Next are the 2008, 2007 and 2006 rankings of the players in the new 2009 Top 40.
Seven players make their initial appearance on the list for 2009 in their first year of eligibility, with six as new draftees into the organization. Eight others make the list for the first time, though they were previously in the organization and one, organizational Minor League Player of the Year Daryl Jones, returns after a year absence.
Not surprisingly, the split is in favor of pitching, though the gap narrowed again this year. Position players gained ground, now holding down 18 of our 40 spots. Nine are infielders, two are catchers and seven are outfielders.
In a major change from last year, only one of our top six-ranked prospects is a pitcher, Jess Todd at #4. Of the 22 hurlers on the list, seven are relievers while 15 are starters. Of the latter group, only two are left-handed and one of them, Jaime Garcia, is out for much, if not all season.
"Cm" represents the collaborative effort among a group of very knowledgeable Cardinals fans from our Message Board. While that group ranked 50 players, not 40, I limited their list in this article to 40 for consistency. Click here to see the entire community list and their reasoning behind it.
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Now, here's my view as to some of the movers and shakers this year.
The Cardinals' 2008 first-rounder did more than was expected in his first partial season as a professional. In a real oddity, shortstop Vasquez and pitcher Lynn debuted in exactly the same positions as did Pete Kozma and Jess Todd the year before.
Unlike Joe Mather's meteoric rise last year, Jones' breakout was not totally unexpected, though he did not receive a single vote one year ago after coming in at #17 the year prior. Richard Castillo stepped up with a standout sophomore campaign to leap onto our prospect map as did Francisco Samuel in his third year.
In Hamilton, we have an apparent over-reach last year and Martinez has plateaued, with both struggling at Double-A Springfield in 2008.
Next are my views of some of the top individual picks and pans looking back at what we voters said one year ago.
Top 2008 pick – Mattison – Jason Motte #20
Dustin was the closest among us to have anticipated Motte's contributions at the minor league level and rise to the majors in September.
Top 2008 pick – Mileur – Joe Mather - #8
Ray saw the potential in Mather before the rest, putting the 2008 rookie at number eight when Dustin and I had kept Joey Bombs in the teens.
Top 2008 pick – Walton – Jon Jay - #11
One year ago, I ranked Jay at #11, considerably more aggressively than did the other voters, all three of whom had Jay between 19 and 30. Jay lived up to the projection, coming in at #10 this year, as everyone has now hopped onto the bandwagon. Jay also scored an invite to Major League camp in the spring!
Top 2008 pan – Mattison – Mark McCormick - #37
Dustin took a more realistic stance on the oft-injured hurler, as Ray and I had him at #18 and #21 respectively. Though he has as much talent as anyone, due to never staying healthy, McCormick fell out of the top 40 for 2009.
Top 2008 pan – Mileur – Brian Barton - #18a
Ray was the least high on the then-new arrival from Cleveland in the Rule 5 Draft as the rest of placed Barton in our top tens. While Barton did stick on the major league roster the entire season, he seems almost certainly destined for Memphis in 2009 at the age of 27.
Top 2008 pan – Walton – Jarrett Hoffpauir - #24
I was the only voter that didn't place the 2007 OBP darling Hoffpauir in last year's top 15. I doubted he could keep it up in 2008 and he didn't, dropping completely off the top 40 this time around.
No one's predictions can be 100% accurate. Here are our highest-profile misses from last year's rankings.
Top 2008 miss – Mattison – David Freese - #20a
Dustin was initially relatively unimpressed with the addition from San Diego in the Jim Edmonds trade, keeping the third baseman out of his top 20. Freese showed what he can do by taking our Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year Award.
Top 2008 miss – Mileur – P.J. Walters - #6
It is not hard to understand why Ray was the highest of us all on Walters, as P.J. was the reigning Pitcher of the Year for the Cardinals organization. While Walters didn't pitch poorly in 2008, he fell all the way to #23 in our ranking this time, greatly on the strength of Mileur's #39 ballot. A penthouse to outhouse vote.
Top 2008 miss – Walton – Blake Hawksworth - #15
Like Mark McCormick the year before, with Hawksworth I showed that I seem to hold onto hope for once-promising pitchers too long. At this point, I have to wonder why Hawksworth is still on the 40-man roster as starting pitching prospects keep passing him by.
On Monday, look for the final article of this series as the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals All-Prospect Team is unveiled.
To reference our entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2009 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 email@example.com.
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