Any discussion of this subject first requires boundaries to be established. The regular season ended with the Cardinals 40-man at 39. It currently sits at 26 following the declaration of free agency by nine players and removal of four others from the 40-man. Joe Thurston and Matt Scherer remain with the organization while Jarrett Hoffpauir (claimed by Toronto) and Brad Thompson (released) are gone.
By my estimation, the organization will want to hold back at least five spots for major league free agent additions approximating the following:
• Left-handed hitting reserve position player (replacing Thurston/Ankiel)
• Reserve catcher (replacing LaRue)
• Left fielder (replacing Holliday)
• Starting pitcher (replacing Smoltz)
• Veteran reliever
That would leave a maximum of nine spots for Rule 5 additions. (26 under contract +5 new veterans +9 protected =40)
If required later on, the Cardinals could also clear several additional roster spots by outrighting players currently on the 40-man. Examples might include Matt Pagnozzi, Nick Stavinoha and Josh Kinney. In doing so, the risk is that the player could be claimed by another organization as recently occurred with Hoffpauir.
In selecting players to protect, there are several questions to be pondered:
• What is the ceiling of the player in this organization?
• How much internal competition does he have and where does he stack up?
• Will the player be selected by another organization if left unprotected?
• If selected, will the player be able to remain on that organization's 25-man active roster all 2010 season long?
Inherent in the final question is the reality that many Rule 5 selections have to be returned to the prior organization because they did not play at a high-enough level to become full-time major leaguers.
Following are the maximum of nine names I predict the Cardinals may protect, in rough order of probability. I would not be totally surprised if they drew the line at seven.
Noted is the year each player first signed with the Cardinals, his age at the time and highest level attained in the Cardinals system.
|Jon Jay||OF||03/15/1985||2006 2||2006||21||Memphis|
|Daryl Jones||OF||06/25/1987||2005 3||2005||17||Springfield|
|Allen Craig||UT||07/18/1984||2006 8||2006||21||Memphis|
|Adam Ottavino||RHS||11/22/1985||2006 1||2006||20||Memphis|
|Tyler Norrick||LHR||09/27/1983||2006 6||2006||22||Memphis|
|Bryan Anderson||C||12/16/1986||2005 4||2005||18||Memphis|
|Mark Hamilton||1B||07/29/1984||2006 2a||2006||21||Memphis|
|Mike Parisi||RHS||04/18/1983||2004 9||2004||21||St. Louis|
Of the nine, only Norrick, Hamilton and a then-injured Parisi did not place on our Top 40 Cardinals Prospect List one year ago. Each demonstrated a higher level of play this summer, improving their stock.
Perhaps almost as interesting are those players who would then be left unprotected and therefore become Rule 5 eligible. Here are a dozen of those candidates, six position players and six pitchers, in alphabetical order.
|Position Player||Pos||DOB||Draft yr/rd||Signed||Age||Team|
|Amaury Cazana||OF||9/2/1974||2006 18||2006||32||Memphis|
|Jim Rapoport||OF||06/25/1985||2006 35||2006||20||Springfield|
|Mark Shorey||OF||08/13/1984||2006 31||2006||21||Memphis|
|Joe Thurston||IF||9/29/1979||FA||2008||29||St. Louis|
|Gary Daley Jr.||RHR||11/01/1985||2006 3||2006||20||Springfield|
|Brad Furnish||LHS||01/19/1985||2006 2||2006||21||Springfield|
|Trey Hearne||RHS||08/19/1983||2005 28||2005||21||Memphis|
|Mark McCormick||RHS||10/15/1983||2005 1a||2005||21||Springfield|
|Matt Scherer||RHR||1/20/1983||2004 16||2004||21||Memphis|
Only one of these 12 and none of the other potential Rule 5 eligible players not noted above ranked among our Top 40 Cardinals prospects last winter. Double-A second baseman Jose Martinez did make the tail end of last year's list, but subsequently missed the entire 2009 season due to family issues.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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