TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #23: Tommy Pham

Slowed by injuries, will the outfielder finally show his stuff over an entire season in 2012?

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
19 OF 3/8/1988 6-1 175 R R 2006 16th

School: Durango High School, Las Vegas, Nevada

Selected 2011 stats

SPR 0.294 143 31 42 11 3 5 16 18 40 3 0.372 0.517 0.889

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (20): Tommy Pham has accumulated a stat line of .314/.398./.525 over the past two seasons at Double-A. Those are significant numbers for a potential centerfielder. The problem is that due to injury, those numbers were accumulated in just 300 plate appearances. Pham's injury issues aren't just recent, either. In six minor league seasons, he has yet to log more than 400 at bats in any year. In fact, he has averaged fewer than 300 per year during that time.

Pham is a converted shortstop with the tools to stick in centerfield. If he can stay healthy and put up the numbers anywhere near what he has shown in his limited Double-A time, he has the chance to become a solid major league player. The one major obstacle that Pham must overcome is his strikeout rate. After fanning a staggering 25 percent of the time in 2008, Pham had lowered that in 2009 and 2010 to near 20 percent before it popped back up to near 24 percent in 2011. He needs to reduce that again to have a real chance at being a contributor.

Pham's 2011 season ended with a wrist injury. Many players take near a full year to fully recover from such problems, so Pham's season may be slowed once again in 2012. Pham has posted numbers worthy of a promotion to Triple-A, but given his limited AB's at Double-A, I would not be surprised to see him start in Springfield with a quick promotion to Memphis once he shows he is healthy.

I also do not consider it to be out of the question to see Pham receive an invite to major league spring training as an extra outfielder (particularly if another right-handed hitting centerfield candidate is not acquired). If so, his performance there could influence his starting location for 2012 as well.

Message board community (21): Pham clocked in at 21st for the community, down from 19th last year. He drew some strong opinions from the community. Much of this was for his athleticism, speed, and defense. He's managed a .398 OBP/.527 SLG split while playing Double-A centerfield. A fast defensive CF who is athletic and can get on base seems very attractive. And he bats righty, so at the least, he seems like a good platoon for Jon Jay in center if Jay stays there with the Cards.

Pham started in the minors in 2006, and that drew some discussion, with a debate about whether someone who has taken that long to get to Double-A could be a prospect. I am emphatically on the ‘yes' side of that debate. Pham started raw, so likely needed more time. He has had some freak injuries that have slowed him.

His slugging might be due in part to the friendly confines of Hammons Field (check!), as he slugged .603 at home but only .419 on the road last year, albeit in less than 90 plate appearances at each. His lefty/righty splits were about equal (OPS of .875 and .898, respectively.

Pham is still only 23, turning 24 in March. If he stays healthy and things click, his rise could be quick. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (23): In my colleagues' write-ups that preceded mine, I counted at least four uses of the term "if." While that is a common word to characterize uncertainty in any prospect's road ahead, in this case, it is especially appropriate.

No one can dispute Pham's athleticism and raw tools. I have heard scouts question how well that translates to baseball instinct, however, something very difficult to measure and far more challenging for a player to acquire.

Then, there is the question of his health. As noted above, wrist problems can linger, but that is not even my primary concern. For several years, Pham has struggled with problems related to keratoconus, a degenerative disease characterized by a bulging cornea that can eventually lead to loss of vision. He underwent surgery just this month via a relatively new procedure in hopes of heading off the effects of the disease.

The Cardinals chose to leave Pham unprotected in this month's Rule 5 Draft and 29 organizations passed. Further, in that same draft, the Cards selected another centerfielder closer to the majors in Erik Komatsu. Given the number of outfielders ahead of Pham and all the challenges he has encountered, I don't see a reasonable scenario in which he will be with St. Louis anytime soon.

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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