Cards Prospects: Carioca's Best of the Rest

The first of three looks at Cardinals prospects that just missed our Top 40 with CariocaCardinal.

Editor's note: As regular readers know, CariocaCardinal has built upon his popular monthly in-season rankings of St. Louis Cardinals by his participation in this year's The Cardinal Nation Top 40 prospect list.

Like the other voters, Carioca's individual list included several prospects that just fell short of making the consolidated Top 40. This is the first of three articles in which each of us highlight those prospects – our "Best of the Rest".

Following is the overall top 40, with Carioca's list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list. These bolded names may still be on the respective lists, but were ranked below where we drew the line, after number 40.

Group top 40 CariocaCardinal
1 Shelby Miller 1 Shelby Miller
2 Carlos Martinez 2 Carlos Martinez
3 Oscar Taveras 3 Oscar Taveras
4 Kolten Wong 4 Kolten Wong
5 Zack Cox 5 Zack Cox
6 Lance Lynn 6 Lance Lynn
7 Eduardo Sanchez 7 Matt Carpenter
8 Tyrell Jenkins 8 Tyrell Jenkins
9 Matt Adams 9 Eduardo Sanchez
10 Jordan Swagerty 10 Matt Adams
11 Matt Carpenter 11 Jordan Swagerty
12 Trevor Rosenthal 12 Anthony Garcia
13 Ryan Jackson 13 Trevor Rosenthal
14 Maikel Cleto 14 Charlie Tilson
15 Charlie Tilson 15 Tony Cruz
16 Tony Cruz 16 Maikel Cleto
17 Adron Chambers 17 Ryan Jackson
18 Joe Kelly 18 Mark Hamilton
19 Adam Reifer 19 Adron Chambers
20 Mark Hamilton 20 Tommy Pham
21 John Gast 21 John Gast
22 Anthony Garcia 22 Boone Whiting
23 Tommy Pham 23 Joe Kelly
24 Aaron Luna 24 Aaron Luna
25 Bryan Anderson 25 Starlin Rodriguez
26 Cody Stanley 26 Adam Reifer
27 Starlin Rodriguez 27 Bryan Anderson
28 Boone Whiting 28 Adam Ottavino
28a Erik Komatsu 29 Rainel Rosario
29 Adam Ottavino 30 Cody Stanley
30 Rainel Rosario 31 Jonathan Rodriguez
31 Jermaine Curtis 32 Tyler Rahmatulla
32 Brandon Dickson 33 Keith Butler
33 Seth Blair 34 Greg Garcia
34 Sam Freeman 35 Scott Gorgen
35 Pete Kozma 36 Brandon Dickson
36 C.J. McElroy 37 Sam Freeman
37 Tyler Rahmatulla 38 Breyvic Valera
38 Keith Butler 39 Justin Wright
39 Breyvic Valera 40 Jermaine Curtis
40 Chuckie Fick 40a Erik Komatsu
41 Kyle Hald
42 Hector Hernandez
43 Audry Perez
44 Pete Kozma
45 Michael Swinson
46 C.J. McElroy

As I start the Best of the Rest series, I think it is important to note that very few of those selected as Best of the Rest have actually moved up to be top prospects in future years. In fact, of last years' group, not one made the top 40 this year. The number in parenthesis is where the player ranks on my personal list.

Greg Garcia (#34)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 2B 8/8/1989 6-0 175 L R 2010 39th

School: University of Hawaii

Selected 2011 stats

QC 0.273 150 20 41 10 1 0 10 17 24 4 0.360 0.353 0.714
PB 0.290 210 36 61 11 5 2 16 31 42 4 0.400 0.419 0.819
Total 0.283 360 56 102 21 6 2 26 48 66 8 0.384 0.392 0.776

In Garcia's last year of college at Hawaii, he hit .358. His teammate Kolten Wong hit .357. With Garcia arguably the better defensive player (as he was at shortstop and Wong was at second base), maybe the Cards have a real find in Garcia. Garcia played most of the year at High-A Palm Beach in 2011 where as a younger-than-league-average player, he had an OPS .100 above the league average – not bad for a solid middle infielder.

With above-average plate discipline and good middle infield skills, Garcia has all the makings of a solid middle infield utility guy. While he may not get to Double-A Springfield until mid-season, I am excited to see what kind of numbers Garcia can put up as a 22-year-old there next season.

Jonathan Rodriguez (#31)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 1B 8/21/1989 6-2 215 R R 2009 17th

School: SCF, Manatee-Sarasota

Selected 2011 stats

QC 0.251 394 67 99 27 0 20 70 77 109 4 0.389 0.472 0.861

Rodriguez has all the makings of a true three-outcome player (home run, walk, or strikeout). Unfortunately, few players with minor league strikeout rates as high as his (22%) actually make it to the major leagues. I believe Rodriguez has a chance though because of his equally high walk rate (16%). That walk rate, combined with his power, placed him seventh in the Midwest league with an .861 OPS.

Rodriguez obviously has to reduce his K rate to have a chance to play in the majors, but if he does, he could be a valuable weapon. Some observers have also criticized his defense but I believe any big man that can play a reasonable third base can also play a reasonable first base.

I have even heard talk that Rodriguez may be moved to a corner outfield spot, which might give him a better chance of making the majors given the makeup of the Cardinals system. Still, a long shot, but I believe his strong walk rate along with raw power makes him one to watch.

Justin Wright (#39)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 8/18/1989 5-9 174 L L 2010 47th

School: Virginia Tech University

Selected 2011 stats

QC 5 1 1.26 17 0 4 35.2 20 8 1 9 54 1.00 0.155
GCL 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.50 0.000
PB 0 0 0.57 14 0 1 15.2 7 1 1 9 16 1.45 0.140
Total 5 1 1.03 32 0 5 52 27 9 2 18 70 1.10 0.148
AFL 0 0 11.42 10 0 0 8 12 11 2 14 6 0.55 0.343

Wright has 80 strikeouts and has given up just 20 walks and just 30 hits in 60 minor league innings – and he throws left handed! In 2011, batters had an OPS against him of just .434. This was playing as a 21-year-old in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues.

I don't know if Wright is just a soft-tossing lefty fooling lower-level players with junk or not but the Cardinals saw enough in him to send him to the AFL after just his first full season. That, combined with the numbers above, are enough to keep me interested.

Michael Swinson (#45)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR OF 9/24/1989 6-1 185 L R 2008 12th

School: Coffee County High School, Georgia

Selected 2011 stats

QC 0.248 331 46 82 17 2 2 26 58 59 9 0.359 0.329 0.688

Though it seems he has been around forever, Michael Swinson played his 2011 season at just 21 years of age. Unfortunately, it seems like he has also been injured forever. But despite several injuries in 2011, Swinson registered the most at-bats of his professional career. What really intrigued me about those at-bats was the .810 OPS he put up in the second half.

I am a big fan of players that show improvement. 2011 was Swinson's second in the Midwest League (though his first was cut short by injury so some improvement should be expected). And Swinson did not disappoint. He put up both his lowest K rate and his BB rate. Swinson has the speed to be a top of the order hitter and his .110 OBP+ would seem more than enough for the job. He also has the potential to be a true centerfielder.

Swinson has been a top 40 prospect in the past. If he stays healthy in 2012, he could have a breakout year and be talked about has the Cardinals centerfielder of the future.

Scott Gorgen (#35)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHS 1/27/1987 5-10 190 R R 2008 4th

School: University of California - Irvine

Selected 2011 stats
Did not pitch – injury.

My colleague Brian Walton had Gorgen ranked as the 30th best Cardinal prospect going into 2011 even though he knew he would most likely miss all of the 2011 season after Tommy John elbow surgery. For that I have to ask Brian, why did you leave me out here alone in ranking Scott Gorgen so high for 2012? (Ed. note: Sorry about that, but the tide is ever-rising! Seriously, he just slipped through the cracks.)

Is there something Brian knows that I don't? Has his recovery outlook changed? I will admit I am slightly worried about the lack of reports on his recovery or starting a throwing program, etc. But I also haven't heard anything negative in that regard. I'm pretty sure his 2010 performance hasn't changed. The one where he had a 1.26 ERA, K'd nearly a batter an inning, and held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average.

Yes, one never knows how one will return from surgery but Jamie Garcia returned as good as new, Sam Freeman who is on our top 40 list seems to have recovered, and I see no reason why we shouldn't expect Gorgen to return to form as well.

Kyle Hald (#41)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA LHS 5/27/1989 6-0 195 L L 2011 18th

School: Old Dominion University

Selected 2011 stats

JC 7 0 1.84 11 7 1 53.2 34 14 5 12 63 0.96 0.170

Hald turned in a dominating performance in 2012. Unfortunately, it was at a level slightly lower than you would like to see for a recent college draftee. Still, a 5:1 K:BB ratio and holding opposing hitters to a .178 batting average is more than solid for any pitcher at any level.

Hald will always have questions about his ability to be a starter though due to his slight (6-feet-0) build. Thankfully though, the early returns show that he has the making of a possible LOOGY, as his stats against LH hitters were even better. I am looking forward to seeing where Hald starts his 2012 season and how he performs against higher level competition.

To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2012 and read about each individual player, click here. You can also learn about each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections and much more.

Next up: This article series continues as first Brian Walton, then the message board community highlights the players on their list that did not make the consolidated top 40. We move next to our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, dive into the numbers behind the top 40, take a look at our best and worst selections from 2011 and the top prospects by level of play.

Time is running out! Upgrade by January 20 to our Annual Pass and receive the 2012 FOX Fantasy Guide / Scout Prospect Guide, a $4.95 value, for free. The perfect printed, glossy companion to "Forty Days", includes the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations will appear on newsstands all over the country in the spring. Of course, we author the Cardinals section of the guide as always.

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