TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #24: Aaron Luna

The on-base specialist seems ready for a third shot at Triple-A, but faces a crowded field.

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
22 OF 3/28/1987 5-11 200 R R 2008 9th

School: Rice University

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 0.266 203 36 54 7 0 10 33 19 49 5 0.354 0.448 0.803
SPR 0.250 52 13 13 4 0 0 1 12 12 0 0.409 0.327 0.736
Total 0.263 255 49 67 11 0 10 34 31 61 5 0.366 0.424 0.790

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (24): Aaron Luna has been an on base machine during his career in the Cardinals system. In 2012, his OBP%+ (OBP-batting average) was his lowest of his career but it was still at a level that is significantly above average.

A staple of Luna's high OBP has always been his high hit-by- pitch rate. Many have down played him as they have thought this to be unsustainable as he rose through the ranks. So far though, through Triple-A, he has shown no signs of not being able to replicate this skill at higher levels. But Luna is not a one trick pony; he has also showed good power numbers posting a near .200 ISO SLG% for his career as well.

Luna has never been one to have a high batting average and with line drive percentages that are below average (just 12% in 2011 - close to his career average) he will likely never win a batting title. Luna's seems like a bubble type player offensively, one that brings significant assets to the table but likely will never be a star even at his full potential.

The key to his potential as a major leaguer will most probably be his defensive skills which are considered good but not outstanding. If teams think he play at least average major league defense, he most likely will get a shot of at least being a reserve outfielder in the majors.

Luna played well at Triple-A Memphis last year and would seemingly be ticketed to start 2012 at that level. The off season surgery by Alan Craig might open up a spot for Luna to get a look in spring training for the St. Louis club if the team thinks his arm is strong enough for right field and no other, more experienced outfielders are acquired by the team before then.

Message board community (25): Luna was the community's 25th prospect, similar to his 21st rank from a year ago.

As with 2010, he split time between Springfield and Memphis. His Memphis hitting improved from .668 OPS in 2010 to .803 in 2011. One of Luna's other strong points has been his ability to get on base, with a career minor league OBP of .387. But his Triple-A rate has been lower, if respectable, at .354 in 2011. He crushed lefty pitchers last year, with a .424 OBP, .538 SLG. With such a solid OPS, and such good stats versus lefties, while playing Triple-A at age 24, what's not to like?

One of Luna's strong points had been his versatility, even the possibility he might be a second baseman. But this year, he only played two games at second, and most of his outfield time was in left field, though he did get 13 games in right and one in center. Also, Luna did not play every day last year, appearing in just 88 games. It's not a good sign that the club didn't find a way to play him more. Still, those qualities above suggest he stands a good shot at being a fourth outfielder someday. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (27): I like OBP as well as anyone, but I am not feeling the same level of love about Luna as the others. A potential platoon left-fielder against left-handed hitters is a fairly narrow niche. Luna really isn't all that versatile - not being athletic enough to handle second base or centerfield on a regular basis and without enough power to be a starting left fielder. A scout I spoke with about Luna noted he can be pitched to due to holes in his swing.

Demoted to Springfield at the end of July, Luna hardly dominated. He logged a line of .250/.409/.327 with just one RBI and four extra-base hits in 52 Double-A at-bats before suffering a season-ending stress fracture in his foot. Hopefully, that problem will not linger and affect his start in 2012.

Regarding his next assignment, I am not immediately optimistic. Luna has not yet been able to stick at Triple-A either of the past two years despite the Memphis offense being among the very weakest in the Pacific Coast League. As such, I cannot envision a realistic scenario in which Luna would yet compete for a job in St. Louis - short of a widespread epidemic of injuries there.

There should be regular at-bats to earn at Memphis, though it may not be easy. Adron Chambers, Shane Robinson, Tommy Pham, Chris Swauger, Jermaine Curtis and Amaury Cazana are likely to be in the outfield mix, not to mention if the potential for some combination of Matt Adams, Mark Hamilton and Matt Carpenter to be pushed to the corner outfield spots.

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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