programming note: i'll be on the road most of next week, with limited internet access. that means a couple of things: first, it's a sure-fire cinch the cardinals will make a blockbuster trade; second, it means the posting will be light between now and the end of the year. i'll have a couple of short posts next week, discussion starters, probably tuesday and thursday; i think Val and Erik will be around for their regular posts (less'n Erik's baby arrives), and a diary or two might end up on the front page to keep things going. so the shop will be open, and if any significant news does break i'll find my way to a broadband portal.
Brock20's diary about the cards' top farmhands got me thinking about the minor-league system. while most of the best prospects are still at A ball or below, there is life at the upper levels of the system; lotta marginal prospects trying to raise their games and upgrade their status. the cards have milked players of that type for a lot of value the last couple of seasons; john rodriguez, josh kinney, and chris duncan all once belonged to the class of so-so triple A players.
this year it may be led by nick stavinoha, who before last season was listed on most of the top-10 prospect lists for organization. he's the latest version of john gall, a college 1st baseman converted into an outfielder. stavi hit .297 in an injury-marred campaign at double A last year but finished strong; in august, fully healed from an early-season ankle injury, he hit .330 / .397 / .652 with 7 hrs. a weak performance in the arizona fall league (.218 / .287 / .308 in 78 at-bats) might keep him a double A to start 2007, but if he gets off to a good start there he will probably advance in short order. stavinoha will be 25 years old in may. his major-league equivalent (MLE) line at springfield last year was 251 / 288 / 372. (for comparison's sake, duncan's MLE two years ago was 239 / 324 / 392.)
former #1 draftee chris lambert may also advance to triple A this year, despite having impressed no one in 41 double A starts. the texas league slugged .460 against him last year, and he walked nearly 5 men a game. but pressure from below may propel lambert upward; jaime garcia and mitchell boggs are due to join an already crowded double A rotation, and there's nobody blocking lambert at triple A. maybe a change of scenery would do him some good; maybe they should convert him into a relief pitcher. his 2006 MLE: a 6.71 era, with 5.9 bb/9 and 2.1 hr/9.
stu pomeranz and/or mike parisi might also advance. both were terrible in the arizona fall league (eras of 9.00 and 7.88, respectively) after so-so years at springfield. pomeranz has been at double A nearly as long as lambert (36 starts) and has had more success, though he's hardly been impressive; he wasn't the same after a july arm injury. parisi does have some strikeout ability, and he was hard on right-handed hitters, though he faded badly in the second half. their MLE era's: pomeranz, 5.76; parisi, 5.63.
the triple A bullpen should be interesting, where mark worrell, cory doyne, and troy cate will likely join brian falkenborg and andy cavazos. cate has pitched very well in the mexican pacific league --- he's carrying a 1.52 era in 24 innings, with 15 hits, 8 walks, and 20 strikeouts. doyne has done two things very well throughout his minor-league career: strike people out and avoid home runs. if he could cut down his walk rate, he might have a future. last year at springfield he struck out 10.6 guys per 9 innings and allowed only 1 homer in 66 innings; his MLE era was 4.36. Update [2006-12-22 9:37:26 by lboros]: doyne left as a minor-league free agent; now in the orioles' system.
see the red baron's diary for a detailed look at the state of the bullpen in memphis and elsewhere.
there'll be a few other interesting players at triple A; possibly brendan ryan, probably amaury marti, certainly edgar gonzalez (of whom, more here). of course narveson will be back, and if i'm not mistaken michel hernandez is still on the cards' 40-man roster. (danup has the low-down on some of the cards' minor-league free-agent pickups.) none of these guys will be mistaken for a red-hot prospect, but i'd be surprised if at least one guy from that group didn't boost his stock significantly in 2007.