All posts by Brian Walton

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

Cardinals Take Four More in Third Round of Spring Roster Cuts

photo: Alex Reyes (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals Twitter announcement


Brian Walton’s take

On the second consecutive Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals cut four 40-man roster players from Major League spring training camp. These are the team’s third major roster cuts of the spring, now two weeks after spring training was halted, and the second reductions since the current coronavirus standstill begun.

Of course, Thursday, March 26 was to be the original Opening Day for the 2020 MLB regular season.

As was the quartet who proceeded them in their assignment to the virtual minor league camp, this Thursday’s four are all members of St. Louis’ 40-man roster. None of the four cuts are tremendous surprises, with Fernandez and Cabrera perhaps having been in most serious contention to make St. Louis’ 26-man active roster out of camp.

Junior Fernandez

Fernandez, 23, made his Major League debut last August and pitched in 13 games with a 5.40 ERA. The right-hander was not selected for the post-season roster.

The Cardinal Nation’s 10th-ranked prospect for 2020 was solid this spring before stumbling in his sixth and final appearance, allowing two runs on a hit and three walks in 2/3 inning and taking the loss vs. Boston on March 10.

In five spring innings overall, Fernandez yielded just three hits and four free passes, fanned eight and posted a 3.60 ERA. I would expect him to figure in the late innings mix for manager Ben Johnson’s Memphis Redbirds.

Genesis Cabrera

Cabrera, 23, also pitched in his initial MLB game last season, on May 29. The hard-throwing lefty made two starts and 11 relief appearances, logging a 4.87 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. Unlike Fernandez, Cabrera made the post-season roster, but made just two appearances, totaling 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Over two starts and two relief appearances this spring, Cabrera was strong, allowing one run in six innings. TCN’s no. 11 prospect for 2020 gave up five hits, walked two and fanned eight.

In camp, with top lefty Andrew Miller sidelined, it initially appeared that Cabrera’s chances of making the Opening Day roster were improved. However, with the extended delay to the start of the season, Miller is expected to be ready.

The Cardinals are still well-covered from the left side. In addition to Miller, the Cardinals have four other left-handers among their 15 non-injured list 40-man roster pitchers remaining in camp – starters Kwang-Hyun Kim and Austin Gomber plus relievers Tyler Webb and Brett Cecil.

It will be very interesting to see if Cabrera will rejoin Memphis’ rotation or is moved into the bullpen.

Alex Reyes

I am positive that no one reading this is not already familiar with the basics of Reyes’ background. As much as the former national no. 1 prospect hoped to join St. Louis’ rotation, the ramp-up from his latest ailment seemed to make a bullpen spot a much more likely area in which to contribute in 2020.

The 25-year old right-hander was inconsistent this spring, on the positive side, striking out nine in 4 1/3 innings. However, he yielded four runs on three walks and eight hits, for a .381 batting average against.

Like Cabrera, Reyes may be a candidate to start for the Redbirds, but if so, might be best utilized in a tandem arrangement. There cannot be a Cardinals fan who is not pulling for him.

Andrew Knizner

Though there was some early speculation that The Cardinal Nation’s fifth-ranked prospect might be carried as the third catcher and 26th man on St. Louis’ roster, Knizner did not hit well in camp, going 4-for-26 (.154) with six strikeouts.

Realistically, though, with the return of Matt Wieters to back up ironman Yadier Molina, Knizner would be better served to return to Memphis and play every day. However, the 25-year old should be back with St. Louis the instant one of the two veterans hit the injured list.

The big picture

These four cuts reduce the number of players who will return to major league camp (when it resumes) to 49 – 29 members of the 40-man roster and 20 non-roster invitees (NRI).

If the season began tomorrow with a theoretical 28-man roster, the Cardinals would have their team from the 40-man players remaining in camp – 13 position players and 15 pitchers. However, that would assume no non-roster players (such as Dylan Carlson and Kodi Whitley) open with St. Louis, which is still unknown. One 40-man roster spot remains open, created by the unexpected departure of Yairo Munoz.

It seems obvious that the current labor negotiations between ownership and the Players Association are keeping the NRIs in place for now – even though the vast majority of them are less likely to make the Opening Day roster than several of the 40-man members already demoted.

On the other hand, while service time and compensation decisions for 40-man roster players have not been announced, these four players now would not have been on the MLB roster on the old Opening Day.

So if injured during the down period, now that they have been optioned to the minors, they would not have to go on St. Louis’ 60-day injured list, accruing MLB service time and receiving MLB salary.  In other words, these are insurance moves.


Other news

On Thursday, Major League Baseball’s revised plans for the (normally) June First-Year Player Draft began to leak out. At this point, the details are still unofficial, but clearly indicate MLB is trying to reduce 2020 expenses.

Jeff Passan of ESPN believes the full agreement will be announced on Friday.

This news about a transaction freeze offers additional insight into why the above moves were made on Thursday.

Also, Adam Wainwright and his wife announced a $250,000 donation to help Cardinals minor leaguers during a time in which they are not receiving pay. In rough math, if all the money goes to the organization’s minor leaguers, it works out to close to $1000 each.


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

St. Louis Cardinals Minor League System by the Decade


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 2020 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, our limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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.

St. Louis Cardinals Minor League System Overview – 1963-2019

photo: Memphis Redbirds (2018)

The lofty goal of this initial article in our St. Louis Cardinals Minor League History Series is to summarize the last 57 years across the organization, while keeping in mind that in-depth reviews by level of play and highlights of individual player statistical leaders are to follow.

After a very difficult prior decade financially for the minor leagues, 1963 was chosen as the start of this work, as a major inflection point in minor league history . The previous May, the Player Development Plan was ratified by MLB owners. It guaranteed that at least 100 minor league clubs would survive, with MLB teams paying salaries above a sliding scale by level.

This was also the point at which the long-standing prior Class B, C and D leagues and their teams either ceased operation or were moved up to Class A. In addition, the American Association folded, with Triple-A baseball dropping from three leagues to two in the process.

The challenge here is to distill many tabs of spreadsheet data into interesting tidbits, while setting up the upcoming articles in which we will delve into each level of the Cardinals system during these post-1963 decades as well as its top teams and individuals.

First, a summary table is offered, with discussion about each line following. There is a lot to consume here, but if you stay with it, we should be able to get through it all!

Cardinals system (1963-2019) Mark Count Years
Overall record 0.507 21907-21338
Winning seasons – total (of 57) 0.632 36
Number of league championships 45
Most consecutive winning seasons 8 1982-1989
Most consecutive losing seasons 3 twice 2005-2007 1999-2001
Best single season 0.579 416-302 1966
Worst single season 0.417 370-517 1991
Most team playoff appearances – season 5 three years 2010 2016 2018
Fewest team playoff appearances – season 0 six years 1961 1991 1997
1999 2001 2003
Most league titles – season 3 2016
Fewest league titles – season 0 22 years 1st 1966 last 2015
Consecutive title seasons 8 1970-1977
Longest title-free period – seasons 4 1996-1999
Most minor league clubs – season 9 6 years 1st 2007 last 2019
Fewest minor league clubs – season 5 6 years 1st 1963 last 1980
Most different cities – level 15 Class A
Fewest different cities – level 1 JC SS-R 1975-2019

Overall view

Across the entire Cardinals system – from Triple-A down through the international complex leagues – during these 57 seasons, over 42,000 games were played. The organization was an aggregate 569 games over .500, for a .507 winning percentage.

Perhaps more impressively, winning has been a consistent result. In 36 of these 57 years, 63.2 percent of the seasons, the Cardinals farm teams played winning baseball in aggregate.

In terms of league championships, players on Cardinals affiliates hoisted 45 trophies in celebration over this period.

System peaks and valleys

We will get into the top decades in the next article, but in terms of repeated annual success, the period of 1982 through 1989 was the longest sustained period of winning baseball across the system, with eight straight years of over .500 play.

Though St. Louis’ records are not included in this analysis, it is fair to note the Major League club was also playing some excellent and exciting baseball during this time under the overall leadership of Whitey Herzog. Lee Thomas was farm director through 1988, when Ted Simmons took over.

Despite that impressive overall run, just four Cardinals affiliates won league championships during those eight years. Under manager Jim Fregosi, Triple-A Louisville took back-to-back American Association crowns in 1983 and 1984. Individual standouts included Jim Adduci (league-best 101 RBI in 1983) and Vince Coleman (AA-leading 97 runs scored in 1984).

In 1986, the St. Petersburg Cardinals rolled to the Florida State League title. Future Major Leaguer Alex Cole batted .343 and swiped 56 bags.

Powered by the offensive pair of Ray Lankford (league-leading 158 hits) and Bernard Gilkey (league-best 104 runs scored) plus pitcher Dave Osteen (FSL-best 15 wins), skipper Gaylen Pitts’ Arkansas Travelers took the 1989 Double-A Texas League title.

In another indicator of consistency, the longest period during which the system did not log an overall winning record was just three years in duration. This occurred twice, fairly recently, from 1999 through 2001 and again from 2005 through 2007.

As will become evident as we get into the details by level, the late 1990s and much of the first decade of the new century represented rough times for the farm system overall in the win-loss department.

Albert Pujols (Memphis Redbirds)

But even during these dry spells overall, there were pockets of success.

The 2000 Memphis Redbirds, also under Pitts, powered their way to the Pacific Coast League championship. Fans may recall a young third baseman named Albert Pujols, who was a late addition to the Redbirds roster after earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Class-A Midwest League. Current St. Louis coaches Stubby Clapp (.375 OBP) and Bryan Eversgerd (3.50 ERA in relief) were also among the 2000 Memphis stalwarts.

In the 2005-2007 period, another club also led by a future St. Louis coach claimed its league title. Despite a losing regular season record, manager Ron “Pop” Warner’s Palm Beach Cardinals got hot in the playoffs and won the 2005 Florida State League championship. Beach Birds FSL All-Stars that season were shortstop Brendan Ryan (.303 batting average) and closer Mark Worrell (35 saves).

Single season peaks and valleys

In terms of winning percentage, 1966 was the ultimate peak for the Cardinals system, under farm director Chief Bender. The six clubs came in a whopping 114 games over .500, at 416-302, for a .579 winning mark. However, all four to make the playoffs fell short of their respective league titles. Three lost in the finals – Triple-A Tulsa, and Class-A St. Petersburg and Cedar Rapids. Double-A Arkansas fell in the first round.

Sparky Anderson (St. Petersburg, 1966)

All four of those managers went on to work in the majors – Charley Metro (Tulsa), Vern Rapp (Arkansas) and Sparky Anderson (St. Pete) managed MLB teams and Ron Plaza (Cedar Rapids) was a long-time coach. Outfielder Walt Williams of the Oilers led the PCL in batting average (.330), runs (107) and hits (.193) and went on to play 10 years in the majors, mostly for the White Sox.

The toughest year in system history was 1991. Seven of the eight clubs had losing records with the aggregate winning percentage just .417 (370-517). The top three classification teams (Louisville, Arkansas and St. Pete) all limped home with marks between .357 and .360. The lone bright spot was rookie-level Johnson City, which despite going 40-26 (.606) finished in second place and missed the post-season.

Post-season success

Three seasons tied for the most playoff entrants with five each. All are in the most recent decade, in 2010, 2016 and 2018. Of those three high-water years, 2016 stands highest, as three clubs went all the way in their respective leagues.

It was a short-season sweep in the US, as State College (New York-Penn League), Johnson City (Appalachian League) and the Gulf Coast League Cardinals all were champions. Managers of the three teams were Joe Kruzel, Roberto Espinoza and Steve Turco, respectively. Gary LaRocque was (and remains) the farm director.

Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City Cardinals)

Spikes shortstop Tommy Edman had a .400 OBP, catcher Andrew Knizner led JC with 42 RBI and batted .319 and 17-year old outfielder Dylan Carlson debuted with 22 RBI, just one of the GCL team lead in 2016.

In an impressive 51 of the most recent 57 seasons, at least one Cardinals affiliate made the playoffs. Of the six exception years during which no teams played in the post-season, three were during the 1990’s and two occurred in the early 2000’s.

Of course, winning league championships are much more difficult. Still, in 35 of the 57 seasons, at least one Cardinals club brought home the hardware. The longest such streak was eight years, from 1970 through 1977. During that run, Cardinals clubs claimed a whopping 11 league titles.

That leaves 22 dry seasons, the most recent of which was in 2015. The longest title-free run was four years, also in the 1990s.

Adding and subtracting affiliates

While the recent years have been very quiet in terms of changes to the Cardinals minor league structure, it hasn’t always been that way. Almost by season, the organization added a team here or subtracted one there, but always remained in the bandwidth of five to nine teams.

The Cardinals’ full-season teams, which play roughly 140 games from April until Labor Day, have ranged between four and five, with the constants being Triple-A, Double-A and Class-A. In fact, three Class-A teams were relatively common until the mid-1990s. All of the additions, subtractions and movements meant that 15 different locations hosted a Cardinals Class-A team during these 57 seasons. In 1990, the Florida State League moved up to Class A-Advanced level, a new classification for the system, the fourth in full-season ball.

Annually since 1981 and 1975, respectively, the Cardinals have fielded short-season teams in the New York-Penn League and Appalachian Leagues. The latter club, located in Johnson City, Tennessee, holds the distinction of the longest continuous current Cardinals affiliation, at 45 years and counting. Recent success has been especially impressive, with five Appy League titles in the last 10 years.

The Cardinals first entered an in-season “complex” league in Sarasota in 1964. After several breaks, the current run in the Gulf Coast League began in 2007. The year before, the organization established its Venezuelan Summer League affiliate, which played for five seasons before safety concerns led to the team’s (and eventually the league’s) demise.

2005 marked St. Louis’ first season in the Dominican Summer League, with a second club added in 2018.

Much, much more on these teams and levels is still ahead in the upcoming installments of this series.


Next up

I was going to include the information here, but based on the length of the above, I have decided to hold the system-wide views of the best and worst decades for a separate article. That article will also include the year-by-year background data summarized above, for those who want to dig even deeper.

Then, we will progress into the level-by-level analyses before moving into player leaders.

This preview is free for all readers, with the hope that you will appreciate the quality and uniqueness of the content enough to become a subscriber to The Cardinal Nation. Until we get to the part of the series that will highlight the best seasons by players, subsequent team-focused articles will be exclusively for TCN members.


Link to related article

St. Louis Cardinals Minor League History Series


Acknowledgments

This series would not be possible without the record-keeping of Baseball America as delivered via their book, The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, as well as the staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, who have maintained individual player leader lists for decades. Baseball Reference remains a valuable fact-verification resource.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals 2019 Minor League Award Winners Recognized


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

Cardinals Farm System in MLB’s Middle for Sixth Straight Year

In composite rankings from national sources, the St. Louis Cardinals farm system is again in the middle, consistent with the prior five years. However, St. Louis is first in the National League Central Division as their closest competition fades. Comparisons to the last decade-plus are provided. Continuing questions about the future are explained.

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Considerations in Canceling the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft

One of the many tangled unknowns in this altered year of 2020 in Major League Baseball is the immediate fate of the First-Year Player Draft, commonly known as the amateur draft. The annual event, in which all 30 organizations select approximately 40 players each, is currently scheduled June 8-10 in Omaha, Nebraska. It was to be held in conjunction with the College World Series, which has been canceled along with all NCAA spring sports.

In an article this week, the AP’s Ronald Blum shared information that MLB is considering skipping the 2020 draft entirely, as well as putting off the upcoming July 2nd international signing class.

Blum noted that a significant appeal to MLB is the cost savings to be achieved – during a year in which revenues will be clearly down and while MLB is feeling other expense pressures.

For example, the MLB Players Association is reportedly pushing for full service time for its members for the 2020 season, even if some or all games are not played. This could have a significant impact on MLB in the short term (as salaries increase via arbitration and free agency remains on schedule) and in the long term (pension).

The annual expense MLB teams accrue in aggregate in signing amateur players is estimated to be $400 million, per Blum. That seems in the right vicinity, as in 2019, signing pools for the first 10 rounds of the draft totaled over $266 million alone.

In this year of decreased revenues, a $400 million savings on today’s amateurs and potentially soon-to-be minor leaguers – none of whom have any bargaining representation – could have tremendous appeal to the Lords of Baseball.

The impact on the professional player pipeline and those potentially ready to enter it could be diminished by the NCAA providing an extra year of eligibility to those players in the spring sports canceled in 2020. The implications to graduating high school seniors, a secondary source of amateur talent, are less clear.

Another consideration to keep in the back of our minds is MLB’s minor league contraction plan, to remove 42 teams and their associated players from affiliated ball starting in 2021. This action could eliminate up to 1,470 player jobs (35-man short-season rosters times 42 teams) – and of course their salaries.

Part of that proposal is reportedly a drastic reduction in the length of the First-Year Player Draft, by as much as half, starting in June 2021.

If the 2020 draft is called off, it would keep roughly 40 more players per organization out of the pipeline currently, while beginning the transition to both smaller farm systems and a shorter draft starting next year – while by the way, chopping $400 million off the 2020 expense line.

The contraction plan has not been finalized, but neither has consolidated opposition formed that may be strong enough to stop MLB.

No one can accurately predict where any of this will go, but the ramifications of decisions made in 2020 could have long-term effects to the game as we have known it.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Name Diverse 2020 Minor League Fourth Coaches


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

Cardinals Pare Four in Second Round of Spring Roster Cuts

photo:  Austin Dean (St. Louis Cardinals)

St. Louis Cardinals Twitter announcement


Brian Walton’s take

On Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals made their second major roster cuts of the spring, a week after spring training was halted. It is not clear if these were moves planned just before the shutdown or are new decisions. Either way, St. Louis is not alone in optioning out players during the current coronavirus standstill.

The four, all members of St. Louis’ 40-man roster, had performed relatively well this spring, but did not seem in serious contention of making the 26-man active roster out of camp.

Austin Dean

Dean was acquired from Miami in January to serve as outfield depth following the trades of Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena. The 26-year old slashed a respectable .250/.368/.563/.931 across 38 spring plate appearances. Dean struck out six times, same as his walk count, while playing both corner outfield and first base in camp. Likely he was in competition with Rangel Ravelo and others for the 13th hitter roster spot and should be in the outfield/designated hitter mix for the Memphis Redbirds.

Justin Williams

Williams, who holds extra value being a left-handed swinger, was also in the scrum for an outfield reserve spot. The 24-year-old was not smooth in the outfield on occasions this spring and at the plate, slashed just .143/.226/.393/.619 in 31 Grapefruit League plate appearances. Williams, The Cardinal Nation’s no. 15 prospect for 2020, should again be a starting corner outfielder for Memphis.

Edmundo Sosa

Sosa, a slick-fielding shortstop, drew most of his spring attention in the field. The 24-year-old performed less admirably with the bat, with a line of .231/.279/.436/.715 over 41 spring plate appearances. Sosa’s primary chance to make the team was quashed with the February signing of infielder Brad Miller, with the veteran and Tommy Edman in line to take over for departed Yairo Muñoz as the reserve shortstop to open 2020. Sosa, TCN’s no. 17 prospect, should be Memphis’ regular shortstop to open the Triple-A schedule.

Jake Woodford

Woodword, 23, remains a solid starting pitching prospect, but is stuck behind at least eight others who are more experienced vying for that role with St. Louis to open the season. In camp, the right-hander tossed six innings across four games, yielding three earned runs for a 4.50 ERA. Woodford allowed six hits, walked two and fanned five, holding opposing batters to a collective .261 average. Woodford will return to the Memphis rotation, from where he made 26 starts in 2019 and was the starter for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game. The Florida native is The Cardinal Nation’s eighth-ranked prospect.

These four cuts reduce the number of players in major league camp (when it resumes) to 53 – 33 members of the 40-man roster and 20 non-roster invitees.


Other news

On Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced its plan to compensate minor league players during the layoff. It essentially standardizes across the 30 organizations a plan the Cardinals had already announced for their own players on Wednesday.


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 Name Diverse 2020 Minor League Fourth Coaches


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 2020 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, our limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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.

Manfred Clinging to 162-Game Hopes Even After Accepting Major Delay

photo: Rob Manfred (Bill Streicher/Imagn)

Major League Baseball is supporting an advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halt collections of large groups of people for the next eight weeks. Yet, Commissioner Rob Manfred is still clinging to a hope to play all 162 games of the regular season. Likely what is behind this is an attempt to protect revenue, yet like much of the league’s reaction to the coronavirus threat, it seems unrealistic.

From many quarters, MLB has drawn criticism for slow, almost begrudging reaction to the pandemic – from waiting until partway through spring training game action on Thursday, March 12 to suspend play, to their suggestion at the time that the start or regular season might be delayed just two weeks – until Thursday, April 9.

It seems that most everyone understood the threat presented by the spread of the virus better than MLB’s own leadership.

In a twist that also defied logic, teams were encouraged to “close” camps, while keeping them open to players and staff, but function on a limited basis, as if baseball personnel were immune. All of this backed by the wildly unreasonable April 9 target left MLB open to major second-guessing – even before Monday’s events.

A full season? How?

As play was suspended, teams assured their anxious ticket-buying public that they would be doing everything possible to get in all 162 games of the regular season. Among the ideas floated informally reportedly include increased use of double-headers, or simply adding the postponed games onto the back-end of the schedule, therefore playing the regular season through October and perhaps holding World Series games in a neutral-site, domed facility.

Would the Lords of Baseball really deny local fans the opportunity to cheer on their team during the post-season? Apparently so. After all, consider the alternatives.

Can anyone imagine November playoff games at Target Field in Minneapolis or in Denver’s Coors Field? Would MLB put a break in the World Series schedule for Thanksgiving? As crazy as these scenarios may sound, they are realistic potential ramifications that could follow MLB’s quest to play a full season.

On the thought of mass twin-bills, consider this. The only reason the MLB regular season begins in late March is due to the Players’ Association wanting more off-days during the normal six-month schedule, a change that was first implemented in 2019.

So why does anyone think the players will now do a complete 180 and agree to work an even more condensed calendar of games than the prior schedule they pushed hard to get rid of?

Could MLB use a threat of partial salary reductions for a partial season played? And if so, could this open a pre-CBA battle that might delay the season even further?

And I haven’t even mentioned how thorny owner-union issues like service time accrual and arbitration eligibility credit for a partial season might be negotiated – all in a potentially very limited time window (in late May?)…

CDC puts MLB’s feet to the fire

On Sunday, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hit MLB alongside its head with the reality of the coronavirus containment efforts. The CDC advised a pause of eight weeks for the collection of groups of people totaling 50 or more. (Yes, that would even cover games in Marlins Park!)

The next day, the Cardinals really closed their camp this time, sending staff and a group of 15-25 lingering players home due to MLB mandating no further unofficial team workouts would be allowed.

Further, MLB issued a short public statement, essentially agreeing to abide by the CDC directive – without declaring a new Opening Day target.

I guess they are hoping their followers do not possess calendars.

A simple reference of such a resource quickly tells us that the prescribed eight weeks would conclude on Sunday, May 10. At that point, one could assume coaches and players would be cleared to return to their spring training camps. Add the two weeks for players to ramp up and then travel north, and the most optimistic Opening Day would be right at Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.

Sure, maybe the CDC is being cautious and the threat could pass earlier and restrictions would then be relaxed. Then again, what if that doesn’t happen?

The only practical take is to assume that we will not experience Major (or Minor) League Baseball until Memorial Day or later.

It is as much common sense as social distancing and washing our hands thoroughly.

Yet, on Monday afternoon, Manfred was still madly scheming how to try to play all 162 games this season.

The telling comment is that even he admits that he has no idea how to try to stuff the 162-game schedule toothpaste back into the shrinking 2020 season tube. We can only wonder how long it will take for the reality of this situation to be accepted by MLB.

Considering everything, I give getting in 162 in 2020 about the same odds as I gave the then-tentative April 9 start date the instant it was announced last Friday. If even I get it, why in the heck can’t they?


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 157 to 2020 Minors Spring Camp


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

Ferreira Receives 2019 Cardinals George Kissell Award

photo: Tony Ferreira (LinkedIn)

As minor league camp opens each March, the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of special announcements and award presentations at the organization’s spring training orientation meeting in Jupiter, Florida.

One piece of very important recognition disclosed on Thursday afternoon is the winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals organization.

That well-deserved selection for the 2019 season is a popular choice. The winner is the glue of the player development staff, Manager of Player Development Tony Ferreira. He follows his boss, Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque, the 2018 honoree.


About the winner

LaRocque, also known informally as the “farm director”, is the CEO of the Cardinals minor league operations – with Ferreira his indispensable right-hand man. The player development staff take newly-signed players and help them improve, with the best of them eventually becoming major leaguers.

Ferreira is responsible for countless areas of responsibility within the Cardinals organization, often times challenged with no notice to resolve a myriad of immediate problems.

“Tony’s day is far deeper than mine in terms of the bandwidth he has to cover,” LaRocque said.

Lane Thomas, Tony Ferreira, Gary LaRocque (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“Envision being responsible for 240 players, all the movement that goes on, 40 dedicated staff members (I say 40 dedicated because they are in the minor leagues – uniformed staff personnel), 20 additional personnel that are trainers and strength coaches – and then I just say, ‘Tony, it is all yours.’

“It is really consuming. In the position, he has to know everything every day in order to save us time.”

LaRocque recently shared a typical day’s example, from mid-January as instructional camp closed.

Moises Rodriguez, Matt Slater, Tony Ferreira (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“We had a player who was moving from Florida, going home to California,” the farm director said. “To show you what Tony does that nobody ever sees, he flew in here (to St. Louis), got in here late at night from Florida because he was down there.

“The player had problems – and the way he was routed was through Chicago to get to Los Angeles. And he was delayed. So within a matter of minutes, Tony had to change it – knowing that all the flights out of Chicago were booked. He couldn’t get the player out. And then it goes on with everything involved in the logistics in moving a player.

“Within a matter of five minutes, Tony pinned it down, got that player set to go to Midway (Airport) and got him out of Midway on a different routing to get back home.

“Now, multiply that – which is the remarkable part about what he does every single day. He knows our system. He knows our players. He knows our staff. And the contributions he makes – that is why I always enjoy recognizing him. Because the contributions he makes on a day-to-day level are what really allow us to work and make it go.

“When you have a problem in Johnson City over something – meal money or otherwise – you are calling Tony. So I thank Tony. He has been here the same amount of time I have (since 2008) and he knows the Cardinals inside and out,” LaRocque concluded.

One can only imagine how many times this kind of scenario was repeated in a condensed time frame this Friday and Saturday as the organization sent 175 individuals home due to the closing of minor league camp.

The fact that the minor league managers, coaches and staff selected Ferreira for this honor speaks volumes. In fact, this is only the second time a non-uniformed individual has received the Kissell Award in over two decades.


The George Kissell Award

The Kissell Award is the top recognition any member of the player development organization could receive and remains an annual reminder of the importance of George Kissell to generations of Cardinals.

George Kissell (Associated Press)

Through his teaching, Kissell essentially wrote the book that was later labeled “The Cardinal Way” as a player, manager and teaching leader of the organization from 1940 until he passed away in the fall of 2008 due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.

The Cardinals recognized Kissell’s importance long before his untimely passing, first establishing the Award in 1995 to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development. In the most appropriate nod, Kissell himself received the first Award.

The winner is chosen through voting by the Cardinals minor league field staff, with the peer recognition making it especially meaningful.

Congratulations to the George Kissell Award winner for 2019, Tony Ferreira.


More about George

Among Kissell’s many other honors is a plaque outside the Cardinals Jupiter clubhouse highlighting his numerous accomplishments as well as the naming of the team’s minor league quad in his honor.

The inscription on the plaque says it all.

“Every player in the Cardinal organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they all have been better for it. One of the most respected people in the game of baseball at any level, George has worked in all areas of the Cardinals’ baseball operations. He was a scout, minor league manager, major league coach, and, as senior field coordinator for player development, he has coordinated the team’s minor league affiliates.

“Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball. In recognition of his teaching excellence and personal example, the George Kissell Award is presented annually to the Cardinals outstanding player development staff person.

“George Kissell is one of the true foundations of the Cardinals tradition.”

Though Kissell was not eligible in the fan voting for Modern Era players to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he was chosen as an “owner’s selection” and entered the Hall in 2015. For 2020, you can vote for several hitters who were once among Kissell’s students at cardinals.com/hof.


George Kissell Award winners

Two-time Kissell Award honorees include Steve Turco, Chris Maloney and Mark DeJohn. Turco is now retired, but was a long-time manager and scout. Maloney was formerly St. Louis’ third-base coach and DeJohn also just retired as the organization’s minor league field coordinator.

Five members of the current St. Louis staff are prior winners, starting with manager Mike Shildt, plus bench coach Oliver Marmol, Clapp, third base coach Ron “Pop” Warner and bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd.

2019 Tony Ferreira Player dev. manager 2006 Chris Maloney Springfield manager
2018 Gary LaRocque Player dev. director 2005 Ron “Pop” Warner Palm Beach manager
2017 Stubby Clapp Memphis manager 2004 Blaise Ilsley Tenn. pitching coach
2016 Steve Turco Gulf Coast Lg. mgr. 2003 Mark DeJohn Tenn. manager
2015 Randy Niemann PB pitching coach 2002 Danny Sheaffer Peoria manager
2014 Derrick May Minors hitting coord. 2001 Dyar Miller Mem. pitching coach
2013 Oliver Marmol State College mgr. 2000 Gaylen Pitts Memphis manager
2012 Bryan Eversgerd Sgf. pitching coach 1999 Mark Riggins Minors pitching coord.
2011 Steve Turco Gulf Coast Lg. mgr. 1998 Joe Pettini Minors field coord.
2010 Mike Shildt Johnson City mgr. 1997 Mark O’Neal Mem. athletic trainer
2009 Chris Maloney Memphis manager 1996 Bo Milliken Minors pitching instr.
2008 Mark DeJohn Batavia manager 1995 George Kissell Senior field coord.
2007 Dan Radison Minors hitting instr.

Bold=currently in the organization


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 157 to 2020 Minors Spring Camp


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

St. Louis Cardinals Baseball on Hold

photo: Busch Stadium (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

This post is a quick summary of the current situation regarding baseball play by the St. Louis Cardinals both at the major and minor league levels and will be kept updated as events warrant.

Major League spring training

  • Remaining spring training games have been cancelled. Refunds will be issued to ticket purchasers.
  • Players were allowed to return home on Friday, March 13 after an agreement between MLB and the Players’ Association.
  • The Jupiter facility will remain open for those who want to work out informally, estimated to be 15-25 players, but is closed to the public. Update: On March 16, MLB mandated that all unofficial workouts be stopped and the Cardinals closed camp entirely.
  • There may be a spring “Camp 2” of 14-17 days duration before the regular season resumes.

Major League regular season

  • The start of the regular season is postponed at least two weeks (until at least Thursday, April 9). Update: On March 16, MLB accepted a CDC advisory to not hold mass attended events for eight weeks. A revised Opening Day target was not announced.
  • The Cardinals are not offering refunds to ticket buyers for affected games. MLB still hopes to reschedule the cancelled games.
  • Any changes to the remaining schedule are to be determined, but at least one report has MLB considering trying add the cancelled games onto the end of the regular season.
  • Plans for the June 13-14 London Series are to be determined.

Minor league spring training

  • Cardinals minor league players were sent home on Friday, March 13.
  • External spring games (which would have begun on Friday, March 20) are cancelled.
  • Plans for extended spring training (to have started April 9) are to be determined, but it should still follow regular spring training.
  • On March 17, the Cardinals announced that minor league players will receive daily per diem payments as if they were still in camp.

Minor league regular season

  • The start of the regular season is postponed indefinitely (was to open on Thursday, April 9).

Other

  • World Baseball Classic Qualifiers are postponed.
  • Busch Stadium Tours, Cardinals 5K and CAP Education Programs at the Stadium are postponed until further notice.
  • As part of a cross-MLB initiative announced March 17, the Cardinals committed $1 million for a fund to pay gameday employees.

2020 draft

  • The NCAA has canceled all spring sports and their associated tournaments, including the College World Series.
  • The status of the MLB 2020 First-Year Player Draft, to have been held in conjunction with the CWS in Omaha on June 10-12, is unknown.

Streaming services

  • This article (click on link) outlines the known current status of MLB.TV, MLB Extra Innings and MiLB.TV subscriptions.

Notes

  • The Governor of Illinois has banned live sporting events until at least May 1, putting any potential games in the state during April into serious question. This (along with any other state or local bans) would almost certainly prolong the potential resumption of both the majors and minors regular season schedules well beyond April 9.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 157 to 2020 Minors Spring Camp


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

MLB/MiLB Stoppage Questions Extend to Streaming Services

On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that all remaining spring training games would be cancelled and the regular season would be delayed at least two weeks. The Minor League Baseball regular season has been delayed indefinitely.

Officials at the state and local levels are reacting to the coronavirus threat in their own ways. One example is the Governor of Illinois asking that all events with 250 or more people not be held through May 1.

Clearly, the timing of the start of the 2020 baseball season at all professional levels is an unknown.

Among the many related unanswered questions, including reimbursement to fans who purchased game tickets, is how MLB will handle its tens of thousands of streaming customers.

Before the threat, MLB’s two major streaming services continued on a business-as-usual approach preparing for the season.

I will share what I have learned about changes to each since Thursday’s news.


MLB.TV

MLB.TV, the out-of-market package for live and archived game telecasts, renewed its annual subscribers for 2020 (at its list price $121.99) on or about February 28.

A prominent reminder was that subscribers would be able to:

“…watch almost 300 Spring Training games (with no blackout restrictions) and all 2,430 regular season MLB games…”

Obviously, given the events since, that is no longer the case.

The stated refund policy is that it must be requested within five days of the subscription purchase date or the automatic renewal date. In other words, it appears to be too late for renewed customers.

To understand if they have implemented an accommodation policy, I reached out to MLB.TV in three ways – via email, social media and phone. After several hours, here is what I have learned via each:

Email (subscriptionrenewal@website.mlb.com) – I received a prompt acknowledgement with a case number and a note that I will receive a reply “as soon as possible”.

Update: I received the follow-on email reply approximately eight hours after I sent mine. That was the good news. The bad is that they did not answer my MLB.TV payment question. In fact, it provides even less content than the script read to me on the phone below.

“MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible. For the most up-to-date information regarding tickets, please see https://www.mlb.com/tickets.”

Social media (@MLBTV) – No response has been provided yet, though my query has received many re-tweets from others also interested.

Phone (866-800-1275) – This was very frustrating. In one piece of good news, however, the phone representative I reached noted that they have “paused billing” for those on the MLB.TV monthly plan.

For annual subscribers, however, she offered nothing. In fact, she (perhaps unknowingly) misled me.

She assured me that “the games have only been postponed for two weeks, and will all be played later.” When I explained why that is not the case for sure for the remainder of the spring training games and not likely for the early regular season games, either, she did not seem to understand. All she did was repeat her script.

Frustrated by this, I requested to speak to a supervisor. After being put on hold, I was told that “no supervisor is on the floor”. I requested a call-back from a manager and was told that was not possible.

At that point, I was offered a refund (even though the refund window has passed). This is their apparent response for annual subscribers. However, I feel like I would not have been given this option had I not escalated.

It is important to note that no information is provided on either the MLB.TV or MiLB.TV websites about the interruption in play.

While I would have preferred to have been told there was an accommodation plan for MLB.TV annual subscribers, there is apparently not one. For example, had they implemented a pro-rated discount based on number of games to be cancelled, I would have accepted it and remained a customer.

Instead, given no choice other than to continue at full price for what will clearly be a partial season, I accepted the refund offer. I was told my credit card will be credited in five to seven days. I then asked how I would receive written confirmation.

The rep said she would send me an email documenting the cancellation, which I did receive in a timely manner. Just after, I was sent a link to a customer satisfaction survey. (That may not have been a good idea on their part.)

My take is that whenever the season resumes, there is no way MLB.TV will raise its price – and depending on how long games are cancelled, it could and should be less.


MLB Extra Innings

For those who instead subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings package through your cable or satellite provider, I encourage you to investigate your options sooner rather than later.

Update: TCN forum member “Euro Dandy” is an Extra Innings customer. Here is what he shared:

“I canceled my Verizon FIOS MLB Extra Innings package (which includes MLB.tv). It was set for auto renewal. The annual bill gets split in half over April and May. You can opt out as late as 10 days prior to the start of the regular season. I’m not sure how they’ll handle billing now for those who don’t opt out, and I didn’t want to find out.

“So if anybody else has a similar package, you might want to take action now. I figure I can always add it back later when things get going again.”

(Note that 10 days prior to the (original) start of the regular season is March 16. Perhaps they will extend their window and perhaps not. So as suggested, do not delay if you want to cancel.)

As always, your mileage may vary.


MiLB.TV

As is (or more correctly now, was) the case, I have been a long-time subscriber to Minor League Baseball’s game streaming service, MiLB.TV. For 2020, if subscribers do not want to be automatically renewed for the full season at the price of $49.99, by Wednesday, March 18, you must either:

  • Change the information on your “Subscriptions” tab in your MiLB.com account or
  • Contact Customer Service by phone at 866-644-2687 or
  • Contact Customer Service at customerservice@website.milb.com

Again, to avoid annual renewal billing, you must take one of the above actions by March 18. Also note that these phone numbers and email addresses are different between the two services.

I used the first of the three options on Friday and it seemed to work smoothly.

Update

On Tuesday, March 17, I called MiLB.TV customer support to ask if their auto-renewal policy has been changed in light of the official delay to the start of the season.

I was told that their auto-renewal policy has been “adjusted”, but there has been “NO official policy change”.

That was ambiguous.  Will subscribers be renewed on March 18 or not? I did not get a clear answer.

However, the phone rep was very willing to cancel my auto-renew for me, if I desired. Since I had already done this online, no action was required for me – but I share this update in case you have yet to take action – but were planning to do so.


In closing

Good luck in all of your decisions and may we share a hope that conditions improve such that baseball at all levels can safely resume as soon as possible.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 157 to 2020 Minors Spring Camp


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy 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.

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

Cardinals Finalize 2020 Contract Terms with Pre-Arbitration Players

photo: Jack Flaherty (Sam Navarro/Imagn)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Sunday, March 8) that they have agreed to terms and signed one-year contracts for the 2020 season with 24 players.  The team also announced that it has renewed the contract of pitcher Jack Flaherty.

Agreeing to terms among the team’s 0 to 3 Major League service time players were pitchers John Brebbia, Génesis Cabrera, Junior Fernandez, Giovanny Gallegos, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes, Ricardo Sánchez, Alvaro Seijas, Tyler Webb and Jake Woodford, catcher Andrew Knizner, infielders Tommy Edman, Elehuris Montero, Rangel Ravelo and Edmundo Sosa and outfielders Harrison Bader, Austin Dean, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Justin Williams.


Brian Walton’s take

For the second consecutive year, the staff ace Flaherty chose not to agree to the team’s offer in protest, but he still must accept it if he wants to play in 2020. So he will.

Jack Flaherty

All players who are not yet arbitration-eligible (which comes shortly before three seasons in the majors) are bound to salaries as determined by their teams. The primary requirement is that the players make above the MLB minimum salary of $563,500 this coming season.

The Cardinals use a preset salary scale driven by formulas for these pre-arbitration players, but their pay is relatively close to the base. As is the case for many prominent players in this population across MLB, their actual pay is far below their market value. Teams contend this reflects their investment made in developing these players through the minor leagues.

Flaherty is one of many players across the game who have been vocal in their concerns over the current salary structure. This is expected to be a major point of contention in the negotiations between players and owners on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, to go into effect following the 2021 season.

This should also serve as yet another in a series of reminders to those Cardinals fans who expect the team to lure Flaherty into signing a long-term extension. It takes two to tango and there is no indication that Flaherty would be interested in giving up his financial leverage any time soon. I expect him to wait until the new CBA terms are set before even considering any long-term deal.

Until then, I look for a series of one-year deals each spring, perhaps with an arbitration hearing required to set his annual salary amount. Flaherty will become first-time arbitration-eligible next spring. If anyone is well-positioned to bet on himself improving each year – on the field and at the bargaining table – it is Flaherty. The right-hander has four more seasons under team control before being able to taste free agency – at least under today’s rules.

I recommend that those who are over-anxious now re-set your expectations accordingly. This is likely to be an annual occurrence.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Six Cardinals Top Prospect Acceleration Candidates – 2020


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 2020 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, our limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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 Make First Cuts of 2020, Release Muñoz

photo: Yairo Munoz with Riley Unroe (David Dermer/Imagn)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Saturday, March 7) that they have reduced their Spring Training roster by 14 players, leaving 57 players in Major League camp.

The team today announced that pitcher Ricardo Sánchez and infielder Elehuris Montero have both been optioned to the Springfield (AA) roster, and pitcher Alvaro Seijas has been optioned to the Palm Beach (A) roster.

In addition, the team re-assigned the following non-roster invitees to the minor league camp:  Akeem Bostick (rhp), Nabil Crismatt (rhp), Seth Elledge (rhp), Alex FaGalde (rhp), Griffin Roberts (rhp), Angel Rondón (rhp), Ramón Santos (rhp), infielder Luken Baker and catchers Julio Rodríguez and Alexis Wilson.

The team also announced that infielder Yairo Muñoz has been placed on Unconditional Release Waivers.


Brian Walton’s take on Muñoz

The major surprise is the release of Muñoz. However, as media reports provided further details about the infielder having left the team without notice and returning home to the Dominican Republic, it makes sense.

Yairo Muñoz

According to manager Mike Shildt, the 25-year old repeatedly complained about a lack of playing time in 2019, likely in part due to the emergence of Tommy Edman. The latter soaked up over 350 plate appearances after arriving in St. Louis in June and performing at a very high level.

One report indicated that Muñoz saw the “writing on the wall” concerning his role in 2020, which led to his departure from the team. The reality is that ever since veteran Brad Miller was signed on February 12, Muñoz’ role seemed to have been determined – a return to Triple-A when healthy. (Same for fellow infielder Edmundo Sosa, against whom Munoz was expected to compete for a roster spot prior to Miller’s arrival changing the apparent pecking order.)

Until his release, Muñoz appeared destined to open the season on St. Louis’ injured list, having suffered a relatively significant hamstring strain on February 29. He would have received big-league salary at least until ready to be activated. Likely, he would have been optioned to Memphis at that point, but could have been the next man up when an injury occurred.

In early spring action, the right-handed hitter performed well. Muñoz’ slash line in 16 plate appearances was .375/.375/.625/1.000. He was successful in his only steal attempt, captured in the photo above.

Regarding the timing, according to reporter Jeff Jones, tomorrow – Sunday, March 8 – is the final day a player can be released without a team owing him his entire salary. This way, the Cardinals are on the hook for just one-sixth of Muñoz season salary, which was undoubtedly slated to be close to the MLB minimum of $563,500.

His release clears a spot on St. Louis’ 40-man roster. Muñoz held a spot there ever since he and infielder Max Schrock were acquired from the Oakland A’s in return for outfielder Stephen Piscotty on December 14, 2017.

Before the details behind Muñoz departure became clear, it was easy to speculate that roster spot was earmarked for non-roster outfielder Dylan Carlson. While that could end up being the case by the end of camp, the specifics of the Muñoz case seem to stand on their own.


Brian Walton’s take on the other roster moves

None of the first cuts were a surprise. Minor league camp begins this coming week and the Cardinals had far too many players in big-league camp. Innings for these youngsters were few and far between, especially as the pitchers seriously contending for the roster are stretching out. In a direct relationship, the extra catchers are needed to catch the extra pitchers.

Do not read anything into the level assignments for the optioned players. That reflects where they ended last season. Where they open 2020 will be determined by performances in minor league camp ahead.

Eight members of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 Prospect List for 2020 are among those sent down: Montero (no. 4), Rondon (no. 9), Baker (no. 19), Rodriguez (no. 21), Seijas (no. 22), Roberts (no. 23), FaGalde (no. 29) and Elledge (no. 31).


Updates

The Cardinals had mentioned above that they have 57 players in camp, while my count was 60. After some digging, I have determined the discrepancies.

Short-season catchers Aaron Antonini and Pedro Pages have also been assigned to minor league camp, though unannounced.

In addition, Kramer Robertson, brought in early last week due to infield injuries, was never officially added to big-league camp and will open with the others this week in minor league camp.

From Monday, March 9:


What is next

Many more cuts will be announced over the final two and a half weeks of camp. I wrote about my mid-camp Opening Day roster predictions here:

2020 Cardinals Opening Day Roster Predictions – Mid-Camp


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

Six Cardinals Top Prospect Acceleration Candidates – 2020


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 2020 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, our limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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.

2020 Cardinals Opening Day Roster Predictions – Mid-Camp

photo: Byung-Hyun Kim (Jim Rassol/Imagn)

With the St. Louis Cardinals taking Friday off, the club is 6-7-2 through 15 Grapefruit League games. Including the spring finale in Texas on March 23, 16 contests remain.

To recognize the midpoint, I will return to update my pre-camp Opening Day roster predictions, as shared with subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.

Breaking Down Cardinals Relief Pitching Decisions – Spring 2020

Breaking Down Cardinals Reserve Decisions – Spring 2020

Here are the key background changes since camp began – Andrew Miller (nerve) and Yairo Muñoz (hamstring) join Jordan Hicks and Miles Mikolas on the projected injured list.

Muñoz was not likely to be on the opening 26-man roster, anyway, but assuming Miller cannot go, a third contested bullpen spot will be created.

With the opening of minor league camp this coming week, a significant number of the 74 players in camp (39 pitchers and 35 position players) will be cut. Opening Day assumptions are 13 active pitchers and 13 position players.

(Update: Munoz was released and 13 players were sent down to the minors on Saturday, March 7.)


Pitching

As before, player names are in the middle, with comments to the outside.  All players in camp are accounted for.

Comments Starting five Relief “set five” Comments
Flaherty  Cecil (L)
looking good C Martinez Webb (L)
may need long man Wainwright Gant
Hudson Brebbia
is groin problem past? Kim (L) G Gallegos closer?
open #1
open #2
open #3
“Challenging five”
my long man leader Ponce de Leon Helsley my pen leader
third lefty? Gomber (L) Fernandez 0.00 ERA
0.00 ERA Cabrera (L)
To Memphis
Reyes  inconsistent
Injured list
flexor tendon strain Mikolas (to IL) Hicks (IL) Tommy John recovery
A Miller (L to IL) nerve problem
No MLB experience
later 2020 debut Woodford
2021 debut Seijas
2021 debut Sanchez
Not spring 2020
Parsons (NRI) Kaminsky (L NRI)
Crismatt (NRI) R Ramirez (NRI)
Bostick (NRI) Whitley (NRI)
Oviedo (NRI) J Cruz (NRI)
A Rondon (NRI) Elledge (NRI)
FaGalde (NRI) Dobzanski (NRI)
Kruczynski (L NRI) Santos (NRI)
Roberts (NRI)
Thompson (L NRI)
Liberatore (L NRI)
(L) left-handed pitcher
bold = 40-man roster

Despite Kwang-Hyun Kim’s recent groin injury, he has returned to pitch effectively. I believe the Korean lefty will remain in the rotation until/unless he shows he cannot go.

As good as Carlos Martinez has been, allaying fears about his durability, Adam Wainwright’s outings have returned questions about his effectiveness. The veteran should remain in the rotation, but the long man in relief could become more important. This may specifically relate to Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon.

The number of bullpen openings is up to three, as the pitchers I see as realistically challenging for those openings are down to five. They all have a great case to make the team.

Across a total of 27 spring innings, these five contenders have allowed just two runs (0.67 ERA). Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera and Junior Fernandez have yet to give up a run, while Ponce de Leon and Gomber have yielded just one tally each.

Alex Reyes has yet to demonstrate the needed consistency, so I project him starting the year with Memphis.

Regarding the closer, it seems the choices have narrowed. If Miller remains out/ineffective and Martinez claims his rotation spot as expected, I see Giovanny Gallegos as being the most likely ninth inning man to start the season. Helsley and John Gant are still pitching multiple innings in games, though that could change ahead.

If I had to fill the final three roster spots today, it would be the right-handers – Ponce, Helsley and Fernandez. But if they want a direct replacement for Miller, the fellow lefty Cabrera or even Gomber could slip into the mix.

The front office and Mike Shildt could easily view it differently, as I do not see a bad choice among the five top contenders.


Position players

Comments Starting eight Reserve five Comments
Molina Wieters
Goldschmidt Edman .739 OPS
Wong B Miller back tightness minor
DeJong Thomas .921 OPS
back tightness minor Carpenter Ravelo no options – .861 OPS
1.090 OPS O’Neill
.880 OPS Bader
.095 BA Fowler
“Challenging two”
Carlson (NRI) major push – 1.158 OPS
Dean solid – .953 OPS
To Memphis
Knizner .150 BA
Sosa .192 BA
Williams .095 BA
Injured list
Munoz
Not spring 2020 No MLB experience
Montero
extra catchers other NRIs
Godoy (NRI) Nogowski (NRI)
O Hernandez (NRI) Schrock (NRI)
Ju Rodriguez (NRI) E Mendoza (NRI)
D Ortega (NRI) Baker (NRI)
I Herrera (NRI) Gorman (NRI)
C Soto (NRI) Robertson (NRI) MIF injury add
A Wilson (NRI)
Pages (NRI)
Antonini (NRI)
bold = 40-man roster

I have the same 13 position players making the Opening Day roster as I predicted before camp – however, I am less sure about it than before.

As everyone reading this already knows, Dexter Fowler is not hitting well and Dylan Carlson is. In encouraging news for the team, so are Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Harrison Bader.

Dylan Carlson

A decision to put Carlson on the 26-man roster, while seemingly obvious to many fans, cannot be made in a vacuum. Like every other roster move, there are related impacts to consider.

What this is NOT about, however, is service time manipulation.

Specifically, we know that Carlson will not make the team except in a starting role – not in a job share or coming off the bench. So, heading out of camp, would the Cardinals put Carlson in the lineup, knowing that Fowler would be the likely one to move into a reserve role? Are they ready to make that call, starting a relatively inexperienced outfield of O’Neill-Bader-Carlson?

And even if so, would they do that knowing the domino impact that Thomas would be pushed down to Memphis or Rangel Ravelo would be exposed to waivers?

It is also worth noting that through the first half of camp, utility man Tommy Edman is not outhitting any of the true outfielders competing for a roster spot, while peer Brad Miller is reportedly close from returning to action following lower back soreness. I see both reserves making the team, but maybe not securing as many outfield at-bats as some thought previously. Their left-handed swinging capability remains their key offensive differentiator.

The Carlson and related questions are the key ones to be answered for the position players ahead.

Three earlier contenders for the 26th spot are all currently hitting below the Mendoza Line – Andrew Knizner, Edmundo Sosa and Justin Williams. I have this trio starting 2020 back with Memphis.

Newcomer Austin Dean is hitting well, but he would need an injury to one of the outfielders ahead of him to make the team. Not likely, even as the 26th man.

The next two and a half weeks should be really interesting as the final decisions affecting the Opening Day roster are revealed.


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

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2020 Cardinals Spring TV Schedule – AR, OK, TN, MS

Most in-market St. Louis Cardinals fans rely on subscriptions to FOX Sports Midwest to watch the team in action. Most out-of-market fans use a package like MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings to see the Cardinals on television or via streaming devices.

However, there is another important group of Cardinals fans who live in or near enemy lines – in the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas as well as parts of Mississippi and Tennessee.

The good news for these viewers is that they can watch Cardinals telecasts this spring on their own regional FOX Sports networks.

For those in Oklahoma and Arkansas, there are no exceptions. All 15 FOX Midwest-originated spring training games can be seen on FOX Sports Southwest Plus.

And between them, FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast will televise 13 of 15 spring training games featuring the Cardinals that originate from FOX Sports Midwest.

Telecasts of Cardinals’ games on FOX Sports South are available in the Memphis, Evansville and Paducah/Harrisburg/Cape Girardeau DMAs, plus the counties of Union, Pontotoc, Yalobusha and Grenada in Mississippi.  Telecasts of Cardinals games on FOX Sports Southeast are available in the Memphis DMA, plus the counties of Union Pontotoc, Yalobusha and Grenada in Mississippi.

Spring training coverage began with Game 1 on Saturday, February 22 when the Cardinals entertained the New York Mets at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium. It was the first of nine on FOX Sports South with the remaining four to be on FS Southeast.

The only FOX Sports Midwest spring training games not covered on one of these two networks (South and Southeast) are on March 7 and March 19.

See the complete Cardinals spring telecast schedule on these FOX Sports regional networks on The Cardinal Nation’s Cardinals master spring schedule via the link below.

Almost Complete St. Louis Cardinals Spring Television Schedule


What is next

Check back in a week to 10 days for the regular season Cardinals plans on all of these networks. If past seasons are an indication, approximately 135-140 games will be picked up on South/Southeast.


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