Springfield Cardinals 2011 Preview

Our newest reporter, Josh Thompson, provides a preview direct from Springfield on the new season, opening Thursday night. Free article!

Editor's note: I am delighted to announce the addition of Josh Thompson to our writing staff. A member of the Springfield radio team, Josh will also serve as our S-Cards beat reporter in 2011. To read more about Josh and the entire The Cardinal Nation staff, click here.

This preview is offered for all readers, but to read Josh's weekly reports each Wednesday during the season, you'll need to be a subscriber to The Cardinal Nation. Take advantage of our seven-day free trial today!

The Springfield Cardinals will open the season without a single active player on the 40-man roster. Springfield will have nine players on The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospects list. Still a fairly young team, with an inexperienced pitching staff to start the season, the Cardinals will look to some familiar position players to carry the banner as they search for a second straight trip to the Texas League Playoffs. Last year's club lost in the first round of the post-season to the eventual champions, Northwest Arkansas, in five games.

This year's team will begin the season without David Kopp, who went 12-4, with a 3.05 ERA in 121 innings. As a reward for a stellar season and to avoid potentially losing him in December's Rule 5 draft, St. Louis chose to protect him by putting him on the 40-man roster. Joining Kopp on the disabled list to start the season will be Scott McGregor.

Scott Schneider
The Cardinals pitching staff will feature eight pitchers that have never been in the Texas League during the regular season, at least until McGregor and Kopp return from the DL. Deryk Hooker, Kevin Thomas, Richard Castillo, Opening Day starter Scott Schneider, Mike Blazek and Brett Zawacki all will get their first taste of Double-A.

Springfield will also feature a pitcher that hasn't seen the Texas League since 2008. Cory Rauschenberger, a 37th round draft pick back in 2005, announced that he was retiring following the 2008 season. Matt Frevert and Casey Mulligan will be anchoring the back of the bullpen for Springfield. Frevert will return to Hammons Field after a three-year absence. He was the closer for Missouri State for three seasons and is familiar with his surroundings as MSU plays their home games at Hammons Field. Mulligan started last season in Springfield and struggled before being demoted to Palm Beach where he was nothing short of dominating, only surrendering one run in 29 2/3 innings and converting all 12 save opportunities.

Eight of the twelve position players to open the season in Springfield saw time in Double-A last season. Steven Hill is not short on experience as he returns for a fourth season of duty in the Texas League. Hill had another quality season in 2010, as he was even promoted to St. Louis for a brief time before being sent back down. However, Hill was passed on the Cardinals depth chart and removed from the 40-man roster in the off-season with Tony Cruz being added. There is a good chance that Nick Derba could see a majority of the playing time behind the plate and Hill will spend more time as the designated hitter. It is tough to imagine what else Hill has to prove with the bat in Double-A.

Tyler Henley, Aaron Luna, Tommy Pham and Chris Swauger all return to the Hammons Field outfield from last year. Henley is coming back from Tommy John surgery that forced him to the disabled list on June 27th as he subsequently missed the rest of the season. Henley put up solid numbers in Springfield (.367, 3 home runs, 12 RBI in 60 at-bats) before briefly being called up to Memphis.

Aaron Luna
Luna will return to Double-A after earning a midseason promotion to Memphis following his pounding of Texas League pitchers. With Springfield, Luna hit .270, with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 319 at-bats.

Pham enjoyed a breakout year in 2010. He ended the campaign in Springfield and showed flashes of what made so many scouts and fans alike raved about him just a few short years ago. In 38 games with Springfield, Pham hit .339 with 3 home runs and 18 RBI. He also added some speed to the roster, as he swiped four bases with Springfield after stealing 13 for Palm Beach.

On the subject of speed, the newcomer to the Springfield outfield, Alex Castellanos, was third in the organization last season with 19 stolen bases for Palm Beach. The most surprising part of Castellanos' 2010 season was his power output. He entered the 2010 season with 13 home runs in the previous two seasons. Last year, Castellanos hit 13 more homers in a pitchers' league, the Florida State League. Castellanos promises to be a player to watch in 2011.

If the Springfield outfield will look mostly the same, the infield is the exact opposite. The Cardinals will likely have a new everyday first baseman, third baseman and shortstop. Infielders Jose Garcia and Jermaine Curtis are the lone returnees.

Ryan Jackson
For the first time since 2009, someone other than Pete Kozma will be the regular shortstop. Kozma led the Texas League with 34 errors last season (.948). He will be replaced by Ryan Jackson, whose .970 fielding percentage would have led the Florida State League had he played enough innings to qualify. Jackson's defense has never been questioned, but some scouts have voiced concerns about his bat. In 2010, he hit .291 in 41 games for Palm Beach.

Niko Vasquez is penciled in as the third baseman for the Springfield. He will have some big shoes to fill, as he will be taking over Matt Carpenter's old stomping grounds.

Matt Adams, the hulking slugger, will jump over Palm Beach after he tore apart the Midwest League last season. Adams owned the highest full season average in the Cardinals organization, hitting .310 with 22 home runs and 88 RBI. Adams is certainly a rising star in the organization and is a prospect to watch in 2011.

Link to full Springfield 2011 roster, including access to our detailed database on each player, with links to current and career stats, photos and videos, bio information and every story and news item we've ever published about that player.

Premium Article Exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers, the other articles in this 2011 season preview series:
Memphis Redbirds - by Brian Walton
Palm Beach Cardinals - by Dustin Mattison
Quad Cities River Bandits - by Jon Popham

Premium Article Starting Friday morning, our Daily Cardinals Minor League Notebook, penned by Josh Jones, will be back with all the stats and news from the previous day's action. Then, next Tuesday, our in-depth subscriber-only weekly reports on each of the Cardinals' four full-season affiliates will return, with Quad Cities on Tuesdays, Springfield on Wednesdays, Memphis on Thursdays and Palm Beach on Fridays. Sign up now so you won't miss them!

Josh Thompson can be contacted at joshthompsonusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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