photo: Nolan Gorman (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The St. Louis Cardinals have welcomed 21 non-roster invitees to their 2022 big-league spring training camp. That is down from 28 in 2021, but no one you’d expect to see there is missing.
(Update: With Tuesday’s signing of pitcher Zach McAllister to a minor league contract with a spring camp invitation, the Cardinals’ NRI count is up to 22.)
One by product of the recently ended 99-day lockout of Major League Baseball players is a compressed spring training, with both fewer days and fewer numbers of games for the players to prepare for April 7th Opening Day.
With less time to get ready, teams will also have fewer opportunities to evaluate young players who in a normal spring might be in big-league camp for exposure reasons, as an investment in the future and to enter early spring games in late innings when the major leaguers are done for the day.
For 2022, the St. Louis Cardinals officially opened spring training camp on Monday, March 14 with a total of 59 players. By definition, all members of the 40-man roster are included (which currently totals 38 players for St. Louis). The rest of the camp is made up of 21 non-roster players, called non-roster invitees, or NRIs, all of whom were already in Jupiter working out in minor league camp.
The latter represents a 25 percent reduction from the 28 NRIs the Cardinals invited to 2021 spring training.
Most of these NRIs, but not all, have a very, very low chance of coming north with the team in April.
However, there are exceptions. In fact, many springs, one or two NRIs play well enough in camp to earn a spot on the major league roster to open the season. In 2020, for example, it was reliever Kodi Whitley who earned a 40-man spot as well as a place on the Opening Day roster.
The two main factors to aid an NRI in making the team is his own performance, of course, but that isn’t usually enough. An opportunity can be created by a spring injury to a big leaguer, which is impossible to predict.
While the 25% drop for 2022 is real, none of the players one would expect to see in Cardinals camp are missing. The others who might have scored an invitation in recent years are marginal major league candidates at this point in their careers.
The breakdown of the 2022 non-roster invitees includes nine pitchers, four catchers, six infielders and two outfielders.
Many already know about top prospects like Matthew Liberatore and Nolan Gorman, but a number of other very good prospects are invited, as well. In fact, 13 of the 21 are members of The Cardinal Nation’s Top Prospect List for 2022. This includes our nos. 1, 2 and 3 prospects and four of the top seven.
|Non-Roster Invitees (21)|
|Pitchers (9)||TCN 2022 Rank|
Seven of the nine NRI hurlers are in their first Cardinals camp, with the returnees top left-handed pitching prospects Liberatore and Zack Thompson. Andre Pallante and Connor Thomas are home-grown Cardinals, with the surprise inclusion 2021 ninth rounder Trent Baker. The 23-year-old threw just 7 2/3 innings in the Florida Complex League in 2021.
The other four came into the organization from the outside. Of them, only Jason Bosiokovic was in the system in 2021. The other three NRIs were likely a part of the agreed-to terms when they signed during the offseason – Aaron Brooks, James Naile and Kyle Ryan.
Backstops Aaron Antonini and Pedro Pages are back from 2021 camp and Julio Rodriguez returns after sitting out last spring due to injury. Antonini and Pages finished last year at High-A Peoria and Rodriguez is only one of two NRIs on the Double-A Springfield roster when 2021 concluded (along with shortstop Delvin Perez).
Clint Coulter was acquired during the 2021 season from unaffiliated ball and was a utility player for Memphis.
Four of the six infielders were also NRIs in 2021, augmented by newcomer Anderson Tejeda and 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Walker. The latter, a third baseman, should be aiming to break camp at Double-A after a strong Class-A debut in 2021. In fact, Walker is the only non-catcher NRI without Triple-A (or Double-A) experience. All but MLB veteran Tejeda are ranked prospects, led by no. 1 Gorman. Walker is right behind at no. 2.
The organization’s outfield position group is thin in the upper minors and that is reflected in just two NRIs. Conner Capel is back for another spring, joined by first-timer Alec Burleson, who like Walker was playing his first full season in 2021. The former East Carolina star streaked from High-A through Double-A and finished the year in Triple-A. On paper, Burleson appears to be in line to be the next outfielder up when an opening occurs with St. Louis.
Before that could occur, as is the case for all of these NRIs, Burleson would have to be added to the 40-man roster first. But with two current roster openings, the Cardinals have some flexibility for such a move if conditions warrant.
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.
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