All posts by Derek Shore

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2018 Week 2

The Double-A Springfield Cardinals, after a rocky 1-5 start, are back to .500 after outscoring Midland (OAK) and Frisco (TEX) 45-18 while taking five of six games in the first homestand of 2018. Manager Johnny Rodriguez offers an assessment of his Texas League club and its key players.

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S-Cards Loaded Again with Youth and Experience

photo: Andrew Knizner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

The Springbirds flocked to their adopted hometown on Saturday, returning to Springfield following arguably their best regular season by won-loss record in 2017.

Two days later, the Springfield Cardinals hosted their Media Day. As part of the event, the Double-A Cardinals released their (preliminary) Opening Day roster.

The 2018 version of the S-Cards will feature many familiar faces from last year’s club, including a whopping 14 returnees who saw time at Double-A last season.

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

From among those returnees, the team will be led by two of The Cardinal Nation’s top 10 prospects in right-handed pitcher Ryan Helsley (#9) and catcher Andrew Knizner (#8) as well as No. 13 prospect, outfielder Randy Arozarena.

And the Cardinals also feature 11 newcomers, who should soon make their Texas League debuts.

Top arrivals include TCN’s No. 18 prospect, Opening Day starter Jake Woodford, No. 29 prospect Sam Tewes, and 100 mph arm Conner Greene, who was acquired in the Randal Grichuk trade this past offseason.

Jake Woodford (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

“Well, I’ll be honest with you – right from the beginning when we had (Jordan) Hicks in the rotation and Connor Jones in the rotation,” returning Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said, “I said to myself, ‘It would be hard to match us anywhere.’ Because you still have Helsley coming back. You have Woodford, who had a real good year last year. Greene came in a trade from Toronto.

“I was excited about that rotation plus the bullpen. Four young guys, who know how to pitch and some returning guys. I said, ‘Right off the bat, we are going to be really good.’ I think we have more power than last year. Younger guys, who have more strength offensively.

“Then we lost Hicks and then we lost Jones. We will see. (Sam) Tewes came up and Ellis came into the rotation. He’s been a great help in the bullpen, who has experience and can spot-start. From that standpoint, we lost a little bit but we will be okay. We got strike-throwers now. We went away from power sinkerballers to strike-throwers.

“So, we got to play defense. It’s a new season. I think the guys that were here last year learned a lot from last year, so that’s going to be helpful. That experience and having that type of record – winning and having success – is going to help,” the second-year manager concluded.

Starters

Conner Greene (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The tentative rotation includes three who accumulated innings at Double-A in 2017: Helsley, Ellis, and Greene (with Toronto) plus the two newcomers Woodford and Tewes – all right-handers.

As of right now, the projected rotation stacks up with Woodford at No. 1, Helsley at No. 2, Greene at No. 3, Tewes at No. 4, and Ellis at No. 5.

Woodford, a 21-year old, had a solid yet unspectacular year at Palm Beach this past season as some of his numbers in the Florida State League were good (3.10 ERA in 119 innings) while others weren’t eye-popping (1.40 WHIP, 14% strikeout rate).

If his stuff ticks up, perhaps he could become this year’s version of Jack Flaherty. Woodford comes off a solid, though brief showing in big-league camp, throwing three shutout frames.

Helsley, 23, opened the year in high-A Palm Beach last year, where he posted an 8-2 record with a 2.69 ERA in 17 games. Helsley had a 91-to-30 strikeout to walk ratio through 93 2/3 innings hurled. He led the Florida State League in almost every statistical category before being promoted to Double-A Springfield in July.

At Springfield, Helsley made the most of his six starts with a 2.67 ERA, boasting an impressive 41-to-15 strikeout to walk count in 33 2/3 innings against Texas League hitters and he even received a taste of Triple-A Memphis by season’s end.

Cardinals officials say there is a chance he is given a cameo out of the big-league Cardinals ‘pen at some point in 2018 as well. Helsley was one of the later cuts in major-league camp for St. Louis this spring.

Greene, a 22-year old, had suffered his bumps at the Double-A level, particularly last year. The powerful righty, who has a fastball that can reach triple-digits, struggled with a 5-10 record and 5.29 ERA at New Hampshire in the Eastern League in 2017.

Controlling and commanding his blistering stuff will also be a big key to his success. Greene had a 92-to-83 strikeout to walk count in 132 2/3 innings.

Sam Tewes (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Tewes, a 23-year old, had a successful first full season of pro ball last year after his debut was delayed due to Tommy John surgery. He made seven starts for the Spikes, compiling a 3.83 ERA while notching a 31-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 42 1/3 innings and was promoted to low-A Peoria on July 31.

Tewes made just one start with the Chiefs in which he hurled seven innings before he was promoted again, back to Palm Beach. While he didn’t strike out a ton of batters, the righty flashed terrific efficiency, which allowed him to pitch deep into games. With the Beach Birds, Tewes threw two seven-inning shutouts and also went eight innings in one of his starts. He put together a 3.09 ERA in 10 games (six starts) at Palm Beach.

Ellis, a 25-year old, was acquired in the Jaime Garcia trade from the Braves in December of 2016.  The righty had his moments through his 15 starts (17 games) with Springfield last year, boasting a 4.45 ERA through 99 innings after being sent down from Memphis at the end of May.

Relievers

Ian McKinney (Palm Beach Cardinals)

The bullpen includes five right-handed arms and three lefties. Ian McKinney is one among the latter. He returns to the Texas League after struggling in limited action last year before recovering at high-A Palm Beach.

McKinney, 23, had a 5.16 ERA in 14 games (two starts) last year. He had an 11-to-10 strikeout to walk over 22 2/3 innings. With the Beach Birds, the southpaw improved significantly, posting a 2.02 ERA with four saves in 49 innings hurled. He had a 48-to-24 strikeout to walk count.

The other two lefties are Brady Bowen and Jacob Evans. Bowen looks to get his first extended opportunity at Double-A. He appeared in one game with Springfield last year, tossing 2 1/3 shutout innings. Overall, Bowen had a 2.77 ERA with five saves in seven chances across three levels in 2017, posting a 61-to-16 K/BB.

Evans, a 24-year old, excelled at two stops last year, compiling a 2.16 ERA in 30 games. He had a 48-to-14 strikeout to walk total over 41 2/3 innings. Evans is one to watch as a future major league lefty reliever with two effective breaking balls – slider and curveball, ala Tyler Lyons.

The righty relievers include returnees Landon Beck and Tyler Bray in addition to Latins Hector Mendoza, Estarlin Arias, and Ramon Santos.

Landon Beck (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Beck, who had it not been for a rough final week of the season (ERA ballooned from 3.16 on August 28 to 3.76 by September 4), would have arguably been the top reliever on last year’s team.  Beck was one of Rodriguez’s most dependable back-end relievers, notching six saves in nine opportunities. The righty also posted a 44-to-17 strikeout to walk ratio over 40 2/3 innings.

One of the unsung heroes in the bullpen’s late-season resurgence was TCN’s 2017 Springfield Reliever of the Year Bray. The side-winding righty tied for first in appearances (37), leading all S-Cards relievers with a perfect 8-0 record, 52 2/3 innings hurled, and 10 holds. Bray finished second with a 2.91 ERA, posting a 46-to-29 strikeout to walk ratio while converting two saves in three chances.

Both righties figure into Springfield’s late-inning plans, particularly for closing opportunities.

Hector Mendoza (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Mendoza, a 24-year old, was an under-the-radar signing by the organization last summer from Cuba. He struggled in his transition to pro ball, posting a 4.91 ERA over a combined 22 games between the Dominican Summer League Cardinals and Palm Beach last year. He also had a 37-to-16 K/BB and is one to keep a close eye on in his first full season stateside in 2018.

Coming off a fantastic 2017 campaign in which culminated with TCN’s Palm Beach Reliever of the Year honor, Arias is looking to replicate his results from the lower levels at Springfield this year. The Dominican compiled a 2.18 ERA in 38 games between low-A Peoria and Palm Beach last year. He fanned 53 batters against just 14 free passes over 45 1/3 innings.

Arias could also get some high-leverage opportunities for the S-Cards after notching seven saves in nine chances in 2017.

Santos, a 23-year old, got off to a good, but not great to the season out of the Peoria bullpen (3.54 ERA in 11 games) last year. He was promoted to Palm Beach in mid-May. After 21 mostly rough relief outings in the Florida State League (5.86 ERA), the Cardinals moved the Dominican Republic native into the rotation.

Over six starts, the sinker-curveball specialist looked like a whole different player, cutting his walk rate, increasing his strikeouts and allowing just two earned runs over 36 1/3 innings (though seven more were unearned).

Catchers

Jeremy Martinez (State College Spikes)

The Cardinals will be carrying two catchers with the catching corps – Knizner and Cardinals 2016 fourth round draft pick Jeremy Martinez.

With Carson Kelly ahead of him at Memphis, Knizner is blocked from moving up despite his excellent 2017 season with Springfield capped by a strong Arizona Fall League performance and showing in big-league camp. He will undoubtedly receive the lion’s share of the time at catcher for the S-Cards to open the season with the focus on continuing to improve defensively.

Martinez will serve as the backup while Chris Chinea has experience at the position as well. He could step in anytime and don the tools of ignorance as well as cover first base.

Infield

Edmundo Sosa (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

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

The star of the group is 40-man roster shortstop Sosa, who will look to bounce back offensively following an injury-plagued 2017. In fact, the 22-year old showed an improved power stroke this spring and Cardinals officials think he is primed for a big 2018, assuming he stays healthy.

The roster also features a pair of smallish, but potential high on-base, basestealing threats in Darren Seferina and Tommy Edman. A possible sleeper in the middle infield is Ramon Urias, brother of Padres top prospect Luis, who signed this spring after tearing up the Mexican League.

Rodriguez said there will be a rotation of all these middle infielders to ensure each receive at-bats and get reps in the infield.

At first base, it seems Chinea and John Nogowski will be in a platoon.

Outfielders

Lane Thomas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Including Arozarena, Springfield has four outfielders listed on its initial roster.

The other outfielders include Lane Thomas, Granden Goetzman, and Victor Roache. Arozarena and Thomas have experience in all three outfield positions while Goetzman and Roache have played the vast majority of their time in left field.

Thomas is an interesting player to watch, acquired from the Blue Jays for international cap money last summer and with good all-around tools. He projects as a tweener in the outfield, but scouts see him as a big-league prospect.

Goetzman and Roache are both minor league free agent signings. The former comes from the Rays organization with a career slash line of .245/.290/.363/.653. The latter, a former first round pick of the Brewers, is packed with power but struggles to make consistent contact.

It is also worth noting that Nogowski worked in the outfield during the Arizona Fall League last year, so there is a chance he might get a shot out there as well.

Conclusion

So, that concludes our look at the new version of the 2018 Springfield Cardinals, a club with versatility, experience, and upside in its pitching corps and a potentially speedy offense as they seek to zoom towards the first half title in the Texas League North.

It is safe to say the S-Cards are ready to get things going.

“As far as our team, we have a good group of guys,” Knizner said. “We have experienced guys that have been on the team last year. A lot of returning starters coming back and then some new guys that are going to come in and fill the holes that are left by guys moving up to Triple-A or were traded.

“I think we have a good group. I’m looking forward to the season.”

With Woodford on the mound, Springfield will open the new season on the road against the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) on Thursday, April 5.

“It’s definitely an honor to be named Opening Day starter,” Woodford said. “You just try and prepare like you always prepare. I’m just excited to go out and compete. Get the season rolling.”

The start of the first homestand of 2018 is scheduled a week later on Thursday, April 12 versus the Rockhounds once again.

I will be back this season with my weekly notebooks from Hammons Field covering the Springfield Cardinals. 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: Not Official St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Rosters

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 our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed edition is sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Net Outfield Power Bat For Valera

photo: Johan Mieses (Rick Scutieri/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have acquired minor league outfielder Johan Mieses from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for infielder Breyvic Valera who the team had designated for assignment last week. Mieses will be assigned to the Palm Beach Cardinals roster of the Florida State League (A).

Mieses, 22, and a native of the Dominican Republic, was an international free-agent signee by the Dodgers who debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2013.

The 6-2, 185-pound Mieses led the California League (A) with 28 home runs in 2016 for Rancho Cucamonga to go along with his 31 doubles (T6th) and a .510 slugging pct. (7th), earning league post-season All-Star recognition.

The right-handed hitting Mieses has compiled a career .245 batting mark with 68 HR’s and 207 RBI in 411 games in the minor leagues. He combined for 24 home runs in 2017 between Tulsa (AA) and Rancho Cucamonga.

Derek Shore’s take

Another day, another minor league outfield acquisition added to the Cardinals pipeline in Johan Mieses.

Johan Mieses (Rick Scutieri/USA TODAY Sport)

Mieses is a right-handed masher through and through. The 22-year old made his pro debut in 2013 with the DSL Dodgers. He advanced his way to full-season ball in the states two years later following a terrific 2014 campaign.

The next year, though, Mieses’ prospect status soared, when he paced the California League in home runs. He also drove in 78  while posting a .247/.314/.510 slash line in 122 games with Rancho Cucamonga. With the power, however, came plenty of swing and miss to the tune of a 147-to-36 strikeout to walk count.

Mieses entered 2017 as the Dodgers No. 15 ranked prospect, according to Baseball America. He opened the year at Double-A Tulsa where he failed to make enough contact to tap into his plus raw power consistently (.160 average in 90 games with a 116-to-27 K:BB).

On June 29, the Dodgers demoted him to high-A where he played up to the lower-level competition thanks to more consistent hard contact. Mieses has a .353 average with a 1.118 OPS over 28 games.

A month later, Mieses returned to Double-A and again struggled, going 14-for-77 (.172) with six of his 14 hits for extra-bases. On a positive note, Mieses finished strongly in September, collecting six hits in his final 14 at-bats.

It is also worth noting that Mieses was briefly in MLB camp this spring, where he had a single, double and RBI in three at-bats.

From a scouting standpoint, Mieses is truly a one-dimensional player – with power being his carrying tool. He is described as a “high-volatility” prospect by scouts with an above-average ceiling if everything comes together. However, with his extremely unrefined approach (33% career K rate), his chances of reaching that is small unless major improvements occur with the Cardinals.

Scouts say he plays all-out with straight-line speed coupled with a cannon for an arm which gives him a shot at projecting for a utility role in all the three outfield positions. He profiles as a lefty-masher with a fourth-outfielder profile at best.

With the Cardinals, Mieses joins an abundance of outfielders between high-A and Double-A, most of them right-handed hitting like him. This explains his assignment to the lower level even though he spent the majority time at the higher last year.

Here’s how the Double-A and high-A outfields might stack up following the addition of Mieses:

Springfield outfield:

– Thomas Spitz, Lane Thomas, Granden Goetzman, and Victor Roache.

Palm Beach outfield:

– Shane Billings, J.B. Woodman, Chad Pinder, and Mieses.

Breyvic Valera (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Valera, 26, has been in the Cardinals system for a long time, signing out of Venezuela in 2010.

Coming off a 2016 season in which his prospect status was reinvigorated as he hit a robust .341 at Triple-A Memphis, Valera followed with perhaps an even stronger 2017. His season was capped by making his big-league debut on September 5 before returning to Memphis a week later to help win the Pacific Coast League title.

Prior to the trade, Valera was in the mix to be a utility player for the Cardinals, barring injury. The emergence of Yairo Muñoz led to him becoming expendable. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday.

For more

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. Our limited edition printed and bound Guide is now sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Acquire Meisner From A’s For Lucas

photo: Casey Meisner (Oakland Clubhouse/Melissa Lockard)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired right-handed pitcher Casey Meisner (MIZE-ner) from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Josh Lucas.

Meisner, 22, was originally a 3rd round draft pick by the New York Mets out of Cypress Woods (Texas) High School in 2013.  On July 27, 2015, Meisner was traded to the Athletics for RHP Tyler Clippard and cash considerations.

The 6-foot-7 hurler is a two-time minor league All-Star, once in the South Atlantic League in 2015 and again in the hitter-friendly California League in 2017.  He finished the 2017 season with Midland (AA) of the Texas League.

Over a five-year minor league career, Meisner has compiled a 30-34 record with 3.66 ERA over 85 career starts (104 appearances) covering 491.2 innings pitched with 425 strikeouts.

Last season, Meisner was 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA over 24 starts (28 appearances) between Stockton (A) and Midland.  He ranked in the Top 10 among all Athletics minor league pitchers in wins (10, 3rd), innings pitched (133.2, 5th), strikeouts (117, 7th) and ERA (4.04, 9th).

In 2015, Meisner ranked 13th in all of Minor League Baseball with 13 wins and T-5th in Single-A while pitching for Savannah (A), St. Lucie (A) and Stockton (A).  He was a two-time Pitcher of the Week in 2017, once in the California League and again in the Texas League.  He has three double-digit strikeout games among his pitching accolades.

Lucas, 27, made five Major League appearances for the Cardinals in 2017 and led the Cardinals farm system with 17 saves in Memphis (AAA).

Meisner will be assigned to Springfield (AA).

Derek Shore’s take

In the aftermath of Jordan Hicks’ addition to the 40-man roster, Lucas was designated for assignment on Wednesday to make room for Hicks. Three days later, TCN’s No. 43 prospect was traded to Oakland for their No. 27 prospect Casey Meisner, according to both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.

Casey Meisner (Stockton Ports)

Meisner, who was not on Oakland’s 40-man at the time of the trade, has experienced a myriad of peaks and valleys in his professional career. When he joined the A’s organization in July of 2015, the righty was seen as a potential top 10 prospect at that time in the Clippard deal.

Meisner got off to an excellent start with Oakland, posting a 2.78 ERA in seven starts with High-A Stockton after the trade. In fact, he was coming off a stellar start to the season with the Mets, putting together ERAs of 2.13 and 2.89 in Low-A and High-A prior to the trade.

Entering the 2016 campaign, Meisner appeared on a number of A’s top-10 prospects list, per some publications. Oakland Clubhouse said that some predicted he would jump to Double-A to start 2016, but he returned to Stockton where he started the year with a 0-11 record and finished the season with a 1-14 W-L and a 4.85 ERA.

It appeared at the start of the 2017 season, there would be more of the same from Meisner. He jumped out of the gates with an 8.84 ERA through his first 18 1/3 innings, but Oakland Clubhouse reported his coaches felt he was pitching better than his results indicated.

Meisner started to improve with the warmer weather in May and posted a 2.70 ERA with a 37-to-9 strikeout to walk. Even better, he had a 2.05 ERA and 27-to-7 strikeout to walk in June before a promotion to the Texas League on June 26.

“I think sometimes the grind is better than the promotion,” Oakland Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman told Oakland Clubhouse. “Working through things. Getting yourself to a place where you have to continue to battle and fight your way out. That’s what he did. The promotion came after he exhibited the ability to use his pitches to limit the number of walks – that’s always been an issue with him – and compete.

“He’s gone out there and done that. He’s certainly better. Sometimes it is better to work through a problem and really solve it before you prematurely send him and he has to work through it all again [at the next level]. I think he has improved quickly this (past) year and I think that experience helped him.”

Meisner concluded the season with a 4.04 ERA and a 117-to-47 strikeout to walk in 133 2/3 innings hurled. The Oakland Clubhouse said his command significantly improved with Stockton last year, but faltered again in Midland,  especially early in his stint with the Rockhounds. Though, once he acclimated to Double-A and got more comfortable, Meisner attacked the strike more aggressively and garnered success.

Standing at a whopping 6-foot-7, Meisner has struggled with his mechanics throughout his career, especially with his landing leg. Per Oakland Clubhouse, A’s coaches worked with him to make several adjustments to get him more online to home plate and take advantage of his length. The publication said he looked smoother and more confident as the 2017 season went on.

Command is also an issue for  Meisner, who sits mostly in the low-90s range but he can bump it up to 95 mph occasionally. He has a good mix of secondary pitches that include a changeup, cutter, curveball, and slider. His change flashes plus, but both of his breaking balls and command remain below-average.

Not only did he show an improved ability to be aggressive in the strike zone, but the A’s liked the mental fortitude he showcased to bounce back from a poor 2016 and finish strong at Double-A despite a rocky transition to the level.

Despite the recovery, Meisner went through the December 2017 Rule 5 Draft unclaimed.

Meisner projects as a fifth-starter/swingman type. While he was assigned to Springfield, Cardinals General Manager Michael Girsch told Fox Sports Midwest he will work with the organization’s pitching coaches in Jupiter, Florida before being sent out to an affiliate.

“We got a big right-hander,” Girsch told the telecast on Saturday. “He’s a young guy. He was a high school draft pick, so he’s been around for awhile. We’re excited to have him. He’s a 6-foot-7 guy with some potential. We’re excited to have the potential for another good arm.”

Josh Lucas (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

In Lucas, the Cardinals lose a longtime relief stalwart, who has notched 49 saves in 60 career opportunities over his six seasons in the organization.

Lucas made his major-league debut on August 19, throwing two innings of one-run ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. During a couple of brief recalls, he worked 7 ⅓ innings in five appearances and gave up three earned runs.

He was expected to be one of the primary arms on the I-55 corridor this season. Instead, Lucas will be with the Athletics and start his career with them at Triple-A Nashville.

For more

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. Our limited edition printed and bound Guide is now sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/27/18

The Cardinal Nation’s 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games continues. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN’s Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

The Astros were the opponent as the Cardinals split four games with the upper-level affiliates being the only squads to prevail on Tuesday. Memphis and Springfield played the role of road warrior, winning at West Palm Beach while Palm Beach and Peoria lost at the George Kissell Quad in Jupiter.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another nine players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day, though, was the promotion of hotshot prospect Jordan Hicks to St. Louis, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hicks is expected to open the season on their Opening Day roster and figure into the team’s late-inning relief plans.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Tuesday’s Hitter of the Day: Edmundo Sosa, Springfield

Edmundo Sosa (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

TCN’s No. 22 prospect Sosa edged out No. 19 prospect Oscar Mercado for Tuesday’s Hitter of the Day honor. While both went a perfect 4-for-4 on the day, the former finished with a big two-homer game and came around to score three times.

For Sosa, 22, health has been the biggest culprit in his fall as a prospect over the last two years. He missed a pivotal month of development time at high-A Palm Beach in his first full season in 2016 after a season-ending wrist injury. Sosa opened 2017 back at Palm Beach, where he held his own to the tune of a .272/.315/.342 slash line with 12 RBI in 42 games before another injury cost him two weeks.

On June 16, the day he was activated off the disabled list, the shortstop was pulled from the game and it was later discovered he suffered yet another setback. He missed nearly two months of the season with a broken left hamate and finished the year with the Beach Birds, playing in only nine games.

Fortunately, Sosa put together a solid Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time. His multi homer-game on Tuesday is a good sign he has regained hand strength back following an injury that tends to sap a player’s power.

Sosa should be in Springfield’s Opening Day lineup come next week. Victor Roache is also an Honorable Mention with Mercado.

Tuesday’s Pitcher of the Day: Brett Seeburger, Peoria

Brett Seeburger (Johnson City Cardinals)

Seeburger tossed four scoreless frames for Peoria on Tuesday to earn TCN’s Pitcher of the Day honor. The 23-year old lefty made his pro debut at Rookie League Johnson City last year, compiling a 1-0 record with a 2.33 ERA in 12 games (two starts). Seeburger also posted a 28-to-3 strikeout to walk through 27 innings hurled.

The Cardinals 10th round draft pick last summer features a repertoire that consists of a sinker, changeup, and a slurvy type breaking ball.  He may open the season at either low-A Peoria or in extended spring training.

Honorable mentions go to starters Daniel Poncedeleon, Evan Kruczynski, and Ronnie Williams.

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees and minor league spring training game schedules.

Ahead – exclusively for TCN members – is Brian Walton’s annual pre-Opening Day series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explains why. St. Louis was posted previously, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers and Memphis was posted this morning for members.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, join now and order our first-ever Prospect Guide at less than half price.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (7-3-1) 8 at Fresno 4

Memphis pitching:

  • Daniel Poncedeleon – 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K – still shaking off the rust in live game action after his tragic accident last May. Stuff of a starter, but profiles best as a reliever with his funky delivery.

Memphis hitting:

  • Oscar Mercado – 4-for-4, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI, BB – one of the later spring cuts from big-league camp. Looks to be Memphis’ everyday center fielder.
  • Harrison Bader – 2-for-4, R, 2 2B, K – beaten out by spring sensation Yairo Munoz for a 25-man roster spot, but had a solid March himself. Should see time at all three outfield spots for the Redbirds – similar to the role he should serve with St. Louis at some point.
  • Luke Voit – 1-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K – Grandma Joan will need to break out the purse again. Has three homers over his last two spring games.

Springfield (7-3-1) 10 at Corpus Christi 5

Springfield pitching:

  • Evan Kruczynski – 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K – Cardinals ninth-round pick in 2017, who did well at low-A Peoria in his draft year. Described as a competitor, whose stuff plays above his scouting report.

Springfield hitting:

  • Edmundo Sosa – 4-for-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – See above for more.
  • Victor Roache – 3-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, K – Power-packed hitter with plenty of strikeouts in his profile. He should be among a number of outfielders contending for at-bats at Springfield in 2018.

Palm Beach (6-3-1) 1 vs. Buies Creek 4

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Ronnie Williams – 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER – Cardinals second round pick in 2014, who received a bonus of over $800,000. Went unranked in TCN’s 2018 Top Prospect rankings for the first time in his pro career. Will need to improve on a 6.94 ERA at low-A Peoria from last season.
  • Eric Carter – 1 IP, H, 2 K – burly-built late-inning reliever, who has dominated with eight strikeouts per nine innings in his brief pro career. Had a cameo at Springfield to finish 2017 and could open up there to start this year.

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Stefan Trosclair – 2-for-3, R, 2B, HR, RBI, BB – versatile infielder had a breakout year in his first full season with a .272/.374/.458 slash line. The 2017 Peoria Chiefs MVP will look to be a middle-of-the-order staple for Palm Beach’s offense this year.

Peoria (4-4-4) 3 vs. Quad Cities 4

Peoria pitching:

  • Brett Seeburger – 4 IP, 5 H, BB, 2 K – See above for more.
  • Cory Malcom – 1 IP, BB, 2 K – non-drafted free agent signee last summer out of Arkansas – Little Rock. Made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League.

Peoria hitting:

  • Elehuris Montero – 2-for-4, R, K – intriguing teenage Latin prospect with a stellar stateside debut in the GCL last summer. TCN’s No. 36 prospect for 2018. Is he a candidate for Peoria to begin the year?
  • Bryce Denton – 2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K – TCN’s No. 42 prospect, who hopes to stick around at Peoria for a full-season.

Wednesday’s games: The Mets will be the Wednesday opponent, with Memphis and Springfield at home,  their games held at the George Kissell Quad in Jupiter. Palm Beach and Peoria will be on the road, playing at West Palm Beach.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

 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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. Our limited edition printed and bound Guide is now sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/24/18

photo: Winston Nicacio (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Cardinal Nation’s 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games continues. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals minor league action held on Saturday, March 24. The Marlins were the opponents for the ninth set of spring game action. All games were played on Miami’s side of the Jupiter complex.

Both of the Cardinals’ lower-level clubs were successful, winning with double-digit offensive outputs on Saturday while Memphis and Springfield lost their games. Following the 2-2 day, the Cardinals are a collective 18-11-7 on the spring, including a 17-10-5 mark versus external competition.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 11 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day: Winston Nicacio, Palm Beach

Winston Nicacio (St. Louis Cardinals)

Nicacio earns his second consecutive Pitcher of the Day honor, after tossing four one-run frames. The righty allowed only one hit and punched out two batters.

In his first US season, the 21-year old posted a very strong 2.81 ERA last summer, primarily in the Gulf Coast League. In 57 2/3 innings, the Dominican native had a so-so-so 45 strikeouts and 20 walks. A jump straight to Peoria should not seem to steep in terms of competition.

Niacacio, who was TCN’s 2017 Gulf Coast League Cards Starter of the Year, sits at 90-94 mph with an average breaking ball and changeup. He has a chance to develop into a back-end starter, but he is a long way from the big leagues.

Honorable mentions include Nestor Molina, Anthony Shew, Jason Zgardowski, Levi MaVorhis, and Patrick Dayton.

Saturday’s Hitter of the Day: Andres Luna, Peoria

Andres Luna (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

After garnering the Hitter of the Day nod on Wednesday, Luna responded with an even bigger performance at the plate on Saturday afternoon, collecting four hits in five at-bats that included three runs scored, a double, two RBI, and a walk.

Signed late in 2013, the native of Venezuela has logged four seasons in the system and has yet to play above the Gulf Coast League, where he slashed .288/.364/.407/.771 in 2017. At 20-years old, Luna will need to advance in a hurry to enhance his prospect status. He has certainly helped his case this week with his hot-hitting.

Honorable mentions go to Bryce Denton, Angel Moreno, Edwin Figuera, and Jonatan Machado.

Memphis (5-3-1) 3 at New Orleans 4

Memphis pitching:

  • Carlos Martinez – 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K – Numbers reported by St. Louis Post-Dispatch; final tune-up before his Opening Day start next Thursday, March 29 in New York.
  • Nestor Molina – 2 IP, H, 3 K – Signed as a minor league free agent this past offseason out of the Mexican League. Appears he will be slotted into Memphis or Springfield and deployed as a middle reliever/swingman type.

Memphis hitting:

  • Tommy Pham  – Late-scratch from Saturday’s lineup against the Mets. Instead, he took to the backfields for at-bats galore and received eight with five hard-hit balls, including a home run. Article from P-D.
  • Evan Mendoza (3B) – 1-for-2, RBI – Polished college hitter, who ranks as TCN’s No. 26 prospect entering 2018. With the Cardinals lack of quality third base prospects, is he advanced enough to make the leap to Double-A Springfield?

Springfield (5-3-1) 2 at Jacksonville 5

Springfield pitching: 

  • Anthony Shew – 4  IP, 5 H, 3ER, 3 K – Deceptive right-hander, who sits only at mid-to-high 80s on his fastball. Excelled in lower levels and will have to prove himself in the upper levels despite underwhelming stuff.

Springfield hitting:

  • Andy Young (3B) – 1-for-3, R, 2B, K – Breakout infield prospect from 2017, who came in at No. 45 prospect this past offseason. Hitting is his carrying tool.

Palm Beach (5-2-2) 10 at Jupiter 1

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Winston Nicacio – 4 IP, H, R, 2 K – See above for more.
  • Jason Zgardowski – 2 IP, 2 H, 2 K – Former River City Rascals right-hander signed out of Indy Ball last July.

Palm Beach hitting: 

  • Angel Moreno (RF) – 2-for-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K – Selected in last winter’s Rule 5 draft from the Tampa Bay Rays. Appears he will make his organizational debut at high-A Palm Beach this season.
  • Bryce Denton (LF) – 2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI – His stock has fallen considerably due to inconsistency through three pro seasons. Is this the year he breaks out?

Peoria (3-3-3) 15 at Greensboro 5

Peoria pitching:

  • Levi MaVorhis – 2 IP, 5 H, R, 4 K – Non-drafted free agent signed two summers ago out of Kansas City. Could be a key factor in the late-innings for Peoria this season.
  • Patrick Dayton – 1.1 IP, H, 3 K – Cardinals 2017 25th round selection out of Kent State. Made his pro debut in the GCL last summer.

Peoria hitting:

  • Andres Luna (RF) – 4-for-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K – See above for more.
  • Edwin Figuera (SS) -3-for-6, R, 2B, 3 RBI – high-contact shortstop, who will look to crack Peoria’s Opening Day roster.
  • Jonatan Machado (CF) – 3-for-6, R, 2B, 3 RBI – TCN’s No. 25 prospect, who had a stellar stateside debut and may be ready for a full-season challenge.
  • Caleb Lopes (3B) – 3-for-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI – disciplined college hitter out of West Georgia. Cardinals 33rd round selection two years ago.

Editor’s note: Players over from minor league camp to appear on Saturday against the New York Mets in St. Louis’ 8-7 win:

  • Edward Mujica – 1 IP,  2 H, 1 K
  • Austin Warner – 1 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
  • Jacob Evans – 1 IP, all zeroes
  • Ian McKinney – 2/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
  • Lane Thomas (PR-LF) – 1-for-2, 1 R, 1 RBI

(box score)

Sunday’s games: Sunday is a Camp Day for the Cardinals, with Memphis vs. Springfield and Palm Beach vs. Peoria. First pitches are set for 10 a.m. ET.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. Our limited edition printed and bound Guide is now sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/23/18

photo: Hector Mendoza (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Cardinal Nation’s 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games continues. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals minor league action held on Friday, March 23. The Mets were the opponents for the eighth set of spring game action. Memphis and Springfield traveled to Port St. Lucie while Palm Beach and Peoria remained home at the George Kissell Quad in Jupiter.

Both of the Cardinals’ upper-level clubs were successful road warriors, as was the Palm Beach club. Following the 3-0-1 day, the Cardinals are a collective 16-9-7 overall on the spring, including a 15-8-5 mark versus external competition.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 11 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

On Friday, pitcher Josh Lucas, first baseman Luke Voit, and outfielder Harrison Bader were optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Friday’s Pitcher of the Day: Hector Mendoza, Springfield

Hector Mendoza (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Mendoza had perhaps the most dominant day on the mound, albeit in a shorter relief stint. The Cuban defector recorded four of his six outs via the punchout on Friday, allowing only one hit through two shutout frames.

A 24-year old, who signed for $500,000 last June, shook off the rust in his first partial season stateside last year. Mendoza had a 4.91 ERA in 22 games, posting a 37-to-16 strikeout to walk over 33 innings between DSL Cardinals and high-A Palm Beach. He is armed with a mid-90s fastball and a good changeup thrown from a  downhill plane. Springfield seems to be his most realistic 2018 destination.

Honorable mentions go to Austin Gomber, John Gant, Conner Greene, Kodi Whitley, and Enrique Perez.

Friday’s Hitter of the Day – Juan Yepez, Peoria

Juan Yepez (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

With three doubles and two RBIs in four at-bats total, Peoria’s Yepez is our Hitter of the Day. The 20-year old ranks as TCN’s No. 44 prospect entering his first full season with the organization.

Yepez, who was acquired in the Matt Adams trade last May, was assigned to low-A Peoria to open his career with the Cardinals organization. Through 80 games, the corner infielder hit .260/.308/.388 with 16 doubles, seven home runs, and 47 RBI for the Chiefs.

A former top international prospect available four years ago, Yepez signed with the Braves as a 16-year old out of Venezuela. He’s described as a prospect with true, natural power by Cardinals officials with the biggest question continuing to be his future defensive home – first or third base. Look for him to start the year at high-A Palm Beach this season.

Honorable mentions include Rangel Ravelo, J.R. Davis, John Nogowski, Taylor Bryant, and Brady Whalen.

Memphis (5-2-1) 3 at Las Vegas 1

Memphis pitching:

  • John Gant – 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – One of the more impressive hurlers in big-league camp; simplified delivery out of the windup led to sharper stuff and command. Expected to be on the I-55 shuttle this season.
  • Austin Gomber – 4 IP, 1 H, 3 K – Funky lefty, who will likely make his Triple-A debut when the minor league season starts.

Memphis hitting:

  • Rangel Ravelo (1B) – 1-for-2, 1 R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K – Integral part of Memphis’ championship run last season and will look to replicate his offensive production at Triple-A from 2017.

Springfield (5-2-1) 5 at Binghamton 2

Springfield pitching:

  • Conner Greene – 4 IP, 1 BB, 1 K – Acquired with Dominic Leone in the Randal Grichuk trade to Toronto. Big arm, who is looking to find success above Class-A. Seems he is earmarked for Springfield.
  • Hector Mendoza – 2 IP, 1 H, 4 K – See above for more.

Springfield hitting:

  • J.R. Davis (2B) – 2-for-3, 3 RBI, HBP – Cardinals 2016 15th round pick out of Oklahoma State. 23-year old had a disappointing first full season following a solid pro debut at Johnson City. Likely slated for a high-A Palm Beach assignment.
  • John Nogowski – 2-for-3, R, HR, RBI – Former Oakland A’s prospect, who resigned with the Cardinals as a minor league free agent after impressing with his superb plate discipline. Also expanded his versatility in the AFL – mixing in at outfield spots.

Palm Beach (4-2-2) 6 vs. St. Lucie 5

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Kodi Whitley – 3 IP, 3 K – Cardinals 27th round draftee last summer, who excelled with a 1.84 ERA in 17 2/3 innings between GCL Cardinals and high-A Palm Beach in his draft year.

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Taylor Bryant (3B) – 1-for-2, 1 R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB – Cardinals 33rd round selection a year ago, who had a .324/.436/.441 slash line against younger competition in the Gulf Coast League for a 23-year old college player.

Peoria (2-3-3) 7 vs. Columbia 7

Peoria pitching:

  • Enrique Perez – 1 IP, 2 K – The 20-year old Colombian lefty struggled mightily in his first season stateside – 8.20 ERA in 19 games between GCL Cardinals and Johnson City.

Peoria hitting:

  • Brady Whalen (DH) – 2-for-4 – 2B, 2 RBI, K – Intriguing corner prospect with a projectable body that could produce double-digit home run power down the road. Could he jump up to full-season Peoria to start 2018?
  • Juan Yepez (1B) – 3-for-4, 2R, 3 2B, 2 RBI, BB – See above for more.

Saturday’s games: The Marlins will be the opponent for Saturday with all games played on Miami’s side of the Jupiter complex. First pitches are set at 1 p.m. ET.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. Our limited edition printed and bound Guide is now sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Highlights: 3/18/2018

photo: Austin Gomber (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome back to our 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals fourth minor league spring training games of 2018, but third against external competition – held on Sunday in Jupiter, Florida. All of the Cardinals full-season affiliates were in Jupiter to take on the Miami Marlins affiliates.

So, the Cardinals went 2-1-1 against the Marlins on Sunday. Springfield (versus Jacksonville) and Palm Beach (versus Jupiter) each won their games while Memphis (versus New Orleans) took the only loss of the day and Peoria (versus Greensboro) tied.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, the Cardinals made six cuts today, trimming their roster down to 15 players, who have yet to be cut from Major League camp (including roster players and non-roster invitees).

Pitchers Jack Flaherty, John Gant, and Ryan Sherriff as well as position players Carson Kelly, Breyvic Valera, and Oscar Mercado were optioned to Triple-A Memphis following Sunday’s game.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Sunday’s Pitcher of the Day – Austin Gomber, Springfield

Austin Gomber (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Among the roster cuts on March 12 from big-league camp, TCN’s No. 10 prospect Gomber had perhaps his best showing in his third go-around with St. Louis this spring. The 24-year old lefty, whose best pitch is a big curveball coming from a steep downhill angle, had a tale of two halves in his third full professional season at Double-A Springfield. That was enough, however, to convince the Cardinals brass to protect him from the Rule 5 draft last December, adding him to the 40-man roster.

Honorable mentions include pitchers Hector Mendoza and Brett Seeburger.

Sunday’s Hitter of the Day – Yariel Gonzalez, Peoria

Yariel Gonzalez (State College Spikes)

A non-drafted free agent signed two years ago out of University of Science and Arts, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) institution located in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Gonzalez is not considered a prospect because of his age (23). It is not as if the switch-hitter is talent-free, however, as he had batted over .400 in each of four collegiate seasons with three different institutions.

The corner infielder opened his professional career with Johnson City and State College in 2016, with a combined slash line of .284/.345/.387/.732 in 155 at-bats over 41 games. Gonzalez returned to State College this past summer, slashing .305/.357/.390/.747. Along with his age, his lack of power as a corner player is a concern.

On Sunday, however, Gonzalez had a key two-run home run which helped lift him over honorable mentions Shane Billings, Kramer Robertson, and Zach Kirtley for Hitter of the Day.

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees and minor league spring training game schedules.

Ahead – exclusively for TCN members – is Brian Walton’s annual pre-Opening Day series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explains why. St. Louis was posted previously, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, join now and order our first-ever Prospect Guide at less than half price.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (1-2-1) vs. New Orleans, 4-9

Memphis pitching: 

  • Hector Mendoza – 1 2/3 IP, 2 H 3 K – Signed last spring out of Cuba; struggled in limited pro action for the Cardinals. Future back-end reliever if all goes well.

Memphis hitting:

  • Shane Billings (DH) – 1-for-1, 3B, BB, 2 RBI – Made a diving catch yesterday and followed that up with a terrific performance with the bat today. Outfield glut likely pushes him back to high-A Palm Beach to start 2018.

Springfield (2-1-1) vs. Jacksonville, 3-0

Springfield pitching:

  • Austin Gomber – 3 IP, 8 K – See above for more, but note the strikeouts.

Springfield hitting:

Kramer Robertson (SS) – 1-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI – Advanced prospect with intriguing bloodlines. Could he sneak his way onto Springfield’s Opening Day roster?

Palm Beach (1-2-1) vs. Jupiter, 8-3

Palm Beach pitching: 

  • Brett Seeburger – 1 IP, 1 K – Older former college lefty, who dominated much younger competition in the Appy League last summer in his draft year. Looks to make the jump up to low-A Peoria this spring.

Palm Beach hitting: 

  • Zach Kirtley (2B) – 1-for-2, R, 2B, K, 2 RBI – Cardinals fifth round draft pick last year out of Patrick Wisdom’s alma mater (Saint Mary’s). Cardinals like his potential with the bat.

Peoria (2-1-1) vs. Greensboro, 6-6 (tie)

Peoria pitching:

  • N/A

Peoria hitting:

  • Yariel Gonzalez (3B) – 1-for-2, R, HR, 2 RBI – See above for more.

Editor’s notes: Rather than make his start in the big-league game, Carlos Martinez pitched six innings against Marlins’ Triple-A players on the back fields. According to the Post-Dispatch, the right-hander allowed a three-run homer and five runs total over his 99 pitches, watched by pitching coach Mike Maddux.

Prior to the game in the main stadium, all of those who contributed to the Memphis Redbirds’ 2017 Pacific Coast League title received their rings in an on-field ceremony. Palm Beach is next up, on Tuesday.

Monday’s games: The Cardinals are off Monday organization-wide. They resume play on Tuesday with the Triple-A and Double-A clubs hosting the Mets at the Jupiter complex while the Class-A teams travel to Port St. Lucie. First pitches are at 1 p.m. ET.

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/17/2018

photo: Dakota Hudson (Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports)

Welcome back to our 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals third minor league spring training games of 2018, but second against external competition – held on Saturday in Jupiter and West Palm Beach, Florida. The Cardinals Triple-A and Double-A clubs were in Jupiter to take on the Washington Nationals upper-level affiliates while St. Louis’ Class-A games were in West Palm Beach.

In a day where offense struggled for the most part across the minor league system, the Nationals took three of four from the Cardinals full-season clubs on Saturday, blanking Memphis (versus Syracuse) while Palm Beach and Peoria dropped their games against Potomac and Hagerstown, respectively. Springfield was the lone affiliate to win, shutting out Harrisburg, 4-0.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 21 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day – Dakota Hudson, Memphis

Dakota Hudson

Coming off a nice showing in big-league camp, TCN’s No. 6 ranked prospect Hudson made his minor league spring debut and picked up on Saturday right where he left off last year. The 23-year old, who doesn’t throw anything straight, became Springfield’s first-ever Pitcher of the Year and capped his first full pro season by holding his own in the Pacific Coast League.

Honorable mentions include starting pitchers Jordan Hicks and Mike O’Reilly.

Saturday’s Hitter of the Day – Chris Chinea, Springfield

Chris Chinea (Peoria Chiefs_

Drafted by the Cardinals in the 17th round of the 2015 draft, Chinea proved to be a potent bat in his time at college baseball powerhouse LSU. So far, the 23-year-old first baseman and catcher has translated his hitting ways into the affiliated ranks through three pro seasons, posting a .735 career OPS in 268 games.

Chinea, known more for his bat, improved last season at high-A Palm Beach with the glove at first and got better behind the dish as well. That said, he will need to add more power to his game in order to move up prospect rankings with a first-base profile. He will have a good chance to do that at hitter haven Double-A Springfield in 2018.

Chinea edged out honorable mentions Blake Drake, Dylan Carlson, Wilson Soriano, and Edwin Figuera thanks to his 2-for-2 day at the plate with a double and a run scored.

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees and minor league spring training game schedules.

Ahead – exclusively for TCN members – is Brian Walton’s annual pre-Opening Day series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explains why. St. Louis was posted previously, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, join now and order our first-ever Prospect Guide at less than half price.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (1-1-1) vs. Syracuse, 0-2

Memphis pitching:

  • Dakota Hudson – 4 IP, 2 H, 4 K – See above for more.

Memphis hitting:

  • Blake Drake (DH) – 2-for-2 – The clock is ticking on the 24-year old plus defensive outfielder, who has yet to progress offensively.
  • Shane Billings (LF) – Converted outfielder from the infield; made a diving catch in left-center field to end the inning which was described by a Cardinals official as a “web gem.”

Springfield (1-1-1) vs. Harrisburg, 4-0

Springfield pitching:

  • Jordan Hicks – 3 IP, H, BB, 4 K – Terrific minor league debut from our No. 7 ranked prospect, who had an abbreviated stint in big-league camp due to “not showing up on time for workouts.”

Springfield hitting: 

  • Dylan Carlson (LF) – 1-for-2, R, 2B – After getting a taste of big-league action on Friday, TCN’s No. 20 prospect garnered experience against upper-level competition. It seems he will open 2018 at high-A Palm Beach, though.
  • Chris Chinea (1B) – 2-for-2, R, 2B – See above for more.

Palm Beach (0-2-1) at Potamac, 1-2

Palm Beach pitching: 

  • Mike O’Reilly – 2 IP, BB, 3 K – It is safe to say O’Reilly will break spring training with a full-season team this year after coming out of nowhere in 2017. He should return to where he finished last year – at high-A Palm Beach.

Palm Beach hitting: 

  • Wilson Soriano (2B) – 2-for-2, R, 2B – The 26-year old minor league free agent signee looks to settle into a utility-role either at Springfield or Palm Beach this season.

Peoria (2-1) at Hagerstown, 2-6

Peoria pitching:

  • N/A

Peoria hitting:

  • Edwin Figuera (SS) – 2-for-3, R, 2B – The 20-year-old versatile utility player has the knack for getting on base and stealing bases. He is poised to crack a full-season roster following the spring.

Editor’s note: 11 of Hicks’ pitches were 100 mph or faster, including a 102 mph offering, according to the Post-Dispatch. The right-hander also landed more than 2/3 of his breaking pitches for strikes and may be in line for a cameo with St. Louis before the spring is out.

Sunday’s games: The Marlins are the Sunday opponent and third external competition of the spring. All games will be at the Jupiter complex with the start times slated for 1 p.m. ET.

 Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/16/2018

photo: Ivan Herrera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Welcome back to our 10th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN Publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals second minor league action of 2018, but the first external competition of the spring held on Friday in West Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida. The Cardinals Triple-A and Double-A clubs were in West Palm Beach to take on the Houston Astros upper-level affiliates while St. Louis’ Class-A games were in Jupiter at the George Kissell Quad.

In a day when pitching once again took the forefront, the Cardinals’ full-season clubs split the four games against the Astros with Memphis and Peoria taking 7-2 (versus Fresno) and 6-3 (versus Quad Cities) victories, respectively. Meanwhile, Springfield dropped their game against Corpus Christi by a final of 4-3 and Palm Beach tied 3-3 with Buies Creek.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira will be sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 21 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

Also, worth noting, were the 21 players who were put on the Cardinals split-squad MLB teams, including position players Dylan Carlson, Bryce Denton, Brian O’Keefe, Thomas Spitz, Ramon Urias, and Andy Young. Pitchers include Estarlin Arias, Joe Colon, Jesus Cruz, and Kevin Herget – for the game at the Nationals.

Among those that stayed in Jupiter to play against the Marlins includes position players Terry Fuller, J.B. Woodman, Granden Goetzman, John Nogowski, Kramer Robertson, Carlos Rodriguez, and Lane Thomas. Pitchers include Fabian Blanco, Nestor Molina, Edward Mujica, and Jake Walsh.

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2018, their rankings are noted.

Friday’s Pitcher of the Day – Ryan Helsley, Springfield

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the names mentioned by President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak as being a late-inning bullpen option for the Cardinals at some point in 2018, Helsley followed up a shaky spring in big-league camp (7.71 ERA in 4 2/3 innings; all relief) with a stellar debut in minor league camp on Friday. The power-armed Oklahoma righty got a brief cameo at both Springfield (six starts) and Memphis (one start) in 2017. It is unclear whether he opens at Double-A or Triple-A for 2018.

Honorable mentions go to pitchers Daniel Poncedeleon and Ramon Santos at Memphis, Anthony Shew at Palm Beach, and Winston Nicacio at Peoria.

Friday’s Hitter of the Day: Ivan Herrera, Palm Beach

An international signee out of Panama City, Panama from the Cardinals historic 2016 July 2nd signing class, Herrera piqued the interest of scouts thanks to his performance on the international tournament as a teenager. That prompted St. Louis to sign him for $200,000 in the first week of the 2016 signing period.

Herrera, who was one of few Cardinals prospects brought over from the Academy in the Dominican for spring training, didn’t turn 17 until two days before the Dominican Summer League but ended up being one of the better performers in the rookie level circuit of three dozen teams. Herrera finished in the top 10 in both batting average (.335) and on-base percentage (.425) and has intriguing tools to boot.

The catching prospect continued his offensive momentum with a two-hit day on Friday, including an RBI. He should start 2018 in the Gulf Coast League.

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees and minor league spring training game schedules.

Ahead – exclusively for TCN members – is Brian Walton’s annual pre-Opening Day series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explains why. St. Louis was posted previously, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, join now and order our first-ever Prospect Guide at less than half price.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (1-0-1) at Fresno, 7-2

Memphis pitching:

  • Daniel Poncedeleon – 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 K – TCN’s No. 31 prospect, who had a rough go in big-league camp, continues his tune-ups to get back on track following his horrific accident last May. He should open this year at Memphis.
  • Ramon Santos – 2 IP, BB, 3 K – comes off a career-year as a full-time reliever between low-A Peoria and high-A Palm Beach; sinker-curveball specialist who will likely open the year back at high-A.

Memphis hitting:

  • Darren Seferina (2B) – 1-for-3, R, 2 RBI – TCN’s No. 28 prospect will need to stay healthy and prove his rebound 2017 season wasn’t a fluke. Seferina should start at either Springfield or Memphis.
  • Jose Godoy (C) – 1-for-1, R, HR, 2 RBI – The offensive-first catcher had a sneaky good season with the bat in a league that swallows hitters offensive prowess, the Florida State League. Likely will open 2018 at Springfield.

Springfield (0-1-1) at Corpus Christi, 3-4

Springfield pitching:

  • Ryan Helsley – 3 IP, 2 BB, 4 K – See above for more.

Springfield hitting: 

  • Chris Chinea (1B) – 1-for-3, R, HR, RBI – 23-year old posted .260/.315/.350 in 123 games at Palm Beach last year. Will need to add over-the-fence power to his game to climb up prospect rankings. The catcher-first baseman should start this season at Springfield.

Palm Beach (0-1-1) vs. Buies Creek, 3-3

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Anthony Shew – 2 IP, H, R, 4 K – The strike-throwing righty will have to prove he can perform against more advanced competition to defy his older age as a prospect. Shew dominated between State College and Peoria last year.

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Ivan Herrera (DH) – 2-for-3, RBI – See above for more.

Peoria (2-0) vs. Quad Cities, 6-3

Peoria pitching:

  • Winston Nicacio – 2 IP, 2 K – The 20-year old received a six-inning cup of coffee out of the High-A bullpen at the end of 2017, but spent most of his first season stateside in the GCL. He is said have the ingredients to start every fifth day at the ML level and will definitely be one to watch going forward.

Peoria hitting:

  • Caleb Lopes (DH) – 1-for-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI – The 22-year old infielder had 14 more walks than strikeouts (48-to-34) through 74 games in two seasons of short-season ball between Johnson City and State College.

Saturday’s games: The Nationals are the Saturday opponent and second external competitors of the spring. Memphis and Springfield games will be held at the Jupiter complex while Palm Beach and Peoria travel to West Palm Beach this time. First pitches are set at 1 p.m. ET.

 Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Continue to Add to Minor League Outfield Surplus

photo: Yefri Perez (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Following an offseason during which the St. Louis Cardinals continued to stack up organizational depth with their established surplus of outfielders, they have added yet another who will likely contribute in the upper levels of the pipeline this season.

And he is a speedy one at that.

Yefri Perez (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

On Friday, former Marlins prospect Yefri Perez inked a minor league deal with the Cardinals.

Perez, 27, comes off a disappointing 2017 season for many reasons. For one, he was taken off Miami’s 40-man roster in May, then struggling to the tune of a .169/.280/.242 slash line at Double-A Jacksonville over only 248 at-bats. He suffered a right heel contusion on July 21 and missed the remainder of the year as a result. 

Despite that, the switch-hitter, who some scouts say has world-class speed (80 grade), stole an otherworldly like 71 bases in 2015 and appeared in 12 major-league games just two years ago.

The native of Bani, Dominican Republic has elite wheels, but his offensive profile is entirely devoid of punch (.612 career OPS; 20 game power) and often struggles to make hard contact with the potential for an occasional double. Scouts say Perez does have a good short game with a “quick, downward-slashing swing” that he utilizes for singles and is also a good bunter to be able to maximize his speed.

As an aggressive hitter who has made an effort to add patience to his profile, knowing what pitchers are giving him and putting the ball in play will be Perez’s key for any offensive impact at the upper levels.

Defensively, Perez came into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to the outfield in 2013 as Miami tried to expand his versatility to help his one tool play up even further. Not only has he played center and short, but he has experience at second base with time in both left and right field thanks to a solid-average arm helping him hold down those spots.

He projects as an average defender, who can outrun misreads in the outfield and can play the middle infield positions in a pinch.

Ultimately, Perez received his first big-league promotion in July of 2016 and was used as a pinch-runner for the Marlins. That may be his role if he is to reach the majors again, but his versatility could allow him to sneak on a roster as a 25th man at best.

With the Cardinals, Perez should open the 2018 campaign at Double-A Springfield, where he would join a crowded outfield of names that could include Randy Arozarena, Granden Goetzman, Victor Roache, and two-way player Jordan Schafer. Other candidates include Angel Moreno, Shane Billings, Blake Drake, Thomas Spitz, Lane Thomas, J.B. Woodman, and Vince Jackson, who all are looking to move up. Then, there are the four outfielders from low-A Peoria last season – Dylan Carlson, Matt Fiedler, Mick Fennell, and Nick Plummer. 

The Cardinals outfield surplus now reaches a whopping 16 players for eight outfield jobs just between Springfield and Palm Beach alone, so Perez will need to more than stand out to remain in the organization. For now, he appears on our Springfield roster.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Welcome 181 to 2017 Minors Camp

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 2018 Prospect Guide PDF version for less than half price. In addition, our new, limited edition printed and bound Guide is now available, but will soon be sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Add Reliever Dominic Leone, Prospect for Randal Grichuk

photo: Dominic Leone (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Friday) that they have acquired right-handed pitchers Dominic Leone (pronounced lee-OHN) and Conner Greene from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Randal Grichuk.

Dominic Leone (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Leone, 26, enjoyed a solid 2017 campaign for Toronto, going 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA (12th among American League relievers) and 11 Holds in 65 games pitched, striking out 81 batters in 70.1 innings of work.   His 70.1 innings (9th among A.L. relievers) and 81 strikeouts were both 2nd highest among Toronto relievers last season.   Leone stranded 42 of 54 inherited runners (78 pct.), ranking 4th among American League relievers (min. 50 inherited runners) and he limited left-handed batters to a .183 average and righties to a .211 mark.

The 5-11, 195-pound Leone owns a career mark of 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA in 160 outings (all in relief) with Seattle (2014-15), Arizona (2015-16) and Toronto (2017).  A Connecticut native, Leone was drafted by Seattle in 2012 (16th round) out of Clemson University and made his Major League debut with the M’s in 2014 when he put together a solid rookie season, going 8-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 57 games (66.1 IP) with 70 strikeouts.   He led all Major League rookie relievers with his eight wins in 2014, finished 2nd to Dellin Betances (NY Yankees, 135) among Junior Circuit rookie relievers in strikeouts, was 3rd in rookie reliever ERA (2.17) and finished as one of just 19 American League relievers to fan 70 or more batters that season.

Conner Greene (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Greene, 22, went 5-10 with a 5.29 ERA for New Hampshire (AA) in 26 games (25 starts) and fanned 92 batters in 132.2 inning pitched, earning selection to the Eastern League All-Star team.   It was his 2nd-straight All-Star season, having also earned mid-season honors in the Florida State League (A) in 2016 when he was 4-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 15 starts for Dunedin.

A 7th round draft selection by the Blue Jays out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High School in 2013, Greene was ranked as the 5th best prospect in the Toronto organization by Baseball America in 2017.  The 6-3, 185-pound Greene is 31-31 with a 4.04 ERA in 103 career games (91 starts) since making his professional debut in 2013.

Randal Grichuk (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Grichuk, 26, played four seasons (2014-17) with the Cardinals after coming over in a November 2013 trade from the Los Angeles Angels that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Halos.  Grichuk owns a career batting mark of .249 with 66 HR’s and 182 RBI in 404 games and he hit .238 last season with 22 HR’s and 59 RBI in 122 games.

Both Leone and Greene will be added to the Cardinals Major League roster, which is currently at the maximum 40 players.

Derek Shore’s take

At the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up last weekend, Randal Grichuk was surprised to still be in the organization. Not even a week later, Grichuk was flipped to Toronto, where he will join former teammate Aledmys Diaz.

In return, the Cardinals acquired – to no one’s surprise – a major-league reliever, one who had had an outstanding 2017 campaign, as well as a high-upside pitching prospect. The two are Dominic Leone and Conner Greene.

Leone had a breakthrough season in the Blue Jays ‘pen last season and will obviously have a back-end role with the Cardinals in 2018. What stands out the most about the right-hander is his ability to miss bats at a high rate (10.36 K’s per nine innings).

As far as his repertoire, Leone throws four different pitches, per Brooks Baseball. He has a four-seam fastball which sits at 95 mph with an 89 mph cutter, also mixing in a hard sinker at 94 mph and a slider at 89 mph.

Here is Brooks Baseball’s description of his approach on the mound:

“His fourseam fastball results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has slightly above average velo and has some added backspin. His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ cutters, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters, has some natural sink and has strong cutting action. His sinker generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has well above average velo, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers. His slider generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders and has exceptional depth.”

Greene is a 22-year old project with big stuff, who will need to prove he can throw quality strikes above A-ball. His electric 70 grade heater sits at 95-97 mph with his ability to reach back for 100, and an average changeup (80-82 mph) to complement his fastball. To round out his arsenal, Greene displays a potentially average curveball (78-79) and a below-average slider (86-88).

With his control and command issues, Greene may project best as a late-inning reliever with two usable pitches with the potential to be a closer at the big-league level. In order to maximize his value, however, he is a #3-#4 caliber starter with front-of-the-rotation potential.

Grichuk was tabbed to be the Cardinals fourth outfielder before the trade on Friday. With him out of the picture, it opens the door for either Harrison Bader or Tyler O’Neill to slide into that role for St. Louis and also allows Oscar Mercado to be a shoo-in for Triple-A Memphis’ outfield.

Brian Walton’s take

Given the number of outfielders still available on the free agent market, in my opinion, the Cardinals did quite well to secure four years of the services of a solid reliever in Leone, one who could set up or even perhaps close. In the process, they also cleared out some space in what is a very crowded outfield pipeline, creating opportunity for a younger player.

A Super-two player, Leone had already settled with the Jays on a $1.085 million contract for 2018. He will not become free agent-eligible until after the 2021 season, though his salary should escalate each year between now and then – assuming he performs like he did in 2017.

This article from Yahoo Canada credits Leone’s improvement last season to his study of Mariano Rivera’s cutter and increased and effective usage of the offering.

Toronto also secured a nice return for a player (Leone) they claimed off waivers from Arizona in November 2016. As noted above, Greene was a seventh-rounder out of high school in 2013.

In spring training, a reserve outfield job audition will now occur, with the primary candidates likely being all-around standout Bader (TCN 2018 Cardinals prospect #4) and power threat O’Neill (ranked #5), both of whom are members of the 40-man roster. Mercado also has a roster spot, but with zero career at-bats above Double-A, the speedster has to be considered a very long shot.

Returning reserve Jose Martinez played more games in the outfield last season than he did at first base and is also on my projected Opening Day bench. However, Martinez cannot play in center field, which both Bader and O’Neill can do, as well can as new right fielder Dexter Fowler, of course.

My guess is that Greene will return to Double-A, joining the Springfield rotation. Note that because he was a 40-man roster player with Toronto, he is required to use a spot with St. Louis, as well. As a result, the open space on the 40-man is now gone. That does not preclude a future signing, but it would now require the removal of one incumbent.

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: Going Deep: Gary LaRocque on the Cardinals Farm System

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

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.