10/10/2003 6:00 PM ET
Cards' prospects flock to the AFL
Youngsters compete in top minor league showcase
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Cardinals are done for the year, and have been for a couple of weeks now. It's an earlier-than-expected finish, but some players in the organization are still keeping busy.
The Arizona Fall League, an annual showcase for the game's best prospects, got started recently. Like the other Major League teams, St. Louis sent six players from the minors to the AFL. All six -- three pitchers and three position players -- came from either Double-A Tennessee or Triple-A Memphis.
Here's a look at the six and how they've fared in the very early going.
RHP Josh Axelson: He pitched at both Class A Palm Beach and Double-A Tennessee. During the regular season, Axelson totaled 101 innings in 36 games (nine starts), posting a composite 2.85 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 23 walks. The 24-year-old is off to a rough start for the Grand Canyon Rafters, yielding 11 earned runs on 18 hits in 7 2/3 innings. He has not walked a batter, however.
OF Shaun Boyd: Boyd was once considered the Cards' second baseman of the future, but was unable to cut down his errors at the keystone position. He's since been moved to the outfield, and that's where he's playing in the AFL. Like Axelson, Boyd began the year at Palm Beach -- where he posted a .257 average and .343 on-base percentage -- before a promotion to Tennessee. His average jumped to .273 with the Smokies, but he stopped taking walks and saw his on-base percentage drop to .305. Boyd is 3-for-22 with a double, triple and three walks for the Rafters.
LHP Tyler Johnson: Johnson, 22, made the move from the starting rotation to the bullpen in 2003, and that helped him earn a promotion to Double-A. He walks too many batters (53 in 106 1/3 innings during the year), but his strikeout totals are through the roof (120, including 39 in 27 1/3 Double-A innings). Johnson has allowed a hit and a walk and struck out one in four innings. Remember his name -- he's an outside shot to get a look in the big league bullpen some time before 2004 ends.
RHP Josh Kinney: Another reliever, and another guy who split the year between Palm Beach and Tennessee. Kinney, 24, struck out 83 in 81 innings in the regular season, but his early AFL numbers are not pretty. He's been charged with 10 runs on eight hits and four walks in two innings.
SS John Nelson: Nelson was the everyday shortstop for Tennessee this year, but struggled with the bat -- he hit .237 with a .301 OBP and a .314 slugging percentage. So far, his AFL experience hasn't produced any better results; Nelson is off to a 3-for-19 start with no walks and no extra-base hits.
OF Skip Schumaker: It was a tough year for Schumaker, who ended the season on the disabled list. He batted .251 with a .330 OBP and 25 extra-base hits in 342 at-bats. He's off to a nice AFL start, however, reaching base nine times (four singles, one double, four walks) in his first five games.