11/15/2005 11:02 PM ET
Pitching prospects progressing for Cards
Reyes, Worrell tops among corps of young mound talent
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
After an injury-plagued 2004 season, Adam Wainwright led all Cardinals' Minor League hurlers with 147 strikeouts in 2005. (Joel Page/AP)
Before the 2005 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
Looking at how the Cardinals' affiliates fared in 2005, it's hard to get a real gauge of how much talent is there. Sure, Palm Beach won the Florida State League title, but the Cardinals finished under .500 for the year. No club ended the season more than five games over .500, but the overall winning percentage of .492, while down from 2004, isn't awful.
On an individual level, most of the talent comes on the mound. Adam Wainwright somewhat returned to form after an injury-plagued 2004 season, Anthony Reyes continued to be the top pitching prospect in the system and several other arms began to step forward as well.
But there was some improvement at the plate. While there might not be the next Albert Pujols -- or even the next Yadier Molina -- waiting in the wings, position players like Travis Hanson, Cody Haerther and, yes, even Rick Ankiel, took steps forward to the point that there may be some offensive help on the way as well.
At the start of the season, MLB.com identified five prospects to keep an eye on. Here's how they fared in 2005:
Adam Wainwright, RHP
Compared to his 2004 season -- his first in the organization -- Wainwright's 2005 was a smashing success. First and foremost, he was healthy, proving to be a workhorse for Memphis with 182 innings pitched. While his ERA was a touch high (4.40) and he allowed a lot of hits (204), he still showed good stuff and a decent K rate (147 led the organization). After starting strong and struggling in the middle months, Wainwright finished well, yielding six earned runs over his final four starts (26 IP) for a 1.62 ERA to go with 31 Ks and seven walks. He got a brief taste of the bigs in two relief appearances.
Audio: Wainwright induced a weak swing and a miss for strikeout No. 7
Anthony Reyes, RHP
Reyes continued riding the fast track, spending most of his second season of pro ball in Triple-A and helping out the big club with four appearances, including one impressive emergency start. With Memphis, the right-hander out of USC went 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA, striking out 134 and walking just 34 in 128 2/3 IP. For the record, Reyes now has a 5.03 K/BB ratio in his Minor League career.
Listen to Reyes close out his one-hit gem
Audio: Reyes sets a club record with his 15th K of the game
Brad Thompson, RHP
Thompson made a seamless transition to a relief role, spending most of the year in St. Louis as a middle man. In 55 big league innings, he posted a 2.95 ERA, yielding just 46 hits for a .227 opponents' batting average. Keeping the ball down, he also had a very impressive 2.58 ground ball out-to-fly ball out ratio and looks like he should settle nicely into the Cards' bullpen for the foreseeable future.
Audio: "Split it in half with a fastball!"
Stu Pomeranz, RHP
The 20-year-old 6-foot-7 right-hander began the year with Palm Beach, but after a 3.35 ERA in eight starts, the Cardinals pushed him to Double-A Springfield. While he finished with a 5.29 ERA and too many walks (40) in 18 starts there, it should be noted he went 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA over his final six starts in August, holding Texas League hitters to a .226 average in 39 IP.
Video: Stu gets a strikeout with a 12-to-6 knuckle curve
Reid Gorecki, OF
After a strong 2004 Fall League campaign that landed him on the 40-man roster, Gorecki seemed poised to move up to Double-A in his slow but steady climb to the big leagues. But the center fielder hit just .182 in 159 at-bats with Springfield, forcing a demotion back to Palm Beach. Gorecki rebounded by hitting .286 with 24 steals and a .374 OBP in the FSL, but considering he played the year at age 24, he's now considerably behind the curve. A superb defensive outfielder, the Cards will have a decision to make in terms of whether they keep Gorecki on the 40-man.
Juan Lucena, SS
Lucena put himself on the map in his United States debut in 2004, leading the Appy League with a .332 average and then excelling in the Venezuela over the winter. Playing in full-season ball for the first time, Lucena was part of a middle infield rotation of sorts, so the 21-year-old shortstop got just 332 at-bats, but continued to hit for a high average. He finished with a .301 mark -- mostly on singles -- thanks largely to a .400 average in June. He also stole nine bases. Lucena continued to put just about everything in play, with just 12 walks and 11 strikeouts. He headed back to his native Venezuela to get some more playing time against advanced competition.
Quick hits on players who made more of a name for themselves with a big 2005 season.
Cody Haerther, OF: Sure, Haerther had a .322 average heading into the 2005 season, but he also had eight total home runs and had never gotten more than 326 at-bats in a season since being drafted in 2003. He turned 22 in July and by that time he had been promoted from Palm Beach to Double-A Springfield. He picked up 381 at-bats between the two levels and easily set career highs with 18 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .538 SLG, all while keeping the average up at .307 overall. He went on to the AFL, clearly in the Cardinals' future plans.
Video: "This one is on top of the Cardinal clubhouse!"
Aaron Herr, 2B: In his five seasons with the Braves since being a 2000 supplemental first-round pick, Tommy's son never hit higher than .272, hit more than 13 homers or drove in more than 46 runs in a season. Then, in his first year with the Cardinals, the second baseman tied for the organization lead with 21 homers, drove in 81 runs and hit .298 with Springfield. Now a free agent, the 24-year-old is sure to land an NRI with someone.
Rick Ankiel, OF: Maybe the position switch is going to work after all. The former pitching phenom went all the way down to Low-A to learn how to swing the bat and finished tied for the organization lead with 21 homers. He hit 11 in 51 games with Quad Cities while batting .270, so the Cards pushed him all the way up to Springfield. The average dropped -- to .243 -- but he added 10 long balls in just 34 games to finish with a .514 combined slugging percentage. He'll need some work on plate discipline, with six walks and 66 strikeouts in 321 at-bats, but it does look like there's something there.
Travis Hanson, 3B: Hanson has been on the Cards' radar for a while but mostly because of his defensive prowess and an ability to make contact. But he had 15 career homers, a .399 SLG and .278 average entering his first Double-A season. Moving back to third, Hanson erupted with 20 homers, 97 RBIs, drew a career-high 54 walks, struck out just 99 times and hit .284. Moved to second a while ago because of Scott Rolen's presence and the fact his bat played better up the middle, it now looks like Hanson might hit enough to handle the hot corner, at least offensively.
Mark Worrell, RHP: A starter with an unorthodox delivery in high school and through two years of college, the Cards turned the right-hander into a reliever. He pitched well in his debut in 2004, with a combined 2.37 ERA, though he stumbled a bit when he moved up to Peoria (4.30 ERA). St. Louis continued to push him, sending him to Palm Beach this season, and Worrell was arguably the best closer in the Minors. He topped all relievers with 35 saves. The 22-year old had a 2.25 ERA, yielded just 38 hits and 19 walks in 56 IP while striking out 53.
Audio: Worrell puts the Cardinals into the FSL Championship
2005 draft recap
1. Colby Rasmus, OF
The Cards mixed college players and high schoolers in their draft this year; Rasmus represents one of the better prep players taken. He hit .296 with seven homers, 27 RBIs and 13 steals in 62 games. He really found his power stroke in August, hititng all seven of his homers (as well as five doubles and four triples for 16 extra-base hits) and collecting 19 RBIs in just 95 at-bats.
2. Tyler Greene, SS
The Georgia Tech product had a nice debut, hitting .261 with 13 steals (in 14 attempts) in 138 at-bats with New Jersey. He then jumped a level to Palm Beach and hit .271 in 85 ABs with six more steals thrown in for good measure (for the year, he went 19-for-20 in stolen-base attempts). He won his first ring with Palm Beach, though he hit just .162 during the playoff run.
Audio: Greene smacks an RBI single in Game 3 of the FSL Finals
3. Mark McCormick, RHP
Few would argue with you if you said McCormick had the most electric arm coming out of the draft. It's just that he doesn't always know where it's going. He made two starts with New Jersey before spending the rest of the summer with Quad Cities, combining for a 4.81 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 48 2/3 IP. He only allowed a total of 42 hits but walked 31, hit five batters and uncorked five wild pitches. He was throwing around 95-96 mph through instructional league play, so there's no question about arm strength. If he can learn a little command, he's an ace in the making or a short reliever in the Bobby Jenks mold.
4. Tyler Herron, RHP
The high schooler went to Johnson City in the Appalachian League and was quite inconsistent. Over 49 2/3 IP, the right-hander posted a 5.62 ERA, though he allowed just 47 hits and struck out 49. In July, he was awful, with a 9.39 ERA in five outings. But he rebounded in August with a 3.95 ERA and a .224 opponents' average. He'll have to work on the walk rate (27 BB), but that hopefully will come in time.
5. Josh Wilson, RHP
Another high-school righty who went to Johnson City, Wilson was like the anti-Herron. He pitched well in July (2.57 ERA) and struggled in August (5.33). Throw in two late-June outings and Wilson went 2-2 with a 4.22 ERA overall in 53 1/3 IP, allowing 49 hits and 23 walks while striking out just 32.
2004 draft recap
1. Chris Lambert, RHP
Lambert, a college pitcher with a high ceiling because of his lack of experience on the mound (he was a hockey star in an earlier life), had an up-and-down first full year in pro ball. He was extremely sharp with Palm Beach, going 7-1 with a 2.63 ERA through May. That earned him a trip to the Texas League, where the hitters aren't quite as kind. Lambert went 3-8 with a 6.35 ERA for the rest of the season, taking his lumps to the tune of a .291 batting average against. He went on to pitch pretty poorly in the Arizona Fall League but shut out Guatemala in Team USA's opener in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
2. Mike Ferris, 1B
Ferris has been a bit of an enigma so far as a pro. Drafted as an advanced college bat that could move quickly, he had trouble adjusting in his first summer and couldn't find any consistency in his first full year. The left-handed first baseman hit 16 homers and drew 69 walks (power and patience were supposed to be his calling cards), but he batted just .230 with the Swing. He did finish fairly strongly, hitting .279 with three homers and 15 RBIs over his final 31 games.
3. Eric Haberer, LHP
Haberer did nothing but augment his reputation as one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in the system in his first full season. Between Quad Cities and Palm Beach, he went 12-8 with a 3.12 ERA. He struck out only 91 but showed better command than he did last summer by walking 51 in 150 innings. A college lefty with command, Haberer could continue to move quickly up the ladder in 2006.
Audio: "Beauty of bender from Eric Haberer"
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.