Cardinals: Surveying the Crops: 08/18/09

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

This week was highlighted much more by what the St. Louis Cardinals did off the field than what was done on it from a minor league point of view. The organization came to terms with its first round pick, Texas high-schooler Shelby Miller. The right-handed pitcher agreed to a $2.875 million signing bonus, the largest the team has ever given to a high school player.

If you are keeping score at home, that is around six million dollars the team has paid out to young, high upside players in the past month and a half. Though it has lost some high upside talent in trades, it quickly is restocking with young talent capable of making an impact.

Along with the Miller signing, these are other things that I have noticed as I looked across the Cardinals' minor league system.

Ten Things On My Mind

1. After a slow start, bonus baby Roberto De La Cruz seems to have figured out the GCL pitching. In the month of August, the 17-year-old is hitting .328/.338/.410 in 58 at-bats. Considering his age, that is an impressive line and something to get excited about.

2. Lance Lynn has cemented himself as the top starting pitcher in the system that has actually started a professional game. The former Ole Miss Rebel has been solid his over last eight starts. In 46.2 innings, he has posted a 1.93 ERA with 44 strikeouts. The opposition has hit a modest .237 against him during that span. The glaring issue for Lynn is control, he has 40 walks in 108.1 Double-A innings.

3. Former draft-and-follow pick Adron Chambers is having a breakout year in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. The 22-year-old has reached base at a .375 clip while stealing 20 bases for Palm Beach. With a strong finish, he is hitting .382 in his last nine games, he could position himself as his team's Player of the Year.

4. Daniel Descalso is slowly turning things around at Memphis. The 22-year-old that got off to a tremendous start at Springfield this season is hitting .275/.383/.325 in his last 40 at-bats. The on base percentage is nice but the lack of power does stand out. Surely, he is not the second coming of Jarrett Hoffpauir. Right?

5. David Freese has really found his stroke since being activated from the disabled list. In 49 at bats, the St. Louis native has hit .327/.389/.592 during his return to the Memphis lineup. Freese is on the Cardinals' 40-man roster and could provide a nice power bat of the bench during the September stretch run.

6. Though he wears many nicknames, Chicken Fried and the King, Steven Hill has quietly put together a fantastic power season at Double-A Springfield. Hill is tied for fifth in the Texas League in home runs with 19 while slugging .475. He may not have a position but he looks to have value as a power bat off the bench.

7. Admittedly it is a small sample size but Kyle Conley is feasting on New York-Penn League pitching. The seventh round selection has an OPS of 1.376 in his first 42 at bats. Of his 17 hits, 11 have been for extra bases. Also, he has more walks than strikeouts.

8. Conley's teammate, Matt Adams, is enjoying success in Batavia, as well. The 20-year-old has a slash line of .382/.426/.582 since being promoted from Johnson City. The guy has a bat that could carry him up the minor league ranks, unfortunately, the National League does not use the designated hitter.

9. Another Hill, the five-tool Virgil Hill got off to a mediocre start in his professional debut but is showing signs of life. The son of the former boxing champ is showing more patience at the dish and is reaching base at a .403 mark during the month of August. Though he has a long way to go, he could cause big headaches with his speed on the base paths.

10. Keep an eye on Johnson City catcher Audry Perez. His batting average and on base percentage leave a lot to be desired but he is slugging .510. The 20-year-old had a great 2008 in the DSL before finishing the season in the Gulf Coast League. Plus, he is a guy many inside the organization are quite high on.

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