Cardinals sign fifth-round pick LJ Jones IV, eight undrafted free agents

North Carolina right-hander Gianluca Dalatri was one of eight undrafted free agents who signed with the Cardinals on Tuesday.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — While the 2020 MLB Draft was limited to five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cardinals are still making an effort to add an extensive group of first-time pros to the organization this summer.

The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they’ve agreed to terms with fifth-round pick LJ Jones IV, an outfielder from Long Beach State University, while also signing eight players who were not selected in last week’s draft: right-handers Jacob Buchberger, Gianluca Dalatri and Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, left-handers Mac Lardner and Omar Sanchez, catcher Nick Raposo, third baseman/outfielder Matt Koperniak and outfielder Matt Chamberlain.

Jones played in just 58 college games over three seasons but was impressive over 14 games during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. In 61 plate appearances, he hit .327 with an .886 OPS, two homers and two steals. He’s the second of the Cardinals’ seven draftees to agree to terms, following East Carolina outfielder/first baseman Alec Burleson, who signed on Monday.

Buchberger, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander, was a two-way player at Division II Davenport University in Michigan, posting a 2.12 ERA with 15 strikeouts and three walks over 12 career pitching appearances (three starts) and hitting .421 with a 1.204 OPS, 20 homers, 106 RBIs and 34 steals over three seasons. 

Dalatri, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound righty, had already been selected twice in the MLB Draft, once by the Rockies in the 40th round of the 2016 draft, then again in the 40th round of last year’s draft. He pitched well over three seasons at the University of North Carolina, throwing for a 3.12 ERA with 151 strikeouts and 34 walks over 156 innings.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Trogrlic-Iverson spent two seasons at Gonzaga after transferring from Central Arizona College and had mixed results. He posted a 5.05 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 22 walks in 67 2/3 innings last year while going back and forth between starting and relieving, but he was better while pitching exclusively out of the rotation this year, throwing for a 3.80 ERA with 20 Ks and just three free passes in four starts (21 1/3 innings).

Lardner was Trogrlic-Iverson’s rotation mate at Gonzaga, posting a 3.75 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 68 walks in 249 2/3 innings spanning four seasons. The 6-foot-4, 196-pound lefty had his best college season — albeit an abbreviated one due to the COVID-19 pandemic — in 2020, pitching his way to a 2.55 ERA over four starts.

Sanchez, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound lefty from B-You Prospects Academy in Puerto Rico, broke his commitment to Florida Southwestern State University in order to sign with the Cardinals.

Raposo, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior from Division III Wheaton College, hit .366 with a .945 OPS, nine homers and 118 RBIs over four college seasons. 

Koperniak, a left-handed hitter from Division III Trinity College, had committed to transfer and play next season at Kansas State University before deciding to sign with the Cardinals. Over four college seasons, the 6-foot, 200-pound third baseman/outfielder hit .373 with a 1.051 OPS with 13 home runs and 75 RBIs.

Chamberlain, a 6-foot, 200-pound left-handed hitter from Division II New Haven, hit .297 with a .924 OPS, 11 homers, 80 RBIs and 48 steals over four seasons.