A long time ago, in internet years, I did a recurring—and usually never-ending, given my working habits—feature about the lowercase-p prospects who would not make Baseball America's top twenty but were still worth a look. I called it: the Not-Top Twenty. Today, with Future Redbirds and Baseball-Reference making it dead simple to follow every last minor leaguer in the system (I think that's the Richard Racobaldo bandwagon I hear puttering around outside my house), that's not quite so valuable a public service. But now that the team's lost both its Impact Player and the cream of its starting depth, these guys who'll be fighting for a spot on the back of the list are going to find themselves in the blog spotlight by default.
I don't have a top twenty list, but if I did these guys, hereby disqualified, would certainly be on it: Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, Daryl Jones, David Freese, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Wagner Mateo, Pete Kozma, Eduardo Sanchez, Tyler Henley, Fransisco Samuel (for some reason), Adam Ottavino, Jon Jay, The Ghost of Bryan Anderson, Aaron Luna, Charles Cutler, Casey Mulligan, Robert Stock... that class of player, broadly speaking, from maybe-an-impact-player to probably-a-useful-player. If your favorite fringe guy isn't mentioned after the jump, you can assume he's either hidden among these guys or I forgot about him (whichever fits your narrative.)
FOUR FRINGE STARTERS
The Cardinals love this guy. He probably throws in the prospect low-nineties, which run from 87-91; he probably has a slider he doesn't throw very often and a two-seam fastball; he might be big, like Lance Lynn, but if he is it's only used in prospect rankings like this: "Pitcher X looks like he should have overpowering stuff, but finesse was the key to his success in his four years at the University of..."
At times it's seemed like the Cardinals don't feel ready to spring for a Shelby Miller-type, high risk and high upside, unless the system is stocked with at least ten guys who have a one in five shot at sitting at the other end of the rotation in five years. It's been a rough year for these guys—Clay Mortensen and Jess Todd both left via trade, Mitchell Boggs and P.J. Walters were graduated into the noble profession of sixth starter, and Tyler Herron is now a Pirate. But if I were a betting man I'd lay my vast Birdos fortune on it: the International Brotherhood of Pitching to Contact is just biding its time, waiting for the right draft to reload.
4th Round, 2008
Gorgen's a rough fit into the Cardinals' usual fringe starter mold—he doesn't have a great fastball, and his major league prospects are both cloudy and low-upside, but he's also a short, strikeout-first guy whose out pitch is a sharp curveball.
He began his Cardinals career in prototypical Polished Collegiate fashion, signing early enough to dominate short-season ball, and his stint in Palm Beach was similarly encouraging. Now, at 22, he's already reached a momentous occasion in the life of any college pitcher—he's reached a point where he is no longer old for his league. Which is not to say it's gone well.
It'll be interesting to see how Gorgen's even K:BB ratio resolves itself; it's a popular (if not consistently accurate) idea that guys like this, who strike out a low-minors batter an inning without a scout's pitch, are doing it with smoke and mirrors, and that as they climb the ladder the P.J. Walters effect kicks in and either their command falters, as their nibbling stops drawing swinging strikes, or their strikeouts fall as they're forced to pitch more in the zone. So far his strikeout rate is still high, but his numbers have borne an increasingly suspicious resemblance to Blake King.
It's slim consolation to a guy who, had he come along three or four years earlier than he did, in the minor league dark ages, would have been a mysterious superhero, but Richard Castillo is on a pace that might win him the Stu Pomeranz Lifetime Achievement Award. There are two things that confound the idea of being young for one's league as an indicator of future success: one is being a pitcher, and another is playing in an organization that pushes everybody aggressively up the chain. In the post-Luhnow era, Castillo hits both marks.
Small (5'11", 165) and apparently invisible to scouts, Castillo reached full-season ball at 18 after a nice year with the VSL Cardinals and had a brief stint as Sleeper Prospect #1 after appearing without fanfare on Palm Beach's roster last summer. Demoted to the Quad Cities to work as a starter, he showed off solid command and a fastball that sat at prospect-90, which again could be anything.
In Palm Beach all year he's been so strikingly average as to fall back from whence he came on midseason prospect lists. It's interesting—from the way the Cardinals have handled him, allowing him to throw 128 innings as a 19 year-old, I can almost infer that they don't think he's a prospect, either. He allows a ton of fly balls, and while they haven't left the park very often he's spent the entire year in the FSL, where home runs would go to die if their planes didn't keep landing short of the warning track.
But he's not totally without desirable qualities; he is still very young, a year and a half or so ahead of the game, and in the second half his K:BB has improved from 1.24 to 1.71, with both his strikeout and walk rates moving in the right direction. Moving from the FSL to the Texas League, and having to contend with both the major adjustment between the low and high minors and a hitter's league, is a big deal for finesse pitchers; he's in prospect limbo until he makes the jump.
46th Round, 2006 (Draft and Follow)
Hey—it's another guy who's young for his leagues and has underwhelming stuff! Additon has two advantages over Gorgen and Castillo, as he both looks like a pitcher (6'3", 170) and throws left-handed. At this point it should be apparent that a Cardinal prospect's youth in relation to his league should be considered, first, an artifact of the system, and not any particular skill he possesses, but Additon justified his early moves with a sterling 2008 with low-A Quad Cities.
The problem is that in spite of Additon's heretofore attractive strikeout numbers, he is a born soft-tosser; he gets two outs in the air for every groundout, he's got a fastball that apparently hits 87 and a 59 mph "change up" that noted guest-blogger Christy Mathewson would recognize as a Slow Ball. Without Castillo's age or Gorgen's college pedigree, Additon is the ultimate "numbers pitcher", a class who gets increasingly little support from either side as stats and scouting converge; he can't afford to continue pegging the even mark with his K:BB ratio for much longer.
That said, all of these guys have significant problems; that's why they're fighting for spots at the back of the prospect list.
this guy is as big and powerful as chris duncan but has a much shorter, more direct swing. he just turned 25 years old a couple weeks ago; probably wouldn’t hit for average in the big leagues, but would draw walks and hit for power.