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Cards' strong farm a major boon in '09

Cards' strong farm a major boon in '09

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The St. Louis Cardinals made it to the postseason for the first time since 2006, and they have their farm system to thank, at least partially.

Some of that aid came in the form of rookie contributions. Colby Rasmus may not have had the big debut some had hoped to see, but he was a solid presence in center field all year. The pitching staff received support from the likes of Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Blake Hawksworth, all homegrown products.

"We were able to provide players who were able to contribute at the Major League level," said Jeff Luhnow, Cardinals vice president of amateur scouting and player development. "They made a difference on the team and that was big."

The biggest help may have come from prospects no longer a part of the Cardinals system. Brett Wallace, Shane Petersen and Clayton Mortensen were shipped off to Oakland to bring in Matt Holliday. Young reliever Chris Perez was packaged with Jess Todd to bring in Mark DeRosa to play third. There's no question those two played a big role in the Cardinals putting away the NL Central, even if the postseason run ended much sooner than people hoped it would.

"We were able to give our general manager assets he needed to make the moves he needed to make at the big league level," Luhnow said. "The system has gotten more depth in the last three or four years, so we were able to do that without completely devastating the system."


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

Pride is taken in the fact that the depth is provided largely from within, meaning from the Draft and amateur scouting internationally. That's not to say they don't find help from free agency, but it's not as big a contributor as it might be for other organizations. Instead, St. Louis gives opportunities to its own young players and has among the youngest rosters up and down the Minors as a result.

"We have fewer Minor League free agents than other teams," Luhnow said. "We rely on our own guys. From that standpoint, it's been great."

The Cardinals system finished with a .498 winning percentage overall, but it might be more useful to break it down a little more. Triple-A Memphis won the Pacific Coast League title and Double-A Springfield made it to the Texas League playoffs. The lower-level clubs didn't have the same kind of success in 2009. Some of that is to be expected and some of it is by design.

"We feel good about our strategy working," Luhnow said. "We're hoping we can have success at those upper levels, to have these guys compete and hopefully win especially at the upper levels, where it's more important because it's closer [to the big leagues].

"Our records not were not where we wanted them to be in A-ball, but there are young guys who got development opportunities. Hopefully that will pay off as they get to Double- and Triple-A."

ORGANIZATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

MLB.com's Preaseason Picks
Brett Wallace, 3B: Thought to be one of the best pure hitters in the 2008 Draft class, it wasn't a stretch to predict Wallace would be among the Minor League leaders in several offensive categories. His .293/.367/.455 overall line was solid, if unspectacular. Then, of course, he was the key part of the trade with Oakland that brought Holliday to St. Louis.

Jess Todd, RHP: Todd was the choice to repeat as the Cards' pitcher of the year and he certainly had a good year in the Minors, albeit out of the bullpen: 2.04 ERA and 25 saves. Only problem is that he, too, got dealt, this time to the Indians as the player to be named in the DeRosa deal.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Allen Craig, 1B: Craig rarely gets much love, largely because of a lack of a true defensive position. Still, it's hard to look past the fact he hit .322/.347/.553 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs in his first taste of Triple-A. He led the organization in homers and RBIs while finishing in a virtual tie for the batting title. He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason as a result.

Lance Lynn, RHP: In his first full season, Lynn led the organization with a 2.85 ERA and 124 strikeouts. He pitched mostly in the Double-A Texas League, generally thought to be a hitting-friendly circuit, but Lynn went 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 22 starts there.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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