Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
By Will Lingo
Like the Giants, the Cardinals have been at least as successful using minor league players in trades to bring in major league veterans as developing their own major leaguers. General manager Walt Jockettys approach generally has been to hold on to a few of the best prospects but willingly trade any of the others.
The results are hard to argue with. Such players as Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria and Scott Rolen have come in at the cost of such prospects as Adam Kennedy, Pablo Ozuna, Braden Looper and Bud Smith. Its hard to find a case when you think the Cardinals wouldnt make the same deals again in a heartbeat.
Similarly, the prospects the Cardinals havent traded have generally panned out, with J.D. Drew, Matt Morris and Albert Pujols as the best examples. One notable failure has been Rick Ankiel, perhaps the organizations most promising prospect of the last decade, whose control left a couple of years ago and shows no signs of returning.
Of course, Ankiels struggles were the least of the organizations worries in 2002. Aside from Ankiel, the Cardinals had to deal with a worse-than-usual rash of injuries to their pitching staff. Then staff leader Darryl Kile, 33, died in his sleep in a Chicago hotel room in June. That was only days after franchise icon Jack Buck, who spent 48 years as a broadcaster for the team, passed away at 77.
Somehow, the Cardinals overcame all that, winning 26 of their final 33 games. Manager Tony La Russa used 14 different pitchers in a patchwork rotation, with Morris the ace in spite of his injuries. Pujols led the offense again, and Jocketty made his annual contribution, bringing in Chuck Finley to bolster the rotation and Rolen to bolster the lineup.
When Rolen was injured in the Division Series win over the Diamondbacks, the starch finally went out of the Cardinals and they lost to the Giants in the NL Championship Series. Rolen signed a long-term deal after the season, however, and theres no reason to think the Cardinals wont be back in the playoffs. Though the farm system still looks thin, the organization will use it to fill holes in the big leagues again, one way or another.
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Gossett.
Background: Haren came out of Pepperdine in 2001 with teammate Noah Lowry, a lefthander who was drafted ahead of him but endured a season of shoulder problems in 2002. Haren, meanwhile, led the minor leagues in innings and jumped up the Cardinals prospect list. He was West Coast Conference player of the year his junior season at Pepperdine, where he also was a DH. Haren showed flashes in his first professional summer but wore down, losing 15-20 pounds in the process. There was no such problem last season. Haren was a workhorse and opened as the ace of the staff at Peoria, which featured many of the organizations most promising prospects and won the Midwest League title. But he quickly earned a promotion to high Class A Potomac, where he held his own for a mediocre team.
Strengths: Harens biggest strength is that he has no glaring weakness. At 6-foot-4 he has the frame of a workhorse and clean mechanics. He has three solid pitches and can command them all, and his big body allows him to generate a good downward plane on his pitches. His fastball is 88-92 mph, with a lot of 90s and 91s, and he can touch the mid-90s. He got better tilt on his slider last season and used his changeup more. He throws a splitter that was one of his better pitches in college, but the Cardinals asked him to keep it in his back pocket for now. If he brings it back, it would be another weapon. Haren works quickly and pitches inside, going after hitters. He also has a little bit of funk in his delivery, which creates deception.
Weaknesses: Haren tired at the end of the season, understandable under a 194-inning workload. The organization says its goal is to protect arms while getting pitchers to the big leagues, and Harens frame and mechanics allowed him to pile up more innings than another pitcher might. Given the organizations injury history, his health will bear watching. Otherwise, he just needs experience against more advanced hitters.
The Future: He still projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but it looks like Haren will reach that goal more quickly than expected. Hell open in Double-A and move up if he pitches well.
Click here for prospects 2-10.