All posts by Derek Shore

Cover the Springfield Cardinals and Cardinals minor league pipeline for The Cardinal Nation | Freelance sports writer

Yariel Gonzalez Plays for Puerto Rico – and to Reach the Majors

photo: Yariel Gonzalez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As Yariel Gonzalez returned to Puerto Rico, he looked out the window as his plane descended for landing in his home country.

It is a view he’ll never forget. There were no leaves on the trees that remained. The plane flew over neighborhoods with houses and buildings that had no ceilings, or with missing walls.

“Whenever I got off the plane, I cried,” Gonzalez said. “On my way home, I cried. I can’t believe this is Puerto Rico right now. My heart has always been with them.”

The damage Gonzalez described was from Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that killed 112.

Yariel Gonzalez (Peoria Chiefs)

Gonzalez returned to his San Sebastian home after the 2017 baseball season ended in the U.S, ready to help his family, his people.

“It was friends and neighbors helping each other survive, trying to find each other,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez grew up in San Sebastian, and takes great pride in Puerto Rico. He has a brother in the U.S. Air Force, and another lives in the States. Everyone in his family played baseball.

In fact, his grandfather, Carlos Ramos, played with Roberto Clemente as youngsters in Puerto Rico.

The Hall of Famer Clemente died in a plane crash en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in December of 1972.

“It’s a really big thing for us,” Gonzalez said. “Roberto Clemente is like an idol for us. He is an example of how you should do stuff and an example of it doesn’t matter about the bonus or money you get. It’s about how hard you play.”

Coming to the States

Gonzalez, like his home, is building on a slow, steady path. He understands humble beginnings.

He grew up on baseball and went on to play at the University of Science and Arts in Chickasha, Okla. The four-time .400 hitting collegian led them to the NAIA World Series in 2016.

“It was great because you don’t play for nothing than just a championship,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t know what is going to happen after that. You just know what is happening in the moment.

“It was one of the best moments ever.”

Yet, no major league team drafted him. The Cardinals signed him as a non-drafted free agent on June 16, 2016.

Gonzalez received a $1,000 signing bonus, with only $700 remaining after taxes.

“Talking about that, it was hard for me,” Gonzalez said. “If you look at my numbers compared to any guy in the league, I shouldn’t have signed for that much. But that is what God gave me. I will make sure I get the best out of it.”

Gonzalez played rookie ball for Johnson City and moved up to short-season State College to conclude his professional debut.

He returned to State College in 2017 and hit .305 with a 15-game hitting streak and a league-best 42 RBI.

That is when Gonzalez put himself on the prospect map.

After breaking camp with full-season Peoria in 2018, he slashed .311/.357/.458 over 107 games en route to both midseason and postseason Midwest League All-Star honors.

His 2018 manager Chris Swauger said the consistency in which he played stood out the most in his game.

“(Elehuris) Montero was MVP of the league and clearly our team,” Swauger said. “If you want to actually define a valuable player, Yariel was right up there because of all the roles he played on our team as far as the positions he played and he hit in the middle of our lineup and produced the entire season.”

Gonzalez attributed his success to always playing with a killer-mentality.

“I was hungry,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted more. I wanted to get out of there. I felt like I wasn’t right for that league. I was like, ‘Man, I should be somewhere else.’ I got to kill here. I need something that will help me move on.

“Great team. Great coach. Everything was perfect for playing ball.”

Returning home again

Puerto Rico is healing its wounds thanks in large part to the role baseball has played.

Gonzalez said one of the happiest moments for the country was when Major League Baseball announced the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins would play a two-game series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, last April.

To cap it off, native son Francisco Lindor hit a dramatic home run to create what was one of the lasting images of the 2018 season.

“That is something we all dream about,” Gonzalez said. “That is something any baseball player would dream about.”

For the past three off-seasons, Gonzalez has returned home to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Gonzalez hit .294 and recorded a homer and 23 RBIs in 32 games for the Indios de Mayaguez this past offseason.

His performance earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, an award for which Gonzalez took great pride.

“You play there for love,” Gonzalez said. “The people who are expecting you to be in the bigs are watching you and crying with you – doing everything for you. It is really important for us. It teaches you a lot. You play with big-leaguers. You are playing with people who have 10 years’ experience or more.

“It teaches you a lot about baseball.”

Continuing to prove his worth

Gonzalez, 25, is older as a prospect in the eyes of scouts, but evaluators like his upside with the bat and versatility.

Yariel Gonzalez (Memphis Redbirds)

He has spent time at six different positions in professional baseball, including first base, second base, third base, right field, left field and shortstop.

Now in his fourth year with the Cardinals organization, Gonzalez admits his journey through the system has been hard.

“I’ve been doing everything I can,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been doing everything they asked me for. They want me to play everywhere. I did it. They wanted me to do some other stuff and I did it.

“What can I tell you? It’s been fun, but at the same time, it’s been pretty hard. I’ve had to hit a lot (to keep moving up). I don’t know what to do to keep going higher because I feel like I’m old enough to keep going and I’m still here.

“It’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people who have taught me a lot.”

He faced another challenge to open this year in the Florida State League, a league known to suppress offense.

“Everything is difficult down there,” Gonzalez said. “The weather is hot. Really hot. The fields aren’t great. You can hit the ball hard and deep it is not going to go anywhere. It teaches you. Every league, you have to take the best out of it. You can’t frustrate yourself and be like, ‘Oh, I can’t hit. No, you can hit. Try and find ways to get better.’

“Hit the ball on the ground or line drives. Just change something and try to get used to that league.”

Gonzalez kept grinding.

After hitting .260 in 57 games for High-A Palm Beach, he moved up to Double-A Springfield on June 9. Six days later, Triple-A Memphis came calling due to injuries.

Gonzalez spent a week at Triple-A before being sent back to Springfield on June 24. Since that time, he’s been one of the hottest hitters in not only the Texas League, but the Cardinals system.

Gonzalez said he has been working with hitting coach Brandon Allen on settling and calming himself down at the plate.

That has paid immediate dividends. In July, he is slashing .352/.400/.568 with five homers and 25 RBIs through 23 games.

Manager Joe Kruzel uses one word to summarize his three-hole hitter.

“Consistency,” Kruzel said. “He has been able to go up there and maintain his plan and approach. He stays within himself. He has put himself into a good hitting position and giving himself a good chance to put a good swing. He has had some really positive results with that.”

It also helps that Gonzalez doesn’t have to worry about playing a different position every day. In Elehuris Montero’s absence, he has primarily played third base, a position he has played all his life.

“Whenever I got to the Cardinals, they asked me to play everything; because that was my only chance to stay here, so I did it,” Gonzalez said. “I was like, ‘Man, I want to play ball.’ I’ll do it. I’m not mad at it. I’m happy I get the opportunity to play everywhere and learn how to play everything because that opens a lot of doors.

“Now, I’m back at my corner. That is what I love. That is the place I like to be. Again, if someday they ask me to go to the outfield because that opens doors for me, I’m more than happy to do it.”

At the same time, Gonzalez has set both short-term and long-term goals going forward.

“I’m trying to move up,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to keep going for my goal. All my life I just want to get to the bigs. I’m pretty sure that is every player’s goal. If I stay (at Springfield), I just want to get a championship. I want a ring. I want to celebrate with my boys and have a great time.

“That is all that matters right now.”


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 16

After a strong 5-2 Texas road trip, the Double-A Cardinals have moved into first place. The left side of the infield, shortstop Rayder Ascanio and third baseman Yariel Gonzalez, have been red-hot at the plate. Manager Joe Kruzel identifies other standouts, as well.

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Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 14

Despite much-improved pitching led by Alex FaGalde and Angel Rondon, the Springfield Cardinals went 3-4 on the week. Manager Joe Kruzel discusses lessons learned from the challenging first half and highlights several recent roster reinforcements.

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Springfield’s Alex FaGalde Keeps Earning Recognition

Alex FaGalde had no apparent trouble finding success in his Double-A debut on June 17. It was getting to Midland, Texas that was the hardest part.

FaGalde was promoted from High-A Palm Beach less than 48 hours before he took the hill at Security Bank Ballpark. By the time he arrived, he’d been put to the test. Flying from Palm Beach to Dallas to Midland, he went through multiple flight cancellations and delays due to weather.

He spent a total of 12 hours in the airport and over five in the air. And once he arrived to Midland, he got just a few hours of sleep. Then once he returned to the airport in the morning to receive all his luggage – the airline had lost one of his bags. A lone silver lining was that it wasn’t the one with the equipment he needed to play later that day.

“I had my baseball bag in time for the game, so that’s all I needed,” FaGalde said.

Finally able to put all the travel concerns behind him, FaGalde took the one bag he did have and headed to the ballpark to embark on the next chapter of his career. Taking the hill that evening, he said he felt physically and mentally wiped out, with the expected case of nerves and jitters that come with a debut.

But that only aided FaGalde.

TCN’s new no. 20 prospect made the longest start of his professional career in his first appearance with Springfield, striking out four over eight two-hit innings.

“I think initially (the travel concerns) kept my mind off it,” FaGalde said. “Those first game nerves almost picked me back up from being so tired with all the travel. It kind of leveled me out.”

Making baseball a profession

Despite the numbers he’s put up along the way, FaGalde has always been an under-the-radar type on the diamond.

He started his collegiate career as a walk-on at Cuesta College, a small junior college about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, California.

It was there that FaGalde said he realized he could make baseball a profession.

“I think I finally got to a point where I said, ‘Ok, I’m doing pretty well here and there might be an opportunity to play,’” FaGalde said. “I’ve always been preparing for the next level. If you are playing junior college ball and not preparing for D1, you are not doing it right.”

Alex FaGalde (Cal-Riverside)

After two years at Cuesta, Cal Riverside recruited FaGalde for his senior year and he emerged as the Highlanders’ top starter. He compiled a 7-4 overall record with a 3.39 ERA and allowed only 70 hits in 79 ⅔ innings.

And sure enough, FaGalde’s performance in his senior campaign caught the attention of the Cardinals, who drafted him in the 30th round in 2017.

“I was very happy to be selected by the Cardinals,” FaGalde said. “I was actually asleep at the time and I dozed off on the couch for a little bit. My girlfriend woke me up and said, ‘Hey, you just got picked.’ Very memorable experience there.”

Excelling in pro ball

It’s safe to say wherever FaGalde has been in the Cardinals system, he has excelled and then some.

However after a solid professional debut in 2017 as a reliever in the GCL and at State College, FaGalde did not break 2018 spring training with a team. His first full-season opportunity didn’t come until May 18 when a roster spot opened up at Low-A Peoria.

FaGalde took off from there.

Alex FaGalde (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

He was sensational in May and June for the Chiefs, posting ERAs of 2.12 (17 IP) and 2.08 (30.1 IP), respectively. Then came July.

Over five starts, FaGalde allowed just three earned runs and none over his final 18 innings pitched. His best start was his final outing with Peoria in which he struck out 10 batters over seven one-hit frames. That earned him a promotion to High-A Palm Beach on August 1.

Alex FaGalde (Palm Beach Cardinals)

He made seven starts with the Beach Birds, compiling a 3.20 ERA through 39 ⅓ innings of work.

“He is a supreme competitor,” 2018 Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “If you look at his stuff, nothing overwhelms you as far as velocity or an incredible off-speed pitch. He just does a really nice job of mixing well, competing, and paying attention to what guys are doing. He is very good at making adjustments.

“He understands who he is as a pitcher and what he needs to do. He goes out there and just executes a game plan. He was a very, very good stabilizing force with our younger pitchers. We were glad he moved up and had that sustained success.”

FaGalde attributed his success in his first full season of pro ball to throwing strikes and attacking the zone.

“They say, ‘Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in sports,’” FaGalde said. “If you are able to take away the free opportunities – stop walking people and stop doing things that are detrimental to your success – that simplifies everything. You are just going out and throwing rocks.”

Becoming a prospect

From starting the year in extended spring training to finishing at High-A, FaGalde came a long way in 2018. He asserted himself as TCN’s No. 46 prospect heading into the 2019 season.

“It is always a bummer when you start in extended,” FaGalde said. “It is not a place you want to be for long. Then I got to Peoria and went to Palm Beach. I did pretty well there again, so I just tried to keep moving.”

FaGalde returned to Palm Beach to open 2019 where he posted the Florida State League’s second-lowest ERA (1.99) and lowest WHIP (0.88) in the first half. He also was named TCN’s Pitcher of the Month for May.

That great start led to his selection to the FSL mid-season All-Star Team.

“It was amazing,” FaGalde said. “I don’t think I have been an All-Star since I was 13 or 14. It was a lot of fun and a great time being with all the guys. The festivities that go into all that. I had a great time.”

Alex FaGalde (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Immediately after the game, FaGalde was promoted to Springfield. In Double-A, he has allowed only two earned runs over his first four starts, spanning 25 ⅓ innings of work. That resulted in him repeating as TCN’s Pitcher of the Month, this time for June.

“He has a feel for how to pitch,” Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said. “He trusts his stuff and throws strikes. When those things come into play, you can really sense a guy has a good feeling for what he is doing out there. He has a little savvy to him in how to pitch. He understands what type of pitcher he is.

“He is a strike-thrower and induces soft contact. He doesn’t try to do any more than what he is capable of doing. He has had some great success with that.”

His recipe for success has been attacking hitters, keeping the walks down and forcing the opposition to swing at his pitches.

FaGalde said his best pitch is his 86-90 mph fastball, which hitters struggle to pick up and tend to swing through. He also throws a curveball, slider and split-changeup which vary in effectiveness from day to day.

The 25-year old said his slider has been working well this year and he has always been able to throw the splitter anytime in counts. His curveball is the newest pitch and there are days when he relies on it to get him through situations, he said.

“All in all, everything plays off my fastball.”

Despite his heater not featuring premium velocity, FaGalde’s fastball has an exceptional spin-rate that helps it play up.

“It is a little above-average, but I think more than anything, it is a really true spin,” FaGalde said. “I try to make it as true of a four-seam fastball spin as I can and then good location. Not too many hitters are going to miss fastball right down the middle. They are going to miss ones that are towards the corners.

“So, I try to do that.”

FaGalde also possesses plus control, which Baseball America rated as the best in the Cardinals system. He said that is a huge part of his game.

“Being able to work on the outside part of the zone – it’s more important for a guy that is throwing 88 or 90 than a guy throwing 95 or 100,” FaGalde said. “It is definitely something I try to take care of.”

His main goal going forward is to help Springfield win and make a playoff push in the second half. And while he’s not viewed as a legitimate prospect among scouts, FaGalde has defied the odds throughout his career and it is hard not to pay attention to the numbers he has put up.


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Fagalde Repeats as TCN’s Cardinals Minors Pitcher of the Month

photo: Alex Fagalde (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the first installment of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals system. While the Cardinals recognize their top players as well, we undertake independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of June system-wide pitching leaders.

Fagalde repeats

While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had strong Junes, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to earn a promotion to Double-A Springfield, not missing beat while further boosting his prospect stock.

Alex Fagalde (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Our June Pitcher of the Month is former High-A Palm Beach ace and now Springfield hurler Alex Fagalde, who should have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization June Pitcher of the Month honors.

In 29 ⅓ innings, TCN’s No. 33 prospect Fagalde went 2-0 and led the entire Cardinals system with a minuscule 0.31 ERA. To put that into perspective, the right-hander allowed only one earned run during June.

Fagalde struck out 21 batters and walked seven through five starts (three at Springfield and two with Palm Beach). Prior to his promotion, he ranked second in the Florida State League with a 1.99 ERA and paced the circuit with a 0.88 WHIP.

His month was highlighted by being named a FSL mid-season All-Star as well as tossing eight shutout innings in his Double-A debut on June 17, the longest start of his professional career.

“I threw a lot of strikes,” Fagalde told the media after that game. “I was in the zone a lot, and they’re an aggressive team. They were swinging early in the counts. I was just trying to keep them from hitting it too hard. They definitely got pitches to hit there in the strike zone and just missed the barrels a lot.”

From a scouting perspective, Fagalde’s fastball ranges from 86-90 mph, but hitters struggle to pick it up well and often swing through it. Some believe he has an exceptional spin rate that helps it play up. His primary secondary pitches include a slider he locates well along with a splitter.

He commands all three of his pitches, with his fastball command being plus. His stuff is so effective because he throws them all with the same delivery and arm slot, working up and down in the zone.

Fagalde has defied the odds throughout his career since being a 30th round draft pick in 2017 and a player who has always been old for his league. Scouts like him best as upper level organizational depth, but he has pitched well wherever he’s been at and it is hard not to pay attention to the numbers he has put up, including now at Double-A.


Honorable Mentions

Kyle Leahy (Peoria Chiefs)

Runner-up to Fagalde is Class-A Peoria workhorse Kyle Leahy, who allowed only two earned runs across five starts (31 innings) for the Chiefs this past month – until being touched for two more earned runs in five innings on the final day of the month. Further, the right-hander, who made a spot-start for High-A Palm Beach on June 18, gave up two earned runs on seven hits over just three innings in his FSL debut.

That outing was ultimately the deciding factor in choosing the June Player of the Month.

Alvaro Seijas (Peoria Chiefs)

17-year old starter Angel Cuenca led the way on the bump for the DSL Cardinals Red, posting a 0.67 ERA across five starts in the first month of the Dominican Summer League season. The Venezeluan native struck out 21 batters over 27 innings.

For the DSL Cardinals Blue, youngsters Reinys Portillo and Gustavo Rodriguez posted 1.80 and 1.89 ERAs, respectively. Those two were the anchors atop that pitching staff in June.

TCN’s No. 37 prospect Alvaro Seijas, who is repeating Peoria, quietly has put together a bounceback 2019, including a strong month of June. The 20-year old held a 2.20 ERA across five starts, striking out 26 batters over a system-high 32 ⅔ innings.


What’s Next

Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s June Player of the Month announcement, coming Tuesday morning, as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the third month of the 2019 season.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 1


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

Dylan Carlson Continues to Make Waves at Double-A

photo: Dylan Carlson (Aaron Doster/Imagn)

There was a buzz heading into this spring.

The buzz was about St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Dylan Carlson, who the Cardinals were betting big on his breakout this year in the hitter-friendly environment of the Texas League.

Carlson has done exactly that and then some, showing a mix of tools and savvy. He is demonstrating above-average hitting ability, plus power, above-average defense and enough speed and instincts to be a base-stealing threat.

With an all-around game blossoming at a young age, Carlson is making a push at Nolan Gorman as the No. 1 prospect in the Cardinals’ system.

Proving his worth in spring

Dylan Carlson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

As spring training progressed and players started moving out and over to the minor-league side of the complex, one of the youngest players in the Cardinals big-league camp remained.

That was not only because of the potential he showed, but because of the game performances he delivered in spring.

Carlson is the latest in the line of young, ascending outfielders the likes of which the Cardinals haven’t seen since Colby Rasmus and the late Oscar Taveras.

Late in one of his spring starts, Carlson drilled a home run off Mets all-star closer Edwin Diaz.

“He looks like he belongs,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told the media during spring training.

Carlson, a 2016 first-rounder out of Elk Grove High in California, said he went into the spring trying to learn every day. He was able to hang around Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt, and watched how they studied video.

He watched them view video of opposing pitchers, and eventually started picking their brains about what they were looking for in at-bats and with their swings. Those tips he now uses at Double-A to scout the opposition.

“I felt like I had a productive spring from that aspect and trying to take things with me and get better each day,” Carlson said.

Playing baseball at Elk Grove

Carlson has been one the youngest players at every level of his development, including when he was playing the game growing up and in high school.

He went to elementary school close to nearby Elk Grove High, where his father Jeff coached baseball. Dylan picked up switch-hitting while watching one of his father’s players hit from the left-side. His father nurtured it and never told him to stop.

At a time when some kids are held back to be older, bigger and more mature at their grade, Jeff pushed both of his sons forward, including Dylan’s younger brother Tanner, who graduated at 17. Dylan also graduated at 17 and started high school at 13, lining up against opponents who were four years older.

Coach Carlson wanted his team to face the best pitching prospects in California and wanted his sons to play up.

“It challenged him and he is facing guys that are more mature, so obviously the competition level is a little higher,” Jeff Carlson said. “That is always going to challenge you. It brings up your maturity level as a ballplayer and plays at their level. It has always been a big challenge.”

Breakthrough season with Springfield

At High-A Palm Beach last year, in a ballpark that suppresses offense, Carlson slashed .247/.345/.386 with nine home runs in 99 games. He drew 52 walks against 78 strikeouts in the Florida State League after earning a promotion from Low-A Peoria after 13 games.

Carlson said playing in the Florida State League taught him to stay dedicated to sticking with the process. He has taken that into this season at Springfield instead of worrying about the results.

That mindset has paid off greatly.

Carlson has the third-highest slugging percentage (.529) and OPS (.904) in the Texas League. He’s the only 20-year old in the league’s top 40 in OPS.

“For me, I have tried to stick with my plan so far this season,” Carlson said. “That has been the biggest difference – trying to stick with my strengths, my plan and executing as opposed to giving in to how they are trying to get me out and getting out of my plan. I’m swinging at strikes, handling pitches that I can handle.

“For me, that has been the biggest thing (in making myself a complete hitter).”

One of his former coaches agrees with that assessment.

“He has matured. The approach he takes at the plate continues to grow,” his father said. “The consistency – that is what we always talk about and just being consistent. You are taking 500 at-bats a year, so it is, ‘How can you be consistent throughout the whole year?’”

Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said Carlson has been his team’s most consistent player all-around and continued with even more praise.

“He has done a tremendous job hitting from both sides of the plate,” Kruzel said. “He is a real student of the game. He really studies it and understands it, and plays it the right way. The preparation that this young man does on a daily basis is head and shoulders above his age.

“I think you’ll continue to see a breakout year from him. The whole goal is to get him to St. Louis as quick as possible.”

Carlson has also grown into his power this year, collecting an impressive 28 extra-base hits (13 doubles, six triples and nine home runs) in 56 games for the S-Cards.

“Like I said, the whole process and my plan at the plate has changed,” Carlson said. “I try to really do some damage when I walk up there. Luckily, for me, I have been able to connect on a few.”

Looking ahead

His performance at Springfield makes him a strong candidate for this year’s MLB All-Star Futures Game in July.

Carlson said representing the Cardinals would be a tremendous honor.

“It would be a huge honor playing for such a storied organization,” Carlson said. “It would be a real honor. If it happens, it happens. Obviously, it is a big deal. It is something I would love to do.”

With the growth and improvements he has made this season, Carlson is viewed by scouts as a plus power-hitting outfielder, who hits for a high-average thanks to his strong hit tool.

With the versatility he has added, scouts say his speed and solid average arm fits best in a corner outfield spot, but he could also play center field in a pinch. They like him as an everyday player at the big-league level, who has 25-30 home run power.

The showing Carlson put together in spring training and his breakout season so far has arguably put him in the conversation for the Cardinals’ 2020 outfield plans. He will likely be 21, playing during an era of which young talent has taken the big-leagues by storm.

“I think it’s awesome (that there are players getting it done at the highest level who are my age),” Carlson said. “It makes me motivated to get there. It’s definitely also good to see guys getting it done at that level and at that age. It is definitely inspiring and cool to see.”


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Ravelo Named The Cardinal Nation May Player of the Month

photo: Rangel Ravelo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the first of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Player and Pitcher of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. While the Cardinals themselves recognize their top players as well, we undertake our own independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of May system-wide hitting leaders.


Ravelo claims TCN’s top hitting honors

Rangel Ravelo (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

While a number of hitters in the Cardinals system had strong performances in May, one hitter distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of hitting to help carry the Triple-A Memphis offense.

Our May Player of the Month is Memphis three-hole hitter Rangel Ravelo, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization Player of the Month honors.

Among hitters, Ravelo led the Cardinals system with a .384 batting average, .460 on-base percentage, .606 slugging percentage and a 1.066 OPS over 29 games in May.

Ravelo also tied with TCN’s No. 2 prospect and Springfield outfielder Dylan Carlson for the system-lead in extra-base hits. The first baseman collected eight doubles, one triple and four homers while driving in 17 runs.

The month of May represented an impressive turnaround for Ravelo after he slashed .173/.253/.307 in 21 games to open the year in April after coming off the injured list.

During this past month, the 27-year old fell just one game short of tying Adam Kennedy’s franchise-best 20-game hitting streak, and the 27-year old is now on track to put together a third straight solid season for the Redbirds.

However, Ravelo has been stuck at Triple-A for parts of the last five seasons with the Oakland Athletics and Cardinals, and with the organization recently locking up first baseman Paul Goldschmidt long-term, it essentially serves to continue blocking the career minor leaguer’s primary path to the majors.

This is repeat recognition for Ravelo, who was both TCN’s and the Cardinals organization’s Player of the Month in June 2018.


Honorable Mentions

Dylan Carlson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Runner-up to Ravelo is Carlson, who slashed a steady .304/.393/.559 in 27 games in May for Springfield. The 20-year old switch-hitter continues his breakout season and has proven to be one of the most complete players in the Texas League, where he is among the season leaders in 10 offensive categories..

Last month, Carlson tallied a whopping 13 extra-base hits – four doubles, five triples and four homers. He also drove in 17 runs and swiped seven bags in nine chances for the S-Cards.

“For us, he has been very consistent,” Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said. “From the beginning to right now, he has probably been our most consistent player all-around.”

Julio Rodriguez (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Another player who received consideration is High-A Palm Beach catcher Julio Rodriguez, who slashed .333/.397/.536 in 19 May games. The 21-year old backstop slugged three home runs and drove in 14 runs for the Beach Birds.

Rodriguez, whose receives good reviews for his defense and especially his plus throwing arm, has impressed with the bat this season in the tough pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he has been named a 2019 All-Star. TCN’s no. 19 prospect seems primed for Springfield, and could move up even further in our rankings with a continued strong offensive showing.

Ivan Herrera (Peoria Chiefs)

At Low-A Peoria, catcher Ivan Herrera stood out. Herrera posted a .297/.376/.419 slash line with three doubles, two homers and 18 RBI in 20 games for the Chiefs. He accomplished that all while playing in a cold-weather league for the first time as a 19-year old.

According to scouts, Herrera has shown the ability to receive well behind the plate this season. He flashes an average arm and has gap type power. The Panamanian has a chance to be a solid backup on a major league club or become a regular on a second division team. He is currently 11th on TCN’s top 50 prospect list.


What’s Next

Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s May Pitcher of the Month announcement, coming Sunday morning, as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the second month of the 2019 season.


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Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 5

The Springfield Cardinals had an uneven, but even 3-3 week in Texas League action. After dropping the three-game series at Amarillo (SD), Springfield took the four-game set at Frisco (TEX) to finish the week on a strong note. The rotation, paced by Williams Perez, is performing well.

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Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 4

The Double-A Cardinals look to turn the page after a slow 8-17 start in April. Springfield logged a 3-3 record in Week 4 as Kramer Robertson is swinging a hot bat. Manager Joe Kruzel outlines the positives he has seen from his club.

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Parsons Named The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of the Month

photo: Tommy Parsons (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the first part of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals system. While the Cardinals recognize their top players as well, we undertake independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of April system-wide pitching leaders.


Parsons claims TCN’s top pitching honors

Tommy Parsons (Peoria Chiefs)

While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had strong Aprils, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to get himself on the prospect radar.

Our April Pitcher of the Month is Low-A Peoria starter and TCN’s No. 50 prospect Tommy Parsons, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization and is a shoe-in to garner Midwest Pitcher of the Month honors.

In 30 innings, Parsons went 3-0 for the Chiefs and leads the Cardinals system with a minuscule 0.30 ERA (allowed one earned run the entire month), and 0.53 WHIP. Midwest League teams are hitting .109 against him.

The Peoria Chiefs Opening Night starter has struck out 23 batters and walked just five. Parsons, who also leads the MWL in ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched, has the league’s only complete game, a two-hit shutout against Quad Cities on April 22.

Parsons was named the MWL Pitcher of the Week in two of the three periods in April – the first and last.

“When he goes out there, we feel confident he’ll take us late into the game,” Peoria manager Erick Almonte told the Peoria Journal Star. “Tommy’s been great. He keeps hitters off balance with his breaking ball and can throw any of his three pitches for strikes on any count. What else can you say?”

Tommy Parsons (Peoria Chiefs)

Simply put, Parsons is a feel-good story. He went undrafted last year after four excellent seasons on the hill at Division III Adrian College. The 23-year old righty signed with the Cardinals on June 12, 2018.

Parsons is not a flamethrower, but he has topped out at 94 mph on his fastball. He sits more comfortably in the 90-91 range with an effective and curveball and changeup mix that has overmatched Midwest League hitters to this point.

Last summer, Parsons started his professional career at Rookie League Johnson City. He was 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA, striking out 43 through 57 innings of work.

For an undrafted DII pitcher, Parsons has written a masterful first chapter in his first month of his first full season of pro ball.


Honorable Mentions

Jake Woodford (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Runner-up to Parsons is TCN’s No. 14 prospect Jake Woodford, who also has a strong case to be named the organization’s top pitcher for April. The righty posted a 1.20 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Memphis.

If the right-hander keeps pitching like this, it may not be long before Woodford finds himself on a big-league mound in St. Louis.

One pitcher whp quietly put together a strong April is Peoria starter Diego Cordero, who like his teammate Parsons is in full-season ball for the first time in his career. The 21-year old southpaw had a 1.46 ERA in four starts for the Chiefs, posting a 20-to-9 strikeout to walk ratio over 24 ⅔ innings.

Johan Oviedo (Peoria Chiefs)

High-A Palm Beach Opening Night starter Johan Oviedo is also off to a terrific start to 2019. The big Cuban right-hander owns a 1.60 ERA over six games (five starts) that includes a 34-to-12 strikeout to walk ratio. Oviedo is also a perfect 5-0 on the season for the Beach Birds and seems primed for the Texas League.

Oviedo ranks as TCN’s No. 20 prospect.

Anthony Shew also received consideration. He is a bright spot in an otherwise struggling Springfield rotation. The righty held an ERA of 1.93 in five April starts for the S-Cards, including a 27-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio over 28 innings. His reward is a promotion to Triple-A Memphis received on Monday.

Shew is TCN’s No. 45 prospect.

Angel Rondon (Peoria Chiefs)

Palm Beach starter Angel Rondon is also worthy of mention. He had a 3-0 record with a 2.08 ERA for the Beach Birds. The 21-year old Dominican struck out 25 batters and issued nine free passes over four starts (21 ⅔ innings pitched).

Rondon rated as TCN’s No. 35 prospect in April.

Lefty Austin Gomber put together a dominant month for Memphis, posting a 2.54 ERA in five starts for the Redbirds. Gomber led the system with 30 strikeouts and he also had a seven-inning complete game shutout on April 20 against Round Rock (HOU).

Gomber, who exceeded his prospect status last year after hurling 75 innings for the Cardinals, should be among the pitchers on the I-55 shuttle between Memphis and St. Louis in 2019.


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Irving Lopez Does it All for the Springfield Cardinals

photo: Irving Lopez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Through 16 games, Irving Lopez leads the Double-A Springfield Cardinals in home runs and all four slash stats, but there is very unusual versatility to his game, as well. The second base prospect explains to TCN’s Derek Shore.


Irving Lopez is the definition of a team-player — always ready and able to lend a hand when needed.

Either of them. He’s ambidextrous.

The St. Louis Cardinals prospect and Springfield Cardinals second baseman is a right-handed throwing infielder.

Irving Lopez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

After serving as the Peoria Chiefs emergency relief pitcher last year, Lopez is also one of Springfield’s emergency relief pitchers in 2019 – and it just so happens he can pitch from the left-side.

Lopez is the rare ambidextrous athlete, able to pitch and play with either hand.

Lopez has a six-fingered glove in his locker just in case he is ever called upon in a game to shift from being a position player to a reliever.

“As a lefty, I was more like a breaking ball guy,” Lopez said. “It has been awhile since I have seen a lefty hitter in the batter’s box. I am more of like a slider guy with a little cutter as a lefty. Righty, I spot a cutter, curveball and changeup. Mixing it up. It is not just fastball.

“But yeah, I’ll switch hands on the mound, hitter to hitter.”

The 5-foot-10, 170 pounder was a lefty starting pitcher and middle infielder in high school in Yuma, Ariz., and went on to a two-year school, Arizona Western College. Lopez spent his final two years of college at Florida International University, where he majored in sports management.

The Cardinals picked him up in the 19th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Lopez first started playing baseball when he was three-years old. HIs two older brothers, Edgar and Oscar, argued whether he should be right-handed or left-handed. Edgar wanted Irving to be a lefty, so he agreed to play with him left-handed. When he played with Oscar, Irving agreed to be right-handed.

“When I was a kid, I was always like the mascot of the team with my brothers,” Lopez said. “I was the little kid running around. I was able to throw with both hands growing up. It stuck with me. It is something unique.”

Once a switch-hitter but now exclusively a left-handed hitter in the Cardinals system, Lopez is off to a fast start with Springfield, posting a .277/.404/.681 slash line through his first 14 games at the Double-A level. All are team bests, as are his five home runs.

Irving Lopez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

A native of Hermosillo Son, Mexico, grew up in Yuma as a Dodgers fan idolizing major leaguer Jose Reyes, who was a switch-hitter as well.

Lopez said playing baseball has always been a dream. When in high school, he realized he could make baseball a profession.

“I kept following my dreams,” Lopez said “High school was when I noticed that was what I wanted to do for my future.”

Lopez remembers draft day like it was yesterday. He was sitting on the couch at his sister’s house in Arizona when he received a call from his coach at FIU, telling him the Cardinals were interested.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go. I’ll take it. I’m looking for the opportunity. Let’s do it,’” Lopez said.

So a Cardinals scout called him five minutes later and told him he was going in the 19th round.

“It was a special moment for me and my family,” Lopez said. “It was a cool moment.”

After the draft, Lopez played 50 games in the Appalachian League (rookie ball) for Johnson City in 2017, and had a brief promotion to short-season State College.

Irving Lopez (Peoria Chiefs)

Lopez opened his first full season of pro ball at Low-A Peoria last season, hitting .273 with a .757 OPS in 77 games. He was named to the Midwest League mid-season All-Star team with that performance and earned a promotion to High-A Palm Beach shortly after that.

His manager at Peoria last year, Chris Swauger, said the two biggest attributes Lopez brings to the table are leadership and quality.

“He was very productive at the top of the order and was reliable on defense,” Swauger said. “He definitely has some shortcomings, but he did a really good job of attacking those weaknesses and proving to become a very serviceable defender for us.”

Lopez described his first full season as long after coming from short-season ball. He said the game wears on you especially from the mental side because you can struggle at the beginning of the season or it can be backwards.

“You have to stay focused on the mental part,” Lopez said.

Irving Lopez (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

Lopez attributed his fast start at Springfield in 2019 to feeling comfortable putting the ball in play. As the leadoff man, his job is to get on base and not try to be a power hitter.

“If things work out that way, that’s awesome,” Lopez said regarding power production. “I’m just trying to be that leadoff guy that gets on base and helps score some runs.”

That is what impresses first-year Springfield manager Joe Kruzel.

“He stays within himself and he understands what type of hitter he is,” Kruzel said. “He has come up big for us. He appears to be pretty comfortable in the leadoff spot. He has been doing a tremendous job both offensively and defensively.”

As for the power, with five long balls already, Lopez is just one away from tying his career-high set over 110 games last year. He credited that to an offseason of working out and getting stronger in the gym as well as playing in ballparks more conducive to offense.

Defensively, Lopez has played second base for most of his career in the Cardinals organization. He feels most comfortable “anywhere in the field.” Last year, he saw time at third base, shortstop and left field, as well.

“I tell myself I want to be a utility-guy more than just a second baseman,” Lopez said.

Lopez has set personal goals for himself this season. His primary one is to keep moving up through the system and making it to the big-leagues.

“Your time is going to come,” Lopez said. “If it is going to come, it is going to come. I have to try giving my best and give the effort they are looking for.”

When that time does come, there will be lots of time for back pats and handshakes after that.

With both hands, of course.


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


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Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF and printed book form, with a special 50% off deal for annual members.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 2

Returning home in week 2, the Double-A Cardinals went 5-2, including a sweep over Northwest Arkansas, but pitching troubles were evident in the final two games. Manager Joe Kruzel discusses his young team. Second baseman Irving Lopez has swung a hot bat.

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2019 Springfield Cardinals Feature Experience and Youth

photo: Dylan Carlson (Aaron Doster/Imagn)

The Springbirds of 2019 flocked to their adopted hometown on Saturday, returning to the Missouri city following one of their more down seasons in recent memory.

Two days later, the Springfield Cardinals hosted their Media Day at Hammons Field. As part of the Monday event, the Double-A Cardinals released their preliminary Opening Day roster.

The 2019 version of the S-Cards will feature many familiar faces from last year’s club on the pitching side, including eight returnees who saw time at Double-A last season.

The pitching staff opening 2019 will be more experienced than the group that struggled last season. TCN’s No. 17 prospect Evan Kruczynski will return and anchor the S-Cards’ rotation while No. 30 prospect Seth Elledge and No. 39 prospect Connor Jones should lead a much-improved relief corps.

On the other side of the roster, almost every position player is stepping up from high-A ball. The headliners are a pair of 20-year olds – TCN’s No. 4 prospect Elehuris Montero and No. 8 prospect Dylan Carlson.

“Anytime you are beginning something new, there is a lot of excitement around the ballpark,” Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said. “The players are really excited. Now, they get to where it starts to count. This is going to be a nice little ballclub. Once they start to get their spikes in the ground and start playing a little more, you will see a really exciting ballclub.”


Starters

All five starters in the tentative rotation accumulated innings at Double-A in 2018: Kruczynski, Anthony Shew, Casey Meisner, Austin Warner and Williams Perez – three right-handers and two southpaws.

Evan Kruczynski (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Kruczynski, a 24-year old, has the physical ingredients to stand out, including a workhorse-like 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame coupled with advanced pitchability, which allowed him to reach Double-A in just his first full season of professional ball.

At Springfield last year, Kruczynski had success in a six-start sample. He was called the most effective starter on Springfield’s pitching staff by former manager Johnny Rodriguez despite only being with the club for a full month.

Shew, a 25-year old, comes off a season in which he was named TCN’s Springfield 2018 Starter of the Year. Shew led the way with 114 innings hurled on the season for the club. The right-hander also missed the most bats (96 strikeouts) of any starter on the staff and issued the fewest amount of walks (32) while also having the best WHIP at 1.40.

Armed with a five-pitch mix, Shew throws a sinker, changeup, curveball, slider and cutter. His fastball/change combination has always been his bread-and-butter, but an area of emphasis was placed on refining his other secondary pitches this past season.

Meisner, a 23-year old and TCN’s No. 48 prospect, was quietly effective in a short time for Springfield last season, posting a 3.60 ERA in six starts. The tall, deceptive right-hander struck out 33 batters against 14 walks over 40 innings with the S-Cards.

Austin Warner (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Warner, a 24-year old who the Cardinals signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2017, pitched across three levels last year – Palm Beach, Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. The lefty had a 5.34 ERA in six starts for the 2018 S-Cards.

Warner is an undersized hurler who competes with outstanding mound presence, according to scouts. He sits 91-94 mph with his fastball on his best days with an average curveball and changeup.

Perez started for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2017 and the Double-A Arkansas Travelers this past season. The Venezuelan native also appeared in 34 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2015 and 2016, logging a 5.18 ERA in 31 starts and three relief appearances.

Perez was released by Atlanta in December 2016 and by the Cubs last February. He has an array of pitches, featuring a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball and changeup.

One name that is not listed on the Springfield roster, but was recently claimed off waivers from the Giants and assigned to the Double-A club is Merandy Gonzalez. The 23-year old made his major-league debut with the Marlins last summer and spent most of the 2018 campaign at their Double-A affiliate.

Gonzalez works mostly in the 93-95 mph range as a starter with an above-average curveball and feel for a changeup. His power repertoire should play up eventually as a bullpen arm as he faces questions with his command as a starter.


Relievers

The tentative bullpen includes seven right-handed arms and one left-hander. Funky lefty Jacob Patterson will be the lone southpaw in the bullpen. He will make his Texas League debut after spending all of last year at Palm Beach.

Patterson, 23, held a 3.64 ERA in 51 games with the Beach Birds. The Cardinals’ 2017 13th round pick out of Texas Tech also posted a 72-to-23 strikeout to walk ratio, converting four saves in seven chances.

The righty relievers include Elledge, Jones, Will Latcham, Jesus Cruz, John Fasola, Harold Arauz and Roel Ramirez.

Seth Elledge (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Elledge came to the Cardinals from Seattle in the Sam Tuivailala trade last summer. He was assigned to Double-A Springfield, where he posted a 4.32 ERA over 13 games. The 22-year old converted four saves in six chances, striking out 20 batters through 16 ⅔ innings pitched.

Elledge throws his lively fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and will mix in a hard breaking ball that grades out at major-league average.

Jones, a 24-year old, has some of the more extensive experience at Double-A among pitchers on the Springfield roster. He spent most of the 2018 season as a starter, but he found a role as a reliever late in the season and into the Arizona Fall League.

His stuff ticked up as a result with reports of his heavy sinker being thrown at 92-96, touching 98. His curveball, which Jones says was his most consistent pitch in 2018, is average but flashed above-average at times out of the bullpen.

In his first full season of professional ball, Latcham split the 2018 campaign between High-A Palm Beach and Springfield, compiling a 3.48 ERA in 44 games. He finished off the year with a stint at Triple-A Memphis in the playoffs and followed in the Arizona Fall League.

Latcham’s greatest asset is his arm strength. He throws 93-95 and mixes in a swing and miss curveball as his out pitch.

Jesus Cruz (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Cruz, a 23-year old, is another newcomer. He signed with the Cardinals two years ago out of Mexico and split time between low-A Peoria and Palm Beach last year, posting a 3.27 ERA in 30 games (16 starts).

Cruz is expected to move back to the bullpen in 2019 where his fastball, slider and changeup all play best.

The Cardinals selected Fasola in the Rule 5 draft from the Rangers in December. The 27-year old has spent parts of the last two years in the Texas League with Frisco. He boasted a 4.05 ERA over 21 games last year.

Another new name, Arauz signed with the Cardinals as a minor league free agent this past offseason after being with the Phillies. The 23-year old spent the majority of 2018 at Double-A in 2018 where he went 9-7 with a 4.59 ERA over 24 starts.

Arauz first signed with the Astros 2012 before he was dealt to the Phillies three years later in a trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston.

The final bullpen arm is Ramirez, who joined the Cardinals in the Tommy Pham trade last summer. The 23-year old posted a 5.06 ERA in 10 games for Springfield last season after performing well out of the bullpen for the Rays’ Double-A affiliate.

Ramirez, who was a starter with a generic fastball with developing secondary stuff, made the conversion to relieving full-time in 2018. His fastball velocity spiked into the 95-96 mph range with a split-finger changeup and slider.


Catchers

Jose Godoy (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The Cardinals will be carrying two catchers – Jose Godoy and Brian O’Keefe.

The duo should split time behind the dish for Springfield as they did last year at Palm Beach.

Godoy slashed .289/.381/.374 in 68 games for the Beach Birds in 2018 while O’Keefe hit .243/.358/.412 over 73 games.

Infielder Chris Chinea also has experience at catcher. He could step in anytime and don the tools of ignorance as well as cover first base.


Infielders

The six-man infield includes a mix of returning and fresh faces.

Elehuris Montero (Peoria Chiefs)

The obvious headliner of the group is Montero, who rates as TCN’s No. 4 prospect and comes off a season in which he was named Most Valuable Player in the Midwest League. He spent most of the 2018 season as a 19-year old, led the MWL in batting average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910).

Not only that, he became the Cardinals’ first MWL MVP since Albert Pujols in 2000. Montero will likely be the primary third baseman. With the bat to make a huge impact, he has a chance to make a name for himself on the national level this summer.

The roster also features former LSU star Kramer Robertson, up from Palm Beach. The 24-year old is looking to bounce back after an up-and-down offensive season in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Florida State League.

He will likely be the everyday shortstop for Springfield.

Irving Lopez (Peoria Chiefs)

Irving Lopez, who posted solid numbers between Palm Beach and Peoria last year, steps up to Springfield for the first time as well. The 23-year old slashed .280/.368/.395 over 110 games between both levels.

Lopez should be the everyday second baseman for the S-Cards.

Backing them up will be Alberto Triunfel. The 25-year old, who was with the Angels organization last year, came to the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft in December. He hit a combined .235/.293/.367 with six home runs and 45 RBI in 103 games in 2018.

At first base, Chinea and Stefan Trosclair should split duties. Both are returnees to the Springfield roster.


Outfielders

Including Shane Billings, Springfield has four outfielders on its initial roster.

The other outfielders will be the ones that will likely play every day – Carlson, Conner Capel and Scott Hurst.

Carlson will be the biggest name to watch. As one of the youngest players in the Midwest League and Florida State League, the 20-year old proved to hold his own and adjust against more advanced competition over the last two years.

He also was one of the youngest prospects to stick around in 2019 big-league camp.

Although he has yet to post eye-popping numbers at any level in his professional career, Carlson is a 2019 breakout candidate and has a chance to blossom in the hitter-friendly Texas League.

Conner Capel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Capel, who is TCN’s No. 31 prospect, should also benefit with the promotion to Springfield. He did not dominate before the trade from the Indians to the Cardinals last summer and his performance dropped after joining Palm Beach.

Like with Carlson, perhaps a chance to perform in a more hitter-friendly environment will help him rediscover his power. The 21-year old collected 44 extra-base hits (22 doubles and 22 homers) at low-A Lake County just two years ago.

Hurst, who ranks as TCN’s No. 40 prospect, performed well in a 2018 season when available, but he was on the disabled list four times. Despite spending the majority of the season on the shelf, the 23-year old’s productive season and solid spring warranted him a promotion to Springfield.

The key this season for Hurst will be staying healthy.


Conclusion

So, that concludes our look at the new version of the 2019 Springfield Cardinals, a club with an experienced pitching staff and upside in its offense as they seek to zoom toward the first half title in the Texas League North Division.

Dylan Carlson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

It is safe to say the S-Cards are anxious to get started.

“I’m extremely excited to get going,” Carlson said. “We have a great group of guys. It is going to be a lot of fun. Great staff. I’m just ready to get out there. I heard a lot of great things about this city. I’m really excited.”

“I’m very excited and eager to be here,” Montero said with Springfield strength coach Dan Vega serving as a translator. “A lot of big-leaguers have come through here. I’m excited for the opportunity the team has given me.”

Though the Opening Day starting pitcher has yet to be announced, Springfield will open the season on the road against NW Arkansas (KC) on Thursday, April 4.

The first homestand of 2019 is scheduled to commence a week later on Thursday, April 11 versus the Naturals once again.


What is next

I will be back this season with my weekly notebooks from Hammons Field covering the Springfield Cardinals, running each Thursday. I also hope to contribute interviews on occasion, all for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Stay tuned for more full-season roster information over the next week here at The Cardinal Nation.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Minor League Movers and Shakers


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Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF and printed book form, with a special 50% off deal for annual members.

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