Relief pitcher Fernando Salas of the St. Louis Cardinals (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Rookies on the 2011 Playoff Teams: St. Louis Cardinals
Although veterans dominate the Cardinals everyday lineup, several rookie position players received looks this year and could earn larger roles in 2012. The bullpen, in contrast, was held together by rookie closer Fernando Salas, with fellow rookies Eduardo Sanchez and Lance Lynn seeing substantial action as well. Without their contributions the season would have looked much different.
Andrew Brown, OF: 18th round pick in 2007 from the University of Nebraska, hit .284/.382/.501 with 20 homers for Triple-A Memphis. Went 4-for-22 in a trial for the Cardinals. The 27-year-old is considered a Quadruple-A type by scouts, but there is always a chance he could sneak into a job if he has well-timed hot streak.
Matt Carpenter, 3B: A 13th round pick in 2009 from Texas Christian, the 25-year-old hit .300/.417/.463 with 84 walks in 434 at-bats in Triple-A. Went 1-for-15 in the majors but drew four walks. Patience, gap power, and consistently good batting averages are his best attributes, and his glove is underrated, but scouts don't think he has the pure power wanted in a third baseman.
Adron Chambers, OF: 38th-round pick in 2007 from Pensacola Junior College, hit .277/.368/.415 with 10 homers and 22 steals in Triple-A, went 3-for-8 in the majors. 24 years old, best attribute is speed, good glove, and has touches of power. Could be fine fourth outfielder.
Maikel Cleto, RHP: 22-year-old fireballer from the Dominican Republic, originally signed by the Mets. Posted a 3.81 ERA with a 135/65 K/BB in 135 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, but walked four and gave up six runs in 4.1 major league innings. Very impressive velocity, can hit 100+ but still more of a thrower than a pitcher, needs more time in Triple-A.
Allen Craig, OF: Eighth-round pick in 2006 from the University of California. 27-years-old, a fine hitter with defensive versatility, posted a .315/.362/.555 mark with 11 homers in 200 at-bats for the Cardinals, though plagued with a knee injury. His bat is not a fluke and he just needs good health and an opportunity to play.
Tony Cruz, C: 26th round pick in 2007 from Palm Beach Community College, hit .262/.333/.388 in 65 at-bats for the Cardinals and threw out 50% of runners. Not a great hitter, but should last a long time as a reserve. Age 25.
Daniel Descalso, INF: Age 24, a third-round pick in 2007 from University of California-Davis. Hit .264/.334/.353 in the majors this year, 326 at-bats, seeing time at third base, second base, and shortstop. Lack of power is main offensive problem, but should last awhile as a reserve due to his versatility.
Brandon Dickson, RHP: Age 26, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tusculum College in 2006. 3.95 ERA with a 124/32 K/BB in 157 innings in Triple-A, allowed three runs in 8.1 major league innings with seven strikeouts. 88-92 MPH fastball, mixes in curve and changeup, probably a Quadruple-A type pitcher but could prove useful as fifth starter.
Mark Hamilton, 1B: 27-years-old, hit .345/.439/.472 in 252 at-bats in Triple-A, but just .213/.275/.277 in 47 major league at-bats. Second-round pick in 2006 from Tulane, some scouts see him as a Quadruple-A slugger but some feel he could be a good-enough hitter to cover for limited defense.
Pete Kozma, SS: Age 23, hit .214/.280/.289 in 398 at-bats in Triple-A, went 3-for-17 in the majors. First-round pick in 2007 from high school in Oklahoma. Hasn't lived up to expectations either offensively or defensively, although he still has a chance to become a useful utilityman.
Lance Lynn, RHP: Age 24, drafted from University of Mississippi in supplemental round in 2008. Quite effective after promotion from Triple-A, 3.12 ERA with 40/11 K/BB in 35 innings, 25 hits, used as both starter and reliever. Worked at 90-96 in the majors and mixed in good curve. Season ended early with oblique strain but his debut was a success.
Shane Robinson, OF: Undersized 27-year-old outfielder, 5-9, 160, drafted in the fifth round in 2006 from Florida State. Hit .299/.366/.455 in Triple-A, went 0-for-7 in the majors. Runs well, scrappy type, could make a career as a reserve outfielder.
Fernando Salas, RHP: 26-year-old from Mexico, posted 2.28 ERA with 75/21 K/BB in 75 innings, 50 hits allowed, and saved 24 games for the Cardinals. 88-92 MPH fastball, changeup, and slider proved very effective as he unexpectedly seized closer role. If he maintains his command he should hold the job for awhile.
Eduardo Sanchez, RHP: 22-year-old from Venezuela, missed much of the season with shoulder problems. Posted a 1.80 ERA with a 35/16 K/BB in 30 innings and five saves when he was healthy. 92-95 MPH fastball and sharp slider can make him an effective closer in the long run, if his command and health hold up.