Most people in the fantasy industry have traditional day jobs with baseball serving as a hobby and very important diversion in their lives. I was once there too, but in recent years have been able to make this game my fill-time employment. I wouldn’t trade it for almost anything.
Specifically, as it says in my profile below, my primary vocation is reporting on all things St. Louis Cardinals, from the major league club to the Venezuelan Summer League and everything in between. In fantasy, I have found that my increased level of knowledge of that organization actually keeps me from having many Cardinals on my various rosters.
For example, in National League Tout Wars this season, I own zero Cardinals. Rookie Jaime Garcia did join my squad to open the season, but I didn’t think twice about flipping him as part of a deal for needed offensive help in the form of Houston’s Hunter Pence.
One area where I go deep in terms of familiarity is in the area of Cardinals prospects. I have formally ranked a top 40 in the system for the last five winters and see just about every one of their seven US-based affiliates in person each summer, some multiple times. For example, just two nights ago, I was at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, watching the Cards’ New York-Penn League affiliate, the Batavia Muckdogs, take on the home Cyclones.
Though I am not learned on the Mets’ system, it was hard to not notice former major leaguer Greg Vaughn’s son, Cory. The 21-year-old is batting .313 with 11 home runs in 176 at-bats. Fellow outfielder Darrell Cecilliani, barely 20 years old, is batting .382 for the Cyclones.
In this week’s column, I have decided to call out a few of the hitting prospects in the Cardinals system you might want to consider for keeper leagues – or not. Since the big trades last summer that brought them Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals lost five top prospects – a blow from which they have not yet fully recovered. As a result, this is one of the lower-ranked systems in the game. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players.
Triple-A Memphis: Second baseman Daniel Descalso was a member of the Team USA medal-winning team last summer before under-performing in the Arizona Fall League. Before breaking his collarbone this summer, the 23-year-old drove in 52 runs in his first 76 games. St. Louis’ incumbent second sacker, Skip Schumaker, is below-average defensively. Though he is under contract for next season, Schumaker might be better as a super-sub, potentially creating opportunity… Others: First baseman Mark Hamilton has a decent bat, but hasn’t shown proficiency in the outfield defensively. As a result, he won’t see any time in St. Louis with that Pujols guy around.
Double-A Springfield: Just 14 months after signing following his collegiate time at TCU, 24-year-old third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .917 OPS in the Texas League. He is second in average, first in OBP and third in OPS in the circuit. The right-handed hitter has no one ahead of him in the system at the hot corner. Though it is too early for him to see his MLB debut this summer, Carpenter could put himself into the major league picture in 2011… Others: Drafted in 2005, toolsy outfielder Daryl Jones was the organization’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was in the AFL last fall, but his career has stalled… Shortstop Pete Kozma was a first-rounder two years ago out of an Oklahoma high school, but has 31 errors this season and is batting just .244, three points fewer than Jones.
A-Advanced Palm Beach: No sure MLB prospects here, but you might put outfielder Alex Castellanos on your watch list. The 24-year-old was the organization’s Player of the Month in July after hitting four home runs and driving in 16. His slash line was .348/.394/.663.
Unsigned: Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, taken in the first round at number 25 overall, has been called the most polished hitter in the 2010 draft class. As an underclassman, Cox has considerable leverage in contract negotiations. If he joins the Cardinals, Cox will become their top hitting prospect with the ability to perhaps move as fast as former Cards’ first-rounder Brett Wallace, who is now starting in Houston two years after having been drafted… Texas high school outfielder Austin Wilson has first-round talent, but fell to the 12th round due to a perceived ironclad commitment to attend Stanford. The Cardinals have wooed Wilson and his family and are working hard to close the deal before the August 16 signing deadline.
Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.