2022 Florida Complex League Cardinals Team Review

photo: Florida Complex Cardinals manager Roberto Espinoza (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

On one hand, it was more of the same as the Florida Complex League Cardinals finished in fifth place for the third consecutive season. Further, the 2022 rookie-level Cards ended 7 1/2 games out of first place, same as in 2021.

On the other hand, the expansion of the East Division to six teams for 2022 meant the Cards escaped the division cellar. (The Astros added a second club this season with its Blue squad taking over the final spot in the standings.)

The 2022 Cardinals club’s .463 winning percentage (25-29 record) was its best since the record-.714 rookie-level club in 2018. This summer’s Cards finished just below .500 at home (12-15) and away (13-14).

The Cardinals were 7-9 in June and 8-12 in July but finished stronger, going 10-8 in August.

Pitching was the 2022 team’s strength, as evidenced by their run differential of -41 for the season (213 scored vs. 254 allowed). Across the Cardinals system, only High-A Peoria had a larger gap between the offense and pitching.

Offense

Primarily staffed by graduates from the Cardinals Dominican academy and augmented by more experienced hitters sent down from Class-A Palm Beach, the Cards were the fifth-youngest offense in the 16-team FCL at an average age of 19.2 years.

Statistically, the 2022 Cardinals offense, coached by former St. Louis outfielder Bernard Gilkey, was dismal.

The Cardinals were dead last in the league in all four slash stats – batting average (.196), on-base (.304), slugging (.301) and OPS (.605). However, thanks to the presence of the Astros Blue, the Cards were “only” 15th in runs scored per game (3.94).

The FCL Cards were tied for ninth with 66 steals but were caught 29 times for a success rate of 69.5%.

Pitching

Cardinals pitching was also fifth-youngest in the FCL, but with a much different result.  Led by pitching coach Rick Harig, their aggregate 3.92 ERA was sixth lowest. They were seventh of 16 in strikeouts and tied for the seventh fewest walks issued. Not surprisingly, they were also seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.39). They yielded the fifth-most hits and hit the most batters (60, or more than one per game).

Defense

Like the hitting, the 2022 Cardinals defense was the league’s worst – at least in terms of errors (95) and collective .950 fielding percentage. On a more positive note, the catchers tied for third best in the FCL with a 34% caught stealing rate (32 of 93).

Large roster

With a roster that was often more than 40 players in number, manager Roberto Espinoza had to be challenged in getting everyone regular action. 59 different individuals took the field for the 2022 FCL Cardinals – 30 pitchers and 29 position players.

That included a handful of rehabbers from above, including pitchers Ljay Newsome (Memphis), Griffin Roberts and Johan Quezada (Springfield) and Ian Bedell (Peoria) plus outfielders Patrick Romeri and Ryan Holgate (Palm Beach).

New draftees scarce

Partially because every one of the 19 players signed from the July 2022 draft were collegians, there was not a major influx of talent mid-season. Further, no in-season promotions from the Dominican Summer League occurred, a first in recent years.

All seven position players drafted by the Cardinals this July plus the lone non-drafted free agent signee opened their professional careers at Low-A Palm Beach instead of the FCL. That meant no needed in-season boost of offense came from the outside.

On the pitching side, only four of the 12 2022-drafted and signed pitchers appeared in official FCL game action with the rest working out in Jupiter. None of the four pitched extensively, totaling just seven innings over seven appearances.

Tanner Jacobson

Two of the four newly signed hurlers, right-handers Tanner Jacobson (10th) and D.J. Carpenter (14th),  opened in the FCL and finished the season with Palm Beach, though Carpenter was  placed on the injured list then moved back to the FCL at season’s end.

Key promotions/demotions

As development is the most important priority at this level, reviewing player movement can be illustrative. Almost all were shuffles were made with the next level up, Low-A Palm Beach, which is located in the same Jupiter complex. The Beach Birds had to work within a roster limit, while the FCL is more flexible.

Trejyn Fletcher

Perhaps the most disappointing moves were the demotions of former prospect outfielders Trejyn Fletcher, Ryan Holgate and Jhon Torres. The Cardinals futures of all three are cloudy.

June

  • Catcher Jake Burns was promoted from the FCL to Palm Beach as catcher Carlos Linarez went down.
  • Right-handed reliever Chris Holba moved up to Palm Beach.

July

  • Outfielder Trejyn Fletcher and infielder Brandon Hernandez were sent down from Palm Beach.
  • Infielder Lizandro Espinoza, left-handed pitcher Diorys Guerrero and right-handed pitchers Hancel Rincon and Yonael Dominguez were promoted to Palm Beach.

Hancel Rincon

August

  • Espinoza, outfielders Adanson Cruz, Jhon Torres and Ryan Holgate and right-handed pitcher Guerrero were sent down from Palm Beach to the FCL.
  • Right-handed pitchers Jose Davila, Ludwin Jimenez and Angel Cuenca (the latter two were later returned to FCL), left-handed pitcher Omar Sanchez (later returned) and catcher Jose Zapata (later returned) were promoted from the FCL to Palm Beach. (In other words, of this group, only Davila stuck with the Class-A club.)

Jose Davila

  • Shortstop Albert Inoa and outfielder Hansel Otamendi were released.
  • Four right-handed pitcher draft picks were activated: Jacobson (10th round), Chandler Arnold (13th), Carpenter (14th), Hunter Hayes (16th). Jacobson and Carpenter were later promoted to Palm Beach.

September

With the FCL season over, September moves were more about needed roster adjustments for the Class-A teams, which continued to play into the month.

  • Right-handed pitcher Ian Bedell was sent down from Peoria to the FCL.
  • Espinoza and Linarez were promoted to Palm Beach again.
  • Outfielder Won-Bin Cho was promoted to Palm Beach.

Won-Bin Cho

  • Right-handed pitchers D.J. Carpenter and Jose Moreno and lefty Hayes Heinecke moved from Palm Beach 7-day IL to the FCL.

Update

One cloud has been cleared up. On Tuesday, September 20, just a few hours after this article was published, Torres was given his release by the Cardinals organization.

Jhon Torres

What is next?

Much more detail on the FCL Cardinals’ top hitters, relievers and starting pitchers is coming as we select the best of the best in upcoming articles in this series.

Check out The Cardinal Nation’s annual article series highlighting team results and top hitters and pitchers across the entire St. Louis Cardinals system. The Palm Beach Cardinals Team Review is next up.

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