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A different kind of prospect list focused on 2010 impact

St. Louis Cardinals prospects stack up very differently when looking at potential contribution to the major league club this season.

    My friend Jason Grey at ESPN posted his top 100 prospects list for their Insider members on Friday. His list distinguishes itself from other well-known rankings in that it is based solely on players expected to make a big league impact this season. In other words, that hot first-round phenom on track to debut in the majors in 2013 is nowhere to be found.

    While the orientation is for fantasy use, don’t be confused or concerned about its source. Jason is a pro – a real, trained scout who sees literally hundreds of games each year and is well-ingrained in that community. For example, within an hour of Lance Lynn having completed his three-inning outing on Friday, Jason and I compared notes, each of us having received reports from different scouts at Roger Dean Stadium that afternoon.

    Four St. Louis Cardinals made Grey’s list. In fact, they are all in the top 50. I thought it especially timely given Lynn’s impressive outing his first time out.

    With the permission of Jason and ESPN, his Cardinals capsules follow. Please respect the rights of the owners and do not reproduce the details elsewhere.

    24. David Freese

    Freese turns 27 in April and was in a similar position last year, with a chance to win the third base job, but ankle problems stemming from a January car accident were more serious than he let on, and he eventually underwent surgery. He’s a career .308 hitter in the minors, with a .384 on-base percentage and .484 slugging percentage in almost 1,500 at-bats, and his short stroke, bat speed and ability to go the other way with power should allow those numbers to translate well to the major league level. He does tend to get streaky and is prone to going through stretches in which he chases too many pitches, and the signing of Felipe Lopez definitely has the potential to cut into Freese’s playing time, but he’ll be given a chance to take a starting job and run with it.

    32. Lance Lynn

    The fifth spot in the Cardinals’ rotation is up for grabs, and even if Lynn doesn’t win it during spring training, he might get it at some point this season. A supplemental first-rounder in the 2008 draft, Lynn has cruised through the minors thanks to his good sinker and command of his secondary stuff, finishing with a 2.92 ERA in 22 Double-A starts last year. He doesn’t really have an “out pitch,” but can hit his spots and keep his mistakes in the ballpark, giving him a chance to have some sneaky value if he gets an opportunity.

    43. Allen Craig

    Craig has a good shot at winning a backup spot in the Cardinals’ outfield, and in the past three seasons, he has played everywhere but catcher and center field in the minors (though he’s not really too good at any of them). His best position is first base, but that’s, um, filled in St. Louis. However, that versatility might allow him to stick with the big club, and the bat can do the rest. The 25-year-old hit .322 with 26 homers at Triple-A last season, which followed a .304, 22-homer campaign at Double-A in 2008, and a .311, 24-homer campaign in Class A ball in 2007. Sensing a bit of a pattern emerging here? He squares up the ball consistently with good hip rotation and loft, and he’s willing to work the count. Playing time could lead to surprising numbers.

    47. Jaime Garcia

    Garcia is likely to start the year in the minors as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2008. He still needs to build up some innings after throwing just 263 of them combined over the past three seasons. He was good enough in the Triple-A playoffs in his late-season return last year to be optimistic about him contributing at some point for the Cardinals with his good curve, solid low-90s sinker and new cutter. The elbow problems have limited his development, but he’s still just 23 and projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

    Again, to see the full list, read all of Jason’s in-depth reports, and much more, become an ESPN Insider today. I subscribe and recommend it highly. You can get an even better deal if you first subscribe to ESPN The Magazine (which, by the way, has a great cover story on Albert Pujols this week.)

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    Brian Walton

    Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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