Best of the Rest… of Cards Prospects: Markee

The first of four looks at top St. Louis Cardinals prospects that just missed our Top 40 countdown. First up is Leonda Markee.

Editor's note: As those who followed our Top 40 Prospects countdown over the last month and a half know, the selection of the master list was a melding of the individual views from four of us here at The Birdhouse,

As a result, a handful of deserving players on each of our personal lists did not make the consolidated Top 40. This is the first of four articles where each of us will highlight those prospects – our "Best of the Rest", so to speak.

I get to kick off (is a football term allowed?) the "Best of the Rest' series by highlighting some of the players that did not make the overall Birdhouse Top 40 prospect list.

As a reminder, here is the overall Top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list.

Overall Top 40 Leonda Markee
1 Colby Rasmus 1 Colby Rasmus
2 Bryan Anderson 2 Bryan Anderson
3 Jaime Garcia 3 Jaime Garcia
4 Chris Perez 4 Chris Perez
5 Adam Ottavino 5 Adam Ottavino
6 Tyler Herron 6 Tyler Herron
7 Jose Martinez 6a Brian Barton
7a Brian Barton 7 P.J. Walters
8 Joe Mather 8 Joe Mather
9 Clayton Mortensen 9 Mark McCormick
10 P.J. Walters 10 Jose Martinez
11 Allen Craig 11 Mitchell Boggs
12 Mark Hamilton 12 Jarrett Hoffpauir
13 Mitchell Boggs 12a David Freese
13a David Freese 13 Allen Craig
14 Jarrett Hoffpauir 14 Mark Hamilton
15 Kenny Maiques 15 Josh Kinney
16 Pete Kozma 16 Jason Motte
17 Tyler Greene 17 Tyler Greene
18 Jess Todd 18 Luke Gregerson
19 Jon Jay 19 Cody Haerther
20 Mark McCormick 20 Kyle McClellan
21 Josh Kinney 21 Clayton Mortensen
22 Jason Motte 22 Mark Shorey
23 Blake Hawksworth 23 Kenny Maiques
24 Luke Gregerson 24 Jon Jay
25 Jon Edwards 25 Mike Parisi
26 Tyler Norrick 26 Blake Hawksworth
27 Cody Haerther 27 Tyler Norrick
28 Luis de la Cruz 28 Cory Rauschenberger
29 Stuart Pomeranz 29 Jess Todd
30 Brad Furnish 30 Brandon Yarbrough
31 Kyle McClellan 31 Brad Furnish
32 Deryk Hooker 32 Luke Gorsett
33 Mark Worrell 33 Brandon Buckman
34 Blake King 34 Stuart Pomeranz
35 Mike Parisi 35 Mark Worrell
36 David Kopp 36 Steven Hill
37 Brandon Buckman 37 Eddie Degerman
38 Nick Stavinoha 38 Daryl Jones
39 D'Marcus Ingram 39 Jon Edwards
40 Steven Hill 40 Tony Cruz

After reviewing the list you will see that seven of the overall Top 40 were not ranked by me: Pete Kozma, Luis de la Cruz, Deryk Hooker, Blake King, David Kopp, Nick Stavinoha and D'Marcus Ingram. Five of the seven are 2007 draftees: Kozma, de la Cruz, Hooker, Kopp and Ingram. As I mentioned when outlining my ranking philosophy, very few of the 2007 draft class (and all players that saw their first professional play in the United States during the 2007 season are included in the term ‘2007 draft class') made my personal Top 40. I simply want more time to evaluate them. Since that mind-set is one that is not shared by most, it was understandable that I had the most players that did not make the overall Top 40. Only King and Stavinoha had professional experience in the United States prior to the 2007 season.

The seven players that made my personal Top 40 but not the cumulative Top 40 are (in order of my ranking): Left fielder Mark Shorey (22), right-handed starter Cory Rauschenberger (28), catcher Brandon Yarbrough (30), right fielder Luke Gorsett (32), right-handed starter Eddie Degerman (37), outfielder Daryl Jones (38) and corner infielder Tony Cruz (40). Five of the seven were ranked at 30 or below. The rankings in that range were fairly fluid, the more so as the rankings descended. I will try to make my case here for Shorey, Rauschenberger and Yarbrough since Gorsett, Cruz and Degerman appear on other lists as well.

On the other hand, my ranking of Daryl Jones goes completely against my usual philosophy, as did my ranking of Mark McCormick. Both of those rankings were based on pure tools and projected upside so there really is not a great deal to discuss about Mr. Jones. An argument can be made for ranking either Nick Stavinoha or Blake King instead. A repeat of his 2007 performance in 2008 will easily get Jones dropped out of my 2008 Top 40.

At number 22 on my Top 40 is left fielder Mark Shorey.

Shorey played at three levels in 2007. He began at class A Quad Cities where he went .293/.337/.420/.757 in 180 at bats. Shorey promoted up to Double-A Springfield in late May when Cody Haerther broke his right hand. At the time he was expected to just fill in until Jon Jay returned from the disabled list. But Jay's injury lingered and by the time he was activated on June 25th, Shorey was hitting .305/.359/.508/.868. So Jay goes to High-A Palm Beach and Shorey sticks at Springfield. He became a ‘victim' of a roster numbers crunch on August 15th when Springfield had to make room for third baseman Rico Washington. Shorey was re-assigned to Palm Beach where he hit a very respectable .286/.333/.486/.819 in 70 at bats. He was brought back to Springfield on September 3rd for the play-off run. Overall, Shorey hit .263/.325/.495/.820 in Springfield while competing in a very crowded outfield situation. (His Double-A numbers declined as his playing time declined.)

On the downside, Shorey needs to talk with Jarrett Hoffpauir about how to take a walk and he does not have much speed. But he did more than hold his own at three different levels this season, one of those levels being the very difficult jump to Double-A ball.

At number 28 on my Top 40 is right-handed starter Cory Rauschenberger.

Rauschenberger is the true sleeper in my rankings but bear with me here. Last season the name ‘Trey Hearne' was on the lips of every aficionado of Cardinals' minor league system. They loved what he was doing at Quad Cities and looked forward eagerly to his future. Rauschenberger got ignored although he began the 2006 season in the Quad Cities rotation while Hearne did not and he was promoted on to Palm Beach in July while Hearne did not see Palm Beach until 2007. Rauschenberger is also almost a year younger than Hearne. Yet Hearne was the hot name while Rauschenberger, The Birdhouse's #40 prospect in 2006, was overlooked.

Rauschenberger was promoted to Springfield where he slipped into the rotation at season's opening when another starter was deemed not ready. Rauschenberger had a horrific April followed by a superb May. His June and July showed that the league had more than adjusted to him, although he would pitch the occasional gem. However, a turn came after Rauschenberger adjusted to a higher arm slot which allows him to better keep the ball down. That adjustment is reflected in his dominating August and September numbers covering his last seven regular season starts. Rauschenberger was also the only Springfield starter to come away with a victory against an excellent San Antonio Missions team in the Texas League championship series.

He throws a fastball-changeup-slurvy-curveball combo and can reach 93-94 MPH, although he usually sits in the 89-90 mph range. A Palm Beach insider stated last season that Rauschenberger was the hardest-working player on the team. That is the type of mind-set a ‘winner' has. A very well respected analyst said that Rauschenberger was a worth keeping an eye on and I very much agree. He does not do anything flashy but he gets the job done.

At number 30 on my Top 40 is catcher Brandon Yarbrough.

I think Yarbrough and his 2007 season were overlooked, at least in part, due to the length of time that he has been in the system and his inability to live up to his draft slot promise. He was drafted out of high school in the fifth round of the June 2003 draft, but his subsequent progress has been very gradual. Yarbrough spent the majority of three seasons at the Rookie and Short-A levels. In 2006, he began the year at Quad Cities where he hit for a plus .300 average before a late May promotion to Palm Beach. There he went .222/.311/.292/.603 in 109 at bats.

This year Yarbrough spent the entire season at Palm Beach where he put up a very respectable .278/.326/.416/.742 in 389 at bats as Palm Beach's main catcher. This was done in what is considered a very tough league for hitters. For all of his prior experience, Yarbrough had just 806 at bats cumulatively from 2003 through 2006. So a full 33% of his professional at bats came during the 2007 season.

Yarbrough was 22 for all of the 2007 season so still has time, although time is dwindling. Yarbrough's former Palm Beach teammate, Joe Mather, is an excellent example of a long time minor leaguer that finally had that breakout season. Mather is almost two years older than Yarbrough and the former's eye-catching 2007 season came in his sixth year in the minors. With a dearth of catching prospects in full season ball not named Bryan Anderson, Yarbrough merits watching in 2008.

Over the next three days, look for companion articles to this one coming from Dustin Mattison, Ray Mileur and Brian Walton. We really enjoyed bringing our top prospects list to you again this off-season and hope you found our reports informative, too.

To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2008 and read about each individual player, click here. You can also learn more about each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections and much more.

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