Springer, 23, a right-handed hurler from Conroe, Tex., was drafted by the Pirates in the 37th round in 2007, but did not sign. He pitched for Sam Houston State in 2008 before transferring to Southern Arkansas University, for whom he threw in his junior and senior seasons (2010-2011).
Appearing primarily out of the bullpen, Springer logged only 31 innings in total over his three playing years in college. While he fanned 29 opposing hitters, he issued a whopping 30 free passes and logged a cumulative ERA of 8.13.
With the Lions, the left-handed batter hit .362 with 11 home runs and 97 RBI in 378 at-bats over 95 games in 2010 and 2011. Lewis slugged .526 and walked more often (31 times) than he struck out (30). However, as the stats below note, his junior year was much stronger than his final campaign. In the classroom, Lewis picked up a degree in business.
Given their invitations to regular minor league camp, both players will have the opportunity to complete to win a job on one of the Cardinals full-season clubs or more likely, remain behind in extended spring training. Of course, Lewis first needs to earn a contract.
Note: To review the Cardinals 2012 minor league spring training schedule, click here.
In other minor league news, the Cardinals have released outfielder Victor Encarnacion. Now one month away from his 22nd birthday, the native of Las Matas, Dominican Republic had finished 2011 with the short-season Class-A Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.
Originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in November 2008, Encarnacion appeared in the Dominican Summer League in 2009 and 2010 before receiving an invitation to extended spring training last April. He broke camp with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals before an August promotion to Batavia.
After stealing a total of 28 bases in his two DSL seasons, Encarnacion swiped just two last year. His main limitation was not reaching first base often enough, especially by hitting his way on. The right-handed hitter's career line was .186/.316/.272/.588 in 424 plate appearances over three seasons.
Smith considering retirement
Pitcher Justin Smith, who finished the 2011 season with A-Advanced Palm Beach, is contemplating retirement. As such, the 23-year-old right-hander is not expected in spring training camp.
Selected in the 36th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the Utah native began with Johnson City and was promoted to Batavia. Smith spent all of 2010 at Quad Cities and the entire 2011 campaign in the Florida State League.
Last season with Palm Beach was by far his toughest, as Smith logged a 5.72 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of 82:42 in 91 1/3 innings. He started 14 FSL games and relieved in 15. Smith's three-year aggregate stats include a 12-14 record with a 4.46 ERA.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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