Part one (this report) focuses on the pitching staffs and part two will concentrate on the position players. I hope to have a couple of other special reports during spring training and the regular, monthly Cardinals prospect ranking reports will return in April.
The rosters of the minor league teams of course depend on the major league roster. Any changes there have a domino affect throughout the system. For this exercise, we will assume no injuries. That is not totally realistic but probably more realistic than trying to predict a specific number of injuries.
I have made the assumption that Lance Lynn will start in Memphis. Many people will disagree, but it is what I fully believe. I think Eduardo Sanchez will open in the major league bullpen. If there is a spring training injury, Scott Linebrink will be the fill in guy. Otherwise, there might not be a place for the veteran right-hander.
Given those ground rules, here are my predictions and a helping of supporting rationale.
Brandon Dickson - Will need another season like 2011 to stay on the 40-man roster through next year.
Lance Lynn – Linebrink's signing almost assures he'll be starting in Memphis.
Maikel Cleto - My breakout pick for 2012.
Shelby Miller - Will he pitch well enough for a late season call up?
Nick Additon (L)/Brian Broderick - Without an injury somewhere, one of these two would seem not to have a job. Additon (being younger and left handed) might find a bullpen slot but if he doesn't make the rotation, Broderick is more likely to join those wondering about his future.
Adam Reifer - Should compete with Marte for the closer role if healthy.
Victor Marte - Would a strong spring position him for a 40-man roster spot and call up in 2012?
Chuckie Fick - Solid middle man is on the 40-man roster.
Adam Ottavino - Will the Cards follow through and let him work out of the pen?
David Kopp/Francisco Samuel/Jess Todd - One of these guys would seem most likely to make the pen, one will hang around if there is an injury and one will probably be looking for a job when the season opens.
Sam Freeman (L) - I'm not sold on the left-hander but he undoubtedly starts the season in Memphis.
R.J. Swindle (L)/Barret Browning (L) - At best, one of these two lefties makes the Triple-A squad.
Outside Looking In?
I think Lynn will start at Memphis, but if he doesn't, there are a lot of other options in Broderick/Additon, Ottavino plus several arms at Double-A that are all but ready for Triple-A. The bullpen has about 10 guys who have been on a 40-man roster at one point or another. The Kopp/Samuel/Todd spot will be an interesting competition to watch. I think left-handed relief is still extremely thin here.
Jordan Swagerty - Early reports are that they want him to continue starting.
John Gast (L) - Could move up to Triple-A bullpen with a strong spring.
Eric Fornataro - Has always possessed more potential than results.
Deryk Hooker/Joe Kelly/Michael Blazek/Scott Gorgen - Two of these four end up in the rotation and two in the bullpen. Kelly is a non-roster invitee to MLB camp.
Hooker/Kelly/Blazek/Gorgen – The two that don't make the rotation end up here.
Jorge Rondon/Ramon Delgado/Chase Reid - One of these guys makes the team, one receives a pink slip, and one slips down to Palm Beach. The Cards love Rondon's stuff, but if he can't find the plate this spring, I think the team will give up on him. Coming back from injury, Delgado could start in Palm Beach. Reid finished last year in PB after pitching in Springfield.
Keith Butler - Your Double-A closer.
Richard Castillo - Is it really possible that he is still just 21 years old?
Justin Wright (L) - Dominated at lower levels, struggled in the AFL. I think he gets pushed up to Double-A.
Nick Greenwood (L) - Could challenge for a job in Memphis.
Outside Looking In?
Scott Schneider – It would seemingly take an amazing string of injuries to others for him to stick around.
Dan Calhoun (L) - Had good results but I doubt his stuff is strong enough to overcome the numbers crunch. Already 25 years old.
Chris Corrigan – It is possible he stays in Palm Beach, but not likely.
Shooter Hunt - Most likely gets a bullpen look but if he hasn't found his control, there is no spot for him.
Scott McGregor - Would probably need to come back from injury stronger than he was before - unlikely.
Kevin Thomas - Had some great games last year but he'd have to be able to pitch that way every time out to stick.
Jose Rada - Young enough that he might get a look at Palm Beach, otherwise it will be hard for him to make a crowded Springfield roster.
Jesse Simpson - Not sure if his low profile status is shared by those within the organization. Unless there is an injury or the Cards really value his high ground ball rates, he most likely will have trouble sticking around.
There appears to be a real numbers crunch at the Double-A level. Several guys are probably nearly ready for Triple-A, but no spots are open there. Several others won't be around to start the season. The bullpen, a problem area in 2011, again does not look dominating. If Greenwood gets bumped up to Triple-A (he is ready if a spot is open), then the left-handed relief corps would be really thin.
Carlos Martinez – Should not be in Palm Beach long.
Trevor Rosenthal - Could also graduate to Double-A by the end of the year.
Kevin Siegrist/Boone Whiting/Seth Blair/Zack Russell/Ryan Copeland (L)/Tyler Lyons/Anthony Ferrara (4 of the 7) – The three most likely to be selected as starters are Siegrist, who is an NRI in MLB camp, plus Lyons and Ferrara, both invited to early minors camp.
Outside Looking In?
Justin Edwards (L) - Good results but seemingly no open spots.
Drew Benes - Possibly could return to Quad Cities.
Angel De Jesus - Poor 2011 season may spell the end for this tall Dominican unless he found a new secret over the winter.
Daniel Bibona (L) - After nearly two years off, Bibona could end up in extended spring training. I'm never optimistic about shoulder injuries and his long recovery time makes me less optimistic yet.
Again, there are more players than spots, including lots of starting candidates - but several will have to move to relief. The strength of the pen will depend on how the former starters perform as relievers.
Expect six of these eight to be in the River Bandits' rotation:
Jose Almarante - Possibly a strong bullpen candidate if not in the rotation.
Kyle Hald (L)
Jose Pasen - Already has spent four years in short-season ball.
Other bullpen candidates (3)
This large group of players - along with the two starting candidates who do not make the rotation - will compete for three spots in the QC pen. A few of those who don't make it will end up in extended spring training, then Batavia. A large number will eventually be looking for work.
Logan Billbrough - High probability to make the QC pen.
Pat Daugherty (L) - Needs to refine his control.
Heath Wyatt - QC or bust due to his age.
Matt Rein (L) - Also needs to move to full season ball due to his age.
Jonathan Cornelius (L)
Sean Watson (L)
Tyler Mills - I‘d say he's a long shot to stick.
Ryan Sherriff (L) - Most likely sticks at Batavia if not at QC.
Bob Revesz (L)
Jean Mijares (L)
Adam Bileckyj (L)
Again, a huge number of players vie for a few spots. Last year, the Cards had a larger number than usual of older, college players at Johnson City. Those, combined with the pitchers at Batavia last year, generate this large number. At this level, potential speaks much louder than stats and it is too difficult to know which players the organization sees as having the most potential.
These are other pitchers that finished at Batavia and Johnson City last year that due to their age, lack of experience, and/or the crowding above them will most likely return to short-season ball in 2012.
There you have it. A lot of suppositions involved but that is the nature of the prediction business. Next time, we'll look at the position players.
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