20. RHP Tyler Herron
Tyler had a very active and productive spring training. He appeared in four games, pitching a total of 11.7 innings and finished with an ERA of 2.31, walking four batters and striking out eight. Even I can figure that strikeout-to-walk ratio, 2-to-1, and I like that.
Herron will begin the season at Quad Cities. Last season, Tyler joined Rookie-level Johnson City in June from extended spring training. He made 13 starts for the club, going 5-6 with a 4.13 ERA. He allowed 69 hits, struck out 54 and walked 22 in 69.2 innings.
The staff at the Birdhouse has seen Tyler make significant progress with how he's learning to pitch, rather than just going out there throwing. His average innings pitched per game was up last season, he cut down on his walks and hits per inning (WHIP), and home runs allowed.
Herron is currently considered one of the Cardinals Top Prospects and his stock is holding steady with signs that there could be long term potential for growth and high returns.
19. INF Brendan Ryan
I felt Brendan had a very good spring training. He spent a lot of time working out with coaches Jose Oquendo and Rick Eckstein on his defense and by the time he was sent back to the minor league camp, for the first time to me, Brendan looked very comfortable playing shortstop for the Major League club at the Major League level.
With shortstop David Eckstein and second baseman Adam Kennedy nursing nagging injuries, Ryan saw significant playing time this spring for the St. Louis. In 13 games (eight at short and five at second) for the Cardinals, he hit .320 and played improved defense as spring training came to a close. His stock is on the rise.
18. 1B Mark Hamilton
How about this - 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored in just 15 games, without hitting a home run, while batting .381? Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that this guy is learning how to play the game and how to make things happen even when he isn't knocking the ball out of the ballpark. Trust me, that is something special coming from a big slugging first baseman. Think of him as a David Eckstein, with muscle.
OK, I can hear the collective moaning and groaning about the Eckstein comparison, but considering last season Hamilton hit just .258 but with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs, combined between short-season Class A State College and low Class A Quad Cities and the fact that he didn't hit a home run this spring, but he still managed to score runs and knock them in at a steady even clip, that, sports fans, is progress and Mark's stock is certainly rising. (That may be the longest sentence in the history of the Birdhouse - I'll have to look it up!)
17. OF Daryl Jones
Daryl hit only .246 this spring with just one home run and five RBIs while playing in 19 games. What struck me is that he led the organization with 15 strikeouts, which isn't bad if you're a pitcher but kind of sucks if you are an outfielder.
Last season, a hamstring injury delayed the start of his season, but he joined Rookie-level Johnson City in June and hit .265 with a .367 OBP in 20 games before being promoted to low Class A Quad Cities where he hit .235 in 26 games for the Swing.
You look at this kid and he's one of the best athletes in the system. Still a very raw talent, Jones is showing steady improvement in all aspects of his game except for hitting. If he can start putting up some offensive stats, his stock could soon start rising. If not, Jones is likely to take a big fall in the Top Prospect rankings this fall. But as Mudbone once said, "The Kid as Potential" (an obscure Richard Pryor reference)
16. SS Tyler Greene
There are so many players in spring training that you try to keep track of, but even though at times my head felt like a blender on puree, Greene still managed to stand out from among the rest as making significant improvements this spring, or at least he looked very good during the games I observed.
Greene still may be having trouble hitting the curve ball. He struck out ten times, but he still managed to hit .278 and scored 12 runs, plus he had eight RBIs in 17 games. He drew ten walks and stole four bases and that is the kind of stuff that you really want to see from him. His on-base-percentage was .391 and if he can carry that into the regular season, Greene's stock is certainly going to rise.
He dropped eight slots in our prospect rankings last season from #8 down to #16, but if Greene can continue to play like I saw him play this spring, he'll jump back up among the Top Ten by the end of the year.