All posts by Blake Newberry

St. Louis Cardinals 2020-2021 Winter League Pitching Recap

This report recaps the results of the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitchers across the various winter leagues. Our Pitcher of the Winter is Carlos Martinez, who won the Dominican Winter League and the Caribbean Series with Aguilas. Other impressive performances came from Genesis Cabrera, who did not allow a single hit all winter, Angel Rondon, who also pitched for Aguilas, and 18-year-old Omar Sanchez.

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St. Louis Cardinals 2020-2021 Winter League Hitters Recap

Photo: Dennis Ortega (IVC Network) 11 members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization played in various Winter Leagues around the world. Six are catchers and the other five are infielders. The Hitter of the Winter was Dennis Ortega, who posted an OPS over 1.000 while playing as his team’s starting catcher. Ortega  finished seventh in…

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St. Louis Cardinals Sign Depth Outfielder Matt Szczur

Photo: Matt Szczur (Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

On Saturday, it was disclosed that the St. Louis Cardinals have signed Matt Szczur to a minor league deal with an invitation to  major league spring training camp.

The 31-year-old outfielder spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Cubs and the Padres. However, he has not made an appearance at the MLB level since 2018.

In 2019, Szczur played in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization and slashed .322/.390/.577/.967 in Triple-A. Then, he signed a minor league deal with the Phillies in 2020 but failed to win an MLB job during the summer camp and at its conclusion, was given his release.

Despite his success in Triple-A in 2019, Szczur has not had good results at the MLB level, as evidenced by his career slash line of just .231/.312/.355/.667. However, Szczur has experience playing all three outfield positions. He will provide the Cardinals with a veteran organizational presence behind their group of young outfielders, six of whom are already on the 40-man roster vying to open the season with St. Louis.

The right-handed hitter does not have much power in his bat, but he does have a solid career 9.7% walk rate to go with a 19.9% strikeout rate. Additionally, nearly 60% of the pitches he has hit into play have gone up the middle or to the opposite field.

Matt Szczur

Due to this, it appears that Szczur may be able to add some value to the Cardinals by taking walks, avoiding strikeouts, and slapping singles to the opposite field.

It does not appear that Szczur will be much more than a depth piece, since the Cardinals were willing to trade Dexter Fowler, in part, to open playing time for the young outfielders on the team. Because of this, if Szczur gets playing time, it will likely be due to injuries or under-performance from the team’s young outfielders. More than likely, he will end up at Triple-A Memphis.

While Szczur may only be a depth acquisition, he does have an interesting history. The 31-year-old was a two-sport athlete at Villanova University where he also played football. In his football career, Szczur played a variety of positions, including quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, out of the wildcat, while also contributing on special teams. His versatile skill set helped Villanova win the FCS National Championship in 2009.

Additionally, Szczur is  an artist who makes and sells his own art. Examples of his work can be found at his website here.


For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


2021 Prospect Guide Now Available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Acquire Catching Prospect Ali Sanchez from the Mets

Photo: Ali Sanchez (Getty Images)

After Ali Sanchez was designated for assignment by the New York Mets Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Friday their acquisition of the catching prospect in exchange for cash considerations.

Sanchez was originally signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in July of 2013. He received a $690,000 signing bonus and began his professional career the following summer. The catcher got off to a strong start as he slashed .303/.406/.394/.800 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League.

However, after coming stateside, Sanchez showed his limitations as a hitter. The right-handed hitter has not tallied a wRC+ above 100 (league average) since leaving rookie-level ball. Much of this is due to his lack of power as he has hit just 11 home runs in six minor league seasons.

Ali Sanchez

However, even though Sanchez does not have much power in his bat, he has a solid overall hit tool. The 24-year-old batted .265 between Single-A and A-Advanced in 2018 before hitting .278 in Double-A in 2019.

Sanchez struggled at the plate upon receiving a promotion to Triple-A, as he posted an OPS of just .527. Despite this, he rebounded in the Arizona Fall League after the 2019 season, slashing .262/.347/.310/.656. This was also an improvement on the .401 OPS that he posted in the AFL in 2018.

Additionally, Sanchez has shown an ability to limit strikeouts as he has posted strikeout rates of 17.7% in Double-A and 16.9% in Triple-A. Further, his 2018 strikeout rate was around 11% across the two full season Single-A levels.

This is due in part to Sanchez’s swing mechanics. The Venezuelan has a small stride and a small load, and this limited pre-pitch movement helps him stay in control of his body. This allows him find his timing more easily and make more consistent contact, even if he does sacrifice some power.

To go with this ability to avoid strikeouts, Sanchez also has a decent proficiency in drawing walks. This is a relatively new development for the backstop as his walk rates typically hovered around 5-6% for much of his minor league career before ticking up to 7.8% in 2019.

Even though Sanchez has shown a decent hit tool and solid plate discipline, he still has a relatively limited offensive profile. His production at the plate will largely be carried by his on-base percentage, as he does not have much power to speak of. However, an OPS of around .650 could be enough to keep him at the big-league level considering his defensive prowess.

According to Baseball America, Sanchez has been the top defensive catcher in the Mets organization since 2018, and due to this, he was ranked as the Mets 27th best prospect for the 2020 season. What really stands out is Sanchez’s arm, as he threw out 44% of base stealers in 2019. This was no fluke either, as Sanchez has consistently thrown out a high percentage of base stealers in his career, including throwing them out at a 57% rate in the 2019 AFL.

This success is due to solid arm strength, but also quick exchange and great accuracy. Additionally, Sanchez has received high marks for his ability to call a game and block balls in the dirt, as well as his framing of pitches. This combination of defensive skills should make Sanchez a favorite with Cardinals pitchers.

The Venezuelan made his MLB debut in 2020 as he spent much of the year alternating between New York and the Mets alternate site. Sanchez received just 10 MLB plate appearances, tallying a hit and a walk while striking out three times.

In the offseason, the Mets added Sanchez to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. However, the club needed to make room on the roster after other recent moves, and they ultimately decided to remove Sanchez by designating him for assignment.

This acquisition by the Cardinals allows them to add another upper level catcher to the Spring Training roster. Sanchez will likely compete with 29-year-old minor league signing Tyler Heineman for duties as the third catcher on the depth chart, behind Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner. With the big league taxi squad likely returning in 2021, all three backstops could travel with St. Louis with the fourth assigned to Memphis.

With the addition of Sanchez, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster now is at 39 players.


For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


2021 Prospect Guide Now Available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – February 9

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Carlos Martinez is our pitcher of the week after tossing another gem for the Caribbean Series champions, while Australian catcher Jake Burns has heated up heading into the ABL playoffs. Also included are video highlights of the Caribbean Series, including a pair of flashy plays from Evan Mendoza.

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St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – February 2

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Carlos Martinez is our Pitcher of the Week after a strong performance for the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series, while Yadier Molina is our Hitter of the Week after crushing a two-run home run for Puerto RIco. Also included is a scouting report of Martinez’s start, information on Mendoza’s season in Colombia, and plenty of video highlights.

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St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – January 19

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Yadier Molina is the hitter of the week after a strong debut in Puerto Rico, while Omar Sanchez is the pitcher of the week following his five inning, one run performance for RA12. Also included in this report are highlights of Carlos Martinez’s and Yadier Molina’s pitching performances.

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