State of the Cardinals farm system: John Vuch

Brian Walton's one-on-one interview with the leader of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system plus bonus Winter Warm-Up presentation highlights.

This past weekend during Winter Warm-Up, the head of the St. Louis Cardinals farm system was kind enough to sit down in a one-on-one session to answer a number of questions about 2013 plans and players. Several of these questions were posed by readers on our Insiders message board. If you haven't already checked out our subscriber-only forum, please do.

Among the topics Vuch discussed are:
• Expansion of the strength and conditioning program during the off-season
• New coaching and developmental assignments
• New minor league affiliates
• Strategy in terms of budget and playing time for minor league free agent signees
• Return of instructional league
• Continuation of early camp for selected minor leaguers
• Winter ball recap, specifically Oscar Taveras
• Position changes and deployment plans
• Key position backlogs in the infield: Matt Adams, Colin Walsh, Starlin Rodriguez, Breyvic Valera, Greg Garcia, Stephen Piscotty
• Injury status of a number of players, including several already in Jupiter rehabbing: Sam Tuivailala, Sam Freeman, Tommy Pham, Alex Mejia, Charlie Tilson, Jordan Swagerty, Tyrell Jenkins, Cory Jones
• Impact of player movement due to increased competition
• Rotation structure plans for 2013 – five- and six-man rotations


Extra points: As part of Winter Warm-Up, Vuch also hosted a one-hour session for the general public. Because of the length and potential for some duplication, I am not posting the audio from the public session here. Instead, I will single out additional comments. They come from my notes so are not exact quotes.

Player-specific comments
Robert Stock: 2013 is his big year. First off-season to prepare as pitcher.
Adam Ehrlich: Offensive-oriented catcher. Had back issue two years ago. Improving defensively. Despite not playing full-season ball, he is under consideration for one of six catching NRI spots in spring camp.
Jay Voss: On Memphis roster. Rehabbing elbow after Tommy John. ETA is May.
Justin Christian: Could compete for a job with St. Louis.
John Gast: Of left-handed starters close to MLB, he projects most as a starting pitcher. Change-up is very good. Breaking pitch not as strong.
Tyler Lyons: Has a better breaking pitch. Could be reliever.
Kevin Siegrist: Has ¾ delivery, tough on left-handed hitters. Could be reliever.
Tim Cooney: 2012 draftee going to Peoria or maybe even Palm Beach. Like Gast, projects as starter.
Vance Albitz: Outstanding defensively so could play at any level. Likely in Springfield mix.
Mike O'Neill: Sleeper prospect last year. Working on his speed in off-season. Average MLB runner now. Probably starts at Springfield.

General comments
• Early MLB call-ups: You have to consider the player's age as well as his point in the development process. Would you rather have a player's age 21 season now or age 28 season later, when he is at the peak of his career?
• Player progress: Coaches write player progress reports and share them with players. Organization scouts its own players.
• Timing of releases: Doing releases more at end of season. Don't bring players to spring camp if not competitive. Give player more time to find new job elsewhere.
• 2013 sleepers: Won't name them as every player has a chance or he would not be there.
• Rule 5: Only protect those that they do not think would be retained if selected.
• Peoria roster: Infield competition strong so there is no need to push players. Outfield not as strong, so 2013 draftees can better compete for jobs there.
• Winter ball: Rarely discourage position players from participating. Winter crowds more robust than some minor league locales.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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