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.

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