photo: Austin Gomber/Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos
St. Louis Cardinals press release
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Monday) that they have purchased the contracts of left-hander pitcher Austin Gomber, right-handed pitcher Derian Gonzalez and outfielders Oscar Mercado and Tyler O’Neill. All four players have been added to the team’s 40-man Major League roster which currently stands at 39.
Gomber, who turns 24 later this week, was the Cardinals 4th round (135th player overall) draft selection in 2014 out of Florida Atlantic University and was named the Cardinals Minor League co-Pitcher of the Year in 2015 when he led the Midwest League (A) with 15 wins while pitching for Peoria. The 6-5, 228-pound lefty paced the Springfield Cardinals (AA) in wins (10), ERA (3.34), strikeouts (140), innings pitched (143.0) and games started (26) this past season. He finished 2nd among Texas League leaders in strikeouts, was 3rd in ERA and T5th in wins.
Gonzalez, 22 and a native of Santa Barbara del Zulia, Venezuela, was signed by the Cardinals as an international free-agent in September of 2012. The 6-3, 190-pound Gonzalez completed his 3rd season in the States this year, and went 4-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) for the Palm Beach Cardinals (A) who were co-champions of the Florida State League. Gonzalez has allowed only seven home runs in 330.1 career innings pitched, five of those coming during this past season with Palm Beach.
Mercado, 22, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2nd round (57th player overall) in 2013 out of Tampa’s Gaither High School as a shortstop and he was converted to a full-time outfielder this past season, putting together an All-Star season as the centerfielder for the Springfield Cardinals (AA). The 6-2, 190-pound Mercado batted .287 with 13 home runs, and 46 RBI in 120 games for Springfield this season with a team-high 137 hits, 76 runs scored, four triples and a Texas League-best 38 stolen bases. Mercado, who has 159 career stolen bases in the minors, also led the Appalachian League in steals (26) in 2014 and the Midwest League with 50 in 2015. The right-handed hitting Mercado just completed a 22-game stint with Surprise in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League, batting .264 with six steals in six attempts.
O’Neill, 22, was acquired by the Cardinals in a July trade from Seattle in exchange for pitcher Marco Gonzales and hit .246 with 31 HR’s and 95 RBI in 130 combined games between triple-A Tacoma and Memphis, helping the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title. The 5-11, 210-pound O’Neill, a native of British Columbia, Canada, has cracked 101 homers in 455 games in the minors, including 32 with Bakersfield of the class-A California League in 2015 and 24 for Jackson of the Double-A Southern League in 2016. The right-handed hitting O’Neill, who owns a career .508 slugging pct., ranked 4th among PCL leaders in both home runs & RBI in 2017 and ranked 5th in total bases (247).
Brian Walton’s take
These protection moves were required to be made no later than 8:00 p.m. ET Monday night to remove players from eligibility for the December 14 Rule 5 Draft.
By holding one spot open on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals wisely are keeping their options open to potentially select a player in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Of course, that will depend on the players left exposed by other organizations and who remains by the time the Cardinals pick at number 19. Two years ago, St. Louis selected Matt Bowman from the Mets, but the Cardinals passed last year.
Monday’s roster additions of O’Neill, Mercado and Gomber were expected and had been forecasted to occur by The Cardinal Nation (member article). Though TCN’s annual top 50 prospect countdown is still in the 40’s, it is giving away little to disclose that all three new 40-man roster players will be reside firmly among our top 20 Cardinals prospects for 2018.
While we had identified Gonzalez with the other three as one of the nine most likely candidates for 40-man roster consideration, ultimately we thought he would be left unprotected. This is due to his injuries the past two seasons and the fact he has yet to play above high-A. However, perhaps the risk of losing another high-velocity pitcher with the same level of experience two years ago in Luis Perdomo, now with San Diego, influenced the Cardinals decision to not expose Gonzalez to the Rule 5 Draft. Gonzalez, who features an upper-90s fastball with movement, is ranked as St. Louis’ #48 prospect for 2018 by TCN.
Among the benefits of 40-man roster placement include an automatic invitation to big-league spring training camp. 2018 will be the first St. Louis camps for O’Neill, Mercado and Gonzalez. Gomber was a non-roster invitee in 2017, as was O’Neill, then with Seattle.
All four players will now have three minor league option years, which will enable the Cardinals to move them up to St. Louis or down to the minors at will – until they are either entrenched in the majors or allowed to take their services elsewhere once their options are exhausted.
Five other top Cardinals protection candidates were not added to the 40-man, and therefore potentially at higher risk to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft from the over 50 Cardinals farmhands eligible. They are slugging third baseman Patrick Wisdom, Springfield second baseman Darren Seferina, and pitchers Matt Pearce, Arturo Reyes and Daniel Poncedeleon. All except Seferina finished 2017 with Triple-A Memphis, though Poncedeleon was on the disabled list.
If the Cardinals need to create additional 40-man roster space this off-season due to trades and/or free agent signings, those currently on the roster can still be removed, but as always, with the potential risk of being claimed by another organization.
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: TCN 2018 Cardinals Prospect #48: Derian Gonzalez
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