The discussion question of the day is who is your prospect man-crush (non Shelby Miller division, we all have man crushes on him)?
Steve: My prospect man crush is Matt Carpenter, which would have been a lot less cliche if we had done this before he was announced the systems minor league player of the year. That said I did rank him 3rd on my UCB prospect list. I like Carpenter because he has been fairly productive at every level he’s played while playing a position that is not value sucking on the defensive spectrum. Last season Carpenter put up an 0.889 OPS across high A and AA based on a solid OBP and some (albeit not a lot) power. Additionally in the one season that he has total zone data for, Carpenter was well above average at each stop. Putting together an advanced plate approach with a solid fielder at his position and you have the recipe for a league average player. I put together a quick projection during the season using MLEs and came up with something like ~1.8 WAR next year if he were to get everyday playing time in the majors. At worst he appears to be a good backup plan for Freese’s ankles.
Andy: Being that Carlos Matias has yet to throw a professional pitch outside of the DSL, I’ll take a cold shower and anoint Aaron Luna as my prospect man crush. From 2009 (3 levels: A, A+, AA) to 2010 (2 levels: AA, AAA), the 23-year-old improved his walk rate by 4.4% and decreased his strike-out rate by 1.1% while posting an impressively nerdy .262/.415/.455 line that was good for a .416 wOBA. Though the organization flirted with the idea of having Luna play second base for one season, this experiment was abandoned in 2010 and he returned to the corner outfield, spending nearly equal time in left and right fields.
Despite legitimate skepticism regarding Luna’s hit by pitch totals (24 and 28 HBP’s in 2009/2010 respectively), his ability to reach base is encouraging, especially within an organization lacking dependable OBP players to bat first and second in the order ahead of Pujols. Though his ceiling may not be much more than a 4th OF type, he may quickly approximate a less powerful but more disciplined Allen Craig, which is a valuable commodity when you are paying the league minimum for his services. Hopefully, this will allow Cardinals’ brass to regard Jay/Craig as the expendable cost-controlled players rather than Rasmus (let me dream). You can read a more in-depth summary of Luna’s minor league career to date in a recent entry at Future Redbirds. The Jack Cust comparison made in that article is probably unfair in that Luna’s ceiling for OBP matches Cust’s floor; also, Luna is probably better defensively, makes better contact, but is considerably less powerful.
Erik: As the godfather of Future Redbirds you might think this one would have been a slam dunk for me, but I really struggled over who to pick. The prospects on the radar – Miller, Cox, Matias and so on are there for good reasons, and I don’t have any one player I think of as a big sleeper or personal cheeseball. I guess if I have to pick one player that I like more than most, and someone I think that could be underrated, it’s the Cardinals 4th round pick of this past draft, catcher Cody Stanley. The fine nerds at College Splits rated him the 2nd best catcher in the draft. Stanley does everything rather well. He’s good at stopping the running game, he hit well in college and hit for a .397 wOBA in his pro debut, albeit in short season A ball. He’s just a solid, all around player at a premium position, which is enough for me to rate him as my man-crush.