11/30/2006 10:00 AM ET
Cards hope 'Minor' contributions continue
Wainwright, Reyes, Duncan pushed St. Louis to World Series title
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Before the 2006 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.
Which was more surprising in St. Louis during the 2006 season, that a team with 83 wins would be the one to win the Cardinals' first World Series title since 1982 or that there were some big contributors from the farm system in that improbable postseason run?
St. Louis has been a perennial playoff contender for years, largely by trading away what prospects it had and by playing the free agent market. That still was the case in 2006, but those efforts were bolstered by players coming up from the Cards' system.
Usually, stories about homegrown players start and end with Albert Pujols. Not so this year.
Homegrown catcher Yadier Molina hit .358 in the postseason, including a pair of homers to finish off the Mets in the National League Championship Series. Cardinal draftee Anthony Reyes stepped up and pitched a gem in Game 1 of the World Series on extended rest. Adam Wainwright (OK, he's not officially homegrown but was acquired as a Minor Leaguer, so we'll count him) turned into an unstoppable postseason closer after a solid season in the bullpen. Chris Duncan hit 22 homers in only 280 at-bats in his rookie season. And Tyler Johnson became an invaluable lefty specialist out of the bullpen.
Before we get too carried away, it should be noted that the Cardinal system still isn't exactly chock full o' prospects, especially on the offensive end. There have been strides made, however, through the last couple of drafts, so it's a little easier to see the farm system contributions of 2006 as the norm rather than the exception.
At the start of the season, MLB.com identified five prospects to keep an eye on. Here's how they fared in 2006:
Anthony Reyes, RHP
The hope was that the USC product would break camp as the Cards' No. 5 starter. It didn't work that way, but no one is complaining about the way his season turned out. Reyes went 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 13 starts for Triple-A Memphis, striking out 82 and walking only 11 in 84 innings. He was up and down a bit, making two starts in late May, going back to Memphis, coming up in late June and sticking in the rotation until the middle of August before making one more trip on the shuttle before returning for four September starts. His big league performance was uneven, with a 5.08 ERA in 17 starts, but he saved the best for last. Reyes went eight innings and allowed just four hits and two runs to win the World Series opener, setting the tone for the Cardinals' triumph over the Tigers.
Video: Reyes stuns Detroit in Game 1
Adam Wainwright, RHP
It seems like several lifetimes ago that Wainwright was not only the top pitching prospect in the Braves' organization but one of the best starting arms in all of the Minor Leagues. All that changed when he began recreating himself in 2006 due to a need in the Cardinals' bullpen. He spent all year as an effective set-up man, tossing 75 innings with a 3.12 ERA while striking out nearly a batter an inning. As with Reyes, it was what he did after the regular season that stands out. With Jason Isringhausen shut down, Wainwright picked up a couple of saves at the end of the regular season before throwing 9 2/3 scoreless postseason innings with four saves and 15 strikeouts (against two walks). His lone World Series save came in the deciding Game 5 as he recorded the final out of the Fall Classic. Izzy won't be back for some time, so Wainwright very well could continue to get the ball as the Cards' closer in 2007.
Video: Wainright on winning the title
Travis Hanson, 3B
After a breakout 2005 season, hopes were high for the 25-year-old as he moved up to Triple-A for the first time. But a year after banging out 52 extra-base hits and driving in 97 runs, Hanson drove in just 38 in 2006 with only 27 extra-base hits in 475 at-bats. After hitting .220 in 67 games with Memphis, he went back down to Springfield. Things didn't get much better there as Hanson hit just .226 over 65 games upon his return to the Texas League. He was added to the Cards' 40-man roster last offseason, but he's going to have to return to form in 2007 if he wants to stay there.
Video: Hanson's first Triple-A homer
|2006 Organizational Record
Mark Worrell, RHP
Worrell piled up the saves again, earning 27 for Springfield to lead the Texas League. That gives Worrell 62 saves in the last two seasons, though his 2006 wasn't as dominant as 2005 as he moved up a level. Of course, a 4.52 ERA for a closer can be misleading, with a few bad outings really tarnishing the overall numbers. But Worrell struggled down the stretch and it will be interesting to see how he does as he continues to move up the ladder. Still, he struck out more than a batter an inning and held hitters to a .226 batting average.
Audio: Worrell picks up his 27th save
Cody Haerther, OF
Haerther finished the 2005 season with Springfield and spent all of 2006 there. He had an acceptable year, hitting .277 with 11 homers, 52 RBIs and a .437 SLG in 120 games, though that was a bit of a step back for a guy who now has a .304 career average since being drafted in 2002 and slugged .538 in 2005. He did show enough for the Cardinals to add him to the 40-man roster recently and he'll probably give Memphis a go in 2007.
Audio: Haerther rips a triple against Midland
|2006 Organizational Leaders
|Complete MiLB statistics
Rick Ankiel, OF
Just when the feel-good story was ready to get really interesting, injury struck. In 2005, his first season as a full-time outfielder, the former pitcher hit 21 homers and drove in 75 runs in 85 games. But he came down with a bad knee this past spring and, despite several attempts to rehab, he went under the knife in June and didn't play a single game. The Cards are hoping he'll be ready for Spring Training in 2007. Though he's 27, the organization must think he still has a future as he continues to hold onto a spot on the 40-man roster.
Cory Doyne, RHP
Doyne continued his chase of the big league dream with the Cardinals this season. A 2000 draftee by the Astros, Houston released him in 2003. The Padres signed him and released him a year later. He latched on with the Cards in 2004 and went back to the New York-Penn League. The 2005 season saw him climb to Double-A, and that's where he spent most of 2006. The 25-year-old did get in two games with Memphis but logged 66 1/3 innings with Springfield, posting a 3.39 ERA, a .204 opponents' batting average and 78 strikeouts (albeit with 42 walks). He signed with the Orioles -- organization No. 4, for those of you scoring at home -- as a Minor League free agent this offseason.
Audio: Doyne puts away Wichita
These players were pegged as a breakout candidate before the season began. Did they live up to expectations?
Chris Lambert, RHP
Lambert returned to Springfield in an attempt to erase the poor second half he had there in 2005 (after a stirring first half with Palm Beach). Things didn't really go as planned as the right-hander posted a 5.30 ERA in 23 starts. Lambert did strike out 113 in 120 2/3 innings, but he walked 63, gave up 20 homers and allowed opponents to hit .268. The new collective bargaining rules bought the Cards an extra year before having to protect Lambert on the 40-man roster, so he'll head into 2007 looking to earn that spot.
Dennis Dove, RHP
Finally healthy in 2005, Dove threw a total of 144 2/3 innings as a starter that year. In 2006, the Cards turned him into a reliever with some success. He spent most of the year with Palm Beach, finishing his stint there with a 2.81 ERA in 51 1/3 IP. In that span, he struck out 56 and walked 13 while holding FSL hitters to a .212 batting average. He earned a promotion to Double-A, where things were a little tougher (8.79 ERA in 14 1/3 IP), though he still kept the K rate high. The 6-foot-4 righty showed enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster after pitching well in the Arizona Fall League.
Audio: Dove closes out a one-hitter
Mark Michael, RHP
Michael went back to Palm Beach in 2006 after getting in just 82 1/3 innings in 2005. He upped that total to 97 1/3 in 2006, but with less than stellar results. The big right-hander gave up 114 hits in that span (.296 opponents' batting average) en route to a 5.64 ERA. His walk rate improved, for whatever that's worth. Michael has had shoulder problems from the get-go, undergoing surgery in 2004 and missing time in 2005 with tendinitis. This season was no different -- he was shut down in mid-July, didn't return for the rest of the season and is not on the 40-man roster.
2006 draft recap
1. Adam Ottavino, RHP
The first of five picks through the opening two rounds, the Northeastern product got in 65 1/3 pro innings across two levels. He finished with a 3.31 ERA in 14 starts, striking out nearly a batter an inning while holding opponents to a .211 batting average. He didn't allow his first earned run until his fifth pro outing and could start to move quickly next year.
Audio: Ottavino blows away Brooklyn
2. Chris Perez, RHP
A college reliever out of Miami, Perez stepped right up to full-season ball and flourished, posting 12 saves and a 1.84 ERA in 25 outings with Quad Cities. He struck out 32 in 29 1/3 innings as the Midwest League hit just .198 against his fastball-slider combination. He also walked 19, something he'll have to improve on as he moves up.
3. Brad Furnish, LHP
Pick No. 3 also resulted in a college pitcher, this time a southpaw. Furnish went from Texas Christian to State College, where he had a 3.94 ERA in 15 starts. Over 75 1/3 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 68 while holding foes to a .234 average.
4. Jon Jay, OF
The Cards finally became offensive with their second pick in the second round but stayed on the college campus by taking Perez's Miami teammate. A center field-leadoff type, Jay was oustanding in his debut, hitting .342 with a .416 OBP and nine steals in 60 games for the Swing. He went 5-for-11 (.455) in three playoff games. Of the bats the Cards took, he could move the fastest.
Audio: Jay rips a triple
5. Mark Hamilton, 1B
Hamilton made a pretty good transition to the pro game, winning the NY-Penn League home run title with eight, even though he got promoted to the Midwest League in late July. He hit .254 after moving up, then went 3-for-8 in the postseason. For the year, he finished with a .258 average across two levels with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 68 games.
Audio: Hamilton blasts a homer
2005 draft recap
1. Colby Rasmus, OF
Playing almost the whole season at 19, Rasmus took a large step in establishing himself as one of the few top-notch outfield prospects the Cardinals have produced in recent memory. He handled his first taste of full-season ball easily, hitting .310 with 11 homers (.512 SLG) and 50 RBIs in 303 at-bats before being challenged with a move to Palm Beach. His average fell to .254 and his slugging slipped to .404, but he continued to draw some walks (27 in 53 games), impressive for such a young player. He also made adjustments after hitting .214 in July, improving to .305 in August.
Audio: Rasmus hits his first FSL homer
2. Tyler Greene, SS
The one part of Greene's game that remained consistent all year was his speed. The Georgia Tech product led the organization with 33 steals and was caught only three times. The rest of his season wasn't nearly as successful. Beginning the year as Palm Beach's shortstop, Greene hit .224 in 71 games before being moved down to Quad Cities to try to right himself. He performed better there, hitting .287 in 59 games and going 11-for-11 in stolen-base attempts before going 5-for-14 (.357) in the playoffs. How he handles a return to Palm Beach next year could help determine what kind of long-term future he has.
Audio: Greene Swings for the fences
3. Mark McCormick, RHP
McCormick has always been able to throw hard but hasn't always known where it's going once it leaves his hand. In 2006, that didn't change much as he walked 41 in 56 1/3 innings. But he also struck out 68 and yielded only 43 hits (.214 batting average against), almost all with the Swing. He only got in 13 outings because he spent more than two months on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
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.