Cardinals: Surveying the Crops: 08/10/09

Senior Minor League Writer Dustin Mattison is back with his look around the St. Louis Cardinals farm system.

Since my last in-depth look at the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, the team has traded off most of its top 10 prospects and one sure to be top 20-prospect in the upcoming off-season. But this has enabled the big league club to bring in two talented players in Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday. In the process, the Cardinals now have a two-game lead in the National League Central.

Though the system has really thinned out at the top, the system still has some interesting prospects and breakout candidates. Here is a look at the affiliates and 10 prospect-realated things that have been on my mind lately.

The Teams

Memphis stands a half game up on Nashville in the Pacific Coast North. The Redbirds stand at 61-54 on the season and are prepping for only their second playoff appearance in team history.

Springfield won the first half of the Texas League North but has struggled since multiple players graduated to Triple-A. Since clinching the title, the Cardinals have posted a record of 19-23.

Palm Beach has struggled with offensive consistency and stands 47-64 this season, the second worst record in the Florida State League.

After a roller coaster ride of a season, the Quad Cities River Bandits are two games below .500 in the second half, 12 games below overall.

After winning the New York-Penn League title last season, the Batavia Muckdogs are on the outside looking in, nine games back of first place Mahoning Valley.

The Johnson City Cardinals stand at 25-19, four games back in the Appalachian West. After experiencing a trying 2008, the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate is only two games below .500, eight games back of the lead.

Ten Things On My Mind

1. Jaime Garcia is only 11 innings into his rehab from Tommy John surgery but he already has Cardinal fans dreaming of what he can bring to the table. The southpaw has 14 strikeouts and only one walk during that span. By the way, he has posted a 5.33-to-1 groundball to fly ball ratio during his rehab. Reports are that he is hitting 91-92 on the gun.

2. What's up with P.J. Walters? The 24-year-old has a remarkable 35 strikeouts in his last 20 innings. With the struggles of Todd Wellemeyer, maybe it is time to give P.J. another look.

3. I know the organization is very aggressive in regards to promoting its farmhands. But, I still totally disagree with the decision to promote Pete Kozma to Double-A Springfield. The shortstop has put up an anemic line of .215/.287/.286. He seems to have taken his struggles to the field with him as well, committing 20 errors this season.

4. Allen Craig is the hottest hitter in the Cardinals' system and one of the hottest in all of the minor leagues. The utility man has a hit in 20 of his last 24 games (.428 average) with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs.

5. Eduardo Sanchez has created more buzz in recent weeks than any other pitcher in the system. The 20-year-old has 44 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 36 innings for Springfield. He has supplanted Francisco Samuel as the team's closer and it would not surprise me to see him in the big leagues by season's end ala Neftali Feliz in Texas. Yes, you read that correctly.

6. Tyler Henley has put together a tremendous season at Double-A. He ranks among the top five in the Texas League in batting average and slugging. If not for a crowded outfield at Memphis, surely he would have been promoted by now.

7. Like Sanchez, Adam Reifer was the reliever most were buzzing about this time last season. He still has legit power arm but has had a tough time finding consistency on the bump. Still, he is hitting the upper 90's on the gun. I look forward to watching his maturation.

8. After struggling with injuries, Mark Hamilton has re-established himself as a bat worth taking notice of. The Tulane product is hitting .328/.403/.594 since joining the Memphis Redbirds.

9. I was really hoping this would be the breakout season for Tommy Pham. With tools galore, I was thought the Las Vegas native would finally put them together. Unfortunately, the pitcher friendly FSL has not been kind to the 21-year-old. He has gotten off to a hot start in August but it is a small sample size. Keep in mind, Pham hit 92 MPH on the mound in high school.

10. I felt Xavier Scruggs was a great late round pick in the 2008 draft. After a disappointing professional debut, the 21-year-old is showing the hitting skills that made him the Mountain West Player of the Year his final season at UNLV. After a promotion from Batavia, he is hitting .556/.625/1.185 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in his first seven games in the Midwest League earning him Player of the Week honors.

Shelby Miller Update

The Cardinals have one week to get their first round pick, Shelby Miller, signed. With MLB wanting to teams to stick to its recommended slot bonuses, it is just now beginning to give the okay to deals that go above those slot recommendations. Miller is far from being the only first round choice not selected. As of Monday, only 13 of the 32 first round picks have signed.

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