TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #28a: Erik Komatsu

The outfielder and new member of the St. Louis Cardinals' 40-man roster required a special vote to be placed onto our top 40 prospect list. Our voters offer a wide variety of opinion about the newcomer.

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA OF 10/1/1987 5-10 175 L L 2008 8th

School: Cal State - Fullerton

Selected 2011 stats

HVL 0.294 320 48 94 19 1 6 40 53 44 13 0.393 0.416 0.809
HAR 0.234 128 12 30 5 0 1 8 11 22 8 0.298 0.297 0.595
Totals 0.277 448 60 124 24 1 7 48 64 66 21 0.367 0.382 0.749

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Brian Walton (16a): This posting requires some explanation. Erik Komatsu was a selection of the Cardinals in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft held earlier this month. He was a 2008 Milwaukee draftee traded to Washington last summer, playing the 2011 season with a broken bone in his right foot. Though Komatsu must be kept on the major league roster for the entire 2012 season to remain with St. Louis, something that is far from assured, he is now a part of the Cardinals system and as such, merits inclusion here.

Komatsu was the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year in one of the then-top farm organizations in baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers. In the process, he beat out more highly-touted players Brett Lawrie, Mat Gamel and Kentrail Davis, among other notable top prospects in the Brewers system.

Since our voting process was completed prior to the Cardinals drafting Komatsu, we had a special ballot to determine where to place him in our top 40. As always, the three individual votes, including message board community input, are melded into a single ranking. In this case, Komatsu comes in at number 28a, between prospect numbers 28 and 29.

For me personally, the task of placing Komatsu became a three-way comparison with Tommy Pham and Adron Chambers. The latter two are comparable outfielders already in the system. (Note that Pham was also exposed in the Rule 5, but unlike Komatsu, was not taken.) I put Komatsu ahead of both incumbents, though by the thinnest of margins.

Komatsu is a full year younger than Chambers, while being five months older than Pham. I believe that Pham is more of a pure athlete, while Chambers holds the edge over the new Cardinal in speed and resultant range in the outfield. Overall, Komatsu has a more stable set of tools. His strengths include ability to play all three outfield spots at an above-average level, hitting for average, showing good strike zone judgment, and being an above-average runner.

Of course, it remains to be seen how Komatsu shows in the red and white, but I see him having a fighting chance of sticking around. Just having been selected in the Rule 5 in the first place means there is a group within the Cardinals community in his corner, but ultimately, his play will decide his fate.

Message board community (27a): The recent Rule 5 draft pick is actually a pretty intriguing player. Milwaukee's 8th round draftee in 2008, Komatsu has spent the majority of his professional career in center field, and is reportedly solid there - though better in the corners.

At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, the Camarillo, California native has only shown gap power, and doesn't figure to gain much pop going forward, as he's already 24. So why would the Birds go after the lefty-swinger?

Three reasons. One, Komatsu can hit for average, with an overall .302 career mark, and a peak of .323 in the Florida State League back in 2010, when he was Milwaukee's Minor Leaguer oif the Year. Two, he's shown some usable speed on the basepaths, with 49 steals (18 caught stealing) over the past two seasons. And three, Komatsu has consistently shown plus strike zone control, perhaps the prime foundation for MLB success in the batter's box. Specifically, Komatsu has a career ratio of 172/185 BB/K's, including his robust 64/66 last year.

I like his chances to make the Cards as a 120-140 at-bat fifth outfielder... then receive a full season of Triple-A development in 2013. - BobReed

CariocaCardinal (40a): Good. Bad. Good. Good/Bad. That is a brief summary year-by-year of Komatsu's professional baseball career. He has been tremendously inconsistent. In all fairness, he was slowed by injuries his second year, but even when healthy, he did not perform well. His 2011 mixture of good and bad came all at the Double-A level as he was traded mid-season straight up for Jerry Hairston Jr. (that shows someone thought he had potential). Unfortunately, after the trade he did not fare well.

It is not totally clear what the Cardinals see in Komatsu that makes them think he can stick on a major league roster next year. He was the Brewers organization's 2010 Player of the Year, so he would seemingly have talent. The one standout feature of his game appears to be his plate discipline, which has resulted in him getting nearly as many walks as strikeouts in his minor league career. Though I have no real knowledge, I would assume Komatsu also has decent defensive skills in order for the Cardinals to draft him.

I have ranked Komatsu fairly low. I based my ranking by looking at the other players on my list and deciding at what point I'd rather have Komatsu. In retrospect, I may have ranked him a little low, but given his roster restrictions, I don't think by much.

For Komatsu, it is major leagues or bust as far as the Cardinals organization is concerned. It will take a combination of a strong spring training and injuries to other Cardinals outfielders for that to become a reality. And while it seems like a strange move by the Cardinals to add Komatsu given the restrictions on his roster status, it is still a low risk move with the worst case being the cost of a 40-man roster spot over the winter and possibly losing $25,000.

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.

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

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