Cardinals: Surveying the Crops 08/26/09

Senior Minor League Writer Dustin Mattison's weekly look around the St. Louis Cardinals farm system begins with Eduardo Sanchez.

For me, the announcement of the Arizona Fall League rosters is always a signal that the minor league season is coming to an end. As we approach the season's end, two St. Louis Cardinals' affiliates are gearing up for a post-season run.

The Springfield Cardinals have already locked up a Texas League playoff berth and now must prepare itself to most likely play an old foe, the Tulsa Drillers. At Memphis, the Redbirds have a 2.5-game lead on cross-state rival Nashville. It would mark Memphis' first playoff appearance since a player named Albert Pujols helped propel the team to its only Pacific Coast League crown.

As we gear up for the end, here are 10 things I have been thinking about as I look across the Cardinals' system.

Ten Things on My Mind

1. With the struggles of Jason Motte in the Cardinal bullpen, what are the chances that Eduardo Sanchez might see action in the big league bullpen by the end of the season? Better than you might think.

Recently on a St. Louis radio station, General Manager John Mozeliak said, "I would not be afraid to bring him up if I thought he could help us." At Double-A, Sanchez has 55 strikeouts compared to only 15 walks in 44.1 innings. Plus, he has seems to be unfazed by the extra pressure of pitching the ninth.

Considering that over his last 32 games covering 21.2 innings, Motte has given up 32 hits that have led to 22 earned runs for a 9.14 ERA, it might be worth a shot.

2. With the organization's emphasis on player development, I am really surprised that there will be no instructional league this fall. I know that the game play would be limited but I believe the extra development time for the likes of Shelby Miller and Wagner Mateo is invaluable. In a recent interview with John Maracek on KTRS, Jeff Luhnow talked about the team's decision to not hold instructs. He stated that it was partly due to the fact that they team employs a large amount of roving instructors that work with the players throughout the season.

Also, a lot of teams have left Florida meaning there will be fewer opportunities for games. Plus, as Luhnow says, they can always do things informally for those players needing to work on certain things.

3. I am sure that Shelby Miller's first visit to Busch Stadium was very exciting for the young pitcher. It will give him the opportunity to meet the big league team and manager Tony La Russa. But more importantly, it will give the team's first round pick the chance to talk with pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Miller has not seen any competitive action since high school so to help alleviate the strain, he will throw regular bullpens. And if he meets certain check points, he will get a chance to get into game action at the Quad Cities. Luhnow says that he will work out of the bullpen and it will only be once or twice. Then the team will have Miller come in early to spring training to finish out his off-season workout program.

4. Along the same lines as the last two entries, I wonder if the Cardinals are going to reevaluate their pitching development plan. I understand that the team has some strong roving pitching instructors but outside of Eduardo Sanchez, has any pitching prospect stepped up this season?

5. I have ranked Tommy Pham in my Top 40 each of the past two years. He has yet to make that "Daryl Jones" type breakthrough but things are looking up. For the month of August, he is hitting .386/.426/.773 with four home runs in 44 at bats. He is still striking out a lot but the toolsy outfielder seems to be making strides.

6. Daniel Descalso got off to a hot start in Double-A this season and was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A. He got off to a slow start at Memphis and has seen a loss of playing time at second to Jarrett Hoffpauir. With the upside that Descalso brings, shouldn't he be seeing action over the Hoff?

7. Though he does not hit for much average, Aaron Luna has continued to get on base and show nice power since being promoted to Springfield. He is reaching base at a .400 clip while slugging .500 in 18 games since reaching Double-A. The only drawback is that he is not seeing any time at second base, a position that makes his bat much more valuable.

8. Often overlooked, 20-year-old Edgar Lara has made himself into one of the top sluggers in the Appalachian League. He ranks fifth in the league in home runs and sixth in isolated power.

9. I still believe that Cardinals got a steal when it drafted Devin Goodwin on day three of the draft. The scrappy second baseman is slugging .574 with three home runs during the month of August.

10. Gary Daley has now pitched five innings at Double-A and has only one walk. The guy that had 51 in 76.2 innings at the Quad Cities has somehow found some control. Yes, I know the sample size is very small but with his skipping Palm Beach, I really expected the worst. The guy has big league stuff; he just has never been able to control it. Hopefully, this is the beginning of something good.

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