With the glaring exception of Albert Pujols, nearly every key contributor to the Cardinals' five playoff appearances in the past six seasons has been imported, typically lured to St. Louis in exchange for Minor League prospects. Dan Haren and Daric Barton were traded for Mark Mulder; Jason Burch and the once highly regarded Chris Narveson brought Larry Walker. Further back, Coco Crisp was dealt for veteran Chuck Finley, who was instrumental in the Cards' 2002 postseason run; Bud Smith was part of the Scott Rolen package; Adam Kennedy got Jim Edmonds; and Braden Looper was the key ingredient in landing Edgar Renteria.
And though such deals may have left St. Louis with a dearth of top-rate Minor Leauge talent in recent years, a lack of top prospects shouldn't be confused with an unsuccessful farm system. On average, the Cardinals were rated 29th in Baseball America's talent rankings from 2002 to 2005, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone doesn't think the organization improved by trading away those young players.
And the 2005 draft provided ample opportunity for the Cardinals to replenish their farm, as they owned four first-round picks and six of the first 78 overall. Moreover, they signed all but one of their first 22 selections (12th rounder Daniel McCutchen returned to the University of Oklahoma), which included a mixture of eight high school players and 13 collegians.
Thanks in part to the thinness of St. Louis' system, four of those picks -- first-rounders Colby Rasmus, Tyler Greene and Mark McCormick, and second-rounder Nick Webber -- jumped right into BA's list of the Cardinals' top 10 prospects. To put that in perspective, that's the same number of 2005 picks that the Angels, Dodgers, Twins and Braves -- BA's four top-ranked farm systems -- had on their lists, combined.
And the high-profile draftees weren't the only ones who did well enough to earn some recognition. Check out the extensive list of the "best of the rest" below. If early returns are any indication, St. Louis' 2005 draft may have netted the top-rate prospects it's been lacking. Whether they'll remain Cardinals is, of course, another question.
Five prospects whose names you should know:
Anthony Reyes, RHP
This is probably Wainwright's last time on this list. If he can realize the great potential that led the Braves to select him in the first round and the Cardinals to acquire him in the J.D. Drew deal, he should make his home in the big leagues. If, on the other hand, he puts up another so-so season, it would be hard to consider him an elite prospect if he's pitching in the Minors at age 26 in 2007. The big (6-foot-7) right-hander was, like Reyes, outstanding for Memphis in the April and May, going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and just eight walks versus 54 strikeouts. Wainwright also dropped off in June, but didn't have nearly as many dominant performances sprinkled into the bad ones the rest of the way like Reyes did. He posted monthly ERAs north of 5.50 in June, July and August while PCL hitters teed off at a .305 clip. He did get back on track in his last few starts but has to be more consistent to earn a spot with the reigning Central Division champs.
Audio: Wainwright induced a weak swing and a miss for strikeout No. 7
Travis Hanson, 3B
Mark Worrell, RHP
Cody Haerther, OF
Others to watch: Chris Duncan, 1B/OF; Eric Haberer, LHP; Tyler Johnson, LHP; Juan Lucena, SS; Juan Mateo, RHP; Mike Parisi, RHP; Brendan Ryan, SS; Stuart Pomeranz, RHP
Rick Ankiel, OF
Cory Doyne, RHP
Primed for breakout in 2006
Chris Lambert, RHP
Dennis Dove, RHP
Mark Michael, RHP
2005 draft recap
1. (28) Colby Rasmus, OF
The Cardinals are anxious to see whether their top pick from last year is ready to step into a full-season league at age 19. Rasmus was certainly up to the challenge of the Appy League in his professional debut, hitting .296/.362/.514 with impressive power for his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame. The Alabama high school product roped 16 doubles, five triples and seven home runs. He also stole 13 bases in 16 attempts, played a solid centerfield, and didn't hit into a double play in 216 at-bats. His one deficiency was a rather glaring one -- 73 strikeouts in 62 games, including nine three-strikeout games and a five-K performance that was part of eight consecutive whiffs. Rasmus was an all-or-nothing type hitter, racking up 21 multi-hit games and 20 multi-strikeout games, only once doing both in the same game. A successful sophomore season could establish him as just the fourth true top-flight outfield prospect the Cardinals have had in the past 15 years, joining Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan and J.D. Drew.
1. (30) Tyler Greene, SS
Greene's percentages weren't overly impressive (.265/.343/.377), but when he got on base, he was successful in 19 of 20 stolen base attempts, contributing to his very high number of runs scored (45 in 55 games). Over a third of his debut season was spent at High A Palm Beach in the notoriously pitcher-friendly FSL. But despite that, and the fact that he'd already played a college season, he managed to hit .271 there. Defensively, he made nine errors at each level in 270 total chances for a .933 percentage. And struggled mightily in the playoffs, hitting just .162 with 14 strikeouts in 37 at-bats. But the Cardinals are eager to see what Greene can do after having the winter off to recuperate from a long season, which, Manno points out, included a lot of pressure baseball. He's slated to be the everyday shortstop in Palm Beach.
1s. (43) Mark McCormick, RHP
McCormick's name and game have been well-known for several years now, since he was lighting up radar guns at Clear Creek High School in Texas -- the same school that produced longtime Mariner Jay Buhner and current Yankees prospect Steven White. The Diamondbacks wanted to take the hard-throwing right-hander with their first pick in 2002, but McCormick shunned a $1.8 million proposal. He fell all the way to the 11th round that year, but the Orioles still offered him $1.2 million, which he also rejected. After three topsy-turvy years at Baylor, which included a suspension and a fallout with his Cape Cod League team, McCormick finally ended up settling for $800,000 from the Cardinals. He breezed through his first two outings in the New York-Penn League (6 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 10 K) and fared well in his first half dozen starts after a promotion to Quad Cities, only to falter in his final three outings, a not uncommon trend for first-year college pitchers. The one main on-field inhibitor that has offset McCormick's incredible stuff since high school -- a lack of control -- is still present. In 48 2/3 innings, he walked 31 batters, hit five others, and uncorked five wild pitches. As Spring Training began, it was unclear whether he'll start the year in Quad Cities or Palm Beach.
1s. (46) Tyler Herron, RHP
Similar to McCormick, Herron came from a high school program -- Wellington Community HS (Fla.) -- that had turned out some top prospects before him: Pirates first-round picks Bobby Bradley (1999) and Sean Burnett (2000) and Cardinals 2001 first-rounder Justin Pope. At just 18, Herron began his pro career in the Appy League, where he didn't necessarily get hit a lot (.245 opponents average and 49 K in 49 2/3 IP), but he did get hit hard (11 HR in 13 starts). It should be noted that he pitched much better away from Howard Johnson Park, where balls flew out at a nearly 2-to-1 ratio compared to games the Cardinals played on the road. The 6-foot-3 right-hander had a 2.91 ERA and .192 OPP AVG on the road, compared to 7.71 and .281 at home. His performance in Spring Training will determine whether he goes to Quad Cities or sticks around in extended.
2. (70) Josh Wilson, RHP
Wilson is like Herron in that he's another high school right-hander who started in Johnson City last year and will stay in extended or go to Quad Cities for 2006, depending on how he looks in Spring Training. Just 5-foot-11, Wilson doesn't appear to have as high of a ceiling as Herron, but he did have more success in the Appalachian League, anyway. The 19-year-old Texan allowed one or zero earned runs in seven of his first nine starts and was 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA before faltering in his final three outings. Another similarity to Herron -- and to the entire JC staff, for that matter -- was that Wilson was much better away from Howard Johnson Field, posting a 3.21 ERA on the road, compared to 5.95 at home. That alone should be motivation to earn a ticket to the Midwest League.
Best of the rest: RHP Nick Webber (second round) used his 90+ fastball to fan 63 in 53 1/3 innings while posting a 3.71 ERA at Hudson Valley ... C Bryan Anderson (4) tore up the Appy League, hitting .331/.383/.513 with a half dozen homers and steals and 36 RBIs in 51 games for Johnson City ... OF John Stavinoha (7) somehow largely flew under the radar despite jumping straight to the MWL, where he hit .344/.398/.564 with 14 HR and 53 RBI in just 65 games ... RHP Matt Falk (8) posted a 2.43 ERA in 37 IP, mostly at Quad Cities, saving eight games for the Swing while holding MWL hitters to a .231 average ... 1B A.J. Van Slyke (23) hit .380 in 50 ABs at JC and was hitting .343 through nine games at NJ when he tore his labrum after charging the mound ... OF Chuck Carter (27) hit .294/.394/.472 with five HR and 12 SB in 59 games at JC ... RHP Trey Hearne (28), Carter's teammate at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, also fared well, going 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA, 42 K and a .181 OPP AVG in 38.2 IP at NJ ... RHP Matthew Trent (30) allowed only one run in 14 games at NJ and ended up with nine saves, a 2.51 ERA and .214 OPP AVG between the NYPL and MWL ... RHP Scott Vander Weg went 2-2 with four saves, a 2.45 ERA and 29 K in 25.2 IP at NJ..
Organizational MVP: Rasmus. Though there's a very small sample by which to judge, early signs point to the 19-year-old becoming a legitimate five-tool outfield prospect. He's one of the very few hitters in St. Louis' stable that has the capability of being a 20-20 type player, and if he's quick to put some muscle on his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, he could start putting up big numbers this year.
Cy on the Farm: Pomeranz. With Reyes in St. Louis and Wainwright potentially there, too, Pomeranz could prove to be the Cardinals' top Minor League pitcher in 2006. He'll likely be doing a return engagement in Springfield, where he'll have the opportunity to improve on less-than-stellar numbers from a year ago, when he pitched as a 20-year-old in the Texas League.
Class of '05 Rules!: The Cardinals' 2005 draft class will restore some legitimacy to their farm system in terms of talented young prospects. Not only will high picks like Rasmus, Herron, Webber, Anderson, Stavinoha, Josh Wilson (2nd round) and Daryl Jones (3rd) follow up successful rookie seasons, but some late-round selections such as Van Slyke, Jaime Garcia (22nd) and Kenny Maiques (37th) will prove to be steals.
"Obviously he's doing something that's very difficult to do. And having the success he had at the Double-A level, that's an illustration that he's making adjustments and doing it at a higher level, getting better. Unfortunately with his injury, right now we're not able to see what we want to see." -- Bruce Manno, Director of Player Development, on Rick Ankiel's bid to make the big league team out of Spring Training
Jason Ratliff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.