2006 Depth Charts – Swing of the Quad Cities

The fifth of a seven-part series on 2006 depth charts for the St. Louis Cardinals' system focuses on high Class-A Swing of the Quad Cities.

Today we look at the 2006 depth chart for the Swing of the Quad Cities. The Swing compete in the Class A Midwest League, which has a 25-player roster. Since the Swing in 2005 usually operated with a split of thirteen position players to twelve pitchers, I did likewise in my projections.

As with prior reports, likely alternatives to the projected starter are listed under the heading "Variable" in the pertinent section. Since both bench and bullpen slots will be decided by Spring Training performances, projections were not made for either group. The most probable candidates were listed with those players that are likely competing for a spot on a higher roster having an asterisk by their name.

The list of competitors/candidates is mainly drawn from those players that are not projected to make a higher level squad and the strongest candidates for promotion from either short A or rookie ball.

Position Players

First Base
Known Competitors - Mike Ferris, Adam Rodgers, A. J. Van Slyke
Projected Starter - Mike Ferris
I have Ferris starting 2006 here due to his inconsistent performance last season at this level. Ferris alternated between periods in which he performed well with ones when he hit around the Mendoza line. He needs to show that he consistency at this level before he advances.

Adam Rodgers, a 25th-round draft pick last year, went .287/.374/.441/.815 in two hundred two at bats in short-season A ball. A.J. Van Slyke's first professional season included a July 12, 2005 promotion from rookie ball to short A. A 23rd-round 2005 draft pick, on July 25th he was placed on the disabled list with a torn rotator cuff. Overall, he hit .365/.398/.612/1.010 at both levels, but had just eighty-five at bats for the season.

Variable -
Ferris makes the Palm Beach club - Then the battle is down to Rodgers and Van Slyke. I give the slight edge to Rodgers based on his sustained performance over a longer period last season. But it is a real push. Defensively, Rodgers caught Rice's heralded trio of Wade Townsend, Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann while in college and caught one of New Jersey's final games of the season. Van Slyke was an outfielder collegiately who was converted to first base reportedly due to his arm. The loser of this competition may start in Extended Spring Training due to the minimal defensive options each presents which would limit their playing time on the bench.

Second Base
Known Competitors - Juan Lucena, Calvin Hayes, Jose Martinez
Projected Starter - Juan Lucena
Although Lucena primarily played short last season, with only two games at second, the word is that he is likely to be moved to second base this season. This move would switch the very talented prospect to a position with a more open career path in the Cardinals' organization. Offensively, there is nothing left for Lucena to prove at this level since he went .301/.329/.349/.678 in three hundred thirty-two at bats for Quad Cities last season. I have The Birdhouse's twenty-seventh ranked prospect beginning here solely to solidify his comfort level at second.

Cal Hayes, the Cardinals' third-round selection in the 2002 draft, had a disappointing year in 2005. He began in Palm Beach where he went .215/.285/.394/.589 in one hundred eighty-one at bats. He was optioned to Extended Spring Training on June 14th and was subsequently assigned to Quad Cities on June 22nd. He left the team for personal reasons and was placed on the temporarily inactive list on August 2nd. Hayes was activated and assigned to New Jersey on August 30th. Cumulatively, Hayes batted .220/.276/.276/.551 in three hundred thirteen at bats in 2005. Hayes turns 22 in May, so still has time to turn things around.

Jose Martinez' 2005 season in Johnson City, where he went .300/.387/.500/.887 in one hundred fifty at bats, really caught folks' attention. Defensively, the just turned 20-year-old saw substantial time at both second and short. In the usual course of player development he would start the season in short A State College. However, he has an outside chance of beginning the 2006 season in Quad Cities. The word is that he, Lucena and Donovan Solano (more on him in the shortstop section below) will be evaluated for placement during Spring Training.

Variable -
Lucena makes the Palm Beach club - Then the decision comes down to whether Jose Martinez is ready for a full season of Class A ball or not. At this point Martinez is likely the more highly-regarded prospect. If Martinez is deemed ready, then he will start. Otherwise, Cal Hayes would start with Martinez remaining in Extended Spring Training until State College's season begins. The latter scenario is the more normal path for a player to take. If Hayes struggles then Martinez could be optioned to Quad Cities before the short A season commences.

Shortstop
Known Competitors - Dan Nelson, Donovan Solano
Projected Starter - Dan Nelson
Nelson is very likely to begin the season as the Swing's starting shortstop. He spent 2005 in short A New Jersey where he went .283/.346/.369/.715 in one hundred eighty-seven at bats. Nelson, a 13th-round 2004 draft selection, split his time almost evenly between short and third with a few games at second as well. This defensive flexibility could serve him well he provides the Quad City management with options in the event that the more highly regarded Donovan Solano is promoted to this level during 2006.

While Donovan Solano is one of the hot young prospects in the Cardinals' minor league system, the operative word here is "young". Solano, The Birdhouse's 20th-ranked prospect in 2005, just turned 18 in December. He spent most of 2005 in rookie league Johnson City before earning a promotion to New Jersey on August 15th. Overall, Solano went .257/.339/.297/.636 in two hundred twenty-two at bats. It is extremely unlikely that he will begin 2006 in Quad Cities because both his youth and upside work against him. However, Solano is listed here because he is a factor at this level and may well see Quad Cities before the 2006 season ends.

Third Base
Known Competitors - Jake Mullinax*, Chris Patrick*, Randy Roth
Projected Starter - Randy Roth
*If does not make the Palm Beach team
The third base slot is the weakest one in the Quad Cities depth chart. I expect Jake Mullinax to begin 2006 in Palm Beach, as projected in the Palm Beach depth chart. Chris Patrick, who played both third and first last season for the Swing, is likely to go to Palm Beach as well. The two short A third base candidates for promotion are Dan Nelson, who is projected as the Swing's starting shortstop, and Randy Roth.

Roth is a 10th-round 2005 draft pick who began his professional career at Johnson City. The 23-year-old dominated at that level, going .328/.368/.630/.998 in one hundred nineteen at bats before his promotion to New Jersey on August 2nd. He struggled in an identical number of at bats in short A ball, going .244/.283/.387/.670, although he did have an excellent final week. Normally, Roth would be projected to begin back in short A ball, which may well happen. In that case, look for a free-agent signing to fill the third base slot here until either Roth is ready or Nelson is available to move to third.

Centerfield
Known Competitors - Sean Danielson, Carlos De La Cruz, Colby Rasmus, Yonathan Sivira
Projected Starter - Colby Rasmus
The Cardinals themselves project Rasmus to begin 2006 as the Swing's centerfielder and I am not going to disagree. Rasmus turned 19 in August and went .296/.362/.514/.876 in two hundred sixteen at bats in Johnson City. The Cardinals' number one draft pick in 2005, Rasmus appears to be on a fast track to the majors for the Cardinals.

Variable -
Rasmus does not make the Quad Cities club - In the event the Cardinals slow down Rasmus' fast track train, look for Sean Danielson to start at center. Danielson is a non-drafted free agent signee whose 2005 season got him noticed. He spent most of 2005 in short A but was promoted to Quad Cities on August 30th. Cumulatively, Danielson went .342/.407/.400/.807 in one hundred fifty-five at bats. He was considered to have the strongest arm among the New Jersey outfielders.

Left Field
Known Competitors - Charles Carter, Carlos De La Cruz, Chad Gabriel, Yonathan Sivira, Wes Swackhamer
Projected Starter - Chad Gabriel
Three of the five competitors, De La Cruz, Gabriel and Sivira, played in New Jersey last season. Carter, who turned 23 in September, spent the season in Johnson City (.294/.394/.472/.866, 180 at bats). The latter is included here strictly due to his age and prior college experience. He is projected to begin in short A ball this season but does have an outside chance to begin at this level. If he does make the Quad Cities 2006 roster, then it will be in a bench role. Swackhamer is a holdover from the 2005 Swing squad and is projected back to the Swing bench, at best.

Of the remaining three, Gabriel put up the best numbers (.309/.353/.411/.763, 207 at bats) with De La Cruz going .281/.322/369/.690 (160 at bats) and Sivira going .253/.310/.342/.652 (225 at bats). The main reason Sivira in included in this mix is because he was protected through this level for the December 2005 Rule 5 draft. With these offensive numbers, he is more likely to begin 2006 back in short A ball. Although Gabriel played right field almost exclusively last season, only one game in left, he is projected to move to left if Rasmus starts in center for Quad Cities.

Variable -
Rasmus does not make the Quad Cities club - Rasmus starting in short A ball would create a domino effect among the Swing's outfield candidates. If this happens then De La Cruz is projected to start in left at this level with Gabriel moving to right.

Right Field
Projected Starter - Sean Danielson
If Rasmus starts in center, then the remaining candidate with the strongest arm goes to right field. That would be Sean Danielson. As mentioned previously, Danielson goes to center if Rasmus begins in short A with Gabriel moving to right and De La Cruz taking over in left.

Catcher
Known Competitors - Bryan Anderson, Brandon Yarbrough
Projected Starter - Bryan Anderson
Like his Johnson City teammate and fellow 2005 draftee Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals project Anderson to skip short A ball for full season A to begin 2006. Anderson, who just turned 19 in mid-December, went .331/.383/.513/.896 in one hundred fifty-four at bats last season. A sign of the high regard in which he is held by Cardinals brass is his non-roster invitation to Spring Training. Yes, multiple catchers are invited to Spring Training to handle the plethora of pitchers, but invitations to Spring Training are not typically doled out to catchers with only one season of rookie ball under their belt. The Birdhouse ranked Anderson as the Cardinals' tenth best prospect in 2005. He was drafted in the fourth round.

The big question is what will happen with prospect Brandon Yarbrough. Yarbrough was a fifth-round pick out of high school back in 2003. (Sounds a bit like Anderson does it not?) He struggled with the bat last season, going .234/.311/.377/.688 in three hundred twenty-one at bats between Quad Cities and New Jersey. Yarbrough began in Quad Cities but was optioned to New Jersey on June 19th. He was sent back to Quad Cities on August 31st due to a catching shortage there. However, he was not on the Swing's post-season roster. At this point, I project Yarbrough to begin 2006 in short A ball. He turned 21 in November.

Bench
The bench slots at this and lower levels are very difficult to predict with any accuracy. Bench spots are almost entirely determined by on-field performance during Spring Training. Therefore, I will first give some of the leading candidates with their most recent level played, according to position. That will be followed by some general comments.
Outfielders - Carlos De La Cruz (Short-season A), Yonathan Sivira (Short-season A), Wes Swackhamer (A)
Middle Infielders - Calvin Hayes (A), Chris Patrick* (A)
Utility - Casey Rowlett (A)
Catchers - Cody Palmer (A), Brady Toops* (A-Advanced), Spencer Wyman* (A)
*If does not make Palm Beach team

Like Palm Beach, do not be surprised if the Cardinals sign minor league free agents to fill some bench slots. Under alternate scenarios, the only bench outfielder is Wes Swackhamer, and he is not guaranteed a spot. The main commodity this bench has is light-hitting catchers. Chris Patrick will only begin the season here if he is squeezed out in Palm Beach. Casey Rowlett, a 32nd-round 2005 draft pick, spent the first part of 2005 in New Jersey before being promoted to Quad Cities on August 2nd. Between the two levels, Rowlett played every position except pitcher, catcher and first. Overall, he went .240/.324/.320/.644 in two hundred at bats. Rowlett is likely to make the Swing's 2006 roster.

Pitchers

Rotation
Primary Competitors - Mitchell Boggs, Michael Cooper, Tyler Herron, Mark McCormick*, Donnie Smith, Nick Webber*, Josh Wilson, Zach Zuercher
Secondary Competitors - Tyler Adamczyk, Matt Scherer, Billy Simon *If does not make Palm Beach team.
Projected Starters - Mitchell Boggs, Mark McCormick, Nick Webber, Josh Wilson, Zack Zuercher

Quad Cities has a very competitive battle for the starting rotation. What is important to remember with so many excellent choices is that things have a way of working themselves out. Pitcher A shows up out-of-shape. Pitchers B & C experience set-backs due to physical problems. Pitcher S turns in a sub-par performance in spring training. However, everything considered equal, and taking only known factors into account, here is my best estimate.

This competition is so fierce that none of the pitchers categorized as "secondary competitors" above received serious consideration for the Swing rotation. All three may be candidates for a long-relief role out of the bullpen.

Michael Cooper and Donnie Smith were eliminated next. Smith underwent shoulder capsule surgery last fall which may place him on the disabled list at the season's start. Cooper, a 17th-round 2005 selection, received one of the first promotions from New Jersey to Quad Cities of the 2005 draft class. He appeared in the Swing's rotation before being shut down in early September due to shoulder inflammation. He is projected for Extended Spring training mainly due to the higher projected upside of those pitchers included in the starting rotation. (The entire projected Swing rotation was drafted in the first ten rounds of the 2005 draft.)

According to the Cardinals, one rotation spot is expected to be a competition between Tyler Herron and Josh Wilson. Both pitched in the Johnson City rotation last season and both turned 19 near the season's end. (They are born within a month of each other.) Again per the Cardinals, Wilson is slightly further along in his development at this point than Herron. Therefore, Wilson gets the nod and Herron goes to Extended Spring Training for possible consideration here as the season progresses.

I project both Mark McCormick and Nick Webber to start the season here although both could move to Palm Beach quickly. McCormick needs to work on his control and Webber's K/BB ratio after his promotion to Quad Cities last season was 1.22. That is more to his lack of strikeouts at class A (eleven in twenty-nine innings pitched) than it is his control. (He walked nine in that same span.)

That leaves Mitchell Boggs and lefty Zach Zuercher as the final members of the Swing rotation. Both spent all of 2005 with the short-season A New Jersey Cardinals. Zuercher has the far better peripherals of the two in two of three areas: 1.11 WHIP, .223 BAA, 2.52 K/BB ratio in eighty-two innings pitched. Boggs' peripherals included a 1.41 WHIP, .271 BAA and 2.54 K/BB ratio. In fact, it is entirely possible that Boggs, a fifth-round selection, goes to Extended Spring Training with Cooper, if healthy, starting at Quad Cities in his place.

Bullpen
Lefty Candidate - Jackson Paz, Danny Borne, Josh Schwartz
Righty Candidates - Tyler Adamczyk, Jason Cairns (closer candidate), Trey Hearne, Cory Meacham, Matt Scherer, Matt Trent (closer candidate), Scott Vander Weg (closer candidate)

Of the lefty candidates, Paz should begin 2006 here. His 2005 season was lost, for the most part, due to injury. The limited amount he did pitch was at this level. The other two lefty candidates come off the 2005 Johnson City squad. They are included here due to their leftiness, 2005 performance and age. Lefties move more quickly than do righties with comparable numbers so they have that edge. They put up very similar peripherals. Borne has a 1.22 WHIP, .230 BAA and 2.25 K/BB ratio in twenty-three innings after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in July 2005. Schwartz' numbers were: 1.21 WHIP, .229 BAA and 2.55 K/BB ratio in thirty-four innings and he was drafted in the 42nd round in the 2005 draft. Both struck out just over seven batters every nine innings. Borne will be 23 in May while Schwartz turned 24 earlier this month.

Moving to the right-handed options, both Adamczyk (seventh round, 2001 draft) and Scherer (17th round, 2004 draft) may find themselves in Extended Spring Training at season's start. In 2005 Adamczyk could not find a level at which he succeeded while Scherer simply did not pitch well enough to merit a promotion, 1.41 WHIP and .268 BAA in one hundred thirty-four innings pitched over twenty-four starts.

Cairns and Trent both began 2005 with New Jersey but were subsequently promoted to Quad Cities. Meacham earned two promotions last season, going from Johnson City to New Jersey to Quad Cities. All are likely to start the season with Quad Cities. Both Hearne and Vander Weg pitched will enough at New Jersey last season to merit strong consideration for the Swing bullpen.

Position Likely Starter
C Bryan Anderson (L/R)
1B Mike Ferris (L/L)
2B Juan Lucena (R/R)
SS Dan Nelson (B/L)
3B Randy Roth (R/R)
LF Chad Gabriel (R/R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L/L)
RF Sean Danielson (S/R)
Bench 5 slots likely
SP Mitchell Boggs
SP Mark McCormick
SP Nick Webber
SP Josh Wilson
SP Zack Zuercher
Bullpen 7 spots likely

Next up: State College.

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