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Who Makes the Cardinal's Radar out of Spring Training?

Luke Gregerson Photo by Chris Lee, St Louis Post Dispatch

In 2018, Cardinal Spring Training camp, had a total of 37 pitchers who threw at least one spring training inning and 39 position players took at least 1 AB. Several of those players are no longer in the organization.

Pitchers Sean Gilmartin, Preston Guilmet, Arturo Reyes, Jacob Evans, Josh Lucas, Edward Mujica, Sam Tuivalala, Luke Weaver, Ryan Sherriff, Estarlin Arias, Jason Motte, Bud Norris, Connor Greene, Matt Bowman, Tyler Lyons, Ian McKinney, and Jordan Schafer.

Position players no longer with the Cardinals are: Luke Voit, Greg Garcia, Tommy Pham, Orlando Mercado, Breyvic Valera, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, Alex Mejia, Granden Goetzman, Thomas Spitz, Wilfredo Tovar, Patrick Wisdom, and Steve Baron.

Pitching surprises out of the 2018 spring training camp were: Jordan Hicks of course, who threw the 2 fastest pitches in all of MLB in the regular season at 105 and 105.1. Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce De Leon and Dakota Hudson, were to play a part later in the season and gave the team a lift that had them just short of the playoffs yet again.

Pitchers Ryan Helsley, and Genesis Cabrera are the names I have seen the most most bandied about as potential 2019 roster contributors. Helsley, a 24 year old right hander, was the Cardinal’s 5th round pick in the 2015 draft. He appeared to be on track to perhaps hit the MLB roster in 2018 after his stellar 2017 progress. He went 11-3 with a 2.72 ERA over 23 starts and 132 IP, allowing 104 hits, walking 48 with 137 KO. 2018 saw him run into shoulder problems and being placed on the DL on June 9th. He had made 12 starts between Memphis and Springfield allowing only 49 hits in 70 innings while KO 82. He made one more rehab start on August 8th for the Gulf Coast Cardinals and was shut down for the season.

Cabrera, a 22 year old left hander, was in the deal that sent Tommy Pham to the Rays in 2018. After his 2 seasons in rookie leagues the Rays used him primarily as a starter making 66 starts in 69 games 2016-2018. 2018 saw him make 25 starts, including 5 with the AA Springfield Redbirds, going 8-9 a 4.17 ERA allowing 114 H/ 71 BB /and 148 KO in 140 IP. He went on to pitch strictly in relief for the Licey Tigres in the Dominican Winter League and tossed 14.1 innings in 20 games allowing only 7 hits and 2 walks sporting an ERA of 1.26 and a WHIP of 0.628. Scouting reports give him credit for a mid 90’s fastball with a plus slider and changeup. The knock would be his walk rate which was over 4.5 per 9 innings in 2018 in AA ball.

Other pitchers to watch this spring are: Williams Perez, Tommy Layne, Ryan Meisinger, Evan Kruczynski, Hunter Cervenka. Perez, a free agent signee in November 2018 with a non roster spring training invite, had 31 starts with the Braves in 2015-16. He then pitched in AAA for the Cubs in 2017 and for the Mariners in AA and AAA in 2018. His season this winter in Venezuelan Winter League Ball was outstanding where he went 8-1 over 82 innings, all starts, with a 2.40 ERA. Past results provided by PitchFx show his primary pitch is a low 90’s sinker that had a 56% ground ball rate. He is not unhittable but allows only 2.7 BB/9 and a .6 HR/9 in his pro career. I believe he could be the Tyson Ross of 2018 later in 2019, whether it be due to injuries or to rest some tired arms.

Layne, a 34 year old lefthander, pitched in 216 MLB games 2012-2017 for the Padres, Red Sox, and Yankees compiling 149 IP 127H 72BB 137KO and like Perez allows few HR, on average 1 every 18IP. Layne relies on a cutter and slider and does not overpower hitters but does have a respectable 8.2/9 career KO rate. Layne pitched primarily for the Memphis Redbirds in 2018 after being released by the Red Sox. In 27 games he pitched 26.2 innings allowing 21 hits and only 4 walks for a 0.938 WHIP. I was a bit surprised with those numbers when the Cardinals did not at least give him a look again in the majors last year. Any struggles from our current lefthanders may open the door again for Layne.

Ryan Meisinger, was briefly on our 40 man roster in Dec. 2018, but was soon after DFA’d and cleared waivers after the Andrew Miller signing. The 24 year old right hander was an original 11th round choice of the Orioles in 2015. He did pitch in 18 games with the Orioles in 2018, stats give him credit for a low 90’s fastball and a low 80’s slider. Minor league stats show him with 20 saves a respectable WHIP of 1.12 and 10.9 KO/9 innings pitched.

Hunter Cervenka, like Perez was signed in Dec. 2018 and given a non roster invite to Spring Training. The 29 year old lefthander saw 68 games of MLB action in 2016 between the Braves and Marlins. 2017 and 2018 did not treat him kindly and stats show a career walk rate of 5.7/9 innings. I would think he falls into the you can never have too many lefthanders category.

Evan Kruczynski, a 23 year old lefthander, was the Cardinal’s 9th round pick in 2017. While I have seen no announcement that he will be in spring training camp, he deserves the exposure. 2018 saw him start 21 games between Palm Beach and AA Springfield. 107 KO against only 31 BB in 115 innings with a 3.50 ERA got him nominated for the Arizona Fall League. There he was uncharacteristically wild allowing 11 walks in 22 innings, he also allowed 12 runs but only 5 were earned due to some sloppy defense behind him. An article earlier in 2018 had his velocity climbing to the low 90’s and touched on his broken leg in his final college season. While he may not be ready for the majors in 2019 I think he is a name you will be hearing more often.

In 2018 significant contributions were made by the following position players: Harrison Bader, Yairo Munoz, and to a lesser degree Tyler O’Neill. Munoz was the biggest surprise making the team out of spring training. As the current roster stands it would appear unlikely we get the same surprise we got from Munoz in 2018 coming out of camp, but if we do I believe the following names have the best chance.

Catcher Andrew Knizner is deservedly ranked as the prospect nearest to MLB service. He may have a monster spring but with only 17 games at AAA, it does not make sense to sit him behind Yadier Molina and play every 10th game. He should spend significant time in Memphis. Backup catcher duties are likely to fall to the recently resigned Fransisco Pena again for 2019. Joe Hudson may also be heard from.

Hudson was signed in Nov 2018 with a non roster spring training invite. He made his MLB debut with the Angels in 2018. While 2018 shows him hitting .293 in the minors he only hit .216 .214 .203 and .171 in a 4 tear stretch 2014-2017. Arizona Fall league participant Jeremy Martinez, Peoria Chief Dennis Ortega, and Jose Godoy will also see some spring at bats.

The remaining position players to watch include:

OF Adolis Garcia made a late season appearance after the broken foot sidelined Fowler for the season. Garcia shows good speed and power, but got off to a slow start at Memphis in 2018. He recovered to hit .256 with 22 HR and 71 RBI but the outfield is deep for the Cardinals and will be tough to crack into without a trade or injury issue.

SS Edmundo Sosa, signed internationally in 2012, is only 22 and made a brief late season appearance in 2018. He is primarily a SS but can play 2B and 3B. if Yairo Munoz were to falter I could see Sosa settling into a utility role. 2018 saw him hit a combined .270 with 12 HR between Springfield and Memphis.

CF Lane Thomas, acquired from the Blue Jays in 2017 for international signing money, was put on the 40 man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 draft. He hit a combined .264 with 27 HR between Springfield and Memphis. Again he is up against a crowded Cardinal outfield but those were some big 2018 minor league numbers.

OF Drew Robinson, acquired from the Rangers in the trade for Patrick Wisdom, is a 26 year old lefthanded outfield that can play 2nd and 3rd. The Cardinal’s had mentioned needing a lefthanded utility bat off the bench this winter. If Robinson is that guy, he will need to improve on his career .204 MLB average or the front office will hear an awful lot of fan grief.

My final 2 picks are middle infielders Ramon Urias and Tommy Edman. Urias was in the Dominican Summer league with the Rangers from 2011-12. 2013-2017 saw him play strictly in the Mexican League and the Mexican Pacific Winter League. In 2018 between Memphis and Springfield he hit a combined .300 with 13 HR. He also had the infamous 3HR game for Los Mochis this winter as well. Urias was added to the 40 man as well for Rule 5 draft protection.

Edman, a 23 year old switch hitting SS and 2B, was the Cardinal’s 6th round pick in 2016. He will not need to be Rule 5 protected until 2019 and is not currently on the 40 man roster. He has quickly made to the AAA level and has hit .283 in the minors. I have boldly predicted that if the Cardinal’s don’t pick up Kolton Wong’s option in 2021, Tommy Edman is my pick to replace him. The Cardinal’s must think highly of him as well, as the highly touted Andy Young was used to get Goldschmidt from Arizona.

Will it be one of the aforementioned guys, or someone else I left out of the article that surprises us in 2019. Spring Training and Roger Dean Stadium will be a great place to sort some of that out. Go Cards!!

Thanks for reading and I also update our minor league players progress in the Fall and Winter leagues at St. Louis Cardinal Minor League Spotlight on Facebook and share on the Cardinal Nation 24/7 Cn24-7network facebook pages. On twitter as well Jeff Schrader @StlCardsMinor

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