Prospect status will play a major role in this. For example, Kevin Ool, a 24-year-old reliever playing for the Cardinals Low-A affiliate in Quad Cities barely missed making the list, even though he leads the Midwest League with 7 wins and has a 1.66 ERA in 21.2 innings out of the bullpen.
For what it's worth, Ool was one of the two players received by the Cardinals in the spring training deal that sent Mike Myers to Boston.
Top 5 Surprises
1. Cory Doyne – The 23-year-old reliever has already advanced three levels through the Cardinals minor league system since the beginning of the season. Don't be surprised to see him pitching for Memphis by the end of the season.
Doyne has yet to allow a run this season. In 20 innings combined, Doyne has struck out 23 and walked 8 while allowing only 9 hits.
The Cardinals signed Doyne in June last season after he was released by the Padres. For more on Doyne, check out one of my earlier Prospect reports.
2. Josh Kinney – Kinney entered the 2004 season with a 2.12 ERA in 203.2 career innings over his first 3 professional seasons, reaching Double-A by the end of the 2003 season. Before spring training, Kinney had his shoulder scoped to clean up some scar tissue and struggled through most of the 2004 season, going 3-8 with a 5.50 ERA and a 48/34 K/BB ratio in 55.2 innings for Tennessee.
This season has been a different story thus far for Kinney. The 26-year-old righthander has blown just 1 of 10 save opportunities for Double-A Springfield this season and has a 1.14 ERA with a 23/3 K/BB ratio in 23.2 innings.
Kinney went undrafted in 2001 and signed with River City in the Independent Frontier League. He made only 3 starts there before the Cardinals purchased his contract.
3. Dennis Dove – After starting the season 0-2, Dove has won 4 straight after picking up the win on Monday night. The righthander extended his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 13-2/3 by blanking Beloit over 5-2/3 innings before he took a line drive off the shin was forced off the mound. In 42-2/3 innings, Dove has a 3.09 ERA with a 27/11 K/BB ratio.
The 23-year-old was the Cardinals' 3rd round draft pick in 2003 out of Georgia Southern. He had a 3.51 ERA in 25.2 innings for New Jersey after being drafted, but in 2004 he was bothered by an ankle injury, and in 35 innings between Low-A Peoria and New Jersey, Dove was 0-6 with an ERA of 6.94 while walking 23.
4. Jose Garcia – While Garcia's 4.40 ERA might not look that good, if you take out his spot start performance on May 4, his ERA would be a sparkling 1.95 in 27-2/3 innings pitched. In that spot start, Garcia allowed 7 earned runs in only 1/3 of an inning. Garcia was much better in his second start of the season on Friday night when he pitched 5 shutout innings and struck out 6 against Dunedin.
The Cardinals selected Garcia from the Texas Rangers in the Triple-A portion of the 2004 Rule-5 Draft. The 23-year-old was received by Texas in the trade that sent Mike Lamb to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season. Baseball America ranked Garcia as the Yankees No. 20 prospect before he was traded.
5. Mike Sillman – Swing of Quad Cities closer Mike Sillman has only allowed 1 run this season and has converted all of his save oppurtunities. In 17-2/3 innings, the 23-year-old righthander is 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA and a 22/11 K/BB ratio.
Sillman was the Cardinals 21st round selection in last season's draft. In 29 innings between Johnson City and New Jersey last season, Sillman had a 1.55 ERA and a 41/10 K/BB ratio. He was named as the Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April.
News and notes
• Brendan Ryan was placed on the disabled list for Palm Beach on Tuesday with a left hamstring strain that has been bothering him for a while and has limited him to only one at bat in the past 8 games.
The 23-year-old shortstop, who was rated by Baseball America as the Cardinal top position prospect (No. 7 overall), was batting .323/.380/.465 with a home run and 12 RBI in 26 games for the Cardinals High-A affiliate.
• The Cardinals decided to give Mark Michael an extra day of rest between starts after he felt a "click" in his elbow while pitching for Palm Beach on April 8. He felt no pain, but was removed as a precautionary measure.
Michael was examined by doctors and his shoulder appeared to be fine. Pitching on 5 days rest, Michael's return did not go as smoothly as his trip to the doctor.
The 22-year-old righthander allowed 7 earned runs in 4-1/3 innings while walking 5 and striking out 2 on Sunday, raising his ERA from 3.34 to 4.76 on the season.
• Chris Duncan underwent an MRI on Monday which revealed no damage to his hip that has bothered him recently and has already caused him to miss the last 3 games. He is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game tonight. With Duncan sitting out and the recent promotion of Scott Seabol to St. Louis, the Redbirds are currently playing without their four and five hitters.
Duncan is hitting .290 for the year with three homers and 18 RBI.
• Memphis shortstop John Nelson left Monday night's game after four innings for precautionary reasons after suffering a back spasm. Manager Danny Sheaffer told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that Nelson would likely sit out Tuesday's game. With Wednesday's off-day, he should be ready to return to action Thursday in Portland.
• Josh Pearce was activated from extended spring training on Friday and added to the Springfield Cardinals roster.
Pearce underwent a second surgery in two years on his right shoulder last September, and said a tack coming undone from his previous surgery, coupled with a minor fraying of his rotator cuff, led to the surgery.
"Double-A feels like the big leagues right now," Pearce told the Springfield News-Leader. "I was just anxious to get out of there."
Last season, Pearce appeared in 3 games for St. Louis and had a 3.86 ERA. At Memphis, he had a 3.26 ERA and a 31/6 K/BB ratio in 30-1/3 innings out of the bullpen before being shut down in July.
• It is very likely that Chris Lambert will be promoted to Double-A Springfield before the season is over.
"There's a good possibility that can happen this year," Bruce Manno, the Cardinal's Director of Player Development, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "He's made good progress."
The Cardinals first round pick out of Boston College last June is 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA, and has struck out 31, walked 11 and allowed 34 hits in 36 innings.
Lambert's fastball is up to 92 mph consistently after it dipped into the low-80s towards the end of last season.
"Coming into spring training he had good arm strength, and he seems like he's maintaining it," Manno said.
Lambert blamed the loss of velocity last season on the amount of innings that he pitched. Combined with his spring season at Boston College, Lambert threw 118 innings and admits to wearing down.
"I never threw that many innings in a year," he said. "It took its toll on me.
"My arm just feels refreshed," Lambert said.
The 22-year-old righthander believes that he has regained the form that made him the Big East Conference pitcher and rookie of the year in 2002.
"It's just been rolling," Lambert said. "I just feel like I'm throwing the way I was in college. My control is better, my secondary pitches are good and my fastball has some life to it."
The Cardinals currently have Lambert on a strict pitch count of 100 as he builds up his arm strength. He was taken out of his last win with two outs in the seventh inning even though he was pitching a five-hit shutout at the time.
"I got to 99 pitches in that game and that was the closest I've come (to 100)," Lambert said. "I definitely could have gone longer."
• The Cardinals released outfielder Anthony Monegan for the second time this year on Monday.
After being released in spring training, the Cardinals signed Monegan on April 16 after Brian Martin was placed on the DL with a wrist injury.
The 26-year-old hit only .222 in 95 at bats for Palm Beach after leading the Midwest League with 97 runs scored a year ago. To replace him, the Cardinals acquired St. Louis Native Jon Kaplan from the Diamondbacks for future considerations.
Kaplan, 25, was hitting only .152 for High-A Lancaster.
Jason Scott can be reached via email at email@example.com.