Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rookies and Young Players to Watch: St. Louis Cardinals

posted by Jon Williams
The players in these reports are not necessarily rookie of the year candidates or even potential fantasy stars. The players I'm going thru in these team reports willbe younger players that should have a role in 2006 and make potentially great end game or late round picks. Obviously when we're discussing young players there is always the potential for much more and thats why these reports (which should be daily, hopefully) will focus on the young role players rather than older ones who are more likely to be hurt or decline rapidly. You should clearly understand that this particular element of strategy does not suggest you should take one of these players rather than someone like Shawn Green but rather that one of these players can boost the potential of your end-game better than say an Al Leiter or Steve Finley. I guarantee you that almost every magazine you pick up will have Steve "No Starting Position" Finley ahead of John Rodriguez. The difference is John Rodriguez is rising as Steve Finley is falling. Packing as much potential as possible into your end-game can be the difference between 9th and 4th or even 1st and 2nd.

Anthony Reyes: Anthony Reyes was drafted the same year as Mark Prior and could very well be the better pitcher. While Prior was a superstar in college, Reyes suffered injury problems which hurt his draft position and delayed his progression through the minors. Now Prior is looking injury prone aand Reyes is ready to emerge as a star in the major leagues. The addittion of Sidney Ponson to the Cardinals' roster may seem to throw a wrench into Reyes' plans but i don't think it will. Reyes even at this point is a far superior pitcher to Ponson. Ponson will serve most likely as a long reliever and spot starter. I see Reyes as a potential Clemens like pitcher. The only thing in his way is a history of injuries he must put behind him.

John Rodriguez: John Rodrigues tore up the Puerto Rican Winter league in limited at-bats. He hit .346 with seven hmers and 28 rbi. Rodriguez is now 28 years old. he spent nine years in the Yankee system where he showed he could hit although he didn't perform any spectacular feats. He signed with the Cardinals as a six-year minor league free-agent and something changed when he hit AAA Memphis. He suddenly showed amazing power. He hit .342/.419/.808 in 120 at-bats. That performance earned him a promotion to the majors when Reggie Sanders got hurt. In 149 sometimes sporadic at-bats Rodriguez didn't embarass himself hitting .295/.382/.436 mostly against right-handed pitching.

Hector Luna: In my opinion Hector Luna would make an excellent $1 MI in NL only leagues in 2006. Luna was a 2003 Rule V Pick from the Cleveland Indians. He has potential that hasn't really been seen in the majors but would be especially nice out of a late round second baseman. Luna hasn't won any jobs yet so you'll have to watch how things develop but even if Luna doesn't win the starting job I can pretty much guarantee he'll see significant time (200-250 at-bats in the least) as a utility player. The Cardinals have brought in several mediocrities to compete for the second base job but none are obvious starters. With full time at-bats I believe Luna could hit .270-.280 with 8-10 homers and 10-15 steals. Its not A-Rod but it has meat on the bones.

Adam Wainwright:
Wainwright is one of the Cardinals few high level prospects. Two years ago Wainwright was considered equal if not superior to Anthony Reyes. Wainwright missed most of the 2004 season due to elbow problems. He avoided surgery and appears mostly recovered. The time out cost him some control which elevated his hit rate and his walk rate. Wainwright had been looking better and better every year before the injury. The Cardinals have a lot of depth in their rotation but Walt Jocketty is smart enough to use his young potentially great pitchers whereever possible. Players like Ponson and Marquis won't be the way for long. The Cardinals are definitely deep enough in their rotation to be able to trade a few starters to improve their lineup and there are hitters available for just that price. If Wainwright starts in the bullpen grab him for a dollar or two and be confident you got a steal.

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