Karmaloop’s Baby Birds On The Bat

We are proud to announce a sister blog dedicated to the minor league and all that it entails.  We are proud to announce the creation of Karmaloop’s Baby Birds On The Bat Blog.  You will find a link to the new blog with all of the other links under the First Inning head. We will have daily updates on our minor league players, special viewing of prospect in our minor leagues, as well as many other things to come. We encourage you to go check that out, and we also have more in the future in store for you. Next we will get a forum to further the discussion. We hope you enjoy, and look forward to the future together.

Looking Closer At The Westbrook Trade

The initial reaction of the trade for Jake Westbrook was that the Cardinals got fleeced in that deal. I mean why would the Cardinals trade one of the few players on their roster that wasn’t under performing in comparison to their career averages? I mean there is no logic in trading from one of your weaknesses in order to strengthen a position, that while is considered is a strength isn’t exactly extremely deep by any means. Instead of doing what most armchair GMs, John Mozeliak decided to hold onto his prospects rather than dealing for players who would likely be gone after the season. This clearly shows a shift in philosophy with younger players, as well as some possibly ulterior motives that put this deal into motion.

While this doesn’t show a clear change of philosophy in the handling of the Cardinals prospects, this deal does show us that the Cardinals no longer look at those prospect simply as trading chips, but more as long term investments that can reinforce the big league club with with young, cost-controlled players to put around the bigger named, higher priced players on the Cardinals roster. After seeing recent players coming up from our system like Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Colby Rasmus to name a few, the Cardinals have clearly shown a recommitted effort to rebuilding the barren farm system that was clearly neglected under the Walt Jocketty era. Teams such as the Twins or Athletics manage to stay competitive despite having financial limitations largely in part of their ability to develop cost controlled talent. Therefore, I wouldn’t expect to see very many more trading prospects for a rental player until our farm system gets back to respectability.

So that takes us to the actual trade itself. On paper, the Cardinals traded one of the few regular starters who wasn’t under performing especially when you compare their season averages to their career averages. I mean most analysts agreed that this deal weakened the Cardinals when they needed to make improvements, not lateral moves if the Cardinals were going to push for a championship this year. The problem lies in the fact that they had two much cheaper alternatives who had proven they were ready for the Show, but needed the at bats. Hence the reason that Ludwick became available. Now, at the time Jon Jay was hitting around .400, and no one really expect his batting average to stay that high, but it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility for him to bat between .300-.330 over the rest of this season, after all his minor league track record would indicate. Early detractors were quick to point out that Ludwick’s power would be gone, but again there is a cheaper alternative in Allen Craig who has mashed, and that might be putting it mildly, AAA pitching and is ready to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Notice the underlying theme there? Finances are a large part of this deal regardless of what the Cardinals management tells the media. Ludwick was set to make around 8 million in arbitration this winter, and that was deemed to big of a luxury with Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter’s deals on the books as well a future extension for Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright. Why pay a guy whose not part of your future core the big bucks? Especially when you have two guys, who over the course of a full season, will likely replace what Ludwick brought to your lineup, not to mention help the Cardinals ease off their dependencies of the long ball. That extra 7 million or so could go a long way towards finding another starting pitcher for next year, or even looking to upgrade the middle infield if that is how Mo sees fit. No matter what Mozeliak says to save face on this deal, this was largely put into motion by the future financial savings without jeopardizing this year’s team. And thus far it has proven to be a good deal.

After seeing Jake Westbrook finally get his first win tonight and watching him in his first few starts as a Cardinal, it’s safe to say that he was probably the best pitcher the Cardinals could have picked up before the deadline, not named Roy Oswalt.

The Third Base Conundrum

As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, but David Freese’s season is over. So that leaves the Cardinals scrambling for a third base option to put there for the rest of the season, and potentially even next season if David Freese has complications with the surgery or rehabilitation.

The Cardinals really lack any interior alternatives as Matt Carpenter has been hitting the ball extremely well, but he’s probably not ready for the big leagues. Joe Mather has played very limited at third base, so it’d be unwise to force Mather to play third where defense is of the upmost importance. While Felipe Lopez has generally been an above-average third baseman defensively (career 4.7 UZR/150), he’s having a rather awful year defensively at -2.1 UZR/150. So the Cardinals will likely have to look to the waiver wire to find a suitable replacement for David Freese.

Mike Lowell has been the guy most talked about during the days leading up to the trade deadline, but as it went Mike Lowell remained in a Red Sox uniform. But with the recent injury to Kevin Youkilis, many think that he’s not going anywhere any time soon. And to a certain point I’d agree, I don’t think the Red Sox will move him unless the other team picks up Lowell’s complete salary, something in the ball park four to five million left on his contract. The only way that happens if someone makes a waiver claim on him, something I have a hard time fathoming the Cardinals doing. Add insult to injury, and he’s been getting significantly worse 2007, going from 5.2 WAR in ’07 to just 1.1 WAR last year. And Lowell went from being an above average defensive third baseman in ’07 (6.4 UZR/150) to what he has become these past two years (-14.4 UZR/150 in ’09). Pedro Feliz is moving in a direction much the same way as Mike Lowell, just not as big of a price tag like Mike Lowell.

Melvin Mora is a name that could be thrown around if the Rockies fall out of the race. He’s still at least a league average bat, and his 0.4 WAR would likely be an upgrade over forcing Aaron Miles and Felipe Lopez to platoon the position. Defensively, no one will confuse him with Scott Rolen, but he’s only a slightly below average defensive third baseman with his -1.7 UZR/150 this year at third base. Add on the fact that he’s got less than a million left on his contract for the season, and he might just be the best possible pick up for the Cardinals.

Andy LaRoche is another guy whose name has come up recently, but considering he is still a young player, the Pirates aren’t going to just give him up unless they feel Pedro Alvarez’s long term position is third base. LaRoche’s power seems to have dissipated, as his his ISO in ’06 was .288 in 230 plate appearances to just .076 this year in 233 plate appearances. And while he’s been a pretty bad defensive third baseman, he’s considered to be at least average defensively. He was once the Dodgers second best prospect according to Baseball America, but he’s fallen on hard times. A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for his career.

While the option at third base seem to be thin, the Cardinals seem to need to find a stable solution at third base if they wish to even make the playoffs, let alone contend for a championship. Knowing the Cardinals track record, they’ll platoon veterans like Felipe Lopez and Aaron Miles, but I feel that this will be the downfall of the Cardinals.

Introductions

Pardon my lack of manners for not making this my first entry.

My name is Matt and I’m a 20 year old Cardinals fan. I’ve been a Cardinals fan since the late 90s or early 2000s. I live in Cardinal Nation (not going to tell you where for privacy reasons), so I get plenty of Cardinals games over the course of the season, and try and watch at least part of every game if I’m not working or doing something else of importance.

I’m also a Los Angeles Lakers and Green Bay Packers fan. You’ll find me at many Lakers, Packers, or Cardinals site. At STL Today, Future Redbirds, Lakersground.net, RealGM, or a few others, I go by Karmaloop. However, if you go to Football’s Future, I go by CWood21.

Just a few ground rules I need to put down first. Love some feedback, anything from your thoughts on the topic or other topics of discussion. Secondly, argue about the topic not about each other. Thirdly, I don’t mind linking to other forums, but don’t go promoting your blog/forum until you have contacted me in someway.

If you need to contact me, feel free to go on one of those sites to PM me OR you can e-mail me at karmaloop1234@yahoo.com

As always, thanks for reading Karmaloop’s BOTB Blog.

The Cardinals 2010 Draft

The Cardinals 2010 Draft will forever be linked to what happens with Zack Cox, and possibly even more importantly Austin Wilson. While definitely not a safe bet to sign one of them, let alone both of them, recent recommitment to rebuilding the Cardinals barren farm system by the Cardinals management has left many Cardinals fans with optimistic hope that both of them will be signed before the deadline of August 15th. While the odds of signing both of them are likely too great to overcome, I’m becoming fearful that neither one will end up signing with them. While I do feel that no news is good news with Wilson, I’m hearing that Zack Cox is still sitting on his price tag that dropped him in the draft in June. Not only would that be a franchise record for largest signing bonus, it would obliterate the record given to J.D. Drew, something that I can’t fathom the cash conscious Cardinals doing. If that’s the case, we’re going to see the Cardinals with two first round picks before we even take into account free agents being offered and declining arbitration.

But what’s so great about Zack Cox? Well, he was considered by a lot of draft experts to be the safest bat in this year’s draft, a guy that would have no problem sticking in the big leagues. Now I know some will shudder at safe picks because of Pete Kozma, but the similarities aren’t even close. Kozma was average to above average across the board, where as Cox is above-average to really good across the board. His best tool, his hitting, is beyond Kozma’s level. The problem lies within in his reinvented swing. His freshman year, he was an all pop, no contact hitter. But after that season, he refined his swing and became an all contract, little power hitter. That therein is the problem that has plagued scouts, can he put the two together in order to become the complete hitter. That combined with his reported bonus demands caused what many thought was a safe bet to be a top ten pick to slide to the Cardinals at 25. Now the question facing the Cardinals, is it worth giving Zack Cox a franchise record deal for a guy whose shown both tools, but hasn’t been able to put it together OR should they just pass on him all together, and pick up an extra pick next year instead? It remains to be seen which was the Cardinals are leaning, but we should know more the few days leading up the draft?

The other big fish, and probably the best prep positional player outside of Bryce Harper (some will argue Machado is there, but I’m not a big believer in him), Austin Wilson was the 12th round pick of the Cardinals. Considered a first round talent by most draft analysis, he slipped in the draft before the Cardinals took a flier on him in the twelfth round. Already possessing a great arm for a right fielder, his power potential is shown on display during batting practice. His contact hitting isn’t there yet, but he’s young enough to get better at it. The bigger issue is from his defense, that right now he gets by purely on his athleticism. And that’s to be expected out of high school prospects. Get him into the system and he’ll learn to read balls of the bats and take the appropriate route to the ball. While his ETA might not be as soon as Cox’s would be, he’s a better bet to be an impact player in the future and would fit in well in RF next to Colby Rasmus who should still be in CF. A future outfield of Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, and Austin Wilson would be a pretty good defensive outfield, and a productive one at the plate. Now, that is all fine and dandy, but we need to sign him first, which is an obstacle to overcome. He has been a really strong commitment to Stanford, and shown absolutely no indication yet that he doesn’t intend on honoring that commitment; however, his recent recruiting trip to St. Louis has definitely been promising towards the Cardinals efforts. Either way, no Cardinals fans can honestly say that Mozeliak hasn’t put forth a strong effort to sign a kid 32 GMs considered unsignable through the first eleven rounds.

Regardless of whether or not these two picks sign, the Cardinals draft will be forever linked to two these players whether they go on a professional career later with a different team or if they end up signing here. With Cox’s demands seeming to not have fallen, he’ll either have to lower his demands or return to Arkansas because it would be foolish for the Cardinals to offer him more than Brett Wallace, a superior prospect. As for Wilson, I’d prefer they sign him, but I understand that if Wilson wants to go to Stanford, I wish him nothing but the best.

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