While we are now a couple of weeks into the Minor League, it might be a good time to look at the St. Louis Cardinals' farmhands. Admittedly, it is still early, though not too early to look at the trends around the organization.
These are the performances that have stuck out to me so far in 2009.
With the Cardinals' top pitching prospect, Jess Todd, making the switch to the bullpen, the glaring weakness of this system is starting pitching. Todd is making his mark in his new role with a 1.74 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. His three saves are tied for tops in the Pacific Coast League.
Clayton Mortensen is performing better during his second stint in Memphis. The lanky right-hander has a miniscule 1.47 ERA (third best in the PCL) while opponents are hitting only .161 against him.
There is just something about the Texas League and Brad Furnish. After a rough start at Palm Beach and a rough finish in the Arizona Fall League, Furnish found his rhythm at Springfield. Back at Double-A, he has started where he left off. The southpaw's 2.16 ERA is the sixth best mark in the league and opponents are hitting only .169 against the TCU product.
Though he has an ERA of 6.75, Francisco Samuel is leading the Texas League with five saves.
Adam Reifer is third in the Florida State League with three saves. He is striking out better than a batter an inning and has allowed a .133 batting average against.
Relievers Eduardo Sanchez and Samuel Freeman are leading the FSL in appearances. Sanchez has allowed an anemic 0.82 ERA. The left-handed Freeman has not allowed a hit to the 12 left-handed batters he has faced.
Lance Lynn is showing why he was selected 39th overall in last year's draft. In four appearances, the former Ole Miss Rebel has a 2.77 ERA with an impressive 14-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings. Also, he has posted an impressive 2-to-1 groundball-to-fly ball ratio.
Converted catcher Casey Mulligan has saved a team high three games for the Quad Cities, which is the third best mark in the Midwest League. Even more impressive is two-strikeout per inning average.
Gary Daley has suffered with his control since joining the Cardinal organization. So far in 2009, Daley appears headed in the right direction. In 8.2 innings, the right-hander has a 12-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
After getting off to a hot start at Springfield in 2008, Shane Robinson is doing it once again in 2009. This time though, it is at Triple-A. Robinson is leading the Redbirds with a line of .375/.434/.479, all tops on the team. His average is seventh best in the PCL.
Steven Hill is leading the Texas League in slugging (.840) and OPS (1.331) while he ranking second in batting average (.440) and home runs (5). Now, if he could find a position.
Daniel Descalso is establishing himself as a solid prospect at a premium position. The second baseman is fifth in the league in OPS (1.075) and ranks in the top ten in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging.
Brett Wallace may have been slumping but he looks to be over his struggles. In his last six games, he has nine hits including walk-off game winning home runs in back-to-back games.
One of the surprises of the 2008 draft, Curt Smith, has found the parks of the Florida State League to his liking. Smith is hitting a solid .333/.375/.544 with three home runs and 14 RBIs.
Though he struggled mightily at Palm Beach last season, Pete Kozma is finding no such troubles his second time around. In 61 at bats, he is hitting .328/.377/.410.
Only injuries could slow down the Quad Cities' Paul Cruz. The former 42nd round pick was leading the Midwest League in on base percentage (.512) while ranking fourth in OPS (1.106).
At the start of his first full professional season, Niko Vasquez is reaching base at a .393 clip.
Overlooked farm hand, Osvaldo Morales, already has three home runs and 16 RBIs. His RBI total is tops in the MWL while his home run total is tied for the second best mark in the league.
After making a name for himself during Spring Training, Allen Craig is proving his versatility. He has started at four positions (1B, 3B, DH, LF) and is hitting .321/.406/.429 with a home run and six RBIs.
Dustin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org