Having graduated top prospects Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong to Memphis this season, the level of talent starting the year in Springfield was less proven. Also missing from the opening day roster was top pitching prospect Carlos Martinez, who had stayed behind in Jupiter at extended spring training to get in some work after being held up in the Dominican Republic with a visa issue during big league camp. Martinez reported to Springfield in late April to make three starts in two weeks before getting the call to join the St. Louis Cardinals on May 3rd.
As Martinez went to join the big league club, graduated big league slugger Matt Adams returned to his old stomping grounds at Hammons Field, where he claimed the 2011 Texas League Player of the Year honors. Adams joined the Double-A Birds for three games in early May as he rehabbed from an oblique strain before returning to St. Louis. Adams joined Jake Westbrook and Chris Carpenter, who each made one rehab start with Springfield, and Shane Robinson, who also rehabbed three games with Springfield.
In addition to the rehabbing big leaguers, Springfield sent several players to the big league squad as well. In fact, if you count the rehabbers, nine players put on both the Springfield and St. Louis uniforms in the 2013 season. That is in addition to the numerous others who graduated to St. Louis from the 2012 championship club.
In addition to Martinez, Michael Blazek also received the call to directly join the big league club straight from Double-A. Blazek, of course, has since been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Kevin Siegrist, Keith Butler, and Audry Perez made their MLB debuts with St. Louis this season after beginning 2013 with Springfield. Siegrist has played a crucial role for St. Louis in the bullpen after making 13 appearances in Double-A to start the year.
Xavier Scruggs spent his third season with Springfield, becoming the Double-A franchise's all-time career home run leader. The first baseman passed Steven Hill with 59 after swatting 29 in 2013. Second on the team with 16 home runs was former big leaguer Ruben Gotay. He spent the 2013 season as Springfield's starting third baseman and earned Texas League all-star honors at both mid- and post-season.
Other Springfield mid-season all-stars were pitchers Kevin Thomas, Tim Cooney and Heath Wyatt. The latter two replaced Keith Butler and Deryk Hooker, originally named to the team, but promoted to Memphis before the game. Outfielder Mike O'Neill and Tommy Pham were selected, with Chris Swauger added to replace the promoted Pham. O'Neill repeated on the post-season team.
Just behind Gotay in home runs with 15 was 2012 first-round pick James Ramsey, who was promoted to Springfield in early May. Ramsey was later joined by another 2012 first-rounder in Stephen Piscotty, who earned his promotion in late June and clubbed six home runs in 184 at-bats. Piscotty and Ramsey will both be heading to the Arizona Fall League later this month with manager Mike Shildt. Mike O'Neill impressed as Springfield's leadoff hitter for most of 2013 as he posted a .320 batting average and a .431 on-base percentage in 359 at-bats before his promotion to Memphis at the end of July.
Tommy Pham had the most impressive beginning to his season as anyone, named the organization's Player of the Month in April. However, once again he was bitten by the injury bug - both before and after being promoted to Memphis. Pham missed the entire final month with another season-ending injury.
Springfield also got the Cardinals system's first extended look at shortstop Jake Lemmerman, acquired from the Dodgers in the offseason for St. Louis fan favorite Skip Schumaker. Lemmerman failed to impress much and ultimately lost his position to Luis Mateo, who made the midseason transition from second base to shortstop. Also switching positions midseason was Starlin Rodriguez, who started the season as Springfield's starting second baseman but was later sent down to Palm Beach to learn to play the outfield. In August, Rodriguez re-emerged in Springfield at the starting left fielder following the promotion of O'Neill to Memphis.
I saved for last perhaps the most exciting part of the 2013 season in Springfield. The emergence of strong arms on the mound served as a catalyst to keep the Cardinals in the playoff race for most of the second half of the season.
Of these young arms, only Boone Whiting began the season with Springfield. Whiting made six strong starts for Springfield before earning a promotion to Memphis, where he would stay through the rest of the season. After beginning the year strong in Palm Beach, Tim Cooney joined Springfield. The left-hander had an outstanding season, earning Texas League Pitcher of the Week honors three times, including twice in the final month in back-to-back weeks. Cooney led the team with 125 strikeouts in despite making four less starts than Seth Blair.
Zach Petrick joined Springfield late in the season and continued to impress as he has at every level. Reliever Lee Stoppelman is the name that got everyone buzzing as he posted a 1.35 ERA and struck out 50 in 40 1/3 innings pitched over 37 appearances. Look for Stoppelman's name to show up on the prospect radar as he heads to the Arizona Fall League and into Spring Training.
Overall, Springfield finished the season with a record of 64-74. The second half mark of 31-39 left them nine games short of making the playoffs. That was largely due to a nine-game losing skid to end the season. Even though it was not where manager Mike Shildt would have liked to finish in his quest for his fourth consecutive minor league championship, there was still a lot to be excited about his 2013 team.
Though the Cardinals may not have been filled with top name prospects, the club still had 11 all-star selections, five Texas League Player/Pitcher of the Week honorees and finished with Stoppelman earning the Cardinals' organizational Pitcher of the Month honors for August.
For Springfield to graduate the level of talent they sent to Memphis and St. Louis and endure the high level of player movement, it should be considered another strong year and another reason to be excited as the Springfield Cardinals head into celebrating their 10th season in 2014.
Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Springfield Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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