Founded in 1964 as the Sarasota Rookie League, the GCL adopted its current name for the 1966 season.
The GCL Cardinals play only the other four East Division teams – Mets, Nationals, Astros and Marlins. There are six teams in the North Division and four in the South Division, but the divisions do not intermingle until the postseason. With five teams in the East Division, the day off rotates through each of them.
For the uninitiated, the GCL is the bottom rung of pro ball in the United States. The rosters are filled with a combination of later-round signees from the First-Year Player Draft, mostly fresh out of high school, and Caribbean players making their debut on U.S. soil.
The Cardinals play most of their games at noon on a back field of the Roger Dean Stadium complex.
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After losing their first two games to the Astros and Marlins, the Cardinals finished the season's first week with wins over the Nationals, Mets and Astros to grab a share of first place.
Hitless in his pro debut a day earlier, 1B Michael Knox flexed his muscles against the Marlins.
After flying out deep to center field in his first at-bat in the Cardinals' home opener Wednesday, the 6-4, 230-pound Knox unloaded.
Knox, a 41st-round pick earlier this month from Cary, N.C., and Mt. Olive College, homered to left field in each of his next three at-bats, off three different right-handed pitchers – 6-foot-4 starter Austin Brice, who comes over the top; 6-foot-5 sidearmer Luis Gomez; and 6-foot-2 submariner Collin Cargill.
In the same game, OF Lance Jeffries Jr., the Cardinals' 10th-round pick from McCluer High School in Missouri, was caught looking at third strikes his first three at-bats before he was pinch-hit for the next time up.
Through the first four games, Jeffries was 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts, though he did steal three bags. Jeffries broke out on Sunday with a double and a single in his first two at-bats.
A Closer Look at…
By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears in a GCL Cardinals game. This week, we start with reports on the five position players who played in the league last season. Most of these analyses are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco and a scout from an NL West team.
Hector Garcia: The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Venezuelan is already in his fifth year of pro ball, but hit only .220 last season in his first experience in the U.S. Garcia is off to a hot start this season with eight hits in his first 20 at-bats, which can help build his confidence, but he has only one extra-base hit and no walks. To hold down third base and move up in the chain, Garcia must hit for more power. "When he's right, he hits through the middle of the field, gap to gap," Turco said. Turco and the scout agree Garcia has soft hands and above-average instincts for 3B or 1B but an average arm and slow feet.
Sam Tuivailala: The Cardinals' third-round pick in 2010, the San Mateo, Calif., product won't turn 19 until October. With 195 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, Tuivailala's body is still filling out. In his first pro season, Tuivailala hit only .178, but showed decent plate discipline by drawing 29 walks to 35 strikeouts. In the first week this season, he's 4-for-12 with a double. Last season, Tuivailala mostly played shortstop, but struggled with his footwork. Turco said he will spend some time in the outfield this season, but will play mostly at third base this year, where his plus-plus arm and quick reactions can be maximized. Long strides give him good speed once he gets going. If he sticks at third base, Tuivailala will have to develop more power, but the scout sees that potential.
Corderious Dodd: The Cardinals' 17th-rounder in 2010, Dodd is only 19 and might still have some baby fat on his 6-3, 230-pound frame. Dodd struggled at the plate in his debut season, getting five hits, all singles, and six walks in 49 plate appearances, striking out 22 times. In limited action this season, Dodd is 2-for-6, but has yet to show his power potential, which both Turco and the scout see, if he can make more consistent contact. Turco said Dodd is quick for his size, but still must work to improve his defense in left field.
Ildemaro Vargas: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, Vargas played his first two pro seasons in the Summer League in his native Venezuela. Vargas, who turns 20 in mid-July, has skills to play multiple positions in the infield. Though his arm strength is improving, he still lacks enough to be an everyday shortstop, though that's what he is for the GCL Cardinals until they add another player at the position. Vargas makes consistent contact at the plate, but has no power. Still, Turco said he has seen more maturity and strength this season in Vargas, who has two singles and a triple in 19 at-bats so far and is still struggling to find his stroke.
Monday: at Marlins; Tuesday: at Nationals; Wednesday: vs. Mets; Thursday: off; Friday: at Astros; Saturday: vs. Marlins; Sunday: vs. Nationals.
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