder injury.

Ottavino's 2011 first half of the season (89 K/40 BB and 3.91 ERA in 94.1 IP) was not quite as good as his 2010 season but it wasn't far off and he improved every month from April through June. In July, he seemed to hit a wall and was pretty bad the rest of the way. Did Ottavino reinjure himself? Was he just not ready to go a full season after being injured the last part of 2010? I'm not sure of the answer but I do know he showed enough to be optimistic that he can contribute in 2012.

Ottavino will undoubtedly start the year in Memphis unless some unlucky breaks (for others) happen in spring training. The real intrigue is whether he will be in the Memphis rotation or in the bullpen. Many have called for him to be switched to the bullpen in the past but so far the Cardinals have refused to do this at the minor league level. It has been announced he will pitch out of the bullpen in spring training in 2012 but he did the same in 2009 and was then returned to the rotation when sent out to Memphis. I'm not big on the term "make or break" seasons but describing Ottavino's 2012 season in those terms would seem appropriate.

Message board community (24): Former first-round draft pick (#30, 2006) Adam Ottavino came in 24th in the community voting, a very minor upgrade from last year's 27th slot. Not hard to understand, as Adam seems to have stagnated in Triple-A, posting nearly identical numbers in 2010 and 2011 (ERA's a tick below 5.00, okay strikeout rates, but poor control, leading to WHIPs between 1.55 and 1.60).

The 26-year-old has made 126 starts in his minor league career, and just one relief appearance. And yet many project him as a future MLB bullpenner, due to his 93-95 mph velocity, and lack of plus secondary offerings. (Fangraphs actually has his fastball, slider, and straight change all as negative-value pitches, based on his 2010 performance for the big club.)

I could certainly see Ottavino inheriting the Kyle McClellan role by 2013, as Kyle becomes more and more pricey for a seventh-inning guy - but the move will succeed only if Ottavino's shift to the pen has a sharpening effect on his command. - BobReed

Brian Walton (37): At this point, it seems unlikely that Ottavino has a major league career ahead as a starting pitcher. The organization also needs strong and steady arms to stabilize the Triple-A rotation, which seems the role they had assigned Ottavino.

Had they been satisfied keeping him there doing that for yet another year, I wouldn't have understood why they bothered to re-add him to their 40-man roster. Instead, the hope that he can become a difference-maker in short relief bursts has apparently convinced the organization to take a fresh look. Maybe Ottavino can bear down and just throw strikes. That has to be their hope.

I am getting tired of waiting. I still have Ottavino in my personal top 40, but barely. He has dropped on my sheet in each of the last four years (5 to 15 to 17 to 32 to 37) and I tend to rank him lower than the others each time we go through this process.

After all, Ottavino is heading into his fourth season at the Triple-A level or above but has yet to put it together. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League way back in 2008. Though it would be disappointing if the Cardinals get a middle reliever from a first-round pick, it seems it is either that or more of the same, slow slide.

Note: Just yesterday, December 15, the Memphis Redbirds held a Twitter-based interview with Ottavino, which you can read here.

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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