Cardinals’ depth trickles down to strong rosters at Memphis, Springfield
ST. LOUIS — The more heads Stephen Piscotty turned in spring training, the more he was asked about the depth of outfielders in the Cardinals’ organization.
The inquisitors’ implication was clear: How will you get to the big leagues with so much talent around and ahead of you?
Piscotty’s answer: "Yes, there’s a lot of competition, but it’s a good competition."
It’s certainly good for the Cardinals to be stocked with so much talent. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus no longer rank the Cardinals’ system No. 1, as they did in 2013, but both still have the Cardinals in the top 10 — Baseball America at No. 7 and Baseball Prospectus at No. 6. When you consider how many of the club’s prospects have made the majors, that’s impressive.
Last year, the pitching shined as rookie after rookie arrived and took about two seconds to look like they belonged in the majors. This year, you need look no further than the outfield at Class AAA Memphis to see where is the organizational strength.
The Redbirds’ lineup for their 10-2 victory over the Iowa Cubs on Thursday night included Randal Grichuk in center field batting in the two-hole, Oscar Taveras in left and batting third, and Piscotty in right and batting cleanup. Piscotty and Grichuk, acquired last December in the deal that sent David Freese to Anaheim, probably were the most impressive minor leaguers in camp.
Though Taveras’ progress stalled during camp after last summer’s ankle surgery, his upside still is regarded as the best in the organization. He no longer is assured of being the first outfielder called on when the Cardinals need help, but that’s as much about Piscotty’s rapid development as Taveras’ disappointing spring.
The trickle-down effect has left Class AA Springfield with a strong outfield, too. Mike O’Neill hit .320 at Springfield last year and earned a late-season promotion to Memphis but, because of the surplus, he’s back at Class AA. He went 3 for 3 out of the leadoff spot and played left field in the team’s 7-4 opening loss to San Antonio on Thursday night. He was followed in the order by 22-year-old center fielder Rafael Ortega, who went 1 for 5. Ortega, picked up off waivers from the Rangers, already has reached the majors, albeit briefly in 2012. James Ramsey, picked four players after Michael Wacha in 2012, batted third — going 2 for 4 — and started in right field.
Here’s a look at where some of the club’s other intriguing prospects have started their 2014 seasons:
Aledmys Diaz, SS, Springfield. He did not start in the opener (he grounded into a double play as a pinch-hitter) and will be brought along somewhat slowly as he still tries to round into game shape. Before signing a four-year, $8 million deal during spring training, Diaz did not play competitively for 18 months after he defected from Cuba.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, Class A Palm Beach. The 19th pick in last year’s draft, Gonzales lost a couple of weeks in spring training because of forearm tightness. But he was not likely to fast-track to the majors quite like Wacha, anyway. The club figures to keep Gonzales in high Class A for at least two months. How he pitches will determine his next step. A banner season could mean a September call-up.
Tim Cooney, LHP, Memphis. A third-round pick in 2012 out of Wake Forest, the lefty admitted to being frustrated with his work in spring training. Known as a strike thrower — he struck out 125 and walked only 18 in Springfield last year — Cooney was not at his best in spring training, either. In six innings, he walked four and allowed nine earned runs. Still, he will draw consideration from the front office if the Cardinals need pitching help. Tyler Lyons, who also is starting in Memphis, still would seem to be next in line for a call-up.
Alex Reyes, RHP, Class A Peoria. Only 19, the hard-throwing right-hander might be the best right-handed power arm in the organization who hasn’t reached St. Louis. Reyes pitched well at short-season Johnson City last year (3.39 ERA in 58 1/3 innings) and could work his way to Palm Beach this season.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B, Springfield. Another pick from 2012 (52nd), Wisdom shows some serious power. A long home run he blasted over the center-field fence early in spring training left an impression on the big-league coaching staff. Wisdom hit .284 with a .373 OBP and 18 homers in a full season at Palm Beach last season.
Carson Kelly, C, Peoria. Yet another 2012 pick (second round), Kelly will be starting his second straight season at low Class A Peoria. This year, however, he’ll be at another position. He’s being converted into a catcher after being drafted as a third baseman. Only 19, the Cardinals like his demeanor as much as his talent.
Many of the club’s youngest minor leaguers will remain in extended spring training until short seasons begin in Johnson City, Tenn., and State College, Pa. The rosters for the four full-season affiliates:
CLASS AAA MEMPHIS
Pitchers: David Aardsma, Jose Almarante, Angel Castro, Tim Cooney, Eric Fornataro, Sam Freeman, Nick Greenwood, Tyler Lyons, Scott McGregor, Jorge Rondon, Lee Stoppelman, Boone Whiting, Heath Wyatt.
Catchers: Ed Easley, Audry Perez.
Infielders: Jermaine Curtis, Greg Garcia, Luis Mateo, Scott Moore, Xavier Scruggs.
Outfielders: Joey Butler, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Oscar Taveras.
Pitchers: Logan Billbrough, Seth Blair, Jonathan Cornelius, Joey Donofrio, Anthony Ferrara, Sam Gaviglio, Kurt Heyer, Dean Kiekhefer, Danny Miranda, Zach Petrick, Ronnie Shaban, Ryan Sherriff, Justin Wright.
Catchers: Jonathan Keener, Cody Stanley, Travis Tartamella.
Infielders: Aledmys Diaz, Greg Miclat, Jonathan Rodriguez, Curt Smith, Matt Williams, Patrick Wisdom.
Outfielders: Mike O’Neill, Rafael Ortega, David Popkins, James Ramsey.
CLASS A PALM BEACH
Pitchers: Corey Baker, Joe Cuda, Marco Gonzales, Kyle Hald, Kyle Helisek, Cory Jones, Thomas Lee, Dixon Llorens, Aidan Lucas, Michael Mayers, Iden Nazario, Robert Stock, Sam Tuivailala.
Catchers: Jesus Montero, Casey Rasmus.
Infielders: Alex Mejia, Breyvic Valera, Ildemaro Vargas, David Washington, Jacob Wilson.
Outfielders: Anthony Garcia, Nick Martini, Steven Ramos, Starlin Rodriguez, Charlie Tilson.
Disabled list: Tyrell Jenkins, Adam Ehrlich, Danny Stienstra.
CLASS A PEORIA
Pitchers: Kyle Barraclough, Chase Brookshire, Silfredo Garcia, Kevin Herget, Zach Loraine, Blake McKnight, Chris Perry, Nick Petree, Jimmy Reed, Alex Reyes, Arturo Reyes, Joseph Scanio, Christopher Thomas.
Catchers: Steven Bean, Carson Kelly, Gerwuins Velazco.
Infielders: Juan Herrera, Mason Katz, Jake Stone, Cesar Valera.
Outfielders: Jimmy Bosco, Ronald Castillo, C.J. McElroy, Kenneth Peoples-Walls, Matthew Young.
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