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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Tough Decisions: The Cardinals 2009 Rule 5 Draft – Part 2


Note: This post has been superseded by more current information as of November 28: link to updated Cardinals Rule 5 list.

In part one of this article, we looked at recent St. Louis Cardinals history with respect to the Rule 5 draft and began to consider the increased problem that will be facing the organization this coming winter.

As part one concluded, I disclosed the current number of Cardinals farmhands that would become Rule 5 eligible this December is 59. That is just two short of the total number of players they exposed over the prior three Rule 5 drafts combined.

Here they are, broken out into several groups. First, we will start with the 14 players that rank among my top 40 prospects in the Cardinals system. These would seem to represent the most likely candidates for protection as of now.

The columns include the player’s date of birth (DOB), the year the player was drafted and the round, the year and age at which the player first signed, my top 40 ranking and the working roster assignment for the player heading into spring training.

Player Position DOB Draft yr/rd Signed Age Rank Team
Colby Rasmus OF 08/11/1986 2005 1 2005 18 1 Memphis
Bryan Anderson C 12/16/1986 2005 4 2005 18 3 Memphis
David Freese 3B 04/28/1983 2006 9 SD 2006 23 5 Memphis
Daryl Jones OF 06/25/1987 2005 3 2005 17 6 Springfield
Jon Jay OF 03/15/1985 2006 2 2006 21 12 Memphis
Adam Ottavino RHS 11/22/1985 2006 1 2006 20 15 Springfield
P.J. Walters RHS 03/12/1985 2006 11 2006 21 17 Memphis
Allen Craig 3B 07/18/1984 2006 8 2006 21 18 Springfield
Francisco Samuel RHR 12/20/1986 2006 19 21 Palm Beach
Tyler Herron RHS 08/05/1986 2005 1a 2005 18 25 Palm Beach
Shane Robinson OF 10/30/1984 2006 5 2006 21 27 Memphis
Shaun Garceau RHS 08/28/1987 2005 20 2005 17 29 Palm Beach
Luke Gregerson RHR 05/14/1984 2006 28 2006 22 30 Springfield
Jose Martinez 2B 01/24/1986 2004 18 37 Springfield

Next are the 13 first-time eligibles from the 2006 draft that are not ranked among my top 40 prospects. There are certainly some prominent names in this list that could move up if they can put together solid 2009 seasons.

Remember that the organization’s 2008 Minor League Player of the Year Daryl Jones (pictured) was absent from top prospect lists just one year ago. Now I have him ranked number six and I am not alone!

Player Position DOB Draft yr/rd Signed Age Team
Brad Furnish LHS 01/19/1985 2006 2 2006 21 Springfield
Mark Hamilton 1B 07/29/1984 2006 2a 2006 21 Springfield
Gary Daley Jr. RHR 11/01/1985 2006 3 2006 20 Quad Cities
Eddie Degerman RHR 09/14/1983 2006 4 2006 22 Palm Beach
Tyler Norrick LHS 09/27/1983 2006 6 2006 22 Palm Beach
Luke Gorsett OF 05/28/1985 2006 7 2006 21 Palm Beach
David Carpenter RHR 07/15/1985 2006 12 2006 20 Johnson City
Amaury Marti OF 09/02/1978* 2006 18 2006 27* Memphis
Brandon Buckman 1B 02/14/1984 2006 19 2006 22 Springfield
Mark Shorey OF 08/13/1984 2006 31 2006 21 Springfield
Isa Garcia 2B 08/20/1984 2006 34 2006 21 Springfield
Jim Rapoport OF 06/25/1985 2006 35 2006 20 Springfield
Kyle Mura RHS 11/24/1984 2006 42 2006 21 Springfield
* add four years?

There are another nine players from earlier Cardinals drafts, almost all of whom have been previously exposed to the Rule 5 draft. One exception is Mike Parisi, removed from the 40-man roster after the season and potentially lined up for his first Rule 5. Instead, it is possible that he will be re-added to the roster following his recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, but if he does, it will be at the expense of one of these other players. Another first-timer is oft-injured hurler Tyler Leach, part of the teenaged signing group from 2005.

Player Position DOB Draft yr/rd Signed Age Team
Mark McCormick RHS 10/15/1983 2005 1a 2005 21 Springfield
Trey Hearne RHS 08/19/1983 2005 28 2005 21 Springfield
Casey Rowlett OF 02/08/1983 2005 32 2005 22 Springfield
Kenny Maiques RHR 06/25/1985 2005 37 2005 20 Palm Beach
Tyler Leach RHS 09/08/1986 2005 39 2005 18 Johnson City
Mike Parisi RHS 04/18/1983 2004 9 2004 21 Memphis
Mike Sillman RHR 12/03/1981 2004 21 2004 22 Memphis
Brandon Yarbrough C 11/09/1984 2003 5 2003 18 Memphis
Matt Pagnozzi C 11/10/1982 2003 8 2003 20 Memphis

The final group of 23 includes those signed as free agents, whether as minor league veterans such as Ian Ostlund, non-drafted free agents like Brandon Dickson, a minor league Rule 5 pick up (Russ Haltiwanger) as well as those that were originally signed to play in the Latin American academies. This group includes such standouts as Donovan Solano, Domnit Bolivar and Elvis Hernandez. A number of these players also have a chance to step up during 2009.

Player Position DOB Signed Age Team
Russ Haltiwanger RHR 04/21/1984 2005 21 Memphis
Jon Mikrut RHR 11/22/1982 2005 22 Memphis
Joe Rogers LHS 07/19/1981 2001 19 Memphis
Justin Knoedler C 07/17/1980 2001 20 Memphis
Joe Thurston 2B 09/29/1979 1999 19 Memphis
Ian Ostlund LHR 10/17/1978 2001 22 Memphis
Donovan Solano SS 12/17/1987 2005 17 Springfield
Brandon Dickson RHS 11/03/1984 2006 21 Springfield
Marco Gonzalez RHR 05/28/1984 2006 22 Springfield
Jose Mateo RHR 08/31/1986 2005 18 Palm Beach
Elvis Hernandez RHS 04/27/1985 2005 19 Palm Beach
Domnit Bolivar SS 05/12/1989 2005 16 Quad Cities
Edwin Gomez OF 03/10/1988 2005 16 Batavia
Jairo Martinez OF 05/27/1987 2005 17 Batavia
Jaime Landin 2B 04/19/1983 2005 22 Batavia
Carlos Gonzalez RHR 08/31/1988 2005 16 Johnson City
Andres Rosales RHS 06/13/1988 2004 16 Johnson City
Ivan Castro C 11/17/1987 2005 17 Johnson City
Senger Peralta LHS 08/14/1987 2004 17 Johnson City
Jose Rada RHS 04/13/1988 2005 17 GCL
Omar Javier RHS 10/04/1987 2005 17 GCL
Julio Castellanos LHR 06/11/1987 2005 17 GCL
Carlos Noguera RHS 04/21/1989 2005 16 VSL

Puts and takes

Obviously, not all 59 of these players will require protection. Some will also get added to the 40-man sooner than this coming fall. Third baseman David Freese is a good example. Yet all that will do was “use up” a roster spot a few months early. It doesn’t change the bottom line problem.

Simply put, there just isn’t going to be enough room on the 40-man roster for all these players. The Cardinals have averaged only four fall additions in recent years. It would be difficult to expand that exponentially, even if there were to be an extraordinarily large number of exits from St. Louis at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

Looking at the current roster of 35, I count nine potential free agents following this coming season. A number of these players have prominent roles, including four starters from the infield and outfield (Adam Kennedy, Khalil Greene, Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel) along with two members of the rotation (Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro). Assuming that none would be kept for 2010 or at least replaced by another veteran would be unreasonable, but it is surely the outside, or most extreme case.

There are at least three players on the 40-man today who have yet to contribute at the major league level that might painlessly be removed between now and then, Blake Hawksworth, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Nick Stavinoha. Even so, that would still leave 23 players on the 40-man roster (35 minus nine minus three).

In other words, under this set of assumptions, at most only 17 (40 minus 23) of the 59 potential Rule 5’ers could be protected by late fall.

One might argue there are other younger players currently on the roster that could also be jettisoned, such as Brendan Ryan and Brad Thompson. I truly feel that the assumption of the club letting all nine veteran free agents leave without replacing any of them from the outside is unbelievable enough already.

Fantasy trades are often just that

Another popular option among fans to provide relief is trading minor leaguers, something the Cardinals have avoided like the plague since the disastrous Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Daric Barton and Kiko Calero robbery over four years ago. Still, packaging up a group of prospects for one proven major leaguer would seem ideal given this impending problem.

If only it were so easy. Finding one such trade partner for a deal that would seem fair is difficult enough, let alone the inherent challenge in engineering the multiple trades that would probably be needed to put a real dent in the problem. Obviously, any one-for-one swaps of prospects for veterans (unless they are rental players in their walk year) would do nothing to relieve the roster jam.

Doubt me? If we are to take the Cardinals front office comments at face value, they couldn’t even land a reliever to help the struggling 2008 club down the stretch without having to give up “too much” prospect value in return. Well, the time may be coming to seriously rethink that stance.

On the other hand, if the spin is valid and the Cardinals truly have only a very few prospects that are coveted by other organizations, then those who suggest the improving minor league system has been overhyped may be proven correct.

Making it worse

While the number 17 is unrealistically high, it could be eroded from another source. We must also consider that some fast-rising players not yet close to being Rule 5 eligible may break out early, effectively using up one or more of the potential 17 “spare” roster spots “prematurely”.

Brett Wallace, Jess Todd and Clayton Mortensen are among those potentially in this situation. Knowing the roster logjam that will be occurring this fall, the Cardinals may very well decide instead to keep one, two or all three of these players (and others in a comparable status) in the minors for the entire 2009 season, including not calling them up in September.

This would be entirely disconnected from what the three might do on the field in 2009 and regardless of whether or not they could actually help in St. Louis. It would be done only so that the players don’t use up precious roster spots too soon.

Before you scoff at the idea, consider Freese, our Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year in 2008. Why do you think he did not receive a most-deserved September promotion to St. Louis? To keep him off the 40-man roster, of course. Instead, journeyman Josh Phelps got the coveted call instead.

How does that short-sighted decision look now that Troy Glaus is out for the first few months of the 2009 season? Wouldn’t it have been better for the 2009 Cardinals for Freese to have had a month of familiarity in the big leagues instead of taking it from a fire-hose as the interim starter at third base this spring? How is Phelps helping St. Louis now that he is with San Francisco?

Same with catcher Bryan Anderson and former major leaguer Mark Johnson. Tell me which player in St. Louis in September would have more greatly benefited the team’s future. It is no contest. (Hint: Like Phelps, Johnson is already gone from the organization.)

Point being that roster issues sometimes inhibit sound baseball decisions. If I was Wallace, I wouldn’t be picking out a new house in the St. Louis suburbs just yet.

One other related point. As you evaluate the “aggressive” moves made (or not made) within the Cardinals system during the 2009 season, keep this list of 59 players in mind. As I said in part one, I believe the organization is going to do everything possible during this upcoming season to sort out the keepers from this group, as they should. For many, time may be running out.

Can’t stash them all

Once the Rule 5 date approaches, there is a further consideration for those players that cannot be kept on the 40-man. The organization can place no more than 38 non-40-man players on the Memphis roster submitted for the Rule 5 draft. These players, eligible to be selected in the Major League phase of the draft, would require the claiming club to keep them at the MLB level for the entire 2010 season if taken.

On the other hand, players rostered at Double-A Springfield and below for Rule 5 purposes are not required to be kept at the major league level by the claiming organization if selected. In other words, if any decent prospects at that level or below are exposed, chances are good they will be lost. The price is just $12,000 or $4,000 depending on the level.

Cody Haerther is a recent example, left on the Double-A roster for the December Rule 5. Since the claiming Toronto Blue Jays can keep Haerther off their 40-man roster and in the minors, they have absolutely no reason to consider returning the outfielder to St. Louis in the spring.

Dual challenges

I bring this up to suggest that the Cardinals may have two sets of decisions coming this fall. The first, and most important revolves around which players to add to the 40-man roster to secure full player protection. The second, selecting those to put on the Memphis “reserve” roster for Rule 5, could also become a bit of challenge.

As a point of reference, in the December 2008 Rule 5 Draft, the New York Yankees were the big losers. Six of their farmhands were selected by other organizations, including four off their Triple-A roster, lost in the Major League phase.

Still, for a Rule 5 player to be claimed by another team in the Major League phase, that organization must have 40-man roster space to put him. There is a legitimate reason to wonder if many other clubs may also have troubles with having more qualified players than room on their rosters.

This might keep the projected Cardinals Rule 5 losses next December down a bit, but there are a lot of gyrations required between now and then. It is a bit of a two-edged sword, as the more of these 59 at-risk players that excel during the 2009 season, the more difficult the organization’s decisions will become.

At what point does something that is generally considered to be a “good problem”, minor league depth, become a “real” problem? I think we will soon find out.

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