Thursday, October 07, 2004

Looking Ahead - Way Ahead

Rather than looking towards tonight's game, let's brief side tour today and look at the Cards beyond 2004.

While I am no expert on baseball prospects, I do follow them to a certain extent. After all, I am the General Manager for the a simulation league. Since I have to take part in an amateur draft each year, it is important for me to at least be familiar with talent in the minor leagues. One great source of information that I use is this site. Think of it as a one-stop shopping location for daily baseball prospect news.

The reason I bring this up is that in today's update, the website includes a list of prospect rankings - the first one I've seen since the conclusion of the 2004 minor league season. This list, created by Bob Reed, was made with the following in mind:

"The list simply represents expected major league career value (as opposed to players' perceived "ceilings", or fantasy league viability, or proximity to the Show, etc.). In short, this is the order in which I'd draft them if I were starting an expansion team from scratch."

So, keeping that in mind - who do we see at the top of the list? None other than Daric Barton, catcher for the Cards in A ball last year.

For those of you not familiar with Mr. Barton, he hit .313/.445/.511 for Peoria, hitting 23 doubles, 13 home runs, and driving in 77 over 90 games, 313 at-bats. Not bad numbers for a left handed hitting catcher, huh?

To give you some more information on Daric, Baseball America rated him the 2nd best prospect in the Midwest League in their season wrap-up a couple of weeks ago. Here is what they had to say about him.

Though he was 18 for most of the season, Barton had the best plate discipline in the MWL. He walked 69 times and fanned just 44, leading the league in on-base percentage (.445). Far from passive, he excelled at getting ahead in the count and then taking advantage of pitchers.

Barton showed no weakness at the plate. He has a short stroke, uses the whole field and shows 25-30 homer potential. He has no trouble with offspeed stuff and hits lefties and righthanders equally well. A National League scout said Barton and Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart were the two purest hitters he saw all season.

"I love his approach," an American League scout said. "It's what you try to teach kids."

Barton's defense is problematic. Few observers think he has a chance to catch regularly in the big leagues because his arm is below average and his receiving and blocking skills are just passable. He's not athletic or quick enough to play third base, and at 6 feet he'd be short for a first baseman.

In a nutshell - the kid can rake. If he doesn't pick up catching, the Cards will probably be forced to make a left fielder out of him. Not that that would be the end of the world, of course - Yadier Molina is great with the glove, and still could turn into an average hitter. And 1st base probably won't be open any time soon.

So, keep your eyes on this guy. He's really starting to generate some buzz in the lower parts of the Cardinal system.


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