Top 2005 Performances - Position Players

Our dream team consisting of the Cardinals' best offensive minor league players at any level in 2005.

If the Cardinals were to field a team comprised of the best offensive minor league players, based on their 2005 performances, just who would be on that team? Well, glad you asked because this article will answer that question. (O.K., you did not ask but you are reading this article, so you must at least be curious.)

We will field a team of starters and add in the best utility guy to spell those guys in a game. Depth will be added by naming a back-up at each position. Of course, every team has to have a rotation and bullpen. Our rotation goes five deep and the bullpen is comprised of five relievers plus a closer.

Position players had to have a minimum of one hundred fifty at bats to qualify for consideration. Each player qualified for consideration at only one position. The exact position was determined by finding the position at which he appeared the majority of the time with a plus ten differential between the first and second positions played.

Starters had to have pitched at least sixty-seven innings with minimally half of his game appearances coming as starts while relievers had to have pitched at least twenty innings with less than half of their game appearances coming as starts. The entire team must still have been a part of the Cardinals' system and not be on the disabled list at the end of the season.

How did all of this get sorted out? Well, players were ranked in three overall areas – Offense, Plate Discipline and Fielding. That broke down to seven specific categories: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, walks per plate appearance, strikeouts per plate appearance and errors in games.

While these categories were not weighted evenly, in most cases the starter surpassed his back-up in each offensive category and the starter and back-up were readily apparent. I also acknowledge that errors in games is a completely inadequate tool for determining defensive prowess. However, offense is the foundation and fielding is a minor consideration for our theoretical team. Also, calculating how many games went by before a player committed an error was readily available to me nor were more sophisticated stats.

Finally, this is not some sabermetric, in-depth analysis of each player's abilities or potential. It is a reflection of how each did on the field in 2005 and is meant, above all, to be fun.

First Base
The Qualifiers - Juan Diaz, Chris Duncan, Mike Ferris, Gabe Johnson, Adam Rodgers, John Santor, Andy Schutzenhofer

Starter -
Juan Diaz
Diaz went .308/.374/.571/.945, 61-for-198, with thirteen doubles and thirteen home runs for Double-A Springfield. His plate discipline numbers were: 1:12.88 BB/PA and 1:5.09 K/PA which were sixth and fourth respectively among the qualifiers. Diaz exclusively played first base with his only other regular game appearances coming as a designated hitter. He was re-signed to a minor league during the off-season and turns 32 in February 2006.

Back-Up -
Chris Duncan
Duncan went .264/.359/.468/826, 114-for-432, with twenty-one doubles, two triples and twenty-one home runs for Triple-A Memphis. His plate discipline numbers were: 1:7.84 BB/PA and 1:4.83 K/PA which were second and fifth, respectively. Duncan made one hundred three appearances at first base and nineteen in right field. He made his major league debut in September 2005 and turns 25 in May 2006.

This was one of the easier categories to decide. Diaz was the clear-cut choice for starter as he led all qualifiers in three of four offensive categories and tied for first in the fourth. His combined plate discipline ranking placed him fifth of seven. Duncan was actually close third in average and on-base percentage behind the New Jersey Cardinals' Adam Rodgers. Rodgers also bested Duncan in the plate discipline arena. But Duncan was given the nod due to the level at which he played. An encouraging note is that much hyped Mike Ferris led all qualifiers in combined plate discipline category with a 1:7.51 BB/PA (first) and 1:5.89 K/PA (third) ratio.

Second Base
The Qualifiers - Bo Hart, Cal Hayes, Aaron Herr, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Jose Martinez

- Jose Martinez
Martinez went .300/.387/.500/.887, 45-for-150, with eight doubles, two triples and six home runs for Rookie league Johnson City. A notable statistic is that he walked more than he struck out. Martinez had a 1:8.70 BB/PA (first) and 1:11.60 K/PA (second) ratio. That combination tied him for first with Jarrett Hoffpauir. While Martinez qualified as a second baseman for this article, he played primarily second (thirty-four games) while Donovan Solano played shortstop. Martinez moved over to short after Solano was promoted to New Jersey on August 15th. He appeared at short in twenty-two games. Martinez turns 20 tomorrow.

Back-Up -
Aaron Herr
Herr went .298/.336/.498/.834, 127-for-426, with twenty doubles, one triple and twenty-one home runs for Double-A Springfield. His plate discipline numbers were pretty horrific at 1:30.4 BB/PA and 1:4.22 K/PA ratios. That was dead last among the five starters. Herr played exclusively at second during 2005 and turns 25 in March 2006. He became a free agent after the 2005 season and is no longer in the Cardinals' minor league system.

While Martinez was a clear choice to start, the decision for back-up was a bit more difficult. Jarrett Hoffpauir had a clear advantage in both on-base percentage and plate discipline. However, his OPS was over 100 points lower than Herr's and Hoffpauir's numbers was put up at class A and A-Advanced while Herr did it in Double-A. Although Martinez played in rookie ball his plate discipline was far superior to Herr and his defense was much better. (There were repeated eye-witness reports out of Springfield that Herr had a heavy, if not iron, glove.) I felt those two issues outweighed his disadvantage of playing in rookie ball.

The Qualifiers - Tyler Greene, Milko Jaramillo, Rayner Laya, Juan Lucena, Dan Nelson*, John Nelson, Brendan Ryan, Matt Shepherd, Donovan Solano

- Brendan Ryan
Ryan went .289/.349/.395/.744, 99-for-342, with seventy-five doubles, one triple and three home runs for class A-Advanced Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield. He walked once every 12.70 plate appearances and struck out once every 9.77 plate appearances. That was good for fifth and third place, respectively out of the eight "pure" shortstops. (See the note on Dan Nelson in the comments section below.) Ryan played exclusively at shortstop and turns 24 in late March 2006.

Back-Up -
Matt Shepherd
Shepherd went .292/.402/.370/.772, 140-for-479, with twenty-six doubles, four triples and one home run for the class A Swing of the Quad Cities. His 1:6.72 BB/PA and 1:8.13 K/PA ratios were good for first and fourth, respectively. While Shepherd qualified as a shortstop by making fifty-nine appearances there, he also played second forty-nine times and third twenty-eight times. He turns 23 in early May 2006.

This was the most difficult category to decide. Eventually I went four elimination rounds to come up with a starter and back-up. Laya, Jaramillo and Solano were all eliminated in the first round as their offensive numbers were in the bottom three of the group of eight. Juan Lucena was eliminated in the second round when he was compared with teammate Matt Shepherd who is nearly identical in age to Lucena. That left Greene, John Nelson, Ryan and Shepherd. John Nelson was eliminated in the third round as his advancing age (26 last March) and experience did not outweigh the level at which he performed. In other words, he should have been able to do what he did at 26 and going into his fifth season of professional ball with 1,447 at bats under his belt. Greene was eliminated in the fourth round as he placed third in most categories when compared to Ryan and Shepherd.

It came down to Ryan and Shepherd for starter and back-up. While a good argument can be made for making Shepherd the starter since he outdid Ryan in every category except slugging and strikeouts per plate appearance, I gave the nod to Ryan. Ryan started the season at the level above Shepherd and ended it two levels above him. Ryan is about thirteen months older and has a year more of professional experience but Double-A is light years away from class A in difficulty. So Ryan was the choice to start.

*Dan Nelson of the New Jersey Cardinals is ‘tweener', a player that qualified for overall consideration but did not play enough at one position to qualify solely there. He played twenty-seven games at shortstop, twenty-two games at third and five games at second. Therefore, his numbers were compared against each position's two finalists before a decision was made. However, Nelson's numbers were not better than either the shortstop or third base finalists.

Third Base
The Qualifiers - Matt Dryer, Travis Hanson, Tim Hummel, Adam Morris, Jake Mullinax, Chris Patrick and Randy Roth

- Chris Patrick
Patrick went .307/.383/.462/.845, 77-or-251, with eighteen doubles and seven home runs for the Swing of the Quad Cities. He placed second in each of the plate discipline categories with a 1:10.43 BB/PA and 1:8.59 K/PA ratio. Patrick played both third and second base with the majority of his starts coming at third by a 2:1 ratio. He turns 24 in February 2006.

Back-Up -
Travis Hanson
Hanson went .284/.347/.458, 155-for-546, with twenty-nine doubles, three triples and twenty home runs for Double-A Springfield. He was fourth of seven with a 1:11.28 BB/PA and 1:6.15 K/PA ratios. He played all but two games at third base and turns 25 tomorrow.

The argument outlined for placing Ryan over Shepherd is also applicable for placing Hanson over Patrick. However, the key difference in the two situations is that Ryan was the second-best offensive shortstop to Matt Shepherd but Hanson is the third best offensive third baseman to Chris Patrick. Hanson was picked as back-up over Randy Roth, the second place finisher, as Roth's numbers were primarily posted in the Rookie League as a 23-year-old. Roth also did not adapt well to his promotion to short-season A ball. I could not justify starting him over Patrick but can well understand if others would.

The Outfield
The Qualifiers - Rick Ankiel, Brandon Berger, Papo Bolivar, Sean Boyd, Charles Carter, Sean Danielson, Carlos De La Cruz, Sean Dobson, Chad Gabriel, Terry Evans, John Gall, Reid Gorecki, Cody Haerther, Daryl Jones, Matt Lemanczyk, Joe Mather, Tyler Parker, Colby Rasmus, Skip Schumaker, Yonathan Sivira, Nick Stavinoha, Wes Swackhamer, Eric Verbryke, Brad Wilkerson and Pete Zoccolillo

I chose the top three outfielders regardless of position along with their back-ups. It serendipitously worked out that I got a left, center and right fielder in each group. The ‘had to be on the active roster at year's end' impacted this category the most as two outfielders that would have been starters, Raul Gonzalez and Tyler Minges, were on the disabled list at the end of the season as was Simon Williams. Williams would have been one of the back-ups. Nevertheless, there was a solid group of starters and back-ups and these six stood out.

Left Field
- Cody Haerther
Haerther went .307/.355/.538/.893, 117-for-381, with eighteen doubles, eight triples and eighteen home runs for the class A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals and Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He walked once every 15.81 at bats and struck out once every 5.48 at bats. Haerther exclusively played left field in 2005 and turns 23 in mid-July 2006.

Back-Up -
Charles Carter
Carter went .294/.394/.472/.866, 53-for-180, with nine doubles, four triples and five home runs for the rookie level Johnson City Cardinals. He walked more than he struck out, a 1:6.70 BB/PA and 1:7.62 K/PA ratio. He appeared thirty-two games in left, twenty-two games in right and one game at center. He turned 23 last September so was old for the league in which he played.

- Sean Danielson
Danielson went ..342/.407/.400/.807, 53-for-155, with one double and four triples for the Short-season A New Jersey Cardinals and class A Swing of the Quad Cities. He stole twenty bases in twenty-two attempts, His speed combined with his ability to get on base would make him the team's lead-off hitter. Danielson walked once every 10.88 plate appearances and struck out once every 4.83 plate appearances. He appeared in ten games in left and thirty-two games in center. Danielson turns 24 in August 2006.

Back-Up -
Colby Rasmus
Rasmus went .296/.362/.514/.876, 64-for-216, with sixteen doubles, five triples and seven home runs for the Rookie League Johnson City Cardinals. He walked once every 11.62 at bats and struck out once every 3.34 at bats. Rasmus played all but one game in centerfield with his other appearance coming in left. He turns 20 in August 2006.

Right Field
- Nick Stavinoha
The Birdhouse's Player of the Year went .344/.398/.564/.962, 86-for-250, with nine doubles, two triples and fourteen home runs for the class A Swing of the Quad Cities. He walked once every 12.13 plate appearances and struck out once every 11.16 plate appearances. Stavinoha appeared in fifty-five games in right and seven games at first base. He turns 24 in early May 2006.

Back-Up -
Rick Ankiel
Ankiel went .259/.339/.514/.853, 83-for-321, with seventeen doubles, one triple and twenty-one home runs for the class A Swing of the Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He walked once every 9.97 plate appearances and struck out once every 5.59 plate appearances. Ankiel appeared in eight games in center and forty-five games in right. He turns 27 in July.

The Qualifiers - Bryan Anderson, Robinson Cancel, Brad Cresse, Dan Moylan, Matt Pagnozzi, Brady Toops and Brandon Yarbrough

- Bryan Anderson
Anderson went .331/.383/.513/.896, 51-for-154, with eight doubles, one triple and six home runs for the Rookie level Johnson City Cardinals. He walked once every 11.73 plate appearances and struck out once every 6.07 plate appearances. Anderson caught all the games in which he appeared in the field but was used in the designated hitter role nine times. He turned 19 in mid-December 2005.

Back-Up -
Robinson Cancel
Cancel went .277/.350/.434/.783, 90-for-325, with sixteen doubles, one triple and eleven home runs for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals and Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. He walked once every ten at bats and struck out once every 6.85 at bats. Cancel caught one hundred games and played first base twice. He became a free agent at the end of the 2005 season and is no longer in the Cardinals' minor league system. He turns 30 in May 2006.

This was the easiest position to determine as Anderson and Cancel are the only two qualifying catchers in the Cardinals' system that hit their shoe size this season. It simply was not a good offensive year for Cardinals catchers. Three of the five remaining qualifiers hit below the Mendoza line with a fourth flirting with it. The fifth qualifier went .234/.311/.377/.688. This actually is philosophically in line with the Cardinals' thinking for their major league roster as an emphasis is placed defense and game calling over offense if you are a catcher.

The Qualifiers - Kevin Estrada, Mike McCoy

- Kevin Estrada
Estrada went .295/.354/.425/.779, 86-for-292, with nineteen doubles, two triples and five home runs for Double-A Springfield. He walked once every 12.91 plate appearances and struck out once every 6.41 plate appearances. Estrada appeared at every position, including pitcher, except for catching and centerfield. He turned 25 in October 2005.

Back-Up -
Mike McCoy
McCoy went .264/.347/.331/.678, 78-for-296, with thirteen doubles, two triples and one home run for the class A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals and Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He walked once every 9.67 plate appearances and struck out once every 5.70 plate appearances. McCoy appeared at every position, including pitcher, except for catching and first base. He turns 25 in April 2006.

For all of the eagle-eyed readers that are just now saying "Hey, Estrada finished the season on the DL!?!" My response, in this case, is "Yep. I changed the rules for Estrada. Deal with it." Estrada is one of my favorite players in the system and he had a very nice year playing an underappreciated role. I wanted to acknowledge him and I did.

The starting line-up:
First base: Juan Diaz
Second base: Jose Martinez
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan
Third base: Chris Patrick
Left field: Cody Haerther
Center field: Sean Danielson
Right field: Nick Stavinoha
Catcher: Bryan Anderson
Utility: Kevin Estrada

Tomorrow we will finish things off by naming our starters and bullpen.

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