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.

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