2009 Cardinals Prospect #16 – Niko Vasquez

The 2008 third round pick jumped from high school to success in the Appalachian League. Does that mean he is the next coming of Nomar?

Scout.com Player Profile (including links to full 2008 and career stats)

2008 ranking: Not applicable

Position: SS

DOB: 2/26/1989

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 175

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

School: Durango High School, Las Vegas, NV

Became a Cardinal: Selected in the third round (91st overall) of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Selected 2008 stats

JC 0.317 208 42 66 16 1 4 25 29 52 8 0.416 0.462 0.877
QC 0.128 39 6 5 1 0 0 3 4 17 0 0.205 0.154 0.358
Tot 0.287 247 48 71 17 1 4 28 33 69 8 0.383 0.413 0.796

Staff comments (individual rankings in parens)

Dustin Mattison (24): I rated Vasquez lower than my colleagues but it is not that I am not excited about what he brings to the table. I am really intrigued with the 19-year-old and the bat he brings to the middle infield. The verdict is out if he will be able to stay at shortstop but with his hit tool, he could be an offensive threat as a second baseman. Dan Uggla with a glove?

I was very impressed with the way he handle the move from a Las Vegas high school to the Appalachian League. At Johnson City, he posted an impressive line of .317/.416/.462 that earned him an aggressive promotion to the Quad Cities. Against the more mature Midwest League pitching Vasquez did struggle but it hopefully will familiarize him with the city in which he is sure to start the year in 2009.

With another solid line in his first full professional season, Vasquez will most likely rank in my Top 10 come this time next season.

Ray Mileur (19): He may have a higher ceiling than the Cardinals' 2007 first round draft pick, shortstop Pete Kozma, who will make his appearance on this Top 40 list in the days to come. Selected in the third round of the 2008 draft, Vasquez had been projected by some as possible first round pick before falling to the third round because of potential signability issues and the lack of foot speed.

Based on my trying to calculate a player's overall future potential. I tend to lump the players in the first three rounds of the draft together. Vasquez has a very strong arm who could play short or third, though his value to the organization is linked to his bat and him playing at short.

Message board community (16): When the Cardinals got Vasquez in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft many people sensed that the Cards may have gotten a bargain. However, I think that few people expected him to perform at such a high level so quickly. Vasquez showed both significant power and an excellent eye at the plate while putting up a .878 OPS at rookie league Johnson City. That compares to last years #1 pick Pete Kozma who put up a .746 OPS in his first pro season at the same level.

Vasquez should open the 2009 season at Quad Cities (where he played briefly at the end of 2008) as the starting shortstop. Whether he remains a shortstop may depend on those in the system in front of him and his ability to show good range as some think he may be more suited for 2B in the future. - CariocaCardinal

Brian Walton (13): As if my score didn't make it clear already, I am firmly on the Vasquez bandwagon. Within the farm system, we often talk about difficult jumps that players are asked to make. Well, how about from high school into the Appalachian League? As noted above, Niko did it and did it well.

Also mentioned above was Vasquez' offensive dropoff at Quad Cities. He moved on to the Instructional League this fall, where he was reunited with one of his Johnson City coaches, Mike Shildt, who could see improvement just since this summer.

"Niko played a nice shortstop. He was working on some things like they all are offensively, but the thing I was pleased about with Niko was that he improved with the bat and was swinging real well near the end," Shildt observed.

Jeff Luhnow: "Niko Vasquez is one of those guys you look at and he reminds me a lot of – and our scouts say this too – Nomar Garciaparra. He's got a really good bat and plays shortstop. The reason he wasn't taken in the first round – because he has a lot of abilities of a first rounder – was because he is not a plus runner.

"A lot of people in baseball think that you have to have foot speed to be successful. There's other things that can take the place of that. If you have good instincts, good hands, good feet and everything else works together… To go into Johnson City and do what he did was phenomenal," the farm director noted.

To see our entire list of 40 prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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