Deric McKamey on Cards Minors Hitters: 2008

One of baseball's preeminent minor league experts answers reader questions about the improving Cardinals prospect pipeline. The final report today is on position prospects.

Deric McKamey has been BaseballHQ's Director of Minor League Analysis for ten years now and a baseball analyst for twenty. A long-time disciple of Bill James and formally trained by MLB's Scout School, McKamey is uniquely skilled to integrate sabermetrics and scouting.

Once again, McKamey and HQ are publishing the "Minor League Baseball Analyst", in which Deric profiles 1000 prospects from across the game with in-depth scouting reports and stats that include batter skills ratings, runner speed, pitch repertoires, Major League equivalents, ultimate potential and much more. The book, in its third year, is available for ordering now for shippment next month.

Last week on this site, McKamey provided a special advance preview from his book. The excerpt covered the top 15 Cardinals prospects along with the Cardinals' organizational rankings in contrast with their National League Central Division competitors including year-to-year comparisons.

In this, the third of three follow-on articles exclusively for subscribers, McKamey responds to questions posed on our premium message board about those Cardinals prospects and much more. Today's focus is on minor league position players.

Previous articles in the series:
Deric McKamey on Cards Prospects: 2008
Deric McKamey on Cards Minors Overall: 2008
Deric McKamey on Cards Minors Pitching: 2008

Q: Where is Ryde Rodriguez? Is it too soon to rate him?

A: It is probably too soon to start rating Rodriguez with his relative youth and no professional experience. He is very strong for his age and projects as a power hitter with a fair batting average. His speed is below average, along with his range, but has a strong throwing arm. Rating a guy like Rodriguez is different than ranking a newly-drafted high school player, as more scouts have seen the high school player and have a better handle on him. Plus, you don't have to figure-in the cultural adjustment.

Q: What do you see as Jon Edwards' potential?

A: Edwards is very physical and has the bat speed to produce above-average power. His swing can get a little long and gets fooled by breaking pitches, but makes hard contact when he puts the bat on the ball. He runs fairly well for his size and has a strong, though inaccurate throwing arm. Edwards is still pretty raw in baseball terms, but is progressing at a normal rate and projects as a run-producing, corner outfielder.

Q: Can Allen Craig (pictured) stick at the hot corner, and what is your take on him as a hitter?

A: I'm of the opinion that Craig won't be able to stick at 3B. I know what value this organization places on defense and he has lots of work to do to be even average. His arm strength is good, but lacks mobility and his hands are stiff. I love Craig's bat, though. Hitting 21 homers in the FSL is no easy task and his other power numbers (.530 SLG and .217 ISO) back that up. I'm a little concerned that he won't maintain the +.300 AVG due to his below-average strike zone judgment.

Q: Why did Craig not make your list and why is David Freese ranked ahead of him?

A: Freese got the nod over Craig on my top 15 primarily due to defense and better athleticism. I know Freese is about nine months older and played in a hitter-friendly league, but I rate their offense about equal. Freese is average defensively, though some folks are making an issue that the Padres played him at 1B and catcher in the instructional league because they didn't like his defense. Truth is, they had Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff ahead of him at 3B, and wanted him to be more versatile.

I already had a player (Joe Mather) on the list who is all bat and will struggle to find a place to play. Craig would have been #17 if I had gone farther on the list.

Q: You listed Tyler Greene as possible 2008 help. Was his numbers trending upwards prior to his injury a sign of things to come that he was starting to get it figured out? Or is his future as a utility infielder?

A: I think Greene was turning the corner, especially in the power department. His XBH/H ratio was 0.50 in Springfield, and that's impressive with 221 at-bats. I don't see him hitting for batting average and is OBP won't be high because he doesn't walk. He is very athletic, looks the part, and is very solid defensively. At this point, I can't project him as a Major League regular, but he should be a fine utility player.

Q: You did not include a running time for Jose Martinez. Can Martinez run well?

A: I've seen Martinez play twice and didn't get a good running time on him in either contest. His speed is slightly above average, though it shows more on defense (range) than offense. I'd say he is probably more quick than fast. He isn't one to steal bases, but has enough speed to take the extra base when presented with the opportunity.

Q: Is it true that unless Amaury Marti learns to handle inside heat he won't go to St. Louis? What do you see as his potential?

A: Handling inside heat is only part of the problem. He struggles with any pitch that has a wrinkle and I worry about him making consistent contact. His defense wasn't as good as reported in terms of range and tracking flyballs, so his bat will have to play-up.

Q: Does Brandon Yarbrough's defense project to be good enough to play catcher in the majors?

A: Not in my estimation. His arm strength is average to above, but his footwork, receiving skills, and release are well below average. Offensively, he has work to do, especially in making contact, so he's looking at a real uphill climb.

Q: Is Luis de la Cruz 's upside really equal to Pudge Rodriguez?

A: That's a lofty projection to equate one with a future Hall of Fame catcher. I gave de la Cruz an 8E, so no, I don't think that is his upside. de la Cruz balances strength and agility, while being an above average defender. He hit very well in the GCL, especially in terms of batting average, and I think the power will come as he matures.

Q: How about Jarrett Hoffpauir (pictured)? What is your take on him?

A: Hoffpauir is a short, athletic infielder out of the Bo Hart/David Eckstein mold. He makes plays defensively and hustles, but I don't think his bat will cut it as a Major League starter. He makes good contact and draw walks, but his power is limited and he would be in trouble if over-exposed.

Q: How would you rank the following outfielders in terms of prospect status: Mark Shorey, Luke Gorsett, Shane Robinson, Reid Gorecki, Tyler Henley?

A: According to my system*: Shorey (4B), Gossett (4B), Gorecki (3A), Robinson (3A), and Henley (5D).

Q: How would you rank the following outfielders in terms of prospect status as a second group of non-college guys: Daryl Jones, Jon Edwards, Thomas Pham, D'Marcus Ingram, Travis Mitchell, Adron Chambers, Joey Hage?

A: According to my system*: Edwards (8D), Pham (5C), Hage (5C), Jones (6E), Mitchell (5D), Ingram (4B), and Chambers (4B).

Q: Who in the Cardinals system projects as a leadoff hitter?

A: Jon Jay has the best leadoff profile with his excellent contact rate, ability to draw walks, and speed, but I'm more inclined to think that he'll be more of a fourth outfielder. Newly acquired Brian Barton adds the element of moderate power and may see time at leadoff in 2008, but he's more of a #5 or #6 type hitter.

Q: Who are the Cardinals prospects that could possibly make it to the majors based on their glove work even though their offensive stats seem mediocre?

A: Tyler Greene and Jarrett Hoffpauir.

* as a reminder, here is the rating system:

Player Potential Rating - a player's upside potential on a scale of 1-10

10 – Hall of Fame-type player
9 – Elite player
8 – Solid regular
7 – Average regular
6 – Platoon player
5 – Major League reserve player
4 - Top minor league player
3 - Average minor league player
2 - Minor league reserve player
1 - Minor league roster filler

Probability Rating - a player's realistic chance of achieving his potential on a scale of A-E

A - 90% probability of reaching potential
B - 70% probability of reaching potential
C - 50% probability of reaching potential
D - 30% probability of reaching potential
E - 10% probability of reaching potential

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