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Top Prospect Alert

Rick Ankiel -- By Robert Sherry

After being a second round pick in 1997 out of High School,Rick Ankiel's fast rise through the minors is about to climax when he takes the mound on Tuesday in Montreal against the Expos.He will be replacing the recently demoted Jose Jimenez on the Cardinals roster.

After being passed on by teams in the first round of the 1997 because of potential signing problems,the Cardinals took the chance by  selecting him and then signing him for $2.5 million.Rick has done nothing to disappoint. In 1998, Rick dominated at both Peoria and Prince William. At Peoria,the 19 year old was 3-0, 2.06 ERA,while recording 41 K's and walking just 12 in 35 innings. Upon his promotion to Prince William,his mastery over hitters continued while rolling up a 9-6 with a 2.79 ERA. The most impressive numbers were 181 K's in 126 innings while walking 38 and allowing 91 hits.

A native of Port St. Lucie,FL standing at 6'1",210 lbs has a 95 MPH fastball to go with an exceptional curve and change. This lefty has the potential not to just be the #1 starter on the Cardinals staff but, with continued development, to be one of the most dominating pitchers in all of Baseball.

Starting this season, the Cardinals fought off temptation to bring him right to the Majors out of Spring Training, instead, decided on sending Rick to Double-A Arkansas. The Texas League proved to be no match for him as he posted a 6-0 record with a microscopic 0.91 ERA,all the while recording 75 K's in just 49 innings,giving up only 25 hits and just 16 walks. In May,the Cardinals decide to promote Ankiel to Triple-A Memphis in the PCL. In 16 starts there. Rick compiled a 7-3 record with a 3.16 ERA,while continuing to striking out well over a batter per (inning 119 K's in 88 1/3 innings) This recently turned 20 year old showed all season long why he is the top power pitching prospect in Baseball. Already having won numerous awards including Midwest and Florida St. League's best pitching prospect in 1998 and recently was selected by "Baseball America" as the top pitching prospect in the Pacific Coast League. It is quite possible Rick Ankiel will continue to pile up awards well into the next century.


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