St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on April 5, 1992 · Page 139
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 139

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 5, 1992
Page 139
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SONDAY, APRILS, 1992 ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH SPORTS 11CB BASEBALL '92 NEW FACES By Mike Eisenbath Of the Post-Dispatch Staff j It's a lousy time to be a decently paid, veteran utility player or middle reliever or one-dimensional player in pro baseball. Just ask Les Lancaster, Bill Landrum, Garry Templeton, Jeff Ballard, Mike Aldrete, Pat Sheridan, Randy St. Claire . . . You get the idea. It's a long list. It's life in the big leagues. I At the same time, it's a great time to be young in baseball. Maybe it's just a top end of the cycle of talent coming into the game, or maybe the large Influx of rookie faces onto major-league rosters this season is directly tied to the large number of old faces looking for work all spring. One thing is certain: Predicting the rookies of the year has become a tough assignment. There are so many contenders. i Not that it has been a sweet science in the past. Seriously, who expected second baseman Chuck Knoblauch of me Minnesota Twins to have the American League's best rookie season last year? i And though many scouts had predicted Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell would be a successful big-league hitter some year, no one expected that to come as early as 1991. Bagwell batted .294 last season, his first at a level higher than Class AA and first as a first baseman, and added 15 homers and 82 runs batted in. That helped him beat out Pittsburgh's Orlando Merced and the Cardinals' Ray Lankford for the top NL rookie honor. ; Several of this season's best young players picked up too much big-league experience last season to be eligible for this season's award. Thus, without the pressure of playing for the honor, don't be surprised to see big seasons from Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina, Qicago White Sox pitcher Wilson Al- Young Cardinals With Major By Mike Eisenbath Of the Post-Dispatch Staff Thanks to a loaded amateur draft last year that netted the Cardinals six of the top 46 choices, the fortunes of the Cardinals' farm system seems to be on the upswing. Mike Jorgensen is starting his first season as the successor to Ted Sim-fflpns in the role of director of player development. Jorgensen said his philosophy on running a minor-league system will be similar to that of Simeons stressing the development of potential big leaguers and playing flown the importance of having win-ping records on the lower levels. 1 1 Several players who will be in the Minors after spending much of spring graining in the big-league camp, such as pitchers Rene Arocha and Donovan IQsborne, seem on the verge of making !a breakthrough in the major leagues. As for several others still toiling in the minors, they have something to prove before Cardinals manager Joe Torre is ready for them. Jorgensen said not to expect all of these players to play in a Cardinals uniform, this season or ever. But in varying degrees, each is considered a prospect to make it. In alphabetical order: Juan Andujar, shortstop: Me might make it to the big leagues some day simply on the strength of his defense. (Jose Oquendo couldn't hit in the minor leagues, either). Andujar, 20, led the South Atlantic League's short-Stops in fielding percentage last season on some of the rockiest infields in pro ball. He also was successful on 34 of 38 stolen-base attempts. But his .205 batting average for Class A Springfield and Savannah keeps him in the suspect category. Brian Barber, pitcher: Barber, 19, probably made the biggest impression at this season's big-league Cardinals training camp before being sent back to the minor league complex. A righthander, he came via the draft's first round last season (the 22nd choice overall) and went 4-6 with a 5.40 earned-run average with Johnson City. But he struck out 84 batters in 72 innings. "You hate to say a guy is a can't-miss prospect, but he is," Jorgensen said. Barber will start the season at Springfield. Allen Battle, outfield: A 10th-round draft pick last year, Battle rates sleeper status with Jorgensen. Battle, 23, hit .281 with 27 totalRBIs at Johnson City and Savannah and stole 19 bases in 24 attempts. He should have the leadoff spot at Springfield this season. Cliff Brannon, outfield: Bran- non, 24, once again proved to be the organization's top defensive outfielder last season, when his 21 assists led Texas League outfielders. He started Slowly at the plate for Arkansas but finished with a .281 average and 44 RBIs. Andy Bruce, third base: One of the Cardinals top RBI prospects, Bruce drove in 42 runs in his first 50 professional games last season. He finished with 10 homers, 48 RBIs and a .255 average at Johnson City and Savannah. But Bruce, 22, a fourth-round pick last season, needed surgery on damaged thumb ligaments in the offseason and won't be playing until mid May. Steve Cerio, first base-catcher: Cerio, 22, came to the Cardinals in the 42nd round of the draft in June and earned the Star of Stars gward in the Arizona rookie league. He batted .359, with nine homers and 48 RBIs, and probably will start as the designated hitter at Springfield. But Jorgensen cautions to reserve judgment on players from the Arizona League. Jonas Hamlin batted .344 in that league for the Cardinals in 1990, then hit .21 0 at St. Petersburg last year. Mark Clark, pitcher: Clark, 23, pitched at three levels last season, including seven games with the Cardinals. A 6-foot-5 righthander with good velocity, Clark made a strong Impres- varez, Montreal third baseman Bret Barberie, Texas catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Atlanta outfielder-first baseman Brian Hunter or Boston outfielder Phil Plantier. Here are each league's leading candidates for rookie-of-the-year awards: NATIONAL LEAGUE Eric Karros, Dodgers: Manager Tommy Lasorda seems to have something against using rookies in the regular lineup, but there's just no way to keep first baseman Karros in Class AAA Albuquerque or on the bench. Karros proved that he deserved a strong look in Los Angeles last year, when he had a .316 average, 22 homers and 101 RBIs in AAA. Karros has decent power, but it will be more of the doubles-variety in the big leagues. He had 33 two-base hits in Albuquerque. Reggie Sanders, Reds: One of the reasons Cincinnati was able to trade Eric Davis to the Dodgers was Sanders. He has been compared to Davis at almost every level of his career. Both are tall and slender; both are former shortstops playing center field; both are an exciting blend of speed and power. Unfortunately, Sanders might also show an attraction to the disabled list displayed so often by Davis. Sanders batted .315, with eight homers, 49 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 86 games at Class AA Chattanooga last season. Royce Clayton, Giants: Another player who combines speed and decent power, shortstop Clayton skipped Class AAA last season and struggled in nine late-season games with San Francisco. He was one of baseball's hottest players in the first half of the season, when his average was near .400 at Class AA Shreveport. He finished there with a .280 mark, five homers, 68 RBIs and 36 stolen Pitcher Brian Barber, 19, will start sion as a future big-inning, big-game pitcher with overpowering abilities. He will start at Louisville, where he had a 2.98 ERA last season. Paul Ellis, catcher: Ted Simmons kept saying he wanted to see Ellis develop into a good defensive catcher because he already knew Ellis would be able to hit. Well, he led Florida State League catchers in fielding last season,, but he batted just .204 for St. Petersburg. Ellis, 23, struck out only 34 times in 402 at-bats and is a lefthanded hitter, though; he'll be back at St. Pete. John Ericks, pitcher: Ericks, 24, a 1988 first-round pick, pitched for a dismal Arkansas team last year. It's hard to tell how much Arkansas' team-wide troubles contributed to his 5-14 record and 4.77 ERA. "I'd say the team's problems cost him five or six losses," Jorgensen said, "and he cost himself five or six. Once we introduce him to the plate, he'll be here." Ericks, a hard-throwing righthander, struck out 103 and walked 84 in 140 innings. Aaron Holbert, shortstop: Still one of the youngest players in the organization, Holbert, 19, has been slowed by injuries since arriving in the first round of the 1990 draft. He batted .223 but missed a month at Springfield last year with a broken ankle. Holbert had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in the offseason and is just returning to action. He should start the season in extended spring training. to11I-7 rookie - iSla ;i'i.ctar OF THE YEAR P DREWESu KgffiST Q ' TED AND ALL HIS 'HALL-OF-FAMERS' SALUTE nil) 8 THE CARDINALS ON THEIR 100TH ANNIVERSARY! l5 U X TED DREWES FR0ZEN CUSTARD m I X. f AZ Al linnriif A OPEN 7 DAYS HOURS: jL U 8 oxo wnirrcyiM aweek 11 a.m.-midnight z qqQQQ No Shortage Of Young Talent In "v V ' J - - Pitcher Donovan Osborne could all of the 1992 season. bases. Clayton should hit in the big leagues, but his defense still is a question. Donovan Osborne, Cardinals: The immediate plan is to have Osborne, a lefthanded pitcher, make his big-league debut Thursday and then send him back to Class AAA Louisville. A good outing Thursday could change those plans; even if he goes back to AAA he's never pitched higher than Class AA before he could return to St. Louis later this season. Either way, Osborne should Wendi FitzgeraldPost-Dispatch the season in Springfield. John Mabry, outfield: Mabry, 21, promises to be a do-everything outfielder for Springfield this season. A sixth-round pick last year, he batted .286 at Hamilton and Savannah, with 39 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 70 games. Mabry impressed Cardinals officials with his glove and bat this spring. Lonnie Maclin, outfield: Jorgensen said the Cardinals .have to keep Maclin in mind "because he keeps getting hits wherever he plays." A gradu 1 i IBIIiiiB eJtT" J ft'' DWlOTWCabaret m Mississippi aye. sauget, ii((ii8) 27-o:wo n Wendl FitzgeraldPost-Dispatch be with the Cardinals for part or pitch his way from first-round draft pick to top rookie candidate in just two years. John VanderWal, Expos: A lefthanded-hitting outfielder, VanderWal quietly worked his way through the Montreal system with consistent run production. Last season, he had a .293 average, 15 homers and 71 RBIs with Class AAA Indianapolis. He also had 36 doubles but will need to cut down on his strikeout total. Denny Neagle, Pirates: At least Talent ate of Ritenour High, Maclin is back at Louisville after he batted .286, drove in 37 runs and stole 19 bases in an injury-hampered season. Maclin, 25, still needs defensive improvement. Mike Milchin, pitcher: A lefthander, Milchin started hot at Arkansas but never found his rhythm in 1 8 games at Louisville. He went 5-9, had a 5.07 ERA and allowed 132 hits in 94 innings. Milchin, 24, still is highly regarded, but he has missed the last month because of a broken toe. Stan Royer, third basefirst base: It's not that the Cardinals don't think Royer will be a big-leaguer; he was fifth in the American Association with 74 RBIs last season. It's not that they worry about his 126 strikeouts, because he hit 14 home runs, too, "and you expect that from power hitters," Jorgensen said. But with Todd Zeile at third and Andres Galarraga at first, the Cardinals aren't sure where Royer, 24, will fit in. He'll switch to first base at Louisville this year. Skeets Thomas, outfield: Jorgensen says Thomas can "motivate the bat." That's an ex-hitting coach's way of explaining how Thomas could hit .298 and drive in 46 runs last year in the pitchers' heaven of the Florida State League. Thomas, 23, is moving up to Arkansas this season. Allen Watson, pitcher: Watson, 21, is the furthest advanced of last year's first-round Cardinals draft picks. A lefthander, he went 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 games. He struck out 58, allowed 38 nits and walked 25 in 53 innings. Eddie Williams, catcher: The Cardinals might have walked away with a steal in the second round of last the Pirates hope he'll be a rookie-of-the-year candidate. Neagle, 23, is a lefthanded pitcher who came to Pittsburgh with minor-league outfielder Midre Cummings in exchange for 20-game winner John Smiley. Neagle, a former 20-game winner in the minors, went 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last season. Others to watch: Some of them have lost their rookie status, some will start this season at Class AAA, but any of them could make a great impact despite their youth: New York catcher Todd Hundley, Los Angeles shortstop Jose Offerman, Atlanta first baseman Ryan Klesko, Los Angeles pitcher Pedro Martinez, San Francisco second baseman John Patterson, Philadelphia pitchers Kyle Abbott and Andy Ashby, Montreal outfielder Matt Stairs, Philadelphia shortstop Kim Batiste, Chicago third baseman Gary Scott, Montreal shortstop Wilfredo Cordero, New York pitcher Anthony Young, Atlanta pitcher Mark Wohlers, Houston shortstop Andujar Cedeno, New York infielder Chris Donnells, Houston catcher Eddie Taubensee and Chicago pitcher Lance Dickson. AMERICAN LEAGUE Luis Mercedes, Orioles: Mercedes, a righthanded-hitting outfielder, won batting titles at Class A and AA levels in 1989 and '90, respectively. Last season, he finished second in the Class AAA International League batting race, with a .334 average. Mercedes, 24, also drove in 36 runs and stole 23 bases. Derek Bell, Blue Jays: Bell, 23, beat out Mercedes for the International League batting crown last year. He hit .346, with 13 homers, 93 RBIs and 27 stolen bases for Syracuse. The Blue Jays might have trouble opening a spot for him in their outfield, so don't While the Cardinals might have some good prospects on the way, last season's won-lost records for minor league teams were disappointing. Here is a rundown on the Cardinals' minor-league system, with 1991 record and finish in league. Team League Affil. W L Pet. Fin. Louisville American Association AAA 51 92 .357 8th Arkansas Texas League AA 49 87 .360 8th St. Petersburg Florida State League A 63 67 .485 13th Springfield Midwest League A - 58 79 .423 13th Savannah South Atlantic League A 61 77 .442 11th Hamilton New York-Penn League A 35 42 .455 11th Johnson City Appalachian League R 40 26 .606 2nd Peoria Arizona Rookie League R 29 30 .492 5th year's draft. Williams, 20, was the 46th choice overall in coming out of Miami Edison High School. A switch hitter, he batted .314 with two homers and 10 RBIs for Johnson City before being slowed by a hand injury. "Just to look at him, you'd swear he had to be drafted in the first round," Jorgensen said. Williams will start at Savannah. Dmitri Young, third base: 12 YEAR CELEBRATION! LUNCH DISCOUNT nv!ivi urt Two Complete Lunches REG. PRICES $4.95 TO $5.95 THIS AD MUST BE PRESENTED TO PRESENTS WORLD AT IT'S r w mm BASEBALL IS BACK & SO HELP US CELEBRATE ALL SEASON WITH FREE ADMISSION AFTER THE GAMES "CHEEKS" 2221 N. KINGSHIGHWAY, WASHINGTON PARK, IL (618) 874-5111 5103 Bunkum Rd., Washington Park, IL (618) 875-4322 Free Food Every Day Play Billiards With Your Favorite Dancer or Just Play Sunday Free Admission All Day & Nite WATCH THE GAMES ON OUR BIG SUPER SCREEN TV's QQQQQQQQQ Majors be surprised to see him leave Toronto in a trade. Wherever he ends up, he's a potential all-star. Kenny Lofton, Indians: In an apparent steal, Cleveland picked up Lofton from Houston in a deal that sent backup catcher Eddie Taubensee to the NL team. Taubensee batted an inflated .310 for Class AAA Colorado Springs; Lofton, a 24-year-old outfielder, had a .308 average for Tucson, with 50 RBIs and 40 stolen bases. Chad Curtis, Angels: Curtis, 23, was one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League last season but also one of the league's best players. He batted .316, hit nine home runs, drove in 61 runs and stole 46 bases. He Is switching from third base to center field. Jim Thome, Indians: Since Cleveland has the youngest team in baseball, it would figure that the team will have several top rookie candidates. Thome, a third baseman, played at three levels last year, with a cumulative .319 average and 73 RBIs at AA and AAA and a decent .255 average in 98 big-league at-bats. Cleveland liked his progress enough to move Carlos Baerga from third to second midway in the season. Thome will start the season on the disabled list, with a sprained wrist. Other top young players to watch: California first baseman Lee Stevens, Seattle first baseman Tino Martinez, Boston third baseman Scott Cooper, Toronto shortstop Eddie Zosky, Minnesota pitcher Pat Ma-homes, Kansas City pitcher Joel Johnston, Seattle pitcher Dave Fleming, Texas pitcher Hector Fajardo, Minnesota pitcher Willie Banks, Seattle pitcher Roger Salkeld, Detroit pitcher Greg Gohr, Milwaukee pitcher Cal Eldred and Seattle infielder Bret Boone. Young is the apple of everybody's eye in the Cardinals' system. The fourth choice overall in last year's first round, Young just turned 18 in October and is the youngest player in the organization. He batted .256 and drove in 22 runs in 37 games last season. "He has shown a great work ethic for someone so young," Jorgensen said. Young will start out at Springfield. DINNER DISCOUNT Bm?tM? Urr Two Complete Dinners (NOT VALID ON SAT. ONLY) HOSTHOSTESS UPON ARRIVAL CLASS TOPLESS FINEST ARE WE! LONG 51 51 ' ' ' i

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