Cards Prospects: Walton's Best of the Rest

The second of three looks at top Cardinals prospects that missed our Top 40 list with Brian Walton.

As those who have followed our St. Louis Cardinals Top 40 Prospects countdown over the last month and a half know, the selection of the master list was a melding of three varied points of view of us from here at The Cardinal Nation.

As a result, a handful of deserving players on each of our individual lists did not make the consolidated Top 40. This is the second of three articles in which each of us highlight those prospects – our "Best of the Rest".

Following is the overall top 40, with my list through #46 next to it. Highlighted are the names from each list to be looked at separately.

Group top 40 Brian Walton
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 Eduardo Sanchez
6 Lance Lynn 6 Zack Cox
7 Eduardo Sanchez 7 Lance Lynn
8 Tyrell Jenkins 8 Tyrell Jenkins
9 Matt Adams 9 Jordan Swagerty
10 Jordan Swagerty 10 Matt Adams
11 Matt Carpenter 11 Ryan Jackson
12 Trevor Rosenthal 12 Maikel Cleto
13 Ryan Jackson 13 Charlie Tilson
14 Maikel Cleto 14 Trevor Rosenthal
15 Charlie Tilson 15 Matt Carpenter
16 Tony Cruz 16 Tony Cruz
17 Adron Chambers 16a Erik Komatsu
18 Joe Kelly 17 Adron Chambers
19 Adam Reifer 18 Adam Reifer
20 Mark Hamilton 19 Cody Stanley
21 John Gast 20 Joe Kelly
22 Anthony Garcia 21 John Gast
23 Tommy Pham 22 Mark Hamilton
24 Aaron Luna 23 Tommy Pham
25 Bryan Anderson 24 Bryan Anderson
26 Cody Stanley 25 Starlin Rodriguez
27 Starlin Rodriguez 26 C.J. McElroy
28 Boone Whiting 27 Aaron Luna
28a Erik Komatsu 28 Anthony Garcia
29 Adam Ottavino 29 Brandon Dickson
30 Rainel Rosario 30 Rainel Rosario
31 Jermaine Curtis 31 Jermaine Curtis
32 Brandon Dickson 32 Boone Whiting
33 Seth Blair 33 Sam Gaviglio
34 Sam Freeman 34 Sam Freeman
35 Pete Kozma 35 Breyvic Valera
36 C.J. McElroy 36 Chuckie Fick
37 Tyler Rahmatulla 37 Adam Ottavino
38 Keith Butler 38 Seth Blair
39 Breyvic Valera 39 Hector Hernandez
40 Chuckie Fick 40 Tyler Rahmatulla
41 Pete Kozma
42 Keith Butler
43 Roberto De La Cruz
44 Matt Williams
45 Kyle Hald
46 Aidan Lucas

For the first time I can recall, there is little significant difference between my list and the consolidated view. All 40 of the players that appear on the group's top 40 were among my top 46.

In this case, three of the five players highlighted above are unique to my top 46 – Sam Gaviglio, Matt Williams and Aidan Lucas - while two others were also named on others' lists – Roberto De La Cruz (also Community #40) and Hector Hernandez (also CariocaCardinal #42), but still fell short of the consolidated top 40.

Two are infielders and three are pitchers – two starters and a reliever. Two are 20 years of age, while one is 23 and they average 21. Two joined the organization via the 2011 draft while two others hail from Latin America, making them less known to many. This article allows me to help change that.

Sam Gaviglio (#33)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA RHS 5/22/1990 6-1 195 R R 2011 5th

School: Oregon State University

Selected 2011 stats

BAT 0 0 0 2 2 0 4 2 0 0 0 4 1.00 0.143

Many forget that the 21-year-old right-hander from Oregon State was the very first pitcher taken by the Cardinals in the 2011 draft. Selected in the fifth round at 170th overall, the junior signed about a week before the mid-August deadline.

After reporting to Batavia of the New York-Penn League, a club that missed the playoffs, little time remained for Gaviglio to pitch. In four innings over two games with Batavia, he struck out four and allowed two hits. While he wasn't seen much there, Gaviglio had a lot of visibility pitching in the Pac-10.

The Cardinals gave the right-hander a signing bonus of $175,000 and a scholarship program to close the deal. Gaviglio is a polished pitcher with a high 80's fastball, a good changeup and a solid slider. The lack of a true heater may limit his career upside in the eyes of some, but his fastball has the sink that the organization loves to see.

At this stage, I saw nothing to cause me to want to exclude Gaviglio from the top 40 and plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about his near-term future, hence my number 33 ranking. If he knocks off the rust in spring training, he could compete for a spot in the Quad Cities rotation out of camp.

Matt Williams (#44)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA SS 8/29/1989 6-0 160 R R 2011 15th

School: Liberty University, Virginia

Selected 2011 stats

JC 0.293 229 47 67 19 1 6 25 27 45 20 0.382 0.463 0.845

The shortstop was taken by St. Louis in the 15th round, 170th overall in this past June's First-Year Player Draft. Williams hails from Liberty College and played his first professional season at Johnson City, not too far from home. A junior like Gaviglio, Williams took a different approach, signing early and getting a full season under his belt in 2011.

One might expect the oldest player on the rookie-level Cardinals to excel and that is what the 22-year-old did. Along with the line posted above, Williams had a team-best 18-game hitting streak to finish the year and did not ground into a double play the entire season. Williams ranked in the top 10 in the Appalachian League in stolen bases, runs (47, t-fifth), and doubles.

Williams is an above-average runner and his speed plays on both sides of the ball. He was successful in 20 of 22 stolen base attempts, tied for fourth-best in the league. He has bat speed with some pop as evidenced by his doubles total of 19, seventh-most in the Appy League. He is sure-handed in the field, but his arm strength may aim him away from short in favor of second base down the road.

Despite Williams being Baseball America's choice as the 2011 rookie leagues (combination of Appy League and Pioneer League) all-star shortstop, he was not selected as his league's best at his position.

For 2012, I would expect him to be challenged with a Quad Cities assignment out of the chute.

Aidan Lucas (#46)

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 4/21/1988 6-3 235 R R 2010 27th

School: Denison University, Ohio

Selected 2011 stats

QC 2 4 2.75 33 0 11 39.1 28 16 3 18 41 1.45 0.211

Aidan Lucas is an unheralded player to keep your eye on. The reliever joined the eventual Midwest League champions in Quad Cities late, just before Memorial Day. A knee injury suffered in camp had set him back.

Once he joined the River Bandits, Lucas quickly became a dependable member of the bullpen, able to go more than one inning if needed, for manager Johnny Rodriguez. He fanned 41 and walked 18 in 39 1/3 innings. Though Lucas finished 25 of his 33 games pitched, he had no saves. His ERA was 2.75.

Lucas held MWL batters to a collective line of .211/.301/.316/.617, though his BABIP was a bit lucky at .269 and his FIP was 3.33.

What may not be first evident on the stat sheets is that Lucas possesses a late, heavy sinker that led to a 47.5 percent ground ball rate last season. That is something that has earned him points within the organization. His secondary pitches reportedly improved in 2011. Lucas has a durable frame at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, ideal for heavy pen work.

He clearly bears watching down the line with Palm Beach his likely 2012 season-opening destination.

Roberto De La Cruz (#43)

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

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 3B 11/10/1991 6-2 180 R R 2008 FA

Hometown: San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic

Selected 2011 stats

JC 0.264 227 39 60 15 0 16 47 7 57 0 0.299 0.542 0.841

De La Cruz
Still playing as a teenager in 2011, the former bonus baby returned to Johnson City, where he had a cup of coffee at the end of 2010. There, the third baseman became one of the offensive leaders for the repeat Appalachian League champions. De La Cruz led his club with 16 home runs and 47 runs batted in and was considered one of Johnson City's most improved players offensively.

De La Cruz' defense remains a concern, as his movements at third have been called "crab-like" by at least one scout. He committed 11 errors in 59 chances in 2011 for an .814 fielding percentage. All things considered, I placed De La Cruz at number 43 among Cardinals prospects.

One might assume De La Cruz will remain behind in extended spring training and hold down the hot corner for Batavia this coming summer.

Hector Hernandez (#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 LHS 2/20/1991 6-1 198 B L 2009 10th

School: Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Carolina, Puerto Rico

Selected 2011 stats

BAT 3 2 2.72 12 11 0 53 46 21 5 18 48 0.92 0.220
QC 1 0 0.00 1 0 0 3 3 1 0 0 4 0.20 0.231
Total 4 2 2.57 13 11 0 56 49 22 5 18 52 0.86 0.221

How can we not be showing more love for Hector Hernandez? Signed in the 10th round in 2009, the left-hander has yet to crack our top 40, though he is inching closer. In fact, I placed him at number 39 on my personal list for 2012.

Hernandez sports a low-90's fastball and an above-average curve. As the numbers above indicate, he fanned almost a batter per inning and while walking about a third of that. His ground ball rate was just over 35 percent. Opposing hitters managed just a collective .221 average and .605 OPS against him.

There is clearly room for improvement, however. Hernandez' FIP of 3.52 was about a run higher than his actual ERA and his BABIP was a fortunate .265.

Though Hernandez spent most of the 2011 season with Batavia, he was also given a late-season promotion to Quad Cities. That will likely be his return destination coming out of 2012 spring camp.

Others to watch in 2012

At age 19, Ronald Castillo made the big leap from the Dominican Summer League to Johnson City last year. The 6-foot-5 outfielder's strikeouts were up and walks down, but his power showed a nice spike. Castillo even added four triples, tied for the most on the team, despite him having just 143 at-bats.

Pitching in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 19, right-hander Victor De Leon's numbers didn't jump off the page (0-6, 4.47 ERA, 30:24 strikeout to walk ratio). The right-hander was one of the standouts of the Dominican winter instructional league, having shown marked improvement in his secondary pitches.

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 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.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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