All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 2019 Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation has published annual rankings of the top prospects across the St. Louis Cardinals system since 2006.

Once again here in 2019, we have compiled all of these reports and much more into a new 190-page book – The Cardinal Nation 2019 Prospect Guide.

The core of this new 190-page Guide is in-depth profiles on all players on the top 50 prospect list, with each player write-up new for 2019. Individual profiles include 2018 stats, photos, scouting reports, probable 2019 team assignment, ultimate potential and more.

In addition to the all-new player write-ups and dozens of additional photos, new sections for 2019 include top statistical performers last season, team records/standings, sourcing of the top 50, organizational Pitchers and Players of the Year and George Kissell Award history, both going back several decades.

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Cardinals Make Roster Changes on Thursday Day Off

photo: Lane Thomas (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

St. Louis Cardinals announcement

Apparently, when the St. Louis Cardinals team has a day off, as they do on Thursday, May 23, so do the people who write their press releases. Instead of using the traditional method to announce roster changes, the club took to Twitter.

(In the above, Thomas is on the left and Helsley is on the right. In between is John Gant.)


Brian Walton’s take

As noted, when Tuesday’s rainout created a Wednesday twin-bill at Busch Stadium, the two teams were allowed to add a 26th player for the second game. Moving ahead, the Cardinals decided to keep another position player in Thomas and drop a pitcher. This returns the bench balance to five hitters and seven relief pitchers.


Helsley ramifications

Helsley, The Cardinal Nation’s fifth-ranked prospect, had been recalled from Memphis for the second time this season and in his career last Friday, May 17. This time up, the 24-year old right-hander pitched just once.

In 1 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the Wednesday double-header vs. the Royals, Helsley allowed a run on one hit and two walks. He struck out three.  In four MLB appearances overall, his rookie-year ERA is 3.38.

Helsley is likely to return to a long relief role for the Triple-A Redbirds. Though St. Louis may need starting help, it appears others will be considered and Helsley will remain in the bullpen – at least for 2019.


Thomas ramifications

Thomas, who holds the next rung on the TCN top 50 after Helsley, sixth, was previously with St. Louis from April 16-27. Last week, I had speculated that because of his consistency, the center fielder might receive the next call when St. Louis needed another outfielder over Tyler O’Neill – and that is what occurred.

In all fairness, what O’Neill needs most is to get regular at-bats, which will only occur with Memphis. With a potential opening in left field in 2020, the Cardinals need to decide if O’Neill will be the man for the job. So far, his major league time has been marked by home runs and strikeouts.

In Wednesday’s nightcap, Thomas played in right field as a defensive replacement for Dexter Fowler for the final two innings of St. Louis’ 10-3 win, but did not make a plate appearance. In his prior stint in the bigs, the right-handed hitter went 4-for-10, including a home run and four RBI.

In 35 games with Memphis this season, Thomas has a slash line of .271/.376/.407/.783. He has 15 RBI, 19 runs scored and is a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts for the Redbirds. As the fifth outfielder, Thomas’ starts with St. Louis should be few and far between, but defensive replacements for the corners are clearly welcome.

Alex Reyes (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Reyes ramifications

Having been optioned by St. Louis to the minors, the 24-year old Reyes had been placed on Memphis’ injured list on April 28 after punching a wall in frustration, fracturing his left (non-throwing) pinkie finger.

The nuance of Reyes’ transaction is this: Though he remains on St. Louis’ 40-man roster, there are no rehab assignments for minor leaguers, so his option was simply transferred from Memphis to Palm Beach. The Beach Birds’ roster had been kept at 24 players for the last few days. Now we know why.

The right-hander was already in Florida, having been sent to the Cardinals rehab complex to continue to throw on a consistent schedule. Reyes made his regular bullpen sessions between “starts”, when he pitched from a mound, but from behind a protective screen. In this side session, under the watchful eye of trainers and as measured by Trackman, he wore a glove, but was not allowed to catch return throws to protect his healing hand.

Alex Reyes bullpen session (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Alex Reyes’ left hand (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As the side photo indicates, Reyes had been wearing a Velcro immobilizing splint on his left hand. He last pitched for the Triple-A Redbirds on April 25 – exactly four weeks from today.

In addition to nearby Palm Beach’s Thursday road trip opener, another benefit of pitching for the high-A Cardinals initially is to keep Reyes from risking further injury by having to hit.  As an affiliate of the American League Rays, his Thursday opponent, the Charlotte Stone Crabs deploys the designated hitter.

The rate and pace to bring Reyes back to Memphis (and eventually St. Louis) is to be determined.

Update


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters 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.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

The Cardinal Nation Prospect Interview – Palm Beach’s Perry DellaValle


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Add Martinez and Helsley, Cut Gregerson and Leone

photo: Carlos Martinez (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s (Friday, May 17) series opener against the Texas Rangers, that they have activated right-handed pitcher Carlos Martínez from the 10-day Injured List and recalled rookie right-handed pitcher Ryan Helsley from Memphis (AAA).  The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Luke Gregerson has been designated for assignment and right-handed pitcher Dominic Leone has been optioned to Memphis (AAA).

Carlos Martinez (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Martínez, 27, has been on the Injured List all season (right shoulder cuff strain) and recently completed an injury rehabilitation assignment that included five relief appearances that totaled 6.2 innings between Peoria (A), Memphis (AAA) and Springfield (AA).   He allowed one run on five hits, walked four and struck out six.

Martínez, 54-38, 3.37 ERA career, made 15 relief appearances at the end of last season, going 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA (18.1 IP), five saves and 19 strikeouts.  He pitched multiple innings in five of the 15 relief outings.

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Helsley, 24, will be making his second stint with the Cardinals, after having been previously recalled on April 16.  The 6-2, 230-pound Oklahoma native made three relief appearances with the Cardinals, totaling 6.1 innings pitched with just three hits allowed and seven strikeouts for a 2.84 ERA.  Each of his three appearances, including his Major League debut on April 16, were of two innings or more.

Since returning to Memphis following an option an April 29, Helsley has appeared in five games (including one start) and has gone 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA (10.2 IP/4 ER), striking out 12.   He was unscored upon in his four relief outings, covering 8.1 innings pitched, including 1.2 innings last night at San Antonio.

Leone, 27, appeared in 20 games for St. Louis this season, going 0-0 with a 8.02 ERA (21.1 IP) and 27 strikeouts.

Gregerson, 35, began the 2019 season on the Injured List and appeared in six games, allowing five runs, following his return to the active roster on May 4.  He’s 35-36, 3.15 ERA and 66 saves in 646 career games pitched.

Martínez wears uniform no. 18 and Helsley wears uniform no. 56.


Brian Walton’s take

Dominic Leone (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Two of the big hopes to rejuvenate the 2018 bullpen are removed from the roster the same day.

Leone, acquired from Toronto as the cornerstone of the Randal Grichuk trade in January 2018, was thought of as a potential closer candidate at the time, but struggled with injury last season. He began 2019 strongly, but was knocked around in his recent outings. Leone has one minor league option year remaining.

(Interestingly, the other player acquired in the Grichuk deal, Conner Greene, is starting against the Double-A Springfield Cardinals for Northwest Arkansas (KC) on Saturday evening. He was lost in a waiver claim last November.)

Luke Gregerson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

While some are concerned about the money sunk in Gregerson’s contract, to me that is not the big issue. Instead, he had to be pitched in major league games, 23 of them to be precise, during which the team went 8-15.

To be fair, he had not earned higher leverage opportunities, but how could he be counted upon in pressure situations? This season, Gregerson yielded runs in three of six outings since a very long minor league rehab tour that took the entire allowable month, basically during April. Certainly, he had more than enough time to get ready.

On the money side, the total contract commitment by St. Louis to Gregerson is $11 million – $5 million each for 2018 and 2019 and $1 million to buy out the club’s 2020 option.

Some may think the Cardinals will be cutting their ties with the man they initially suggested would be their 2018 closer by releasing him, but that contract commitment may continue to be the primary reason Gregerson remains with the Cardinals organization.

Because his contract would follow him on waivers, he isn’t going to be claimed if placed there and probably they Cardinals cannot get anything for him in trade. If he opts for free agency rather than accept a minor league outright, which would be his right, he would forfeit the remainder of his contract money due.  Instead, he may swallow his pride and join Chasen Shreve in Memphis to keep the paycheck coming and try to earn his way back up to St. Louis.

A side point is that for the first time in months, St. Louis’ 40-man roster is below the maximum. This is because a DFA’ed player is removed from the roster immediately and during the seven day period the team is allowed to decide his future (trade, release, outright).

(From TCN’s Paul Ivice: Gregerson’s average two-seamer in 86.4 mph, compared with the MLB average of 92.6, per MLB.com.

Gregerson’s spin rate of 2,177 rpm is close to the 2,204 MLB average, but if you aren’t throwing hard, you must have pinpoint location, and the 90.3 average exit velocity on Gregerson’s two-seamers, compared with 89.0 league average, indicates his pitches are much too hittable.)

Martinez’ rehab stint, which began in Peoria, then to Memphis, and to Springfield, has been well documented. There have been too many walks – four plus two hit batters in 6 2/3 innings – but it remains to be seen if that was just rust.

His situation for the second consecutive year remains a curiosity. Martinez is comfortable pitching in relief, but not starting. He is being paid for and expected to perform in the latter role, but there have bee questions about his preparation and readiness to pitch.

Instead of rejoining the rotation – because of his shoulder situation, coupled with Jordan Hicks’ growth into the closer job – it appears that Martinez will become one of MLB’s most highly-paid set up men at $11.5 million per season. His contract commitment runs through 2021 plus two option years that can be bought out.

Helsley, The Cardinal Nation’s sixth-ranked prospect in April, has been working in long relief for Memphis since his MLB debut earlier this season. Perhaps it could change in 2020, but for now at least, his role seems to be in relief.


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters 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.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Peoria’s Schlesener Returns to Extended Spring Training


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/16/19

Brian Walton’s Thursday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida including Jose Oquendo and Alex Reyes updates, game highlights, photos and more! The Player of the Day is outfielder Joerlin De Los Santos, who had a hand in all four White runs.

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Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/14/19

News flash: Suspended #stlcards minors RHP Griffin Roberts is too good for extended spring training, logging 5 2/3 dominant scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. Out Tuesday EST report includes a Brett Cecil sighting, game highlights, photos and more!

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Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/13/19

Brian Walton’s Monday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida including an Alex Reyes update, game highlights, photos and more! My Player of the Day is lefty Colin Schmid, who fanned five of six batters faced.

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No Reason for Cards Fans to Give Cubs the High Ground

photo: Taylor Davis and Matt Carpenter (Quinn Harris/Imagn)

After the St. Louis Cardinals dropped the first two meetings of 2019 with their long-time rivals, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday and Saturday, a segment of the Cardinals’ fan base seemed defeated, as well.

Take these two typical examples, which I encountered in my travels Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

  • “The Cardinals can’t win at Wrigley.” – TCN forum member

  • “The Cubs still own the Cards head-to-head.” – Facebook commenter

Granted, the Cardinals are coming off three straight non-playoff seasons, but the Cubs’ fortunes have trended downward since their 2016 World Championship, as well.

My view of the surroundings leads me to conclude that these fans should not be conceding superiority to the Baby Bruins.

While the Cubs took the upper hand starting with the fateful 2015 League Division Series epitomized by Kyle Schwarber vs. Kevin Siegrist, the Cardinals have made progress since.

Mike Shildt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Few seem to recall that just last season, St. Louis actually held a 10-9 season advantage over Chicago. Not surprisingly, each team established an edge at home. The Cubs were 6-4 at Wrigley and the Cards were 6-3 at Busch.

For those more negative Cardinals fans who cite results further back in time as evidence of the current team’s limitations, I ask you to step back and consider the huge changes to the team just since 2017.

This starts with three-fifths of the current rotation plus the closer, none of whom were yet with the club. Add to that Cubs-killer Paul Goldschmidt and a new manager among others, and it is clear the Cardinals of 2019 do not greatly resemble the team of just two seasons ago, let alone 2015.

One regular on TCN’s message boards sees a shortage of motivation. He believes the Cardinals have not aggressively targeted their head-to-head matchups with Chicago.

Wrote the poster:

“Maddon made beating Cardinals in St Louis a priority for the Cubs when he took the helm. He told his team that the Division belonged to the Cardinals until they could beat the Cards at home. I think Shildt needs to make a similar point of emphasis to his team.”

In my view, what this fan really wants is to be assured himself by Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. As noted above, the Cardinals of 2018 already established a significant advantage over the Cubs at home – and the two clubs have yet to meet at Busch in 2019.

Joe Maddon (Joe Camporeale/Imagn)

Back when Maddon took over the Cubs in 2015, he had to overcome decades of frustration and disappointment – a very different place from where the Cardinals are today. Further, he is a master at managing the media, though the brass above may be less impressed, as they are letting Maddon manage without a contract for 2020.

For all we know, Shildt may be circling the Cubs dates on his calendar, as well. For example, his getaway day lineup in Washington, in which he rested three starters the afternoon before the Cubs opener, suggested just that.

But whatever Shildt is saying to his team behind closed doors is far more important than what he is telling the media (and fans). All indications are that the manager is highly respected by the players for his open communications. As a result, I highly doubt the Cardinals lack adequate motivation when they face the Cubs.

A few more wins against Chicago should remind uneasy Cardinals fans that these two clubs are very competitive and are likely going to fight through all 19 games this season. Their next head-to-head set will be at Busch on May 31-June 2, with another matchup the following weekend in Chicago.

In the meantime, lose that inferiority complex. It is unwarranted.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Promote Top April Minor League Pitchers

photo: Johan Oviedo (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Anyone reading The Cardinal Nation in recent days is aware of the strong Aprils put together by Tommy Parsons and Johan Oviedo. The former is The Cardinal Nation’s April Pitcher of the Month and the latter is the Cardinals organization’s choice for the equivalent honor.

If you missed it, check out the full details in the following articles.

Parsons Named The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of the Month

Cardinals Name Oviedo, Toerner their Top Players in April

Franyel Casadilla (Peoria Chiefs)

On Saturday, both pitchers were promoted. Coming from Class-A Peoria, Parsons should step into the high-A Beach Birds’ rotation, replacing Oviedo, and Oviedo will join the starting five at Double-A Springfield, likely starting on Sunday. The latter promotion was first reported by The Cardinal Nation’s Derek Shore.

At Peoria, right-hander Franyel Casadilla has been activated from the injured list to take Parsons’ spot. The 22-year old native of Venezuela will be making his 2019 debut. Casadilla’s three-start Peoria introduction in 2018 was bumpy, with 16 earned runs scored against him in 12 innings.

The player leaving the Springfield active roster to accommodate Oviedo’s arrival will be highlighted here when it is announced.


Casey Meisner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Update: Cardinals Release Casey Meisner

The transaction to make room for Oviedo at Springfield is the release of right-handed pitcher Casey Meisner. The 23-year old opened the season in the Double-A Cardinals bullpen before making four starts.

Meisner allowed multiple runs in all six outings in 2019, culminating in a 9.78 ERA – 8.31 in relief and 10.20 as a starter. Texas League hitters batted a collective .367 against him.

Meisner was acquired by St. Louis from Oakland at the end of spring training 2018 in return for reliever Josh Lucas. Last season, the 6-foot-7 hurler posted a 3.62 ERA in 22 appearances, 21 starts, between Palm Beach and Springfield.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.