Cards Aggressively Promote 16 Minor Leaguers

30 percent of St. Louis Cardinals minor league promotions to begin the 2011 season represent a jump over at least one level. First baseman Matt Adams, bypassing A-Advanced Palm Beach, is one of them.

Sometimes there is more happening in a minor league system than just with the top few prospects. Such is the case with the St. Louis Cardinals as the 2011 regular season begins on Thursday for their four full-season clubs.

The fact that the organization is playing it cautiously with their consensus number one and two prospects, pitcher Shelby Miller and third baseman Zack Cox, is garnering a lot of attention. The two are starting at A-Advanced Palm Beach despite some staffers having been in favor of testing them at Double-A Springfield.

That is accurate, but it is far from a universal truth. 38 of the organization's 54 promotions from 2010 season-ending rosters to 2011 season-opening rosters are of the standard one-level-to-the-next. An example is Miller's one-step move from Class A Quad Cities to Palm Beach, where he will be the opening day starter.

Yet elsewhere in the system, 16 minor leaguers have earned multi-level promotions, or 30 percent of the players moving up this year. 14 prospects are jumping over one level of play to begin the 2011 season while another pair of players are skipping two affiliates.

The Cardinals made what appeared to be a relatively low number of promotions in the lower levels of the system during last summer, which may be part of what is behind these bigger leaps taking place now.

One-level moves
Here are the regular one-level moves; the totals and the names.

One-level moves
MEM 6 up from Springfield 1 down to Springfield
King, M Carpenter, S Hill
Kozma, A Brown,
Jones, Buursma
SPR 9 up from Palm Beach 1 down to Palm Beach
R Castillo, Schneider, L De La Cruz
Mulligan, Zawacki,
Jackson, N Vasquez,
Castellanos, Hooker,
PB 13 up from Quad Cities 1 down to Quad Cities
Ahmady, Greenwood, Espinoza
Fornataro, Calhoun,
Kelly, Lara, Mateo,
S Miller, Rondon, Rada,
Rosario, J Smith, Terry
QC 10 up from Batavia 6 down to Extendeds
Blair, Butler, Moss, Bibona, Cardenas,
Y Castillo, Ferrara, Kiekhefer, Obregon,
J Rodriguez, Russell, Stidham, Walsh
V Sanchez, Swagerty,

The moves down from the upper levels are catchers, who tend to be shifted around more than other players. Most, if not all, of the returnees to Extended Spring Training are rehabbing injuries.

Two-level moves
Even more interesting are the names of those jumping over one or more levels of play.

Two-level moves Three-level moves
MEM 0 up from Palm Beach
SPR 2 up from Quad Cities
Adams, Blazek
PB 3 up from Batavia 2 up from Johnson City
Gast, Reid, A Perez Cerreto, Tartamella
QC 9 up from Johnson City
Rosenthal, Corpas,
Siegrist, De Jesus,
Whiting, G Garcia,
Elkins, Taveras,
S Rodriguez

Not surprisingly, every player new to Memphis that came up through the Cardinals system had Double-A time with Springfield first. That one-step routine changes and grows the lower one looks in the ranks, however.

First baseman Matt Adams and reliever Mike Blazek are making the leap over Palm Beach to Springfield, though technically Blazek did pitch in one game at the latter level. Adams, who led the entire system in multiple offensive categories last year, seems especially ready for the challenge after remaining in Quad Cities the entire 2010 season.

Starting pitcher John Gast, reliever Chase Reid and catcher Audry Perez are all being asked to join Palm Beach, bypassing Quad Cities. These moves also make sense as the lefty Gast showed well in major league spring camp, Reid is a polished college-trained reliever and Perez has a very good bat that has only been held back by injury.

Phil Cerreto
The three will have two new Palm Beach teammates that are attempting to skip both Batavia and Quad Cities. Phil Cerreto is a very advanced college hitter who tore up the Appalachian League before suffering a hand injury. Catcher Travis Tartamella is the other big leaper.

Finally, nine members of the 2010 Appy League champion Johnson City club are skipping short-season Class A Batavia to become inaugural members of the 2011 Quad Cities River Bandits.

This group includes our number 11 prospect in the system, outfielder Oscar Taveras. In a reminder that not all the fast-moving players are collegians, the 18-year-old is two years younger than his next youngest Quad Cities teammate.

Another notable player among the nine is right-handed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal. The 20-year-old was one of the top performers in spring training camp after having been an early mini-camp invitee. Rosenthal, the third youngest River Bandit, is being recognized by receiving the club's opening day start.

In summary
While Miller and Cox are moving ahead in a deliberate manner, a number of other Cardinals farmhands are being issued a considerable challenge as they officially begin 2011. These players will be especially interesting to keep an eye on as the spring moves into summer.

Links to entire full-season, full-team rosters, updated for 2011:
These rosters will still be augmented by disabled list additions prior to opening day, but are very close to final.
Memphis Redbirds
Springfield Cardinals
Palm Beach Cardinals
Quad Cities River Bandits

Note that all Extended Spring Training players are either listed on the Batavia roster or on their season-ending 2010 club, if lower.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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