All posts by Brian Walton

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

The Cardinal Nation’s 2020 Prospect Guide is Now Available!

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

Once again here in 2020, we have compiled all of these reports – and much, much more – into a new 232 page book – The Cardinal Nation 2020 Prospect Guide – now available.

The core of the Guide is in-depth profiles on all players on the top 50 prospect list plus 12 more bonus picks and sleepers, with each player write-up completely new for 2020. Individual profiles include 2019 stats, photos, scouting reports, probable 2020 team assignment, ultimate potential, projected MLB debut date and more.

In addition to the all-new player write-ups and dozens of additional photos, other sections include top statistical performers last season, team records/standings, sourcing of the top 50, organizational Pitchers and Players of the Year, award history, and top draft and international signings over a number of years.

For full details of the Guide, including Table of Contents and foreword by Dan McLaughlin, as well as ordering information in print and electronic form, click here.

(The Guide shown in the top photo is the 2019 print version.)

Former Cardinal Larry Walker Voted into Hall of Fame

photo: Larry Walker (Dilip Vishwanat/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate former Redbirds outfielder Larry Walker who earned selection today (Tuesday, January 21) to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Walker joined Derek Jeter among the players who received the necessary 75 percent of all ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Larry Walker (USA TODAY Sports Images)

“On behalf of the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization, I would like to congratulate Larry Walker on this well-deserved honor and his selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” stated Cardinals’ Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr.  “Although Larry’s time with the Cardinals came at the end of his distinguished career, he played a significant role in 2004 in helping the Cardinals to their first National League title and World Series appearance in 17 years.”

Walker, whose Major League career spanned 17 seasons (1989-2005) with Montreal, Colorado and St. Louis, was a five-time All-Star, won three batting titles (1998, 1999 and 2001) and was voted National League MVP in 1997 with the Rockies.  Walker compiled a career .313 batting mark with 383 HR’s, 1,311 RBI and 230 stolen bases in 1,988 career games played, and was a seven-time Rawlings Gold Glove recipient.

Walker played parts of his final two seasons (2004-05) with the Cardinals, coming over in an August 6, 2004 trade from Colorado.  Upon his arrival, Walker helped the Cardinals to their first National League title since 1987 and a trip to the World Series.  In 144 career games with St. Louis, Walker batted .286 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI.  He hit six home runs (including two in the 2004 World Series) with 12 RBI in his 24 postseason games played with the Cardinals.

A native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, Walker played parts of six seasons (1989-94) with Montreal and 10 with Colorado (1995-2004), before concluding his career in St. Louis.  Walker was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009.

Walker will join Ted Simmons, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in December, as the 50th and 51st individuals with ties to the St. Louis Cardinals organization to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during its induction ceremony to be held on Sunday, July 26, 2020 in Cooperstown, NY.


Brian Walton’s take

I am delighted for Walker, whose candidacy was in his 10th and final year in the hands of the sportswriters. Due to some odd voting decisions by a number of writers, projections on Walker making it were hit and miss. In fact, the player himself sent out a Tweet earlier on Tuesday suggesting he was not going in, but he received 76.6 percent of the vote. I am sure he was never happier to be wrong.

The other member of this year’s Hall class is former MLB Players’ Association icon Marvin Miller.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bill DeWitt Jr. on Minor League Baseball Team Reductions

photo: Bill DeWitt, Jr. (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Bill DeWitt Jr. is highly respected as a second-generation owner in Major League Baseball. His leadership of the St. Louis Cardinals has brought the franchise to great heights both on and off the field since 1996.

During Monday’s media briefing at Cardinals Winter Warm-Up in St. Louis, I asked Mr. DeWitt about MLB’s proposal (reportedly agreed-to by all 30 organizations) to remove their affiliation from 42 minor league clubs. This includes two teams in the Cardinals system, located in Johnson City, Tennessee and State College, Pennsylvania.

My hope was that Mr. DeWitt would reflect on the rich history of minor league baseball and importance of small-town America to build interest in the future of the game at all levels, including the highest one, which generates the big revenues.

Realistically, I did not actually expect such a reply, especially while MLB is locked in a battle with Minor League Baseball and its affected team owners, 42 communities across the country, and a Congressional committee, among others in opposition.

Here is what Mr. DeWitt said, with the audio clip and my comments following.

BW: What is your view on contracting the minor league system, to eliminate teams?

BDW: “The issue there is there are a lot of teams that are playing in facilities that are not first rate and not that well maintained, and… frankly, don’t necessarily draw a lot of people. If we consolidate to the areas where the better facilities (are), we could pay the minor league players more.

“It is a struggle unless you get a high-bonus player going there for them to get a living wage. And you know, because those teams just don’t gross a lot of money.

“So, it is not a sense of contracting the minor leagues so much as maybe having a different model and focus on the cities and towns who are willing to invest in the team and in the facilities.

“And I think the concept, which is a good one, in my view, is to provide opportunities for players that maybe don’t profile as potential prospects. But you never know. One can develop and if a certain number of leagues at the lower levels can provide opportunity and let them play, maybe a few of those players rise and ultimately get to the major leagues. That would be a nice thing.

“But it has got to be on a, I think, an economic sound basis, where the owners of those teams invest in the product.

“I am hopeful that everyone will agree on a program to get that done.”


Brian Walton’s take

Mr. DeWitt’s remarks seem to confirm a suspected direct correlation between MLB teams reducing the number of minor league players it pays and increasing salaries for those who remain. MLB seems to be cutting back on its own developmental pipeline, while passing expense to minor league team owners.

MLB wants the minor league owners in these de-selected cities to fund their own players (via the proposed non-affiliated Dream League), even though these teams apparently do not gross a lot of money. This is clearly not a problem for MLB, which generated a reported $10.8 billion in revenues last year.

Minor league teams paying for players (and coaches) would be a major change from today, as MLB organizations cover these expenses currently. Under the proposal, MLB affiliates would remain in larger cities, and those players may be paid more in the future, apparently from the savings gained from the reductions.

The question of using supposed substandard facilities to decide which teams are in and which are out is highly debatable, as a number of the 42 to-be-contracted teams play in current, modern ballparks. And ones that may be in need of – and willing to make – changes have learned it may be too late. How could they invest in upgrades with their teams already on the chopping block in just one season from now?

The definition of an “economic sound basis” is another nebulous matter. Sound to whom?

Despite what was suggested above, there is no connection today between a minor league team’s revenues and player pay.

MLB has chosen to couple long-overdue player salary increases with taking organized baseball away from 42 communities. This is a choice they are making, and not a requirement. The former could and should occur, whether the latter is implemented fully, partially or not at all.

There appears to be a long and uncertain road ahead before this can be resolved. Those on the Minor League Baseball side of the discussion will not be encouraged by Mr. DeWitt’s Monday comments.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Monday, 1/20/20

photo: Bill DeWitt, Jr. (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The closing day of the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up charity event at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch arrived on Monday with the final group of presentations and autograph signings scheduled.

Among the popular presentations in the main tent include a double-header DeWitt session with Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. and President Bill DeWitt III.

Autograph sessions with eight current Cardinals were scheduled on Monday: Matt Carpenter, Miles Mikolas, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Miller, Dexter Fowler, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong.

Typically before or after they sign, the individuals are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.

Following are my notes from selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Monday, January 20, 2020. Along with my summary is the full audio for those who want to listen to the entire content in their own words.


Dexter Fowler (12:16)

Dexter Fowler (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The outfielder is ahead of last year in preparation as he could not run until New Year 2019. He sits down with his Dad to do a recap on the prior season. Got away from baseball coverage over the winter – watched a lot of golf.

Will play in outfield wherever asked. Lineup consistency works with everybody.

Joked that Shildt is his third Manager of the Year.

Considers selectivity at the plate to be his thing. Part of his maturity process. Talked to Goldschmidt about year two on a new team, not trying to impress. Getting more perspective on game as gets older. Noted he is “on that other side of his career”, going into 12th MLB season.


Miles Mikolas (8:02)

Miles Mikolas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Stayed in Jupiter over winter. Went to complex 3-4 times per week. Has been playing catch since last month. Good off-season, following prior year’s routine.

Altering a few things – pitch shape, usage locations to get back to 2018. Cards give him all the data he needs. Slider was less effective in 2019. Better than more cutter-like.

Doesn’t set numeric goals. Good that Wainwright is still in charge in terms of leadership.

Hasn’t met KK yet, but will be happy to help him adjust to new league and country in which everyone speaks a different language. KBO was more of a hitters’ league, making what he did there even more special.


Matt Carpenter (23:05)

Matt Carpenter (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Had more things to work on this winter than prior years. Focus on mechanics of swing. In 2019, had been working underneath the ball more than ever before – had issue with his swing plane.

Ugly, slow start in 2019 snowballed and he was trying to save the season in one swing. Multiple guys had down year offensively. Sometimes it is good to have a year like that. He is really motivated and can still be an elite hitter.

Was candid with manager, coaches and front office after the season. Apologized. Felt he let them down. Hoped they still have faith in him. Struggled to find identity as a hitter – avg. vs. power. Tried not to pull the ball this off-season. Asked himself, “How did I get to this place?” Wants to get back to hitting line drives.

On automated strike zone, many think hitter will have advantage. His concern is that pitchers will find a way to manipulate the system. Will have to see how the system works.

Have been no conversations about playing other positions, but has shown he will do what is asked.

Wants to finish 2020 spring camp healthy. Was banged up last year and rushed to get ready for opening day. Wants to avoid that.

Did not feel as strong last year. Was focused on staying healthy and did not do as much strength-related prep. So couldn’t keep weight on. For 2020, he got back to the weight room. Definitely feels stronger than last year.

Has never known what pitch was coming because “we weren’t good at it”. Surprised it went on so long. Would not have hit .230 last season had he known what was coming.

Last season, he felt like he was hitting from the fetal position, a term he got from Lance Berkman. Finally felt better late in 2019, but then others were also playing well. 2019 would have been tougher had he not gotten better at the end.


Bill DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III (18:20)

Bill DeWitt III (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As is customary, the elder DeWitt stood at the lectern, with III close by.

On Ozuna, he noted Mozeliak is staying in touch with Ozuna’s agent. Hoping returning players have a better year in 2020.

Team will participate in funding for Jupiter renovations. Hopefully, the state will approve. The park is great, but infrastructure needs improvement – strength and weight rooms, kitchen, etc. Hope to break ground after spring training 2021 and be ready the next spring. Unsure if current clubhouse will be gutted with an addition or new building will be built. (TCN has been on top of this story for several years, with more detail in the following article.)

Roger Dean Stadium Enhancements Pass Major Hurdle

Payroll will be around $170 MM with who they have and expected call-ups. Cards were 6th in spending in 2019 and 11th in revenue. Will look at opportunity to increase spending, but not “that kind of range” in reference to $35 MM incremental salary. (Nolan Arenado’s name was never spoken.) Talked about annual expenses. On follow-up, he agreed payroll would have to be moved for such an acquisition.

On 2019, Washington had dominating pitching so give them credit. Whoever loses last game will be disappointed.

Molina has done “remarkable things” so will “get the lay of the land” in the spring regarding a contract extension.

On minor league cuts, concern is facilities, low attendance areas. Pay players more, focus on fewer markets. Must be on an economic sound basis. Minor league team owners must invest. Hope for agreement.

Not actively seeking trades at this time. Don’t want to give up top young players. Did that the prior two winters (Goldschmidt and Ozuna), but given where they are, they want to maintain. Don’t want to sacrifice future for short-term trade.

Have extended contracts of “cornerstone” players before. Flaherty can be that kind of player.


Andrew Miller and Paul Goldschmidt (18:14)

Andrew Miller (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Paul Goldschmidt (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The reliever and the first baseman took questions together to save time.

Miller was surprised by the cheating story. Job is on pitcher, catcher, defense to protect signs. Was hard for Cleveland to lose in 2018. Too late to change past – move on. “Some of us may have been naïve.”

Goldschmidt was aware post-trade transition could be hard, but it was more seamless than expected. Expects huge year from Carpenter in 2020. He does not set numeric targets.

Protection after him in lineup matters but guys on base matter more. Most important is not having weaknesses that pitchers will exploit.

Miller says he has to be careful not to pitch around guys with increase in home runs leading to crooked number innings. Says there has been no talk about him closing, nor does he expect it. Many players still looking for jobs.

Goldschmidt said 2019 was his least consistent year as a major leaguer. Didn’t do a good job. Issue was swing/timing – have few moving parts. His focus for 2020. Entire offense working on improving consistency. Technology not the Holy Grail, but players should use all to try to get better. Didn’t beat himself up after 2019 playoffs – was honest. Playoffs put spotlight on team’s inconsistency.

Miller on three-batter minimum. Understands pace concerns. Can’t control this. Confident he can get both LHH and RHH out and in fact, has had reverse splits in his career. Drastic changes to the game worry him.

(At one point late in the talk, Wainwright stuck his head in the door, in a not-so-subtle move to speed these two up.)


Adam Wainwright (9:17)

Adam Wainwright (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Was in Cabo last week (for Albert Pujols’ birthday party – The Molinas had to cancel at the last minute). Does not see anything he could say about MLB cheating that would help the Cardinals.

No thoughts about 2021. Going day to day. Likes to have motivation – something to prove, others having doubts. Apologized in advance for picking on media as slights for motivation.

Wants to prove he can be better this year than last year. Pitched better in second half of 2019 when no longer thinking about his health.

Called his extreme home-road splits “weird”. Might have won 20 games in 2019 had he pitched as well on the road.

Last year, he thought Hudson would be the breakout pitcher. Sees Mikolas as the bounceback pitcher for 2020. Last year was important year for Carpenter as a player. Has needed to make changes and he did.

Wainwright was late to go sign autographs and he took a video call from Molina live.

Likes it when young hitters ask him how he would attack them as a pitcher. Ended by joking about how many home runs each starting pitcher will hit in 2020.


Kolten Wong (10:01)

The second baseman arrived wearing new glasses. I asked him if he would wear contact lenses in the field. He readily admitted the glasses are for style purposes and his vision is fine.

On winning the Gold Glove, his “hard work came to the surface.” It has been his goal since joining the league. He was told six weeks in advance and told only his wife and Dad. It helped him play looser in the playoffs.

Shildt has been a believer in him since 2012 and that confidence was a big factor in his play.

Has shown he can hit eighth in the lineup and in the second half, he and Fowler hit 1-2. Wants to help the team win.

Fun to steal bases and enjoys the art of reading body language. Pushes Harrison Bader – “Let’s get to 30 stolen bases (each in 2020).”


Yadier Molina (12:15)

Yadier Molina (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Last but not least is the player who is the face of the franchise.

Molina made clear that while he is seeking an extension for one or two more years (on a year to year basis), he will not play for another team. There is no time deadline.  Wants to have another ring.

Is motivated to prove those wrong who expect him to have a bad year because he is a 37-year old catcher.

Matt Wieters is a leader. Good to have him back.

Tough to see what happened in Houston. “Now they must pay the price.” Beltran is a close friend. He and Cora still good players, baseball guys. The whole team did it. As a catcher, he must be prepared for any team. Keeps mask down to try to stop lip reading (though he joked it was to hide his face).

Would love to have Ozuna back. Molina did not have the year he wanted in 2019 offensively and will do better in 2020.

Puerto Rico is having 4-5 earthquakes per day. His foundation is working hard to help. Wainwright has contributed. “Glad to have a friend like that.”

On his and Wainwright’s career end coming – “We don’t talk about it.” We want to win another ring.

The joke at the end is about Molina’s shirt, which shows Ozzie doing his patented back flip, to which Molina said, “I wish I could do that.”

That officially ended the 2020 Winter Warm-Up for the assembled media. Thank you for watching and listening along!


Earlier related articles

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Sunday, 1/19/20

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Saturday, 1/18/20


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Sunday, 1/19/20

photos: Jack Flaherty (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Sunday’s Day 2 of the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up charity event at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch arrived with a return to sub-freezing temperatures and brisk winds – but nothing that would keep the throngs of Cardinals fans away.

Among the popular presentations in the main tent include General Manager Michael Girsch and manager Mike Shildt as well as scouting director Randy Flores’ breakout session.

Autograph sessions with 14 current Cardinals were scheduled on Sunday: John Gant, John Brebbia, Dylan Carlson, Matthew Liberatore, Jack Flaherty, Nolan Gorman, Justin Williams, Tyler Webb, Tommy Edman, Austin Gomber, Jordan Hicks, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Lane Thomas. Shildt and Girsch also stopped by to talk with the media.

Rangel Ravelo had been on the schedule, but was instead given permission to continue to play for his Aguilas Cibaenas club in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Due to travel difficulties, Paul DeJong moved from Saturday to Sunday.

Typically either before or after they sign for fans, the players are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.

However, one person cannot be in multiple places, so the time I was away from the media room for the main tent sessions meant I missed two player interviews. An assist from Luis Nolla from KTRS for copies of the John Gant and Nolan Gorman audio I missed is greatly appreciated.

Following are my notes from selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Sunday, January 19, 2020. Following my summary is the full audio for those who want to listen to the full content.


John Gant (3:05)

Would love to pitch in the ninth. Coming to camp as a starter, and hopes to crack the rotation. Walks and some bad luck hurt him in second half after good luck in first half. Bummer to not make playoffs but happy to see team do great. All the talent and pieces are there to go all the way in 2020.

In the bullpen, he liked coming to the field being prepared to play every day.


Nolan Gorman (10:25)

Liberatore is a bulldog on the mound. Explained excitement of the trade, staying with the moment. Happy to be Cardinals now and hope that is where it ends.

Emulates game of David Wright. Admires on and off field. Never met him. Loves third base and wants to stay there a long time. Will play OF or 1B in big leagues if asked.

First full season learned how to take of his body over 140+ games. Goal is to stay on field and end goal to get to the big leagues.

Carlson told him to ask questions in spring camp. Listen and learn. Excited to go to first camp.

Hitting camp helped him with technology and routine to keep swings in line, then instructs allowed more players to learn new program and language. Focus on attack angle and plane efficiency then do drills to measure progress. Have the same equipment in Arizona – Rapsodo and K-Vest. Got into it at DriveLine in Seattle in off-season for a week. Gets more feedback.

He in Liberatore on same team will push both ahead further. He closed with a discussion of this situation.


John Brebbia (7:05)

John Brebbia (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Joked about Cubs boring controversy from 2019 – does not start things, but will finish them. Sidestepped closer question, noting his goals are to make the team and add value and that the team has “many great options” for the ninth inning.

Flaherty was “almost surreal” in the second half. Was as good as it gets.


Mike Shildt (31:05)

Mike Shildt (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Martinez coming to camp as starter, one of 13 candidates. Will use back field simulated games to help evaluate them.

The holistic approach to hitting is on a learning curve. Packy Elkins will be a “concierge to the players”.

Pleased with MLB’s actions and punishment to cheating. Game has changed more in the last five years than in the 145 years prior. Game had been policed in past by players. Shildt is pleased with the integrity of the clubhouse. “We stayed on the safe side of the line.”  Can sleep at night.

Goes way back with Jose Martinez, who is a human “Red Bull”. “Ozuna, in my head, is still here” because he is not yet signed. Hopes it can work out for both him and team.

Tommy Edman has earned right to play. Will appear all over in spring, including the outfield.

Dylan Carlson did a great job in 2019 spring camp and in season. Comfortable he can start in left of right, but hasn’t seen enough of him to say yes on center field. Already has a lot of options in center, including Thomas and Edman.

No one, including Carpenter is the tipping point of the offense. He can hit anywhere in the lineup. Will be more of a complete hitter in 2020, back to using the full field.


Dylan Carlson (8:51)

Dylan Carlson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The top prospect added strength over the winter along with 10 pounds, to go up to 210. His focus is work ethic and effort. Doesn’t use much technology.

Appreciated that all the fans already know all about him.

Focused on keeping it simple in Memphis to end season. Benefit in competing against and talking with MLB-experienced players.

Comfortable with all three outfield positions. Likes Carlos Beltran as switch-hitting outfielder like him.

Goldschmidt reached out in spring 2019 as he watched others in cage, ate lunch together to talk hitting. Matt Carpenter also worked with him in film room on timing to get ready to hit the ball.


Justin Williams (4:39)

Justin Williams (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The outfielder has no lingering health concerns. Not rushing. After his hand healed last season, he hurt his hamstring and may have been rushing. Watched Bader when he was sent down and tried to follow him. Also watches Molina and Ozuna.

Spent six weeks in Mexico playing winter ball to make up some lost at-bats. Mexican league pitchers don’t give in.


Tommy Edman (8:55)

Tommy Edman (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Was asked about his off-season wedding.

Going into spring training more comfortable. Expects role to be same as last year. Took balls in the outfield this winter in San Diego. Will be prepared for anything in spring training, regarding spot in lineup and defensive position. Has 2B/SS glove, 3B glove and OF glove. Focus in off-season is to be ready for shortstop. Expand his comfort up the middle. Most comfortable at third and second now because that is where he has played most recently.

Sees fans wearing Edman shirts.

Believes WAR is the best stat to measure overall player performance.


Austin Gomber (7:50)

Austin Gomber (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

MRIs could find no problem last season. Short time down turned into three months. By late July, when ready, he had to start over. Reached Springfield with six days left and pitched three times. Hoped to join a playoff minors team, but there was none. Was not ready to pitch for StL in playoff race. So went home even though healthy. Was frustrating to watch team in playoffs on TV.

Did winter training at Eric Cressey’s facility in Florida. Coming to camp to compete as starter but will play role they give him.


Matthew Liberatore (8:47)

Matthew Liberatore (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The newest Cardinal appreciates the warm welcome and loves the culture and atmosphere. Shared details of his day when traded, including interactions with Dad as well as best friend Nolan Gorman. Knew more about hitting side of StL organization from Gorman.

Looking forward to first MLB camp (with Gorman). Expects to shadow Wainwright and Flaherty. Will go out and compete with a bulldog mentality. Has no idea what level he will be assigned in 2020.

Has had same pitching coach since 11 years of age. Encouraged him to look at Sandy Koufax as fellow left-hander. Also models mentality after Gibson.

Picked up slider in senior year in high school. 88 mph, shorter and later break. Doesn’t get a lot of swing and miss on curve, so third offering important to success.


Tyler Webb (4:14)

Tyler Webb (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The lefty felt that consistent work helped him turn the corner in 2019. Webb is not concerned about new three-batter minimum and feels he can get right-handed batters out, too.

Likes 26th man on the roster if it can help him make the team!


Jack Flaherty (9:27)

The right-hander wants to stay consistent from his second half in 2019. Felt Tyler Skaggs was watching over him as his burst came right after Skaggs’ passing.

Took some more downtime this winter. Nothing else different.

Not worried about contract. Understands life-time Cardinals and is lucky to have access to Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter and Gibson. Gibson relationship “special”. Was told to “be on the attack no matter the situation.” Also to pitch inside. Gibson says he never hit a batter – they hit themselves.


Paul DeJong (8:10)

Paul DeJong (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Apologized for being caught in MN and missing Saturday’s action. Proud of the fish he caught.

Goal for 2020 is to improve consistency on offense. Became “unsure of himself”. Problems were “mental more than physical”. Needs to “stay in the moment” and not let 0-for-10 affect him.

Field his “field presence” improved in 2019. Still needs to do better with guys in scoring position – feels that is why he did not win the Gold Glove.

Does not want more days off. Physically felt good. This is more of a mental year. Physically can handle same level of workload and more in 2020.

Believes he can hit anywhere from no. 3 to 5 in order. That is his identity as a hitter, but decision will be Shildt’s.


Michael Girsch (14:17)

Michael Girsch (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The GM said he has no announcements on player transactions.

Would have had to start STEP Camp same time as major league camp to have players ready for first split squad games. So decided to cancel STEP and bring an extra half-dozen players to MLB camp (mostly pitchers). Better opportunity for a few, less for others.

If Edman has to play all over, it is good for the rest of the team – all starters playing well.

Hicks is starting to play catch and staying in St. Louis, then Jupiter this winter helped his rehab. Was early caution in setting up his rehab program due to his diabetes. Has not been a factor.

Shildt’s last year has been both shocking and expected.

Lane Thomas made great impression in 2019. Know he is athletic. Injuries non-issue now. All outfielders need to hit the ground offensively in the spring.

Jeff Albert program. Blast Motion last year, cameras this year. Russ Steinhorn an extension down into the minors. Cards knew Albert from his prior time with St. Louis. That played into his signing more than Houston experience.

On his assistant GMs, Moises Rodriguez does more traditional work. Randy Flores is still scouting director nine months but learning more when time allows.


Jordan Hicks (6:49)

Jordan Hicks (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Now six months into rehab. First period in St. Louis, he was in a sling and brace. Moved to Jupiter right after Christmas so he could throw. Now up to 60 feet tossing, not full throwing. Can get full extension in arm. Lifting the same weight as before. Has gained 10 pounds and feels good about that.

No point rushing back and risk re-injury. Plans to pitch for a long time.


Lane Thomas (1:55)

Daniel Ponce de Leon and Lane Thomas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Thomas and Daniel Ponce de Leon came in together. Because they answered questions one after the other, I split the audio into two parts.

Was able to work out this winter with no restrictions. Played a defensive role with St. Louis in 2019 and that took pressure away from hitting. Ready to play any position in 2020.


Daniel Ponce de Leon (1:45)

The right-hander’s wife suggested he grow out his hair. He would close or do any job asked. Coming to camp as a starter. Added physical therapy to his off-season, and his lower back and hips feel much better (and he did not have a problem with them before.)


Earlier related article

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Saturday, 1/18/20


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Saturday, 1/18/20

photo: Andrew Knizner with Cardinals fan (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Saturday’s Day 1 of the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch was greeted by warmer temperatures in the upper 40’s, a welcome occurrence a day after freezing rain blanketed the area.

The most popular presentation on day 1 had to be John Mozeliak’s always-informative main tent event, following a Q&A session with the media.

Autograph sessions with seven current Cardinals players were scheduled on Saturday: Jake Woodford, Andrew Knizner, Tyler O’Neill, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley and Harrison Bader. (Paul DeJong was also scheduled to appear, but due to a flight delay, has been moved to Sunday.)

Typically after they sign for fans (or sometimes before, just to keep things interesting), the players are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.

Without further ado, following are selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 18, 2020. I summarize them and follow with the full audio for those who want to listen to unplugged and in their own words.


John Mozeliak – with media (32:33)

John Mozeliak (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Would not talk about rumors, but said they still have some work to do, with no artificial deadlines. But comfortable with the team as it is today.

Austin Dean offers depth for the I-55 shuttle. Can’t tell on Marcell Ozuna. Still open. A lot of talent still in the (free agent) market. Carlson – need to give others playing time. Players get tired of I-55. Carlson has a bright future. Left field is an open competition.

Carlos Martinez is ahead of earlier schedule, optimistic, but more ahead. Brett Cecil has a lot to prove. Stayed all winter in Jupiter. Let Alex Reyes take his own rehab this winter after two years of Jupiter routine, putting the onus on him. Fingers crossed/hope is Mo’s view for Reyes.

Paul DeJong hitting fourth is “very viable”. Mozeliak reminded us that he hit third as a rookie. Bader’s time in Memphis was a “head-scratcher” because he did not continue it, but he does not have to be an .850 OPS player because of his defense. Ideally, Bader would be an all-fields hitter like Carpenter was when he came up.

Called Jeff Albert year 1 like “drinking from firehose” for some hitters. Two different times Albert was asked if we was involved in the Houston cheating and he said, “no”. They also checked with the Commissioner’s Office. The Cardinals did an internal audit to ensure compliance and they will talk to players directly in the spring, especially if new rules are for players implemented for 2020. If up to him, he would remove center field cameras and ban in-game surveillance.

On the outfield prior to the recent trades, the players “looked a lot like each other”. Took them until 2nd week of January to get Rays trade done. Not closing any doors on future additions. Rangel Ravelo was set to go to Korea, but the trade changed that. Mo “had to put the toothpaste back in the tube.” Sees Ravelo as 26th man candidate.

Also said 26th man could be a third catcher. Hopeful to get Matt Wieters deal done. Just a few I’s to dot and T’s to cross.

There will be no minors STEP Camp this year, but MLB camp will be expanded to 68-69 players.

Haven’t had trade discussions over the last week to 10 days. Some teams did try to pry pitching away from the Cardinals (and failed).


John Mozeliak – main tent (26:38)

John Mozeliak with Claire Kellett (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The president of baseball operations had brief opening remarks then took fan questions in the ballroom Saturday morning.

The media (with whom he had just met) believe the offense needs improvement, but Mozeliak believes it can come from within. He is not closing doors on other moves. Of course, he would not comment on Nolan Arenado specifically.

Mike Shildt changed the perception of the team.

KK (Kwang-hyun Kim) is a product of in-depth Cardinals scouting and their own analytics in Japan and Korea. Seen as rotation and pen protection.

The cheating scandals have cast a “dark cloud over the game”. Mozeliak said that there are no indications Jeff Albert was involved in Houston. Would be in favor of eliminating cameras in center field. Will be some new initiatives in spring to try new ways to communicate signs.

Regarding left field, Thomas, O’Neill and Williams need a fair shot. At some point, they will go with the best players.

Carlos Martinez – will wait and see. Jordan Hicks – hopes he can contribute in the second half. Brett Cecil – he will be tested in camp, including needing to pitch in back to back games. Tommy Edman – if he brings the same speed and energy as in 2019, the manager will find a place for him to play. Alex Reyes – will be tough for him to break into the rotation. Likely in pen.

Designated hitter has the potential to happen in the future.


Tyler O’Neill (8:58)

Tyler O’Neill (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

His off-field preparation has been with the goal in mind of staying on the field in 2020 and win the left field job. O’Neill knows he needs to “stop swinging at the ball in the dirt.” With limited at-bats due to injury, he wanted to show he belongs and got over anxious.

Has had bad weather at home so hasn’t been able to take live at-bats. Heading to Florida early for spring training. Mentioned new slow-motion cameras will be used in camp.

The sign stealing “boggles my mind”. “Crazy.” “I was entertained as much as you guys were.”


Andrew Knizner (6:38)

The catcher was very upbeat, calling it a “quick off-season”. He liked that energy was at an all-time high in the playoffs. Working to get back there.

Knizner had no comment about the idea of the Cardinals carrying a third catcher in 2020 and does not worry about being blocked, preferring to be ready for whatever is next.

No one from the Cardinals has talked to him about playing other positions, such as first base. He believes they know of his athleticism and he brings multiple gloves to spring camp.


Jake Woodford (6:15)

He is preparing the same as last year, when he was a non-roster invitee. Girsch called him to tell him he was added to the 40-man roster.

Woodford felt getting more aggressive enabled him to pitch deeper into games in 2019 and one of his 2020 goals is to reduce walks.

He doesn’t see competition with others as they all push each other to improve.


Harrison Bader (13:58)

Harrison Bader (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The message was clear. Bader devoted his entire off-season to preparation for 2020.

He trained in Florida with a new hitting coach and worked out with major leaguers Tommy Pham and Gregory Polanco five days a week. He also traveled up to Palm Beach to see Cardinals hitting coaches Jeff Albert and Jobel Jimenez so they knew what he was up to. He has always gravitated to Pham because of his work ethic.

Bader also did three days of mental training in Los Angeles, as recommended by his agent and several players. He was on a flight related to this training when the invalid trade rumors including him appeared.

Readily admitted that last year was not what he wanted. Said he was not consistent enough against sliders low and away.

Bader said starting center field “is my position. I am going to take it and run with it.” John Mozeliak’s comments seemed consistent that CF is Bader’s job to lose.


Ryan Helsley (2:47)

The right-hander said he had been told by pitching coach Mike Maddux to prepare for camp to both start and relieve. As you would expect, he prefers to work out of the pen in St. Louis vs. starting in Memphis in whatever role asked of him.

Physically, he is good, with no lingering concerns.


Carlos Martinez (12:03)

Carlos Martinez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The organization’s translator, Carlos Viloria, is not present due to visa issues. So, Martinez met the media without help, though a media member named Luis Nolla from KTRS stepped in when needed.

Martinez is 100 percent comfortable with his shoulder. It feels good and he is ready to start in spring training. “I am looking forward to being smart,” was his comment about managing his body.

He was checked out by doctors here in St. Louis and will throw his first bullpen this coming Tuesday, January 21.

I asked Carlos who he liked to step in as closer. John Gant was the first name he mentioned. Clearly not binding, but still interesting.

Martinez thinks the signing of Kim “is great”. Not worried about competition, as it exists every year.

He has been hitting this winter in preparation for batting again in 2020.


Giovanny Gallegos (6:58)

Giovanny Gallegos (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The reliever is excited for the chance to play in the playoffs again. Gallegos calls playing in MLB “a big opportunity”.

He feels pressure in any situation, but at the same time, does not care who the batter is (something his dad taught him). He wants to enjoy the moment.

The Mexico series was one of the best moments of his life to share with family. 2019 changed his life. Needed rest in the winter rather than play winter ball.

He said he is ready to close or any situation.


Alex Reyes (9:31)

Went into off-season with no restrictions. It was refreshing for Reyes to work with his personal trainer this winter, following workouts sent by the Cardinals. Has been three hard years of rehab. Threw bullpen last Friday (1/12) in the Dominican, mixing in all pitches, 25-30 total. Also long-tossing of 150 to 180 feet. Feels good and strong lost a few pounds. Main goal is to be healthy and make the roster as a starting pitcher.

Good to be with daughter and family in the Dominican Republic this winter. Returning home until going to Jupiter around the 30th.

Reyes was candid about his frustration getting the best of him when he was sent down to Memphis last season and the mentorship of Mike Shildt being important to him.

(Thanks to Luis Nolla from KTRS for the Reyes audio.)


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Craig Mish Dishes on New Cardinal Austin Dean

photo: Austin Dean (Raj Mehta/Imagn)

National baseball host Craig Mish, who lives in South Florida and has special insight into the Miami Marlins, shares his thoughts on the newest St. Louis Cardinals outfielder.

Before we get into Mish’s insights, let’s get the basics of Tuesday’s trade out of the way first.


St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St.  Louis Cardinals announced today (Tuesday, January 14) that they have acquired right-handed hitting outfielder Austin Dean from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league outfielder Diowill Burgos.

Austin Dean

Dean, 26, has appeared in 98 career games with the Marlins, batting .223 with 10 HR’s and 35 RBI.  He slugged .404 with 14 doubles and six home runs among his 40 hits in 64 big league games last season, and in 73 games with triple-A New Orleans, batted .337 with a 1.036 OPS while hitting a career-high 18 home runs.

Dean, a native of Spring, Texas, was the Marlins 4th round selection in the 2012 amateur draft.  The 6-0, 212-pound Dean was named the Marlins Minor League Player of the Year in 2018 after batting .345 with 12 HR’s, 68 RBI and a .511 slugging pct. between New Orleans (AAA) and Jacksonville (AA).

Dean, who owns a career .286 batting mark with 65 HR and 377 RBI in 723 minor league games, was an All-Star in 2016 (Jacksonville-AA), 2015 (Jupiter-A) and 2014 (Greensboro-A).

Burgos, 18, was signed by the Cardinals as an international free agent in September of 2017 out of San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic and appeared in 58 games last season between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League.

Dean will be added to the Cardinals 40-man Major League roster which now stands at 39 players.


Brian Walton’s take

For the segment of Cardinals fans anxious for a Nolan Arenado trade, this announcement came out of left field. Less than a week after they traded away two 40-man outfielders – and in an off-season in which the Cards shed four 40-man flychasers overall – (Marcell Ozuna, Adolis Garcia, Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, not to mention a rumor that Dexter Fowler is being shopped, as well – they have now added one back.

For a number of reasons, this makes sense to me as a low-risk, low cost, high-upside deal.

From a roster perspective, Dean had been outrighted by the Marlins on the ninth (first reported by Mish). That means they had a week to trade, release or waive him.

Dean has been a top 30 Marlins prospect for several years and offers power, but also with good contact, walking at around a 10 percent rate while striking out in the 18 percent area in the minors.

This is a “fresh air” kind of trade, in which Dean gets a new start after eight years in the Miami system. It was a time during which he raked in the minors but struggled in the majors, before finishing 2019 strongly with the Marlins.

Dean has less than one year of MLB service time and two minor league option years remaining. That means there is no sense of urgency for him to make the majors or bust. As a 40-man roster player, he will report to St. Louis’ major league spring training camp and will join the competition for several open outfield spots.

Diowill Burgos

TCN subscribers can read much more about Burgos in my “Best of the Rest” Top Prospects article from last week. Based on an extraordinary second season in the DSL in 2019, the 18-year old outfielder was our DSL Red Player of the Year after earning DSL All-Star honors.

However, he did not continue at his torrid pace the final three weeks of the season when moving up to the Gulf Coast League. Burgos did not place on our overall 2020 Top 50 Prospect List, but was no. 44 in my personal ranking.

2020 Cardinals Prospects – Brian Walton’s Best of the Rest


Mish on Dean

OK, the part you have been waiting for. Host on the FNTSY Sports Network and of the Swings and Mishes podcast Craig Mish joined me after the trade was announced. South Florida-based Mish has special insight into the Marlins and shared his view of the newest Cardinal in this exclusive audio interview.

Craig Mish and Brian Walton  (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

We also talked a bit about another player who Mish knows well, free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna


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.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp


Pre-Order Now! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Acquire Lefty Pitching Prospect Matthew Liberatore

photo: Matthew Liberatore (Team USA Baseball)

ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke a major news story concerning the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.

About two hours later, Ken Rosenthal offered further details.

Passan is back with most of the detail.

The final piece comes from Rosenthal.

The newest Cardinal standout.

Matthew Liberatore


BFFs

The 20-year old left-hander’s long-standing friendship with fellow Arizona native and Cardinals no. 2 prospect Nolan Gorman has been well-documented.


Brian Walton’s take

At first blush, here is how I see the trade – positively for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals move out two outfielders who I felt were at or near the end of a crowded competition. They also traded down 28 picks in the 2020 draft, from 38th to 66th, a plus for the Rays.

From a salary perspective, the Cardinals’ net savings are likely less than $2 million. Clearly this was not about money. However, St. Louis does clear two spots from a crowded 40-man roster.

Along with a young catcher, the Cards receive a 2018 first-round draft pick, a left-handed starting pitcher who has reached Class-A and should vault into the top tier of prospects in the Cardinals system (more analysis on how Liberatore exactly fits into The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect list is coming very soon).

Going deeper…

Martinez is what he is – an ideal bench bat/designated hitter type whose production for St. Louis dropped in each of the last two years to the point he was a below-average MLB hitter last season (97 OPS+, one tick below Dexter Fowler).

Arozarena has many backers based on his breakout 2019, from which we named him our system-wide Player of the Year – over the likes of Dylan Carlson. However, a season in which he accrued the best stats does not necessarily a top prospect-make. (Sorry, Yoda fans, but I have Star Wars on the brain.)

In my personal prospect rankings for 2020, which are one-third of the overall top 50 prospect site rankings you may be familiar with, I placed Arozarena 12th in the Cardinals system. With the other two votes factored in – a very strong fourth from our message board community and sixth by Derek Shore – Arozarena came in a solid seventh in the overall blended rankings.

In my (subscriber-only) Arozarena write-up, I went into considerable detail about why I feel Lane Thomas is a better prospect – both offensively and as a center fielder. I projected Randy as somewhere between a fourth outfielder in MLB and Gerardo Parra. Of course, both Arozarena and Thomas were stacked behind incumbent Harrison Bader.

Also, even with a left-field opening, Tyler O’Neill is here and now and Carlson is not far away. In other words, there is no post-trade issue with depth in the Cardinals outfield. So don’t assume this is a precursor to free agent Marcell Ozuna returning – though it should not be counted out, either.

While I like the trade itself, it is not a panacea for what ails the Cardinals. Other than freeing at-bats for others, one cannot point to an immediate improvement to a 2019 offense that was the team’s weakest link. Note that in Passan’s article about the trade, he mentions the Cardinals are still shopping Fowler. This could be a financial move to clear money for another addition, such as Ozuna.

It is worth noting that within the last few weeks, the Cardinals have disposed of both of their high-profile Cuban outfielders signed in the busy 2016-2017 period. Adolis Garcia was traded to Texas for cash considerations on December 21.

Not to be forgotten, catcher Rodriguez, 19, was a July 2nd signing in 2017 and made his professional debut in the 2018 Dominican Summer League. The Colombian countryman of Martinez moved to the Gulf Coast League in 2019, but was injured and played in just 10 games. The 6-foot, 207-pounder’s brief career slash line is .338/.389/.495/.885. Defensively, Rodriguez has just a 32.6 percent caught stealing mark (15 of 46).

Edgardo Rodriguez

On day one, there are no absolutes in prospect rankings or in assessing trades and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, when in doubt, look to the team that scored the best player. I believe that is the Cardinals with Matt Liberatore, who is ranked no. 41 overall in MLB by MLB Pipeline.

It is going to take at least a few years to prove or disprove this, however.


Liberatore Scouting Report from TCN’s Blake Newberry

Matthew Liberatore is a 20-year-old left-hander who was listed as the Rays number 3 prospect by Baseball America at the end of the 2019 season. He was selected 16th overall in the 2018 draft and, at the time, was regarded as a polished four-pitch prep pitcher. His tends to rely on his fastball, his curveball, and his changeup the most, but he also has feel for a slider. His true plus pitches are his curveball and changeup. His curveball has sharp break and tends to generate a lot of swings and misses, while his changeup is deceptive and reliable. Going into the draft, his changeup was much more advanced it is for mist high schoolers and that gave him an extra weapon once he reached professional ball. His fastball sits at 92-93 mph but can touch 95 and commands it well, making it a solid pitch despite its lack of elite velocity. His go-to breaking pitch – the curveball – has also dominated lower level competition as he can spin it and command it well. Finally, his fourth pitch, the slider, lags behind the other three but it is good enough to be usable, especially when he has three other solid offerings.

The southpaw has a large, 6’5’ frame and weighs 200 pounds which gives him some projection left. While size is not everything, it should certainly help him remain durable enough to handle a large amount of innings and pitch out of the rotation in the long term. Despite this large frame, he has a clean delivery and appears to repeat it well, allowing him to control all of his pitches and get true break on his off-speed and breaking offerings. If he can actualize the projectability that is left in him frame and add a couple ticks to his fastball to truly make it a plus pitch, then he could end up pitching at the top of the rotation. Most scouts already project him to be a mid-rotation starter or a top of the rotation starter, so if he was able to gain some more strength then his profile could solidify.

While some highly touted prep pitching draftees can struggle upon first entering professional ball, Liberatore did the exact opposite. In the Rays GCL affiliate in 2018 he posted a 0.98 ERA in 27 2/3 innings (8 starts) while fanning 32 hitters and walking 11. He also made one solid start at the Rays Appalachian League affiliate in 2018, allowing two earned runs in five innings. In 2019, the Rays recognized his advanced feel for pitching and allowed him to skip short-season Hudson Valley, instead promoting him to class A Bowling Green. He rewarded this decision with a 3.02 ERA in 80 1/3 innings (17 games) while striking batters out at a rate of 8.74 per nine innings. He could stand to reduce his walk rate a little bit (3.70 BB/9), but overall, he is not too wild. The native of Glendale, Arizona has also done a good job limiting the long ball so far in his professional career as he has yielded just two dingers in his first 113 professional innings.

Additionally, he induced groundballs at a rate of 57.3% in Bowling Green this season. This is impressive for such a young pitcher. However, it makes sense as his off-speed pitches are dominant, and scouts rave about his pitchability. He is a very advanced pitcher for his age and appears to be ready for a bigger challenge in the Cardinals system in 2020.


Liberatore spring training 2019 video from Prospects Live


For completeness, the Cardinals’ Thursday evening press release follows.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced a four-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays this evening (Thursday, January 9), acquiring top pitching prospect lefty Matthew Liberatore, minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez and the Rays Compensation B draft pick (66th overall), in exchange for outfielders Randy Arozarena, Josè Martínez and the Cardinals Compensation A draft pick (38th overall).

“We are extremely excited to be adding a top pitching prospect in Matthew Liberatore to our organization, and this trade also helps us to create more opportunity in the outfield for players like Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and others,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.

Liberatore, 20, was the Rays 1st round draft pick in 2018 (16th player overall) out of Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., and is ranked as the no. 3 prospect in the Rays system.

The 6-5, 200-pound Liberatore has compiled an 8-4 mark with a 2.59 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) in the minors, striking out 113 batters in 111.0 innings pitched, allowing just two home runs to go along with a 1.22 WHIP and .224 opponent’s batting average. Liberatore was 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) for Bowling Green of the Midwest League (A) this past season.

Liberatore went 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 104 strikeouts as a senior at Mountain Ridge High School and was Arizona’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. He was named a first-team Rawlings/Perfect Game All-American, and helped lead Mountain Ridge to the Class 6A state championship game.   In 2017, Liberatore pitched 12 scoreless innings for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team and recorded the win in its gold medal game victory over Korea, and in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game he threw scoreless 9th, 10th and 11th innings for the American League to get the win and earn Most Valuable Player honors.

The Rays selected Liberatore higher than any other high school pitcher in club history, and he became the fourth high school pitcher selected by the Rays in the first round, following Jason Standridge (No. 31) in 1997, Taylor Guerrieri (No. 24) in 2011 and Blake Snell (No. 52) in 2011.

Rodriguez, 19, a right-handed hitting catcher from Valencia, Venezuela, was signed by the Rays as an international free agent in July of 2017.   The 6-0, 205-pound Rodriguez has produced a .338 batting average, six home runs and 40 RBI in his first two seasons as a professional.   He batted .330 with 6 HR’s and 34 RBI in 51 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, ranking among the Rays minor league leaders in batting (3rd), slugging (.492, 6th) and on-base pct. (.384, 9th).  In limited action with the GCL Rays, he batted .400 in 2019.

Today’s trade reduces the Cardinals current 40-man Major League roster to 38 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.

For now, Liberatore and Rodriguez have been placed on our rosters at the levels at which they finished 2019. For the pitcher, that is Class-A Peoria. For the catcher, the Gulf Coast League.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Throwing Cold Water on “Hot” Arenado-Cardinals Rumor

photo: Matt Carpenter and Nolan Arenado (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

It is early January, a quiet time. Many of us are trying not to break our New Year’s resolutions, while the Major League Baseball hot stove, fueled early on by a parade of Scott Boras-client signings, has gone cold.

Against that backdrop, hungry baseball fans are starving for information. ESPN’s Jeff Passan obliged St. Louis Cardinals followers on Tuesday, with a tidbit buried deep in a generic 20 questions-20 answers article.

“As the Colorado Rockies search for potential trade partners (for third baseman Nolan Arenado), two teams in particular have intrigued them, according to sources: the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.”

OK, the Rockies are reportedly “intrigued”. Good to know, but is that it?

Apparently so, though Passan did go on to speculate that the Cardinals “would consider” making Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler available (well, duh). However, the writer offers no insight whatsoever into why the Rockies would want them.

(Update: On Thursday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about why he sees the potential pairing between Arenado and the Cardinals to be a good one. He also suggests the relationship between Arenado and the Rockies is deteriorating to the point a trade is “starting to look inevitable,” while drawing a Scott Rolen parallel. Stepping back, however, Rosenthal provides no specifics on any talks actually being under way between the two teams or any new insight on how such a complicated deal might be constructed.)

To anxious Cardinals fans, please try to look at this from the other side of the table – or likely more accurately, from the other end of the phone.

Nolan Arenado (Allan Henry/Imagn)

Colorado is potentially offering up a 28-year old superstar that they do not have to trade. They should have no motivation to accept bad contracts in return. They hold all the cards.

While it is true that other media sources have reported over time that the Cardinals have interest in Arenado, what team wouldn’t (other than maybe the Angels after signing Anthony Rendon)?

As always, the question is the price.

Some are wondering if it might take prized Cardinals prospects Dylan Carlson or Nolan Gorman – or both – plus others to close a deal. Imaginations are running wild.

But rather than debate the construct of a fantasy trade, instead let’s take a look at how the Cardinals might view such an acquisition in terms of impact on the major league team.

If I am the Cardinals, I consider how many incremental wins Arenado would give me over (ideally) a Carpenter-Tommy Edman vs. RHP-LHP unequal job share at third base.

Over the last five years, as one of MLB’s most consistent players, Arenado has been worth slightly under six wins per season, per Fangraphs (fWAR).

Carpenter has been below 3.2 wins only once in the last seven years (in 2019). In 2020, if Carpenter just performs at the lowest level of any year before his lost 2019, and Edman can give them even one win as a part timer at third, then Arenado might be worth two incremental wins. (Also note that this optimistically assumes zero negative Coors Field effect on Arenado’s offense when he changes teams.)

Another simpler rough check is that in 2019, Carpenter plus Edman delivered 4.4 fWAR. Arenado was at 5.9.

So what would be the cost of those incremental 1.5 to two wins?

To secure the services of Arenado, St. Louis would likely give up multiple prospects/players plus assume $35 million per year in salary commitment.

Even if Carpenter is not in the trade, the Cards would almost certainly have to move him out afterward, buying out his full no-trade protection to do so. To get some value in return, they would likely have to eat some of his pay – perhaps even more than otherwise, since Arenado’s arrival would make it clear that Carpenter has to go. Simply put, formally making Carpenter an ex-third base starter would not enhance his trade value.

Colorado might cover some of Arenado’s salary, but again, why would they have to? And if they don’t, then their trade partner is going to want to give them fewer players or lower quality ones in return.

Remember, this is a Cardinals team that has a stated intent to keep payroll relatively consistent from 2019 to 2020. Could they have said that to keep fan expectations low while quietly “going for it”? Sure, but it isn’t exactly evident in their DNA.

Frankly, it seems to me that if the Cardinals were serious about upgrading third base, the better path would have been to pursue free agents Rendon or Josh Donaldson, who could have been/be acquired for cash and the loss of one future draft pick.

Bottom line, I do not see the Arenado equation for the Cardinals closing. Instead, I see an ant hill being made into the Rocky Mountains. That remains my view until proven wrong – and I am not holding my breath.


Have an opinion?

Stop by The Cardinal Nation’s free forum and weigh in on this, or any other Cardinals-related topic.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp


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Cardinals Sign Catcher Oscar Hernandez

photo: Oscar Hernandez (Bob DeChiara/Imagn)

A national writer broke some St. Louis Cardinals news Tuesday afternoon.

While it is worth looking into Oscar Hernandez’ background, what is far more important, in my opinion, is to try to interpret what this means to the catching position for the major league club behind starter Yadier Molina.

Last year, former American League All-Star Matt Wieters surprisingly landed with the Cardinals on a one-year contract after spring camp had opened. Though the team has said they would like the 33-year old to return for 2020, Wieters is likely looking for more money and playing time elsewhere.

However, this addition does not preclude a Wieters return. Instead, it offers veteran insurance on a minor league deal, not unlike Joe Hudson last year and many more journeyman catchers before him.

Hernandez’ arrival does give the Cardinals more flexibility to return top catching prospect Andrew Knizner to Triple-A Memphis for a second full season if they decide he can benefit from playing daily more than catching pitchers warming up in St. Louis’ bullpen.

Of course, if a catching injury occurs, Hernandez offers depth.

Oscar Hernandez

Ok, now on to Hernandez’ background.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder is a native of Venezuela. Hernandez, 26, joined the Red Sox as a minor league free agent prior to the 2018 season, and was a non-roster invitee to big-league spring camp in both 2018 and 2019. Last year, he opened the season at Double-A, but spent the majority of the year at the Triple-A level.

Soon to enter his 11th professional campaign, Hernandez began in the Rays system (2009-14) and moved to the Diamondbacks (2015-17) after being the no. 1 overall selection in the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft.

Hernandez was the Rays’ no. 24 prospect heading into that draft and placed 22nd in the Arizona system following the 2015 season (both rankings according to Baseball America). Also in the fall of 2015, he played in the Arizona Fall League and was named to the showcase’s Fall Stars Game.

Arizona outrighted Hernandez to the minors in June 2017 and he became a minor league free agent for the first of three consecutive Novembers that year. In January 2018, he signed with Boston on a one-year minor league deal for the first of two seasons in the Red Sox system.

In March 2018, while on the Triple-A Pawtucket roster, Hernandez was suspended 50 games on a second violation for a drug of abuse.

In May 2019, he was added to Boston’s 40-man roster to serve as a replacement for a player on paternity leave, but was outrighted again in July without appearing in a game for the Red Sox. He cleared waivers and returned to the PawSox for the remainder of the season.

His MLB career consists of 22 games (including 10 starts behind the plate) with Arizona in 2015 and 2016.

Hernandez’ career minor league caught stealing percentage is a solid 40.8 and his offensive slash line is .246/.323/.417/.740 in 549 MiLB games.

Hernandez is the first of many expected non-roster invitees to St. Louis’ major league spring training camp.

One note to file away is that he appears to have exhausted his minor league options, which will not be limiting to St. Louis unless/until he is later added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full.


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.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Name 2020 Minor League and Player Development Staffs

photo: Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City Cardinals)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Monday, January 6) their 2020 minor league coaching staffs for their affiliate teams in addition to their player development and medical personnel for the upcoming season.

The Cardinals announced that seven of their minor league managers will return to their same posts in 2020.  In addition, there will be four new pitching coach assignments and new hitting coach assignment at each of their affiliate clubs.

Ben Johnson (Frank Ramirez/The Cardinal Nation)

Ben Johnson returns for his second season as manager at Memphis, as does Joe Kruzel at Springfield (AA). Also returning as managers in 2020 are Dan Bilardello (Palm Beach-A), Erick Almonte (Peoria-A), Jose Leon (State College-A), Roberto Espinoza with the defending Appalachian League Champion Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie) and Fray Peniche (DSL Blue).  Joe Hawkins will be entering his first season as the manager for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (Rookie) and Estuar Ruiz has been tabbed to manage the DSL Red team in 2020.

Malcom Nunez, Elehuris Montero and Chris Swauger (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Chris Swauger has been promoted to the Field Coordinator position following the retirement of long-time Cardinals coordinator Mark DeJohn. The team’s new Minor League Hitting Coordinator for 2020 is Russ Steinhorn.  Former Cardinals Jose Oquendo, Jason Isringhausen, Braden Looper, Ryan Ludwick, Orlando Palmeiro, Bernard Gilkey and Dean Kiekhefer hold a number of positions within the team’s minor league and player development staff.

The following is a complete listing of the Cardinals 2020 Minor League Staffs and Player Development assignments:

Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach Fourth Coach
Memphis (AAA) 2020 Ben Johnson Dernier Orozco Brandon Allen
2019 Ben Johnson Dernier Orozco Jobel Jimenez Mike McDonald
Springfield (AA) 2020 Joe Kruzel Darwin Marrero Tyger Pederson
2019 Joe Kruzel Darwin Marrero Brandon Allen Nick Longmire
Palm Beach (A+) 2020 Dann Bilardello Rick Harig Brian Burgamy
2019 Dann Bilardello Will Ohman Tyger Pederson Jason Broussard
Peoria (A) 2020 Erick Almonte Adrian Martin Cody Gabella
2019 Erick Almonte Cale Johnson Russ Chambliss Brad Jacob
State College (A) 2020 Jose Leon Dean Kiekhefer Jason Broussard
2019 Jose Leon Adrian Martin Cody Gabella
Johnson City (R) 2020 Roberto Espinoza Renee Cortez Daniel Nicolaisen
2019 Roberto Espinoza Rick Harig Brian Burgamy
GCL Cards (R) 2020 Joe Hawkins Giovanni Carrara Tyler Wolfe
Bernard Gilkey
2019 Joshua Lopez Giovanni Carrara Joe Hawkins
DSL Blue (R) 2020 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva BJ Roper-Hubbert
2019 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva Ismael Castro
DSL Red (R) 2020 Estuar Ruiz TBA Ismael Castro
Luis Cruz
2019 John Matos Renee Cortez Nabo Martinez
Bold: new external hire
Italics: new assignment within organization
2020 Field Instructors Trainer Strength coach
Field Coordinator Chris Swauger Memphis Dan Martin Frank Witkowski
Senior Pitching Coordinator Tim Leveque Springfield Chris Whitman Dan Vega
Hitting Coordinator Russ Steinhorn Palm Beach Alex Wolfinger Ross Hasegawa
Roving Pitching Instructor Randy Niemann Peoria Chris Walsh Kyle Richter
Roving Pitching Instructor Jason Isringhausen State College Joe Olsiewicz Don Trapp
Infield Instructor Johnny Rodriguez Johnson City Justin Wilson Jacqueline Gover
Instructor Jose Oquendo Gulf Coast Paden Eveland Corey Ritter
Dominican Academy Coordinator Jose Leger DSL Blue Kiomy Martinez Chris Latimer
Pitching Analyst Cale Johnson DSL Red TBA Luis Polanco
Special Advisor to Player Dev. Barry Weinberg
Cardinals Core Coach Braden Looper
Roving Hitting Instr/Cardinals Core Ryan Ludwick
Cardinals Core Coach Orlando Palmeiro
2020 Medical Staff
Player Dev. Medical Coord. Keith Joynt
Player Dev. Str. & Cond. Coord. Aaron Rhodes
Player Dev. Rehab Coord. Matt Leonard
Player Dev. Perf. Specialist DC MacLea
Player Dev. Rehab Coord. Asst. Victor Kuri

Brian Walton’s take

The head of player development for the Cardinals continues to be Gary LaRocque, assisted by Tony Ferreira.

Joe Kruzel and farm director Gary LaRocque (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

What is different in the table above from what you may see elsewhere is that I added the 2019 managers and coaches so you can get a visual take on the amount of change this year.

My comments for each personnel group follow.


Managers

Stability is the word. Seven returnees include The Cardinal Nation’s 2019 Manager of the Year, Johnson City’s Roberto Espinoza.

The only changes from 2019 are former player Joey Hawkins moving from hitting coach to manager of the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in his second year back in uniform and Estuar Ruiz to pilot the Dominican Summer League Cardinals Red. The latter was previously a Cardinals scout in Venezuela.

2019 GCL manager Joshua Lopez and DSL Red manager John Matos have apparently left the organization.


Pitching coaches

This group has a lot of familiar names, but three are back, just in new assignments. Rick Harig moves up from Johnson City to Palm Beach, Adrian Martin to Peoria from State College and Renee Cortez from DSL Red to JC.

Dernier Orozco and pitchers (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Returning to the same jobs in 2020 are Dernier Orozco (Memphis), Darwin Marrero (Springfield), Giovanni Carrara (GCL) and Bill Villanueva (DSL Blue). All four are long-time Cardinals staffers.

New to the Cardinals in this role is former St. Louis left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer, who retired last year and steps in as State College’s pitching coach. The DSL Red job is open.

No longer listed among the pitching coaches is Will Ohman, who was at Palm Beach in 2019.


Hitting coaches

Here is the area of the greatest change, which is not surprising given a new coordinator for the system was hired in Russ Steinhorn for year two of the administration of St. Louis hitting coach Jeff Albert. Another move occurred last August, when Jobel Jimenez was promoted from Memphis to St. Louis as the new assistant hitting coach under Albert.

Everyone is on the move for 2020, with all hitting coaches either new to the organization or to the level assigned..

Brandon Allen and Conner Capel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The four full-season hitting coaches each moved up one or more levels from 2019 – Brandon Allen from Springfield to Memphis, Tyger Pederson from Palm Beach to Springfield, Brian Burgamy from Johnson City to Palm Beach and Cody Gabella from State College to Peoria. Also, Ismael Castro shifts from DSL Blue to co-hitting coach for DSL Red.

New hitting coaches begin with State College’s Jason Broussard, the fourth coach at Palm Beach in 2019.

Five new hires fill out the lower four levels, with Daniel Nicolaisen at JC, Tyler Wolfe and Bernard Gilkey (more on him below) at GCL, BJ Roper-Hubbert at DSL Blue and Luis Cruz co-coach at DSL Red.

Among hitting coaches to depart are Russ Chambliss (Peoria) and Nabo Martinez (DSL Red).


Fourth coaches

No word yet on this training program for scouts/coaches for 2020.


Field instructors

Chris Swauger, who was the assistant in 2019, takes over as field coordinator following the planned retirement of Mark DeJohn.

Steinhorn was hired back in October to succeed George Greer as the leader of minor league hitting instruction.

Cardinals Change Minor League Hitting Coordinators

Three familiar names are back in the same instructor roles – Jose Oquendo, Randy Niemann (pitching) and Johnny Rodriguez (infield). Cale Johnson moves from Peoria pitching coach to a pitching analyst position.

Cardinals Core is a program to teach character building and leadership skills to minor leaguers primarily through former big-league players. These had been non-uniform roles, but that appears to have changed in 2020. As noted above, Bernard Gilkey is now co-hitting coach for the GCL team. Other returnees Braden Looper, Ryan Ludwick and Orlando Palmeiro are now listed in a dual role of Cardinals Core and coach.

One name missing from the 2020 rolls is former St. Louis catcher Tony Cruz, who served as a minor league catching instructor last season.


Trainers

The departure of former Memphis trainer Matt Corvo allowed the three trainers who were in the organization last year to each move up one or more levels for 2020. They are Dan Martin, Chris Whitman and Alex Wolfinger. Chris Walsh and Joe Olsiewicz are back at Peoria and State College, respectively.

New hires are coming at JC – Justin Wilson, GCL – Paden Eveland, DSL Blue – Kiomy Martinez and DSL Red – TBA.


Strength coaches

Seven of the nine strength coaches are returning to the same assignments, augmented by new hires Jacqueline Gover (JC) and Chris Latimer (DSL Blue)


Medical staff

No changes among the US-based team for 2020. This year, the DSL medical staff members were not identified.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. We have a seven-day money-back guarantee, but don’t expect you will need it.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2020 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.