Cards Prospects: Best of the Rest: Walton

The last of four looks at top Cardinals prospects that just missed our Top 40 countdown with Brian Walton.

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 second of four articles where each of us will highlight those prospects – our "Best of the Rest".

Here is the overall Top 40, with my list next to it. Highlighted are the names unique to each list.

Rank Group Walton
1 Colby Rasmus 1 Colby Rasmus
2 Brett Wallace 2 Brett Wallace 
3 Brian Anderson 3 Bryan Anderson
4 Jess Todd 4 Jason Motte
5 Darryl Jones 5 David Freese
6 David Freese 6 Daryl Jones
7 Jason Motte 7 Jess Todd
8 Mitchell Boggs 8 Pete Kozma
9 Jaime Garcia 9 Jaime Garcia
10 Jon Jay 10 Mitchell Boggs
11 Clayton Mortensen 11 Clayton Mortensen
12 Pete Kozma 12 Jon Jay
13 Adam Ottavino 13 Niko Vasquez 
14 Allen Craig 14 Lance Lynn 
15 Richard Castillo 15 Adam Ottavino
16 Niko Vasquez 16 Tyler Greene
17 Tyler Greene 17 P.J. Walters
18 Lance Lynn 18 Allen Craig
19 Francisco Samuel 19 Richard Castillo
20 Josh Kinney 20 Josh Kinney
21 Nick Additon 21 Francisco Samuel
22 Adam Reifer 22 Scott Gorgen 
23 P.J. Walters 23 Jon Edwards
24 Fernando Salas 24 Adam Reifer
25 Tyler Herron 25 Tyler Herron
26 Scott Gorgen 26 Nick Additon
27 Deryk Hooker 27 Shane Robinson
28 Shaun Garceau 28 David Kopp
29 Steven Hill 29 Shaun Garceau
30 Nick Stavinoha 30 Luke Gregerson
31 Mark Worrell 31 Fernando Salas
32 Jon Edwards 32 Deryk Hooker
33 Shane Robinson 33 Mark Worrell
34 David Kopp 34 Steven Hill
35 Roberto De La Cruz 35 Nick Stavinoha
36 Jose Martinez 36 Tony Cruz
37 Luke Gregerson 37 Jose Martinez
38 Arquimedes Nieto 38 Roberto De La Cruz
39 Curt Smith 39 Aaron Luna 
40 Ryde Rodriguez 40 Curt Smith 

For once at least, our group voting on top 40 St. Louis Cardinals minor league prospects pretty much mirrored mine. Only two of the players that made my top 40 were not among those that made the final cut.

That these two didn't make it didn't crush me, as they were down in my final five. I guess what did bother me however, was that neither Tony Cruz nor Aaron Luna received even a second vote.

Tony Cruz. Not that I needed it, but I still felt slightly vindicated in my selection when Cruz received a coveted invitation to major league spring training camp. Yes, I know he is just an extra catcher and will be among the earliest cuts, but he will still be there.

The 22-year-old, taken in the 26th round in 2007, is not unlike higher-ranked Steven Hill, in that he is a hitter being tried behind the plate. Though he can play third and first, Cruz' ceiling is considerably higher if he can also be a credible catcher.

Prior to his 2008 regular season ending in July due to a hand injury suffered in late June, Cruz was the best run producer on the Palm Beach Cardinals, leading the club in doubles and RBI. In fact, despite playing hurt in July and missing all of August, he still led the entire Palm Beach team in runs batted in for the season and tied for tops in total bases.

The club's #3 hitter was named a Florida State League All-Star and scored an invite to the league's Home Run Derby. I don't think it is a coincidence that following Daryl Jones' promotion and Cruz' injury, the Palm Beach offense, good enough to take the first-half FSL East crown, was not the same the rest of the way.

Overall, Cruz batted .279 with eight home runs and 58 RBIs for the club before heading to Hawaii for winter ball. There, he continued to get part-time work behind the plate while impressing with the bat. The right-handed hitter's line was .323/.363/.452, placing him among the league leaders.

Aaron Luna. Drafted in the ninth round this past summer, the wild swings in Luna's first professional season can be measured by the months.

June brought the excitement of the draft, signing and assignment to Quad Cities of the Midwest League. July brought a strong start with six home runs and 12 RBI in just 64 Midwest League at-bats. He posted an exceptional OPS of .980 despite just a .234 batting average prior to his August 6 promotion to Palm Beach.

August was another story entirely. Luna's hot start didn't carry over to the Florida State League. His playing time was sporadic at best, receiving just six at-bats after the 15th. Though he was hitting just 2-for-25 and fanned a third of the time, Luna still managed a .303 OBP.

Cards farm director Jeff Luhnow wanted to see Luna play and sent him to the instructional league in September where the Texan was asked to spend time at second base. Luna had played there at Rice and would help organizational depth in a needed area while increasing his value if he can handle the position as a pro. I am betting he can.

Next in our series will be "The Final Tally", which lists all the four voters' results side by side with some analysis sprinkled in by yours truly. The 2009 Top 40 Prospects series will officially come to a close next Monday with "The 2009 All-Prospect Team", the best prospects by position. Both are free. Don't miss them!

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.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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