Palm Beach Cardinals 2013 preview

The Cardinals' A-Advanced club is looking to win its first Florida State League title since 2005.

The 2012 Palm Beach Cardinals spent most of last season on an up-and-down roller coaster ride. Players like Trevor Rosenthal, Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong skipped over the High-A affiliate and the team struggled to find star-studded power through the season.

The three players mentioned all turned out prosperous seasons with Double-A, while Rosenthal made the jump all the way to the Major Leagues. The opening created spots for three of bright spots on the 2012 roster. Outfielder Mike O'Neill, infielder Starlin Rodriguez and pitcher Seth Maness all benefited from the moves, as they all flourished with Palm Beach.

O'Neill led the Florida State League in hitting with a .342 (132-for-386). Rodriguez was a mid-season and post-season all-star after hitting .300 (129-for-430) with eight home runs and 48 RBI. Maness dominated in his two months before his promotion to Double-A. the right-hander posted a 3-1 record with a 2.15 ERA, walking one batter in 46 innings of work.

Despite the notable success of those three players, the club never found its groove under Manager Johnny Rodriguez, finishing the season at 64-72.

Despite all the player movement that hampered the Palm Beach Cardinals in 2012, there was a lot of excitement around Roger Dean Stadium. Pitcher Chris Corrigan tossed a perfect game against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, O'Neill won the first batting title in franchise history and two first round draft picks from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft debuted with the Beach Birds.

This season, the Cardinals will rely on one of those first-rounder's to anchor the squad, as outfielder James Ramsey headlines the list of returning players from last season. He will be joined by pitchers Jose Almarante, Kyle Hald, Aidan Lucas (DL), Travis Miller, Danny Miranda, Iden Nazario, Zack Russell (DL) and Ryan Sherriff (DL), catchers Geoff Klein and Cody Stanley, infielders Ronny Gil, Tyler Rahmatulla, Jonathan Rodriguez, and outfielder Nick Longmire, as returning Beach Birds.

While the returnees add a stable base for the 2013 squad, there are a few notable additions that will join the fold. Pitcher Tim Cooney, infielder Colin Walsh and outfielder Stephen Piscotty will supply the team with fresh blood and proven success at the lower levels. Walsh hit .314 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI in Quad Cities, while Piscotty hit .295 with four homers and 27 RBI for the River Bandits. Cooney spent the year in short-season Batavia, but his impressive 3-3 mark and 3.40 ERA makes the left-hander a viable candidate to lead the rotation.

The team will be led by skipper Rodriguez, however there are two new faces working with the pitchers and hitters. Last season's assistants, hitting coach Jeff Albert and pitching coach Dennis Martinez both moved to the Houston Astros organization, which allows hitting coach Roger LaFrancois and pitching coach Arthur "Ace" Adams to take over their duties. Both new coaches spent last season with the Batavia Muckdogs.

Optimism is at an all-time high, as a new season brings renewed hope to all those involved. Every player is ready for the start of a new season. The Cardinals hope that 2013 proves to like 2005, the season they won the coveted FSL Championship.

Lefty-Loosy - The Cardinals pitching staff will feature eight left-handers. Kyle Hald and Tim Cooney will anchor the rotation. Last season, the staff was right-handed heavy, featuring 10 right-handers and three lefties on opening day.

Second Go-Around - Florida State product James Ramsey is back in a Palm Beach uniform. Last season, he struggled, hitting .229 (48-for-210) with 59 strikeouts. After a much needed winter break from baseball, Ramsey looks to bounce back from 2012.

Championship Bound - The Palm Beach Cardinals have missed the playoff five straight seasons and have not won the FSL Championship since 2005.

Disabled - Veterans Aidan Lucas, Ryan Sherriff and Zack Russell will begin the season on the disabled list. Last year, all three players were critical in the success of the Cardinals. Sherriff led the squad in victories (10), Lucas had three saves and Russell finished with five saves. Cardinals hope the players will return soon, as they will be crucial for a strong season.

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