Cardinals "can't miss prospects" aren't always on target

Posted by Scott Wuerz on February 3, 2013 

With the hot stove league rapidly coming to a close it looks as if the Cardinals aren't going to make any big moves before players report to camp in a couple of weeks.

That means the Redbirds are going to rely heavily on a bunch of kids to fill holes created with the loss of the likes of Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman.

There's no doubt that the Cardinals have a ton of young talent. But forgive me for being a little bit nervous about relying on prospects. It just seems to me that the Birds have been bit more than their fair share of times by can't miss young players who, well, missed.

First there's Colby Rasmus who was a proverbial "five-tool player." He had power, speed, a strong throwing arm. He had quick hands, good baserunning speed and was a physical specimen. But he was completely uncoachable, was as bright as a broken lightbulb and then there was the matter of his meddling father.

Then there is the curious case of Brett Wallace. Cardinals fans boo hooed in their rally towels for months if not years when the Redbirds dealt their top prospect in a package for left fielder Matt Holliday. I distinctly remember some fans complaining that the Redbirds "gave away the next Babe Ruth" on the chat pages. But Wallace hasn't even become the next Wally Pipp. After the Cardinals traded Wallace to the Oakland organization he was flipped to Toronto and then to Houston. To be dumped three times in a year does not bode well for turning the top prospect label into a top performer label.

In 232 games over three seasons, Wallace is a .250 hitter who averages five home runs a year. He's struck out 214 times and has 177 hits. Yikes. Who saw that coming from a guy who hit .307 as he climbed through the minor leagues?

On the flip side, Allen Craig got very little hype. Maybe fans and writers felt burned by jumping on the Wallace bandwagon. Craig had nearly identical minor league numbers as a .308 hitter in the bushes. But he's developed into a .300 hitter at the big league level who hit 22 homers with 93 RBIs in about three quarters of a season last year.

On the mound, Anthony Reyes was definitely the more highly thought of when he and Adam Wainwright were the top two hurlers in the St. Louis system. Reyes refused to listen to coaches and, except for one shining moment in the 2006 World Series, he's been a complete washout. Wainwright was stuck in the St. Louis bullpen during the 2006 season. But he worked with coaches, developed his mechanics and technique, and now he is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The point is, you never really know what you're going to get from talented players until they're thrown in the fire. So, while the future looks bright, 2013 could be one of growing pains for the Cardinals if the scouts are incorrect.

 

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