TCN 2014 Cards Prospect #39: Eric Fornataro

The 2008 draftee moved to relief and came into his own in 2012 before an injury-hampered 2013. Is an MLB bullpen spot in his future?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
27 RHR 1/2/1988 6-1 217 R R 2008 6th

School: Miami Dade College

Selected 2013 stats

GCL 0 0 3.00 2.20 3 0 0 3.0 3 2 0 1 3 5.00 0.250 0.333
Mem 1 4 6.02 4.65 37 4 1 55.1 65 42 5 23 39 1.88 0.300 0.332
Total 1 4 5.86   40 4 1 58 68 44 5 24 42 1.95 0.297  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Brian Walton (35): After Fornataro joined our top 40 for the first time in five tries one year ago, he has dropped 16 points on my personal list heading into 2014. The progress gained in his move from an average starter to standout reliever in 2012 was stalled by a summer of injury and related ineffectiveness in 2013. His Memphis ERA of 6.02 sticks out like a sore thumb.

Let's look into what might have gone wrong. The spring began well enough, with Fornataro matching more highly-touted teammate Michael Blazek with a 1.50 ERA over six appearances with St. Louis. The two remained in big-league camp until the fifth cuts, on March 16.

Through the first two months, Fornataro was Memphis' busiest reliever with 21 appearances. However, before going on the disabled list on May 31st, Fornataro was torched for seven runs over his last three outings. That included a curious appearance on May 21st, when he was kept in to face nine batters, allowing five runs in just one inning of work.

He missed just 11 games before being activated again on June 11. Something was still clearly not right, however, as Fornataro was roughed up badly in five June outings. 12 earned runs in just 6 2/3 innings would predictably torch anyone's ERA.

Fornataro went back onto the DL on June 24th with a strained oblique. This time, he sat out three full weeks before easing into action in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League on July 15. Two weeks later, the 25-year-old was deemed ready to rejoin Memphis.

From that point on, Fornataro pitched quite well, logging a 3.57 ERA over the final month-plus, despite some challenging circumstances. He made five relief appearances before the injuries and churn in St. Louis decimated the Redbirds rotation. Fornataro stepped into the gap, making four August/September starts. In that role, he yielded six earned runs in 16 innings for a most respectable 3.38 ERA.

I would have liked to have seen Fornataro return to relieving in the Arizona Fall League, but his emergency duty in Memphis' rotation may have been enough for one season, especially considering his earlier injuries.

It is important to remember that while a number of others were taken off the Cardinals 40-man roster this off-season, the organization kept its faith in Fornataro. If he is healthy in 2014, we should see the level of potential return.

Message board community (NR): Ranked as TCN's 27th prospect last year, Eric Fornataro drops down eleven spots in the overall rankings to #38 after an injury-riddled season with some ineffectiveness at Memphis. He was not named in the community vote this fall.

The fully-healthy Fornataro of 2012 could top out in the upper 90s with a big hard breaking ball and two-seamer he added last year that is his go-to-pitch when a groundball is needed. He continued to generate groundballs at a high rate in 2013 so that was not the problem. The problem he had other than injuries was controlling the strike zone as his WHIP rose all the way up to 1.71 compared to a 1.12 in 2012.

The Cardinals have a wealth of right-handed relievers at the major league level. Yet if an injury was to occur in St. Louis' bullpen and Fornataro is healthy and effective at Memphis next year, he could step right in and be that immediate call-up. This is how I see it for 2014. - DTFlush234

Our 2014 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 the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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