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Friday, December 16, 2005


Meet Your Springfield Cardinals, Part 2

On a day that began with news of the Cardinals re-signing a former first round draft pick, traded away seven years ago, it seems appropriate to take a look into the Cards current crop of youngsters. On Wednesday, Springfield Cardinals' beat writer Kary Booher, of the Springfield News-Leader, gave us a closer look at the AA Springfield Cardinals and their place in a new community as well as in their larger role in the Cardinals' baseball organization. Today, we take a closer look at the young (and a few not so young) guys who spent some time playing for the Springfield Cardinals last summer. Take note, as you may be seeing a few of these players in the Cardinals' lineup in a couple years or so, and some you may not ever even see in a AAA lineup. Either way, these are names fans should get to know. And, of course, Rick Ankiel watchers will be satisfied. In the comments section of this post, I would like to invite you to leave your thoughts on some of these players. The analysis provided here is pretty thought provoking, and I think will stir your thoughts on the team's future lineup as the debate about filling out the '06 lineup takes place. There are also probably a number of readers out there who have had the opportunity to see these guys play, whether in Springfield or with another team in the system; if you have, readers would love to hear you thoughts and impressions of the players mentioned here. Without further delay... meet your Springfield Cardinals, part two. In Baseball America’s recent ranking of the Cards’ top 10 prospects, Chris Lambert was ranked #4, the highest Springfield player. What’s your scouting report on him? It seems like his numbers took a hit in the move up from Palm Beach, do you credit that to adjustment to AA? What does 2006 hold for him? Lambert, like I said, hit a wall in midseason. He admitted that after the final game of the year, and it was to be understood. I agree with what Baseball America said about him, that he has to learn how to work in his offspeed stuff to succeed from Double-A on up. He relied too much on his fastball in the Texas League and I think he saw why this is the proving ground of the minors. I expect he’ll come back and tear it up next season. The guy is a competitor and, even though he signed for $1.5 million, he’s not one of those flashy types. That’s a good sign. Sometimes you see guys who are overly worried about headlines and buying the best cars and they are the ones who don’t figure it out. Tell us about Travis Hanson. What kind of things did you see from him this year? Will he start the 2006 season in Memphis? What about his future beyond Memphis? How’s his defense? Hanson will start the year in Memphis and was put on the 40-man roster the other day. I wondered if he was even going to make it in Double-A after April, when he was hitting about .200. But Hanson had three good games in a row in early May, and that changed everything. He got his confidence back and ended up hitting 20 homers and driving in 97 runs, second-most in the Texas League, and did all this after missing most of last year with an ankle injury. The thing is, that ankle problem cut into his defense, and he made 36 errors. But he started getting better near the end of the season and didn’t make any errors in the Arizona Fall League. I think the Cardinals may have something with him. Cody Haerther is also usually mentioned as one of the Cardinals’ top prospects, give us a little insight into his season in Springfield. His stats look good (.298/.333/.500), and he’s young. Is this a player to be excited about? Where does he play in the OF, and how does arm look? Haerther tore up August, and it was impressive. He hurt a knee in mid-June right after getting called up from Palm Beach and that kept him from being consistently in the lineup. But once he got healthy, he did well. I’d still like to see him for a full season in Double-A before I get too excited about him. There’s enough to like, for sure, but he has to improve his defense in left field. He’ll get the chance to do that. The Cardinals didn’t re-sign Papo Bolivar, meaning the job is Haerther’s to lose. Will Stuart Pomeranz start the 2006 season in Springfield? He’s young, so what does he need to do to continue his development path? I expect Stu to return here, but his stay may last only a half season if he pitches like he did at the end of this past season. He was hard to figure out early on, but he went back to his high school delivery — he brings his hands over his head — and was a completely different pitcher in his last five or six starts. If he can work on his offspeed stuff, he’ll be tough this year and can find his way to Memphis, his hometown. Of course, no discussion of the Springfield Cardinals could be complete without a question about Rick Ankiel. How was he received by fans in Springfield? His stats from his second stint in Springfield got pretty significant attention, give us a peak behind the stats. How does he look as a player? Does he start 2006 in Memphis? I’m surprised Ankiel hasn’t gotten more attention by the St. Louis writers now that Walker is gone and it looks like they won’t be able to re-sign several guys. Amazing how not signing A.J. Burnett changed the dynamics of their offseason. Rick hit 21 home runs in 321 at-bats between Low-A and Double-A last year, and 10 of those came in his final 28 games here. People here loved him, of course, because they think of him as a true Cardinal, having been drafted by them and having led them to the brink of a pennant. And now he is on the 40-man roster but is still out of options. That means the Cardinals would have to go through the same waiver wire worries they had last year if they want to option him to the minors out of spring training. But I could see him as their starting right fielder — especially now that Giles is staying in San Diego — but he could be used as a pinch-hitter, as La Russa had in John Mabry. He still needs to work on his defense, but Ankiel is athletic enough to correct it. What I like about Rick is that he only cares about winning. Even though this was Double-A, he would be uspet if they lost. The guys loved him because he was their biggest cheerleader. It didn’t hurt that he also left his new stereo in the clubhouse when he was sent to Quad Cities. He probably needs more seasoning as an outfielder, but I wouldn’t put anything past this guy on a baseball field. In regards to Ankiel, what was it like for fans and his teammates especially having him on the team given his well-know story? I think at first it was kind of odd, especially when he played in the spring training games on the fields away from Roger Dean Stadium. A lot of people want him to succeed, but when he struggled in May here there was a sense that it may not work out. When he returned, it was obvious he had found his confidence. I think Rick saw this as a way to leave the past behind. When he was first optioned to Double-A, I wrote about his past and all that. But when he arrived here, I focused on the work that waited ahead of him. I remember starting the story with his thoughts on the plane ride here, and he said something to the effect that he just wanted to have fun. I thought that said a lot. What’s the latest news on Alan Benes’ comeback? Benes came here in August and pitched decently. I think the Cardinals want to see what he can do for a good chunk of next season before making a decision. He’s only 33, so there’s the possibility he could be in St. Louis’ bullpen down the road. We tend to know the prospects, but who are some of the other important players on the Springfield Cardinals and what roles do they play? Keep an eye on shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was promoted in late July from Palm Beach. He’s a good-looking player, and I can see him being moved to second base. If he makes the roster, first baseman/DH Juan Diaz is a guy to watch in Memphis next year. He reported here weighing 300 pounds and hits the ton out of the ball. If he can get in better shape and heal his ankle, he’ll be fun to keep track of. Who are some of the new faces we’ll see on the Springfield Cardinals in 2006? I’m looking forward to seeing Eric Haberer, a pitcher who was drafted out of Southern Illinois. I’m holding out hope that somebody from their June draft will make it here, too. If Greene can hit at Palm Beach, he might be the first. Where does the team stand in relation to their Texas League competition in 2006? I thought Arkansas had the most talent last year, and Midland was pretty solid, too, what with Daric Barton at first base. Overall, it seemed like the other teams had more true athletes than the Springfield club, but that’ll be changing in the years to come. I can’t wait to see what talent they get out of the Domincian Republic now that they have a new academy down there, and their June draft looked pretty nice. Who would you say the team’s top position player this year? Pitcher? What kind of impact did they have on the team? [ed. note: this question also appeared in part I] Top position player was Travis Hanson, the third baseman. A super nice guy, one of those players you pull for. He was also the hardest worker, staying long after games to do work in the weight room. Hanson not only gave them a left-handed bat, but he also impacted the team by never wanting to come out of the lineup. That went over well in the clubhouse. The top pitcher was left-hander Randy Leek, a guy from Long Island. He is pushing 30, but he showed the younger guys that you don’t have to have a 100 mph fastball to win. He changed speeds and knew when to use his fastball. And two years after Tommy John surgery, he’ll be coming back. ------ Once again, I want to thank Mr. Booher for taking time out of his schedule to do this interview.
Nice interview. I'm definitely going to have to make it to Little Rock when the Cardinals come through next year.
I was glad to see an Alan benes mention. I always felt bad for him that he was pitching so well in '97, but getting no run support (I believe he lost a game where he took a no-hitter into the nith, against the Brewers), and then his shoulder just exploded and he never got right again. I'd like to see him on the team pitching well.
Excellent interview. Thanks! For supposedly being so devoted to the Cardinals, I am woefully ignorant of their farm clubs. Thanks for helping to ease my ignorance.

Go Alan Benes!!
Very interesting take on Ankiel. That's lofty praise, seeing him as a possible starter in RF. Starter!

It will be interesting to see what the club will do with him. You can't put him through waivers, because you would think someone would have to claim him.

The way he progressed so quickly, and given he already has MLB experience, I think he's got a fair shot at making the 25 man roster this spring.
Juan Diaz? For chrissakes. 300 pounds, almost 32 years old, a statue in the field, and he's some kind of a prospect?

Dexter Westbrook
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