TCN 2013 Cards Prospect #27: Eric Fornataro

Moved to relief, the 2008 draftee came into his own in 2012. Is an MLB bullpen spot in his future?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 1/2/1988 6-1 217 R R 2008 6th

School: Miami Dade College

Selected 2012 stats

SPR 3 3 2.39 3.11 57 0 5 67.2 55 21 1 17 41 2.08 0.226 0.260

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (32): Fornataro is one of those players whose results do not match his skills - at least not in the areas you would think. In 2012, he had an outstanding ERA of 2.39 (in the Texas League no less) and an excellent 55% ground ball rate. However, for a guy who reportedly throws 97 MPH his K/9 rate of 5.63 seems unbelievably low.

Adding to the oddity of that statistic is that Fornataro was converted from a starter to a reliever in 2012 (theoretically allowing him to throw harder) yet his K rate declined nearly 20%.from 2011, when he was a starter. The other big knock against Fornataro in 2012 was that his low ERA was propped up by a seeming unsustainable 0.13 HR/9 IP, and if that were to normalize, his stats would not seem near as impressive. One thing Fornataro does have going for him is that he has actually been better against LH hitters the last two years than RH hitters.

The placement of Fornataro on the 40-man roster this off season indicates the Cards think he is ready for a higher level, and thus I feel safe to say Fornataro will start 2013 in Triple-A. If he can find a way to get more strikeouts, he could get a look in St. Louis before the season is done.

Message board community (32): Fornataro enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 after being converted from starter to reliever. The sturdy (6-foot-1 and 217 pounds) righty who jumped from unranked to #32 among the Community, is armed with plus velocity - if not plus-plus - and reportedly offers a solid curveball, as well. The 2008 sixth-round pick did not fan many batters in Double-A, but he did not walk many either, and best of all, he surrendered but one longball in 68 innings.

Turning 25 in a few weeks, and having yet to toil above the Double-A level, Fornataro needs to develop a bit more swing-and-miss stuff to be a viable part of the Cardinals bullpen long term. But given his heater, a Mitchell Boggs type role isn't out of the question by 2014 or 2015 if Eric can figure a way to get more K's. - BobReed

Brian Walton (19): Despite being drafted in the sixth round back in 2008, Fornataro has placed in this top 40 for the first time in six tries. What has changed? Clearly, the shift from being an average starter to a standout reliever indicated the move spawned immediate results.

What has stayed the same? Fornataro consistently pitches in the mid-90's and can touch the upper 90's, with our Springfield reporter logging some 99 mph readings. Fornataro has a hard breaking ball and reportedly added a two-seamer to his repertoire. The Cardinals are impressed with his size, durability and consistency, with his addition to the 40-man roster confirming their view of his reasonably near-term potential.

This season, the hard-throwing right-hander was typically used as a shutdown eighth-inning reliever, leading the Texas League with 16 holds. Given Fornataro's success, I asked a Cardinals official why he was not given the ninth inning with any regularity. I was reminded that he did pick up five saves, but given it was his first season relieving, they were most focused on ensuring his transition was smooth.

I would have loved to have seen Fornataro continue in the Arizona Fall League, but others received priority. In addition, he had already competed for the full summer, having led Springfield relievers in innings pitched.

From the 2008 draft class, Lance Lynn and Scott Gorgen were pitchers selected ahead of him with Anthony Ferrara and Ryan Kulik (since released) just after. Lynn and 33rd-rounder Sam Freeman are the only hurlers from that group to have reached the majors to date, with Fornataro and 41st-rounder Kevin Siegrist among the closest contenders. Placement in my personal top 20 confirms that I like Fornataro's chances.

Our 2013 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! Monthly and quarterly subscribers who upgrade to our annual pass will receive in the spring the 2013 FOX Sports NEXT Prospects Guide, a $4.95 value, for FREE. The perfect hardcopy companion to "40 Days" includes the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations and much more. We author the Cardinals section of the guide as always.

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